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JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS
The Dean Machine: Is Dean Unstoppable?; Bush Signs Medicare Reform Bill; GOP Heading for Big Apple
Aired December 8, 2003 - 15:26 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JUDY WOODRUFF, HOST: Hello from New York City. The CNN election express is on the road, and our first stop is the Big Apple.
Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean is here today as well, picking up some more endorsements. He also made time to talk with us about how his front-runner status is inviting plenty of new attacks.
That's coming up.
Next year's Republican convention also here in New York. That is already generating some Bronx cheers. See why and much more when I go INSIDE POLITICS next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HOWARD DEAN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You have the power. You have the power.
ANNOUNCER: The Howard Dean machine on overdrive. In an extended interview, Judy asks Dean if he's unstoppable in the primary season?
DEAN: I actually think that kind of talk is a little silly.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: With this law, we're giving older Americans better choices and more control over their health care.
ANNOUNCER: President Bush celebrates the signing of Medicare reform. But are America's seniors finding the changes hard to swallow? We have new poll numbers this hour.
Elephants in the Big Apple. We'll update the politics of the GOP's decision to convene in New York City next year.
Now, live from New York, Judy Woodruff's INSIDE POLITICS.
WOODRUFF: Thank you for joining us. Presidential candidate Howard Dean, still riding a wave of campaign momentum, is here in New York today to pick up the endorsement of some 20 Democrats on the New York City Council.
Our just released poll shows 25 percent of registered Democrats across the country now say they support Dean as their party's nominee. Dean is up 8 points from last month, while second place Wesley Clark and the other major contenders held relatively steady.
With Dean increasingly running a national campaign, he is launching new ads today in South Carolina that accuse President Bush of damaging the economy, just as Enron executives damaged their company.
Also part of today's Dean ad blitz, spots airing in Iowa that broadly respond to attacks by his Democratic rivals.
Well, I sat down with Howard Dean today here in New York, and given his lead in a number of polls and speculation by some that if he wins Iowa and New Hampshire, he will be unstoppable, I asked him if he sees it that way.
DEAN: I actually think that kind of talk is a little silly, because the pundits in Washington have been talking about me as the front-runner for a long time. Well, guess what? The people of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina and Arizona and so forth get to decide who the front-runner is. So it's nice talk, but I'm not buying it.
WOODRUFF: In the meantime, you're being modest, but there are already Democrats -- there's a story in "the Washington Post" today that Democrats are worried that Howard Dean, if he doesn't broaden his appeal beyond anti-war, the anti-war argument and anti-Bush, that he's not going to be able to attract the kind of Democrats all over the country who it would take to win the election in November.
What do you say to those?
DEAN: I actually think that's needless worry. We just got back from a trip to South Carolina and Virginia. We got Congressman Bobby Scott's endorsement in Virginia. Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. was with me in South Carolina. We are broadening our base.
We know that this election is going to be about health care, education and jobs. Those are Democratic values; those are the values that this party needs to concentrate on. And that's what's going to build the coalition that we need to win in places like the south and elsewhere.
WOODRUFF: Let me ask you about the south. As you said you were just there. And among some of the other things you said yesterday was southerners shouldn't vote on issues of guns, God and gays.
My question to you is, are you at all concerned that's going to turn off some people of faith in the south, who do know want to know what you have to think about God?
DEAN: They're going to find out what I think. And I'm pretty outspoken about what I think about all areas.
I actually spoke in an African-American church yesterday. And I was very open about talking about Jesus and God's will and so forth and so on, but the truth is that the way to win elections is not to play them on the Republicans' ground. We cannot be talking about divisive social issues. What we've got to be talking about is the things we all have in common. That is health care, jobs and education.
WOODRUFF: At the same time, Governor, I'm sure you know the Republicans are already starting to talk about the fact that you -- I think by your own acknowledgment, left the Episcopal Church in some dispute over a bike path, and you switched to another denomination, the Congregationalist denomination.
They're asking what does this say about the depth of your commitment to your own faith?
DEAN: You know what it really says? It says the Republicans are talking like they're out of the Pharisees. Because if you're a Christian, you're a Christian. I don't believe it ought to matter what kind of a denomination you are.
As a matter of fact, if you're a religious person, you're a religious person. I don't think it ought to matter what religion you are.
So people who talk like that are what Jesus would call the Pharisees. And I think that's enough of that kind of stuff in the Republican Party. We are all in this together, whether you are a Christian, or a Jew or a Muslim or a Hindu. And there's plenty of all to go around in this country.
WOODRUFF: Was it just over a bike path that you left the Episcopal Church?
DEAN: Yes, as a matter of fact it was. I was fighting to have public access to the waterfront, and we were fighting very hard in the citizens group to allow the public to use it. And this particular diocese decided to join a property rights suit to close it down. I didn't think that was very public spirited.
