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JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS
Crunch Time in South Carolina; The Bush Budget
Aired January 30, 2004 - 15:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: It may be the fate of a front-runner. A rival tries to use John Kerry's past words against him.
SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He's trying to, you know, change what I said. But let's not have any politics here. Let's keep the truth.
ANNOUNCER: That's the staple of John Edwards' pitch in his native South Carolina. But are voters buying it?
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We can cut the deficit in half over a five-year period.
ANNOUNCER: President Bush and the federal budget. Is his spending plan an asset or a deficit for his reelection campaign?
ANNOUNCER: Now, live from Washington, JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS.
JUDY WOODRUFF, HOST: And thank you for joining us.
We begin with South Carolina, and fresh evidence that the Democratic race still has some excitement left in it. A just-released insider advantage WLTX poll of primary voters shows John Edwards holding his lead in South Carolina with 25 percent, to John Kerry's 18 percent. Wesley Clark is up to 17 points, just a hair behind Kerry. Howard Dean and the rest of the pack are in single digits.
In the lead-up to Tuesday's primaries and caucuses, affirmative action became a flashpoint between the Kerry and the Clark campaigns.
CNN's Kelly Wallace has more from South Carolina on the Kerry campaign.
KELLY WALLACE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): John Kerry spent a second day in South Carolina trying to prove he is not writing off the South.
SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I want to compete in the South. I intend to as I run for president. If I win the nomination, we will be actively campaigning in the South. And there are states that I am convinced we can win.
WALLACE: His first event, a town hall in Columbia, as the decorated Vietnam veteran tries to win the support of some of the state's 415,000 veterans. While Kerry was speaking, Wesley Clark was criticizing him on the issue of affirmative action. The retired general accuses Kerry of not taking responsibility in last night's debate for saying back in 1992, according to Clark, that affirmative action was "inherently limited and divisive."
WESLEY CLARK (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We need leaders who will tell the truth the American people, not fudge their answers.
WALLACE: We caught up with the Senator, who said he never called affirmative action divisive, and accused Clark of playing politics.
KERRY: That's not what I said. I said there are people who believe that. And I said mend it, don't end it. He's trying to change what I said, but you can go read the quote.
I said very clearly I have always voted for it. I've always supported it. I've never, ever condemned it.
I did what Jim Clyburn did and what Bill Clinton did, which is mend it. And Jim Clyburn wouldn't be supporting it if it were otherwise. So let's not have any politics here. Let's keep the truth.
WALLACE (on camera): Kerry was referring to Jim Clyburn, the South Carolina congressman who endorsed him yesterday. And before leaving here for Delaware, the Senator won another major endorsement, the backing of the large and influential union, the Communication Workers of America.
Kelly Wallace, CNN, Columbia, South Carolina.
WOODRUFF: South Carolina front-runner John Edwards also had some explaining to do today when asked about how his current wealth squares with his "I grew up poor" rhetoric on the trail.
CNN's Frank Buckley covering the Edwards camp.
FRANK BUCKLEY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: John Edwards is spending the day here in the state that he considers a must-win, South Carolina, the state in which he was born. He began the day at a Southern staple, at a Shoney's restaurant, appearing with the state representative, Bill Clyburn. He is the cousin of Congressman Jim Clyburn, the most influential African-American politician here in South Carolina. Yesterday, Congressman Clyburn endorsed John Kerry.
Last night in Greenville, South Carolina, Edwards appeared at a candidate's debate. He believes he did well. Edwards then came here to Columbia, South Carolina, for a candidates forum where he emphasized poverty and jobs. This state has lost more than 58,000 manufacturing jobs since 2001, leading the nation per capita in that category. But Edwards was asked, as a wealthy trial attorney, how could he relate?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is it reasonable to think that you can relate to those who are less fortunate, to those who don't have insurance or a roof over their heads?
SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC), PRESIDENTIAL CANIDIDATE: Yes, it is. The answer is, the life that I have lived is the dream that's being shut off for so many Americans every single day.
