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Gore Endorses Dean; Interview with Senator John Kerry

Aired December 9, 2003 - 20:00   ET


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: "In Focus" tonight: Howard Dean on the day of a big endorsement from Al Gore. Does this mean he's sealed the deal on the nomination? We'll investigate, just who is Howard Dean?
The latest in the search for missing college student Dru Sjodin. Investigators say her blood was found in the suspect's car.

And the new revelation in the Michael Jackson case. A confidential government report done earlier this year declared the allegations against the king of pop unfounded.

Good evening. Thanks for joining us tonight.

Also ahead, I'll ask Senator Joseph Lieberman's daughter about betrayal and how her father took the surprising news that Al Gore had decided not to endorse his former running mate.

And Senator John Kerry joins us following this evening's Democratic debate, the eighth and final debate of the year for the Democrats.

Plus, I'll be talking with "New York Times" columnist Thomas Friedman about the wall Israel is building between it and the Palestinians.

Also, an exclusive report on helicopter diplomacy in Iraq. CNN's Jane Arraf in the air with a top U.S. general who's crisscrossing the country to try to win over the hearts and minds of Iraqis.

First, here are some of the headlines you need to know right now.

Former Senator Paul Simon died today, a day after undergoing heart surgery. He was 75 years old. Simon served two terms in the Senate and ran for the Democratic nomination for president back in 1988.

Housing Secretary Mel Martinez is stepping down. The White House announced his departure today. He's expected to run for the Senate in Florida, where Democrat Bob Graham is retiring.

And a rare earthquake struck Washington, D.C. today. The 4.5 quake struck just before 4:00 p.m. Eastern time and rattled windows for a few seconds. The U.S. Geological Survey says it was centered just outside Richmond, Virginia, and was felt as far south as North Carolina.

Al Gore's endorsement of Howard Dean makes for a powerful alliance, the Washington insider joining forces with the political outsider from Vermont. And it puts Dean in the driver seat among the Democratic presidential candidates. The Gore endorsement is "In Focus" tonight.

We begin with coverage with CNN senior political correspondent Candy Crowley, who has been with Dean and Gore all day. She joins us now live from Durham, New Hampshire, to walk us through the day.

Good evening, Candy.


Where, tonight, all of the candidates, including Howard Dean, are having a debate. Al Gore, after a day which began in Harlem and then took the two of them to the heartland into Iowa, where Dean is at this moment in quite a struggle with Richard Gephardt.

The two men bonded apparently over the war. Dean wrote Gore a hand-written note last September, after Gore gave a speech which was basically anti-war. And he repeated it again today.


AL GORE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This nation has never, in our two centuries and more, made a worse foreign policy mistake than George W. Bush made in putting our troops into that quagmire in Iraq.


GORE: It was a horrible judgment, misjudgment.

And, therefore, therefore, it is not a minor matter to me that the only major candidate for the nomination of my party that had the good judgment, experience and good sense to feel and see and articulate the right choice was Howard Dean!



CROWLEY: This was, of course, huge for Howard Dean.

He has always been seen as the insurgent. But, lately, as he has maintained his front-runner status, he has tried to reach out to other members of the party. The message here is, Democrats, it will be all right. One of the main things that many of the critics of Howard Dean within the Democratic Party have said, Paula, is that they fear that he will bring down with him any chances that the Senate and the House, currently held by Republicans, will ever be a Democratic majority any time in the near future.

This is seen as a mainstream endorsement and a big boost to the Dean campaign. But I can tell you, the first part of this debate, when the other candidates were asked about it, they were not resentful, but certainly very forceful in presenting their view that no one, not even Al Gore, is going to decide this election and that, in fact, it will be the voters who, in about 40 days, will begin in Iowa -- Paula.

ZAHN: Moderator Ted Koppel made it quite clear that maybe there was a little bit of sour grapes on the part of eight of those candidates there, while they didn't express that openly.

Candy Crowley, thanks for joining us tonight.


GORE: Ladies and gentlemen, the next vice president of the United States of America, Joe Lieberman!


ZAHN: Gore's endorsement of Dean is quite a blow to Joseph Lieberman, maybe the ultimate political betrayal. Why would Gore snub the man he had handpicked to be his running mate in the 2000 election?

Joining us on the set is Joseph Lieberman's daughter Rebecca Lieberman.

Glad to have you us tonight.


ZAHN: Welcome.

LIEBERMAN: Thank you.

ZAHN: So how much of a surprise was this Gore endorsement of Howard Dean?

LIEBERMAN: It was a big surprise. Look, we didn't expect Al Gore's endorsement. We didn't take anything for granted. But coming the way it did, it was a big surprise.

ZAHN: Here's what Senator John Kerry had to say about it tonight at the top of the debate.


SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I was sort of surprised today, actually, by the endorsement, because I thought that Joe Lieberman had shown such extraordinary loyalty in delaying his own campaign that it surprised me.


ZAHN: Do you view this as the ultimate act of betrayal on the part of Al Gore?

LIEBERMAN: Look, this isn't a betrayal.