One thing I feel about religion, you have to be very careful not to be a hypocrite if you're a religious person. It is really tough to preach one thing and do something else. And I don't think you can do that.
WOODRUFF: And you don't believe, Governor, the Republicans are going to have a field day with comments like these?
DEAN: The Republicans always have a field day with things like this. That's the reason Democrats lose, is because they're so afraid of the Republicans having a field day with comments like this or like that, that they never make any comments.
I agree this campaign's colorful. This campaign has motivated Democrats like no campaign in a long time, probably since Bill Clinton in 1992. And before that I can't tell you. John F. Kennedy maybe. And it's not because of me; it's because of us together. This is a campaign about us, not me.
WOODRUFF: But you criticized President Bush as recently as yesterday for not having -- not providing more leadership, for example, in the war on Iraq. How are the American people going to know what your moral values are, what your moral compass is unless you talk more about those values?
DEAN: I talk about them every day. Jobs, health care and education is a set of values that I think we embrace in this Democratic Party, including everybody has a set of values that we embrace but the Republicans only talk about.
When the Republicans use the word -- when the president of the United States uses the word "quota," that is not inclusive. The word "quota" is a race code word that Americans know, and pollsters certainly know, appeals to people's fears about losing their job or their place in the university to a member of the community of color.
That's not inclusive. I think inclusivity is a moral value the president talks about but doesn't act on.
WOODRUFF: Governor, I want to ask you about this feud over the last few days about the controversy that you're sealing your records in Vermont. I assume someone on your staff or you have been through all those records and know for a fact there's nothing in there that's going to embarrass you potentially?
DEAN: Well, I assume somebody on my staff has. I certainly haven't. I mean, we had something like 300 boxes of records. Sixty percent of them which were already public, and the rest will be seen by a judge.
We want to get this out of the political arena. And we were -- you know, we have an opportunity now for a judge to go through all the documents, and he'll decide. And we're not even hiring a lawyer. This is going to be between the attorney general of the state of Vermont and whoever the -- whatever the group is, Judicial Watch. And they'll decide. The judge will decide, and that's fine with us.
WOODRUFF: We'll have more of my interview with Howard Dean ahead. I'll ask him about the political fallout over his medical deferment from the draft during the war in Vietnam.
Some of Dean's Democratic rivals are aiming their fire today at President Bush and the newly signed Medicare Reform Bill.
In one of the more pointed statements Joe Lieberman said, quote, "I hope the prescription drug Bill the president is signing today covers pain killers, because it is going to cause a lot of pain for millions of our seniors."
Republicans are banking that seniors will have a more positive reaction to the Bill, at least through next year's election. Let's bring in our senior White House correspondent, John King.
John, there are worries or is this unmitigated celebration today?
JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Judy, the White House believes this signing of the Medicare legislation, now the law of the land, is both good policy and good politics for President Bush. You could see a very upbeat president at the signing ceremony today, held at Constitution Hall here in Washington so they could bring in a big crowd.
Among those on hand as the president signed the Bill were some senior citizens he met back at the last presidential campaign three years ago. Mr. Bush making the case that he had promised three years ago that, if elected president he would get a new prescription drug benefit added to Medicare. Other changes to the system, as well.
One of the president's big themes today, as he signed this big sweeping measure into law, was that he is the president to promise and now has delivered.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: We confronted problems instead of passing them along to future administrations and future Congresses. We overcame old partisan differences. We kept our promise and found a way to get the job done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Now, the White House making the case that some Democrats did support this Bill: Senator John Breaux, Senator Max Baucus among those on hand for the signing ceremony today.
But Judy, you noted Senator Lieberman's criticism. All of the Democrats running for president are criticizing this Bill. Howard Dean calls it a boondoggle. John Edwards calls it a giveaway. John Kerry calling it a $139 billion holiday gift to the insurance companies and HMOs. So this debate will continue on into the coming presidential campaign.
And Mr. Bush also facing some criticism from the right. Some conservatives say he is expanding a federal entitlement program. They worry the price tag will be well in addition to the $400 billion the administration says this will cost in additional Medicare spending over the next ten years.
So the White House celebrating this new law today, Judy, but it realizes the political debate will continue. One way the administration hopes to address that debate, and rising questions we see in the polling from America's senior citizens, is to send Tommy Thompson, the HHS secretary, and other senior administration officials out across the country in the days to come for a series of town hall events.
They know this debate will continue on for months and months to come, Judy.
WOODRUFF: I'm sure that it will. This Bill unfolds for years to come. All right, John, thank you very much.
Well, to some extent politicians have only been guessing about seniors' reactions to the new prescription drug benefits. Up next, we're going to check our new poll to find out how the medicine is going down with older Americans.
