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JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS

Judicial Watch Sues for Access to Howard Dean's Government Records; Guns and Candidates: The Silent Issue; Interview With Sarah Brady

Aired December 4, 2003 - 15:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
ANNOUNCER: Behind the big dig. Not the road project in Boston, but the search for dirt on Howard Dean. What's driving the controversy?

In the '04 air war, Iowa pushes out New Hampshire as the scene of the costliest combat fueled by Howard Dean's daughters.

Guns and politics: are candidates targeting the issue anymore?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All the Democratic presidential candidates are treating it like it's some sort of virus.

ANNOUNCER: We'll ask leading gun control advocate Sarah Brady what she thinks about that.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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

JUDY WOODRUFF, HOST: Thank you for joining us. We begin with the ups and downs of Howard Dean's presidential campaign. Two new polls suggest that his already whopping lead in New Hampshire has gotten even bigger. He leads John Kerry by 30 points in one survey and by 32 in another.

Dean leads the Democratic pack in another way. A newly released study shows that Dean has aired more campaign TV commercials and spent more on them than his primary rivals. We're going to crunch the numbers ahead.

But first, the down side for Dean today. The former governor is named in a lawsuit filed in Vermont seeking access to hundreds of thousands of documents from his years in office. The public interest group called Judicial Watch charges that it is illegal for Dean to try to prevent public scrutiny of his records because of political considerations.

Now senior political analyst Bill Schneider explains why digging into Dean's past has become something of a (UNINTELLIGIBLE) industry.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): Jimmy Carter in 1976, Bill Clinton in 1992, and now Howard Dean. Figures nobody knows much about are suddenly propelled into national prominence. Quick, what do we have on this guy, his opponents ask? Cut to the Vermont archives in pastoral Montpelier, as described by Secretary of State Deb Markowitz.

DEBORAH MARKOWITZ, VERMONT SECRETARY OF STATE: It's a building that's set off in the woods. We have deer in the forests here and turkeys occasionally.

SCHNEIDER: Plus reporters and opposition researchers.

MARKOWITZ: We started to get a trickle of people into the archives wanting to look at Dean's records. And that, itself, wasn't so alarming or interesting to us, except that when they came, they stayed. And they wanted to look at everything.

SCHNEIDER: A state worker even coined a name for them.

MARKOWITZ: As Monday rolled around and new people started coming in, one of them said, "It's the Dean divers again."

SCHNEIDER: One group of Dean divers has just filed a lawsuit to gain access to Dean's records as governor of Vermont. Records he want to keep secret for 10 years. What's he hiding?

HOWARD DEAN (D), DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We don't know what's in there. I don't. The lawyers do. I don't.

SCHNEIDER: Why the frenzy over Dean's records? Because of what happened to Michael Dukakis in 1988. One of his Democratic primary opponents, a fellow named Al Gore, found that Dukakis had allowed convicted murderers to get furloughs from prison.

AL GORE, FMR. VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Two of them committed other murders on their passes. If you were elected president, would you advocate a similar program for federal penitentiaries?

SCHNEIDER: Republicans took notice.

GEORGE HERBERT WALKER BUSH, FMR. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What did the Democratic governor of Massachusetts think he was doing when he let convicted first degree murderers out on weekend passes?

SCHNEIDER: Eventually, ads came out.

NARRATOR: He allowed first degree murderers to have weekend passes from prison. One was Willie Horton.

SCHNEIDER: That issue defined Michael Dukakis to many voters.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER: So the Dean divers are in the Vermont woods digging for dirt and asking the courts for permission to dig deeper -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Hmm. Sounds like we're going to be hearing more about all this.

SCHNEIDER: We certainly will.

WOODRUFF: OK. Bill, thank you.

Well, turning to the headlines now in our "Campaign News Daily," Joe Lieberman is reviving memories of the 2000 Florida recount as a way to raise campaign cash. Lieberman and Al Gore lost Florida, as we all remember, by 538 votes. Well now Lieberman is asking his supporters to help him raise $1,000 for each of those 538 votes by December 12, the third anniversary of the Supreme Court's decision in favor of George W. Bush.

A new poll in Oklahoma finds no clear frontrunner in the February 3 Democratic primary. Only Joe Lieberman has double-digit support, with Wesley Clark, Howard Dean and Dick Gephardt close behind. Twenty-seven percent say they were undecided or gave no answer. Twenty percent said they do not plan to vote.

