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Lieberman Sharpens Criticism of Howard Dean; Is the Bush Camp Dissing Dean?

Aired December 16, 2003 - 15:30   ET


SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (D-CT), DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: With Howard Dean, Saddam Hussein would be in power. With me, he would be where he is now, locked up in a prison.

ANNOUNCER: Joe Lieberman leads the charge as some '04 Democrats use Saddam Hussein as a weapon against Howard Dean.

Will the Saddam December surprise still register with voters next November? The Bush White House has ways to try to make the memories last.

Bye-bye Beaux. A key Democrat in the middle talks about his decision to retire from the Senate and what it means for his party.

SEN. JOHN BEAUX (D), LOUISIANA: Congress is not like a Super Bowl, where you have to have one team that wins and one team that loses.



CANDY CROWLEY, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks for joining us. Judy is off today. I'm Candy Crowley.

Saddam Hussein's capture may have created a new opening for Howard Dean's rivals, but Dean practically egged them on by proclaiming America is no safer with Saddam behind bars. For a second day running, these stop Dean forces are having a field day, especially a re-energized Joe Lieberman.


LIEBERMAN: It's been quite a week, hasn't it? It really has been. First, Howard Dean captured Al Gore's endorsement, and then our armed forces captured Saddam Hussein.

CROWLEY (voice-over): The Lieberman camp sees it as a harmonic confluence of events that could pump some life into his oxygen- deprived campaign. Though jilted by his former ticket mate, Lieberman has raked in some much needed cash from sympathetic and/or outraged voters. And now this... LIEBERMAN: How many people here believe that we're safer with Saddam Hussein in prison? Well, Howard Dean says we're not. Howard Dean doesn't think we're safer with this guy in a prison. I'm afraid Howard Dean has climbed into his own spider hole of denial.

CROWLEY: In a tough speech in New Hampshire, Lieberman went after Dean on national security, taxes and the economy.

LIEBERMAN: If I could sum it up, Dr. Dean has become Dr. No.

CROWLEY: Lieberman also remembered to work in some jabs at President Bush and what he calls the president's one-sided off-course foreign policy. John Kerry explored the same territory in Iowa.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: But Saddam's capture also represents a vital chance for the United States to build a coalition to win the peace that we should have built in order to wage the war. To offer a real invitation to the rest of the world that says, join us, share the burden.

CROWLEY: Kerry, Lieberman, and the other '04 Democrats who voted for the war in Iraq, are trying to find some campaign traction in the middle ground between Dean and President Bush. As Kerry put it, "To follow the path that Howard Dean seems to prefer is to embrace a Simon Says foreign policy, where America only moves if others move first, and that is just as wrong as George Bush's policy of schoolyard taunts and cowboy swagger."


CROWLEY: Dick Gephardt is also getting into the act. In a conference call on foreign policy today, Gephardt said, "Governor Dean can do all the reposition he wants, but the fundamental truth is, he has made many contradictory statements about the war in Iraq and the aftermath. He has constantly exploited foreign policy for his political agenda, and his position does not demonstrate a person grounded in serious foreign policy experience and expertise."

Howard Dean is not altogether friendless. Iraq war opponent Al Sharpton is backing up Dean and his contention that Saddam Hussein's capture has not made America safer.


AL SHARPTON (D), DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think that Governor Dean is correct. I think that Mr. Hussein has been out of power for some time, and I think, again, the real issue is whether Saddam Hussein represented imminent danger in the first place.

Wicked, wrong, bad, ruthless, all of that. But unfortunately, there are many like that around the world. The question is, were we in imminent danger? So I agree with him on that.


CROWLEY: With most of the '04 Democrats piling on Dean, is there anything the Bush camp can add about the president's potential opponent?

We want to check in with our White House correspondent, Suzanne Malveaux.

Is the White House coming anywhere near the war and Howard Dean?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Candy, of course White House aides, as well as Republican strategists, are paying close attention to what is happening here. They realize this is going to be a close presidential race.

Having said that, however, they believe the latest developments have really put President Bush in a much stronger position. They say just take a look at the latest polls showing 59 percent of Americans believe that it was worth it to go to war. They also believe that these Democratic candidates who are against the war are really out of step with most of America.

Now, when it comes to these comments from Dr. Dean, the White House was asked about that. And in their tradition and their typical practice in looking above the fray, they answered in kind of a roundabout way.


SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: There are a lot of Democratic primary candidates and some others said something contrary to that. The bottom line is that the world is safer and better without Saddam Hussein in power. America is more secure because of the decisive action that the United States took, along with our coalition partners, to remove his regime from power.


MALVEAUX: Now, Candy, expect to hear that message over and over and over again. That is something that the administration has started to say that, look, America is safer and more prosperous under a Bush leadership, a Bush administration, and that President Bush deserves another four years because of it -- Candy.

CROWLEY: Suzanne, on the heels of the capture of Saddam, you also have Jim Baker going over to talk to some of the allies. What's the White House looking for from that trip politically?

MALVEAUX: Well, certainly, they've gotten good news on both sides. As you know, it was Baker who meat met with French President Jacques Chirac, as well as German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder today. Both of those leaders expressing the willingness to restructure Iraqi debt.

As you know, Iraq owes billions and billions of dollars to those countries through the Paris Club (ph). And good news for the administration on that.

Of course, the big question is whether or not there was some sort of wiggle room and including either one of the countries in the lucrative contracts, reconstruction contracts in Iraq. The German officials especially were saying that, look, this is something they're going to make quite clear.

My administration sources who are involved with these talks, familiar with these talks with Baker, say there really is no wiggle room, at least not for now, that they're going to get the contracts. They say, look, if France, Germany, Russia and these other countries are serious about the future of Iraq and getting involved, they have done nothing so far.

They didn't at the Madrid conference. They didn't in the war. That now is the time to owe up.

CROWLEY: Suzanne Malveaux at the White House. Thanks, Suzanne.

Both Republicans and Democrats know there are advantages and risks to keeping Iraq front and center during the coming election year. Here's our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider.


WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): It looks like Iraq will dominate the 2004 campaign agenda. The Democrats can't avoid it. It's the issue their primary voters are most passionate about. Republicans welcome it.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I look forward to making my case to the American people about why America is more secure today based upon the decisions I've made.

SCHNEIDER: The White House hopes it can control the images, just as it's done so effectively over the past few weeks. The Thanksgiving image of Bush's surprise trip to Baghdad, the images of Saddam Hussein's capture last weekend. Finally, the Bush administration got the pictures it expected last spring of joyful Iraqis dancing in the streets.

But the issue carries risks for the White House. The risk of a badly timed photo op, like President Bush's landing on the aircraft carrier. The risk of something going terribly wrong, comparable to the suicide truck bombing that killed 241 American Marines in Lebanon in 1983.

The shape of the debate is becoming clear. Democrats say there was no justification for going to war.

WESLEY CLARK (D), DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We began a war that, in my view, wasn't necessary.

SCHNEIDER: President Bush's response? Three numbers: 9/11.

BUSH: Here's what I took away from September 11, 2001. That anytime the president sees a gathering threat to the United States, we must deal with it.

SCHNEIDER: Democrats say President Bush has isolated the U.S. in the world.

REP. RICHARD GEPHARDT (D-MO), DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He needs to go to those countries. He needs to go to the U.N. He needs to build a consensus. He needs to collaborate.

SCHNEIDER: President Bush's response? Not necessarily.

BUSH: I don't agree that this is a dividing line. I think this is a disagreement on this particular issue.

SCHNEIDER: Democrats say going to war in Iraq has not helped U.S. security.

HOWARD DEAN (D), DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The capture of Saddam has not made America safer.

SCHNEIDER: President Bush's response? I beg to differ.

BUSH: A free and peaceful Iraq is part of protecting America.


SCHNEIDER: This is likely to be quite a debate, with the outcome determined by events more than 6,000 miles away. Violence on the ground, elections, and transfer of power in Iraq, and the trial of Saddam Hussein -- Candy.

CROWLEY: Bill Schneider, thanks very much.

We're going to move beyond Iraq now, way beyond Iraq. How is Howard Dean doing in Arizona? Coming up, Dean makes new headway in today's "Campaign News Daily."

Plus, the view from the center. Democrat John Breaux on his retirement decision and the future of the Senate.

And there's no place like home for a controversy that could cost a governor his job if critics get their way.

This is INSIDE POLITICS, the place for campaign news.


CROWLEY: Louisiana Democratic Senator John Breaux's decision to retire has made a tough job even tougher for his party, as it works to regain control of the Senate. Breaux's decision will also remove one of the most prominent centrists from the Senate ranks.

I spoke with Breaux a short while ago and asked him about the future of the Senate and what it feels like to be a centrist, surrounded by the left and the right.


