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JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS

Supreme Court Upholds Campaign Reform; Rivals Attempt to Stop Dean; White House Backs Supreme Court Decision

Aired December 10, 2003 - 15:30   ET

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

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
ANNOUNCER: The soft bucks stop here. The Supreme Court upholds key parts of the new campaign finance reform law.

It's eight against one. Howard Dean's rivals have more reason than ever to gang up on him. And they are.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't know which judgment Al Gore was endorsing yesterday.

SEN. JOHN EDWARD (D-NC), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I strongly disagree with Howard Dean.

SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN (D-CT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Howard Dean is moving in a different direction. Away from the center.

ANNOUNCER: The unkindest cut of all. Joe Lieberman talks to Judy about being "Gored" by his former political partner. And what happens now.

Live from Manchester, New Hampshire, Judy Woodruff's INSIDE POLITICS.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you for joining us in the leadoff presidential primary state of New Hampshire.

Well, most of the '04 Democrats are here on the day after their latest debate. And many of them are buzzing about the Supreme Court ruling today, upholding the most important parts of the new campaign finance reform law, including the ban on soft money.

From the presidential campaign trail to the White House, it seems everybody is eager to applaud the ruling, and claim credit for getting the law passed.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KERRY: I welcome the Supreme Court decision today. It represents a victory for our democracy. It represents a victory for average people in America. And it's a very important contrast to what George Bush is doing today.

SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: First of all, the president supported the campaign finance legislation, and signed it into law, because he believes that overall it helped improve the system. And I think today's court ruling will help bring some clarity to the process.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: CNN's Bruce Morton now has more on the high court decision and what it means for the '04 campaign.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRUCE MORTON, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The court upheld 5-4 the two most important provisions of the campaign finance law: a ban on soft money and restrictions on so-called issue ads by independent groups that target a candidate.

Soft money was the green flood that poured into recent campaigns, supposedly for activities like party building, but often for plain old campaigning, TV ads, whatever. Regardless of bans on union or corporate money, regardless of limits on individual contributions.

Now, campaigns will have to rely on what's called hard money: limited contributions from individuals. The court ruled in effect the Congress can regulate money to prevent the real or perceived corruption of politics.

As for the issue ads, the court noted that it was regulating this kind of expression, not banning it. Groups running issue ads will have to raise the same hard money that candidates will. They can't just spend union or corporation funds.

The court, as on many issues was split 5-4, and Sandra Day O'Connor was the swing vote. John Paul Stephens, David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Steven Breyer joined her in signing the majority opinion.

Chief Justice William Rehnquist, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas dissented on most of the law. Anthony Kennedy said he would vote to apply a limited soft money ban.

(on camera): The court's decision upholding the law means the 2004 campaigns will continue playing by those rules. The law was presumed to be constitutional, unless and until the court said it wasn't.

Will it fix campaign finance forever? No. O'Connor and Stephens wrote for the majority, quote, "Money, like water, will find an outlet. What problems will arise and how Congress will respond are concerns for another day" -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right, Bruce. In other words, this is something we're going to keep hearing about for some time to come. Bruce, thank you very much.

MORTON: You know that.

WOODRUFF; That's right.

Ahead, I'm going to talk to one of the leading advocates of the campaign reform law, Senator Russ Feingold.

Well, Howard Dean certainly is giving his primary rivals a run for their money, and then some. After his big endorsement by Al Gore yesterday, the "Stop Dean" campaign has moved into overdrive.

Senior political correspondent Candy Crowley is with us here in New Hampshire.

Candy, you spent much of this day with John Kerry. So tell us what he's saying.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: John Kerry. You know, it's interesting.

I was thinking, it sort of looks like the usual campaign, reading books to little kids, handing out chili at a senior home. But it's clear that the endorsement of Al Gore for Howard Dean still grinds on John Kerry and a lot of others.

Here's what Kerry had to say today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KERRY: Let me tell you a fundamental question that was raised by the endorsement. I read the comments, and apparently the vice president said he thought that Howard Dean had made the right judgment about the war.

I think that the great missing story of this campaign is, in fact, the truth about Howard Dean's judgment about the war. And I don't know which judgment Al Gore was endorsing yesterday.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: Now, Kerry's contention, and one he has made throughout the campaign, is that while Howard Dean says that he supported a different version of the resolution. But in fact the different version was very much like the one passed, and there was very little difference, that George Bush could have gone ahead with the war, whichever which amendment was passed.