Young people who don't bother to cast ballots are the target of a new effort by public interest research groups and George Washington University. The non-partisan New Voters Project will use a variety of strategies to try to increase turnout in six states: Colorado, Iowa, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon and Wisconsin. The group is also teaming up with outlets such as Rock the Vote, MTV and World Wrestling Entertainment, among others.

Guns and controlling them are one of the silent issues in campaign 2004. A decade ago, though, things were different. President Bill Clinton fought hard for gun control and signed the landmark Brady Bill 10 years ago this week. But as Bruce Morton reports, that was then. This is now.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRUCE MORTON, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): John Kerry, the only 2004 presidential candidate to have killed in combat, invited cameras to watch him hunt birds. Kerry issued a statement congratulating Jim and Sarah Brady on the tenth anniversary of the Brady Law, but he and the others are not talking much about guns this year.

STUART ROTHENBERG, ROTHENBERG POLITICAL REPORT: It's remarkable how the gun issue is playing this year and that it's not playing at all by the Democrats. They have used it often, repeatedly, very traditionally over the past dozen years or so. But right now, they're steering clear. All the Democratic presidential candidates are treating it like it's some sort of virus.

MORTON: Howard Dean stresses that the National Rifle Association gave him high marks as governor. He says any new gun laws should be state, not federal. Other candidates would close a loophole which lets guns be sold at shows without background checks or support the assault weapons ban. But it's not an issue they stress.

ROTHENBERG: I think Democrats concluded after the 2000 presidential election that guns as an issue cost Al Gore the presidency, that it has become a symbolic issue that separates New York and L.A. and Washington, D.C. from the South and the Midwest. And Democrats now have decided it's just a losing issue.

MORTON: Democrat Mark Warner carried rural Virginia when he ran for governor in 2001. David Saunders, an advisor in that campaign, says it's because he was friendly toward the rural culture.

DAVID SAUNDERS, POLITICAL CONSULTANT: And he said it's OK to hunt and fish. It's OK for you to have a gun. And then once we got through those cultural issues, then people said, well, what's he about? What does he believe in?

MORTON: And support for new gun laws is down. Last October, 55 percent of the sample said gun laws should be more strict. But that's down from 70 percent in 1993 before the Brady Bill became law. So the candidates favor a small change here or there, but it's not an issue they often raise because they know that in a lot of states it can hurt them.

Bruce Morton, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Meantime, in Washington today, Brady Law supporters are celebrating their victory and the impact it has had on the country since then. Just been an hour ago, I met with Sarah Brady and I asked her how her husband, Jim, has been doing 22 years after he was seriously wounded.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SARA BRADY, CHAIRWOMAN, BRADY CAMPAIGN TO PREVENT GUN VIOLENCE: He's doing great. Absolutely wonderful. Still the funniest man you ever saw.

WOODRUFF: Well, now it has been 10 years, which is the reason we're talking to you today, since the Brady Law came in to being. And some are saying we've seen a sea change in the interest in gun control in this country. Have you seen a big change?

BRADY: Well, I feel like the whole country is with us. That's for sure. We need to get some legislation going.

But when I think back over the seven years it took to pass the Brady Law, how we started with 12 people and hardly anyone with us, and what -- we had a huge lobby against us who outspent us 10 to one, and we passed the law. And now it's just, you know, the law of the land, and people accept it and love it. And we have stopped over a million people -- or the law has -- a million people from purchasing guns who were prohibited.

WOODRUFF: At the same time, you have someone like Wayne LaPierre, who is the head of the National Rifle Association, making statements like -- he says, "What you're seeing is a sea change, with fewer political leaders willing to put themselves out on the line in favor of gun control." Do you feel that in the atmosphere?

BRADY: No, I don't. I don't at all. And golly, when we started, nobody was willing to put themselves out on the line.

But we -- today, for instance, you can look at the presidential candidates that are running. All but one are absolutely supportive.

WOODRUFF: Who is the one you're saying is not?

BRADY: Dean. I very much question how much we can get done with Dean as president. But John Kerry brought it up in one of the presidential debates. Nobody is afraid to talk about it. I think it's a big fallacy.

WOODRUFF: Let me quote something that Mark Penn, who is a Democratic pollster, found just recently. He polled in October and said -- and I'm quoting -- "Almost half the gun owners in this country oppose Democrats because they assume they support gun control. Republicans aren't paying the same kind of price for their position. Only about 28 percent say, look, I won't support the Republicans because they usually oppose common sense gun control laws."

My point is, does it make it harder now for you to get the attention of Democrats?

BRADY: I don't think so, no. I think both sides -- we try not to think of it as Republican-Democrat. Right away, it's a bipartisan issue.