BREAUX: I think there's a huge danger to American political governing system that the party's become so polarized that they can never find a way to meet in the middle. I think it's almost impossible to start with a far left coalition or a far right coalition and reach a working majority. I think you have to start from the center and work out until you create a majority.

We were able to do that on the Medicare bill. It worked. But I think it's becoming increasingly more difficult to put those type of coalitions together.

And I blame not so much the members, as I blame the political pundits who dictate to the parties what we should be doing as elected officials. I think that's a sad note.

CROWLEY: When you look at the South, I have to imagine, first of all, that you had a lot of party pressure to stay in and run again.

BREAUX: We did.

CROWLEY: And you have to have made a hard calculation after you figured in the personal that you thought maybe Louisiana could keep the seat Democrats.

BREAUX: Well, almost all of our statewide officials, including our new governor, Kathleen Blanco, and Mitch Landrieu, the new lieutenant governor, and every statewide official except one is a Democrat. We have two United States senators are who Democrats. And an interesting historical note is Louisiana has been a state since 1803, and we are the only state in the United States that has never elected a Republican United States senator in our history.

So I would hope that that track record would continue.

CROWLEY: On the other side, you have a state that went heavily for George Bush in 2000. And you have a South that increasingly seems hostile to the Democratic Party. Why is that?

BREAUX: Well, I think that they feel that some in the Democratic Party have tried to pull too far to the left. That on cultural and social issues -- and I think the South is, in fact, more moderate, more middle of the road, more conservative, if you will, than other parts of the country. And it's sort of a regional thing.

But I think the right type of Democrat can win. I mean, I feel like I have strong Democratic values. I'm trying to help people who need help from government. But at the same time, I have a more moderate approach to some social issues. And I think that type of Democrat can win in the South.

I mean, a Bill Clinton won in Louisiana twice, and by very healthy margins, because he projected that type of a moderate, centrist-type of Democratic image. That type of image I think can win not only in the South, I think that type of person can win nationwide.

CROWLEY: And who is that type of person currently in the Democratic race?

BREAUX: It's yet to be decided. I mean, obviously there's a battle for the heart and soul of the Democratic Party. I think Howard Dean would like to move away from some of the things that Bill Clinton stood for in terms of moderation and middle of the road standards.

I think that's a serious mistake. I think that's a recipe for failure. We've tried that, before and we've seen that, well, you can win the nomination, but you can't win the general election with that type of approach.

CROWLEY: You know, Howard Dean says, look, I understand the issues that tend to turn the South off to the Democratic Party. But if you take those off the table -- let's just take those off the table -- will that work? Can that work?

BREAUX: Saying you can take those issues off the table is like saying the sun won't shine tomorrow. You can't do that. I mean, those issues are there, they're important, they're part of the fabric that makes up our part of the country.

And you just can't say, well, if we're not going to talk about the things we disagree on, we won't disagree on them. You can't do that. There will still be strong disagreements.

CROWLEY: Which candidate right now is best suited to win the South for Democrats?

BREAUX: Well, I would think Joe Lieberman. Wesley Clark I think would be certainly those who could win in the South. Others can, if they adapt a philosophy that would be more moderate, more mainstream, and more culturally in tune with the issues of the South. And you can do that without sacrificing the base of the party. Bill Clinton did it, and maybe there's another Bill Clinton out there somewhere.

CROWLEY: When you look back over your Senate career, what's changed the most that you regret the most?

BREAUX: I think the partisanship. But, I mean, I'm not leaving because I'm unhappy with the Congress. There are great people here.

I love the system. I love the interaction between the members. I love the debate. But I think at some point, you have to work together.

The Congress is not like a Super Bowl, where you have to have one team that wins and one team that loses. I mean, there's room for both teams winning by working together. And I would like to get back to that.

CROWLEY: But you're a dying breed as a centrist and a deal maker, aren't you?

BREAUX: Well, there will be others who can replace that same type of philosophy. I think that type of philosophy is going to have to be ingrained in a person who wins this seat in Louisiana. And I think that there will be others to continue in that fashion. So I'm not leaving with any regrets at all.


CROWLEY: Retiring Senator John Breaux of Louisiana.

What looks to be a full-fledged political crisis is simmering in Connecticut. Coming up, why a three-term Republican governor may soon be immersed in a fight for his political life and even for his job.


