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Appeals Court Set to Reconsider California Recall Delay; Braun Makes Campaign Official

Aired September 22, 2003 - 16:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: It's enough to make the president stop in his tracks. Mr. Bush hits a new low in our new poll. Even as one of his would-be rivals makes a huge leap forward.

CAROL MOSELEY BRAUN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I am uniquely qualified to do the job of president.

ANNOUNCER: She's officially in the race. But what does Carol Moseley Braun actually hope to accomplish?

It's all in the timing. This hour, an appeals court hears the pros and cons of holding the California recall sooner rather than later.

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


JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you for joining us. This hour a federal appeals court reconsiders the date of the California recall with the clock ticking toward the original October 7 election date. This hearing could provide another jolt in a campaign that has given many voters a bad case of political whiplash. We plan to carry some of the hearing live. In fact, these are live pictures coming in right now from the appeals court in San Francisco.

But first, before we go there, striking new evidence that President Bush may be beatable in 2004. Our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider, is here with our just-released poll numbers. Bill, what is happening to the president?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Judy, President Bush is sinking. Last month the president's job approval rating was at 60 percent. Now it's dropped to 50. His lowest rating ever.

The president has lost the most support among men, down 17 points since August. The gender gap has simply disappeared. Men are no longer more favorable to Bush than women. Men are more sensitive than women are to the jobs issue. Nearly 3 million jobs have been lost since 2000, and so far those tax cuts do not seem to generate any new jobs. Bush is paying a price for that with men.

WOODRUFF: So is it the economy, Bill, that is driving the president's ratings down?

SCHNEIDER: It's a major factor. The "Newsweek" poll just released shows disapproval of the president's handling of the economy rising sharply over the past month. It's now 57 percent negative.

Voters are also souring on Iraq. Two weeks ago, just after the president addressed the nation on Iraq, and requested $87 billion to pay for the reconstruction, 58 percent of Americans believed Iraq was worth going to war over. Now that suddenly dropped to 50 percent. The public is split over whether the war in Iraq was worthwhile now that they see the difficulty and the cost.

WOODRUFF: All right. So if that's the president's picture, what about for the Democrats? What's it look like over there?

SCHNEIDER: General Wesley Clark is surging. He picked exactly the right moment to declare, when President Bush looks vulnerable and Democrats are casting a ballot for a winner. Within five days of entering the race, General Clark has vaulted to the top of the Democratic list, ahead of Howard Dean, John Kerry, Dick Gephardt and Joe Lieberman with all the other candidates in singe digits. Bush looks beatable, Clark looks electable.

WOODRUFF: So are you saying Clark looks like he can win more than any of the other Democrats?

SCHNEIDER: Well, yes, but it's not a huge difference. Right now General Clark is running three points ahead of President Bush in a trial heat for 2004. It's the best showing of any Democrat. The weakest Democrat against Bush is Howard Dean who runs three points behind. But even that is a statistical dead heat.

Clark's advantage over Dean is that he runs five points ahead of Bush among men. For Democrats, to find a candidate who appeals to men is a breakthrough -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right. Bill Schneider.

And we're going to go quickly to the White House for reaction to our senior White House correspondent John King. John, are they concerned there at all, or what do they make of these numbers?

JOHN KING, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Sure, they're concerned. This White House not publicly commenting because it says it will not be driven by polls. But at the same time they closely read the numbers.

One thing they say the president has to do is keep about his business, which is one reason he very quickly scheduled a trip to Virginia today to assess some of the hurricane damage. They say here at the White House that this is a cycle that often affects presidents a year before they run for re-election. They say Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton suffered similar dips like this and went on to easily win second terms.

But they know the bottom line is this: the economy is stagnant at best and voters feel even worse about it than the numbers might indicate and the president is now in a very tough time when it comes to selling his policy in Iraq. They say a year from now he'd better be able to go to the voters and say, See, Iraq is a success and the economy is bouncing back. They think the numbers one year from now a lot more important than the numbers today.

But there are certainly lessons for the president and his political team in this poll.

WOODRUFF: And, John, what about General Wesley Clark? Are they taking his candidacy seriously?

KING: They're taking it seriously, but they believe it will have much more of an impact in the months ahead on the Democrats and within the Democratic field that it will on President Bush.