BUCKLEY: When Edwards was told he was out of time, he insisted on finishing his remarks.
EDWARDS: I grew up the way you grew up.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You need to wrap up.
EDWARDS: I come from the South. You have to let me finish. You asked me the question.
I grew up the way you grew up, I come from the same place. I spent 20 years in courtrooms fighting for you against big corporate America, against big insurance companies. I will never forget where I come from, and you can take that to the bank.
BUCKLEY: Edwards continues on today to Florence and Sumter, before returning here to Columbia, South Carolina, for a benefit concert by the band Hootie & the Blowfish.
Frank Buckley, CNN, Columbia, South Carolina.
WOODRUFF: Also in South Carolina today, Howard Dean again played up his experience as Vermont governor during a candidate forum attended by most of the '04 Democrats. While rivals Edwards and Kerry spent most of the day stumping in South Carolina, Dean then left for campaign stops in Missouri and New Mexico, states that also hold contests on Tuesday.
A New poll shows Dean a distant third in Missouri. John Kerry leads with 46 percent, 31 points ahead of John Edwards.
In Oklahoma, which also holds votes next Tuesday, Kerry has a razor thin lead in a New poll. He got 20 percent to Wesley Clark's 18 percent and John Edwards' 13 percent.
Oklahoma was on Clark's campaign travel schedule today, along with New Mexico and Arizona. Clark made a dash from South Carolina to Tulsa for good reason. He sees Oklahoma as one of his best chances for a win on February 3.
Joe Lieberman campaigned today in Delaware, a state where the Connecticut Senator had high hopes. But a New Delaware poll shows Lieberman in second place with 16 percent, behind front-runner John Kerry with 27 percent.
And now we turn to the Bush campaign. The president is trying today to fend off an election-year rebellion from fiscal conservatives within his own party as he prepares to send his 2005 budget to Congress next week.
Let's bring in our White House correspondent, Dana Bash.
DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Judy. And the White House really spent most of the day today trying to make sure that what they had thought was their top political accomplishment on the domestic side, getting that prescription drug benefit from Medicare, to make sure that that doesn't turn sour. And as you mentioned, the big issue is the cost.
And the White House is estimating in the budget that they put out next week it's going to be a third higher than they originally thought. Let's take a look at the numbers quickly.
The CBO, the Congressional Budget Office, has said and still does say that they think it will be $400 billion over the next 10 years. Now, the White House will estimate that it's going to be $540 billion, probably about $535 billion over 10 years. That's certainly a lot more.
And the big issue for the president, as you mentioned, is those conservative Republicans in his own party, because this was a very tight vote in Congress. It was held open on the House floor for about three hours, primarily because many conservative Republicans didn't want to vote for what they called a big New government entitlement. But many were convinced that the cost would not go above $400 billion, which is why we are told many of them are quite angry about that.
And the big issue also for them is the very large budget deficit that we're seeing right now, estimated record $520 billion deficit. As for the president, he addressed that issue today, and he said the onus is really on Congress to make sure that they keep spending down.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Now it's going to require Congress to be wise with the taxpayers' money. The Medicare reform we did is a good reform. It fulfills a long-standing promise to our seniors. Congress is now going to have to work with us to make sure that we set priorities and are fiscally wise with the taxpayers' money.
(END VIDEO CLIP) BASH: But as you can imagine, Judy, it's not just Republicans who are angry with the White House. Democrats, of course, are too. Democrats like Senator Ted Kennedy, who has been saying that this is proof that what they needed in this law was more of a curve on the high cost of medicine -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: All right. Dana, we had some comments today from the head of President Bush's reelection campaign, and also some interest in the fact that the president, for the second week in a row, is going to be visiting the state where the Democrats have been competing in a primary. Tell us about all that.
BASH: That's interesting. It's true. Let's start with the campaign.
First of all, you know, Ed Gillespie, the RNC chairman, has really been the designated hitter to get at those Democratic candidates over the past few weeks. But today, as you mentioned, the Bush campaign really had its first chance up at bat, at least in a national forum. And that was with the campaign chairman, Ken Mehlman.