My dad was honored to be chosen by him to run in 2000. And it was really that experience that gave him the opportunity to run now for president. And he's...

ZAHN: He can't feel too good about this happening, though, can he?

LIEBERMAN: He's not happy. I wouldn't say he's happy about it.

But, look, he feels stronger than ever that he is the person to lead this country forward. And he's energized and he's out there talking to the American people about how he'll create millions of job, keep us safe at home and in the world, protect our environment, and protect our civil rights.

ZAHN: He also went on to say at one point in the debate tonight, he actually thinks his chances -- he didn't say of winning, but his chances are increased by the Gore endorsement of Dean. What did he mean by that?

LIEBERMAN: I didn't have a chance to listen to the whole debate. Look, I think my dad has a great chance of winning.

And this really crystallizes the differences between Howard Dean and my dad. Democrats have a choice. They can move forward with a pro-growth, independent Democrat who can win this election in November, or they can go backward with a big-spending, weak-on-defense individual, like Howard Dean.

ZAHN: So many people caught off guard by this endorsement. I just want to come back to have you clarify something for us today. CNN is confirming that, in fact, Al Gore had called your father this morning and the call was not returned in the advance of this public announcement. Can you confirm that independently?

LIEBERMAN: I actually can't. I spoke to my dad briefly today. We spoke about a party that I threw for him last night. He was very pleased with that. And then he had to take off on an airplane and we couldn't speak any longer.

ZAHN: How much, though, do you think this endorsement helps Howard Dean?

LIEBERMAN: The bottom line is, it's not endorsements that are going to win this election. It's people voting. And that's why my dad is taking his message to the voters of New Hampshire, Arizona, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Delaware. These are the places we're showing great strength. And we're going to win.

ZAHN: But you look at poll after poll. In one poll today, Howard Dean 3-1 against the second contender in New Hampshire, way out in front in Iowa. We know no one has voted yet, but what makes your father so optimistic at this point in the process?

LIEBERMAN: Look, it's too early to call.

If Bill Clinton had listened to pundits in '92, he wouldn't have stayed in the race and we wouldn't have had those eight great years of prosperity and progress that we did. My dad is in this to win. And he's out there. He sees what people are feeling. He sees that people have lost jobs. They want us to be strong in the world. And my dad is a person who can deliver that.

ZAHN: Rebecca Lieberman, thank you for spending a little time with us this evening.

LIEBERMAN: It's a pleasure to be here.

ZAHN: Appreciate it.

And Gore's endorsement of Dean may already be paying off in campaign contributions. This is from Dean's Web site. Since Gore's announcement, more than $183,000 has been added to Dean's war chest.

Now, just who is Howard Dean politically? He is perceived as a left-thinking, tough-talking Democrat. But where does he really stand on the issues?

For that, we are joined by CNN senior analyst Jeff Greenfield.

Welcome, Jeff.


ZAHN: So we know Howard Dean adamantly opposed to the war.


ZAHN: Does that, that perceived liberal view, carry over to some of his social stances?

GREENFIELD: It does in some and doesn't on others.

ZAHN: Where does it?

GREENFIELD: Well, on the social issues, which I still think are going to bedevil the Democrats, Howard Dean is firmly in the social liberal camp. He's pro-choice. He not only is pro-gay rights. He signed the first civil union bill that was under direct mandate by the Vermont Supreme Court.

On financial matters, it's very different. Howard Dean tells partisan Democratic audiences right up front in the speech he's for a balanced budget. He says you can't have job growth without a balanced budget. He is or was probably the most pro-gun of any of the major Democratic contenders. Whether he is modulating that now is not entirely clear.

And the other -- the thing that is most important to understand about Howard Dean is what makes him seem so much of a counterculture or left guy is the nature of the campaign, not just the grassroots nature, but the language he uses where he says -- it's empowering language. You have the power, he says at the end of every speech, which brings back to mind to some people kind of -- not in a policy way, but a kind of a '60s notions of grassroots, participatory democracy. So it's a mixed bag. And Howard Dean's challenge is going to be to convince doubting Democrats that he's tough enough on defense, apart from the war in Iraq -- Al Gore helped him on that today, because Gore was pretty tough on national security matters -- and that he is a mainstream American politician when it comes to things like economic growth and jobs.

ZAHN: Howard Dean ticked off a laundry list of things where said he and Al Gore were aligned tonight at the top of this debate, one on the environment, one on their opposition to the Bush tax cuts and wanting to reverse those. What about that?

GREENFIELD: The Bush tax cuts, I think, are the place where you have already heard and you are going hear for the rest of this campaign, however long it lasts, most of the other Democrats come very hard at Howard Dean, except for Richard Gephardt, who wants all the tax cuts rolled back for his health care program. Dean wants them rolled back to help cut the deficit.

You have John Edwards, you have John Kerry, you have Joe Lieberman saying, Howard, if you roll back all the tax cuts, that hurts our people, the middle class. And that, I think, is the kind of attack where the Republicans are going to be looking at these debate, picking sound bites for the fall campaign ads, saying, you see, Howard Dean wants -- he is another big-taxing guy. You just heard Rebecca Lieberman talk about the big spending of Howard Dean.