And later I'll talk with Senate majority leader Bill Frist.
Also ahead, the president, the GOP and New York City. We'll go beyond the conventional wisdom about the 2004 convention.
Plus what does John Kerry have to say about using foul language in an interview?
WOODRUFF: Has brand new California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's job just gotten a great deal harder?
Republicans in the Golden State are scrambling because late Friday the legislation rejected the governor's budget reform package. It included the issuing of $15 billion worth of bonds and would have give the governor authority to impose budget cuts or tax hikes without legislative approval during fiscal emergencies.
But lawmakers also rejected a Democratic alternative plan.
Tomorrow INSIDE POLITICS will be in Sacramento. And I will ask Governor Schwarzenegger what's next and how he's enjoying his new job, among other things.
INSIDE POLITICS will be right back.
WOODRUFF: The new Medicare law with its prescription drug benefit and other changes would appear to be a political winner for President Bush. But our new CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup poll finds some interesting shifts in public opinion.
Bill Schneider is with me now from London.
All right, Bill, from all the way over there, is this new Medicare legislation going to give President Bush a boost right now?
BILL SCHNEIDER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right now, no. In fact, just the opposite.
By about 50 to 40 percent, the public says it disapproves of the way President Bush is handling both Medicare and the prescription drug benefit for seniors.
Now, look at what's happened among seniors. In August, 47 percent of seniors said they approved of the way President Bush was handling Medicare. That number has now dropped -- dropped -- seven points. The majority of seniors now disapproves of Bush's Medicare policy. There's gratitude for you.
WOODRUFF: So Bill, what is the main complaint?
SCHNEIDER: Well, Judy, the Medicare Bill does two things, and seniors don't like either one of them.
First, it makes changes in Medicare coverage to introduce more choice and competition. Americans under 65 are inclined to favor those changes. But seniors don't like them. They like Medicare just the way it is.
Second, the plan adds a prescription drug plan for seniors. The public favors such a plan, but they don't like the way this one works. A majority of seniors say they disapprove of the way President Bush has handled prescription drugs.
WOODRUFF: So what, Bill, is their problem with the drug plan?
SCHNEIDER: Well, Judy, two criticisms stand out.
One, they don't think it goes far enough in helping seniors. Only 15 percent of seniors say the new bill will actually help them pay for drugs. Twenty-one percent believe it will hurt them. And most of them, 58 percent, say it just won't make any difference at all.
Second of all, people feel that the bill benefits drug companies too much. Fifty-nine percent of seniors believe the Medicare Bill will do more to benefit drug companies than people on Medicare. And 64 percent believe drug prices are so high, not because drug companies need the money for research, but because they make excessive profits.
Seniors believe that this bill was written for the drug companies, not for them.
WOODRUFF: So Bill, given all this, does that mean that Democrats are winning on this issue?
SCHNEIDER: The answer is no. Fifty-one percent of seniors say they disapprove of the way Republicans in Congress have handled the issue, and 53 percent -- 53 percent say they disapprove of the way Democrats in the Congress have handled the issue.
Judy, on this one, nobody wins.
WOODRUFF: Certainly looks that way from these numbers. All right. Bill, explaining our polls from all the way across the pond. Thanks very much. We'll see you later in the week.
SCHNEIDER: Thanks, Judy. WOODRUFF: And we want to tell you about two more notable results from our latest poll.
The president's approval rating has climbed to 55 percent. Now that is up five points since mid-November. Forty-three percent said they disapprove of how the president is handling his job.
The rebounding economy may be helping the president's approval numbers. Fifty-seven percent say they rate conditions as good, compared with 44 percent in October. And 42 percent rate conditions as poor. That is down from 56 percent two months ago.
New York City's economy will get a boost next summer when the city hosts the GOP national convention. As our Kelly Wallace reports, the planned stampede of Republicans into the Big Apple is already shaking things up.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (singing): Think about what tomorrow will do.
KELLY WALLACE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Democrats have partied in New York City before, five times, in fact. Now Republicans will gather here for first time in a place where registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans 5-1.
The city's Republican mayor tried to bring both party conventions to the Big Apple.
MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (R), NEW YORK CITY: It might not be that New York City is an overwhelmingly Democratic city down the road. People change their party affiliation, based on who they think can do the best job for them.
BUSH: The nation sends its love.
WALLACE: Republicans hope President Bush, who captured the hearts of many New Yorkers after the September 11 attacks, will turn his popularity numbers around.
According to a recent poll, in New York City, only 32 percent approve of the job the president is doing. Statewide, that number jumped just to 44 percent.
Democrats think the GOP's late convention, ending in early September, will try to capitalize on the third anniversary of the World Trade Center attacks. But such a move, this former Democratic governor says, will backfire by bringing attention to what is happening in Iraq.