So we have a lot of that. And clear that this stings. Not sure that, certainly for the Dean supporters at this point, they can make a lot of in-roads.

WOODRUFF: I also asked Joe Lieberman about it today. But what are you hearing from the other candidates out on the trail? What are they saying on day two after the Gore...

CROWLEY: Well, you know, it's clear, Howard Dean is now going to be the target, whether it's debate day or campaign day.

We had a press release from Al Sharpton, questioning why Dean hasn't unsealed those 40 percent of the records from his 11 years as governor, and what's in them. He suggested that there's some conservative positions in there that Dean doesn't want to have out and show to his liberal base.

We've had Joe Lieberman making the case that, go ahead, you know, put Howard Dean in the nomination, but he can't win the White House because he's not a centrist.

We heard Edwards at the beginning.

So they are all very much focused on the one guy, because here's what they know. They believe that, coming out of New Hampshire, every single one of them believes that it will be Howard Dean versus somebody else. So the race now is for somebody else.

WOODRUFF: And they all want to be the somebody else, for sure.

CROWLEY: Exactly. Exactly.

WOODRUFF: All right. Candy, thank you very much.

Well, for some time, President Bush's political advisers seemed to be salivating at the thought of taking on the little-known governor of a small state. But do they see Dean as more formidable now?

Let's check in with our senior White House correspondent, John King.

John, what are they saying at the White House after this big Gore surprise?

JOHN KING, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Judy, the public line is they don't comment on internal Democratic politics. Scott McClellan saying today, this is a development within the Democratic primary. Let it all play out. The president will wait to see who his opponent is.

Certainly, there are some in the Bush camp who believe this will help Governor Dean and perhaps the Democrats will have a nominee sooner. They say that quite conditionally; they say no one has voted, yet, of course. But perhaps this will help Governor Dean secure the nomination sooner. And in that case, of course, they view that as somewhat harmful to President Bush.

They think the longer and more protracted and more contentious the Democratic primary, the less money the Democratic nominee will have in the end, the more divided the party might be.

So in some ways, they say this could benefit Governor Dean, but they also say, let's have this conversation in six or eight weeks. As Candy noted, let's see what happens in Iowa and New Hampshire and see where we go from here.

The one line they continue to say, Judy, is that this is proof to them that the Democratic Party is going to the left. This White House is trying to portray Governor Dean as a northeastern liberal. Whether they succeed or not, we shall learn in the weeks ahead. But that is their initial line.

WOODRUFF: All right. John, what about the other big political development of today, the Supreme Court ruling, upholding the new campaign finance reform law?

We know the president's campaign has had good success so far raising so-called hard money, the money that is regulated. So what are they saying?

KING: Well, they say certainly that the president signed that law into law, so that he supports the Supreme Court's review, as you played at the top of the show. Scott McClellan saying this decision had some clarity.

Remember, the president signed that law reluctantly. He knew that it was going to pass the Congress by overwhelming margins. He had really no choice to sign it.

The White House counsel's office is now reviewing the law. So is the Republican National Committee. So is the Bush-Cheney campaign. So is every political group in town.

We have seen, Judy, in recent weeks, many Democratic groups come forward, promising to raise tens of millions of dollars to spend somehow in the coming campaign.

Most of the Republican affiliated groups have kept quiet about their spending plans. They have been waiting for the Supreme Court decision. They will determine what kind of money they can raise and just how they can spend it.

WOODRUFF: And that's where we have to look now to see where this money's flowing. And from. All right, John, thank you very much.

There is a new TV ad, in fact, defending the president's policy in Iraq. And that's what leads our Campaign News Daily.

The group Grassfire.org is running the ad, which defends the president's decision to overthrow Saddam Hussein.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: It's now clear that we didn't know the whole truth before we went to war: mass executions, unspeakable torture, woman brutally raped, children hanged while their parents watched by a dictator who brazenly threatened the world. That's the truth.

But the truth doesn't matter...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: The ads started running last weekend in Iowa. It is billed as a response to anti-Bush ads paid for by the group MoveOn.org.

Two new polls gauged the president's standing with voters in Maryland and Pennsylvania.

In a Gonzalez poll of Maryland voters, the president trailed both Howard Dean and Joe Lieberman in head-to-head matchups. And he is tied with Dick Gephardt.