If General Clark could win the nomination and prove himself, then, yes, sure, a man with a military credentials from a Southern state would be a tough general election candidate against this president. Here at the White House, Judy, they think though General Clark is getting in too late to build the infrastructure for a campaign.

And bigger issue, they believe, is that he's just inexperienced. They think he is someone who shoots from the lip, if you will, and that his inexperience in national politics will ultimately get him in trouble. What they think at the White House is that these poll numbers will get the Democrats fighting among themselves, something that in the end this White House hopes benefits President Bush.

WOODRUFF: Well, we will certainly see. All right. John King at the White House. John, thank you very much.

And now let's quickly turn back to the California recall and the questions before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals this hour. Should the recall be postponed as a smaller panel of the court ruled last week, or should it go on as planned on October 7, just 15 days from now?

Well, the first side to present its argument, the American Civil Liberties Union, which believes that the recall should be delayed until punch card systems are replaced in March by more reliable voting machines.

Let's dip into the hearing right now live.

LAURENCE TRIBE, ACLU ATTORNEY: Although, if I'm recalling the details of his research design correctly, I'm sure Mr. Rosenbalm (ph) will correct me...

JUDGE ALEX KOZINSKI, U.S. 9TH CIR. CRT. OF APPEALS: I didn't see it. Perhaps co-counsel can come up.

Now given then that's the case and given that California, unlike Florida, has uniform procedures which we have in (UNINTELLIGIBLE) record provided by Mr. Costa, burdensome (UNINTELLIGIBLE) I would say or lengthy procedures dealing with what happens during a recount. So we don't have the Bush v. Gore problem. We don't have the...


TRIBE: No, it's a worse problem in the sense that it's unmistakable that the state of California has decided, taking all of that into account, that the error experienced with these now notorious ballots, even after human beings look, at them is so great that they are not lawful to use once they've been deemed deficient....


KOZINSKI: ... Mr. Brady, or Professor Brady does not tell us the error rate when you're done with the whole process.

TRIBE: I think that's correct.

KOZINSKI: So we don't know. It is entirely possible that when you're done with the entire process, punch card ballots are no worse than any other system.

TRIBE: Well, would...

KOZINSKI: It's possible as far as the record discloses.

TRIBE: I think, Judge Kozinski, although it's not an impossibility, the experience is such that getting the people of California to believe that this is not a second-class technology now that it has been deemed deficient because it is outmoded, would be quite a task.

I think that the starting point is not just a quantitative difference between punch card ballots and optical scan and other ballots, but a qualitative difference.

KOZINSKI: But you do agree that the specific problem, the trouble the Supreme Court in Bush v. Gore, and that is that you had human beings applying inconsistent standards to the counting of ballots?

TRIBE: That was one of the problems.

KOZINSKI: That problem does not exist in California? Certainly not in this case.

TRIBE: That's right. I looked at the detailed rules in California, when it comes to the very end, when it says if it's ambiguous, then we're not quite sure what you do, you look at the intent of the voters.

So I think we are fooling ourselves if we imagine that California has outdistanced Florida in a fundamental way. But the real point that disturbed the Supreme Court in Bush v. Gore with respect to what was happening was not only human beings, it was that there were demonstrable differences -- some counties overvotes were counted, in others they were not. And it was the fundamental fact, there was not in place any sufficient safeguard to make sure that every person's vote counted the same way.

WOODRUFF: All right. We're watching live proceedings before the California 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, the federal court there. They're of course, hearing what the three-judge panel ruled last week, and that is that the recall election should be postponed.

As we listen, let's bring in our political analyst, Ron Brownstein of "The Los Angeles Times" and our legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin.

Jeffrey, we were hearing Judge Alex Kozinski who I believe is a Appointee of President Ronald Reagan. He was questioning Larry Tribe, who is one of the attorneys for the ACLU. This, if nothing else, suggests to us that these judges are taking a really hard look at what the three-judge panel did.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: You can be sure of that, Judy. I think the important number to remember here is that when the full 9th Circuit agrees to review a decision of one of its panels, 75 percent of the time they overrule that decision. So Laurence Tribe, the Harvard Law professor who's arguing right there, he has an uphill battle, trying to preserve the decision of the three-judge panel last week, which moved the -- which moved the recall to March.