That opposition to all tax -- to the entire tax cut program is one that I think his opponents are going to zero in and say, that proves Howard Dean isn't a pro-growth Democrat.

ZAHN: Jeff, if you wouldn't mind standing by here for a moment, we want to take a look now at Dean's record as the governor of Vermont, how he governed and how it may differ with the way he wants to run the country right now.

Joining us tonight from Springfield, Massachusetts, is someone who has known Dean for 20 years, Peter Shumlin, the former president of the Vermont Senate.

Welcome. Good to see you, sir.


ZAHN: What kind of insight can you give us into Governor Dean's style?


SHUMLIN: Well, I was just listening to Jeff.

And I think the interesting thing and kind of the fun thing for those of us that know Howard so well and know how he ticks is that he defies labels. He's very, very tough to put in a box, as the Washington insiders so desperately want to do. He's an extraordinary person. He's the smartest political person I have ever worked with. He's the quickest I've ever worked with.

But he defies labels. He cares deeply about people. He was a huge job creator in Vermont. That's one of the things he really cared about. He will never do anything unless he can pay for it, which is unusual for many Democrats, certainly unusual and different than the current president of the United States, who's running this country on my children and grandchildren's credit cards.

ZAHN: All right, hang on for a moment, Peter.


ZAHN: Because this candidate you're talking about also has a reputation as being blunt, being abrasive, sometimes making policy on the fly. Kate O'Connor, part of Dean's inner circle for many years, put it this way -- quote -- "He used to get up and make policy at press conferences. We'd all say, I can't believe you just said that."

How impulsive is he?

SHUMLIN: He's not impulsive. I think the unusual thing about him and what's going to take the country some time to get used to and I think what they're going to really appreciate is that he says what he feels. And he doesn't sort of speak in this canned political speak that we hear from Washington.

You'll never wonder where Howard Dean stands on an issue. However, this sort of rap that the press is giving him that he's angry couldn't be farther from the truth. He's about the least angry person I know. He's strong. He knows what he wants to do to accomplish the job. He's incredibly inclusive in working with people and bringing people in. I have watched him work with Republican and Democratic legislators, independent legislator,s people from all backgrounds. He kind of defies these labels.

And that's going to be the interesting puzzle for the press to put together on this particular candidate. He's extraordinary.

ZAHN: There is a view, Jeff, that is being widely reported that the White House is really anxious to take on Howard Dean. Are they underestimating him?

GREENFIELD: There's no question that we saw, back last summer, Karl Rove, the political director of the White House, Bush's political brain, at an event where Howard Dean was marching or Howard Dean supporters were marching, saying, yes, yes, that's the one we want.

The problem with that is that I can think of a couple of cases in the past where people have rooted for their opponent and they have been wrong. The Carter White House was celebrating Ronald Reagan's nomination in 1980, because he was too old, too extreme. That's the guy they wanted to run against.

And the first Bush White House wasn't all that unhappy that this obscure Arkansas governor with a reputation of womanizing was their opponent. That isn't to say that Howard Dean is going to win, if he is the nominee. But I noticed just today Bill Kristol, one of the leading neoconservative voices in Washington, editor of "The Weekly Standard" -- he was Dan Quayle's top aide -- has a column in "The Washington Post" op-ed page, saying to his fellow conservatives, don't underestimate this guy.

If he can get across as this complex, independent contrarian, that's a very politically potent thing.

On the other hand, I have to say, Peter, that there are a couple of things that Howard Dean has said on the fly that already are in the White House or the political operation's database. They are tricky. They are problematic.

ZAHN: Well, that came back with the 9/11 report that he somewhat waltzed around tonight during the debate.

Peter and Jeff, we're going to have to leave it there. Thank you, both of you, for joining us tonight to share your thoughts on Howard Dean.

Debate No. 8 for the Democratic political candidates. Our political team will have the highlights. And I'll be talking with Senator John Kerry about his performance.

Also, a chilling development in the search for college student Dru Sjodin, missing since November 22.

And a firsthand report on the wall Israel is building between it and the Palestinians from "New York Times" columnist Thomas Friedman.


ZAHN: We turn now to the Middle East, where Israel continues to build a security barrier separating itself from the Palestinians. Israeli officials say the wall is necessary to keep out terrorists and suicide bombers. But Palestinians believe it steals their land and deprives them of their civil rights.

Pulitzer Prize-winning "New York Times" columnist Thomas Friedman examines the controversy in a new documentary on the Discovery Channel tomorrow night called "Straddling the Fence."

Thomas Friedman joins us now from Washington.

Always good to see you, Tom.

THOMAS FRIEDMAN, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Great to be with you, Paula.

ZAHN: Let's talk a little bit about what both Palestinians and Israelis told you about the continued building of this wall.

FRIEDMAN: Well, what Israelis will tell you -- and I think this is honest and sincere -- is that suicide bombing makes people crazy.

