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JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS

Iowa Ire Before Democrats Debate; Ad War of Words: Democrats Versus Bush

Aired November 24, 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: America's military is standing between our country and grave danger.

ANNOUNCER: President Bush reaches out to the troops, while '04 Democrats deliver a one-two punch to his Iraq war record.

NARRATOR: The problem is you declared mission accomplished but had no plan to win the peace. And we went to war when we shouldn't have.

ANNOUNCER: There's no debate about it. As the Democratic pack prepares for an Iowa face-off, the contest seems more like a one-on- one grudge match.

Senators square off over Medicare reform.

SEN. TED KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: The Republicans have hijacked effectively the prescription drug bill.

SEN. BILL FRIST (R), MAJORITY LEADER: But politics aside, to put partisanship aside, to put procedural trips aside...

ANNOUNCER: We're tracking the votes and how they may cut on Election Day.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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

JUDY WOODRUFF, HOST: Thank you for joining us.

The Democratic presidential candidates are set to debate in Iowa about a half an hour from now. The forum comes at a time when the race in the leadoff caucus state seems to be getting downright testy, particularly between Hawkeye State frontrunners Dick Gephardt and Howard Dean.

Our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley, will be watching the debate in Des Moines. She's with us now.

Candy, because of this increasing, I guess testiness is the best way to put it, between Dean and Gephardt, what is expected of them tonight? CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we expect to see some testiness. Look, you know it's getting closer, the Iowa caucuses. Less than two months away. And these are really the two men to watch in Iowa.

Howard Dean, a victory here would put him on the slide into New Hampshire that would make him look pretty formidable by the time he came out of New Hampshire. If Richard Gephardt from neighboring Missouri, who won in 1988, in fact loses here, that will be the end of his campaign. So you can understand the testiness.

The latest began on the airwaves. It was first an ad from Howard Dean slamming Gephardt for standing with the president on Iraq and for voting for the $87 billion. The latest is the rebuttal to that from Dick Gephardt.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NARRATOR: Howard Dean is attacking Dick Gephardt for a position Dean took himself.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is that an up or down yes or no on the $87 billion per se?

HOWARD DEAN (D), DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: On the $87 billion for Iraq we have no choice. But it has to be financed by getting rid of all of the president's tax cuts.

I don't think this Iraq frankly rises to the level of a big campaign issue. And I don't intend to make whether you voted for or against the supplemental appropriations...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: So two fairly brass knuckles politicians here, Judy. I expect you'll see more of this tonight.

WOODRUFF: So Candy, tonight two of the candidates, John Kerry and John Edwards, are going to be participating by satellite. Joe Lieberman originally was not going to participate. But then when he heard about the satellite, he tried to get back into the debate, but they told him he couldn't participate. What's going on there?

CROWLEY: Well, two sides to the same story. What happened is that both Kerry and Edwards planned on being here, and then came the Medicare vote. Joe Lieberman never planned on being here. He was supposed to be in New Hampshire, but he, too, is now in Washington for the Medicare vote.

They asked in when the Democratic Party and NBC offered up this satellite idea. What went wrong here, the Lieberman people think the DNC is sort of mad at them for not agreeing to participate in the first place. The DNC people say logistically, and given all the things one has to do to work around these campaigns, it just proved impossible. And that there were complaints from other campaigns that if Lieberman came in, it wouldn't be fair. So take your pick of those stories. But the bottom line seems to be that Lieberman will be out tonight.

WOODRUFF: All's fair in love, war and politics.

CROWLEY: Right, exactly.

WOODRUFF: OK. Candy, OK. We'll be talking to you tomorrow about that debate. We appreciate it.

Well, although Joe Lieberman won't be in the Iowa debate, he will join us later on INSIDE POLITICS to talk about his exclusion from the forum and about the '04 race.

Another political skirmish is playing itself out in Iowa, pitting both Howard Dean and John Kerry against President Bush. In new ads, the two Democrats are offering pointed responses to a Republican spot that touts Mr. Bush and takes aim at them. Howard Kurtz of CNN's "RELIABLE SOURCES" sorts through the commercial claims.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HOWARD KURTZ, "RELIABLE SOURCES" (voice-over): The war is really heating up. Not the war on terrorism, but the war over the ads on terrorism.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm John Kerry...

KURTZ: Howard Dean making the most of the mess in Iraq. His latest target was Dick Gephardt for supporting the war when President Bush decided it was time to launch a counter attack. The Republican National Committee lobbed this 30-second grenade into Iowa, trying to paint the president's critics as soft on terrorism.

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?

KURTZ: This is political overstatement. No one is attacking Bush for attacking the terrorists. Some Democrats, led by Dean, say the war to topple Saddam Hussein was a mistake. Others say Bush isn't doing enough to find Osama bin Laden or safeguard the country against future attacks. But the president's attempt to marginalize his critics infuriated the opposition, especially the Senate minority leader.