WOODRUFF: Ron Brownstein, the political landscape here, the -- those who wanted this election postponed, the ACLU and others, the burden is really now on them, isn't it? Both in the minds of the voters, many of whom are say let's get this over with?

RON BROWNSTEIN, "LOS ANGELES TIMES": Yes, you get the -- you get the feeling that almost everyone in the political arena can agree on one point. If there was a vote in California, it would be to call the question. You don't get the sense that either side, whether it's Gray Davis, who initially had wanted it held back, or obviously, any of the replacement candidates want this pushed back to March. There's, I think, a very strong desire in the state to have this come to resolution as soon as possible. And that may, in fact, filter into the deliberations of the court.

WOODRUFF: Jeff Toobin, again, we were keeping one ear on the court, Laurence Tribe still being questioned by justice -- State Justice Kozinksi.

Let's talk about the core of this case. We just heard them getting right to it with the judge asking about the error rate and whether they could prove the error rate. What is it that it's going to take for this court to overturn -- what was it? what? -- 66-page ruling a week ago, just a week or so ago?

TOOBIN: Well, the real issue is it's remarkably similar to the decision we were also familiar with three years ago in Bush V. Gore, which is how reliable does an election procedure have to be? What the court decided last week was that because the punch card ballots, the notorious chads from -- are still in use in 44 percent of the state, because that is such a defective system, the election had to be postponed until those were no longer in use.

What other judges clearly think, including, apparently, Judge Kozinski, who is questioning Professor Tribe so carefully is that the state has used the punch card ballots for years and years. There is no requirement under the Constitution or anything else to mandate a new system immediately. That's really the question. It comes back to how much the courts will supervise the election procedures of a state.

WOODRUFF: But, I mean, it's purely a matter of -- I mean, you could argue -- clearly you can and these -- these judges, these lawyers will argue it both ways. How much, Jeff, do you think is going to come into the minds of these judges as they make this tough call? How much is it going to be just the disruption that the state has caused by having this postponed for months?

TOOBIN: Oh, I think that's a big factor. I mean, here you have a situation where 100,000 people, approximately, have already voted by absentee ballot in the October election. You have all the candidates, all the ballots listed with the 133 candidates. It would be a tremendous disruption to move it another five months. A lot of judges don't like to interfere in political procedures at all.

I think a lot of the practical aspects of this favor keeping the October -- election in October, and that's going to be a big factor. I think once the court decided to review last week's decision, those factors only got greater. And Professor Tribe and his allies have a real uphill struggle at this point.

WOODRUFF: And Ron, not only Bush V. Gore, but this case, increasingly, are we seeing political -- the political arena thrown into the lap of justices and judges like these?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, what we're seeing, Judy, really is an escalation of the battlefield in all directions. You could argue the recall itself is an extraordinary use of a tool that has been laying dormant for decades. It's not surprising in an era we've had impeachment and recall and re-redistricting and litigation and Florida. Really, the lesson in all of this is that all of the boundaries, the restraint on the competition between the parties are eroding. In a very polarized political era, both sides pick up whatever is nearby, whether it's a traditional weapon, you know, or a piece of broken glass. They are using them very aggressively against each other.

One quick point about what Jeffrey said quickly. One difference between this proceeding and the earlier ones is that the local officials have been more involved in making the case on some of the practical disruption and that could feed into what he talked about, the reluctance of the court to overturn what's already in motion.

WOODRUFF: All right. We're going to leave it at that, talking with Ron Brownstein and Jeffrey Toobin, our political analyst and, of course, CNN's familiar face, legal analyst. Thanks to both of you.

We're going to continue to monitor that hearing and report to you on what is argued and what is said.

Meantime, more California action ahead. When will the recall dropouts take sides? We'll have the answer in our "Campaign News Daily."

Plus, is she in it to win or in it to stroke her ego? A look at the longshot presidential campaign that Carol Moseley Braun made official today.

This is INSIDE POLITICS, the place for campaign news.


WOODRUFF: This breaking news to CNN from Spokane, Washington. As we told you a little ago, there was a standoff, apparently, at a high school, the Lewis and Clark High School in Spokane. Now, apparently, the incident has ended. These pictures coming in to us from KHQ, CNN affiliate. Police were seen carrying someone out on a stretcher, out of the front door of the school about an hour after a 17-year-old boy, who was hole up inside a third-floor classroom with a semiautomatic rifle was seen to be there. Now police are saying the incident is over. A medical response team has been called in, and were seen carrying the stretcher away from the building. Students apparently safe, taken to an area away from the school. We'll have more as it comes in.

