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Interview With Wesley Clark; John Edwards Formally Announces Campaign for White House

Aired September 16, 2003 - 16:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: Wesley Clark is set to say, Count me in. On the eve of the general's presidential announcement, Judy is with him in Arkansas.

John Edwards sends a message. Don't count me out.

SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I know this fight, I am ready for this fight, and we will win this fight.

ANNOUNCER: Will his official announcement give Edwards' White House bid the boost it needs?

In California, it's all about appeal. Recall advocates are making legal waves against the court that put the vote on hold.

Now live from Los Angeles and Little Rock, Arkansas, JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS.


JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you for joining us. I am here in Little Rock today, a city that is awaiting an announcement that a second Arkansan is going to make a run for the Democratic nomination for president. Wesley Clark, former NATO supreme commander, will hold a news conference here in Little Rock tomorrow announcing that he's in the race.

I spent some time here with Clark here today, her in his hometown. In fact at this school behind me, elementary school Clark attended, to get a sense of what he would bring to the already crowded field of nine Democratic candidates that have already been out there stumping for months. And I asked him what took so long to jump in.


GEN. WESLEY CLARK (RET.), FRM. NATO SUPREME CMDR.: I've never been in elected politics at all. I'm a professional public servant. I was a military officer. And I came back home three years ago and looked around and began to get feelings about our country. 9/11 happened. It drew me out and back into public service. I wanted to a successful business career after the military, and then maybe go into teaching or something.

But I got drawn in this direction because I care about this country. And this is the part of the country that sort of shaped me.

Now, when you make a transition like that, into something else, you have to be careful, you want to be sure it's really real. I believe in a lot of experience. Of course I don't have any experience in elected politics, Judy. So I wanted to give other people a chance to go out and do this.

But this draft movement took form, people began to come me, they asked me to consider this. And I did consider it because when you got 30 and 40 and 50,000 people across America who are willing to dedicate their time, some of them gave up their jobs, and they're serious and worried about this country, you have an obligation to take it seriously.

As I began to look at it, I realized this was serious. And people told me, they said, Wes, America wants you to present yourself.

WOODRUFF: But, again there are nine other Democrats, some of them with sparkling resumes. I mean John Kerry in effect has said he's the person most qualified because he's got the broadest range of experience. He was in the military like you for a time. He's had years of public experience. I just pick him out among the number of them. What sets you apart from these other...

CLARK: Everybody's different. And I think the world of John Kerry and the other candidates. They're all tremendous people, they're all public spirited, they're public minded and they dedicated their lives to public service each in their own way.

I've dedicated my life to public service differently. I went to West Point at the age of 17 out of public high school here in Little Rock. And I believed in public service in uniform. I went to Vietnam. I stayed with the United States Army when it was one of the least respected institutions in America. And I am one of many who's proud to say it's one of the greatest institutions in America today and we all worked together to make it that way.

And in the process I had some incredible experiences, both in terms of developing leadership and in terms of helping soldiers and families, and then finally really being able to influence national policy and helping to lead this country in its challenges abroad.


WOODRUFF: I also asked Clark about the economy, about the so- called jobless recovery, and whether he would repeal the Bush tax cuts.


CLARK: ... going to protect the tax cuts that the ordinary people have received in this country, no matter what. We'll find another way to raise the revenues that we need to raise, if we need to raise them...

(CROSSTALK) CLARK: There may be some that we freeze. I wouldn't -- there'll be other programs -- we relooked at certain tax expenditures that would be relooked. And I don't exclude the possibility you can't have guns and butter at the same time. When you are asking for $150 billion on top of Iraq, then you may need something.

But I would hope that these would be called the Bush tax hikes because they came from his tax cuts.

WOODRUFF: But if they came in Clark administration they'd be the Clark tax increases, wouldn't they?

CLARK: Well I'm sure there'd be a lot of discussion about that, Judy.


WOODRUFF: I also asked Clark about his criticisms of the Bush administration's Iraq policy and whether he thinks the war that was fought there is worth it.


CLARK: It's clear right now, Judy, that it wasn't worth going in as it was billed to the American people. There was no eminent threat to the American people, there was no eminent threat. This was a policy sold on fear and intuition and an absence of evidence and now we're there.


WOODRUFF: Clark added that if it's necessary to send more troops to Iraq he would favor that, even if it means calling up more of the National Guard.

We'll have much more of my interview with Wesley Clark and a profile of the retired general tonight at 8:00 p.m. Eastern on "PAULA ZAHN NOW."

Well publicly, some of the nine Democrats already in the race are welcoming Wesley Clark into the fray.