And, in some ways, 100 suicide bombs in a tiny country the size of New Jersey in the space of two years has made Israelis a little crazy, and where people say: Give me a wall. I really don't care where it runs. I don't care whose backyard it goes through. I just want a wall.


ZAHN: Yet, on the other side, Palestinians look at this as a form of apartheid, right?

FRIEDMAN: Well, on the other side, the Palestinians say, OK, you want to build a wall? Fine. Build it on the Green Line. Build it on the 1967 border and you can build it 100 feet high. But the minute you don't build it on that Green Line, the minute you build it inside our backyard, as it were, sometimes just a few feet, sometimes several miles, then you're doing something very different. You're not only dividing me from my land, but you're building a wall also where you're going to have Jews on both sides.

There are going to be settlers on the Palestinian side of the wall and Israeli citizens pre-'67 on the other side of the wall.

ZAHN: Now, I guess as backdrop, you have the International Court of Justice about to rule on the legality of this wall. Will Israel abide by the ruling?

FRIEDMAN: No, I think there's only one thing that will influence Israeli actions, behavior towards this wall. And that is Hamas and Islamic Jihad, the principal Palestinian groups that have been mounting these suicide bombs. In fact, they've been meeting in Cairo the last couple of days to debate a cease-fire.

Paula, you could stop this wall tomorrow, the next day or the day after with a simple announcement by Hamas and Islamic Jihad that they are giving up the tactic of suicide bombing. That would be the end of the wall.

ZAHN: The Bush administration adamantly opposed to the continued building of this wall. Is that likely to have any influence at all?

FRIEDMAN: No, I don't think so. Unless they were really ready to play hardball with the Israeli government and deduct the cost of the wall, which will be in excess of $1 billion, from the several billion a year the United States gives to Israel, I don't think it would have any impact.

ZAHN: As this controversy continues, what is the impact on ongoing peace talks?

FRIEDMAN: You know what the real news is, Paula? It's actually an interview given last week by deputy -- Likud Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, from the right-wing Likud Party, who came out and basically said: We cannot continue to hold the territories and remain a Jewish majority. I want to have a Jewish majority here. Therefore, we have to unilaterally withdraw from the West Bank and Gaza, so that we can maintain the Jewish majority here.

This is an earthquake in Israel. This is the first real break on the right.

ZAHN: Before we let you go, let's move on to the issue of Iraq and the July 1st deadline to have a new Iraqi transitional government in place. Is that realistic?

FRIEDMAN: I think they've got the trend line right, Paula, but I wouldn't hold them to the date. I'd like the over/under on that. You take the under. I'll take the over.

ZAHN: And if I take the under and you take the over, what are the ramifications of that?

FRIEDMAN: Sometime this summer, I think. But I think that plan is probably a little too ambitious.

We still don't have a concrete format for how to elect the first interim transitional Iraqi parliament. It's hugely important that we get this, that we get it going soon. That is the tipping point. That's what the Baathists, the al Qaeda people there, the jihadis are really trying to stop. And that's what we have to really bring about. Once you do that, at least President Bush can then stand up and say, if you want to know why we're in Iraq, if you want to know why we're taking casualties, it's because, in that room right over there, Iraqis are organizing their first democratic government. Important.

ZAHN: In the meantime, a number of analysts suggest that, as you wait for summer to come, that you will see the number of American soldiers killed actually going up during that period of time.

FRIEDMAN: Oh, there's a real danger. We still don't have enough troops there, Paula. We never have. And it's an illusion to think we do.

And we could, in the end, do everything there for the right reasons. But we don't do it the right way, if we don't step up to it, put the real security forces on the ground you need to stabilize that situation, then we can win their hearts, but we'll never win anything else.

ZAHN: Tom Friedman, congratulations on your special. Thanks for spending a little time with us tonight.

FRIEDMAN: Thank you, Paula.

ZAHN: A major development today in the Michael Jackson case could be a disaster for the prosecution. We're going hear what our new contributor, former O.J. Simpson prosecutor Christopher Darden, has to say.

And an exclusive report from Iraq on how one top U.S. general is trying to win the hearts and minds of Iraqis.


ZAHN: For American military commanders on the ground in Iraq, it is clear that winning the war is only part of their job. The country has to be rebuilt and the U.S. also has to build bridges to Iraqi citizens.

CNN's Jane Arraf has an exclusive report on a day she spent crisscrossing Iraq by helicopter with one of the Army's top generals.


JANE ARRAF, CNN BAGHDAD BUREAU CHIEF (voice-over): It's a huge territory, almost 3,000 square miles of northern Iraq. The U.S. Army's 101st Airborne Division is still fighting a military campaign here. But they're also fighting to win over key parts of the Iraqi population.

On this day, Commanding General David Petraeus took us along with him for nine hours, covering 600 miles. This stop was easy, the opening of a village destroyed during Saddam Hussein's campaign against the Kurds and rebuilt partly by the U.S. Army.

After the ribbon-cutting and lunch, another town, in this one, Shura (ph), the reception from former Iraqi generals, now unemployed, was a lot tougher.