Each one has to vote what's right and what's in their conscience. And usually, they do. And they will.

And no, I don't think it's any harder. There are a few out there who are trying to lay the blame on gun control for losses in the future. But that is totally untrue.

WOODRUFF: So you remain hopeful and optimistic, despite this?

BRADY: More optimistic than ever. I mean, we have every reason to think that we can get good legislation passed.

WOODRUFF: Let me ask you something else, a personal question having to do with your -- what happened to your husband, Jim. This morning, a U.S. district judge, as you know, heard the arguments about why John Hinckley, the man who shot your husband and shot President Reagan, why he should be allowed unsupervised leave to go home, to be with his family.

You have opposed this. Why?

BRADY: Well, I happen to feel that the psychiatry isn't an exact science. And he, at one time, we know, was a very violent person who fooled many people, as I said in my statement. He fooled his parents. He fooled the doctors, the hospital, and law enforcement. And I don't feel that there's been enough time or that perhaps there will ever be enough time that we can be absolutely sure that he's not still fooling people. And I don't like to see somebody out in society.

I mean we spent the last 15, 20 years trying to keep guns out of the wrong hands. Well, I also don't want the wrong hands out walking the street either. It's a two-way street.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Sarah Brady, 22 years after her husband, Jim, was wounded, along with President Reagan.

Coming up, now that the decision is official, how will the president's repeal of imported steel tariffs affect the union vote?

And later, Tom Daschle, defense witness in the trial of Congressman Bill Janklow.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: On the TV commercial front there is a new ad attacking Howard Dean that conjures up images of Michael Dukakis and other failed Democratic presidential candidates of the past.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NARRATOR: For three decades, Democratic presidential candidates have supported huge tax increases. This year, they're back. Howard Dean says he'll raise taxes on the average family by more than $1,900 a year. Dean says he'll raise income taxes...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: The conservative group Club for Growth says that it has budgeted more than $100,000 to air that spot beginning today in Iowa and in New Hampshire.

Well, more now on the '04 ad wars and Howard Dean's leading role in it. A new study shows TV ad spending in Iowa has soared this election cycle, fueled in large part by Dean's impressive campaign warchest.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DEAN: We can stop the special interests, but not without your help.

WOODRUFF (voice-over): When Iowans turn on the TV these days, there's a good chance they'll see Howard Dean or one of his Democratic rivals staring back at them. With a month and a half still to go before the Iowa caucuses, the '04 Democrats already have spent an estimated $3.8 million on campaign ads in the Hawkeye State. More than twice as much as they've spent in New Hampshire markets. The close Dean-Gephardt race in Iowa, and Dean's huge lead in the polls in New Hampshire, explain why the focus of the early ad war has shifted since the last presidential race. Not surprisingly, Dean is the biggest ad spender in Iowa, shelling out $1.1 million. But his main rival there, Dick Gephardt, comes in fourth in the Iowa ad race.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If Dean performs well in Iowa against Gephardt, it gives his campaign momentum into New Hampshire, where then, again, you have John Kerry, who is another regional candidate.

WOODRUFF: In New Hampshire, John Kerry tops the ad spending chart, forking over $830,000 to date in his so far failed effort to catch up to Dean. As the clear New Hampshire frontrunner, Dean apparently can afford to come in third in the ad race there. But Dean is the only '04 Democrat running a broad, national ad campaign, airing spots in a number of early primary and caucus states.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dean has already started advertising in really the states that come after New Hampshire and South Carolina, like Washington, like New Mexico, like Arizona.

DEAN: This campaign is not just about changing presidents.

WOODRUFF: Dean's grand total so far, an estimated $2.8 million spent on more than 7,000 TV ads. John Edwards comes in second in overall spending, $2.2 million on 5,300 commercials in just a few states.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: The ad spending survey was conducted by the Wisconsin Advertising Project at the University of Wisconsin.

Separately, we did put in a call to the Republican National Committee to ask about ad spending they have been engaged in. An RNC spokesman tells us that they have spent around $100,000 on an ad in Iowa since November 23, an ad that targets all the Democrats.

Well, the political outsider starts courting the insiders. Donna Brazile and Bay Buchanan consider a possible strategy shift for Howard Dean.

Plus, Donna and Bay weigh in on Dick Gephardt's labor relations and why a top aide has issued an apology.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: With us now, former Gore campaign manager Donna Brazile, and Bay Buchanan, president of American Cause.