SEN. BOB GRAHAM (D-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He is a very intelligent effective person. He will add, in my judgment substantially to the voices in this presidential election process.


WOODRUFF: Privately, though, rival campaign insiders are less diplomatic. One told CNN, quote, "Clark is the Swiss Army knife of politics. No matter how you open it, he's going cut somebody/," end quote.

Another says, quote, "Clark is Howard Dean with a resume, a fresh face who opposed the war in Iraq."

Others say they're waiting to see if Clark can deliver. As one strategic gift put it, So far he's all on paper. We have to see if he can step up to the plate.

Well Democratic campaign insiders are also marveling on the way Clark's announcement comes on the same day that John Edwards formally unveils his presidential campaign. Noting who's on Clark's campaign team, one source told CNN, and I'm quoting again, "These are ex-Gore folks. They know exactly what they are doing."

Look for Clark to emphasize his Southern roots just as Edwards did today. Our Jonathan Karl watched Edwards in action in North Carolina.


JONATHAN KARL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: John Edwards almost never gives a speech without mentioning his roots as the son of mill worker. And so he comes to Robbins, North Carolina to kick off his presidential campaign formally in front of the very textile mill that his father worked.

Edwards, who is scorned by Republicans as a millionaire trial lawyer, on the stump likes to emphasize his more humble roots.

EDWARDS: America deserves a president who understand that the people of this country work, and the people of this country work hard. And a president who will stand up for those people, someone who will stop at nothing to create opportunity for all the great people of this country.

KARL: Of course, it is no surprise that John Edwards is running for president. He has been running hard for months. He has announced and reannounced his candidacy many time in many forums, including last night on Comedy Central.

JON STEWART, HOST, "DAILY SHOW": Are you already in the race? Why do you have to announce it?

EDWARDS: Well I don't know if you've been following the polls, but I think it'll actually be news to most people that I'm running for president (UNINTELLIGIBLE).


KARL: Edwards' political strategist David Axelrod likes to say the Democratic Primary is really two primaries. A primary on one hand for the wine drinkers, and on the other hand for the beer drinkers. In this analysis, candidates like Kerry and Dean appeal to elites, the wine drinkers. Edwards and Gephardt with his union support appeal to the working class or the beer drinkers. Although here at this event in Robbins, North Carolina, a morning event was completely a dry affair.

Jonathan Karl, CNN, Robbins, North Carolina. (END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: All right. And just a clarification before we leave the presidential campaign. Although General Clark has not confirmed himself yet that the big announcement is tomorrow, sources close to him have.

All right, now let's go to my colleague Candy Crowley who's out in Los Angeles -- Candy.


Back to North Carolina where a new poll gauging home state support for John Edwards is in our "Campaign News Daily." The favorite son in North Carolina may be running for president, but the poll finds most North Carolinians still prefer George W. Bush in the White House. In a head to head match-up commissioned by "The Raleigh News Observer," Mr. Bush leads John Edwards 51 percent to 40 percent. Past surveys showed Bush with as much as a 19 point leads over Edwards.

As for who might replace John Edwards in the U.S. Senate, the poll gives the early edge to Republican Richard Burr over two potential Democratic opponents. Burr leads former Democratic Senate nominee Erskin Bowles 43 to 37 percent. In a match-up with attorney Dan Blue, Burr leads 45 percent to 33 percent.

Still ahead, Judy will be back with more on Wesley Clark's expected entry in the presidential race and how he may shake up the field.

Plus, I'll have the latest on the California recall on hold. The candidates are moving forward and an appeals court is, too. And I'll talk to a GOP congressman who's in Arnold Schwarzenegger's camp about the recall delay and where Schwarzenegger goes from here.


WOODRUFF: We're back in Little Rock, Arkansas. In fact, on the grounds of the elementary school attended by none other than Retired General Wesley Clark.

And with me to talk about the impending entry of the retired general into the presidential contest, Jim Vandehei of "The Washington Post," who's been covering this campaign.

Jim, you know, not only is Wesley Clark fro Arkansas, like Bill Clinton, the former president, he also is now surrounding himself with a number of people familiar from the Clinton organization and the Gore organization.

What -- what does that say?

JIM VANDEHEI, "WASHINGTON POST": It's like deja vu all over again. A lot of Clinton faces, a lot of Gore faces and I think that you're going to see a candidate that campaigns a lot like Bill Clinton on domestic policy. I think he's going to be a centrist, a sort of new Democrat, someone who can win in the South but win all over the nation. I think a lot of Democrats want that. They want someone who can toe-to-toe with Bush but also is very strong on national security. And the fact that he's a four star general, supreme commander in NATO, that's a pretty impressive profile.

