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Bush's Numbers Going Back Up; Interview With Joe Lieberman

Aired October 13, 2003 - 16:00   ET





ANNOUNCER: If the Cubs can get this far, is anything possible in the presidential playoffs? At least one member of the field apparently hopes so.

Now, live from Washington, Judy Woodruff's INSIDE POLITICS.


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

Reports of President Bush's sagging political fortunes have made headlines for days now, giving the White House pause, and the Democrats something to cling to. But suddenly it seems the public's view of Mr. Bush is looking up.

Bill Schneider has the bottom line in our just released poll numbers.


WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): It looks as if the White House public relations offensive may be paying off, at least on one issue.

Last month, President Bush's job rating dipped to 50 percent. Below 50, and he's in trouble for reelection. Well, look at what happened. Reversal of fortune. The president's job rating rose to 56 percent.

Why? Here's a clue. The improvement was strongest among high- income Americans, those earning $75,000 a year or more. Up 19 points.

What's made higher income people so happy? Check out the stock market. It's regained most of its losses since 2001 and has reached a high point for the year.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're following a clear and consistent economic strategy. And I'm confident about our future.

SCHNEIDER: So are most Americans. While only 44 percent of Americans say the economy is in good shape now, 64 percent believe times will be good a year from now. Optimism for the economy is highest among, you guessed it, wealthier people.

The president has also been out promoting his Iraq policy.

BUSH: Our goal in Iraq is to leave behind a stable and self- governing society which will no longer be a threat to the Middle East, or to the United States of America. We're following an orderly plan to reach this goal.

SCHNEIDER: The American people don't see an orderly plan in Iraq. They see mounting casualties and growing costs.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We know that we have a mess on our hands that's costing the American people $87 billion.

SCHNEIDER: Most Americans were shocked by that figure when the president requested it last month. And now? Opposition has increased to 57 percent.

There is some good news for the president on Iraq. There's a growing controversy over why the U.S. went to war.

BUSH: I acted because I was not about to leave the security of the American people in the hands of a madman.

SCHNEIDER: The public agrees. Most Americans do not feel the president deliberately misled them about the Iraqi threat.


SCHNEIDER: Democrats have been waiting breathlessly for the president's job rating to dip below 50 percent. Looks like he reversed the trend just in the nick of time -- with a little help from the stock market -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right. We were there to record it all. All right, Bill Schneider, thanks very much.

Well, over in the Democratic presidential race, Wesley Clark remains the leader in our new poll of registered Democrats nationwide, with 18 percent support. Howard Dean and Joe Lieberman are now tied for second place, with 13 percent each.

Senator Lieberman is in New Hampshire today, unveiling his new tax reform plan. He joins us now from Manchester.

Senator, you're calling this relaunching of your campaign, if you will, "leading with integrity." Are you saying the other Democrats don't have integrity?

SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN (D-CT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: No, I'm saying when you put it all together, the Bush administration has not kept its promise to uphold the honor and integrity of the White House.

Because they've broken the major promises they made in 2000. They've constantly misled the American people. And they've yielded too often to special interests and ideological extremists.

So their lack of leadership with integrity has caused a lot of the problems America has today. And this plan I'm announcing today, I'm offering to provide leadership with integrity to give America a fresh start. And I've got a lot of new ideas and details to make that possible, particularly a new tax reform proposal.

WOODRUFF: And I do want to ask you about that, but first, Senator, just playing off the theme that you mentioned, there's a quote today in "The New York Times" mentioning that -- it says flat out, you have yet to win over loyalists in Iowa and New Hampshire.

It says, "unable to capitalize on name recognition, ranks a distant fifth in fundraising." And it says, if you'll forgive me, "his monotone delivery and sometimes too subtle jokes rarely send listeners into a frenzy of cheers."

LIEBERMAN: They were cheering today. And Judy, you find me funny, don't you?

WOODRUFF: Well, yes, I do. Sometimes.

LIEBERMAN: You don't have to answer that.

WOODRUFF: But, I mean, with this sort of press coverage, I mean, do you just want to write it off, you know, to the cynical press? How do you account for that?

LIEBERMAN: Look, there was -- well, there was a lot of favorable and fair reporting in that article, as well.