"Why did you bring us here? For eight months, we haven't been paid," says this former officer. Petraeus, his hands tied by coalition rules that dissolved the military, tries to explain why he's come.

GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS, U.S. ARMY: We did not invite you here to give you salaries or to give you jobs or anything other today than talking.

ARRAF: And talk they do.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You want the security from us. We want the security from you. And we are in between.

ARRAF: The ex-officers aren't very happy with the lack of answers, but they are happy someone's listening to them.

At the next stop, Petraeus listens to his 1st Brigade combat team talk about a possible operation.


ARRAF: In between combating attacks on U.S. targets, Petraeus is clear, he's conducting a charm offensive.

PETRAEUS: Well, we're certainly reaching out. We're trying to continue the strengthening of the bridges that we've built with the various elements of the society.

ARRAF: On the way to the last stop of the day, he touches up his speech, the location, the ruins of ancient Hatra, the occasion, a U.S.-Army sponsored Muslim-Christian celebration.

PETRAEUS: And this evening, we celebrate that past, your history, your traditions and your faiths. ARRAF: The culture this event celebrated was perhaps more American than Iraqi.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): Because there ain't no doubt I love this land. god bless the USA.

ARRAF: But for Petraeus, it was another chance to win hearts and minds and build bridges that will last after the 101st is gone.

Jane Arraf, CNN, in Hatra, Iraq.


ZAHN: An update on the case of missing college student Dru Sjodin, as we talk with police in North Dakota about the discovery of her blood in the suspect's car.

And presidential politics, our political team on Al Gore's endorsement of Howard Dean and reaction from tonight's Democratic debate.

And tomorrow: community outrage after a drug raid at a Southern high school. Some wonder if police targeted black students.


ZAHN: Welcome back. Here's what you need to know right now. News from North Dakota on the disappearance of college student Dru Sjodin. Investigators held a late afternoon news conference, confirming her blood was found in the suspect's car. Jeff Flock was at the briefing. He joins us now with a live update. Good evening, Jeff.

JEFF FLOCK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Paula. Lots of headlines today. I want to start with the evidence against Mr. Alfonso Rodriguez, Jr., specifically, that automobile, a 2002 Mercury Sable, maroon in color. In the trunk of that car, apparently, authorities finding a four-inch serrated knife. In addition, also in the trunk, cleaning supplies that authorities say could have been used to remove and get rid of blood. Perhaps the most important find in the car, though, blood samples that were a DNA match to Dru Sjodin.

Now, as to Mr. Rodriguez himself, who has now, we are told not said anything at all to authorities since he appeared in court last week, there is also security-camera tape which apparently puts him near the mall where Dru Sjodin disappeared on November 22.

As to a trace of Mrs. Sjodin, word -- first word today that there has been something that's turned up, specifically, a shoe, a black loafer, a 9 West loafer, in fact, that was found out along the Red Lake (ph) River. They put divers in the water, though, did authorities, and found nothing else beyond that shoe, having combed the riverbank, as well.

And finally, perhaps the biggest headline of the day, authorities for the first time today, Paula, said what many have had on their mind for some time now. That is that there is likely very little chance, based on the evidence they've gathered thus far, that Ms. Sjodin will be found alive. Not good news, but not altogether, Paula, unexpected. Back you.

ZAHN: Jeff Flock. Thank you for that live report.

For more on the search for Dru Sjodin, we turn to Captain Michael Kirby of the Grand Forks, North Dakota, Police Department. Good of you to join us tonight, sir. Thank you.


ZAHN: So from your perspective, where does the search for Dru Sjodin stand at this hour?

KIRBY: Well, we had a very good briefing on Monday from the United States Border Patrol. They did an outstanding job for us, as far as mapping out the areas that had been searched, how those areas had been covered, and providing us with that visual. We sat down with all the core investigative law enforcement agencies that are associated with this. The sheriffs from the respective counties were there. They had the opportunity to take a look and get a sense of where they need to look over the next few days.

ZAHN: Captain, at what point do you give up hope of finding Dru?

KIRBY: Well, I said the other day at one of the media briefings that the family is still out there searching, and law enforcement needs to still be out there searching. At this particular point in time, the sheriffs are going take over most of that role, since the areas that need to be searched are out in their respective counties. They've made some contact with the governors of the two respective states, and those governors are providing some National Guard and some other law enforcement resources. So they have the opportunity to go out there and cover those areas much more thoroughly than had been done in the past. So we need to get that done.

ZAHN: How discouraged, though, are these investigators by the news of today, the confirmation of the shoe being found, the existence of Dru's blood found in the main suspect's car, the existence of a knife?

KIRBY: I'm sorry? I missed the first part of that question. I apologize.

ZAHN: How discouraging is the news from today, though, for all of you who have been on this case for many, many hours around the clock?

KIRBY: Well, I think the law enforcement officers are doing -- they're doing their job. They're doing what they are trained to do and what their experience has put them in this position to do today. They're maintaining pretty good spirits. They know what their job is, and they're continuing to work hard. ZAHN: The main suspect in Dru Sjodin's disappearance is no longer cooperating with authorities. Do you have any expectation you'll get him to give you any new information?