WOODRUFF: All right. He's entering the race at a time -- they're nine other candidates. Most people would say right now that Howard Dean is probably the frontrunner, although we've still got months to go. What effect does Clark's entry have on this race?

VANDEHEI: I think it really shakes this race up. I mean, most people aren't paying attention and most polls show that two-thirds of the Democrats can't name one of the nine candidates that are in there. So this thing is wide open, and given his resume, and given his ability to communicate on TV, which is so important in a modern era, I think he's really going to be a strong candidate. And a lot of the campaigns that I talked to today think he'll almost instantly become a top tier candidate and at least for the next couple of weeks be the focus of this.

WOODRUFF: So does that hurt more than anyone Howard Dean?

VANDEHEI: I think from talking to the campaigns I think it hurts both Dean and probably Kerry, even more because Kerry is running -- Senator John Kerry, he's running as sort of the wars hero candidate, the decorated Vietnam veteran. And, you know, now you have a four star general walking in here. And that's a pretty impressive resume to go toe-to-toe with Kerry and go toe-to-toe with Bush.

WOODRUFF: Does it undercut -- completely undercut Kerry's rationale for being in the race? I mean, is that what we're saying?

VANDEHEI: Well, Kerry has run on his biography, so it definitely makes it more difficult. But he also is probably going to eat into some support for Howard Dean, who's been the antiwar candidate, because here comes a guy who can really, you know, talk about these national security issues as someone who was just there a couple years ago, and that really gives him a lot of credibility. And I think that's probably what the Dean campaign is a little bit worried about right now.

WOODRUFF: Jim, you said some Democrats are looking for another candidate in the race who can go toe-to-toe with Bush, who can appeal in the South. Basically you're saying the sense is that there's nobody in the race like that now. I'm asking because John Edwards is in his home state of North Carolina announcing today.

VANDEHEI: A lot of Democrats are surprised that he hasn't gained more traction than he has, but he's still pretty low in the polls and I think people are still looking around to see if there's a better candidate out there.

I talked to Congressman Charlie Rangel today, who's a real powerful House Democrat, and he was saying that everyone he's talking to today is saying that, you know, Wesley Clark could be their man. That he's the right profile, that the others just haven't, for whatever reason, generated the momentum and shown the ability to go at Bush on national security. And that's what this election is going to be about, is terrorism, national security, Iraq, North Korea.

WOODRUFF: Which is Clark's main point here.


WOODRUFF: Very quick last question -- money. Howard Dean seems to be roaring ahead raising money. Can Wesley Clark keep up with the other candidates when it comes to (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

VANDEHEI: Right. That's literally the million question.

I mean, you've got -- he's got to get to about $20 million by the end of the year. There's going to be several candidates who are going to be there. You know, Howard Dean is really racing out front, raising a lot more money than anybody else. The fact that he does have these Clinton Gore fundraisers coming to work with him, probably gives him a little bit of boost, but there's only so much money out there, and he really has to get rolling on that.

WOODRUFF: All right. Another candidate to watch.



WOODRUFF: We're going to be 10 starting tomorrow. Jim Vandehei of "The Washington Post," good to see you. Thanks for...


WOODRUFF: We appreciate it.

All right. Now, let's go back to Candy in Los Angeles.

CROWLEY: Thanks, Judy.

Straight ahead, a complete update on the California recall. There are legal developments to report as well as face-to-face meetings among Republicans hopefuls past and present.

And you know the budget's in bad shape when Seattle voters are asked to consider a tax on espresso. The hard truth about the cost of good coffee when we return.


CROWLEY: The California recall gets more complicated with each passing hour. This afternoon, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ordered both sides in the recall legal dispute to submit arguments on whether the court should reconsider Monday's order delaying the October election. It's not clear what effect the order will have on the California secretary of state, who is to announce next hour if he plans to appeal Monday's original court order. Meanwhile, the candidates plug on. Republican Tom McClintock met with former candidate Peter Ueberroth this afternoon. Arnold Schwarzenegger met with Ueberroth earlier today. Ueberroth says the meetings were productive but he issued no endorsements.

And Governor Gray Davis, meanwhile, shared a stage with Democratic presidential candidate Bob Graham. Later today, Davis is scheduled to attend an event with the Rev. Jesse Jackson.

