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Iraq Politics: The '04 Dems' Dilemma; Interview With Senator Chuck Hagel

Aired October 14, 2003 - 16:00   ET


JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: In recent days and weeks, President Bush has been taking plenty of heat over Iraq. And now some of his toughest critics, Democrats who want his job, are going to have to put their money where their mouth is. Actually, it's the taxpayers' money. That $87 billion Mr. Bush wants to fund the missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Our congressional correspondent Jonathan Karl is on Capitol Hill where the Senate is considering the funding request. Jonathan, where does it stand right now?

JONATHAN KARL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Judy, the most interesting thing here is those Democratic presidential candidates, who also moonlight as members of Congress, are facing by the end of the week what may be their most difficult and important vote of the year.


KARL (voice-over): By the end of the week, the Democratic presidential candidates in Congress will likely have to vote yes or no on the president's $87 billion request for Iraq and Afghanistan. Joe Lieberman said today he'll vote yes. Antiwar candidate Dennis Kucinich has long said no. The others are struggling to decide.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm inclined not to. I said that in Baltimore. I think there are serious problems with the way they're approaching this.

KARL: What makes the vote so difficult is, that while many Democrats don't like spending billions to rebuild Iraq, a full two- thirds of the $87 billion request goes directly to U.S. troops there. How can a Democratic presidential candidate vote against money for the troops? Republicans think they know the answer.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MAJORITY WHIP: Well, Senator Kerry has a Howard Dean problem.

KARL: The problem? Dean is constantly reminding Kerry and the other candidates in Congress that they voted to authorize the war in the first place.

KARL: The problem? Dean is constantly reminding Kerry and the other candidates in Congress that they voted to authorize the war in the first place. HOWARD DEAN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Senator Kerry, Senator Lieberman, Representative Gephardt, Senator Edwards all gave the president a blank check to go to war in Iraq, putting people today in the position of having to decide whether we're going to spend $87 billion on health care or send it in Iraq.

KARL: And polls suggest the public is wary of shipping billions off to Iraq. Asked about the $87 billion request in the latest CNN- "USA Today" Gallup poll, 57 percent said Congress should vote no. Only 41 percent yes.

So where are the other candidates coming down? John Edwards is running ads about the $87 billion request that make it sound like he will vote no.

SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I will not give this president a blank check.

KARL: But Edwards says he is still undecided about how he will vote. Aides to Dick Gephardt say he is leaning yes. Busy campaign schedules have forced the candidates to miss a lot of votes this year.

So there's another question. Will they vote at all?


KARL: As for the Democrats here in Congress who are not running for president, today they had a meeting, a closed meeting, an annual weekly luncheon, and Robert Byrd, one of the leading critics of the war, got up and made an impassioned case, sources say, against the $87 billion request. Coming out of that meeting, Senator Jim Jeffords said that he, for one, will vote no on that. But also today, Tom Daschle came out and said that he expects the majority of Democrats at the end of the process, after trying to change it, will vote yes on the president's request -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right. A lot of noise and a lot of frustration over at the Capitol. Thank you very much, Jon.

Well, this hour, Secretary of State Colin Powell and budget director Josh Bolton are due to brief some senators of both parties about that $87 billion Iraq funding request. President Bush may drop by the White House meeting as well. It is another example of the administration trying to better present its message on Iraq. Today, the White House contends that the latest terror attack in Baghdad is actually the result of the progress being made there.


SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: What you see is the more progress we make, the more desperate the holdouts of Saddam Hussein's regime and foreign terrorists become. They become desperate because of the progress we're making, and they know that when we succeed in Iraq, that we will have dealt the enemy a significant blow in the war on terrorism.


WOODRUFF: As we reported earlier, only the suicide bomber was killed in today's incident near the Turkish Embassy in Baghdad.

Well now let's talk more about the situation in Iraq, the financial costs, and the politics here at home with Republican Senator Chuck Hagel.


WOODRUFF: Senator Hagel, thank you for being with us. Is it your understanding or belief now that the administration is going to get this $87 billion no strings attached?

HAGEL: Judy, I think the president will get the $87 billion. When you say no strings attached, I suspect there will be amendments. I don't know if any of those amendments will pass.