SEN. TOM DASCHLE (D-SD), MINORITY LEADER: It's really a repulsive and outrageous attack once again on those who question the direction that much of the administration has taken with regard to Iraq. It's wrong, it's erroneous, and I think that they ought to pull the ad.

KURTZ: Two Democratic candidates decided to fight fire with mortising fire. First, Vietnam veteran John Kerry. NARRATOR: George Bush's ad says he's being attacked for attacking the terrorists. No, Mr. President. America is united against terror. The problem is you declared "mission accomplished" but had no plan to win the peace. And handed out billions in contracts to contributors like Halliburton.

KURTZ: Bush didn't have no plan for post-war Iraq, but the Pentagon has clearly failed to stop the rising tide of American casualties. And Halliburton, the conglomerate previously run by Vice President Cheney, has scored major contracts to rebuild Iraq. But Kerry of course supported the war. Howard Dean, as his latest attack on Bush reminds us, did not.

NARRATOR: He misled the nation about weapons of mass destruction. And we went to war when we shouldn't have. Howard Dean is committed to fighting terrorism and protecting our national security. But Howard Dean opposed the war in Iraq from the beginning.

KURTZ (on camera): The president certainly said things about Saddam's weapons program that turned out not to be true. But Dean's use of the word "misled" suggests the White House intentionally deceived the public. And so far, there's no evidence of that.

What is clear is that Bush is no longer going to leave the advertising battlefield to the Democrats. Especially on what is shaping up as the most important issue of the 2004 campaign.

This is Howard Kurt of CNN's "RELIABLE SOURCES."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: All right. Now we go to Capitol Hill, where the Senate is moving toward a showdown vote over Medicare reform after a Democratic attempt to filibuster failed. Let's check in with our congressional correspondent, Jonathan Karl.

Jon, any chance at this point that the people who don't like this Medicare bill are going to be able to stop it?

JONATHAN KARL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, there is a chance, Judy. The Republicans were able to easily defeat that Democratic filibuster. But right now on the Senate floor, they are engaged in a vote that's going to be much closer. This is what they call a budget point of order vote.

Democrats have raised an objection, saying that this Medicare bill would violate the budget that Congress passed earlier this year by spending too much money next year. Democrats are making this point, the Republicans need 60 votes to overcome that objection. And right now, it's still too close to call.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARBARA BOXER (D), CALIFORNIA: We've made a point of order against this bill because it busts the budget. Now, where does it bust the budget? Does it bust the budget by giving a more generous prescription drug plan to our seniors? No. It busts the budget by giving away a billion dollars to the HMOs.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KARL: Now, Republicans are saying Democrats are being hypocritical on this. They point out that the Democrats have been pushing a prescription drug bill that was much more costly. They say they are simply raising this technical point because it's their last resort, their only chance of defeating this bill.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. RICK SANTORUM (R), PENNSYLVANIA: This is the kind of shenanigans that goes on here in the Senate, that goes on in Washington, D.C., that the public frankly just doesn't understand. You're either for this bill or against this bill.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KARL: So we'll know in a few minutes whether or not Republicans were able to muster the 60 votes to overcome this so-called point of order. At that point, if they have, this bill will easily pass. They will have proven they certainly have enough support to get the bill passed and sent down to the president -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right. Jon, they're watching it, and we're going to come to you just as soon as we know what's going on. Thank you, Jon.

Well, right now, we want to take you to Ft. Carson, Colorado. President Bush there has been meeting with soldiers and with families of soldiers who lost their lives. Let's listen.

BUSH: The people of our armed forces are serving at a crucial period for America and for all free nations. We're at war with terrorists who hate what we stand for: liberty, democracy, tolerance, and the rights and dignity of every person.

We're a peaceful nation, yet we're prepared to confront any danger. We're fighting the terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan and in other parts of the world, so we do not have to fight them on the streets of our own cities. And we will win.

(APPLAUSE)

BUSH: In this war, America depends on our people in uniform to protect our freedom and to keep our country safe. And all who serve depend every day on the support of your families. These are challenging times for military families. You in the Pikes Peak community know that very well.

Military life makes many demands on wives and husbands and sons and daughters. You have faced hardships, and you have faced them together. And I want you to know, our whole nation is grateful to our military families.

(APPLAUSE) BUSH: America's also indebted to the men and women of the Guard and Reserve who are serving abroad and to those who are called for homeland security assignments. Hundreds of reserve units across America have been activated in this time of war. Our country thanks these fine citizens. And we thank their employers for putting duty first.

