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JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS

Presidential Ad War: Republicans Join the Fray; Interview With Donna Brazile, Bay Buchanan; Interview With AARP CEO William Novelli

Aired November 21, 2003 - 15:30   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: Our war against terror is a contest of will in which perseverance is power.

ANNOUNCER: The Republicans entered the presidential ad war. Does it counter the Democrats' attacks or egg them on?

Where's Joe? He was the most recognized candidate at the start of the campaign, but is the Senator from Connecticut slipping under the political radar?

SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (D-CT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is an undecided race. None of us is running away with it.

ANNOUNCER: The tall and short of party affiliation. Our new poll suggests that in this case, size does matter.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think height has anything to do with it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It must make them feel bigger to be Republicans. You think? When they're small like that?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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

JUDY WOODRUFF, HOST: Thank you for joining us. Well, if you think a year before Election Day is early for ads touting a president unopposed in the primaries, you are right. But the Republican National Committee clearly felt that a commercial defense of Mr. Bush was needed right now. So the RNC is spending roughly $100,000 in Iowa and New Hampshire on its first ad buy of the '04 campaign.

Our Candy Crowley has more on the spot, what's behind it and the Democrats' reaction.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The election is nearer. Democratic contenders are fiercer; the poll numbers have dropped. It's not surprising that the Republican Party's first presidential ad of the season is a not at all gentle reminder of the January rationale for war. BUSH: It would take one vial, one canister, one crate slipped into this country to bring a day of horror like none we have ever known.

CROWLEY: The ad comes after months of pounding by Democrats running for president.

AL SHARPTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm talking about stopping U.S. troops from dying senselessly.

CROWLEY: The ad comes as some Republicans begin to worry the president has not been forceful enough in making his case.

JIM DYKE, RNC SPOKESMAN: This is a debate that the Democrats running for president have pushed for, that they have wanted, that they have focused on. It is a debate that we're happy to enter into and provide some contrast.

CROWLEY: The rhetoric on the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) has only grown harsher.

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH (D-OH), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And the truth is that this administration lied to the American people.

CROWLEY: The war in Iraq is bloodier and more difficult than it seemed it would be when troops were speeding across the desert.

BUSH: Our war against terror is a contest of will in which perseverance is power.

CROWLEY: The ad will air this weekend in Iowa, just a day before the Democrats debate there.

BUSH: Some have said we must not act until the threat is imminent. Since when have terrorists and tyrants announced their intentions, politely putting us on notice before they strike?

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He has, in fact, made America less secure by conducting an arrogant, blustering, unilateral foreign policy...

CROWLEY: A supporter of Iraq war resolution, a fierce critic of the way it was conducted, John Kerry said of the RNC ad, "We don't need another commercial. We need a commander in chief."

REP. RICHARD GEPHARDT (D-MO), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He can't even find Osama bin Laden or Saddam Hussein. They've vanished.

CROWLEY: Richard Gephardt, another war supporter, said of the new ad, "Once again, the president has chosen to politicize the war on terror for partisan gain.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY: John Edwards called the ad reprehensible. Joe Lieberman called it cynical. Others suggested their patriotism had been attacked. The RNC said this is about policy, not patriotism. This is also not the kind of debate about the war that the White House might have expected a short nine months ago. The race is on -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Boy, is that true. All right. Candy, thank you very much.

Well, John Kerry's plan -- you just heard from him a minute ago, but his plan to roll back President Bush's policies is featured in today's "Campaign News Daily." The '04 Democrat today offered his vision of what the first 100 days of a Kerry presidency would be like. Kerry promises to replace what he calls George Bush's raw deal with a real deal that stands up to powerful interests.

Among other things, Kerry says that he would renounce the policy of preemptive war, repeal the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, and restore fiscal sanity to Washington. Kerry spoke in New Hampshire before filing to run in the January 27 primary. He then boarded his bus, called the Real Deal Express, for a two-day tour of the Granite State.

Well, joining us now from Washington, former Gore campaign manager Donna Brazile, and Bay Buchanan, president of American Cause.

Bay, to you first. Is this smart of John Kerry right now to be saying, all right, I'm going to be president and here's what I'd do in the first 100 days. I mean, he had a rough week last week. Is this going to help him?

BAY BUCHANAN, AMERICAN CAUSE: Well, he's got to do something, Judy. Clearly, he's completely flat, he's up against two -- he's running behind two individuals who have shown real movement in their campaign as they picked up endorsements. Dean going ahead clearly up there in New Hampshire, and Gephardt ahead in Iowa. And so there's real movement and activity and enthusiasm in those campaigns.

He is completely flat. And as you said, had some bad weeks. So he's trying to turn things around and get people excited about his campaign.