A Muhlenberg College survey in Pennsylvania, meanwhile, finds the president leads an unnamed Democratic nominee by four percentage points. In one-on-one matchups, Mr. Bush leads Howard Dean, John Kerry, Wesley Clark, and Joe Lieberman, by margins ranging from seven to 12 points.

Dick Gephardt has picked up a much coveted endorsement, meantime, in South Carolina. Congressman Jim Clyburn said today that he is backing Gephardt in the February 3 primary.

Clyburn is the most prominent African-American official in a state where about half of the primary voters are expected to be African-American.

Well, as you've been hearing from Candy, most of the '04 Democrats clearly are miffed by Al Gore's endorsement of Howard Dean. But perhaps none more so than Joe Lieberman.

Up next, I'll ask Lieberman if he felt entitled to Gore's support and how his campaign proceeds from here on.

Also ahead, the Gore nod was a hot topic at last night's Democratic debate. We'll review the candidates' performances.

Plus, an insider's view of the Democratic presidential race here in New Hampshire.

This is INSIDE POLITICS, the place for campaign news.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: We're in Manchester, New Hampshire right now. But a little while ago I caught up with Democratic hopeful Joe Lieberman at his New Hampshire headquarters in Concord. He told me that while he is surprised that Al Gore endorsed Howard Dean, he is determined to move forward with his own campaign.

I also asked Senator Lieberman about given his role as Gore's running mate in 200 did he think he was entitled to Gore's endorsement.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LIEBERMAN: I certainly never felt I was entitled to it. I hoped for it. There's no question about that. Early in the year, when I declared my candidacy, I asked for it.

But I never premised my candidacy for president on any endorsement, including Al Gore's. I premised my candidacy on my ideas, pro jobs, pro growth, and socially progressive. And I'm the candidate who is building forward from the transformation that Bill Clinton brought to the Democratic party.

How Al Gore can support Howard Dean who wants to take us back to where we were before Bill Clinton, that's surprises me.

WOODRUFF: Is it that strange to you?

LIEBERMAN: Well, it really is. I mean, when you think of the fact that Al Gore built his career on strength on defense and security, that he was fighting for middle class tax cuts when he was a senator, and then again with Bill Clinton, that he was the major spokesperson for the Clinton administration in the whole fight over NAFTA and trade.

And now Howard Dean now is taking a protectionist line against tax cuts, weak on security. It's a surprising combination, a surprising endorsement.

WOODRUFF: You said this has increased calls into your headquarters. People offering to give you money. And yet you were starting from a relatively low base here.

How do you hope to catch up? Or even come close to Howard Dean in terms of money, in terms of just, you know, the -- we know the national polls are looking good, but in terms of this campaign in general. You're not running -- you're not competing in Iowa. What about here in New Hampshire and in the South?

LIEBERMAN: We feel something happening, good happening here in New Hampshire. Maybe I could put it this way, there have been two endorsements in the last couple of weeks that have helped me here in New Hampshire.

The first was the endorsement of more than 50 independent voters here who supported John McCain in 2000 are supporting me in this election, because they see me as the straight talker like McCain was.

The second endorsement, unexpectedly, was Al Gore's endorsement of Howard Dean, which has energized our supporters here, and brought new supporters to me both because they're angry about how it happened, but because they want me to keep fighting for the kind of centrist Democratic approach that can accomplish what all Democrats say they want to do, which is to defeat George Bush.

I'm worried that Howard Dean can't do that.

WOODRUFF: How do you deal with Al Gore's statement that Howard Dean is the only candidate out there who was right about Iraq?

LIEBERMAN: Well, of course, I totally disagree with it. I believe -- listen, I didn't need George Bush to convince me that Saddam Hussein was a homicidal dictator, a threat to the United States that we needed to knock over. I mean McCain and Bob Kerry and I decided that five years ago.

So we did the right thing in overthrowing Saddam Hussein. Clearly the Bush administration had no plans or preparation about what to do afterward. And that's why we're in the crisis we're in now.

But to me, that was one of the tests of our time. Just as now we must stand behind our troops and win the war against the terrorists and Saddam loyalists.

So with all respect, Al Gore was wrong about that one.

WOODRUFF: And you truly believe as you indicated in this debate last night, that you don't believe Howard Dean can beat George Bush?