I want to thank Major General Bob Wilson for his leadership and his strength of character. I want to thank General Larry Ellis as well for greeting me here today. It's my honor to have met General Lance Lord, commander of the Air Force Space Command. I appreciate colonels (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Terry (ph), Winegar (ph) and Rusty (ph) for being such strong leaders and for greeting me here.

It's my privilege to have lunch with Sergeant Major Mac McWilliams. He's the kind of guy you don't want to cross. He's the kind of guy you want on your side. I'm glad he's on my side, and I'm glad you're on my side.

(APPLAUSE)

BUSH: I appreciate Bill Willoughby, the civilian aide to the secretary of the Army.

I want to thank the families of the fallen soldiers who are here with us today. Our prayers are with you. We ask for god's strength and god's guidance.

I'm honored that the great governor of the great state of Colorado's with us today, Governor Bill Owens. We've got some members of the United States congressional delegation here who are strong supporters of our military and our military families. Congressman Heffley and McGinnis, Tancredo, Beaupre and Musgrave, thank you all for coming. I'm honored you're here.

The speaker of the House is here. Madame Speaker, thank you for coming, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Bradley. The mayor of Colorado Springs and the mayor of Fountain, Mayor Rivera and Mayor Berella (ph) are with us as well. Thank you for coming.

I thank all state and local officials for being here. But most of all, I want to thank you all for coming. It's my honor to be here.

(APPLAUSE)

BUSH: When I landed, I got off that magnificent bird, Air Force One, I was greeted by a lady named Diane Campbell (ph). She brought her family with her. She's an active volunteer with the Army family Team Building Program. As I said, she brought her family with her.

The reason I bring up Diane Campbell (ph), is oftentimes people measure the strength of America based upon the number of tanks and airplanes we have, or the size of our wallets. No, the strength of America lies in the hearts and souls of our citizens. You see, people like Diane Campbell (ph) are providing training and information to military spouses and families to help them adjust to the life in the Army.

See, they're reaching out. They've heard the universal call to love a neighbor just like they'd like to be loved themselves. The true strength of America is the American people, because we're a compassionate, decent, caring, loving people just like Diane Campbell (ph).

(APPLAUSE)

BUSH: I want to thank Diane (ph) and all the Army family Team Building members for your service. I ask you all to reach out a hand to somebody who hurts. I ask you to help us change our country one lonely soul at a time.

For more than 60 years, the units of Ft. Carson have been known for training hard and being prepared at all times. Men and women have come forth from this base to make history from the Pacific theater in World War II to Korea, Vietnam and Desert Storm.

Many thousands who served in these causes still live here in this area. I don't blame you. It's a beautiful part of our country.

Our veterans and military retirees played their part in maintaining the greatest fighting force in the world. They kept our country free. And we are grateful to the veterans who are with us here today.

(APPLAUSE)

BUSH: Today, a new generation has been called to great challenges. The soldiers of the mountain post have been called to serve in the first war of the 21st century. This war began more than two years ago on September 11, 2001, when America was attacked and thousands of our fellow citizens were murdered.

The events of that morning changed our nation. We awakened to new dangers and we accepted new responsibilities. That day we saw the harm that our enemies intend for us. And last week, we saw their cruelty again in the murders in Istanbul.

Today, America, Britain and Turkey and all responsible nations are united in a great cause. We will not rest until we bring these committed killers to justice.

(APPLAUSE)

BUSH: These terrorists will not be stopped by negotiations or by appeals to reason or by the least hint of conscience. We have only one option. We must and we will continue to take the fight to the enemy.

We fight this war against terror on many fronts. Terrorists hide and strike within free societies. So we're draining their bank accounts, disrupting their plans. We're hunting them down one by one until they can no longer threaten America and other free peoples. Terrorists need places to hide, to plot and to train. So we're holding their allies, the allies of terror, to account. Working with the fine coalition, our military went to Afghanistan destroyed the training camps of al Qaeda, and put the Taliban out of business forever.

In Iraq, where a dictator defied the world, cultivated ties to terror, armed with deadly weapons, America led a mission to make the world safer and to liberate the Iraqi people. And that brutal dictator's regime is no more.

(APPLAUSE)

BUSH: Thanks to our great military, Iraqi citizens do not have to fear the dictator's secret police or ending in a mass grave. Thanks to our military, the torture chambers are closed and the prison cells for children are empty. Thanks to our military, we have captured many members of the former regime, and the rest of them have a lot to worry about.

Recently in Operation Iron Hammer, our coalition worked with the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps and police to strike hard against the forces of murder and chaos. We counter attacked, we seized weapons, we brought cold-blooded killers to justice. We're proud of all who participated in these forceful and successful operations.

And we're sending a clear message. Anyone who seeks to harm our soldiers can know that our great soldiers are hunting for them.