MARIO CUOMO (D), FORMER NEW YORK GOVERNOR: Can you point to this experience and say, what a success this has been? It wasn't.
WALLACE: And then there are challenges within the party itself. The recent public spat between socially liberal Mayor Bloomberg and ultraconservative House Majority Leader Tom DeLay over DeLay's plan, now shelved, to house delegates on a cruise ship outside New York City.
(on camera) Are they going to play nice next year?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I thin they'll play nice in front of the cameras. And I think behind the scenes, we're going to see a willingness to work together. There's going to be no glossing over their differences.
WALLACE: And Republicans hope by coming here next year to Madison Square Garden, President Bush will be able to expand his base and possibly do something no Republican has been able to do since Ronald Reagan back in 1984, and that is win the state's 31 electoral vote -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: Now, wouldn't that be a story?
WALLACE: It would be.
WOODRUFF: All right. Kelly Wallace here in New York. Thanks a lot, Kelly. We appreciate it. Kelly out in the cold today.
Well, Howard Dean is leading in the polls, as we told you. And his rivals are taking aim at him. New TV ads target Dean for being too liberal and too conservative. We'll find out how he's responding just ahead.
Plus, my conversation with the Senate majority leader. Republican Bill Frist will join me to talk about today's signing of the Medicare Reform Law.
Stay with us.
WOODRUFF: Television airwaves are filling up Iowa and the early primary states.
As we reported, Howard Dean is one of the major buyers of TV ad time. And he's also one of the major targets.
This ad started running on Friday in Iowa. The group behind it is spending $230,000 on the spot, which accuses Dean of being soft on gun control and an ally of the NRA.
That ad is a little unusual, because as Howard Kurtz of CNN's "RELIABLE SOURCES" reports, Howard Dean is usually accused of being too liberal.
WALTER MONDALE, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Mr. Reagan will raise taxes, and so will I. He won't tell you. I just did. HOWARD KURTZ, "RELIABLE SOURCES" HOST: Ever since Walter Mondale made that vow in 1984 and lost 49 states, Democrats have been scrambling to avoid the tax-raising label.
But this year they're all promising to kill at least part of the Bush tax cut. And Howard Dean says he'll roll back the entire thing, which is why a conservative organization called the Club for Growth is trying to link Dean to Mondale and George McGovern and other big time Democratic losers.
ANNOUNCER: 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, marriage taxes, capital gains taxes, dividend taxes, even bring back the death tax. These Democrats found out that Americans can't afford higher taxes.
Will Howard Dean ever learn?
KURTZ: The club's figure is based on a Treasury Department study that the Dean campaign calls biased because it plays up examples like families with kids who get a large child tax credit that makes the Bush breaks look bigger.
The Dean camp points to other studies saying the bottom 60 percent of taxpayers got an average break this year of $300.
And Dean wasted no time unleashing a counter attack ad that made his potential opponent look fiscally irresponsible.
ANNOUNCER: George Bush, his economic policies created the largest deficit in our country's history. Now he's hiding behind negative ads that falsely attack Howard Dean.
The truth? Howard Dean balanced budgets 11 years in a row. He's a fiscal conservative who cut state income taxes twice.
KURTZ: Other Democratic candidates are also trying to cast the Bush tax cut as a giveaway to the wealthy.
SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This president should be made to explain why a multimillionaire sitting beside his swimming pool should be paying a lower tax rate than a teacher, than a police officer, than a secretary.
KURTZ: Actually, lots of multimillionaires pay a higher income tax rate than Edwards' typical teacher: 35 percent compared to 10 percent or 15 percent for those making less than $68,000 a year. The Edwards spot refers only to those super rich who live entirely on investment income.
But Edwards, like John Kerry and Joe Lieberman, wants to send the message that he'll only raise taxes on the wealthy.
(on camera) The Bush tax cuts have become a fat advertising target for every Democratic candidate on the airwaves. Now the question is whether the Republicans can paint them, especially Howard Dean, as old-time Walter Mondale style tax and spend liberals.
This is Howard Kurtz of CNN'S "RELIABLE SOURCES."
WOODRUFF: And Howard Dean is quick to answer the tax and spend accusations. Starting today in New Hampshire, he is running this ad, which describes him as a fiscal conservative who cut taxes twice as governor of Vermont.
Question: will he or won't he? That is the question surrounding Ralph Nader and another possible run for the White House. We'll tell you what we're hearing from the campaign trail.
And is profanity putting out John Kerry in a predicament? Stay with us for the answer.
ANNOUNCER: The doctor is in. Fresh from the Medicare reform signing, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist talks to Judy about the legislation and its critics.
Howard Dean and the draft. In our interview, the '04 Democrat fields tough questions about his medical deferment from the Vietnam war.
