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Five U.S. Soldiers Killed in Past 24 Hours; Terror Alert Remains High

Aired December 26, 2003 - 15:30   ET


ANNOUNCER: A new surge in the U.S. death toll in Iraq. A nation on heightened alert for terror -- what's the Bush administration to do?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We rejoice in the birth of our savior.


ANNOUNCER: Keeping the faith? Howard Dean starts opening up about religion, with an eye toward the South.

Take it back -- on this day after Christmas, we have our own return policy for the 2003 plays of the week.

Now, live from Washington, Judy Woodruff's INSIDE POLITICS.

BOB FRANKEN, GUEST HOST: Thanks for joining us.

I'm definitely not Judy Woodruff.

I'm sitting in for Judy Woodruff today, Bob Franken.

And while most Americans continue to enjoy the holiday season, including President Bush, the joy has been tempered by terror threats at home and U.S. military deaths in Iraq. Five U.S. soldiers were killed in the past 24 hours in a series of attacks by insurgents in and around the Iraqi capital. Among the giants, an Army forward operating base 30 miles northeast of Baghdad.

Here in Washington and around the nation, the terror alert level remains high and U.S. investigators are searching for some people who failed to show up for the Paris to Los Angeles flights that were canceled because of terror concerns.

Let's get more on this by checking in with CNN's Barbara Starr.

BARBARA STARR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Bob, today Air France resumed flying from Paris to Los Angeles, but the concern about the terrorist threat is far from over. CNN has learned from U.S. government sources that two of the flights from Paris today left late due to additional security screening of bags and passengers. When those flights, Flight 68 and 70, land in Los Angeles, the plan throughout the day is that they will not come directly to the terminal, but they will be stopped at a remote point on the airfield. Passengers again will be screened and then bussed to the terminal.

And officials say other select flights from other countries will be handled in the same fashion.

A U.S. official told CNN on Thursday that one of those who did not show up for one of the Paris flights had a commercial pilot's license. That's still an issue of concern. Officials across Washington say they still believe there is a real possibility of some type of terror attack, attempt against the United States. As one counter-terrorism official put it, authorities do not believe the threat window has closed.

There is concern not only about a plot involving aviation, but other types, as well, including the possibility of a dirty bomb. Of course, that's a device that spreads radiological debris -- Bob.

FRANKEN: Probably one of the most intriguing things of what we do know has to do with the passengers who didn't show up. But have you heard at all what investigators know about them and what it is they're trying to find out about them?

STARR: Well, you know, that's very interesting because there's a lot of confusion across government agencies on that point, at least in terms of what sources are saying. They questioned 13 people that they wanted to talk to. They apparently have cleared them. They -- some government officials say they still want to talk to some of them a little bit more, they still want to look at them. But other officials say those people, at least, are cleared.

But there are people that they wanted to talk to that never showed up for the flights and they certainly want to check on those people and see if they have any involvement in this threat situation.

FRANKEN: And one of the things that was intriguing and has been intriguing is this balancing act that officials try to maintain between over warning people, crying wolf or being regarded as crying wolf, and the very real threat. This time they believed that these were very real possibilities.

STARR: They do, Bob. Officials saying across Washington again that this is not terror threat fatigue, this is not code orange fatigue, that this is truly orange. And there's a lot of indicators about that. Of course, we have spoken over the last few days about the number of emergency teams on standby, the number of cities that have placed their emergency personnel on alert. So by all accounts, the threat window has not closed. They are still very much on edge about all of this.

FRANKEN: Thank you.

CNN's Barbara Starr.

Now we turn to the Democratic presidential hopefuls in our Friday campaign news daily.

Wesley Clark heads out to Arizona tomorrow for two town hall meetings on health care. The retired general plans to open the latest Conversations With Clark event in Tucson and Phoenix with remarks on medical insurance and prescription drugs.

Howard Dean has been reluctant to discuss religion on the campaign trail, at least until now. But Dean tells the "Boston Globe" he expects to talk more about his Christian faith in the months ahead, particularly when he campaigns in the South. Dean has said he considers religion a private matter. But his rival, Joe Lieberman, has criticized fellow Democrats for ignoring the role of faith in national life.

John Kerry is launching new campaign ads in Iowa and New Hampshire. The New Hampshire ad will feature the state's former governor, Jeanne Shaheen, talking about Kerry's ability to strengthen national security. The ad running in Iowa will highlight Kerry's views on improving health care coverage.

And try as Kerry might to get traction in New Hampshire, his campaign in the leadoff primary state has proven to be frustrated.

Our senior political correspondent Candy Crowley spent time watching Kerry in action.


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Story time at little frogs and pollywogs.