CROWLEY: Connecticut's nickname is the Nutmeg State, and certainly the politics are getting spicy about now. Three-term Republican Governor John Rowland has admitted that friends and a politically connected contractor paid for improvements on his summer home. The chorus demanding Rowland's resignation is growing. Some state lawmakers are talking impeachment.

Christopher Keating, of the "Hartford Courant Newspaper" is watching it all unfold.

For our listeners, Christopher, first, thanks for joining us. And second, can you give us the "Reader's Digest" form of what's going on with the governor?

CHRISTOPHER KEATING, "THE HARTFORD COURANT": Sure. I guess what this is all about, it's about a 1,200 square foot cottage that the governor bought with his wife back in 1997 for $110,000. Since then, they made about $30,000 to $40,000 in improvements on the cottage.

"The Hartford Courant" started looking into that and some of the numbers didn't seem to add up. The governor held a press conference on December 2 and said that he had paid for all of the improvements, $30,000 to $40,000 worth, which including a new heating system and a hot tub and other things. And then only a couple days ago, he said that he did not pay for all the improvement and, actually, some people in his administration and a politically connected contractor had worked on the house and had done some of the work for free.

CROWLEY: So how serious is the talk of impeachment and how political is this at this point?

KEATING: It's pretty serious here in Connecticut. Three newspapers have called for the governor to resign. The impeachment process is very difficult. It would take about a year.

There's five state legislators who have come out publicly for impeachment. But none of the top officials have pushed for impeachment. And, by that I mean the speaker of the house or the president of the Senate.

CROWLEY: So are the five that called for it Democrats? I mean, I'm trying to figure if there's a political divide here, or are Republicans equally as up set about the revelations?

KEATING: The Republicans are upset, but the Democrats are the ones that are pushing it politically. There's no question about that. The five people who called for impeachment are all Democrats. None of the top leaders in the Connecticut state legislature has called for impeachment, and none of the Republicans have called for impeachment.

On the national level, Senator Lieberman and Senator Dodd are both personal friends of Governor Rowland. They have not called for Rowland to step down, resign, anything of that nature. They both have said that they don't know enough about it. They don't have all the details, and they certainly have not called for him to step down.

CROWLEY: Connecticut's a fairly Democratic state, but this is a three-term Republican governor. We've got to figure that he's fairly popular in the state. Can he ride this out?

KEATING: It's possible. There's a couple of public opinion polls that are coming out later this week. At the moment, right now, short term, Rowland says he's definitely not resigning, definitely not stepping down. He's heard the talk from a lot of people.

Representative Christopher Shays, a well-known Republican, has said that it was wrong, but he has not even called for Rowland to step down. So I think it will depend a lot on what the general public feels, and that will be reflected in the polls coming out later this week.

CROWLEY: Christopher Keating of "The Hartford Courant," thank you so much for joining us. Come back and give us an update.

KEATING: I will.

CROWLEY: Right now, we are witnessing some things we've never seen before in a presidential campaign. Coming up, Wesley Clark goes to a war crimes trial to testify against a former dictator and maybe add to his own gravitas.

I'll also be joined by the only woman in the Democratic field, former U.S. Senator and Ambassador Carol Moseley Braun.



ANNOUNCER: A commanding presence. While the '04 Democrats stake their ground on national security, Wesley Clark revisits his role as general on the international stage.

CLARK: For me, it was a very, very satisfying experience.

ANNOUNCER: Like father like son. Has the final act played out of this dangerous and emotional family drama?

What would the material girl do for campaign cash?



CROWLEY: Welcome back. I'm Candy Crowley, sitting in for Judy. Listening to Joe Lieberman today, you might think that criticizing fellow Democrat Howard Dean had become the top priority of the Lieberman presidential campaign.


LIEBERMAN: The fact is that Governor Dean has made a series of dubious judgments and irresponsible statements in this campaign that together signal he would take us back to the days when we Democrats were not trusted to defend our security.


CROWLEY: The intra-party barbs aren't only aimed at the frontrunner. While John Kerry was blasting Dean's foreign policy today, Kerry was being jabbed by Wesley Clark's aides for what they call Kerry's ever-changing position on the Iraq war.

Clark's communication director tells INSIDE POLITICS that the Clark campaign is sending chicken wings from Washington's famous Hawk and Dove Bar to Kerry's D.C. staff. He says, "We know John Kerry likes fowl, but we were confused it was hawk or dove. So we decided to send some wings."

Wesley Clark, meantime, was striking a more serious note in The Netherlands today, remind voters back home of his military credentials in the process.

CNN's Walter Rodgers reports from The Hague.