But I think his message is a very weak one. He keeps saying that Dean can't govern, as if the guy is governor. People have to believe in him, and he's got to give them a reason why he can distinguish himself from the others, why they should be excited about his campaign, why he can beat the other two in this primary. And I don't think he's done it yet.

WOODRUFF: Donna?

DONNA BRAZILE, FMR. GORE CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Well, first of all, I think John Kerry is absolutely correct to take his plans and his vision on the road. Look, this is the time of year that voters begin to pay attention after they gobble up their Thanksgiving turkey and the dressing. They'll be tuning in to look at these candidates. Some of the candidates will get a fresh, new look.

For John Kerry, he's now said to his supporters, I want to take this campaign on the road, I want to become a little bit more aggressive, and I want to put forth my plan on how I will change America if I'm elected president.

WOODRUFF: All right. Let's talk about President Bush's -- or I should say the Republican National Committee's ad. Bay, is it the smart -- is it a smart message they're getting across, and is it smart timing?

BUCHANAN: It's excellent. I give them real credit. What they're doing here is, the Republican Party is stepping in.

The Democrats have nine candidates out there. They just bash the president every single day, if you like. And in addition to that, these debates come along and you get nine of them there with an hour and a half national television beating him up.

So I think what they're doing is, there's a void out there, there's been no response from Republicans. And they've got an ad there that shows the president with real courage and grit as the commander-in-chief, a tough fella fighting this terrorism. And they'll run that two to three days before these debates.

And then the debate hits, the American people are going to look and say, these guys are just whiners. This a guy's a strong man, he's our leader. And I think it's going to help him.

WOODRUFF: Donna, you're smiling.

BRAZILE: Well, I'm smiling because they chose to use footage from the State of the Union, and we all know that that speech was basically a bunch of lies thrown together with threads still coming apart. You know, the Republicans are playing the patriotism card.

Democrats are strong and united and fighting the war on terrorism. But this administration has lost its message on the war on terrorism. We've failed to bring our allies. We're not funding homeland security. And Democrats are right to attack the president's policies.

They're not attacking the president. They're going after his policies on homeland security and the war on terrorism.

BUCHANAN: You know, Judy, when you call a president of the United States a liar, I think that that attacks the person. And that's exactly what some of these Democrats have done. They've said his policies are dangerous. They constantly say he's fouled this thing up.

So he's out there -- he's not calling on their patriotism. He's basically distinguishing his policies from what's being called upon by these Democrats.

WOODRUFF: All right. Donna, last word.

BRAZILE: Well, bring it on, Ed Gillespie. Democrats are ready to fight this challenge, we're ready to talk about national security. If they want to play some footage from the State of the Union, we'll play our own footage.

BUCHANAN: That's a deal. I'll play on that field any day, Donna.

WOODRUFF: All right. We're going to...

BRAZILE: Bring it on.

WOODRUFF: Bay, Donna, thank you both. Good to see you. Have a good weekend.

BRAZILE: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: Thank you.

BUCHANAN: Sure. Same to you.

WOODRUFF: Well, on Capitol Hill now, the clock is ticking toward a big vote, and suspense is in the air. Up next, the Medicare cliffhanger. Can Republicans muster the votes to push a prescription drug bill through the House?

Plus...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think this energy bill is dead. In fact, I think it's alive and kicking.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: ... we'll have the latest on the political power struggle over energy and whether the Senate bill is dead or alive.

And a tricky political dance. Can swinging your partner trip you up? Find out in the "Political Play of the Week."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Members of Congress are trying to finish work on some of the most important bills of the year, right down to the wire, including Medicare reform and energy policy. For the very latest, let's go to our congressional correspondent, Jonathan Karl.

Jon, first, on energy, what's it looking like?

JONATHAN KARL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the president suffered a major defeat up here this morning when Republicans fell just two votes shy of the necessary votes to defeat a filibuster that has been blocking this bill. And this is a filibuster that's been supported by Democrats, but also by six Republicans who simply don't like some of the special interest provisions in this energy bill.

So right now, major defeat there. Republicans are vowing to bring it back up, try to get it passed again. But Judy, right before this vote, the majority leader, the Republican majority leader, Bill Frist, said this was the vote on energy and it would be hard to come back and do it again.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BILL FRIST (R), MAJORITY LEADER: There's been some speculation, and people have mentioned on the floor that if we don't pass this conference report, we will pull out this provision or that provision and enact them separately. I wanted to dispel that idea as well.

We're not going to pull apart pieces of this conference report and pass them separately. We're not going to do it. We're either going to pass this energy bill now, or the individual provisions that many senators favor are not going to become law. It's as simple as that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KARL: Well, it's not quite as simple as that, because Republicans are now going back to the drawing board, trying to do what they need to do to get two more votes to get this passed. And that includes possibly going back and changing some provisions of this energy bill.

But it's very complicated, Judy, because it's already passed in the House. They'd have to do it there and here as well. So some very high stakes negotiating going on right now on energy in the Congress.