The fact is that I continue to -- my staff always tells me not to mention polls. I continue to be in the top tier of candidates, no matter who's new and who's up at the moment. We've got a core of support around the country.

And today, we really focused in on a criticism, a critique of the Bush administration. And all the new ideas that I'm going to offer to make it better for the American people, to restore fairness and integrity to the White House and bring back security and prosperity.

I don't know, people I talked to around the country, particularly the middle class, are more worried about their future than I've ever seen them be. And they're losing confidence in President Bush, no matter what the stock market may say at the moment.

WOODRUFF: Senator, you're proposing some pretty dramatic cuts in the middle income tax rates through a series of measures. Is this consistent with your centrist image? I mean, some would look at this and say, this is a fairly left-leaning set of proposals here.

LIEBERMAN: It sure is. I mean, it's fiscally responsible, because we're giving the middle class the additional tax cuts they need to relieve some of the stress on them now from job insecurity, health insurance, education, retirement costs. But we're paying for it. We're paying for it by closing corporate loopholes and by increasing taxes on the highest income Americans. So it's fiscally responsible.

You know, this is the same kind of stuff that the Republicans said about Bill Clinton's economic program in the '90s. But what did it do? It brought us the most sustained period of prosperity and job creation: 22 million jobs that we've had in our recent history.

And I said that my plan, fully enacted, when fully enacted, will create 10 million jobs in the first four years that I'm president, and that's good news for American workers who are worried today.

WOODRUFF: Senator, your tour these next few days takes you through several states: New Hampshire; Connecticut, your home state; Oklahoma, South Carolina; Florida; Michigan. You're not, we noticed, visiting Iowa. Does this mean you're not going to be competing seriously in the first primary state caucus state?

LIEBERMAN: No, I wouldn't reach that conclusion. Look, there's a lot -- there are only so many places you can go in one week. I was in Iowa a couple of weeks ago. I'm not going to Arizona this week, and that's clearly an important early primary state for me.

This is a journey to unveil a proposal and I hope give the American people and my fellow Democrats hope for the future. Because it is about offering specific plans to get our economy going, to get us back in balance, to protect American manufacturing, to protect the environment and provide health insurance to the American people.

And I'm taking some tough decisions here. But that, I think, is what the American people need at this point. You're not going to solve America's problems with George Bush public relations campaigns. The American people know the economy's in difficulty and they want leadership to change it.

WOODRUFF: Senator Lieberman, we're going to have to leave it there. We hope to be visiting with you often on the campaign trail.

LIEBERMAN: Well, I hope so, too, Judy. Thanks a lot. Have a good day.

WOODRUFF: Thank you, and we appreciate your talking with us.

Well, now let's get what you might call a reality check on Senator Lieberman's campaign from our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley.

Candy, first of all, we talked -- we saw in these poll numbers that the senator is in the top tier nationally among candidates. So what is this all about today? This effort to get his campaign out there in front of the public again?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, you can look at the national polls, still, pretty much as name recognition. What really counts at this point is Iowa, New Hampshire, and now it looks like points beyond.

The truth of the matter is that there is a lack of fire in the hustings (ph) for Joe Lieberman. And what they hope to do by this sort of restart of the campaign is a couple of things.

First of all, in the same way that Gephardt's candidacy was given a big boost by his tax plan, they're hoping that this tax reform, an issue that no other candidate, they believe, has gone out there and really pitched, they're hoping that they will have hold of a major issue that they can lead on.

So that sort of brings them out. Remember, there's nine people. They've got to come out from the pack. They're hoping that will do it.

This leading with integrity is not just about his vis-a-vis George Bush. It's also reminding voters what they liked about Lieberman when he first came onto the national stage as the VP selection of Al Gore.

And it is a good way to kind of draw the sting from what has been his position on the war, and that is that he has been for the war in Iraq. That has been a huge minus for him among faithful Democrats. And you saw, I think, in the debate and we'll see more of him saying, "Well, this is what I believed and I stuck with it, and I respect everyone who stuck with it. It's the wishy-washy people that are in trouble here."

So they're hoping that whole integrity theme will bring back a reminder of who he is. Somehow draw the sting of the -- of his pro- war position. And they hope that the tax reform plan will kind of put him out there with something distinctive of his own to separate him from the other eight candidates in the campaign.