(APPLAUSE)

BUSH: Our mission in Iraq and Afghanistan is clear to our service members and is clear to our enemies. America's military is fighting to secure the freedom of more than 50 million people who recently lived under two of the cruelest dictatorships on Earth. America's military is fighting to help democracy and peace and justice rise in a troubled and violent region. And because we're fighting terrorist enemies thousands of miles away in the heart and center of their power, we are making the United States of America more secure.

Units from this base have been vital to our campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq. The 7th Infantry Division has done fine work preparing guard brigades for combat duty overseas with one battalion in Iraq from the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Preparing a brigade to deploy and a brigade now in Afghanistan, helping to train the Afghan National Army.

We're grateful for the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, the 10th Special Forces Group, 43rd Area Support Group. These and other units are showing the skill and the discipline that define Ft. Carson, and you're showing the courage that defines the United States Army.

WOODRUFF: President Bush at Ft. Carson, Colorado, in effect giving a pep talk to the troops based there. Among other things, acknowledging the troops who have fallen from Ft. Carson. And earlier today, he had met with their families.

With us now, who's also our correspondent from the White House, Dana Bash, who's been traveling with the president to Colorado.

Dana, the decision on the part of the president, the White House, to have the president go to meet with some of the families of those soldiers who were lost in Iraq, there had been criticisms the president had not been meeting with these families. Did that have anything to do with today's decision?

DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Judy, the White House is well aware of that criticism. And this trip to Ft. Carson is really part pep talk, as you mentioned, part morale booster.

That's what we just heard. Talking about the 11,000 troops from Ft. Carson who are in Iraq. But it's also part condolence call. And the president, after he gets finished with this speech, talking to the troops here, some of whom are actually on their way to Iraq very shortly, he is going to have a private meeting, not for cameras, about 45 minutes on his schedule.

He's going to meet with family members of those who did die in Iraq. Thirty troops did die from Ft. Carson here since the Iraq war began. Four of whom were actually on the Chinook helicopter that crashed earlier this month.

Now, the president is going to meet with a very large crowd in private. He's going to meet with 98 people. They are family members of 26 of the soldiers who did die.

And the White House basically says that this is the way the president prefers to address the soldiers and their families who were killed in combat. He prefers to do it in private, he prefers to do it when he visits the bases. This is his fourth such visit to a military base and his fourth such private discussion, private meeting where he will be able to give sympathies to family members.

But there certainly has been criticism, not just from family members about the fact that the president hasn't been more outwardly expressive of his condolences, but also from Democratic critic. I should mention, Judy, that Wes Clark had two tours here at Ft. Carson. He was here earlier this month, and he certainly offered his criticism of the president -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right. Dana, I want to turn you now to the other big story in Washington today, and that is that Medicare bill before the United States Senate. It's passed the House. It is facing a crucial vote just moments from now. How confident is the White House?

BASH: Well, the White House certainly was very happy about the 70-29 vote earlier today. But they know, as Jon Karl just mentioned...

WOODRUFF: Dana, I'm going to interrupt you. Dana, I just want to interrupt and say that I'm told that it has just passed with 61 votes. So the White House has got to be happy about that. BASH: They are definitely going to be happy about that. That is information that they were certainly waiting for. They were not taking any chances. As one official said to me earlier today, there certainly weren't any champagne bottles being uncorked yet in the White House.

The president, I was told, did make some calls earlier today to some senators to make sure this thing did get passed through the Senate. But they certainly weren't as on edge as they were over the weekend, as the House vote went through. As you know, the president was roused out of bed at 5:00 in the morning to make some calls to six or seven House members to try to push that vote over the edge.

And you should know, a White House source said that over the weekend, the president actually recorded two radio addresses on Medicare. One congratulating the House for passing Medicare, and another just to urge them along. That is how close this vote obviously was. And that is how unsure the White House has been about this particular piece of legislation.

But the president is going to move on and talk about this tomorrow. He's visiting Las Vegas and Phoenix. His discussions there will be to seniors and about Medicare. They're going to continue to talk about this issue because they know Democrats are going to keep saying that this Medicare bill, this prescription drug bill will hurt Medicare -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right. Dana, thank you very much. Dana is traveling with President Bush in Colorado. And before we go back to listen to the president for a moment, once again, word from the Senate that the Medicare bill, $400 billion Medicare prescription drug reform bill, has passed.

More of President Bush.

BUSH: And all our military families that mourn can know this: our nation will never forget the sacrifice their loved one made to protect us all.

(APPLAUSE)

BUSH: And by the unselfish dedication of Americans in uniform, children in our own country and in lands far away will be able to live in freedom and know the peace that freedom brings. As Americans, we believe that freedom is not America's gift to the world. Freedom is the almighty god's gift to every person who lives in the world.