WALTER RODGERS, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): The testimony of former NATO commander General Wesley Clark is still under some restriction. Of course, he was testifying here at the war crimes tribunal in The Hague against Slobodan Milosevic on trial for crimes against humanity and genocide.

Of course, the trial was in camera here. We cannot tell you all of what happened but General Clark did say he was able to testify that Milosevic had foreknowledge of the massacre of Bosnian Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica. The general also said he was also able to give testimony to the court about the mental state of Slobodan Milosevic now and he said it has not changed.

CLARK: You might say it was a typical Milosevic performance in which it was, it was grandiose in effort, misplaced in some ways, overly personal, and very, for me, it was a very, very satisfying experience because I've watched the ravages of his leadership in Europe for years. I've talked to his victims. I've met them. I've seen the results in the shattered cities of former Yugoslavia. And he's being held by the international community responsible.

RODGERS: The trial of Slobodan Milosevic, the former Serb president, of course, continues. General Wesley Clark is headed back to the United States, but General Clark who confronted Milosevic both here in the courtroom and in the Balkans war said this trial represents a kind of judicial closure, perhaps the only justice that the victims in the Balkans over the previous decade of war will ever receive. He also said it closes an ugly chapter in European history. Walter Rodgers, CNN, at the international war crimes tribunal in The Hague.


CROWLEY: Back in the U.S. now with another presidential candidate. With more on the capture of Saddam Hussein and other issues facing the Democratic hopefuls, I'm joined from Chicago by former ambassador and current presidential candidate Carol Moseley Braun. Thank you so much, Senator, for joining us.


CROWLEY: It's looking as though the Democrats are forming that famous circular firing squad. Where do you stand on this whole issue post the capture of Saddam Hussein?

BRAUN: Well, in the first place, I stand to congratulate the family of Colonel Hickey who led the raid that found Saddam. He's from here, by the way, from the Chicago area. And I know that his family are very proud, as are all Americans of his success and bringing this tyrant out of the hole in the ground that he was in.

And so, you know, in that regard, you know, we should all celebrate that Saddam has been captured. And I think that for a moment, it's a time to step back and not take potshots at the president or at each other, but rather to say, hopefully, this will turn a page in the chapter on the -- in terms of this effort in Iraq.

I come out, however, saying the same thing I've been saying all along, which is that it was a misadventure that did not relate to our domestic security. In the first instance, you know, it's perfectly appropriate for the president to want to go after the guy that tried to kill his father and the guy who is doing such horrible things to his own people and deposing him was an important thing, I suppose.

But we've lost almost 500 American men and women in battle over there. They're still in great jeopardy. A young person died the day that Saddam was captured. And that's going to continue until we get extricated from that situation.

CROWLEY: So let me ask you, Senator, what seems to be sort of the core question right now among Democrats, and that is, was this worth it? is Saddam's capture making the U.S. any safer?

BRAUN: Well, remember, and actually I saw former colleague, Bob Graham, who was on the -- who is on the intelligence committee, talking about how we gave up the fight, the search for bin Laden back in May. We should have continued to focus on finding bin Laden, breaking up al Qaeda, breaking up the terrorist cells, securing our domestic security. That's the first priority. And maybe it's just you know, women tend to be practical about these things. My view would have been, go after bin Laden, let's shut that down, let's make sure we're safe and then go off to take care of the tyrants who would -- were sitting there ready to be of aid and comfort to the terrorists who so violated us on September 11.

CROWLEY: As you know, Senator Howard Dean has said he does not think that the U.S. is any safer now that Saddam Hussein has been captured. That's been pounced on by many of your fellow colleagues. I wonder if you think that regardless of the timing and when we went after him if the U.S. is now safer that Saddam Hussein is out of power and, indeed, captured?

BRAUN: Well, you know, we're all glad that Saddam Hussein is out of power. But I again raise the question, at the bottom of the screen, you'll see these little things go past, terror alert elevated. I mean, does that mean we're just going to be in perpetual alert, be afraid, be very afraid every day?

I think that we have to be clear that our focus is securing the domestic security of the American people, getting al Qaeda, getting bin Laden -- see, I almost did it -- getting bin Laden. Not be confused that bin Laden is not Saddam and recognizing that while this may have been, you know, we've turned a page in Iraq and I'm glad we have.

And I think everybody has to be glad that we have but at the same time, we have a lot, lot more to do to see to it that the American people are safe and I think the administration has a responsibility to focus in on the prime directive, if you will, instead of just keeping us all on tenterhooks in perpetuity.