J. KERRY: OK. Overwhelming choice.

CROWLEY: Once upon a time, he was seen as the front-runner.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's your name?

J. KERRY: My name is John.


CROWLEY: Now, as John Kerry tours the day care centers and firehouses of New Hampshire, he gets asked whether his campaign can survive a loss here.

J. KERRY: I'm running a national campaign and I intend to take my campaign nationally.

CROWLEY: Pause, pause.

J. KERRY: I intend to win, too.

CROWLEY: How is it that what once seemed likely now has the hint of bravado? How is it that the well-heeled, well-hired power campaign has urgent written on it?

J. KERRY: Thanks very much. Well, I need your help. I need your help.

CROWLEY: John Kerry is idling in Iowa polls and getting smoked in New Hampshire.

CHARLIE HATCH, NEW HAMPSHIRE VOTER: The difference between him and the other candidates is basically that he hasn't gotten his message through.

CROWLEY: It may be that the defining moment of John Kerry's presidential campaign came 15 months before the primary season. It may boil down to a single word.


CROWLEY: Kerry has spent a year trying to explain why he voted aye for the resolution approving the use of force against Iraq. He thought it would leverage Saddam Hussein into cooperating with inspectors. He thought the president would give diplomacy more time.

J. KERRY: There were diplomatic initiatives on the table at the time that the president decided to go to war.

CROWLEY: He's seen either as a candidate trying to have it both ways or a nuanced thinker in a bumper-sticker world. Either way, the frustration sometimes seeps through.

J. KERRY: If anybody out there believes that, if John Kerry were president of the United States, we'd be at war with Iraq today, then I don't want them -- they wouldn't vote for me, and they shouldn't.

CROWLEY: Kerry says he doesn't care about the polls, but he does concede the point.

J. KERRY: The analogy I have used sometimes is, we're sort of going up the river here. It's time to fight back. Clearly, I have to, I understand that. I'm in a fight, but I'm a fighter.

So, am I in the running for you?

CROWLEY: You can hear it in his tone and his deliberate choice of words. John Kerry is in combat mode. It suits a campaign based on his resume. It suits him.

T. KERRY: John has always done very well when he's under fire. He kind of focuses and he gets very calm. And watch out when he's calm. He really becomes very focused and he goes for it. So I think he's now said, OK, it's time to get calm.

CROWLEY: As Kerry's numbers fell over the summer and into his fall, his campaign feuded over strategy: stay presidential or take it to Dean? There was a messy firing, some indignant resignations. Time, not much left, and circumstance, he's behind, have settled the question.

J. KERRY: Howard Dean's running around the country saying, "I'm the anti-war guy." He had the same judgment we did. He's trying to cover the bases.

CROWLEY: He's going to take it to Dean. J. KERRY: I believe I showed leadership and clarity. And I think Howard Dean has, frankly, tried to fudge it.

CROWLEY: He would not be the first comeback kid in New Hampshire, though it may be too little and too late. Still, John Kerry, veteran of all types, won't go down without a fight.

J. KERRY: OK, real-deal warriors, I want to thank you all very much.

CROWLEY: Candy Crowley, CNN, Nashua, New Hampshire.


FRANKEN: Still ahead, Howard Dean, m.d., he's not the first doctor to run for the White House, but could he be the first to win?

Plus, we'll discuss the Bush camp's strategy for a possible election battle with Dean.

And later, many happy returns -- we'll update the after Christmas-back to the stores and how it figures in the December economic picture.


FRANKEN: A lot of things seem to be going the president's way right now, but there is at least one cloud on the political horizon. Today's "Washington Post" reports the probe into the leak of a CIA employee's name. And, according to the "Post," it's gathering momentum.

Well, the man who co-wrote that article, Dana Milbank, is joining us now, along with "Time" magazine national political correspondent Karen Tumulty.

Let's talk about that.

Is this something that could affect the election? Your article suggested that it might really extend beyond the election?

DANA MILBANK, "WASHINGTON POST": It could. Or, certainly that's the hope of the Bush administration right now. The FBI has been mentioning the possibility of calling a grand jury when they interviewed the witnesses. The Justice Department has added a prosecutor. You get a sense of momentum there, even though we don't see it in public.

The White House isn't really worried about the content. They're not worried about the scandal being a problem. What they're worried about is it coming out in public right before the election. If it were to come out now, it wouldn't be a problem. If it were to come out in December of 2004, it wouldn't be a problem. They're really worried about that sort of October surprise, though.

FRANKEN: Well, and the other thing, Karen, would be who is the person who's going to be found capable, if anybody? If it is a big fish, that's one problem. If it's somebody, to put it bluntly, expendable, that's a whole different game.