(APPLAUSE)

BUSH: As men and women who serve the cause of freedom, each one of you has answered a great calling. You live by a code of honor in service to your nation for the safety and security of your fellow citizens. You and I have taken an oath to defend America. We're meeting that duty together. I'm proud to be the commander in chief of the greatest military, the finest people on the face of this earth.

God bless you all. God bless America.

WOODRUFF: President Bush speaking to the troops, Fort Carson Colorado. Giving them in effect a pep talk, praising the work they have done, talking up the war on terror. The war that his administration continues to wage, particularly on the ground in Iraq.

We've been mentioning the Medicare Prescription Drug Reform Bill, $400 billion bill. It has passed. And we want to clarify. We bring in our congressional correspondent Jon Karl. What has passed, Jon, is a point of order that paves the way for the final passage of the bill.

JONATHAN KARL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This was the critical vote and it was very close, Judy, 61-39, Republicans prevailed. They needed 60 votes. So they just barely got the votes they needed to overcome an objection raised by Democrats.

The Democrats may still raise further technical issues that will again require 60 votes. But now the Republicans have proven they can break a Democratic filibuster. They had 70 votes to do that. Now overcome technical objections with more than 60 votes. It was very close. The last Republican to vote to push it over the top was Trent Lott.

As you know, Judy, as we've been talking about all week, many conservative Republicans are concerned that this prescription drug bill was simply too expensive. Trent Lott was one of those conservatives. But like the others, they did not want to go along with the Democrats to kill the bill on the technicality. Many of those conservatives like Lott are expected to vote against the final bill, but not on this technicality.

So it really looks like this is pretty much a done deal. They will debate further. There will be more votes. But now it looks almost certain, perhaps you could say certain, there are the votes in the Senate to pass this bill. And it will be passed, if not tonight, by tomorrow.

WOODRUFF: As you say, Jon, they needed the 60 in order to defeat the order, but all they need is a majority of the votes, 50, 51, in order to win passage of the final thing. All right, Jon Karl, thank you very much.

A short time ago I spoke with a key player in the Medicare debate. Democratic Senator John Breaux of Louisiana was one of the negotiators who crafted the compromise bill that barely squeaked through the House over the weekend. Some Senate Democrats, as we've been saying, have been determined to slow down the bill. And when I talked to the senator just before this final vote, I asked if he thought they would be able to do that.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. JON BREAUX (D), LOUISIANA: Well everybody always has a chance until the last vote is turned in. But I think the 70-30 vote to stop the filibuster with 23 Democrats stepping up to the plate, saying it's time to vote on this legislation, I think is a very good sign.

I'm very optimistic that by the end of today, we'll have completed action in the Senate on the Medicare Reform and Prescription Drug Bill.

WOODRUFF: You are a moderate Democrat who has worked in the past for fiscal discipline. Let me read to you what a Republican colleague of yours, Senator Don Nickles of Oklahoma, who's opposing the bill, has to say. Quote, "We are building a new expansion onto a house that is teetering on a cliff." he says, "We are saddling future generations with enormous liabilities." What do you say to that?

BREAUX: Well, Judy, I think it's interesting that you have some Democrats who are more liberal that think we have not spent enough money on the prescription drug plan, and those -- some conservative Republicans who think we have spent far too much.

I think for the vast majority of members of Congress, I think you'll find that we feel it's just about right. To not have prescription drugs covered by Medicare I think would be to sell future generations of seniors far short of what they need in terms of adequate health care because clearly the proper use of prescription drugs can actually save this government a great deal of money, not to mention the human suffering we could eliminate through the proper use of prescription drugs.

WOODRUFF: One key part of the bill, Senator Breaux, that's come under fire is the part that bars the federal government from negotiating with the drug companies to bring down the cost of drugs. And I want to quote something that Congress Rahm Emanuel said. He's arguing this should be allowed. He said, "We could bring down drug prices if we allow the secretary of Health and Human Services to negotiate on behalf of 40 million seniors." He says, "That's what Sam's Club does," which is, of course, the warehouse club chain. What about that?

BREAUX: Really, that's the same thing that will happen under this legislation. The Aetnas and the BlueCross and BlueShields that will be delivering the prescription drug insurance plans to the 40 million seniors will in fact be negotiating very aggressively with the pharmacy manufacturers, with the pharmaceutical manufacturers.

And it's interesting that a congressional budget office has told us that that type of negotiating can represent a lower price on prescription drugs than is currently obtained through the state Medicaid government program, trying to fix prices.

I think that negotiating in the private sector will have an even greater ability to reduce drug prices.

WOODRUFF: So you think the same incentive is going to be there that there would be if the federal government were negotiating?