Bay, I want to start with you. The newspaper this morning tells us that Howard Dean is trying something different. He's reaching out to the insiders for a change in Washington. Is this smart?

BAY BUCHANAN, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN CAUSE: Smart, savvy political move on his part. Judy, it's clear, and he knows it. The only thing that can stop him now -- he's running very strong in the polls, he has all the money he needs to win this thing. The only thing that can stop him is if the establishment in the Democratic Party was to organize and unify against one candidate, such as a Gephardt. That could possibly derail this. He's making certain that that doesn't happen, or he's trying to make certain it does not happen and is not effective if they try.

WOODRUFF: But does he hurt himself with his grassroots supporters?

DONNA BRAZILE, FMR. GORE CAMPAIGN MANAGER: No. They know that Howard Dean is still the outsider. But look, he's the frontrunner. And Bay's right.

There are 795 super delegates, that's members of Congress, party officials and best friends of Terry McAuliffe, including myself. And Howard Dean needs the support of insiders in this party in order to capture that nomination. So he's doing the right thing and the timing is brilliant.

BUCHANAN: And Judy, you get the impression when you read the press that maybe he'll hurt himself, as you pointed out. But he won't, because you communicate at different levels. And his Internet people, you communicate directly through the Internet.

They're not watching the evening news. They're not upset if they find out that he's meeting with somebody. They want to know where he stands on these issues. He still remains an anti-establishment kind of figure when you look at his position on the issues.

WOODRUFF: Very, very quickly, a quick question about what I was just reporting in Iowa. The Republican National Committee spending about $100,000 since November 23. Surprising that they're doing that this early, Donna?

BRAZILE: I'm surprised. I mean, if you look at the figures back in 1999, the two candidates, Bradley and Gore, didn't spend that amount of money. So that's a lot of money I believe.

BUCHANAN: Well, it's smart. They have unlimited funds. Why not put it in there and say something positive about the president?

The good thing is, the Democrats all reacted to it. Foolishly, gave it far more play than that $100,000.

WOODRUFF: All right. Let's talk about Dick Gephardt. He has an aide who's been with him for something like 25 years who has now gotten herself apparently, Donna, in hot water. She is being accused by labor leaders of making threats if state employees in Iowa help anybody other than Dick Gephardt. What's the repercussion of all this?

BRAZILE: I don't think there will be a lot of repercussions. Look, organized labor understands that Dick Gephardt is a fighter. He has fought for organized labor all his entire life. Joy Sabusi (ph) is a wonderful and tremendous asset to Dick Gephardt. She also is a good friend of mine. So I think Joy (ph) is apologizing. It should be put behind her.

BUCHANAN: It's absolutely silly. And I'd say, where the ramification should be is Dean should speak up and say, of course don't mess with that girl. She's fighting for the guy she believes in. She threatened union. Here this woman threatened the big old unions.

It's something similar I think, Judy, to something you probably have some experience with. I know in my case, you ever said to one of those kids, "You do that, I'm gonna kill you?" You know, that's the kind of serious threat this is. I'm sure you've heard those words before on occasion as well.

WOODRUFF: Well, did the labor -- did Jerry Macantee (ph) and Andy Stern, did they overreact here?

BRAZILE: Well, I think he they had every reason to react to someone threatening collective bargaining rights. That's the lifeblood of organized labor. But on the other hand, everybody knows that's Joy Sabusi (ph) is just a tremendous fighter. And she was fighting for her guy, and she was very disappointed that SEIU and AFSCME went with Dean.

BUCHANAN: You know, you are right, Judy. Those labor unions should have never said a thing. They knew that this person is very loyal to Gephardt. She doesn't want them to step up and hurt him.

They owe Gephardt, without question. He's fought for them, a champion of theirs in Missouri. And what she was doing was expected. It's just part of politics. What they did is low-life kind of activity in politics, the nastiest form, where you move it because they're with Dean now and they are trying to help their candidate, even though they're hurting Gephardt, which they didn't have to do.

BRAZILE: Regardless of who wins the nomination, the party will need Joy Sabusi (ph) in Missouri to help get out the vote in the fall.

WOODRUFF: Very quick last question. Is Howard Dean, yes or no, going to end up having to put those records out that he's holding?

BRAZILE: Yes. He will have to unseal those records.

BUCHANAN: And he will definitely have to unseal the records. And we'll be looking at them closely.

WOODRUFF: Will you? Bay and Donna...

BRAZILE: Not me.

WOODRUFF: ... good to see both of you.

BUCHANAN: You don't want to look at them, Donna.