He gave a fiery speech at the RNC winter meeting earlier today, where he hit just about every Democratic candidate in the field. But he paid particular attention to the front-runner, John Kerry. Also, was very specific on his record on defense issues.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KEN MEHLMAN, BUSH CAMPAIGN MANAGER: We salute Senator Kerry's honorable and heroic service in Vietnam. But we question his judgment in consistently voting to cut defense and intelligence funding critical to our national security.
Even after the first World Trade Center bombing, Senator Kerry voted to cut intelligence spending by $1.5 billion for five years prior to 2001. In 1996, he voted to slash defense spending by $6.5 billion. Both bills were so reckless and so out there that neither had any co-sponsors willing to endorse his plans.
BASH: Now, Mehlman was very careful to say that they don't know who their opponent will be in the end. But he did make clear in going through some of the records, going through some of the issues, that he thinks that no matter who it is the president is very different from them on the issues and will be able to run against them on things like education, on the Patriot Act and on terrorism.
But Judy, lastly, as you mentioned, this week, of course, the president was in New Hampshire just two days after the Democratic Primary. He's going to do the same thing next week. The president will, as you said, head to South Carolina just two days after the Democrats blow out there. He's going to be once again going there to make sure that his voice is heard after they will be hearing -- the people of South Carolina will be hearing many times people attacking him throughout the next week -- Judy. WOODRUFF: If we didn't know better we'd think the Bush campaign had the Democrats on their mind.
BASH: You think?
WOODRUFF: All right. Dana at the White House, thanks very much.
Well, it's time to follow the money in today's edition of our "Campaign News Daily." The Bush-Cheney reelection campaign started this year with more than $99 million in the bank. In its report to the Federal Election Commission, Bush-Cheney '04 says that it raised $132.7 million and spent $33.6 million, leaving the $99.1 million in cash on hand.
So where did the money go? The biggest single expense, almost $10 million, was for printing and postage. In other words, for fund- raising. Another $3.5 million went for media services, so to speak.
We may see fewer campaign commercials separately now in which a candidate appears together with President Bush or with any future president. To the displeasure of both political parties, the Federal Election Commission has ruled that such ads will be considered a financial contribution to Bush by the candidate being endorsed. The Bush campaign would have to reimburse the candidate to make the ads legal under the new campaign finance law.
Back now to the Democrats. How long did they keep the gloves on during last night's debate? Up next, the highlights and the pot shots from the forum in South Carolina.
Also ahead, northern exposure. We'll handicap Tuesday's contest in North Dakota and one of that state's top Democrats.
And John Kerry and the Vietnam experience. Does playing to the veterans' vote work?
This is INSIDE POLITICS, the place for campaign news.
WOODRUFF: All seven Democratic presidential contenders squared off last night in Greenville, South Carolina. And all of them punched away at a common target, President Bush. But the temptation to revert back to the days of Iowa was too great for at least one of them.
HOWARD DEAN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Just to make this a little less mellow...
WOODRUFF (voice-over): Howard Dean on the ropes, providing a little sparkage in an otherwise genteel debate, accusing his rivals of stealing his message.
DEAN: They all take about change, they all talk about bringing people into the party. The truth is, I stood up for that message when nobody else would.
WOODRUFF: And lashing out at the man who's been in his cross- hairs for months.
DEAN: Nineteen years in the Senate, Senator Kerry sponsored eleven bills that had anything to do with healthcare, and not one of them passed. If you want a president who's going to get results, I suggest that you look at somebody who did get results in my state.
KERRY: One of the things that you need to know as a president is how things work in Congress if you want to get things done. And one of the things that happens in Congress is, you can, in fact, write a bill, but if you're smart about it, you can get your bill passed on someone else's bill who doesn't carry your name.
WOODRUFF: The other candidates kept it mostly cordial, many insisting they would hit their stride in the February contest.
CLARK: And we will win in these states. We're carrying on in this election because we are going to change America.
WOODRUFF: And John Edwards repeated his call that the Democratic Party would be best served by nominating a son of the South.