KIRBY: Well, we will continue to do everything we can to have a dialogue with Mr. Rodriguez. We've made that known to the prosecutor, of course, who was aware of that, but also to the defense attorney. And any opportunity, if we have the opportunity to visit with Mr. Rodriguez and gain some additional information that can help us here, we're certainly going to do that.

ZAHN: Godspeed, as you go about this very important investigation. Grand Forks police captain Mark Kirby. Good luck.

And we're going get reaction to tonight's final Democratic presidential debate of the year from our political team and Senator John Kerry. And the Michael Jackson case. And investigation concluded months ago that the allegations against him were unfounded, and the prosecution knew about the report. What gives? We're going to get analysis from our new contributor, Christopher Darden.



HOWARD DEAN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If you guys are upset about Al Gore's endorsement, attack me, don't attack Al Gore. Al Gore worked too hard in 2000 to lose that election when he really didn't lose the election. He got 500,000 more votes than George Bush. And I don't think he deserves to be attacked by anybody up here. He doesn't -- he's not a boss.


ZAHN: Less than an hour ago, the Democratic presidential candidates met in Durham, New Hampshire, for the final debate of the year. And with Gore's endorsement of Dean, the setting was set for plenty of fireworks. In a moment, we'll be talking live with Senator John Kerry.

But first, joining us from Durham is "CROSSFIRE's" Tucker Carlson on the right, Paul Begala on the left. Of course, you know that by now. And with them is our regular contributor -- right down the middle! -- "Time" magazine columnist Joe Klein. Welcome, gentlemen.

So Joe, who made some headway this evening?

JOE KLEIN, PAULA ZAHN NOW CONTRIBUTOR: Howard Dean. I mean, the reason why he made headway is that Al Gore got attacked more vehemently than Howard Dean did. He's 30 points ahead in this race, and none of these people laid a glove on him. It was a very good night for Howard Dean, and it was a pretty bad night for everybody else.

ZAHN: Do you share that view, Tucker? TUCKER CARLSON, "CROSSFIRE": Sure. I mean, it's a good night for Howard Dean for reasons beyond the debate. And I absolutely agree that almost nobody even tried to hit him. Joe Lieberman did, to some limited extent, but what other choice did he have? He'd just been publicly humiliated in front of the nation when his former running mate endorsed Dean. So he had really nowhere to go but up, and I think he did slightly. And people were awfully nice to Dean.

That said, I didn't think Dean did such a great job. And it sort of reminded you that Dean is not a great or compelling public speaker. He's quite an angry man. He has a message that's compelling. But he's not a natural orator. He, I thought tellingly, a number of times left time on the table. He didn't use his full allotted time for questions. They were brisk, brusque almost. Interesting.

ZAHN: So it's not a content criticism, Tucker, you're making? He just didn't fill the allotted time?

CARLSON: Well, I thought -- I mean, I thought his, like the rest, had a pretty shallow analysis of Iraq. Nobody even bothered to bring up the question, the key question, really, about whether Iraq should be allowed to become an Islamic republic, for instance. For an hour, they talked about Iraq, don't even mention that. Yes, of course, I have content critiques, but I just thought -- you know, you think if you watch Howard Dean from the sidelines, yes, he's some great speaker. He's not. And we're just being reminded of that.

ZAHN: Well, Paul, at one point, Howard Dean said Bush said Iraq was a crossroads of terrorism, it wasn't true then, but it is now...


PAUL BEGALA, "CROSSFIRE": I can't hear you.

KLEIN: I think we've all lost Paula.

ZAHN: OK. Well, then, let me see if Paul can hear me now.


BEGALA: Hey, not knowing the question has never stopped me from giving an answer.



BEGALA: Paula, if I can be blunt, there's a reason that people think that my Democrats are candy-asses. You know why? Because they are. Tonight Howard Dean, I do think, acquitted himself quite well. The rest of them were a parade of wimps. This guy is 30 points ahead. You would expect someone to attack him. That's what we do in politics. We saw Joe Trippi, Governor Dean's very innovative campaign manager, just a moment ago, and I asked him that. Didn't you expect to be attacked? And he shrugged his shoulders. He said, Sure, I did. But nobody did it. I was quite surprised. First, I do think Dean did quite well, but very surprised that the other guys wouldn't go after him. They all put out press releases afterwards wanting us to attack Dean for them. But let me tell you, if you're not tough enough to attack Howard Dean, you ain't going to be tough enough to attack George Bush.

ZAHN: So Joe Klein, what was the strategy on the part of these candidates tonight, if they didn't lay a glove on Howard Dean? Particularly after this key endorsement by Al Gore.

KLEIN: Well, part of the problem, Paula, was I think that the way the campaign was -- the debate was conducted was kind of silly. There were all these questions about process and their standing in the polls and how much money they've raised. At one point Ted Koppel, who was the moderator, asked John Kerry about his standing in the polls. This was my favorite moment of the debate. And Kerry said, If I were a less polite person, I'd tell you just exactly where to put those polls. In fact, of the others, I thought Kerry had a very solid and responsible debate tonight.