WOODRUFF: So Candy, if you had to sum up what the Lieberman campaign strategy is now, what would you say?

CROWLEY: Well, I think geographically, you hit on it with the absence of Iowa in this go-around. Now, look, he was just in Arizona last week for the debate.

I don't think anyone would be too surprised if Joe Lieberman wasn't paying that much attention to Iowa. That's basically seen as Gephardt's to win or lose.

They are looking forward to those days, really, even after New Hampshire. If they can stay in the top tier someplace in New Hampshire, and then move on to some of the states that are more moderate: South Carolina, New Mexico, Arizona. If they can get into those states, that's where they're hoping to do and to bring the Lieberman camp back to some life.

And right now they just need to stay in the front pages, in the headlines, and try to get some pizzazz behind the campaign. WOODRUFF: All right. Candy Crowley with some sizing up of the Lieberman campaign.

Candy, thank you very much.

Well, Democratic presidential hopeful Dennis Kucinich leads the headlines in our "Campaign News Daily."

The Ohio congressman has been in the race for months but, like many of his rivals, he decided to stage a formal campaign announcement. Kucinich relaunched his bid in Cleveland. The first event, an 11-state, three-day trip around the country.

When I spoke with the congressman today, he told me that, despite lagging poll numbers, he remains confident about his campaign.


REP. DENNIS KUCINICH (D-OH), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Now that we have a nationwide organization, I'm prepared to go forward with a campaign for president of the United States which will inspire the people of this country and give the people a clear choice in the Democratic primaries.

I think that our campaign is poised to be the surprise of the 2004 election season. And I'm quite confident that, given the fact that so many people are joining our grassroots efforts, that we're going to be quite competitive.


WOODRUFF: Several high-profile supporters will join Mr. Kucinich on the trail this week. Actress Mimi Kennedy of TV's "Dharma and Greg" will accompany Kucinich to several stops. Writer Studs Terkel will join him in Chicago. And singer Ani DiFranco will perform at a Kucinich event in Austin, Texas.

New attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq have given more ammunition to war critics like Kucinich. Coming up, how can President Bush square the violence with his effort to draw a less gloomy picture of the situation in Iraq?

Plus, what was their now-famous walkout for? Texas Democrats lose their battle against redistricting. But is the fight really over?

And should Howard Dean root, root, root for the home team? Or a group that he can identify with more?


HOWARD DEAN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Eat your heart out, George Steinbrenner.



WOODRUFF: U.S. soldiers continue to come under fire inside Iraq.

The most recent incident happened today in Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit, when a patrol of Bradley fighting vehicles came under attack. One soldier was killed, two others were wounded. Since yesterday morning, three soldiers have been killed; 13 more have been wounded.

Earlier today on CNN, a Republican congressman said the president needs to do a better job of explaining his Iraq policy to the American people.


REP. CHRISTOPHER SHAYS (R), CONNECTICUT: I do think that the administration has to get out and explain the details of their plan. I mean, one thing this president has going for him is he's been a straight shooter. And if he's unwilling to disclose what he's doing, then people think he either doesn't have a plan, or they think basically he doesn't want to tell people his plan.


WOODRUFF: With me now for more on the debate over Iraq, CNN White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux.

Suzanne, what is the president -- what are the people at the White House saying about criticisms like this? How are they going to address it?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Judy, as you know, they're fully engaged in this public relations campaign. This is really week two of that.

And just to give you an example, earlier today President Bush gave a speech on observing Columbus Day and talked about September 11, invoking the memory of September 11, the need for Americans to make sacrifices.

As you know, this really comes at a critical time for the president, this week in particular. This is when Secretary Powell again is going to make one more push for a U.N. Security Council resolution to get the kind of support from the international community, for Iraqi reconstruction.

Also the same time, this funding measure is going to go before the full House, as well as the Senate: the $87 billion war supplemental costs. And the president is looking for support there.

But as you saw, he got quite a bit of criticism just yesterday over this past weekend from Democrats and, as well as very powerful Republicans, saying that he needs to be presidential and take leadership on this matter.