But I think you will see the president win here. And win an $87 billion package essentially in the form that he has presented it to the Congress. And I will support that.

WOODRUFF: What about those, including your fellow Republicans, Senator Collins and others, who are arguing that some of this money should be in the form of a loan and not an outright grant?

HAGEL: We can divide and subdivide all the details of this $20 billion that's been set aside for reconstruction of Iraq for weeks and months and maybe years. The fact is, we need to get this settled. The president, I think, has come in with an accountable program.

The fact is, that the sooner that we can get Iraq stabilized and secured, and the sooner the Iraqi people start to realize that their lives have improved, the sooner the Iraqis can start governing themselves, the sooner we will bring our troops home. That should be the objective.

WOODRUFF: Senator, the administration has started eye new public relations offensive, if you will, to get what they say is the more positive side of what's going on in Iraq out there. Is this successful, in your mind? Is this something that's needed? Is it the right thing to do right now?

HAGEL: Judy, the efforts in Iraq, Afghanistan, all our efforts around the world are not going to be won by a PR campaign, a marketing campaign. The victories will come as a result of doing this right, with a lot of help from our allies, with the United Nations, with a lot of nations coming together because of one common interest here.

It's in the interests of all of us to stabilize the Middle East. And yes, you can tell your story. You should tell your story. Nothing wrong with that. But we should make no mistake here. This is not going to be won with a PR campaign.

WOODRUFF: Well, part of that -- and we've been reading a great deal about it in the last few days, Senator -- are the very public disagreements among people at the top levels of this administration. Is it your sense now that President Bush has gotten some of these disagreements, very tough infighting going on under control yet?

HAGEL: I hope he has, Judy. I hope he has for the sake of this country more than anything else. My colleague, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Dick Lugar of Indiana, spoke directly on that on a Sunday morning talk show. I know the White House didn't want to hear that.

I've spoken to this issue, as other Republicans and Democrats have. But the president must take charge here. And when you have four administration officials out giving four variations of a speech last week, some real tough, some not so tough, some kind of in the middle, that doesn't develop confidence in a strategy, in a policy.

The president's the president. I think this president will get control of this. I think he will lead. He must lead.

WOODRUFF: When you say you're confident that he will, what gives you that confidence? I mean, has somebody told you that this is going to happen?

HAGEL: No one has told me. They don't confide in me very often, Judy. But the fact is, this is in the interest of our country.

Certainly, politics is spread throughout this, and the undercurrents of this are quite raw and obvious as to the political dynamic. And there will be political consequences next year, as all political dynamics do play out in the end in an accountable, responsible way. But we cannot lose here.

I think this president understands that. That means this president is going on to have to continue to move like he is toward the United Nations, reaching out for more allies, more help, more sharing of decision-making authority. He knows he needs to do that. I think he will do that and he will be the president.

WOODRUFF: Very quickly, Senator, you mention international cooperation. You were just in Poland, which has sent 200 troops out of the 140,000 that are serving there. Are you confident that many other countries are going to be sending large numbers of troops in?

HAGEL: No, I'm not confident of that for many reasons. The Polish have the third largest military contingent there in Iraq. We are grateful for that. One of the reasons I was there to thank the Polish people and the Polish president and their parliament.

But it's going to be difficult to get force structure there from other countries and the kind of resources and money we need. But we must do this. We must bring a legitimacy to this effort so it's not seen as just an American effort, but an international effort.

WOODRUFF: Senator Chuck Hagel, it's always good to talk with you.

HAGEL: Thanks, Judy. WOODRUFF: Thanks very much. We appreciate it.

Well, while Democrat Wesley Clark has been in the thick of the debate over Iraq, today the White House is hopeful on focusing -- the White House hopeful, I should say, is focusing on national service. Clark wants to create a core of civilians who could be called up for service in national emergencies such as floods, fires or terrorist attacks.

Unveiling the plan in New York today, Clark said every American 18 or older could volunteer for the reserve. If called to duty, they would receive health care, a stipend, and the right to return to their jobs when their service was done.


WESLEY CLARK (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: So today I want to offer a new call to service. We'll call it a civilian reserve corps. I'm offering it to reinvigorate America's ethic of service, to tap our vast reservoir of skills, talent, generosity and energy, and to offer millions more Americans the opportunities to serve their community, their country and international causes.