WOODRUFF: All right. Let's talk about the other hot one that's up there, and that is the Medicare prescription drug reform. Jon, is the president going to get what he wants?

KARL: Well, there's a major drama unfolding right now in the House on that question, because right now, Republicans do not have the votes they need to pass the Medicare bill in the House. They believe they will get the votes, they at least hope they will get the votes.

The vote is going to be in the House late tonight. In fact, early tomorrow morning. You probably won't see a vote until 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning.

In the meantime, you have the president, who is expected to make calls aboard Air Force One on his way back from London. Karl Rove has already called some wavering Republicans from Air Force One. In fact, I'm told Rove actually made a call yesterday from Buckingham Palace, trying to push that bill through the House.

The chief of staff, Andy Card, the president's chief of staff, is also up here pushing for that. But the problem over there for the president is there are a number of conservatives. Again, conservatives who think this bill is simply too much spending, too much of a new entitlement to be added on to the federal government.

They don't like it. They're trying to defeat it. One of those conservatives is Mike Pence of Indiana. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. MIKE PENCE (R), INDIANA: I think it's a very close vote. I'm convinced that the House conservatives who came to Washington, D.C., not to create new entitlements but to change entitlements, are holding firm. And the Democrats seem to have sensed that, and so there's a tremendous example of strange bedfellows coming together that I believe if we're successful will work to the great benefit of American taxpayers.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KARL: But Republican leaders do believe they will in the end get enough votes by 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning. And if they do, Judy, over here it's really a done deal. There are more than enough votes to pass the president's Medicare plan here in the U.S. Senate.

WOODRUFF: All right. Well I know you're going to be watching it. Jon Karl, thank you very much. Appreciate it.

KARL: Thanks.

WOODRUFF: Well, this showdown over Medicare reform comes after recent heavy advertising by the AARP. The influential organized surprised a lot of people by endorsing the bill's prescription drug benefit. AARP CEO, William Novelli, joins me now from Washington.

Mr. Novelli, thank you for talking with us. We appreciate it.

WILLIAM NOVELLI, CEO, AARP: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: Let's start out with how unhappy you've made a lot of Democrats. You've been hearing this for the last few days. What we're now hearing, though, the main criticism, is they're saying that there is the conflict of interest, because the American Association for Retired Persons, they point out, gets millions of dollars every year in royalties for insurance that is marketed under the AARP name. They say, as a result of this, you, your organization stands to reap a windfall if this drug plan passes.

NOVELLI: Yes. That's not true at all. We do market products and services to our members, but we have a wall set up between that marketing and the policy work that we do.

It's a separate staff; it has a separate board. And as a matter of fact, by our calculations, we think we're going to actually lose revenues if this legislation passes. That's inconsequential to us. What we care about is getting Medicare coverage out there for the seniors now and for the boomers who are going to be retiring just a few short years from now.

WOODRUFF: You have people on the AARP Web site -- I saw this today in "New York Times" columnist Paul Krugman's column. He said there are people on your Web site who are saying, in essence, to your organization, you've become, in effect, an insurance company. NOVELLI: AARP is organized to serve the public. Our mission is to help people age with dignity and with purpose. We do sell insurance products, and that money is then used for our community service work, our information magazines, all the things that we do to help people. AARP really wants to get this legislation passed because it's going to help low income people, it's going to help people with high drug costs, and it's really going to do a lot, I think, to help drive costs down of drugs.

WOODRUFF: Let me also point out something that Congressman Henry Waxman, a Democrat, has said. He pointed out that before you came to AARP, you worked with the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. You pushed for a settlement with the tobacco companies.

He says -- and I'm quoting him -- he says, "I see a pattern of a guy who doesn't have good judgment. He gets co-opted by the other side and talks himself into a bad deal."

NOVELLI: Well, I think that Mr. Waxman is referring to an incident in which the public health community essentially overreached and tried to have perfect legislation. And the result was that today, five years later, we still don't have FDA oversight over tobacco. If Mr. Waxman had helped us then, we would have passed that comprehensive legislation, and I think that's still on his mind.

WOODRUFF: Well, let me get back, then, to the point in the Paul Krugman column today in "The Times." I mean, in essence, one of the other points he made is that when the executives of an organization like yours are as involved in business as you are, and primarily the insurance business, his point was then you begin to identify with those interests, rather than the interests of your constituents.

NOVELLI: Not even close. I come from the business world. My interest is in helping people and in social change. And that's really what AARP is all about. That's what makes us go to work every morning.

We see this legislation as very important for the country and for the future of the country. And we think that this legislation can help break this longstanding gridlock, this partisan gridlock in Washington. We need this legislation.

WOODRUFF: William Novelli is the CEO of the AARP. Thank you very much. It's good to see you and we appreciate your coming by to talk to us.