LIEBERMAN: Well, I know that I can beat George Bush because I'm a center-out Democrat in the tradition of Bill Clinton. And I can reassure the American people that I can do a better job at keeping them safe than George Bush, and a much better job at restoring American prosperity.

I worry that Howard Dean doesn't have the record, the experience, or the ideas to do that. You can't just win a national election with part of the Democratic base. You've got to get independents and some disgruntled Republicans as well. And I'm the one who can do that.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Again, Joe Lieberman saying the race he thinks is coming down to Dean and himself. Joe Lieberman saying he and his wife, Hadassah, plan to move to New Hampshire on January 1 to campaign steadily here before the January 27 primary.

As we know, New Hampshire loves being the star of the political show every four years. In a minute, I'm going to ask the state's Democratic Party chairwoman if Howard Dean's surge is threatening to take away some of that spotlight.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: I'm Kelli Arena in Washington.

Law enforcement sources confirmed for CNN that Minneapolis authorities have arrested and taken into custody as a material witness a man that they say has alleged ties to the Al Qaeda terror network.

The individual, who authorities would not name, is said to have trained in Al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan and, according to some sources, has provided information on Zacarias Moussaoui, who is the only person who's been charged in the United States in connection with the September 11 attacks.

I've been told that this unnamed individual has been in the United States for some time, although it's unclear exactly how long. It's also unclear exactly what the relationship, if any, was to Moussaoui.

Moussaoui still has yet to stand trial. He has been in custody since right before the September 11 attacks.

That's what we know at this time. Now let's go back to Judy Woodruff.

WOODRUFF: Kelli, thank you very much. We are back in Manchester today for INSIDE POLITICS.

As you know, again, New Hampshire prides itself on holding the first in the nation presidential primary, and with it, attracting a lot of free national publicity.

All nine of the Democratic presidential candidates have campaigned here extensively, some more than others. The polls showed Howard Dean with a double-digit lead, even before the Al Gore endorsement.

Joining me now is the chairman of the state Democratic Party, Kathy Sullivan.

Kathy Sullivan, good to see you again.

KATHY SULLIVAN, CHAIRMAN, NEW HAMPSHIRE DEMOCRATIC PARTY: Good to see you, too.

WOODRUFF: How big a deal is the Al Gore endorsement to the race in this state?

SULLIVAN: Well, it's big. And it's gotten people talking. And there's a lot of buzz about it.

But again, this being New Hampshire, it's a factor that people will take into account when making their decision. It doesn't end the race. It doesn't mean that if it's wrapped up by any stretch of the imagination. It's just one factor in a lot of factors people look at.

WOODRUFF: You say it doesn't make Dean unstoppable, which is what I've heard some people say? I mean, he's got a, what, a 20-some- odd point lead in some polls right now here.

SULLIVAN: I think people need to calm down a little bit about the Gore endorsement. I love Al Gore. I mean, he's just -- I think he's a great person. I think he was elected president.

But again, it's a factor. And what people are looking at still are, where do candidates stand on the issues, on jobs and on the economy and health care and Iraq.

WOODRUFF: We are hearing that some of the candidates are now going to focus on that third round on February 3. Because they're looking at Iowa. They know that's come down to Gephardt and Dean. They look at New Hampshire, they see Dean so far ahead.

So what we're hearing is that a number of the candidates are putting a lot of energy, maybe taking some of their staff and money out of New Hampshire, focusing more on South Carolina, Arizona, Oklahoma and so forth.

Could New Hampshire become less important as a result of this? SULLIVAN: You know, New Hampshire has been the first in the nation primary. We've never been the last in the nation primary. We've always been part of a nominating process. And we've always just been the start.

It's never over in New Hampshire. And I think that each candidate has to decide where to put their resources. They're still here in New Hampshire. We've got nine of them here on the ballot. They were here last night. We expect to see them all alive.

WOODRUFF: But realistically, what do you see for the race for number two, number three, and so forth in this state? Who do you see moving? Who has the momentum?

SULLIVAN: You know, I really -- I'm still not sure what's going to happen in this race. And I see, obviously, Howard Dean's got the lead. John Kerry is still in second. And then the rest are sort of in a path at this point.

And the voters are really still looking them over and making their decisions. I still have people coming after me and saying, who are you voting for? And I'm still telling them, "I have no idea yet. I still have to narrow it down myself."

WOODRUFF: So if you're Howard Dean or John Kerry, you don't relax here?