KAREN TUMULTY, "TIME": Well, and also, to me, the real jaw dropping fact in Dana's story today was the suggestion that, in fact, the leaking has continued, that, in fact, possibly unauthentic CIA classified documents are still finding their way from someone into the hands of conservative news outlets. And that is, you know, not only reckless but stupid in the middle of an ongoing investigation.

FRANKEN: Well, in the old days they used to call that dirty tricks.

Is that the kind of...

MILBANK: It is. I mean both sides are behaving badly here. You have the continued, what apparently continued unauthorized leaks of classified information. On the other hand, you have Joe Wilson and Valerie Plame appearing with glossy photographs in "Vanity Fair" magazine. So maybe we should be very thankful that the issue, for the most part, has gone on behind closed doors at the Justice Department.

FRANKEN: Well, and, of course, the Bush campaign is paying attention to a lot more than just this, particularly Howard Dean right now. That seems to be -- the "Post" also reported today that there is now a strategy that has built up based on a campaign against Howard Dean.

Is this just a work in progress or are they sort of reacting to the latest Democratic fortunes here?

TUMULTY: Well, certainly the other Democratic candidates in the race are giving them the road map to follow for a campaign against Howard Dean, because, of course, those other Democrats in the race are throwing, you know, everything they can think of right now at Howard Dean. And Dean himself has said that, you know, these are essentially the same lines that he expects to see used against him if he gets the nomination.

FRANKEN: And the story suggests that the campaign from the White House would be to counter a Dean who is viewed as Dr. No, would be another variation on mourning in America.

MILBANK: Yes. I mean it's very much an old playbook. The luxury the Bush White House has is they're so solid with their conservative base that they have the luxury of reaching out to the middle now. And that's something -- they can easily portray Dean as being from the far left on issues like gay marriage. So you can very much see a 1988 style campaign reoccurring there.

Of course, Dean is so unpredictable. He has the most potential of a Democrat to either do extremely well or to flame out completely. So that will be the one thing that would keep it interesting.

FRANKEN: But we're going to assume for the moment that it is going to be kept interesting. Which brings up the question, what does George Bush have to watch out for?

TUMULTY: Well, George Bush's biggest problem right now is that the election is still almost a year away. You look into the polls and he is strengthening on just about every single front that you can imagine. So right now his biggest danger is something that would sort of interrupt the trend. And, of course, that is almost the truth in politics, is that you can count on something unexpected happening.

But it sure looks right now like everything's going his way.

MILBANK: Yes, you can see everything on the right trajectory, with the economic, even with jobs. Look at Iran, Iraq, even Libya and Syria are participating. But the opposition, as well as Bush's advisers, say the likelihood of something huge shaping this election that we're not aware of right now -- a terrorist attack, a huge blowup with North Korea -- that's the sort of thing that could determine the election and we have no ability to forecast that now, by definition.

FRANKEN: Well, and it seems like the Democrats' only hope right now seems to be well, there's almost a year to go.

MILBANK: Right. They have to hope for some calamity, unfortunately.

FRANKEN: Of course, of course, they would be the first to say that they don't hope for that, but they certainly do not have good wishes for President Bush politically.

I want to continue this in just a moment.

If you don't mind, I'd like to take a break.

Then we're going to continue our conversation about the president and his political fortunes, as well as the fortunes of Democratic front runner Howard Dean. How will his religious views affect voters down in Dixie?


FRANKEN: Joining us once again, "Time" magazine national political correspondent Karen Tumulty and Dana Milbank of the "Washington Post."

Well, we've been talking a lot about the intramural fights the Democrats are going through and, of course, the fact that President Bush doesn't have that kind of fight.

In your opinions, this is your chance, who does he have to fear the most?

MILBANK: I'd say it's still Wes Clark, just because he's undefined and he's unassailable on the national security issue. But that's really almost all theoretical at this point.

FRANKEN: Wes Clark is criticized for not being the kind of firebrand campaigner that maybe the Democrats have to come up with. Do you agree with that?

TUMULTY: And he, well, he's also proven himself not very sure- footed out on the campaign trail. I actually think, as much as the White House says, you know, Howard Dean is who they plan...

FRANKEN: I have to interrupt, and I apologize for that, but there's been some breaking news out of Florida involving a plea bargain in the case of Lionel Tate.

And for that we turn to CNN's Susan Candiotti.


Yes, we have just learned, CNN has learned that there has now been a deal that has been arrived at involving young Lionel Tate. You will recall that he was the young man who was 12 years old when he murdered a little girl who was visiting at his house.