WOODRUFF: Thanks very much. All right. See you both. Thanks.

Well, it's official. Primaries is out and Fisher Cats is in as the nickname for the Minor League Baseball team in Manchester, New Hampshire. If you haven't been following this saga, the team originally settled on the New Hampshire Primaries as their name. But some fans objected.

Well, they then held a contest and Fisher Cats got the most votes. You tell me what a fisher cat is. By the way, we'll tell you. It's a member of the weasel family, described as being fierce and aggressive in battle. I guess that's what Manchester wants. We'll see.

RNC chairman, Ed Gillespie, recently has been playing hard ball in New Hampshire. We want to hear about that up next. I'll ask Ed Gillespie about his verbal attacks on Howard Dean and other Democrats and whether he's playing bad cop on behalf of the president.

And even a former presidential candidate can get late night air time. But was the laugh on Bob Graham? More INSIDE POLITICS coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The American economy is better off with a world that trades freely.

ANNOUNCER: President Bush and steel tariffs.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Keep your promise. Keep your promise.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Keep your promise. Keep your promise.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Keep your promise. Keep your promise.

ANNOUNCER: Will today's decision destroy any hopes he had of capturing the union vote?

Witness for the defense. The top Democrat in Congress gets called to testify in the manslaughter trial of South Dakota's Republican congressman.

LAURA BUSH, FIRST LADY: We're here at the really magnificent gingerbread house.

ANNOUNCER: A sneak peek at holiday decor at the White House courtesy of the first lady.

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

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Welcome back. America's steel workers knew it was coming, but today President Bush made it official. He is scrapping tariffs on imported steel. The White House says the tariffs achieve their purpose of helping the U.S. steel industry restructure.

The European Union is applauding the move and lifting its threat of trade sanctions. But as our White House correspondent Dana Bash reports, the response very is different in some politically important areas here at home.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Pennsylvania steel workers, a key voting block in a battle ground state, betrayed, they say, by President Bush's decision to roll back protections for their industry and their jobs.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's abandoning us as Americans in this country. We have gone 18 months into a three-year commitment. And this president is going to let us down.

BASH: The news 20 months ago was a free trading Republican president imposing tariffs in the first place, part of a larger political strategy to woo a powerful and traditionally Democratic voting block, labor.

In 2000, 26 percent of voters were from union households, but George Bush only got 37 percent of that vote.

G. BUSH: When we work together, we can do what's right.

The White House brought in certain labor leaders to help pass priority legislation. Like energy reform and terrorism insurance. Invited teamsters President Jimmy Hoffa to the VIP box at the State of the Union and rallied on foreign turf.

G. BUSH: We don't necessarily agree on every issue but we agree to listen.

BASH: But some union leaders say phone calls and photo ops are not enough and the courtship has soured.

BRETT CALDWELL, TEAMSTERS COMM. DIR.: We're seeing a continual assault by the White House, by the Congress on working families and it's in the policies. It's in the meat of things.

BASH: Some of those differences, the president opposing the right to strike in the new Homeland Security Department, requiring unions to file detailed reports on how money is spent, reports labor leaders call complicated and politically motivated. And pushing cuts in overtime pay for workers.

MARY MATALIN, BUSH POLITICAL ADVISER: No group is going to agree with every policy in every instance. But on the policies that create jobs, the policies that matter to the rank and file union members, they're with us.

G. BUSH: I can hear you.

BASH: In fact, GOP officials say so-called hard hat union members are social conservatives and support the president on national security. The question is whether Republicans can convince union members to vote on those issues and, in many cases, defy their leadership.

REP. JACK QUINN (R), NEW YORK: I think it's safe to say that the union movement is philosophically opposed to a lot of what Republicans stand for.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: And, Just, in the end, it may be as basic as the state of the economy this determines whether some union workers affinity for Mr. Bush as their kind of guy also gets him their vote -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Dana Bash, thank you very much at the White House.

Right now let's talk more about the politics of those steel tariffs and other presidential campaign matters with the chairman of the Republican National Committee, Ed Gillespie, who has been on the road. Appreciate you talk with us today.

ED GILLESPIE, RNC CHAIRMAN: Great to be back. Thanks, Judy.

WOODRUFF: Ed, let's talk first about the decision by the president to lift those steel tariffs. Are you worried as the chairman of the Republican party -- I understand there are policy functions -- or aspects of this decision. But are you worried as chairman of the party about the political backlash in states, crucial states like Pennsylvania?