EDWARDS: Too many times the Democrats ignore the South. We can't do that, because historically we've never elected a Democrat president without winning at least five Southern states.
WOODRUFF: Well, joining me now for his take on the presidential race, and particularly the Democratic caucuses coming up in North Dakota next Tuesday, Senator Byron Dorgan. He is chairman of the Senate Democratic Policy Committee.
Senator, North Dakota the smallest pool of delegates. I guess it's just 14. But it's still an important contest for these candidates. How would you size up the race right now in your state?
SEN. BYRON DORGAN (D), NORTH DAKOTA: Well, first of all, this is the first time we've done this. So we're excited by it. But there was a poll that was released today in North Dakota that shows that John Kerry leads Clark, then Edwards, but the largest group of Democrats in North Dakota are the undecided. Over 40 percent undecided.
WOODRUFF: We know that those polls, though, can be often unreliable in a state when you're looking at caucuses. We certainly saw that to some extent in Iowa. What is your sense just from talking to people about where things stand?
DORGAN: I just don't know. You know, I think people are very interested in this race. I'm excited by the fact that we've got some great candidates out there. You know, because it's the first time we've done this, it's actually kind of a caucus, but it's also a secret vote within the caucus. So it's handled a little differently. But at the moment, John Kerry is ahead based on today's poll. But anything could happen because there are so many undecided.
WOODRUFF: Senator, as you look at this race -- and I know you're paying attention to what's being reported on these other states -- can John Kerry be stopped on his way to the nomination, do you think?
DORGAN: Oh, I don't think the nomination is sewed up. John Kerry has certainly had a couple of very, very good weeks. John Edwards has had a couple of good weeks. And a lot can happen in other states at this point.
Clark appears to have an opportunity in some states. So you know, look, I think this energy and excitement is good for the Democratic Party and good for the country. I still think it's wide open, although if you were going to bet everything you had, you'd probably have to put your bet at the moment on Kerry. But I wouldn't be too sure of that.
WOODRUFF: Former Vermont governor, Howard Dean, is saying that he really does not need to win any of these contests on February 3, saying that he can wait until the next round and the days after that. Do you agree with that? That, one, that you can still hang in there if you're not winning?
DORGAN: Well, you know, he's saying that because he hasn't won at this point. But he has to win a primary or two. He's got to show some progress by demonstrating that the people who are coming out and casting ballots actually want him to be the standard there. But he's got to show that progress or I think his campaign won't go on.
WOODRUFF: Senator, I think you heard that little exchange in the South Carolina debate last night between Howard Dean and John Kerry, where Dean said, you know, there were all these pieces of legislation you sponsored, Senator, none of them passed. And then your colleague, John Kerry, came back and said no, that's not the way it works, you can work on things behind the scenes.
What's the case there? I mean, does one have to get a name on a piece of legislation in order to demonstrate real leadership?
DORGAN: No. Much of what passes in the Congress is passed as an amendment. You offer a bill as an amendment. And it doesn't then have your name on it. But what you proposed still becomes law.
But I heard that exchange. You know, it is interesting that you can't really come to the presidency and brag about not knowing how Congress works or not knowing how Washington works. Because you're not going to get much done.
We've seen some examples of that in the past. You really do need to come to this town. We have three parts to our government. You need to work with them.
WOODRUFF: On the other hand, it's governors who seem to be getting elected in the last elections because they have executive experience.
DORGAN: That's true. I mean, it is the case that governors run their executive branch in the state governments, and they've certainly had a pretty good run in recent elections. We'll see if that stands.
WOODRUFF: Senator Byron Dorgan, Democrat of North Dakota. His state holding caucuses next Tuesday. One of the big seven states we'll be watching on Tuesday night.
DORGAN: Thanks, Judy.
WOODRUFF: Senator, thanks a lot. Great to see you. We appreciate it.
Well, nearly nine million Americans share a common and sometimes painful bond. Coming up, Vietnam veterans move front and center in the Democratic presidential campaign. Bruce Morton looks at their emerging political importance.