SULLIVAN: Oh, no, if I'm any candidate, I don't relax. But I keep on working hard, because it's not over yet.

WOODRUFF: Kathy Sullivan, we heard it straight from you. Thanks very much. It's always great to see you.

SULLIVAN: You're very welcome.

WOODRUFF: Thanks a lot.

SULLIVAN: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: Even if it is cold here.

Still ahead, a very different subject: the battle against AIDS. I will talk with Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson about his trip to Africa. He's just back.

And why it is the responsibility of Americans to help the spread of the disease.

Plus, Bill Clinton, a cable channel has a new inside look at the ups and downs in the life of a former president. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TED KOPPEL, ABC NEWS ANCHOR: Raise your hand if you believe that Governor Dean can beat George W. Bush.

ANNOUNCER: Can Howard Dean beat George Bush? At the latest Democratic debate, there clearly was debate about that.

REP. DICK GEPHARDT (D-MO), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm sure that all of us think that we have the best chance to beat George Bush.

ANNOUNCER: Running against Iraq. Could that strategy trip up Dean? Our new poll offers some clues.

McCain-Feingold lives. We'll talk to one of the senators behind the campaign finance law that now has the Supreme Court's seal of approval.

Now, live from Manchester, New Hampshire, JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: And welcome back to New Hampshire. Given Howard Dean's double-digit lead in Democratic polls in this state, this is probably not the primary battleground where his rivals have much chance of slowing his momentum. But you never know. But that didn't stop them from questioning Dean's electability during last night's debate in Durham which also aired nationwide.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TED KOPPEL, ABC NEW ANCHOR: So I would like all of you up here, including you, Governor Dean, to raise your hand if you believe that Governor Dean can beat George W. Bush.

WOODRUFF (voice-over): Only Dean himself raised his hand in response to that opening question by moderator Ted Koppel. It was followed by a somewhat testy discussion of Al Gore's endorsement of Dean.

REV. AL SHARPTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We're not going to have any big names come in now and tell us the field should be limited and we can't be heard.

SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (D-CT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Our phones have been ringing off the hook at the campaign headquarters. I've been stopped in the airport.

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH (D-OH), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I hope we have a substantive discussion tonight and that we're not going to spend the night talking about endorsements.

HOWARD DEAN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If you guys are upset about Al Gore's endorsement, attack me. Don't attack Al Gore.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Well, I'm joined now by Chuck Todd, editor-in-chief of "The Hotline," an insider's daily political briefing. Chuck, I was in an airplane coming back from California last night but you were there to watch the debate. You know, what's your take on it? That first question seems to set the tone for the whole thing.

CHUCK TODD, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, "THE HOTLINE": Well, what was interesting is that, you know, after the debate, all the campaigns complained about Ted Koppel's questioning and complained that it was too process-oriented. But there was also a lot of people who noted, that weren't affiliated with the campaign, said these campaigns had no plan on how to deal with this question. They were up there and they were shell-shocked.

It was as if their stump speech became a security blanket and they were just glad in some ways that Koppel didn't press them on some issues because they had no idea what they were going to -- they had no strategy of trying to attack Dean or trying to deal with this. Only Lieberman seemed to be comfortable with his defense of sort of what happened with the Gore endorsement and that's because he had to deal with it all day. Everybody else was -- it was like watching a bunch of guys in headlights.

WOODRUFF: So it really rocked them back on their heels. What about going forward, Chuck? What effect does this have on the candidates in terms of their ability to raise money and their strategy going forward?

TODD: Well, I think that that's the most interesting thing. I've talked to a lot of people today that are wondering what's going to happen with fund-raising. People that were sitting on the fence or maybe people that gave $1,000 and had not yet maxed out to a candidate not named Howard Dean. Does the Al Gore endorsement just decide it, you know what, that's it. I'm going to have to go give some money to Dean now.

And you see Dean's numbers just probably going to swell in his fund-raising. Does it stop the Wesley Clark fund-raising that he's been doing very well? What does it do to Lieberman's fund-raising? You know, you said Lieberman had a good 24 hours of fund-raising but a lot of people are wondering, what's going to happen these last three weeks and so it may just freeze money for a lot of these top -- supposedly top-tier candidates.

WOODRUFF: Does it change anything, though, in terms of strategy, in terms of what these other candidates do, what approach they take?