WOODRUFF: Clark will be appearing and speaking in New Mexico tomorrow.

Well, President Bush leads the headlines in our "Campaign News Daily." The Bush-Cheney campaign has released its fund-raising totals for the just completed third quarter. The campaign brought in an impressive $49.5 million during the period. That brings the total race since May to almost $84 million. The campaign says it has about $70 million in cash on hand.

Well, who is donating all that cash? According to the campaign, 262,000 people have made donations, representing 99 percent of all the counties in the nation. About 145,000 donors gave $200 or less.

President Bush will have his first one-on-one meeting with the governor-elect of California this week. Mr. Bush and Arnold Schwarzenegger will meet Thursday in Riverside. The two men spoke by phone after Schwarzenegger's election victory last week.

In the race to '04, are the Democrats playing the Iraq card wisely? We'll explore their strategies and the splits ahead.

Plus, Wesley Clark may want to get behind the wheel at the White House, but wait until you hear who's driving him around.

And up next, P. Diddy and the rap crowd sing one candidate's tune.


WOODRUFF: This word just in from our congressional correspondent, Jonathan Karl, and that is that he has learned that North Carolina Democratic Senator John Edwards, a candidate for president, has decided to vote against the $87 billion Iraq funding request coming down from President Bush. Again, Senator Edwards planning to vote against Iraq funding.

With me now to talk more about U.S. policy in Iraq as a political issue is Joe Lockhart. He's a Democratic strategist and, of course, he served as President Bill Clinton's press secretary.

Joe Lockhart, as you look as these Democratic candidates -- and we're just hearing now about what John Edwards is going to do -- do they run the risk of inconsistency, particularly somebody like Edwards, who was with the president before, as was John Kerry? Both of them sounding as if, and in Edwards' case, definitely going to vote against the funding.

JOE LOCKHART, FMR. WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Well, I don't think so. I mean, I think Democrats can overthink these things. And that's perhaps what happened to them.

But I think, as a whole, they were afraid of not looking like they were supporting the commander in chief in that vote. But when you look back at the past year, really the only significant event was that vote. And Howard Dean was on the right side of it because he didn't have to vote. And I think that's one of the reasons he's sitting at the head of the pack.

I think the Edwards move is very smart. The public no longer believes that this president's invincible on foreign policy, that what he says goes. There's lots of evidence that he wasn't straight with the public.

And the Democrats have to get out there and be different. And they have to go out and articulate why they're different. And I think Edwards has shot out of the pack a little bit with the commercial he's running now and with what Jonathan Karl is reporting. And I think it is a way with Democratic activists and Democratic voters, a way to get well.

WOODRUFF: But again, you don't think it's inconsistent to have voted with the president and then to turn around months later and say no, I think the U.S. basically needs to pull out? Because without that money, there is no U.S. presence.

LOCKHART: That's not at all what they're saying. What they're saying is, I don't think this president has a plan. We trusted you back then to lead us into war, and you misled us. So now we're not going to let you and you alone run the reconstruction. Congress is going to decide how we do that.

So I think it's very -- I think that's what Bush will say. He'll say, oh, you're pulling the rug out from under us. But that's not at all what's happening.

And the interesting thing about this debate is, it's not just from Democrats. You've got Republicans. The president is twisting arms today, trying to figure out a way to get Republicans with him. He's not going to do it. This is going to be a package that's fashioned by congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle, and I think the president is going to be a spectator.

WOODRUFF: When it comes to the campaign though, Joe, are the Democrats who are not having to vote, not sitting members of Congress, are they at an advantage here? Because they don't have to sit there and cancel (ph) it.

LOCKHART: Listen, there's a reason that presidential candidates often come from outside Washington. And when you're here and you're faced with the responsibility of governing, it's not always as easy as when you're outside.

But I'll tell you something. Senator Edwards, Senator Kerry, others, Senator Lieberman have an opportunity now that Howard Dean doesn't, which is to come back to Washington and lead on this issue and show Democratic voters around the country that there will be no more blank checks for President Bush on foreign policy, and that the Democrats have an alternative vision.