The defense had always said that he was involved in wrestling the little girl, but, in fact, they -- the injuries to the little girl were very, very severe. She was only six years old. Tiffany Eunick the little girl's name.

He was convicted of first degree murder and has spent the last over three years in a juvenile prison here in Florida. Well, a new trial was ordered for him by the State of Florida just a few weeks ago and today the state has announced that it will not retry him. Instead, the state has agreed, and the victim's mother goes along with this, is agreeing to a plea deal that was originally offered to him before the murder trial, that is, that he will receive a three year prison sentence in a juvenile prison followed by one year of house arrest and 10 years of probation, along with 1,000 hours of community service and continued counseling.

Now, he has already been in a Florida prison for a little over three years. That time will be up some time next month.

So, this news just coming down now and it will be officially announced or we'll hear reaction to it from the victim's mother. We hope to be hearing soon from Lionel Tate's mother, as well.

He is now 16 years old -- Bob.

FRANKEN: Susan Candiotti from Miami.

Thank you, Susan.

To quote the title of a certain sports show, pardon the interruption, Karen.

We were about to hear your perspective on who is the Democrat that President Bush has to fear the most.

TUMULTY: And I was just saying that as much as the White House likes to say that it, you know, Howard Dean would be easy, that he would be easy to paint as a far left extremist, the fact is that he has proven to run the best campaign, have the best fund-raising operation and, most importantly of all, has managed to stir up passion in the Democratic base in a way nobody else has, which is why I think he, you know, if he gets the nomination, he remains the strongest candidate.

FRANKEN: And now he's beginning to show a little bit of flexibility, something, actually, he's done all along. And it's in a discussion about the role of religion in his campaign. There was an article in the "Boston Globe" which involved an interview with him in which he said that contrary to his upbringing, where he did not really discuss his religion, as he campaigns in the South, where it's such an issue, he's going to talk about it.

Is this an expedient? Or do you believe that this is just more of him showing himself?

MILBANK: It is, it's very difficult to picture this working in any plausible way. I mean it's arguably that the Democrats in general, and Dean in particular, would have to write off the South and much of the bible belt to start with. But here's a guy who is a Congregationalist, one of the most liberal of mainline religions, started out as Episcopalian 25 years ago, had a fight with his church over a bicycle path issue and decided to change religions on that basis.

So he may appeal to some of the middle, the middle of the road voters. But to think that he's going to reach at all into the fundamentalists, the evangelical vote at all, particularly against George Bush, is just implausible.

TUMULTY: But it's not just the evangelical vote that we're talking about here, because, for instance, in the South, one of the main constituencies you have to win is African-Americans. And where do you campaign? In churches. And this is, however, a serious pivot on Dean's part, because it was just a few weeks ago that he was saying that Democrats shouldn't be talking about, as he put it, guns, gods and gays.

FRANKEN: And it's just a few days ago, we should point out, that Joe Lieberman said that the Democratic candidates should be criticized for deemphasizing faith as one of the issues in a campaign. And shouldn't we remember that Ronald Reagan, who was somebody who was not really demonstrably religious, was nevertheless able to get the support of the religious conservatives?

TUMULTY: And he actually talked about god. Reagan talked about god and rang a lot of sort of faith-based chords in the electorate, even though he didn't go to church every Sunday. You know, it was less, it was less, I think, his personal faith than his ability to sort of strike a chord on the issues that the people of faith care about.

FRANKEN: Isn't it really difficult when religion becomes an issue to get a handle on how honest the candidate is being about his religious beliefs? MILBANK: It is and that was one of the reasons then Governor Bush stated for not talking about it a great deal. And if you see what Bush has done, it's quite clever. He doesn't wear it on his sleeve. He does it in almost code words that will be appreciated by the audience he's trying to reach. He does it in little asides, most prominently in the debate when he spoke about Jesus. But it's not religion with all capital letters here.

I think Karen is right, that there is the important ability to reach out to the black churches the way Clinton was able to do. But if we're talking about the white bible belt in this country, I just think that's too far a stretch.

FRANKEN: So, we are seeing the evolution of the campaign and, of course, the evolution of candidates.

Dana Milbank, thank you very much.

Karen Tumulty, thank you very much.

And now we move on to the day to take back the holiday gifts that weren't what we had hoped they'd be. Our Bill Schneider can relate to that. Coming up, some political plays of the week that he'd like to return.

Also they may or may not be the candidates for the mute button, but Iowa TVs are full of commercials for presidential candidates. So stay with us and see what you're missing.


FRANKEN: Welcome back. Judy is off today. I'm Bob Franken. If you're feeling a post-Christmas letdown, you're not alone. America's retailers were banking on a better holiday shopping season than they actually got. Now, they have to count on gift returners and bargain hunters to help them meet their year-end sales goals. CNN's Adaora Udoji is at a mall in the New York area -- in New Jersey, actually.