NOVELLI: Thanks a lot.

WOODRUFF: Thank you. We appreciate it.

Coming up next, yet another snafu surrounding elections in Florida.

Plus, all eyes are on the House is as it prepares for a crucial vote. Will it approve the Medicare drug bill? Our Bob Novak has some insight. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Election controversies just don't seem to end. In Florida, the latest one involved Miriam Oliphant, who was removed from her post this week as Broward County's election supervisor.

CNN national correspondent Susan Candiotti has the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you give us some comment, please?

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Newly suspended Broward County supervisor of elections, Miriam Oliphant, had nothing to say after Governor Bush gave her the boot. After a state-ordered analysis, Bush suspended her from office for incompetence, misfeasance and neglect of duty. "She may ignore her fundamental duty to protect every citizen's right to vote. I will not."

MAYOR DIANA W. RUBIN, BROWARD COUNTY FLORIDA: She had opportunities to take corrective measures, and I'm so sorry that it ended this way.

CANDIOTTI: The first real signs of trouble surfaced during last year's Democratic gubernatorial primary. Voting with new touch screen machines, among the things that went so badly, it took a week to sort out who won. Later, 268 uncounted absentee ballots were found in a filing cabinet.

An investigation cleared Oliphant of criminal wrongdoing, but the handwriting was on the wall. Her supporters accused critics of racism. Oliphant defended herself.

MIRIAM OLIPHANT, BROWARD COUNTY ELECTIONS SUPERVISOR: I have registered the most voters in the state of Florida. I have met the challenges. I have provided the voters of Broward County with education and outreach.

CANDIOTTI: Pollster Jim Kane suggests in this case, Bush, overseeing his brother's Florida reelection campaign, had to take action.

JIM KANE, "THE FLORIDA VOTER": With Florida's reputation from the 2000 election, that would be a huge embarrassment and may even look like he's trying to sabotage the Democrats.

CANDIOTTI: Named by Bush to take over for now, another African- American, Brenda Snipes, a Democrat described as a healer.

BRENDA SNIPES, NEW BROWARD COUNTY ELECTIONS SUPERVISOR: This is an awesome responsibility.

CANDIOTTI: Skills she'll need to mend a troubled office before next year's presidential election.

Susan Candiotti, CNN, Miami. (END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: So Bob Novak joins us now from the "CROSSFIRE" set at George Washington University with some inside buzz.

All right. Bob, some of these members of Congress hoping to get home for the Thanksgiving holidays. It may not be happening?

ROBERT NOVAK, CO-HOST, "CROSSFIRE": They were giddy, Judy, that they were actually going to adjourn for the year after this weekend. But any hopes for that were really killed when they didn't end debate on the energy bill in the Senate. The Senate -- the House now has to stick around to try to figure out how they can get some of all of these pork barrel projects in some kind of bill.

I hear the House is going to be back in session December 4 and 5. So that's good news for all of us who love to watch Congress work.

WOODRUFF: And we love that. Bob, tonight, they're also busy up on the Hill. The House is set to vote on the Medicare prescription drug reform plan. What are you hearing about it?

NOVAK: They had a caucus of the House Democrats this year and somebody got up and said, anybody who votes for the bill ought to be kicked out of the caucus. Well, in fact, nobody will be kicked out, and there will be over 20, maybe more Democrats voting for it.

That ought to be enough to pass the bill. They don't have too many Republican defections. Nobody is quite sure.

Once it passes the House, though, Judy, tonight, it's just going to go through the Senate very quickly. Teddy Kennedy doesn't like the bill, but he's not going to filibuster it. The AARP endorsement has given a lot of Democrats cover to support this bill.

WOODRUFF: All right. We're going to find out shortly whether you're right or not. We'll come back and talk about it again.

Bob, last but not least, the newly elected governor of the state of Mississippi, Haley Barbour, was in Washington this week. What was he up to?

NOVAK: Well, you know Haley is a former Republican national chairman. He's a big-time Washington lobbyist. But he was in town quietly -- slipped into town quietly this week to do a couple of fundraisers for his old buddy, Mitch Daniels, a former OMB director who is running for governor of Indiana.

And he had one of those big fundraisers at the Caucus Room. That's a big lobbyist hangout sn and steakhouse. And guess who the partial owner of that is? Haley Barbour. I think having a fundraiser in your own restaurant, that's Washington in the 21st century, isn't it?

WOODRUFF: Wish we all could do that. OK. Bob Novak. And we'll be watching you very, very shortly. You're going to see Bob a little later on "CROSSFIRE" at 4:30 Eastern. And you can also catch him tomorrow morning at 9:20 eastern on "THE NOVAK ZONE."

So far, Senator Joe Lieberman is hesitating about Medicare reform, and his presidential campaign has not exactly caught fire. Coming up, I'll ask the senator what he is going to do.