CROWLEY: Senator Carol Moseley Braun, we thank you so much. Hope you'll be back with us. We appreciate it.

BRAUN: Thank you, delighted.

CROWLEY: Time for a weekly feature here on INSIDE POLITICS. Our visit with Chuck Todd and a look at his "Hotline" tip sheet. He's editor-in-chief of "The Hotline" an insider's political briefing" produced by "The National Journal," read daily by all here at INSIDE POLITICS. OK, so we had the Gore endorsement, we were told by the Lieberman campaign that cash was flowing in. Maybe not enough?

CHUCK TODD, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, "THE HOTLINE": Apparently not enough. At least it could be a tight Christmas season or holiday season for the Lieberman campaign.

We understand, we've learned that the Lieberman campaign leadership has asked members of the staff -- asked for volunteers from their staff to take payment deferrals because we have matching funds are coming for the Lieberman campaign and for some other campaigns after the first of the year and instead of trying to have to force a layoff of staff or things like that, the Lieberman campaign found staff members to volunteer to take some pay deferrals until the matching funds come in.

But Lieberman's not the only one who's had to do this. Gephardt had to cut some staff salaries a couple of months ago. You hear lots of rumors about (UNINTELLIGIBLE). We know that John Kerry has to write a check pretty soon for himself and really, only Howard Dean and Wesley Clark only are seeing a constant flow of cash right now. It's really tough out there.

CROWLEY: Yes. I mean, now the idea is to keep going in whatever way you can?

TODD: Keep going in whatever way you can and Lieberman found a way, at least for now.

CROWLEY: What's going on in Iowa?

TODD: Well, it's interesting. There is some polling information that one of the presidential campaigns shared with us and it has to do with this voter contact that's being made with this likely caucus goers. This presidential campaign wanted to find out just how well this Howard Dean letter-writing campaign is going where they get supporters in other states to go to the meet-ups every month and then write personal letters urging caucus goers to support Howard Dean.

Well, so, they asked a question, "how many of you have received a handwritten letter urging you to support a candidate?" Didn't say which candidate. 67 percent of likely caucus-goers in this poll said they've received a handwritten letter. You know, we hear all about the Internet, we hear all about the technology. It may be a very low- tech campaign that eventually puts Howard Dean over the top not the high-tech --

CROWLEY: Well, sure, and hand writing. I mean, you know, all those other things come in all typed and looking like mass mailing.

TODD: Right. You know, ask a member of Congress. They'll read a handwritten letter before they'll read an e-mail any day of the week.

CROWLEY: It gets low-tech and high-tech.

TODD: Absolutely.

CROWLEY: John Thune, whose name seems to come up in South Dakota every time there's an opening. Tell us about his --

TODD: Well, I think his last name's going to be Hamlet pretty soon if he's not careful. Today, he finally announced that he's not going to run in the special election to replace Bill Janklow who'll be resigning his seat before his sentencing having to do with this manslaughter conviction.

And so now -- but when he made his announcement today, I think everybody thought he would also announce his decision on whether to challenge Tom Daschle. Well, he didn't. He delayed that till the beginning of next year and while Republicans -- a lot of the Republicans who would like to see Tom Daschle in for a tough reelection fight claim that, you know, any delay here doesn't mean anything. It means that Thune just has a timetable that he wants to follow.

I talked to other Republicans and even some Democrats who just wonder, every day he's not an announced candidate is one more day he can't raise the $10 million he's going to need to run against Daschle and so a lot of people are wondering that he may be dragging this out just to make Daschle squirm. But at the end of the day, he may also say no to this. We'll see. We'll be following it very closely.

CROWLEY: We'll check in on Hamlet later. Chuck Todd of "The Hotline," thanks so much.

"The Hotline," an insider's political briefing is produced daily by the "National Journal." Go on online to for subscription information.

Some Republicans were furious when Washington state Congressman Jim McDermott visited Iraq before the war. Get ready for another eruption. Coming up, McDermott floats a conspiracy theory that features a spider hole instead of a grassy knoll.

Also ahead, settling a family score. Bruce Morton traces the enmity between both Presidents Bush and a certain Iraqi dictator.

Also, Madonna justifies her choice of a favorite presidential candidate.