ADAORA UDOJI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): There are lots of bargain hunters at this bustling mall. We're at the Roosevelt Field mall, the nation's fifth largest. There are 260 stores and nearly all of them have big discounts today. We're talking 50 percent, 60 percent, 70 percent. And even some of the major department stores are offering an additional 10 percent to 20 percent off of already discounted merchandise.

But having said all of that, we've talked to some shoppers today who haven't been entirely impressed with the sales. They say basically, it's not much different than last year. That's not something that retailers want to hear, because sales have been sluggish the last couple of weeks, in part because of the blizzards along the East Coast.

They are looking today to see lots of returns. They expect post- holiday, that 4 percent to 6 percent of all gifts will be returned, meaning some friends and family simply didn't get it right. But retailers today are also looking for folks to be spending gift certificates. This year, 10 percent more gift certificates were sold than last year so lots of people sitting at home with some money to spend.

Overall, analysts do predict that this season, the retailers will experience some gain, perhaps as much as 6 percent. Adaora Udoji, CNN, Long Island, New York.


FRANKEN: Since we're in an economic realm, it was a short and quiet trading day on Wall Street. Let's get a check on the markets from CNN's financial editor, Myron Kandel.

MYRON KANDEL, CNN FINANCIAL EDITOR: Well, hi, Bob. Wall Street ended its abbreviated session and abbreviated week with another small gain. Investors did do some shopping in the retail sector. That's after and Sharper Image both reported robust holiday sales. Amazon says this holiday season was its busiest ever. Its stock edged up 15 cents. And Sharper Image said sales of its high end gadgets jumped 21 percent this month and shares of Sharper Image climbed $2.42 in today's trading. That's an 8 percent gain.

As for the overall market numbers, the Dow Industrials rose 19 points to finish the week as a whole with a small gain and the Nasdaq closed three points higher this session, up more than 1 percent for the week -- Bob?

FRANKEN: Well, you know, it's interesting. The analysts are saying that this, today, could be the busiest holiday shopping day ever. Certainly glad I'm not out there but my question to you really is why?

KANDEL: Well, Bob, those increasingly popular gift cards, you and I may remember when they were called gift certificates, are driving sales today. The use of gift cards has doubled this year and analysts expect a flurry of shoppers to redeem them today, over the next week as well.

Also, steep discounts are helping extend the holiday shopping season. Many retailers are slashing prices to clear their shelves and timing is everything. Many people are making this a four-day weekend, giving them extra time to shop -- Bob.

FRANKEN: What about the other part of that equation? Yes, they may be buying more today, but aren't they there buying because they're returning?

KANDEL: Well, it's true. You know, but when they return, they also buy as well. There's another factor, those gift cards, I mentioned, are a big reason for that. They remove some of the guesswork from shopping for a loved one. Another reason, fewer shoppers are returning gifts, because retailers are cracking down. They're tightening their policies on returns and check your gift certificates for shortened return periods and what they call restocking fees. Some retailers aren't offering refunds at all. I don't know about you but I don't like that, Bob.

FRANKEN: I don't like that at all. Myron Kandel in New York and we want to continue talking about the exchanges. You don't have to have received a disappointing holiday gift to feel the urge to make an exchange, which brings us, for reasons that will become clear in a moment to our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider who is in Los Angeles.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Bob, we've been giving out political plays of the week all year. But the day after Christmas is not the day to give. It's the day to return. So on -- in the spirit of this occasion, let's go over the plays that we've given out all year and see which ones we need to return.


SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Back in February, we gave Alan Greenspan the play of the week for warning the country that a deficit is a bad thing.

ALAN GREENSPAN, CHAIRMAN, FEDERAL RESERVE: It does have a negative impact on the economy.

SCHNEIDER: But who listened? This year's deficit is expected to run close to $500 billion. Whoops! Better take that one back.

In May, we lauded President Bush's top gun landing on the aircraft carrier, the mother of all photo ops. Notice the banner that read "Mission Accomplished." A little prematurely, it turns out.

Last summer, we honored talk show host Jerry Springer for exploring a Senate race in Ohio.

JERRY SPRINGER, TALK SHOW HOST: Let's have at least one voice that is outside the box that isn't part of Washington, that isn't part of the elite.

SCHNEIDER: It won't be Springer's voice, it turns out.

SPRINGER: I have to find other avenues to be helpful. And it can't now be as a candidate.

SCHNEIDER: Better return that one fast, before he changes his mind.