GILLESPIE: Judy, I'm a believer that good policy is good politics. And the fact is the president, by taking the action in the first place of providing some help to the industry when they needed it when it was proved that there was unfair trading practices going on by competitors to the U.S. steel industry, there was dumping going on, illegal trading practices, the administration enforced the law in the way, by the way, the Clinton administration never did despite the industries asking them to do it.

The president took the action. It worked, it had a positive effect in the industry. We're now seeing growth in the industry. We've seen convergence, we're seeing excess capacity brought down. And it's been clear from what they said today that if those other countries, if the EU or China or other countries try to go back to dumping in our markets, we'll enforce it again.

WOODRUFF: If all that has happened, why is the steel industry and leaders in the steel industry and leaders in the steel unions, why are they upset?

GILLESPIE: They're always going to continue to push for more protection for their industry. That's understandable. That's what they're there for.

But the fact is, when you look at the policies, I think that this administration has struck the right balance here and has done the right thing.

WOODRUFF: What do you say to those who look at this and say well the president is effectively writing off organized labor out there?

GILLESPIE: No, not at all, Judy. The fact is if you looked at organized labor, while a lot of the people at the top are opposed to the president rank and file union members support the president, they appreciate his increasing their take-home pay by reducing taxes, they appreciate the strong stand he's taken on improving our public education system in this country and improving the Medicare program and providing a prescription drug benefit, they appreciate his strong national security policies.

You know what? My sister is a union member. The top of her union doesn't support the president but she does. And even though her union dues are taken every two weeks out of her paycheck and are being spent to between defeat the president, she's going to vote for him if she's like a lot of other rank and file union members.

WOODRUFF: I would expect your family members to be with the president.

Ed Gillespie, before you took this job as head of the RNC, one of your clients in the private practice was a coalition called Stand Up for Steel. Among other things you lobbied for putting tariffs on steel. One official from United States' Steel Corporation in fact at one point called you the bridge between the White House and the industry, as somebody who argued that.

Are you now concerned, as somebody who has the knowledge of the industry, that you have, about what the effects are going to be?

GILLESPIE: As you know, I did that before I left Quinn (ph), Gillespie and Associates to take the job, to do the job that I'm doing now.

But I'm very familiar with the issue and aware of it and understand the concerns of the industry. But I also understand the president's policies as a result of the work I did on the issue. And I believe that the president has reached the right policy decision here.

WOODRUFF: All right, let me also, of course, want to talk to you about politics. You've been up campaigning or making speeches, I should say, for your Republican colleagues and for the president in New England.

Specifically, this week, you were in Vermont. You were talking about Howard Dean. And you argued, among other things, that the facts were about Dean's record as governor, were at odds with what he's saying on the campaign trail.

Now I want to quote back to you what the Dean campaign is saying. They say that your trip shows that Republicans are worried about Howard Dean, and, quote, I'm quoting, at one point, a Dean spokesman. He says, "It make sense that President Bush picked an Enron lobbyist" -- this is what they're saying -- "to talk about the economy. Ed Gillespie and the special interests he represents don't have much credibility when it comes to managing money."

It's getting pretty rough out there, isn't it?

GILLESPIE: Well the fact, as the Dean people know, my firm represented Enron a long time ago. Doesn't any longer. I don't represent anyone at the firm.

So once again, what they're saying is at odds with the facts. And what I noted about the statement he made relative to the records was Governor Dean said that he'd publicly release his records from his term as govern when President Bush released his.

And I pointed out that President Bush's records are publicly available to the media and to anyone else who wants to go to the Texas archivist's office. Now that Governor Dean has been made aware of that, I'm sure he'll want to be good to his word and make public his records as well.

WOODRUFF: How much more of this sort of speaking are you be doing on the trail about the candidates?

GILLESPIE: Well, I've been doing it for some time and I think it got some pickup. I was in Vermont for a long scheduled appearance there with the Vermont Republican Party. It their annual dinner and I went up there to talk to them.

Just as I was up there, this issue of the records came out. I commented on it. And so it generated news.

But I'll be continuing to that do that. I've been doing it for some time. I'll will continue to do it for the time of my tenure.

WOODRUFF: Separately we're reporting that the Republican National Committee spending something like $100,000 since November 23 in the state of Iowa. The president doesn't have an opponent in the primary there, the caucuses. Clearly, this is directed at the Democrats this early, right?

GILLESPIE: Actually if you look, Iowa is an important state. I think national security is an important issue. We have a lot of House members who are in close congressional districts in Iowa as well. We have a responsibility as a party to make our case for our policies and national security is an important policy. And I thought it was worth highlighting the fact that the president's policy of preemption or preemptive self-defense (UNINTELLIGIBLE) is a good policy and make the case for it.