JUDY WOODRUFF, HOST: Do you feel any guilt at all today, Governor, about not having served when so many others went?
HOWARD DEAN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: No.
ANNOUNCER: Robert Redford longs for the way we were. The actor and environmentalist has some angry words about the direction President Bush is taking the nation.
Now live from New York, "JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS."
WOODRUFF: Welcome back. The ink on the new Medicare reform legislation was barely dry before congressional Democrats stepped up their campaign to help senior citizens read between the lines. At a rally on the Hill today, they voiced their complaints about the bill and urged voters to register their complaints with Republicans on election day.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: Instead of putting seniors and disabled first, this Republican hoax puts special interest as of the HMOs and big drug companies first, giving $139 billion in windfall profits to drug companies and creating a $17 billion slush fund for the HMOs. Boo!
WOODRUFF: Well, there weren't many Democrats standing behind President Bush when he signed the Medicare prescription drug bill into law today, but Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist was one of the many Republicans in the crowd, and he joins us now from Capitol Hill. Senator, good to see you again.
Senator Frist, if you can hear me I want to start by citing that poll that Bill Schneider reported just a moment ago. Fifty-one percent of America's seniors say they are troubled by what is in this Medicare bill. Is there still a big sales job to do? Senator, are you with me? All right.
We're having some trouble with the senator's earpiece. We're going to work on that and try to get right back to him in just a minute. Our apologies. Thank you.
So for now we're going to turn to the 2004 race and our "Campaign News Daily." With Howard Dean leading in the polls, Democratic hopeful John Kerry is positioning himself as the underdog in Iowa and New Hampshire. In a new memo, the Kerry campaign describes its candidate as competing for, quote, "the top three spots in Iowa and the top two in New Hampshire."
2000 Green Party candidate Ralph Nader has decided to raise some money while he makes up his mind about another run for the White House. Nader plans to attend a $100-per-person event this Thursday sponsored by the New Jersey Green Party. Nader has said that he'll decide about entering the race around the 1st of the year.
The League of Conservation Voters and actor/director Robert Redford are weighing in on the 2004 election. The environmental group concluded that any of the Democratic hopefuls would be better than President Bush, and the group gave its highest marks to John Kerry and Joe Lieberman.
For his part Robert Redford yesterday called the White House energy bill, quote, " One of the greatest disgraces in my time."
Redford made his remarks at a fund-raiser for Nevada Democratic Senator Harry Reid. The energy bill failed by two votes in the Senate, but Republicans avow to bring it up again early next year.
All right. We're going to try to go back to the Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist. Are you with me now? Can you hear me?
SEN. BILL FRIST (R-TN), MAJORITY LEADER: I can hear you loud and clear, Judy.
WOODRUFF: Senator, my apologies and thanks very much. I want to ask you first about some poll numbers Bill Schneider reported on the program a few minutes ago. He said that right now more than half of America's seniors, 51 percent, up from just a month ago, are troubled by what they see in this Medicare prescription drug bill. What do you say to those seniors? Do you still have a selling job?
FRIST: Well, I think we do. I think not just seniors, but Americans -- indeed a lot of political figures need to look and see what's in the bill. And it's very clear. We give affordable access to seniors. We improve choice so that seniors will be able to choose health care plans that better suit -- best suit their individual needs.
We have the better quality of care, preventive care for the first time injected in Medicare. Coordinated care, chronic disease management, health care, security. All of this is in the bill. People simply haven't seen the legislation yet, or haven't studied it yet.
WOODRUFF: Senator, it's not only Democrats who are being critical. It's some of your own Republican colleagues who are upset. In fact, your predecessor as Senate majority leader, Trent Lott, is saying that he thinks the cost of this thing could get way out of control, something like $2 trillion. He is also saying he agrees with Senator Ted Kennedy that some seniors are actually going to lose benefits rather than gain.
FRIST: Well, first of all, it's not true that anybody is going to lose benefits, and that I can assure you. First of all, this program is entirely voluntary. If you don't want to participate, you don't have to participate. The cost -- well, cost is an issue. I mean, there's no question about that, but remember we're talking about health care security for seniors.
We are talking about denying today in Medicare the most powerful tool that we have in medicine today, and that is prescription drugs. They can prevent stroke. They can prevent a heart attack. Right now, seniors don't have access to that through medical care. That's what I care about as a physician. As a United States senator, health care security for our seniors.
FRIST: Cost is an issue. Real quick, cost is an issue, and in that we do a whole number of things. We have competition, speed generic drugs to the marketplace. Again, I would ask people to look at the bill.
WOODRUFF: Well, Senator, that's exactly what I want to ask you about, because today I was reading an -- I read several analyses of the bill today. One in "USA Today," which says the new program -- and this is what the newspaper says -- "Confronts seniors with confusing choices that will profoundly affect their health care and their finances." It goes on to say they are going to face pressures to sign up right now, or face penalties later if they change their minds. Is that true?