CROWLEY: We want to keep you up to date. Lee Boyd Malvo, one of two suspects in the Washington sniper case, his trial -- his case has now gone to the jury. The jury has retired to the deliberation room. The judge suggested to the jury that at a minimum, they pick a foreman Tuesday and resume on Wednesday. Again, the case of sniper suspect Lee Boyd Malvo has gone to the jury.



CROWLEY: Joining me now, Joe Lockhart, former press secretary to President Clinton. And Scott Reed, a Republican strategist. Thank you.

Let's get right to it. It seems to me politics is about timing and outside events. What does the timing and the outside event of the capture of Saddam Hussein do to Howard Dean?

JOE LOCKHART, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, the conventional wisdom says it hurts him and I'm a firm believer that conventional wisdom is wrong 99 percent of the time. I think he's got to expand his campaign beyond being against the war, but he had to do that anyway in order to be successful I think beyond Iowa and New Hampshire. And to be successful in the general election should he get that far.

So I think in a strange way, this may be a blessing for him. It's going to put him to a test. As a Democrat, I'm glad this test is coming before we decide who the nominee is and not after.

CROWLEY: All the same, it's given -- seems to me, it's given Kerry -- at least they believe that Kerry camp, Lieberman camp, Edward camp, that they've found a soft spot here and they are pounding the day lights out of it.

SCOTT REED, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well it's really starting to look like a demolition derby the was they're ganging up on him. And -- look, Dean has energy, he has momentum, he's been a front runner for 60 or 90 days, 34 days to Iowa. This is going to be a tough period for him.

Even these 527 groups that are out there trying to stop Dean, the group running the very tough ads in Iowa with Osama bin Laden, Dean's people get excited by that. They even have a Web site link from their official site to that.

And what I'm saying is these are the type of people Dean's going after. They're very left of center, they're primary voters, they're going to make it more difficult, as Joe said, when they get to the general. But right now they're focused on that primary and you'd have to say he's still in a strong position to win the nomination.

CROWLEY: But the contention of the other campaigns is look, people don't decide until January. We've got a shot at those. There's a huge number of undecided voters in both Iowa and New Hampshire. Is that not a fertile field for them?

LOCKHART: I think it is. And let me do conventional wisdom bashing No. 2, which is that this campaign was over.

Let's remember, a week ago, we were sitting around in rooms like this saying, the campaign has been remade with the Al Gore endorsement. Where's that now? It's gone. This will be gone.

This will -- this is -- they're exactly right, the other campaigns, that when we get to January, this is crunch time. This is a good test, a hard battle, demolition derby, whatever we want to call it. It's good for Democrats.

So I think this is good for Edwards, this is good for potentially Kerry, good potentially for Wes Clark. I think we will get an alternative to Howard Dean. We'll have a good battle.

And, again, as a Democrat, I'm glad we're having this battle, because we're going to get the best candidate out of this.

CROWLEY: I want a yes or no question, because I want to move on to its effect on President Bush. But yes or no. Can an anti-war candidate win in the general election if the war's going well?

REED: I don't believe so. No. LOCKHART: I don't think whether it's going well or not, an anti- war candidate never wins. It's got to be much broader and deeper than that. And we're going to get -- I think if it took capturing Saddam Hussein to get Democrats focused on it, then fine. It's good.

CROWLEY: President Bush. His stock goes up momentarily. But to me, it sort of said, Look, events can shift overnight. That this isn't necessarily -- it's good news right now. But it also tells you that lots can happen. How do you see this affecting Bush in the general...

REED: What was special about Sunday was across the country, people weren't Republicans, Democrats or independents. They were Americans. And when the commander-in-chief is the commander-in-chief during a special time like this, his numbers are going to rise. His job approval has gone up now. His performance has gone up. Even the way he handled himself in his press conference yesterday showed confidence and gravitas, which was good for the country.

But at the end of the day, what I think's going to affect this more than anything is this upcoming trial in Iraq by the Iraqi people of Saddam Hussein. It's going to happen in the spring. That's right when the Democrats will have a nominee, it's right when they'll be attempting to unite their party.

And as the repetition of all these torture chambers and rape rooms and all these other atrocities are put out there every night to the American people, American people, especially women, are going to think Bush did the right thing, we're glad we're in there fighting this war on terror. And it's going to help Bush.

CROWLEY: So it's done?


LOCKHART: Listen, is this a double-edged sword for Bush, because it's going to remind us all why he told us we went to war in the first place, weapons of mass destruction.


LOCKHART: No, I don't think so. I think the polls show that the public still sort of believes some of this stuff that's coming out, that maybe Saddam Hussein had something to do with al Qaeda, had something to do with September 11, which is not true.