BREAUX: Probably even more because the companies will not be able to get the benefits from the Medicare beneficiaries unless they offer them the lowest possible price. These companies will be trying to get the best price they can get so they can get the insurance business from the seniors who are going to deciding which policy to buy. And they're going to want to buy the one that gives them the best price.

WOODRUFF: Senator, as a Democrat, are you at all concerned that you're handing President Bush and the Republicans a victory that is going to help them in the elections next year?

BREAUX: The last thing that we should be concerned about is which political party wins and which political party loses. This legislation should be about whether we can deliver a win to the nation's 40 million Americans. Not whether the Democrats win or the Republicans lose.

That type of attitude has prevented us from bringing about a good prescription drug plan to our nation's seniors for over a decade.

WOODRUFF: Finally, Senator, a lot of speculation about you and whether you're going to run for reelection for another term in the Senate. Frankly, I'm hearing the consensus is that you're not going to run again.

BREAUX: The consensus may be among other people but our family has not decided that. One of the things we're going to be doing over turkey at Thanksgiving is discussing whether we should run again for another term or not. I want input from the family because clearly I have not made a final decision at all.

WOODRUFF: It sounds like you're thinking about it seriously.

BREAUX: I think every member should every year, every time they're up for reelection, think about it very carefully as to whether they want to serve another term or whether they want to do something else in life.

We have not made that decision yet. But we'll be making it right after Thanksgiving.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Senator John Breaux. I talked to him a few moments before the show began.

Well as you heard live on CNN just a short time ago, President Bush said again that Americans are fighting terrorists in Iraq so they don't have to fight them on the streets here at home. He's been talking to and lunching with soldiers at Colorado's Fort Carson.

The visit comes as the '04 Democrats continue to turn up the heat on the commander in chief's Iraq war record. Both Howard Dean and John Kerry are going up with new ads in Iowa. Ads that take exception with the Republican National Committee spot scolding Democrats who criticize Mr. Bush's policy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) AD ANNOUNCER: George Bush's ad says he's being attacked for attacking the terrorists. No, Mr. President, America is united against terror. The problem is you declared mission accomplished but had no plan to win the peace.

BUSH: It'll take one vial, one canister, one crate.

AD ANNOUNCER: He misled the nation about weapons of mass destruction and we went to war when we shouldn't have.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: Privately, some Democrats believe the very RNC spots they're criticizing show the Bush camp is anxious about Iraq fallout come election day. Our senior political analyst Bill Schneider has been reviewing the latest poll numbers.

Bill, first of all, is the president at this point vulnerable on Iraq?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. This is not like the Gulf War was for his father, A heroic victory that quickly vanished from the political agenda. This war is becoming more controversial.

Generally, this President Bush gets his highest marks on national security, like his handling of the war on terrorism, 65 percent approval. President Bush used that issue to rally voters last year in the 2002 midterm. And the Republicans, you'll remember enjoyed a big victory.

The White House is hoping to do the same thing again in 2004. The first Republican campaign ad dealt with the president's handling of the war on terrorism. But something happened between 2002 and 2004: Iraq.

President Bush's rating on Iraq is much lower. You see it's only 52 percent and it's been falling.

So the evidence here suggests that voters see the war in Iraq and the war on terrorism as two different things. Otherwise, why would the ratings be so different? The White House insists that Iraq is part of the war on terrorism. OK, say Democrats. And they intend to use Iraq to discredit the administration's handling of terrorism. They say he's fighting the wrong war and creating more terrorists.

WOODRUFF: All right, and what about on domestic issues? Where does the president stand?

SCHNEIDER: That's where President Bush has been weak just like his father. He gets his lowest ratings on the economy, jobs, the deficit, and Medicare. And is producing some of the same problems his father had.

Remember how his father was called "out of touch with ordinary Americans"? A majority of Americans now calls this President Bush out of touch.

President Bush hopes an economic rebound and a victory on the Medicare Reform Bill will lift his domestic ratings and keep him from suffering his dad's fate.

Americans are also sharply divided on values, just as they were in 2000. Fifty percent say President Bush shares their values, 43 percent say he does not.

The public continues to feel President Bush is a strong leader. But do people feel he's a leader they can trust? Not since the Iraq war. A lot of Americans believe the president misled the country on Iraq.

Notice that the percentage of Americans who say they're likely to reelect Mr. Bush has been going down since the major fighting ended in May. The White House is beginning to fight back, starting with its strong suit as we saw, the war on terrorism -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: OK, Bill Schneider, thank you very much.

It is time for our regular Monday feature, "The Hotline Tipsheet." I'm joined by Chuck Todd, editor in chief of "The Hotline," an insider's political briefing produced daily by "The National Journal."

Chuck, first of all, we'll get to that ad in just a minute. First of all, I want to ask about John Kerry and John Edwards not voting on the energy bill. Why not?