We'll be right back with more INSIDE POLITICS.


WOODRUFF: Former U.S. senator and ambassador Carol Moseley Braun officially kicked off her campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination today. Despite long odds and a shortage of cash, Braun insists that she is in the race to win.

Here's our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley.


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Her chances run from longshot to no shot. Her fund-raising has been minimal, her staff is skeletal. She's at the bottom of the polls.

So today, Carol Moseley Braun officially and cheerfully announced her presidential campaign.

BRAUN: I am running for the Democratic nomination because I believe this party ought to stand for inclusion, hope and new ways to resolve old problems.

It's a new day in America!

CROWLEY: In 1992, the year of the woman, Carol Moseley Braun was a star, a former prosecutor and state lawmaker from Illinois who became the first African-American woman ever elected to the U.S. Senate. She was a champion of women and the poor, fought for more money for deteriorating schools.

But her record was largely overtaken by a series of missteps, an eyebrow raising visit with a Nigerian dictator and federal inquiries into alleged misuse of campaign funds, which turned out to be largely accounting errors.

She lost her re-election bid, her star flamed out. It's been suggested the Braun campaign is really a redemption tour, or an ego trip, or that she's running because party activists want her to pull votes from Al Sharpton, less he corral the black vote and leverage himself into a king maker.

No, no and no, she insists.

BRAUN: I have the experience, the ability and the ideas to heal and renew America.

CROWLEY: So on the campus of Howard University in Washington, D.C., Carol Moseley Braun was introduced by her son to an audience with nearly as many journalists as supporters. No balloons, no bands, just a candidate, a podium and a couple of signs.

BRAUN: Just last week, my little 9-year-old niece, Claire (ph), called me into her room to show me her social studies book. Turning to the pages on which all of our presidents were pictured, she looked at me and complained, But, Auntie Carol, all the presidents are boys.

Well, I want Claire and your daughters and sons to know that in America, everyone has a chance to serve and contribute.

CROWLEY: In the end, maybe it doesn't matter if she has a chance. There may be victory in simply being there.

Candy Crowley, CNN, Washington.


WOODRUFF: And just ahead, Arnold Schwarzenegger looks to sew up support on the political right. We'll tell you which two GOP stalwarts may soon endorse the actor-turned candidate next in our "Campaign News Daily."


WOODRUFF: These are live pictures coming into CNN from San Francisco where the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals is hearing -- holding a hearing on the ruling handed down by a three-judge panel of that circuit court last week, a ruling that put off the California recall election until next spring.

These 11 judges are hearing the case again, and there is some indication going in that they may overturn what three of the judges of their fellow judges on the 9th Circuit has done. They're hearing 30 minutes of arguments on the part of those who want the election postponed. After which they'll hear 30 minutes of arguments on the part of those who want the eye election to go forward as it is now scheduled on October the 7th. We'll continue to monitor that hearing.

More headlines now from California in our Monday edition of "Campaign News Daily." Democratic Lieutenant Governor and recall candidate Cruz Bustamante is picking up some high-profile company on the campaign trail. Presidential hopeful Joe Lieberman joins Bustamante at the top of the hour for an event at the city college of San Francisco. Bustamante is the top California Democrat to endorse Lieberman. He also serves as Lieberman's state campaign chairman.

Arnold Schwarzenegger may soon have some help shoring up his support with the Republican right. CNN has learned that congressman and recall bank-roller Darrell Issa and former GOP gubernatorial nominee Bill Simon both are expected to endorse Schwarzenegger as soon as later this week.

Straight ahead, celebrity supporters hit the stage for Howard Dean. The inside scoop on Dean's big apple fund-raiser when we return.





WOODRUFF: Perhaps singer Gloria Gaynor will let Howard Dean use her most famous tune as a campaign theme. Dean was serenaded by Gaynor at a weekend fund-raiser in New York. Whoopi Goldberg and Al Franken were also there to try to help Dean survive the upcoming primary season.

And that's it for INSIDE POLITICS. I'm Judy Woodruff. "CROSSFIRE" starts right now.


Braun Makes Campaign Official>

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