Later, the long and short of who is a Republican and who is a Democrat.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NARRATOR: George Bush, he let corporate lobbyists rewrite our environmental laws.

ANNOUNCER: That's what the ad says. But what can you believe when it comes to campaign commercials?

JOHN F. KENNEDY: Ich bin ein Berliner.

ANNOUNCER: He helped write the play book for U.S. presidents overseas. We'll revisit JFK the politician.

Now, live from the CNN Center in Atlanta, JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Welcome back. When word broke of the first Republican ad promoting President Bush's reelection, it seemed the '04 Democrats couldn't spit out responses fast enough. The question now, will voters buy their charge that the GOP is politicizing the war on terror or the ad's suggestion that the Democrats are nay sayers?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: It would take one vial, one canister, one crate slipped into this country to bring a day of horror like none we've ever known.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: The Republican National Committee spots start airing Sunday in Iowa, part of an initial ad by of about $100,000. The RNC says these spots are need to do counter the Democrats' continuous criticism of Mr. Bush.

Meantime, the liberal activist group MoveOn.org is launching its own ad this weekend, blaming Mr. Bush for the loss of more than 2 million jobs during his tenure. The spots will air first in Washington, D.C. and then in 15 cities in presidential swing states.

The '04 Democrats are busy churning out, meanwhile, their own TV ads. Howard Dean went up with a new spot in Iowa this week that has the feel of a rousing general election campaign ad. And John Kerry is airing a new health care ad in New Hampshire. Howard Kurtz of CNN's "RELIABLE SOURCES" has more on the Democrats' latest spots and the strategies behind them.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HOWARD DEAN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You have the power. You have the power. You have the power.

HOWARD KURTZ, HOST, "RELIABLE SOURCES" (voice-over): Howard Dean is as aggressive in his advertising as he is on the stump. So it's no surprise that he threw the first and hardest punch of the 2004 ad wars at his Iowa rival Dick Gephardt.

AD ANNOUNCER: October 2002, Dick Gephardt agrees to co-author the Iraq war resolution, giving George Bush the authority to go to war.

DEAN: I oppose the war in Iraq and I'm against spending another $87 billion there.

KURTZ: Of course, Dean also says he supports the troops in Iraq. So despite his rhetoric, he'd have to spend much of that $87 billion to protect them.

These 30-second spots are a mirror of the candidates' styles. Joe Lieberman is a regular Joe in a diner. And criticizes Dean in such gentle fashion that he doesn't even name him.

SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN (D-CT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't think it's right to have raises a divisive symbol like a Confederate flag, or to give up on principles like limiting the amount of money in campaigns.

SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I want to answer every question.

KURTZ: John Edwards oozes Southern charm and steals a page from Bill Clinton's 1992 campaign by offering voters a detailed-ridden plan.

EDWARDS: You deserve to know what my ideas are, what my vision for the country is and how it is I plan to get there.

KURTZ: John Kerry and Wesley Clark are medal-winning Vietnam veterans, and their ads won't let you forget it. Clark's 60 second biospot ranges from Vietnam to his role of commander in Kosovo. No time, apparently, for domestic issues.

AD ANNOUNCER: The first bullet shattered his hand. The second and third hit his shoulder and leg.

KURTZ: Kerry also touts his military background.

AD ANNOUNCER: A leader on national security, a decorated combat veteran. KURTZ: But Kerry is also training his fire on President Bush's environmental record.

AD ANNOUNCER: George Bush, he let corporate lobbyists rewrite our environmental laws, sided with polluters, not taxpayers. And now he's trying to roll back the Clean Air Act.

KURTZ: Actually, Kerry cites only two instances in which presidential orders were similar to industry recommendations. And the Bush administration says that allowing older plans to upgrade their equipment without penalty will cut air pollution.

(on camera): With Iowa and New Hampshire drawing closer, the air wars are just starting to heat up. That means we'll be seeing a lot more negative spots. And if history is any guide, plenty of claims that don't quite measure up. This is Howard Kurtz of CNN's "RELIABLE SOURCES."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Now, an update on important issues in Washington. A short while ago, the Bush administration announced plans to open more than 8 million acres of Alaska's north slope to oil and gas development. This move came hours after a coalition of Senate Democrats and Republicans blocked approval of a massive energy bill endorsed by President Bush.

The measure denied Mr. Bush his top energy priority of opening the Alaskan Wildlife Refuge to drilling. But that did not satisfy opponents, who charge that the bill offered too many handouts to industry.

And this hour, the House continues to press toward a vote on a Medicare prescription drug bill backed by the president and the AARP. At last word, Republicans were still struggling to secure the votes they needed to pass the measure.