In July, Congressman Darrell Issa got the play of the week when his $1.7 million petition drive to recall California governor Gray Davis qualified for the ballot.

REP. DARRELL ISSA (R), CALIFORNIA: I intend to be there every day for the rest of Gray's 100 days, making his life and his departure a certainty.

SCHNEIDER: Davis didn't survive, but neither did Issa. ISSA: Now the question for me is should I go back -- should I go back to the work that I wanted to do?

SCHNEIDER: The answer was yes. Another play returned.

In September, a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court recalled the California recall campaign. They said the election couldn't go on because of Florida-like problems with the voting system. Some saw politics behind the ruling.

TOM MCCLINTOCK (R), CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR CANDIDATE: The Ninth Circuit Court rule had no basis in law. It had everything to do with politics.

SCHNEIDER: We agreed and called it the political play of the week. A few days later, the full court took up the issue and said never mind. The play got recalled. The recall proceeded. And the rest, as they say, is history.

GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER (R), CALIFORNIA: Thank you very much to all of the people of California for giving me their great trust.


SCHNEIDER: So to all our viewers, happy day after Christmas, and many happy returns -- Bob?

FRANKEN: And I suppose we can quote what you just said? Never mind.

SCHNEIDER: Never mind.

FRANKEN: We don't know if President and Mrs. Bush plan to return any of their gifts but we have learned that the first couple exchanged books, clothes and jewelry on Christmas day.

The political winners and losers of the past 12 months, Dick Gephardt and John Kerry make Stu Rothenberg's list. But which hopeful had the better year?

Iowa TV viewers are getting an eyeful of political ads. We'll crunch the numbers on the big spenders.

And walking across country for Kucinich. How far would you go to support a presidential candidate?


FRANKEN: Lawyers, generals and businessmen have been elected U.S. president. But a doctor in the White House? Howard Dean is not the first M.D. to try it. In fact, eight other notable doctors have been candidates for president, going all the way back to the election of 1832.

None has been successful. The most recognizable name on the list is famed pediatrician, Benjamin Spock. He got one vote for vice president at the 1972 Democratic convention. And then, he accepted the nomination of the People's Party. Dr. Stock got precisely .1 percent of the vote in the election.

Howard Dean's rivals are trying again today to use his own words against him. They're pointing to a Dean interview with the "Concord Monitor' in New Hampshire. The newspaper quotes Dean as saying that he isn't ready to pronounce a sentence for Osama bin Laden until he's found guilty at trial.

He says presidents or presidential candidates should leave penalty options open, but should not pre-judge the political system.

In the interview, Dean once again stands by his contention that America is not any safer with Saddam Hussein behind bars, noting that the increased terror alert has occurred.

And we'll be back with more INSIDE POLITICS in just a moment.


FRANKEN: As 2003 draws to a close, a check of the year's political winners and losers includes a wide range of honorees from both parties. Analyst Stu Rothenberg recently shared his political score card for the last 12 months.


STU ROTHENBERG, POLITICAL ANALYST: Well I think clearly the biggest winners of the year was Howard Dean. This guy started who started as an asterisk, even a punch line to a lot of jokes and now he's the front runner for the Democratic nomination. Some people think he has it locked up. This is a guy who just burst onto the political scene. Clearly the biggest winner of the year.

Another Democratic winner, presidential hopeful Dick Gephardt, who entered 2003 with this big question mark, would anybody care about Dick Gephardt? Was he yesterday's news? Not even yesterday's but last decade's news. He came out of the box on health care, has rolled out a number of labor union endorsements, I think in a very savvy, strategic way.

Maria Shriver, clearly a big winner. Not only did her husband win the governorship of California, but I think she was instrumental in credential him as a moderate. And given the criticisms he faced, the flurry of charges at the end of the recall and the replacement vote, she was out there as a woman testifying to his character and his values and his abilities. His win was, in part, her win. Such an odd bedfellow there, a Kennedy clan and a Schwarzenegger Republican.

I think John Breaux is a big winner, senator from Louisiana who's announced he's retiring, not that that necessarily makes him a winner, although sometimes people think if you leave Washington, you're automatically a winner.

John Breaux had two big successes. First, Medicare and prescription drugs, an issue that he's been focusing on for years. This was a big bill that was passed and Breaux deserves a lot of credit and received it.

The other was at election of Kathleen Blanco as the governor of Louisiana. Breaux made this part of his goal for the year.

I think the No. 1 loser is Saddam Hussein. Anybody who spends months in a spider hole can't be a winner. That's just not what winners do, live below ground. So he's certainly the No. 1 loser.