WOODRUFF: The first two presidents from the baby boom generation, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, never served in Vietnam. But this year, Vietnam veterans may be emerging as a political force. And one of them could be the Democratic Party's presidential nominee.
Bruce Morton has some thoughts on the political band of brothers.
BRUCE MORTON, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The candidate himself said it in his New Hampshire victory speech.
KERRY: I depended on the same band of brothers that I depended on some 30 years ago. We're a little older and a little grayer. But I'll tell you this, we still know how to fight for our country.
MORTON: They are, of course, the veterans of Vietnam. Veterans haven't been a big force in past campaigns. Bob Dole's for instance. But the Vietnam vets may feel bound together more strongly.
They fought in a long, unpopular war. The war which under the rules imposed upon them they could not win. They know through hard personal experience how badly government can mess up, a good thing for voters and candidates to know.
They know combat and pain and loss. Even reporters who covered the war, as I did, had people they had come to like and respect get killed. Except that wasn't the word they used.
The word the troops used was wasted. "Where is so and so?" "Got wasted." Which says something about how they viewed that war.
Draftees mostly, though some like Kerry and Max Cleland volunteered. They are, as Kerry said, older and grayer now. Not scorned, as some were at first by the society they thought for. The Vietnam Memorial is a national shrine.
And it may be too early to know how influential they'll be in Kerry's campaign, but they have already done one thing. If the Republicans had any hope of casting Kerry as some Michael Dukakis- style (UNINTELLIGIBLE) liberal, that's over. The band of brothers stands in its way.
In the Dukakis election, it was George Herbert Walker Bush who fought, who had been a hero. This time it's the Democrat. And Kerry not only fought the war, he came home with some of his brothers and protested against it, once he was sure it was wrong. Knowing again that government doesn't always know best is a good quality in candidates and voters.
Anyway, whatever affect they have on his campaign, on him they're there. You couldn't ask for better company.
Bruce Morton, CNN, Washington.
WOODRUFF: And as you heard Bruce say, he did cover that war.
Well, there's been plenty of talk about Howard Dean's campaign shake-up. Coming up, the new man at the top tries -- or rather takes -- to the Internet to introduce himself to the true believers.
You won't find the "Political Play of the Week" out on the campaign trail, but you can bet the Democratic candidates will be more than happy to talk about it.
Also, a candidate bristles after some cosmetic questions.
DEAN: I think it's a 50-state campaign...
ANNOUNCER: Will saying it make it so? Howard Dean recalls his greatest hits in the struggle to revive his campaign.
Political commerce. Cabinet Secretary Don Evans responds to attacks on the Bush budget from fellow Republicans.
KERRY: I love New Hampshire.
ANNOUNCER: He (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the competition in New Hampshire. But find out who beat John Kerry to score the "Political Play of the Week."
ANNOUNCER: Now, live from Washington, JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS.
WOODRUFF: Welcome back.
This hour, White House hopeful Howard Dean is looking for some much needed momentum in Missouri. He is talking about education, even as he tries to heed some of the political lessons that he learned the hard way in Iowa and New Hampshire.
With just four days before the next round of Democratic primaries and caucuses, Dean is looking for all the support that he can get. He began this day in South Carolina, and our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley, was there.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Howard Dean is no longer the frontrunner, no longer an asterisk. His campaign is caught somewhere in between, so there are moments from both eras of the Dean campaign. Early Friday morning Dean got together with five voters in a quiet conversation about their economic woes. He offered both his solutions, and his diagnosis of the problem.
HOWARD DEAN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm hard-pressed to find anything this president has done that's constructive in the three years that he has been a president. We've really suffered. He's out of touch with ordinary Americans. He doesn't really care about ordinary people's lives. He has a nice smile and a nice way about him. But there are a lot of people like you that aren't working.
CROWLEY: Later in an auditorium filled mostly with minority South Carolina voters, Dean was on the big stage. His front-runner self. Both lashing out at Bush and offering his vision of an undivided America.