All the Democratic presidential candidates are firmly against the GOP-backed Medicare bill except for one. Senator Joe Lieberman refused to reject the bill immediately out of hand. I spoke with Senator Lieberman about a number of campaign issues and started by asking him why he took a different stand on the Medicare bill than his rivals?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LIEBERMAN: Because it's too important and too complicated to make a reflection reaction. And the fact is that I and every other politician in the federal government has been promising seniors a prescription drug benefit plan for years and years and they still don't have it.

This bill does provide prescription drug benefits to at least ten million elderly seniors in America who don't have it now, particularly those who are poor and those who have large drug bills every year. WOODRUFF: You say it's complicated, Senator. But your competitors for the nomination are not taking any time. They've already reached the conclusion, they're calling it a give-away to the drug industry, the drug companies. They're saying it's a move that's going to lead to selling out the sickest and poorest seniors. I mean if they're able to make this determination, why aren't you?

LIEBERMAN: Respectfully, I think they've jumped too quickly. The fact is that the full bail isn't even available. Just becoming available. So we've got to take a look at it.

And before I say no or yes to prescription drug benefits for more than 10 million seniors who don't have any now and a backup guarantee of benefits for 31 million others who have some kind of benefits now, I want to see whether the bad stuff is really that bad or whether we should grab what we've got now, give to it seniors.

And then, of course, when I'm president I'll make it all better.

WOODRUFF: You and Wesley Clark both criticized Howard Dean because he talks about reregulating some parts of the business sector, specifically utilities and the media industry.

Well let me just read to you part of what Howard Dean's campaign shot back with. They said, "If Dean's Democrat opponents aren't concerned with protecting consumers, investors, workers, and the average American, then they're truly out of touch."

LIEBERMAN: Of course, I am concerned about protecting consumers, workers, investors, average Americans. I mean, look at my record. I was attorney general fighting to do exactly that. I've done it in the Senate for 15 years. I compare my record to anybody else.

But that's not reregulation. What it sounded like what Howard wanted to do is go back to where we were before Bill Clinton deregulated industries, created a petition that benefited us in all sorts of ways with better products and services, more at lower costs. That's quite different from having rules of the road for ethical and good behavior and having a government that cracks down on people who don't follow those rules.

WOODRUFF: Senator, finally, a question about your campaign. When you got into this race, you were the front runner, you were right on top of the national polls. But right now, Governor Dean, almost everyone considers him the front runner. Your opting out of the first caucus state of Iowa, scaling back there. Why do you think your campaign is having such a hard time?

LIEBERMAN: Judy, why don't you mention some of the other polls in which I'm doing so well? Last week, I was first in five state polls. New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Wisconsin, Delaware. There's a "Los Angeles Times" poll that Howard Dean at 12 and shows me at 11.

And there's a message there. This is an undecided race. None of us is running away with it. Howard Dean has been a surprising factor in this race, but it's still very competitive. I'm focusing on those early primaries. I'm presenting people with an option which is a center out Democrat.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: And speaking of polls, Joe Lieberman has a point. He comes out on top in a new poll just out today in Pennsylvania. Lieberman narrowly leads Howard Dean among Democrats in the Keystone State which holds its primary in late April. Now we have to tell you that is after the nominee is likely to be determined. The Reverend Al Sharpton coming in third in this poll. Forty-four percent of Pennsylvania Democrats say they are still undecided.

An uphill fight for the White House. Coming up, Bruce Morton with a look at John F. Kennedy, the politician and his historic victory in the 1960 election.

I'll also talk with the author of a highly regarded biography of President Kennedy.

Later, what your height might say about your political affiliation.

And Bill Schneider diagnoses the "Political Play of the Week."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: When John F. Kennedy made his fateful trip to Dallas 40 years ago tomorrow, he had his eyes on the upcoming reelection campaign. His stunning victory in the 1960 election had revealed both a tough and astute politician, traits he put to good use once he reached the White House. Bruce Morton now remembers JFK, the politician.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): What kind of a politician was he? A very, very good one. Running for president in 1960, he was running uphill.

ROBERT DALLEK, HISTORIAN: After all, he was going to be the youngest man ever elected to the White House, and he had to overcome the barrier of being the first Catholic elected president.

MORTON: Primaries mattered less back then. Party leaders chose many delegates. But Kennedy had to go to West Virginia to prove a Catholic could carry a heavily Protestant state.

JOHN F. KENNEDY: I am sure here in the state of West Virginia, that no one believes I'd be a candidate for the presidency if I didn't think I could meet my oath of office.

MORTON: In other words, he wouldn't take orders from Rome. He won West Virginia, won the White House. He was not one of those Eastern liberals. MARK SHIELDS, "CAPITAL GANG": What he brought to it more than any passion was sort of a cool rationality. And in that sense he was a remarkably detached politician from the emotions and passions of the tribal Irish.

MORTON: He needed rationality, the cool. Nikita Khrushchev tried to bully him. Kennedy saw the Berlin Wall go up, avoided World War III and made a speech there that inspired the besieged city.