CHUCK TODD, EDITOR IN CHIEF, "THE HOTLINE": It's interesting. It was the same deal as we just saw this afternoon play out with Medicare, a cloture vote. And they were trying to -- Republicans were trying to get a cloture vote.

What's interesting on the energy bill is how it spilt up. There were some key Midwestern Democrats including Tom Harkin of Iowa who were for this energy bill. He liked the stuff of Ethanol. However, people in New Hampshire very upset about this MTBE prohibitive additive that was -- and about what could be done about that. So for New Hampshire people, this energy bill was bad.

So for guys like Kerry and Edwards, competing in Iowa and New Hampshire, it was pretty nice for them not to vote on this energy bill. Both campaigns emphasized to us they were vehemently against this energy bill and the only reason they didn't come is they didn't need their votes.

At least they're not on the record as against Tom Harkin. And at the same time, not on the record as against New Hampshire.

Joe Lieberman, for instance skipping Iowa, was able to pound home on being against this energy bill to help New Hampshire.

WOODRUFF: All right, let's go back to that ad the president -- actually the Republican National Committee has run. Some people are crying foul. You've picked up on this. We want to show the audience a portion of what President Bush actually said in his State of the Union this year. And then compare that with what they are showing in this RNC ad. Let's look at both sound bites if you will right now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

BUSH: Take one vial, one canister, one crate slipped into this country to bring a day of horror like none we have ever known.

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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: All right, we heard something different. What was it?

TODD: It was an added "it," almost like the beginning of a sentence there. And what some Democratic consultants, they discovered this weekend -- I'm not going to say which campaigns, but a couple of them who are making response ads to the RNC spot were trying to go to the exact State of the Union line and use that line. Well they discovered that the line was altered.

Now we talked to RNC. And all they will say is that the audio is from the State of the Union. Now, what a Democratic meeting consultant explained, it could very well be the case and what they may have done is taken other words President Bush said in the State of the Union, cut and pasted so that they could get a more cleaner copy as you heard.

(CROSSTALK)

WOODRUFF: ... says "while."

TODD: Says "while," Doesn't say vial very easily. It's not clear. For a TV ad you need a clear, concise bite. So the RNC, all they wanted to emphasize was that President Bush did not do any retaping of this, they did not redub anything. This was other audio. And like I said, this Democratic consultant walked me through and explained how they cut and paste audio.

You know the RNC is not claiming that anything beyond that. It is interesting thing that...

WOODRUFF: But somehow the "v" is more clear in the ad.

Very quickly, in just a few seconds, John Thune and his thoughts about running against Tom Daschle.

TODD: Pretty much the entire NRSC, George Allen and everybody went to South Dakota, and George Allen spoke at a Republican dinner, sat down with John Thune. Apparently he's as close to ever as wanting to run. His wife is just about on board.

His one caveat apparently is he doesn't -- he's not sure whether the same amount of national money will be there for him that it was in 2002. That's what he was worried. That's his only hesitation from what we hear.

WOODRUFF: The news from South Dakota, thank you very much. Chuck Todd wit "The Hotline Tipsheet."

"The Hotline" again is an insider's political briefing produced daily by "The National Journal." Go online to NationalJournal.com for subscription information about "The Hotline."

Now checking headlines in our Monday "Campaign News Daily." Two new polls signal potential trouble back home for Senator John Kerry. A "Boston Herald" survey shows Dean leading Kerry by 9 points in Massachusetts. A "Boston Globe" and WBG-TV poll also finds Dean leading. The difference in that poll, only 3 points.

As for a response, the Kerry campaign point to a third poll taken by a lesser-known group that gives Kerry a sizable lead in his home state.

The Democratic National Committee has launched a fund raising ad featuring party strategist and "CROSSFIRE" co-host James Carville. The ad is running on Iowa television stations in advance of today's debate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES CARVILLE, CO-HOST, "CROSSFIRE" (voice-over): If you've had enough of George W. Bush, pick up the phone and join me by calling 877-DEMS-2004 to make an urgently needed contribution to the Democratic Party.

Bush will raise $250 million...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: James Carville will take on GOP Chairman Ed Gillespie over this ad and other issues on "CROSSFIRE" right after INSIDE POLITICS.

Bob Graham's loss is Wesley Clark's political gain. The Clark campaign says Graham's former campaign manager Paul Johnson has been hired for the same job on the Clark team. Senator Graham's daughter is going so work as a regional adviser for the Howard Dean campaign. So two campaigns get a piece of that.

The Democratic hopefuls are debating but one candidate is absent. Senator Joe Lieberman joins me next to talk about why he was left out of today's Iowa debate.

Actor George Clooney often weighs in politics. Well now he has a personal reason to campaign for a candidate.