FRIST: Judy, there's no question that we do expand the choices available to seniors. First of all, remember, today they have no choice. They have no choice to prescription drugs, and every physician, everybody in medicine will tell you prescription drugs are indeed lifesaving. They have no choice.
We do expand choice, and we give seniors a whole range of choices. Keep what you have today if you don't want to take part in this new program. Just keep what you have. Number two, you can have a health care plan similar to me as a federal employee, similar to me as a United States senator that will give you prevention, coordinated care, protection from what we call catastrophic expenses. Those are the sort of things that Medicare doesn't include today, and that is a sort of choice.
I have enough confidence in seniors and in individuals with disabilities -- and don't leave them out, because they're in Medicare as well -- that they can make prudent choices. I am confident that they can, and those choices will give them better care, prevention, coordinated care, chronic disease management, none of which exist in Medicare today.
WOODRUFF: But Senator, it is the case, am I correct, that it's not until 2006 that seniors are going to see this drug benefit. Is that right that they get ...
FRIST: No. No. No. No, Judy, it's not. And that's why this kind of show is so important. This thing begins six months from now. Every senior who wants it will have a prescription drug card that will give them a discount, a discount of 10 to 25 percent. If you're low income, in addition to that, this card that you'll have six months or about seven months, in June of this year will give you an additional $600 in value.
This drug card will take place from June of this year for about another two years, at which case the full-blown program of free- standing drug plans or more comprehensive coordinated care will be available to all seniors and all individuals with disabilities, but no, this begins in six months from now.
WOODRUFF: All right, Senator, we're going to have to leave it there, but I gather you're going to be doing some explaining as you talk to voters around the country.
WOODRUFF: All right. Senator Howard -- Senator Bill Frist, who is with us today from Washington. Thank you very much, Senator. Good to see you, we appreciate it.
FRIST: Thank you. Good to be with you. You bet.
WOODRUFF: Well, turning to the other story we're following today, Howard Dean's Democratic rivals have taken more than a few political shots at him. A recent remark by Wesley Clark sounded especially stinging. Clark noted that while he was recovering from his war wounds in Vietnam, Dean was off skiing after getting a medical deferment from the war. In my extended interview with Dean today, I asked him for his response to Clark's comments.
DEAN: I respect General Clark enormously. And I think he's had a military career which is certainly commendable. But I don't think this election is about what the selective service decided to do with my bad back. They made the choice, I had the physical and they turned me down. And I had no say one way or the other in that.
WOODRUFF: Not to beat a dead horse, because I know you were...
WOODRUFF: ... in that interview on Fox, but just to be clear in when you went to the draft board, did they make the decision based on your medical records or on their own separate medical assessment?
DEAN: I have no way of knowing that. We asked for our the draft files a long time ago, anticipating interest in questions like this from interested parties. And all we know - all I know is I went down there, I had my draft physical along with about 250 other guys of all sizes and colors, and I went through the physical and about three, four, five weeks later I got a letter saying I was deferred except in case of a national emergency.
WOODRUFF: And you don't know -- the fact that you were able to bring in your own private medical doctor's assessment...
DEAN: Everybody brings in their own records. If you have a record you bring it in. And I don't -- you know, I was not privy to the decisions so I have no idea how they made the decision.
WOODRUFF: Let me quickly quote a comment from the man who was the director of selective service in 1970, Curtis Tar (ph). He said, quote, "It's one of the real inequities left in the system because young men from wealthier family," which you were, "could afford to pay for test that might uncover some deferrable medical condition." And other people couldn't.
DEAN: Yes, of course, that has no application to my situation whatsoever. I had an injury four years earlier which is how I knew I had a bad back in the first place. I had a bad back and couldn't run track, that's how the pain developed.
And I had went to the doctor like most people would, whether they're wealthy or whether they're middle class or even poor folks can see a doctor if they need to, if they have a serious problem unless they have no insurance, which I intend to fix if I become president of the United States.
WOODRUFF: Do you feel any guilt at all today, Governor, about not having served when so many others went?
DEAN: No. I took my physical. I told the truth, they chose not to take me. That's what happened.
WOODRUFF: So the fact that there were other young men who didn't have the ability to get good medical care and get medical tests doesn't -- there's not an inequity there that bothers you... DEAN: Judy, I was a high school junior, senior, I had a back pain, I went to the doctor, the doctor told me had I had a congenital problem in my back. Four years later I went to the draft physical, they told me I couldn't serve. I don't know what else I can tell you.
WOODRUFF: But we know today there were people who went to Vietnam who had back pain.
DEAN: So your argument is that I could have lied to the draft board and gotten in.