WOODRUFF: Now Suzanne, we're watching at the United Nations. It's looking like the administration may be backing off of that attempt to get more international support.

Is the administration bracing itself, if that happens, for how they explain the notion that they're not so much going it alone, but they're not going to get the level of international support they wanted?

MALVEAUX: Well, certainly the administration is preparing itself for that reality. It has been that way for some time now. They've gone back and forth between trying to negotiate over the terms of that resolution to bring more people in, and at the same time, as they did with the last resolution, pulling back and saying, "Well, if we don't have the kind of timetable and the kind of outlook, these goals in mind that others can sign on to, we might have to let go of that."

It does not mean, however, that they won't go to countries individually and ask those leaders individually for help. That is something that the president has done in the past and, quite frankly, has been more successful at.

WOODRUFF: And that may be what we're about to witness a continuation of. All right, Suzanne, thank you very much.

Suzanne Malveaux at the White House.

Well, adding to the debate over policy in Iraq is the leak of a CIA operative's identity to a Washington journalist, allegedly by a White House official.

When asked if a special prosecutor should investigate who's behind the media leak, 52 percent of respondents in our CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup poll said yes, 44 percent said no.

When asked how much the leak controversy bothered them, 36 percent of respondents said a great deal; 33 percent said they are not bothered at all.

And after six months of political drama, the Texas redistricting battle ends with a new map. What it means for the two political parties and why state Democrats say the battle is still not over.


WOODRUFF: After six months and three special sessions of the state legislature, Texas lawmakers have delivered a new congressional redistricting map to Republican Governor Rick Perry.

But the battle may not be over.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't mess with Texas.

WOODRUFF (voice-over): After all the drama, the great Texas redistricting battle of 2003 ended with a whimper.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There have been 17 ayes and 14 nays. WOODRUFF: Sunday night, state Republicans got their way, passing a plan to redraw Texas congressional lines which could land the party up to six additional House seats. Republican Governor Rick Perry is expected to give it his blessing.

GOV. RICK PERRY (R), TEXAS: Texans will now get their opportunity to elect a congressional delegation that is reflective of their views, a congressional delegation with a majority that will work with our president, not against him.

WOODRUFF: Defeated Democrats vow to keep fighting in court.

ELIOT SHAPLEIGH (D), TEXAS STATE SENATOR: I think they got a little greedy at the end, trying to take out too many Democrats. So I think this map that was passed is the most extreme and most likely to be overturned.

WOODRUFF: The local tussle mushroomed into a national showdown when a group of renegade Democratic lawmakers fled to Oklahoma to block a vote on a new map. There was another great escape in July, when 11 Democrats slipped into New Mexico.

Across the country, Democrats turned the on the lam Texans into folk heroes, using them as proof of a larger GOP plot to seize power.

GOV. GRAY DAVIS (D), CALIFORNIA: This year, they're trying to steal additional congressional seats in Colorado and Texas.

WOODRUFF: But bravado will only get you so far. After all, you can't run forever.


WOODRUFF: And if Democrats fail to overturn the map in the courts, the new Republican-friendly boundary lines could make it even harder for Democrats to regain control of the Congress.

Politicians, like many of us in the media, love a good sports analogy. Some of the '04 Democrats have likened themselves to Seabiscuit. But coming up, at least one apparently sees a different role for himself in the horse race.


WOODRUFF: As you can see from that poll result, like many Americans, Democrat Howard Dean suddenly seems to have come down with a case of Cubs fever. Now that Chicago may be on its way to winning the National League pennant.

And that could leave the White House hopeful open to allegations of flip-flopping. Since recently, Dean was out touting his allegiance to the Boston Red Sox. He went so far as to promote the Sox over his once-favorite team, the New York Yankees.


DEAN: Eat your heart out, George Steinbrenner.


WOODRUFF: So who is Dean hoping to root for in the World Series? The "Washington Post" quotes him as announcing his support for the Cubs, saying "I always root for the underdog."

Perhaps the once less than famous Vermont governor sees a bit of himself in a team that hasn't been to the World Series since 1945. We're all watching.

That's it for INSIDE POLITICS this Monday. I'm Judy Woodruff. Thanks for joining us. "CROSSFIRE" starts right now.



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