TODD: I think right now you've got this whole sort of fleshing out to see, you know, can one of them coalesce the anti-Dean. I think Edwards and Clark and Lieberman and Gephardt all think that they are -- they've got some chance at it. But how they go about it is going to be interesting. Do they try to out-Dean Dean or do they just suddenly try to roll out their own Washington endorsements?

At this point, who in Washington is going to have the guts maybe to come out for one of these guys that might be a sure loser. And I think that that's the fear. Gephardt showed that he still has some life today with the Clyburn endorsement and I think he was trying to send a message that "don't count me out yet" but I bet you he wished he rolled that out three days ago.

WOODRUFF: Hard feelings, just very quickly, Chuck, the hard feelings that some of them clearly feel after this, especially Lieberman, are those the kind of things that linger in a campaign and come back to bite somebody later?

TODD: Well, I wonder if, yes, Joe Lieberman, whether he regrets criticizing Al Gore's campaign message of 2000. I mean, it just shows you -- you're wondering, do people hold hard feelings? Clearly, Al Gore may have held some hard feelings over some of the comments Lieberman may have said and that may have cost Lieberman not just the endorsement, but even the heads-up on the endorsement.

WOODRUFF: Some of them -- some of them do have memories. Long memories.

TODD: I think they have memories. They may be Democrats, but they have memories like elephants.

WOODRUFF: OK, Chuck. Thank you very much. Chuck Todd, with "The Hotline."

Well, as Al Gore tells it, Howard Dean was right about the war in Iraq and President Bush was wrong. But Americans don't see it in such black and white terms. Here now our senior political analyst Bill Schneider.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): Is President Bush vulnerable on Iraq? Since July, the percentage of Americans who say they approve of the president's handling of Iraq has been going down. July, 60 percent approved. August, down. September, down. October, down, below 50 percent. November, down. December, up. Here's why.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm here to serve food.

SCHNEIDER: Almost 80 percent of the public think Bush's thanksgiving trip to Baghdad was a good idea. But the number who approve of the way President Bush is handling Iraq overall is still just 50 percent. There's a subtle but crucial distinction to be made on the Iraq issue. On the one hand, views of the occupation.

LIEBERMAN: I didn't support this war for the occupation of Iraq, I supported it for the liberation of Iraq. And that is the error that the Bush administration has made.

SCHNEIDER: Most Americans are critical of President Bush's handling of Iraq since major combat ended. In other words, of the occupation, as distinct from views of the war.

DEAN: He has endangered the security of the United States of America by going into Iraq and that was a mistake. SCHNEIDER: Most Americans support the decision to go to war in Iraq and overthrow Saddam Hussein but most Democrats think the decision to go to war was a mistake. Anti-war feelings in the country right now are nowhere near as intense as they were back in 1972 when most Americans had turned against the war in Vietnam. Remember what happened that year? The Democrats nominated an anti-war candidate who got clobbered. Not because the public favored the war but because the Democratic candidate's position on the war was considered too extreme.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER: U.S. military commanders in Iraq predict increased violence in the coming months. Now, that would make the occupation a bigger issue but not necessarily the war -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right. Bill Schneider. Thank you very much.

Still ahead, more on today's story from the United States Supreme Court. I'll talk with Senator Russ Feingold about the legal victory for the campaign finance reform law that he cosponsored.

Also ahead, Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson on his firsthand look at the AIDS epidemic in Africa.

And later, it is a true story, but does Bill Clinton's personal and political history amount to a true Hollywood story?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Robert Bartley who was the longtime editor of "The Wall Street Journal" editorial page has died of cancer. He was 66 years old and he was the conservative voice behind hard-hitting conservative editorials on that page for many years. He was an early advocate of the tax-cutting ideology of supply-side economics, winning over such converts as Ronald Reagan. Bob Bartley was a Pulitzer Prize winner and a recipient just recently of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

INSIDE POLITICS continues in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Senators John McCain and Russ Feingold have issued a joint statement praising today's Supreme Court ruling, upholding most of their campaign finance reform law, calling it, quote, "a landmark victory for the American people."

Senator Feingold now joins me by telephone from Fennimore, Wisconsin. Senator, surprised that you got the endorsement in effect that you did of a majority of the Supreme Court?