In terms of American politics, I'd like to nominate Cruz Bustamante who's still the lieutenant governor of California, but who performed -- must have one of the worst campaigns in American history in his effort to -- against Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Here is a Democrat who -- Hispanic Democrat who should have a reservoir of goodwill, should be able to tap Hispanic voters in the state, should are been able to hold the Democratic base and he just absolutely flopped.

In terms of the Democratic presidential contenders, I think you'd have to put two Democrats on the list. One is Florida Senator Bob Graham, the first Democrat to drop out of the presidential race. Who, for years, has earned respect both in Washington and in Florida as someone who is thoughtful and knowledgeable and reasonable. Certainly very knowledgeable on intelligence matters. Been elected senator and governor, who ran a misdirected, misinformed presidential campaign with a strategy that I regard as inexplicable.

The other Democrat you have to say had an absolutely awful 2003 is John Kerry, Massachusetts Senator Kerry who still is often classified in the top tier of Democratic contenders in the presidential race, but who started 2003 as the default front runner, the guy who could raise money, who had built a national reputation and a national political organization.

Now, has had to change his campaign manager, is increasingly regarded by Democrats, apparently, as aloof and not connecting. This is a guy who looked to be at the top of the heap and is falling very rapidly through the heap. Not at the bottom yesterday, but this is as bad a 2003 as Kerry could have ever expected.


FRANKEN: That was CNN political analyst Stu Rothenberg of "The Rothenberg Political Report."

Who is winning the political battle for the Iowa airwaves? Up next, a look at candidates and the interest groups spending big money on TV commercials.


FRANKEN: With less than a month to go before the Iowa caucuses, the state's television airwaves are filling up with political ads. Here's a sample of what's bombarding viewers in the Hawkeye state.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) AD ANNOUNCER: Something different's happening.

DEAN: The biggest lie that gets said at election time is if you elect me I'm going to solve all your problems.

AD ANNOUNCER: Hundreds of thousands are working to take our country back from special corporate interests.

DEAN The truth is the power to change the country is in your hands, not mine. We need jobs in America. Stand up for health insurance for every single American.

AD ANNOUNCER: As president, John Kerry will stand up to the drug companies to lower prescriptions, take on the insurance industry to finally get health care reform, and break the grip of big oil to make America energy independent.

John Kerry, the courage to do what's right.

SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This president says he wants a values debate. We ought to give him one. How about this values debate? We have 41 million people in America with no health insurance. We have 12 million innocent children with no health insurance.

Given a choice between more tax cuts for multimillionaires and covering innocent children who have no health insurance, the American people will stand where this president won't.

REP. DICK GEPHARDT (D-MO), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When I'm president, my first week as president, I'll go to the Congress and lay aside the Bush tax cuts and I'll use those monies to see to it that everybody is covered with health insurance in this country that can never be taken away from you.


FRANKEN: Get used to it Iowa. We have more on the Iowa ad wars. An interview that Judy did recently with Evan Tracey of TNS Media Group. His group tracks ad spending in the nation's top 100 media markets.


JUDY WOODRUFF, HOST: With us now, Evan Tracey of TNS Media Intelligence. Let's talk about Iowa. At this point, Evan, how much money have the people who are competing in Iowa spent on television ads?

EVAN TRACEY, TNS MEDIA INTELLIGENCE: We're still seeing -- we're on course for record spending there. It's up 70 percent from four years ago as far as ad spending goes in the major markets. Howard Dean leads the way, spending about $1.8 million so far. And his weekly spending is getting close to 300,000.

Senator Kerry is second with $1.4 million. And he's really ramped up since he announced he wasn't taking public financing, spending about $900,000 since that point. John Edwards continues to spend consistently in the state, close to $1.2 million. And Dick Gephardt is a million dollars total in the market, but still trailing Dean considerably as far as the weekly averages go.

WOODRUFF: How does this translate into what people see on television? Say you're a typical viewer in Des Moines. What are you going to see?

TRACEY: Des Moines is a big media market, the largest in the state with the dichotomy of having urban voters, suburban voters and rural voters. As you break down the day from the morning news all the way through your late night television shows, Howard Dean's leading the way.

The average television viewer in Des Moines is being exposed to somewhere in the neighborhood of about 100 to 125 ads a day. The Dean money advantage is most evident, when you look at it hour by hour in the day, he leads in every spot.

But this is no more prevalent than in the prime time slot, which has your most viewers, highest costs. Dean in one seven-day period, had 40 spots. All the other candidates combined had 12.

WOODRUFF: That much of a difference.

OK, we've been talking about the candidates. Let's talk about the issue groups. They're making themselves known in Iowa. How much are they spending? What are they doing?