ZAHN: ... consistent position on John Kerry's part, when it comes to polls. Go ahead, Tucker.

CARLSON: Well, it has to be, at this point. If you're trailing by 30 points in a contiguous state, you got to sort of give up on the meaning of polls, at some point.

But I think one of the reasons that none of the others, the other eight, attacked Howard Dean is because he actually has a constituency. I mean, Howard Dean -- Howard Dean has tens of thousands of followers -- you can really call them that -- who are intensely passionate about Howard Dean. I'm not calling it a cult, but they really like Howard Dean, and maybe that intimidates the others. Not one of them said what almost every prominent thoughtful Democrat in Washington I know thinks, which is, This guy's slightly out of control. There's no way he's going to beat Bush. That's what people are really thinking. Why doesn't someone say it?

BEGALA: Well, but what people need to do, I think, the Democrats, as somebody who spent about 20 years coaching Democrats -- Joe makes a good point that Ted Koppel asked process questions, but that's Koppel's job. He's a journalist, and a darn good one. It's the job of the candidates then to turn that process question into this answer.

KLEIN: That's exactly right.

BEGALA: There's only one question tonight. Why you and not Governor Dean? And Senator Kerry didn't do it. Congressman Gephardt didn't do it. General Clark didn't do it. The rest of the field didn't do it. And I fault them for that. They didn't do their job, and that's the pity for them.

KLEIN: You know, I think part of the reason why Dean didn't use his time was that he was so anticipating getting hit that he was kind of shocked. He was in a state of shock that they weren't coming after him. And it was interesting to me that, for a guy who made this campaign on his opposition to the war in Iraq, he had very, very little...


KLEIN: ... to say about Iraq tonight. In fact, he turned the question to domestic policy when it came to him. And that may be because he doesn't have anything to say right now about how we should proceed.

CARLSON: That's exactly right! In fact, he said -- he implied he was bored of the conversation about Iraq. I think even the larger point to make is if you listen carefully to what Dean said about Iraq, it was not radical. In fact, John Kerry, I thought, took a much more liberal stand on the question of Iraq, in which he essentially held the U.N. completely blameless, pointed all blame back at the Bush administration and the U.S. government for virtually everything that's happened in the Middle East. Howard Dean didn't do that. So it's possible he's already moving to the center with the expectation he'll be the nominee.

BEGALA: Well, yes, I thought that showed, actually, a very adept, adroit candidate. He's said enough about Iraq. He's got the votes of everybody who's mad as hell about what Bush did in Iraq. But that's not the majority yet. He wants to grow from there, and so he -- as Joe said, he took a question about Iraq and said, Look, we've spent an hour and 15 minutes out of an hour-and-30-minute debate on Iraq. Let's talk about the economy. Let's talk about health care.

ZAHN: Right.

BEGALA: And I thought that was a smooth move.

ZAHN: Yes. Quite the editor there. Tucker Carlson, Paul Begala, Joe Klein, maybe on your next appearance, we'll actually let you be indoors. Thank you very much for...


CARLSON: That would be great.

KLEIN: That'd be cool.

BEGALA: Thanks, Paula.

ZAHN: Take care. Warm up.

More reaction to the Democratic debate coming up. I'll be talking with Massachusetts senator John Kerry.

And today's news in the Michael Jackson case, a report that months ago that allegations against him were considered unfounded. We'll ask former O.J. Simpson prosecutor Christopher Darden what that could mean for the case against Jackson. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


ZAHN: The defense in the Lee Malvo case tried to show today that its client was brainwashed and in turmoil about his role in the D.C. sniper shootings. One defense witness said that the teenager had tried to kill himself, once he learned of his partner, John Muhammad's, deadly plans. Jeanne Meserve has this report.


JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): No testimony yet that Lee Malvo was insane at the time of the sniper shootings, though the defense promises it is coming.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Insanity defenses are rarely successful, especially in cases in which the allegations are mass murder. Mr. Malvo doesn't have a lot of options.

MESERVE: Tuesday, a forensic psychiatrist revealed that Malvo became suicidal and tried to shoot himself less than two months before the sniper shootings began, when he learned details of the mission from John Muhammad. Prosecutor Robert Horan asked another witness if Malvo's signs of turmoil at that point indicated he could still distinguish right from wrong. Not necessarily, said psychologist Dr. Dewey Cornell (ph). He testified Muhammad had brainwashed Malvo into believing right and wrong did not exist. Malvo suffered from a mental disease called dissociative disorder, said Cornell, way back in February of 2002, when he shot 21-year-old Kenya Cook (ph) in the head in Tacoma, Washington, though prosecutor Robert Horan highlighted that Malvo had been under Muhammad's influence for a relatively short period of time.