Here is why it's not over. This president has lost 20 points in job approval and personal approval three different times during his election. Bill Clinton went through terrible things and his numbers didn't move because the public had made up their mind.

The public is fickle on George Bush and these are events now that are beyond his control. And when they're beyond your control you are subject to the whim of anything that happens. And this is the president who wanted us to believe that the war was over. Having it go well is not good enough. CROWLEY: Joe Lockhart, Scott Reed, thanks very much. Come back.

LOCKHART: We will.

REED: Thank you.


CROWLEY: At least one attack on Howard Dean has gotten his campaign riled up. Dean campaign manager Joe Trippi is urging his counterparts for the other '04 candidates to condemn this ad and demand it pulled immediately from the air waves.

The spot features the image of Osama bin Laden and questions Dean's commitment to defending America. Trippi says the Democrats behind the ad are guilty of, quote, "The kind of fear mongering attack we've come to expect from Republicans." The ad is running in New Hampshire and South Carolina.

A chapter closes for both a father and his son. Next, our Bruce Morton on the first President Bush, his son and the capture of Saddam Hussein.


CROWLEY: Washington state Congressman Jim McDermott is used to taking political heat. He got plenty from Republicans and even some of his fellow Democrats for visiting Iraq last year and criticizing U.S. policy while there.

Here's the sequel. McDermott says he isn't sure it's merely coincidence that the U.S. found Saddam Hussein now. Here are portions of what he told a radio interviewer.


REP. JIM MCDERMOTT (D), WASHINGTON: I'm sure they could have found him a long time ago if they'd wanted to.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You think they timed this then, huh?

MCDERMOTT: Oh, yes. I don't know that it was definitely planned on this weekend. There's too much by happenstance for it to be just a coincidental thing that it happened.


CROWLEY: Washington state Republicans are in full cry about McDermott's remarks. But as the state party chairman said in a press release, quote, "calling on him to apologize is useless".

The capture of Saddam Hussein wasn't just a matter of international policy. In some ways, it was personal. Bruce Morton looks at the bond between a father and son and their common enemy.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) BUSH: Good riddance. The world is better off without you, Mr. Saddam Hussein. I find it very interesting that when the heat got on, you dug yourself a hole, and you crawled in it.

BRUCE MORTON, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the Bush family, hatred for Saddam is a father/son bond.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I hate Saddam Hussein. I don't hate a lot people. I don't hate easily. But I think he's -- as I say, his word is no good, and he's a brute.

MORTON: Brutes? This president talked about it in a campaign speech in Texas last year.

BUSH: But there's no doubt his hatred is mainly directed at us. There's no doubt that he can't stand us. After all this is the guy that tried to kill my dad at one time.

MORTON: The first President Bush wrote in his 1999 collection of letters that he assumed Saddam would a fall after losing the first Gulf War, but added he did not regret "my decision to end the war when we did. I do not believe in what I call 'mission creep.'"

But now Saddam has fallen and father and son have talked about it.

BUSH: ... one of the calls I did receive was from my dad. And it was a very brief conversation. Just said, Congratulations. It's a great day for the country. And I said, it's a greater day for the Iraqi people.

MORTON: Father and son and a common foe brought low. American novelist William Faulkner talking about the ghosts that haunted his Mississippi said once, "Down here the past isn't dead. Hell, it isn't even past yet."

But for the Bushes, this may be a chapter closed.

Bruce Morton, CNN, Washington.


CROWLEY: How many undecided voters does Madonna influence? We have no idea. But we do know which presidential candidate she's supporting, if not crazy for. Madonna expresses herself when INSIDE POLITICS returns.


CROWLEY: Who would have thunk it? Madonna, the one time Material Girl, has grown up to be a Wesley Clark supporter. The two met recently at Madonna's mansion. Here's what she liked about him.


MADONNA, ENTERTAINER: I think to be the general for as long as he's been, this is a man who knows how to deal with pressure, and to make decisions under pressure. I think he has a good handle on foreign policy. I think he's good with people.

And I think he has a heart and a consciousness. He's interested in spirituality. I mean those things mean a lot to me.

As it stands right now, he's got my support.


CROWLEY: The Clark campaign's response, "We are delighted with the endorsement of a superstar for our four-star."

We can't improve on that, so that is it for INSIDE POLITICS. I'm Candy Crowley. "CROSSFIRE" starts right now.


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