And later, President Bush continues a Thanksgiving tradition.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) WOODRUFF: Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Lieberman is not participating in today's Iowa debate. Senator Lieberman had hoped to join the event by satellite but his attempts were opposed, we're told, by at least two rival campaigns.

So Senator Lieberman joins me now from here in our Washington studio. Senator, good to see you.

SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN (D-CT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You too, Judy.

WOODRUFF: You had originally said you would not participate in an Iowa debate. You were going to be here in Washington. Then you turned around and said you wanted to participate but DNC said no.

LIEBERMAN: I wasn't going to be here in Washington. I said I wasn't going to be in Iowa, couldn't be there because I was scheduled to be in the first of the nation, New Hampshire primary state, where I'm going to begin my campaign.

But then when the Medicare votes were scheduled today, I came back here as Senators Kerry and Edwards did. Then they allowed them to go by satellite in the debate. And I said, Well I'm here, I'll be happy to join the debate. And for some reason the Democratic National Committee polled the candidates and two of them objected to my being part of it.

I always believe the Democratic Party is the party of inclusion. It just is not the right thing to do, to keep a candidate out, particularly since I gather Wes Clark is one of those who objected. And lord knows Wes just became a Democrat a month ago.

So, you know, I'm a lifelong Democrat.

WOODRUFF: Who's behind this? The campaign of Wes Clark and who else?

LIEBERMAN: I don't know. We asked them to come forward and declare their sins.

WOODRUFF: Let me read what the Democratic National Committee said in their statement. You're familiar with it. They say, quote, "Based on technological concerns and based on issues of fairness" they couldn't work it out.

LIEBERMAN: Well I don't get it. Do you mean NBC didn't have the ability to broadcast three of under the circumstances as opposed to two of us from here? And fairness would have been to include me.

The debate went on with a lot of big issues discussed. I have a different point of view on a lot of issues. I'm the only one in the field who's for tax cuts for the middle class, new tax cuts. I have the most consistent with Clinton-Gore position on trade. I have a stronger record on security. And none of that is going to be reflected in the debate.

WOODRUFF: But the DNC would say, But originally, Senator, you didn't want to be part of this debate, now you do.

LIEBERMAN: Absolutely true, but the rules changed. When the Medicare vote was scheduled, the rules changed. Senators Kerry and Edwards were invited to satellite from here. And I was not. And I really regret that. I do believe that the debate would have been better with all of us there.

WOODRUFF: Does this sour your relations with the DNC?

LIEBERMAN: No. I'm disappointed. Again, this is not what I think of as my party. I just think Terry McAuliffe should have made the call himself and not given my opponents the opportunity to effectively blackball me.

But we'll go on. And you've given me probably a larger audience than the candidates are having for their debate.

(LAUGHTER)

WOODRUFF: Well we're delighted that you're here.

Senator, let me ask about Medicare. As you and all the other Democrats originally said they didn't like the bill, were going to vote against it. You said, Wait, let's take a look at it, you held off. You did announce you were against it. What took you so long?

LIEBERMAN: Well, unlike some of the others, I actually wanted to read the bill. I didn't want to reach a knee-jerk decision, reflex reaction because I really want to support the extension of prescription drug benefits to our seniors. They desperately need them.

But the more I looked at this by, talked to people on both sides inside the Senate and outside, this bill gave some with one hand, but took a lot more from seniors on the other. Almost 10 million seniors were going to end up with worse coverage for drug benefits than they have today.

And Medicare, which benefits all seniors, was going to be under attack with billions of dollars going to private companies to subsidize them when we're not willing to subsidize the poorest to keep them basically where they are now. That was wrong. And I regret that I had to vote against it.

WOODRUFF: Senator Joe Lieberman, we're going to have to leave it there. I wanted to ask about your statement last week about having people in New Hampshire who supported John McCain with you now, and what you two have in common, but we're going to have to save that for the next interview.

LIEBERMAN: Straight talking.

WOODRUFF: OK, Senator Joe Lieberman, with us here in Washington.

LIEBERMAN: Thanks, Judy.

WOODRUFF: Senator, we appreciate it.

LIEBERMAN: Pleasure.

WOODRUFF: Thank you.

Just ahead, a showbiz edition of "Campaign News Daily" featuring George Clooney's family connection to a Kentucky House race.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Checking our showbiz edition of "Campaign News Daily," actor George Clooney has a good reason to get involved in a future Kentucky Congressional race.

Clooney's father columnist and former TV personality Nick Clooney says he will run as a Democrat in Kentucky's fourth district. He was quickly endorsed by the man he wants to succeed, retiring Democrat Ken Lucas. We'll see if the son comes to campaign for the father.

That's it for INSIDE POLITICS. I'm Judy Woodruff. "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



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