Cornell testified Malvo told him Cook's murder was a test to see if Malvo could handle the mission ahead. He had no reason to shoot this woman, said Cornell. How about meanness, Horan shot back? Cook was a niece of a friend of Muhammad's ex-wife. And according to Cornell, Muhammad wanted to kill one of her family members because he saw her as contributing to his loss of his children.

(on camera): A psychiatrist testified that Muhammad taught Malvo that emotion was the enemy, and if his conscience bothered him, he should, quote, "lock it up in a box and throw away the key." In fact, the psychiatrist said, Malvo's entirely personality merged with Muhammad's, and he still hasn't gotten over the loss of their relationship.

Jeanne Meserve, CNN, Chesapeake, Virginia.


ZAHN: When we come back, we'll go back to Senator John Kerry, waiting in the wings after the wrap-up of the last Democratic debate of the year.


ZAHN: Welcome back. More now on the Democratic debate tonight in New Hampshire. Joining me live from Manchester is Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts.

Always good to see you, Senator. First off, the top of the debate dominated by the issue of Al Gore's endorsement of Howard Dean, the moderator suggesting that there was a bunch of sour grapes on the part of the eight other candidates standing up there. You made it clear how you felt about Al Gore's disloyalty to Joe Lieberman, but how does that endorsement affect your campaign? Does this hurt your campaign?

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I -- I -- it doesn't -- it's not going make any difference to what I'm doing. It really isn't, Paula. I'm in this race. My campaign is growing. My campaign is moving. I feel we have energy. People are only just tuning in now.

And you know, one person's opinion is one person's opinion. Obviously, I disagree with the judgment he made, but I'm going to go out on my agenda for the country. I believe that I can lead our nation. I believe I have an agenda in order to provide health care to all Americans. Mine is the only health care plan that will actually lower costs for people who have health care today and are struggling with the increase in premiums.

I also bring the leadership that we need on an international basis to make America safer. And I know how to put people back to work and fix our schools. Those are the things that matter to people, and people are going to look for real leadership here.

ZAHN: Are you saying that what is perceived to be the presumptive nominee in some people's minds, even though no votes would be cast, wouldn't be a very good president?

KERRY: I don't agree with his policies. That is -- I really don't. I don't agree that he's going raise taxes on the middle class. I don't agree with raising taxes on the middle class. I don't believe that -- you know, George Bush, who I think has not shown that he has the experience to be commander-in-chief, and I'm quite convinced that the governor doesn't have that experience. So I think there are real differences between us.

The fact is that I think it was important to stand up to Saddam Hussein, but it was important to do it correctly. We didn't do it correctly. This president broke all his promises to our nation. And we need now to get back to the work of fixing our schools, fixing our budget, which is the biggest deficit in modern history, and really put this country back on the right track. That's what this race is about, and I look forward to having a continued debate about it.

ZAHN: We had a well-rounded panel earlier this evening that suggested that none of you laid a glove on Howard Dean tonight, that you let him get off softly. Was that by design? KERRY: I want to talk positively about my agenda for the country. I think this notion that you have to have a knock-down drag- out fight is silly. When there is a reason to have a difference, you draw that difference. But I wanted to share my positive agenda.

I have a health care plan that will literally lower costs for all Americans and it'll guarantee that every American has the right to buy into the same health care that senators and congressmen give themselves. I think that's worth fighting for. I also think it's worth fighting against this Medicare bill that's going to push seniors off of Medicare into HMOs and raise the costs to them. These are the real issues. People are worried about their wages, their jobs, about how we're going to compete with other countries, where we're losing countless numbers of jobs for those countries. I think we can put people back to work in America. I know how to do it, and that's why I'm running.

ZAHN: Senator, you say you've seen some positive things develop in your campaign as of late. I know how much you hate any analysis of polls. But isn't it kind of difficult to ignore a poll or several polls in New Hampshire that show Howard Dean outrunning you 3-to-1 there, in your own state's back yard?

KERRY: That's wrong. That's just dead wrong. Yesterday there was a Pew poll that showed us having closed the gap about 12 points. Look, if you guys want to end the race tonight, go ahead and do it. I'm going to be out here campaigning for the next months. I'm campaigning for every vote I can possibly talk to. I think the voters of the state of New Hampshire and Iowa deserve more respect. I think they will -- they are the ones who will make this decision.

And I know how we're doing there. My campaign is growing because I'm talking about the things that matter to those people. And you know, I've never been a poll advocate. They always change. People are beginning to listen. I believe I have the leadership qualities. I have the vision for the country. I can make our country safer than George Bush is. I can put people back to work. I know how to lead this nation. And people want real leadership.

ZAHN: And you certainly know how to take a cue. We only got 20 seconds left in our broadcast tonight. Thanks to Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts for joining us.

KERRY: Thank you very much. Glad to be with you.

ZAHN: As we wrap-up of the debate. And we appreciate your all being with us tonight. Tomorrow, I'll be talking with a woman who is taking Arnold Schwarzenegger to court, claiming his campaign tried smear her after she went public with allegations that he sexually harassed her.

"LARRY KING LIVE" is next. Again, thanks for joining us tonight. Have a good night.


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