SEN. RUSS FEINGOLD (D), WISCONSIN: I'm surprised. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) are thrilled. It's really a victory for the American people because people were having this argument spread across the country that somehow the American people had to accept the idea of their politicians asking people for a million dollars or half a million dollars from corporations and unions and individuals and being told that that somehow was free speech?

Well, the Supreme Court today put an end to that nonsense. And the American people are beginning to reclaim their democracy. It is a very significant victory.

WOODRUFF: Senator, what do you say to those who say, Well, they may have knocked down soft money, and said that for the most part, it is banned. But already you have these independent third-party groups, so-called 527 committees that are out there raising money, putting money into this presidential campaign, both on the left and on the ride, in effect, you know, making what the court decided today, you could argue meaningless because money is finding its way back into these campaigns in an unregulated way.

FEINGOLD: Well, that completely misses the point. The point here is that senators and congressmen were calling up people and asking them for these contributions. In other words, we had business transactions going on in the Congress that involved in effect buying legislation.

The fact that there are independent groups that want to express themselves, it's an issue that we might want to discuss. But it is very different than having the majority leader or minority leader or the president calling up people directly and saying, I need $1 million, and then going and voting on the same issue the next day. That's the difference between night and day.

So, no, we're never going to completely eliminate the connection between money and politics, that wasn't the goal. We wanted to eliminate the corrupting of influencing money in Washington. And this bill -- law goes a long way to do that.

WOODRUFF: And, Senator, what do you say as a Democrat to those Democrats who are out there saying, We are the ones who are really hurt by this reform? Because Republicans are always going to have a harder time -- or an easier time, that is, raising so-called hard money, direct contributions, the $2,000 limit contributions, than are the Democrats.

FEINGOLD: No Democrat in his or her right mind would want to go back to the soft money system. You've got a Republican president who is very good at raising money. You've got a Republican House and Republican Senate.

If soft money were allowed, the Republicans would be many miles ahead of us. At least with hard money limits, both sides have a chance to say, Look, a person or a business or union can only give so much. The Republicans would be much farther ahead in the uncontrolled world of soft money.

And it's very fortunate for the Democrats, as well as for the Republicans, and most importantly, for the American people, that we're back to having some rules. We just put the genie back in the bottle. There's much more to be done. But this is a very major step forward for both parties and for the American people.

WOODRUFF: All right, Senator Russ Feingold.

FEINGOLD: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: The co-author, originator of the Campaign Finance Reform Law. Senator, appreciate you joining us. Thank you.

Coming up, the U.S. role in the global fight against AIDS. Can America do more to stop the spread of HIV? I'll talk with Tommy Thompson next about his recent trip to Africa.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: The secretary of Health and Human Services, Tommy Thompson, returned this week from Africa where he got a first-hand look for the fight against AIDS. Secretary Thompson will join me in just a moment.

But first, CNN's Christy Feig has more on his Africa trip and the U.S. role in battling the spread of the AIDS virus.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHRISTY FEIG, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Five years ago Juandera Sampson's (ph) wife died of AIDS. He is also infected.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was supposed to die because I have no money to buy those drugs.

FEIG: But for the past six months he's been getting AIDS drugs for free from a U.S.-run clinical trial in his Ugandan village. Coping with third world conditions, health workers on motorbikes deliver the drugs and monitor patients in remote areas.

In Kavghi (ph) hospital outside Kigali, Rwanda, U.S. dollars allow some patients to get AIDS medicine.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you have enough anti-retro viral drugs to give everybody who tests positive?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.

FEIG (on camera): HIV has dropped life expectancy throughout southern Africa often to the mid-30s, leaving a generation of orphans behind. Now efforts are under way to get more treatment to those who need it. But that costs money.

(voice-over): Money many people here don't have. In Kampala, Uganda the average income is about $33 a month. This clinic charges its patients about $30 a month for generic AIDS drugs.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You really have to leave in order to get the money, the money you get you have to save it, in order not to break the medicine sequence.

FEIG: On his recent trip to five countries in Africa, HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson said Americans have a responsibility here. TOMMY THOMPSON, HHS SECRETARY: Unless we start now, stepping up and fighting this war, it's going to end up spreading to India, then to China, then to Russia, and then I don't know if you'll ever be able to stop it.

FEIG: Christy Feig, CNN, Uganda.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: And Secretary Thompson is with me now to talk more about the trip to Africa and the global fight against the spread of AIDS.