If the Democrats come out of this being sort of me, too, and reluctantly giving Bush what he wants, they'll lose the election next year. If they offer an alternative and show the country that, you know what, there's more than one way to do this, then I think they're in very good shape.

WOODRUFF: So are you suggesting that a Kerry or an Edwards could steal the thunder from a Dean or a Wesley Clark, who have clearly gotten some mileage out of their opposition to the war?

LOCKHART: Sure. I think that -- I don't know at this point whether you're able to steal the thunder. But I think, A, it's not inconsistent to be against this package, as Bush has laid it out. And B, I think the Democrats who feel like they're on the wrong side of this issue, based on where the American public is now, can really use this debate that's going to unfold in the future on paying for the reconstruction to make the point that the president no longer is a credible leader on this issue and the Democrats have the ability to do it.

WOODRUFF: All right. We're going to leave it there. Joe Lockhart, a familiar face around these parts, former spokesman for President Bill Clinton. Thanks very much, Joe. Good to see you again.


WOODRUFF: Thanks very much.

Before the Democrats select their nominee, they first have to settle the dispute within the family. It is the insiders versus the outsiders, and the true versus the new. We're going to sort through the competitors when INSIDE POLITICS returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) WOODRUFF: As the Democratic hopefuls battle for the hearts and minds of the party faithful, some fault lines are emerging between the leading candidates. Our Bill Schneider reports that before they can take on President Bush, the Democrats face a battle of their own, inside the party.


BILL SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): Democrats are fighting a two-dimensional campaign. One is outsiders versus insiders.

Howard Dean and Wesley Clark are outsiders. Neither has been a Washington politician. Their issue? The same one that got an outsider elected governor of California: change.

DEAN: We can't just change presence. We're trying to change America.

CLARK: That's why the American people want change. And that's why I'm running.

SCHNEIDER: The insiders are Dick Gephardt and Joe Lieberman, both Washington establishment figures. Their claim: know-how.

DICK GEPHARDT (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We know how to do this. They do not.

SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN (D-CT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The way to bring about change is not to go to a rookie.

SCHNEIDER: The second dimension separates true Democrats from new Democrats.

DEAN: Why the Democrats aren't winning, it is because we don't stand up for what we believe in.

SCHNEIDER: Dean and Gephardt claim to be true Democrats. They're tapping into Democrats' anger at the Bush administration. In Dean's case, over Iraq.

DEAN: Nobody stood up to him on the October vote. If you all had voted no, we could have gone out and made our case to the American people.

SCHNEIDER: In Gephardt's case, over jobs.

GEPHARDT: We need to do something bold to stimulate this economy and solve what I believe is our major problem.

SCHNEIDER: New Democrats, like Clark and Lieberman, appeal to electability. In you really want to beat Bush, you'd better nominate a moderate with credibility outside the party faithful.

LIEBERMAN: I'm a candidate who can beat Bush because I can take him on where he's supposed to be strong but he's not, on defense and values.

CLARK: I'm getting tremendous response. Response from Democrats, Independents, people who have never been engaged in politics, and Republicans who are looking to us, to me, for new vision and new leadership.

SCHNEIDER: Last week's presidential debate featured one instance where newer wasn't necessarily better. Gephardt, the union man, the Washington insider, has been called yesterday's man. He turned that to his advantage by arguing that yesterday wasn't so bad.

GEPHARDT: I led the fight for the Clinton economic program in 1993. It created 22 million new jobs.


SCHNEIDER: John Kerry and John Edwards define their own dimension. They're running on biography. Kerry is the Vietnam hero who knows world affairs. Edwards is the poor kid who made it big and never forgot where he came from. Their campaigns are less about positioning themselves and more about telling their stories -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: And I still say, with nine of them, we need a chart to keep track of them all. OK, Bill, thank you very much.

Well, White House hopeful John Edwards talks a lot about his biography. Up next, is there a line on his resume that he left out?


WOODRUFF: Finally, our strange but true file from the campaign trail. Guess who Wesley Clark has hired to drive him around? John Edwards.

OK. It's not that John Edwards. But the coincidence made us smile. The John Edwards who is working as Clark's driver reportedly has been called up to serve in Iraq. But for now, this John Edwards says he's happy to get the general his coffee.

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


Senator Chuck Hagel>

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