KENNEDY: Ich bein ein Berliner.

MORTON: Khrushchev installed Soviet missiles in Cuba. Kennedy, resisting calls to invade or bomb, brokered a compromised and Khrushchev withdrew the missiles and the U.S. withdrew some aimed at the Soviet Union.

Dealing with Congress, though, he had a real problem. It was Democratic, but...

DALLEK: As a legislative politician, he was up against something he couldn't overcome, a coalition of conservative Republicans and Southern Democrats who wouldn't give the time of day, so to speak, to civil rights or Medicare or federal aid to education.

MORTON: A few victories, a tax cut. On the toughest issue, he was stuck.

SHIELDS: Kennedy, on the greatest issue, the great moral issue of his time, was late.

MORTON: That, of course, was civil rights. He introduced a bill in the summer of 1963.

SHIELDS: As an Irish Catholic, I cried out of appreciation, gratitude and respect for his raising civil rights to that level of an issue.

MORTON: But he died. It was left for Lyndon Johnson to bully the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act through Congress, while warning friends it would lose the Democrats the South for a generation. It did. The south today is the most Republican part of the country.

Could Kennedy have stemmed the losses had he run again? We don't know. But he was a very skillful politician.

Bruce Morton, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Let's talk more about John Kennedy and his legacy with an historian, the man you saw in Bruce Morton's report, Robert Dallek, historian. His book, "An Unfinished Life," came out earlier this year.

Robert Dallek, first of all, why the fascination still with John F. Kennedy?

DALLEK: I think, Judy, polls show that he stands in the front rank of American presidents of the country. It's not just the country. The world is so admiring of him.

I think it has a lot to do with television, the fact that he's frozen in our minds at the age of 46. We can't imagine that this past May 29, he'd have been 86 years of age.

But more importantly, I think his rhetoric was soaring, was full of a kind of promise of a better America, a better world. And all his successors, none measure up to the rhetoric, none measure up to the inspirational message that he provided. And so I think to this day, the country attaches to him a kind of hope, a kind of vision of a better world.

You know, Ted Sorensen, his speech writer and White House counsel, told the anecdote, that after Kennedy died, people said to Sorensen that they felt Kennedy's death more than the deaths of their parents. And Sorensen thought it was because when their parents died, they lost a piece of the past. But when Kennedy died, they lost a part of the future. And I think that attaches to him to this day.

WOODRUFF: But can any president live up to the kind of mythic proportions of Camelot? You were saying no one has lived up to the Kennedy rhetoric. You know, this poll struck me. You asked people who was the greatest American president. Kennedy is 17 percent, right up there with Abraham Lincoln.

DALLEK: Tied with Lincoln. There's a story in "USA Today" saying that young people between the ages of 18 and 29, 75 percent of them think that Kennedy had fine, good character, strong character.

I think you're right, it's going to be awfully difficult for somebody to come along and kind of eclipse him. Though, Judy, I think, we're going to have to have something that would be so electric in our politics. And I think that could be when we elect a woman president of the United States. And if she does a really terrific job, the irony is that it may diminish Kennedy's hold on the public.

WOODRUFF: The myth will change.

What about this hold, speaking of holds, this conspiracy theory? The fact that so many Americans still believe that it couldn't possibly have been one man, Lee Harvey Oswald?

DALLEK: Seventy-five percent of Americans thing it was a conspiracy. But, you know, Judy, I say if it was a conspiracy, these conspirators were awfully clever fellows because we've still not found out who they were.

And if they were so clever, why would she they have relied upon someone as dysfunctional, unreliable, unstable as Lee Harvey Oswald to pull the trigger? I don't find it adds up. The evidence doesn't support the proposition.

WOODRUFF: Historian Robert Dallek, his book out this year on John Kennedy, "An Unfinished Life." thanks for talking with us.

DALLEK: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: Robert Dallek, great to see you. Thank you very much for talking with us.

And these programming notes tonight. A CNN exclusive interview. Senator Edward Kennedy talks about his brother, John F. Kennedy, on "NEWSNIGHT" starting at 10:00 p.m. Eastern.

And tomorrow night, "CNN PRESENTS: President Kennedy Has Been Shot." Be sure to tune in at 8:00 p.m. Eastern here on CNN.

Coming up next, a political powerhouse takes a stand. Stinging one party, delighting another.

The battle over a coveted seal of approval. Who won and how did they do it? It's our "Political Play of the Week." Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: A surprise move by a powerful lobbying group is a bitter pill to swallow for one political party, but it's just what the doctor ordered for another. Our Bill Schneider joins us from Los Angeles with the story -- Bill.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Judy, when you turn 16, you get your driver's license. When you turn 50, you get your AARP card. It's a rite of passage. What does it mean politically? Not what it used to mean, not since this week's "Political Play of the Week."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): (AUDIO GAP) have become swing voters, swinging seniors. Who knew? You know what happens to swingers. Their partners leave them.