WOODRUFF: So not unusual to spend that much money right now in Iowa?

GILLESPIE: We're behind the curve. If you look at what President Clinton was doing or the DNC at the time Clinton was in office, they were spending money back in the April of the year before the election. We didn't go until November. So we're pretty far behind the curve.

But I'm comfortable with where we are.

WOODRUFF: OK, Ed Gillespie, chairman of the National Republican Committee, always good to see you.

GILLESPIE: Good to see you too.

WOODRUFF: Thanks for coming in. Appreciate it.

Meantime, Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle finds himself in a new role today, defense witness in the trial of Congressman Bill Janklow. CNN's Bob Franken is covering the trial in South Dakota.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BOB FRANKEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's a sad political summit here at the Moody County courthouse. Senator Tom Daschle, who's the Democratic leader of the United States Senate, here testifying in the manslaughter trial of Republican Congressman William Janklow.

Janklow, who has a long career in politics 30, years in South Dakota, 16 of them as governor, is on trial for the death of Randy Scott, a motorcyclist who was struck by Janklow's car as it raced through a stop sign last August.

His defense has been that as a diabetic, he was in a state of confusion because he had not had a chance to eat that day. Daschle was with him at an event in Aberdeen, South Dakota earlier in the day and is expected to say that Janklow in fact had not been spotted eating by Daschle. That is what's going on now.

Daschle made it a point to say he was subpoenaed to testify in this trial. He's running for the Senate next year again. It is going to be a race that is expected to be tightly contested.

But right now, the contest is over the future of William Janklow, accused of killing a man on a motorcycle. The question is whether he'll, in fact, have to go to prison if he's found guilty of the manslaughter.

Bob Franken, CNN, Flandreau, South Dakota.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Still to come, politicians first, TV personalities second. One candidate out of the presidential race, another still very much in the hunt. Both on the TV comedy circuit.

And opening those sealed files in Montpelier. Judicial Watch sues to get former Governor Howard Dean's papers. Ahead, we'll talk to a man who knows about how to find files, historian Robert Dallek.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) WOODRUFF: The race for the White House travels through the Sunshine State this weekend as the presidential candidates converge in Florida. So please, join me tomorrow for a special edition of INSIDE POLITICS. We'll be live from the Florida Democratic Convention in Orlando.

More of today's edition in 60 seconds.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Here's something you won't be surprised to hear. Television continues to play a key role in the run for the White House, from campaign ads to MTV visits, to TV talk shows. And even though he's dropped out of the Democratic race, Florida Senator Bob Graham is still being asked about winning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHEN COLBERT, "THE DAILY SHOW" CORRESPONDENT: I know you must be busy dropping out of so many jobs right now. Now that you've dropped out of the campaign, who do you think you'll still beat? Carol Moseley Braun?

SEN. BOB GRAHAM (D), FLORIDA: Well I won't beat anybody because I'm not going to be on the ballot.

COLBERT: Do you really think that because you're not on the ballot means that you won't beat Carol Moseley Braun?

GRAHAM: I'm certainly not going to get very many votes.

COLBERT: But you'll probably beat Al Sharpton?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

WOODRUFF: Bob Graham for "The Daily Show" on Comedy Central.

Well following in the footsteps of Al Gore, John McCain and others, Al Sharpton, speaking of the reverend, is preparing for his turn as the host of "Saturday Night Live."

Sharpton's been rehearsing his lines all this week with the "SNL" cast. He's just the latest presidential hopeful to make an appearance on late night TV. Dick Gephardt, Howard Dean and John Kerry have already made appearances on "The Tonight Show." That's just a little taste of those rehearsals. All they'll let us have a picture of.

Striking the right balance between privacy and the public's right to know, we're going to return to the debate over Howard Dean's documents. Next a conversation with historian Robert Dallek when we return.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) WOODRUFF: The dispute over public access to Howard Dean's files from his tenure as governor of Vermont is not uncommon. Presidential historian Robert Dallek is with me in Washington. He's done extensive research on presidents Johnson and Kennedy, among others. Robert Dallek, good to see you again.

ROBERT DALLEK, HISTORIAN: Nice to see you, Judy.

WOODRUFF: Howard Dean asked that these records be set aside for ten years, something like 145 boxes of material. How unusual is it for a governor of a state to ask for this?

DALLEK: Well, I guess once they're running for president, they ask for it. You know, politicians, office holders, they want to hold back those records for as long as they can.