And presidential hopeful John Kerry is scheduled to appear at an anti-recall rally event with Davis tomorrow in Los Angeles. A short time ago, California's senior senator, Dianne Feinstein, endorsed John Kerry for president, citing his experience and leadership on key issues.

For more on the latest developments in the California recall, I'm joins by California Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher.

Congressman, thank you so much for joining us. I know you're just -- you're backing Arnold Schwarzenegger in this recall race, so I want to get your take on how all this legal maneuvering effects what Mr. Schwarzenegger is doing.

REP. DANA ROHRABACHER (R), CALIFORNIA: Well, it's going to effect Republicans in general and in a positive way in the sense that the public is bound to be outraged by this just arrogant abuse of power on the side of the liberal Democratic establishment.

You've got the ACLU coming into an election using hand-picked judges on the Ninth Circuit Court of the Appeals. These guys are all appointed by Democrats in order to postpone an election that they were -- that was well on the way and that they were bound to lose. And this is going to outrage the voters out here. In terms of how it effects Arnold Schwarzenegger, it's going to be a wash because -- well, if this is postponed until March, the public in California is going to feel even more of the pain of the crazy policies we've had under Gray Davis and the Democratic controlled legislature because we're in for an economic catastrophe and they haven't felt much of the pain yet.

CROWLEY: Well, Congressman, I -- you know,I know that you think that California will be outraged, but as you well know the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, this panel, quoted Bush v. Gore quite liberally as their justification for putting this delay there. Can't it also have the effect of rousing Democrats?

ROHRABACHER: They're not fooling anybody.

Well, first of all, 40 percent of the Democrats have been supporting the recall. This is not just a Republican effort. Those people signing the recall petitions, many of them have been Democrats. Many of Arnold's supporters are Democrats.

But they have had Gray Davis in there for five-years with the Democrat legislature, and our state -- we're still spending $50 million a day more than we're taking in. There's going to be really painful cuts in the next few months. People understand that and they're mad as hell, and having the Democrats play this political game -- by the way, if they wanted to fix those voting machines, Gray Davis was in charge of the government. The Democrats have been in charge of this government. They could have fixed them any time. But the ACLU, they won't complain when it's Gray Davis is ahead in the polls just a year ago. No, they complain when it looks like the left is going to lose.

CROWLEY: Congressman, I wonder if you can tell us -- it's awfully different to have a two-month campaign and a seven-month campaign. Doesn't this -- fundraisingwise, aren't there going to have to be shifts in how Schwarzenegger approaches this?

ROHRABACHER: Well, there will be shifts. This will change the rules. Here we are in the middle of an election, and the Democrats are trying to change the rules of the game with some outside maneuver, with some hand- picked judges some place. But Arnold and the rest of everybody else is going to have to change their strategy.

But, again, let's put it this way -- the public has not felt the pain it's going to be feeling due to Governor Gray Davis' policies as they will feel it next year. So it will be a wash.

CROWLEY: I've got about 15 seconds here, Isn't it also possible that if this is extended until March, that the economy could get better which, by the way, George Bush is also counting on for his election. So aren't you kind of hoping for separate things here?

ROHRABACHER: Well, our problems are not caused by a bad economy in California. Our problems are being caused by a Democrat controlled legislature, liberal left Democrat legislature and a governor who's been totally irresponsible. Other states are not totally in the hole like this and facing the economic catastrophe that California is facing.

CROWLEY: Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, we thank you so much for joining us.

Still ahead, will that be one lump or two? We'll look at a bitter political battle over coffee.


CROWLEY: Some breaking news here. You're looking at the United Nations, where the United States has just vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution which would have condemned Israel -- or prohibited Israel from exiling or making any attempt on the life of Palestinian Leader Yasser Arafat. The U.S. did not like the language in this particular resolution. Again, a veto from the U.S.

Back to politics of the domestic type. It is primary day in Washington State and an espresso tax on the ballot in Seattle has coffee lovers steaming. Anti-tax advocates threw coffee bags into the water, a takeoff on the Boston Tea Party, designed to vent their anger. Supporters of a 10-cent tax on already pricey espresso drinks say it would provide needed funding for preschool and day care programs. But in the state that gave the nation Starbucks, tax opponents insist espresso is not a luxury item. Oh my.

That's it for INSIDE POLITICS. I'm Candy Crowley in Los Angeles. I'll be back here live tomorrow with the latest developments in the California recall -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Thanks, Candy. Coffee lovers beg to disagree,

I am Judy Woodruff in Little Rock. And tonight, I'll have much more of my interview with General Wesley Clark. That will be on "PAULA ZAHN NOW" at 8 p.m. Eastern. That's coming up.


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