This week, the AARP endorsed the Republicans' Medicare Reform Bill. Congressional Republicans see a chance to score a breakthrough with seniors by delivering on their promise...

BUSH: ... that the Medicare system makes sure there's prescription drugs available for all seniors.

SCHNEIDER: The AARP sees a chance to score a new entitlement for seniors, even if it's not as generous as they'd like.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: While it's not perfect, we know there are millions of Americans...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... who can't afford to wait for perfect.

SCHNEIDER: Democrats are outraged. Entitlements are supposed to be their business.

REP. DICK GEPHARDT (D-MO), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's a Republican bill. Therefore, it's a bad bill.

SCHNEIDER: They see evil forces at work.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: And I want you to know that Bill Novelli, who is the executive director and CEO of AARP, he wrote the foreword to Newt Gingrich's book. He wrote the preface to the book. Did you know that?

SCHNEIDER: Congressional Republican leaders have spent years cultivating the AARP in hopes of wooing them away from the Democrats. This week, the payoff came.

SEN. BILL FRIST (R-TN), MAJORITY LEADER: I don't think the Democrats are going to stand between $400 billion of benefits going to seniors.

SCHNEIDER: Oh, yeah?

SEN. TOM DASCHLE (D-SD), MINORITY LEADER: We estimate that about one-quarter of all senior citizens will be worse off virtually the day this bill passes.

SCHNEIDER: House Democrats officially oppose the bill which they say also opens doors to privatization of Medicare. If it fails, Democratic supporters warn, Republicans can blame them.

SEN. JOHN BREAUX (D), LOUISIANA: Unnecessary partisan politics would be the only way that could kill this legislation.

SCHNEIDER: The AARP stands with the GOP. For the AARP, it's a risk. For the GOP, it's the "Political Play of the Week."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER: Back in 1989, the AARP supported catastrophic insurance coverage under Medicare. And seniors, a lot of them, objected to paying a new tax for something most of them already had. So they went into revolt and eventually the measure was overturned.

You remember the famous videotape of angry seniors attacking the powerful House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dan Rostenkowski in his car. That's the risk that the AARP is taking by endorsing this bill -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: It's a mouthful and I had to say it earlier when I interviewed Mr. Novelli, head of the AARP.

All right, Bill. Thank you very much.

Still to come on INSIDE POLITICS, get out your measuring stick. Height may not make the man, but does it determine party affiliation? That's up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Finally, what you've been waiting for. The tall and short of next year's election. Surely, height has nothing to do with party affiliation. Or does it?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF (voice-over): There comes a time when every man has a eureka moment. CNN polling guru Keating Holland had his a couple weeks ago.

KEATING HOLLAND, CNN POLLING DIR.: I looked and saw the Gallup was asking height and I thought to myself, I wonder if tall men are different than short men.

WOODRUFF: And guess what? They are. At least in one respect. Our poll shows men 5'10" and under are more likely to be Republicans than their taller counterparts. Keating, who is 6'1", can't explain it.

HOLLAND: I think it's probably related to some third factor.

WOODRUFF: So we hit the streets of New York for a spot check.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think height has anything to do with it. I may match, but I think it's just coincidence.

WOODRUFF: He's 5'8" and a Republican.

Here you have two big guys, 6'1' and 6'6". And they are...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Independent.

WOODRUFF: And?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Independent.

WOODRUFF: But they don't buy our poll.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It doesn't matter how short or tall you are.

WOODRUFF: Of course, many Republicans don't fit the mold. This gentleman, for instance.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think taller men are Republicans. They're all cowboys, you know.

WOODRUFF: He laughed it off. Not this man, though.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a very general statement to say that, you know, someone who is 5'8" is a Republican.

WOODRUFF: And honestly, he's one right Republican. There is something else at play. We just don't know what. But some short- sighted tall folks had a few theories.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Republicans are very stubborn people and men under 5'10", Napoleon was very stubborn. So that's way, that's why it makes sense to me.

WOODRUFF: 6'1", independent.

Searching for answers, we went to the people who know men best -- women. Some got a little nasty.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Must make them feel bigger to be Republican. You think? when they're small like that?

WOODRUFF: But most called it rubbish.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My husband's 6'4" and the strongest Republican you'll ever meet.

WOODRUFF: In the final analysis, we're with that guy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's a weird poll.

WOODRUFF: Yes, it is.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Next, we're going to find out what short and tall women have to think about politics.

All right. That's it for today's INSIDE POLITICS. I'm Judy Woodruff. Thanks for joining us. Have a great weekend. "CROSSFIRE" starts right now.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com



With Donna Brazile, Bay Buchanan; Interview With AARP CEO William Novelli>


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