Mr. Secretary, what did you see on this trip to further persuade you that that money from the United States is important to the spread -- fighting the spread of AIDS?

THOMPSON: The trip was a very transforming experience for me, and the 105 people who were with me, Judy. There was no question that the tremendous need, the abject poverty in the countries of Africa need the help of America, and Americans.

It was a very revealing trip in which we learned a great deal. But we found for the first time -- I have been to Africa many times before -- but for the first time, there's a degree of hope and optimism that wasn't there previously. People that I talked to were very appreciative of what President Bush is doing with his initiative. They need the dollars. They need the programs.

And they were very, very supportive of the United States. I was very proud to be from the United States. But the tremendous need there still exists. And we have to continue to do more if we're ever going to control and start reducing this insidious disease.

WOODRUFF: Well, speaking of that tremendous need, as you very well know, President Bush originally pledged $15 million over -- over $5 billion, I'm sorry...

THOMPSON: Fifteen billion, Judy.

WOODRUFF: That's right. Over five years, $3 billion presumably the first year. But when it came down to actually proposing the money, it was less than that. It was around $2 billion.

(CROSSTALK)

THOMPSON: About $2.5 billion.

WOODRUFF: That's with -- and that's with a congressional addition. My question is, has the administration backed down in any way on its commitment?

THOMPSON: No, absolutely not. The president is steadfast. He's as passionate about it as I am, to make sure the $15 billion is spent over over five years. You've got to realize, Judy, that the infrastructure is not in place. One of the biggest impediments of doing this right now, of putting more money in at the present time, is the infrastructure is not there.

We don't have enough doctors, nurses, technicians, clerks, and people to monitor and do testing and get then drugs out to the villages. As you saw in the film clip, we were getting medicines taken out by mopeds and motorcycles. That's how we have to deliver it.

It shows that it can be done but what we need to do now is ramp up, build the infrastructure, and then next year get increase in the amount of money and the year after. But over five years, a full $15 billion will be spent.

WOODRUFF: Just last week, last Wednesday, I interviewed rock star and AIDS advocate Bono who was in Washington trying to get some movement on the part of the Congress. He talked about that infrastructure. He said the money can be absorbed.

And let me ask you to just listen briefly to what he said about the need for that money urgently. Here's what Bono had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BONO, AIDS ADVOCATE, ENTERTAINER: All the good will will be squandered if Congress don't come back. Because in two months, I mean, not to be melodramatic, but actually, why not, 500,000 people will die. I think it's 2.4 million people die every year in Africa. So two months, hanging around, pulling Christmas crackers, this is not the year to do it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: So in essence, Mr. Secretary, he's saying just this delay from this month to next is going to cost many, many lives.

THOMPSON: There is no question that every month causes a delay, it's going to increase the number of people that die.

At the present time, 3 million people die even year from HIV/AIDS. But the worst thing is is that 5 million are coming down with it. What we need to do is we need get the infrastructure. We need to get the medicine.

As you probably know, Bono is a very good friend of mine. We have teamed up on many different projects as far fighting AIDS and we'll continue to do so.

But it's necessary, Judy, for people to understand that this president is absolutely committed. The program that he has outlined is absolutely vitally needed. And we need to get Congress to move on the appropriation bill. They'll come back in January and pass it. We'll then need to hurry up and get the money out, get the medicines, get the infrastructure. But we're moving in the right direction for the first time. And that's what's causing the optimism in Africa.

WOODRUFF: Secretary of Health and Human Services, Tommy Thompson. Thank you very much for joining us. We appreciate it.

THOMPSON: Thank you, Judy.

WOODRUFF: Well, there's one Democrat who is not running for the White House next year, but who is still getting plenty of attention wherever he goes. Next, playing the Bill Clinton card, a quest of television ratings.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: You've heard the controversy about the movie about Ronald Reagan. Well, we're going to tell you about another presidential film. Whether you love him or hate him people seem to feel that presidential elections just aren't the same without William Jefferson Clinton. So, the E cable channel has put together a special retrospective on our 42nd president, titled "Bill Clinton: The E True Hollywood Story." It promises to cover his struggles and triumphs, as well as the women and the controversy. We don't know what the Clintons have to say about it. It premiers on Sunday night.

From Manchester, New Hampshire, that's it for today's INSIDE POLITICS. I'm Judy Woodruff. Thank you for joining us. "CROSSFIRE" starts right now.

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



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