And the historian's task and the journalist's task is to ask them and try to probe them. We find out a great deal more about what their records are like when we can open the documents. We can't trust just what they tell us.

WOODRUFF: Now, we are told -- and again we don't know because we haven't seen a lot of this. Some of this is correspondence between then-Governor Dean and his staff. Are there other legal -- are there elements of legal privilege that would protect that kind of correspondence?

DALLEK: Sure. And there should be, because there may be privacy concerns which a governor or any public office holder is entitled to protect. But when it comes to presidents, of course, it's national security.

Now, I can't imagine that you have national security concerns with a governor's records unless he had some conversations with the president and foreign policy issue. So I think that's really unlikely.

So it's really a privacy concern. You can put those aside. Some of Richard Nixon's records are still closed and will remain closed because of privacy matters.

WOODRUFF: I was asking you about George W. Bush. We just heard Ed Gillespie, the chairman of the Republican Party saying all of President Bush's records were open. Were they open during the campaign in 2000?

DALLEK: Of course not. If they had been we would have known a great deal more about his education policies, which are now very much in dispute. The assertions they made about how successful his education policies were and now there's lots of questions as to whether they were so successful.

WOODRUFF: Back to Howard Dean. You now have this watchdog group, Judicial Watch, suing to get access to all of this. What is the precedent for the courts in a situation like this? DALLEK: The courts try to protect privacy, but they are also sensitive to the fact that there is a certain openness in our society and that there is a Freedom of Information Act, which, of course, applies to the executive branch of the federal government. And there are state freedom of information acts also that you can get access to Texas records, I know, by applying under that law.

WOODRUFF: We were talking about the inter-office communications, if you will, between the governor and his staff. What else might be in the records that would be of interest? Bruce Morton, we had a report from Bruce earlier in the program recalling what happened with Michael Dukakis and the information that Al Gore talked about during the campaign in 1988. What kind of information, potentially, would be here?

DALLEK: You could find out medical matters. I mean, who knows what they talk about?

The point is, they want to hold back as much as they possibly can because the more of a record there is, the more likely there's going to be criticism of them. And I understand their reluctance to come forward. But we, the public, should know as much about the candidates as we possibly can. It helps us decide whether we should vote for them or not.

WOODRUFF: You obviously would be doing digging as an historian. But we know right now the urgent digging is going on on the part of Howard Dean's opponents, both Democrats and presumably the Bush campaign. This is common, right? This is something that goes on in every campaign?

DALLEK: Oh, sure. Right. The politics can be pretty ugly. For example in 1960 campaign, I raised the question of whether the Richard Nixon campaign tried to steal the John F. Kennedy medical records. They knew Kennedy had all sorts of medical problems and there was a break-in at one of Kennedy's doctor's offices, another attempted break-in.

Well, you know, there was political advantage there. I can't prove it was Nixon, but there was advantage for someone getting hold of those records.

WOODRUFF: A lot at stake in his campaigns.

DALLEK: Sure is.

WOODRUFF: Robert Dallek, historian, thank you very much for talking with us. We appreciate it. Good to see you.

DALLEK: Good to see you, Judy. Thanks.

WOODRUFF: Just ahead, signs of the season at the White House. The first lady gives us a personal tour of this year's holiday decorations when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) WOODRUFF: Live pictures of the White House, where it is snowing. Snowing in Washington right now. First lady Laura Bush today, earlier, unveiled this year's holiday decorations at the White House. The decorations feature the theme "Season of Stories" including characters from popular children's books, from "The Cat in the Hat" to "Harry Potter."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

L. BUSH: I picked most of the books, of course, since I'm a former librarian and life-long reader. And so I picked books that were important to me either as a child or to -- that were important, that I like to read to children that I read and was a school librarian or that were important to me and the president to read to our girls.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: That was a little earlier today. In about 30 minutes from now, President Bush will take part in the 80th Annual Pageant of Peace outside the White House. It will include performances by Shirley Jones and the Coast Guard Band. But the highlight, as always, will be the lighting of the National Christmas Tree. Beautiful White House.

That's it for INSIDE POLITICS. One quick programming note. Will it be a love story in the making? Tomorrow live on INSIDE POLITICS, we'll announce the winner of PoliticsNewHampshire.com's Who Wants to be Dennis Kucinich's First Lady contest. And we'll talk to the winner live. There's still time to vote for one of the two finalists. Will it be Margie from Wisconsin or Gina Marie from New Jersey. Find out tomorrow. You don't want to miss it.

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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