WOODRUFF: No, I'm -- no. That's not what I'm -- I'm just asking if you have any twinge of any feeling about it.
DEAN: I have a lot of twinge about the terrible policy that sent our young people to Vietnam for an exercise that turned out not to be justified, as we're doing right now in Iraq. Yes, I have twinges about that.
I went to the draft (UNINTELLIGIBLE). If they drafted me, I would have served. But they chose not to do that for their own reasons.
WOODRUFF: Let me turn to a very different issue. In the state of Iowa, Dick Gephardt is running a whole new set of ads today accusing you among other things, of saying that Medicare was one of the worst federal programs over. He goes on to cite chapter and verse. And I'm sorry, this is a direct mailing from the ad.
WOODRUFF: He cites chapter and verse of instances where you were criticizing Medicare and you praised deep cuts in Medicare.
DEAN: That's not exactly what happened. What actually is that I criticized the way Medicare was administered. Medicare is not administered very well. It's a hassle for the patient.
And my dad died about two and a half years ago and I had to deal with his medical bills or look at them. I couldn't make heads nor tail of them and I'm a doctor. So I don't think it's very well-run program.
Nobody -- look, I'm a doctor and a governor who's delivered health insurance when frankly people like Dick Gephardt and all those folks in Washington just talked about it. They've been there for years. What have they done? I've supplied health insurance for every child. One-third of our seniors in Vermont have prescription benefits. We didn't wait for Washington to do anything about that because they never did.
So in all due respect this is kind of the politics of desperation. This is the old Democrat Party and it's the Democrat Party I am determined to leave behind because if we don't leave that kind of political thinking behind we're never going to beat George Bush. We need new thinking in the Democratic Party, thinking that does not rely on mailings and attacking other people's position. Our common point of attention ought to be the presidency of George W. Bush which needs to come to an end on January 20, 2005.
WOODRUFF: So you're saying Dick Gephardt is just all wet.
DEAN: Dick Gephardt's a good guy. I worked for him in 1988. I went to Iowa to campaign for him. But the fact is that was 16 years ago. We need new leadership in this party, not the same old leadership that lost us the House and keeps talking about the past instead of the future.
WOODRUFF: Howard Dean who I talked to earlier today here in New York.
Well as you can see, I've moved outside of our studio. I am out here because the CNN Campaign Express Bus is right behind me. Also ahead, we're going to be telling you -- we're going to be showing you the bus. But we're going to tell you the inside story on yet another verbal slap at Howard Dean. This one by Dick Gephardt in Iowa.
And later, John Kerry tries to get in the last word about his use of a nasty word.
WOODRUFF: All right. We are on Sixth Avenue in Manhattan between, what, 50th and 49th Streets. We're parked just behind -- Tucker Carlson and me, famous Tucker Carlson from CNN's "CROSSFIRE" has parked the CNN Election Express.
Tucker, you've been on the bus. What does it look like and what is it?
TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST, "CROSSFIRE": The bus is fantastic. The bus is -- CNN, the political unit, our shows, your show, "CROSSFIRE," our rolling production studio. We're going to take that bus from here to New Hampshire tonight for the debate tomorrow and then across the country out to Iowa, back to New Hampshire, South Carolina, California. All over this country to cover the primaries..
WOODRUFF: It's going to be a moving home base for our election coverage.
CARLSON: That's it. And we are going to hit every Taco Bell between Manhattan and New Hampshire tonight and just keep on doing it.
WOODRUFF: You just did a great ad.
All right, what's on the bus? Editing equipment, all those things?
CARLSON: The bus has everything, all sort of high tech computers and stuff I don't understand.
CARLSON: Are you kidding? At every gas stop, every time we need to stop because something's wrong to the engine, we're going to invite viewers on to come tour the bus, definitely.
And candidates. Al Sharpton tonight, tomorrow General Wes Clark. The day after, more candidates.
WOODRUFF: Terrific. And Tucker's going to be flying to New Hampshire tonight, but the bus is going to make it...
CARLSON: No, no, no, no. Are you kidding?
WOODRUFF: You are riding on the bus?
CARLSON: Oh, I'm on the Taco Bell tour tonight.
WOODRUFF: All right. Tucker Carlson. And he'll be riding and talking about it when it's all over.
All right, that's what's coming up. And we on INSIDE POLITICS are going to be spending time on this bus as well.
Coming up, when Iowa voters check their mail boxes these days they are finding a new attack on Howard Dean. "The Hotline"'s Chuck Todd is going to be here next to tell us who's behind all this and which voters are being targeted.
WOODRUFF: It is time now for "The Hotline Tip Sheet." For our weekly briefing I'm joined from Washington by Chuck Todd. He's the editor of "The Hotline" which, as we all know, is a daily online briefing produced by "The National Journal."