TRACEY: We've seen 12 issue groups spend about a million dollars in the course of the caucus so far. Now, Americans for Jobs, Healthcare and Progressive Values is leading the way, spending about 300,000 of that. That's aimed squarely at Howard Dean.

WOODRUFF: Against Howard Dean?

TRACEY: Yes, at Howard Dean, exactly. Against him. And they are currently now off the air as of the 19th in compliance with the new Campaign Finance Laws.

WOODRUFF: Can we better describe who they are, what they represent?

TRACEY: Well, they're a group that right now has made you know, a target of Howard Dean, trying to obviously affect the Democratic caucus right now.

WOODRUFF: Republicans?

TRACEY: It's a Democratic group. It's believed that it's targeted Howard Dean, really, with the idea of trying to, you know, get a Democratic candidate in there that can compete.

WOODRUFF: Some unions are involved in that?

TRACEY: Seems to be. We're not for sure.

WOODRUFF: Glad to clarify that.

All right, finally, with the decision by the Supreme Court now on campaign finance reform saying soft money is largely outlawed, are we going to see issue ads completely disappear? You say they've stopped as of the 19th, but what do you see going forward?

TRACEY: Interestingly, we seen the ads that name candidates by name go off the air as of the 19th. A few groups have stayed on that are trying to drive issues and take advantage of the caucus and the media attention.

But they're basically parsing their words very specifically to stay away from talking about specific candidates. And I think we'll see more of that leading up to the caucus.

This is the first proving ground for the post-campaign finance reform laws and to see what groups are going to try to remain on the air, to remain relevant from a TV advertising sense as you get up inside these 30-day blackout windows.

WOODRUFF: And stay inside the legal fence of what they can and can't do?

TRACEY: Exactly.

WOODRUFF: OK. Evan Tracey, TNS Media Intelligence, always great to talk to you.

TRACEY: Great to be here, thanks.


FRANKEN: All well and good. When it comes to politics, there's no real substitute for shoe leather, or whatever walking shoes are made of these days. Coming up, the cause that's motivating a few marathon walkers.


FRANKEN: You've heard of people voting with their feet, haven't you? Presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich has inspired some to hit the campaign trail for him. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) has caught up with some of them.


JONATHAN MEIER, KUCINICH STEPS FOR PEACE: I'm Jonathan Meier, walking from Portland, Maine to San Francisco, California. I'm on a peace walk.

Dennis Kucinich is running for president, he's one who represents change. And so we're out here walking to raise awareness for his campaign. Today is a special day because I'm walking into my hometown. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This flag represents universal values, liberty, justice, and that's why I carry it. I'm Tom Schmidtz (ph).

TAK SCHMIDTZ, KUCINICH STEPS FOR PEACE: My name is Tak Schmitz. I'm 14 years old.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're home schooling him so every day he does reading and writing. I think he's getting the education of his lifetime.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What if he drops out of the race? Do you stop walking?

SCHMIDTZ: Yes, but I know he's not.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Have you met him?

SCHMIDTZ: Yes, I met him.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What did you think?

SCHMIDTZ: He is -- he's so great. He's putting his neck out there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The campaign sent out an e-mail that said all right, write in your suggestions, the discussion board for campaign ideas, and you can win a free t-shirt so it's like, all right.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're doing this for a t-shirt?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No! Although I did get a t-shirt.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My name is Clara Wilson (ph). This walk is about spreading the joy. I just like to dance. I do a lot of spinning like this.

MEIER: We started on October 30 in central park, New York City. And we're coming into Ames, Iowa and it seems like we just started yesterday. It feels incredible. It's the most intensely wonderful experience of my life. Every day is filled with this amazing experience of just walking and meeting people that are taking care of us.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you have any money?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not much. I carry a little bit, only what people give us.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How much is a little bit?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Probably $20 at the most, I think.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So you got some long underwear and 20 bucks?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And some water. Yes. And some peanut butter for emergencies.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I mean, do you ever feel like this is a little crazy?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not really. What I feel like -- sometimes I feel like the whole word is crazy.

Poverty is a form of violence. Joblessness is a form of violence. Lack of health care is a form of violence.

I'm not walking for Dennis because I like him as a person or -- even though I do. But he represents peace in every way and he has a deeper understanding of our society and he to me is the ideal leader.




FRANKEN: One other thing. You've probably never heard the name Sasha Johnson. Well, that's because she likes it that way. She is in the control room. She has been operating in the control room and she's trading that now for the campaign trail.

She'll be going out with Candy Crowley. She'll be missed here, but she'll have the time of her life on the campaign trail. You see her there. Mortified that she's being shown on television.

That's it for INSIDE POLITICS. I'm Bob Franken. Time now for "CROSSFIRE."


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