Chuck, first of all, the hot Iowa race with the front runners Dick Gephardt and Howard Dean, when I talked to Howard Dean I actually asked him what you're going to be reporting on and that is a direct mail piece that the Gephardt campaign is sending out. Tell us more about it.
CHUCK TODD, EDITOR, "THE HOTLINE": Well it's actually two pieces and it's not clear and I don't think both of them are statewide. One of them is a very -- just a quick two-page front and back type of thing that you get in the mail. You don't even know that it's Dick Gephardt that sent it.
And it's got Howard Dean on the cover with the words, "Medicare is, quote, 'One of the worst federal programs ever.'"
And then the back of the page has different quotes sort of supporting from Howard Dean, using Howard Dean's quotes as sort of trying to show that he is against Medicare. It's the second mail piece, Judy, that's the most interesting because it's a four-pager. It's a little more detailed. On this one you see a picture of Dick Gephardt so it's clear that he's responsible for this attack. But the other part of it is it adds Social Security to the attack.
Up until now, the entire Gephardt message when it's been aimed -- when they've been lobbing bombs at dean it's been on Medicare and been on these -- whether he support it and using his word against him from 1995.
Now it's going after him on Social Security. You've got to remember that the Iowa Democratic Party has these voter files. They can send these to just every voter over the age of 65 that are Democratic caucus goers so there's no doubt that this second mailer is a very targeted mailer.
And who knows? If we start seeing TV ads in the next week or so on this similar topic, then we'll know these were effective mailers.
WOODRUFF: All right, very quickly. That's Iowa. Let's quickly turn to New Hampshire, Chuck. And that's a state where we know if you want to reach a television audience, traditionally the candidates have used WMUR, the TV station based in Manchester. What are you hearing about what's going on now, though?
TODD: Well, a lot of media consultants are in the postmortem stage. You know it's almost like New Hampshire is already over because Dean has this lead.
And they're trying to figure out why is it that the two -- the three people that have spent the most money just advertising on WMUR -- for instance, John Edwards, Joe Lieberman and Wesley Clark, have not seen their numbers move up the way for instance Howard Dean and even John Kerry at one time who had some decent numbers. Now, granted, they were home staters.
But people are scratching their heads with Edwards and that's he's only been buying WMUR and a lot of consultants say that people may be misused how to use WMUR in order to have a successful ad campaign. They're not as many -- you want to be to be advertising on the news adjacencies to WMUR, all their news programs, but you have to do so for such a long period of time that it's hard to get the bang out of your buck there.
So it's debate is trying to find out is WMUR worthwhile, is it a way to win a race in New Hampshire, or do you really have to have gigantic bucks and match it with a Boston buy? And so far only Howard Dean and John Kerry have had the Boston buys.
WOODRUFF: Right, and I would imagine that Dean and Kerry would also say that it's the message as well and not just the messenger.
TODD: Of course.
WOODRUFF: Of course, of course. All right, Chuck Todd. Thank you very much. "The Hotline," an insiders political briefing, is produced daily by "The National Journal." You can go online to NationalJournal.com for subscription information about "The Hotline."
Well, out on the campaign trail it's usually a good idea to watch your language. Up next, is John Kerry paying a price for failing to censor himself during an interview?
WOODRUFF: Like many Americans politicians, sometimes let a less than polite word slip out in public. Unlike many Americans, they often take heat for it. '04 Democrat John Kerry was quoted by "Rolling Stone" magazine as say saying, "When I voted for the war, I voted for what I thought was best for the country. Did I expect Howard Dean to go off to the left and say, 'I'm against everything'? Sure. Did I expect Bush to (expletive) it as badly as badly as he did? I don't think anybody did."
On CNN this weekend White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card urged Kerry to apologize.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDREW CARD, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: I've known John Kerry for a long time and I'm very disappointed that he would use that kind of language. That's beneath John Kerry and I'm disappointed that he did it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOODRUFF: But Senator Kerry is now trying to turn the tables back on the Bush White House. In an interview with our Candy Crowley he brought up an incident in the 2000 campaign where a microphone picked up then-candidate Bush using a bad word to describe a reporter.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Did you ever use a bad word?
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, but I'm not running for president.
KERRY: George Bush used one publicly. Didn't he call Adam Climber something publicly. It didn't seem to stop him.
Look, I was honest. I just said something that I felt and that's the way it came out. And that's the way I felt.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOODRUFF: And the Kerry camp says the White House staff should spend more time fixing the president's flawed policy in Iraq, their words, than on fixing Senator Kerry's language.
And this note, please join me tomorrow for my interview with California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. I'll be live in Sacramento.
That's it for now. I'm Judy Woodruff. Thanks for joining us. "CROSSFIRE" from the Campaign Express start right now.
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Medicare Reform Bill; GOP Heading for Big Apple>