DEAN: As long as George Bush is president we are going to create a permanent class system. We're going to change that as soon as we possibly can.
CROWLEY: At the moment, the Dean campaign is thinking about calling in reinforcements. There was talk earlier that Al Gore, who endorsed Howard Dean in Iowa, would make a return appearance perhaps in South Carolina, now some consideration is being given to having the former vice president travel with the floundering former front-runner. Candy Crowley, CNN, Columbia, South Carolina.
WOODRUFF: The new man at the helm of Howard Dean's campaign is trying to persuade Dean supporters that he is not the ultimate Washington insider, as some have been calling him. On the Dean camp's web blog, former Al Gore operative Roy Neel tells how he coached his son's Little League team, worked in the private sector as an advocate for phone companies but he says he never lobbied the White House. I'll talk to the man Neel replaced former Dean campaign manager Joe Trippi on INSIDE POLITICS Sunday at 10:00 a.m. Eastern.
John Kerry held a conference call just a short while ago to announce the endorsement of an influential African-American in Florida, Congresswoman Kendrick Meek. Kerry said he is, quote, "perfectly prepared for whatever attacks might come his way." Kerry today denied his 1992 remarks about affirmative action saying that he was taking the same mend-it, don't end it approach as then-president Clinton.
Rival Wesley Clark accused Kerry of calling affirmative action limited and divisive. He charged that Kerry failed to take responsibility now for what he said back then.
Meantime, John Edwards is again setting his sights on President Bush. Edwards said, quote, "a president has to be able to walk and chew chewing gum at the same time."
On Capitol Hill the drive toward an independent investigation of intelligence about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction is picking up steam. Against that backdrop, President Bush said today that he, too, wants answers.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want the American people to know that I, too, want to know the facts. I want to be able to compare what the Iraqi survey group has found with what we thought prior to going into Iraq.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOODRUFF: The weapons of mass destruction controversy is not exactly what Mr. Bush was looking for in an election year. Which brings us to our senior political analyst Bill Schneider -- Bill.
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Judy, the Democrats got a gift this week from someone who may not have intended to give them one. Now they say don't look a gift horse in the mouth or a political play of the week, either.
BUSH: If we know Saddam Hussein has dangerous weapons today, and we do, does it make sense for the world to wait to confront him as he grows even stronger?
SCHNEIDER: But did we know that?
DAVID KAY, FMR. CHIEF WEAPONS INSPECTOR: It is highly unlikely that there were large stockpiles of deployed militarized chemical and biological weapons there.
SCHNEIDER: So says David Kay, the former chief weapons inspector. The White House has been backing off its original claim that Saddam actually had dangerous weapons. Now it's simply that he wanted them.
BUSH: Had we failed to act, the dictator's weapons of mass destruction programs would continue to this day.
SCHNEIDER: Kay says the problem was a massive intelligence failure, not political interference.
KAY: Let me take one of the explanations most commonly given. Analysts were pressured to reach conclusions that would fit the political agenda of one or another administration. I deeply think that is a wrong explanation.
SCHNEIDER: But Democrats smelled blood.
SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: What has happened was more than a failure of intelligence. It was the result of the manipulation of the intelligence. To justify a decision to go to war.
SCHNEIDER: Which happens to be exactly the charge that had been leveled at British Prime Minister Tony Blair. But this week, an official investigation cleared Blair of any wrongdoing.
TONY BLAIR, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: The allegation that I or anyone else lied to this House, or deliberately misled the country by falsifying intelligence on weapons of mass destruction is itself the real lie.
SCHNEIDER: Democrats are now calling for an investigation in the U.S.
SEN. CARL LEVIN (D), MICHIGAN: We've got to get to the bottom of it with a comprehensive investigation. Not just with a partial investigation of the CIA's failures. And they were many. But also of the administration's exaggerations.
SCHNEIDER: Inspector Kay may not have found any military weapons, but he sure came up with a political bombshell. The political play of the week.
SCHNEIDER: Kay defends going to war with Iraq. But you know, that's no longer the issue. The issue is whether or not the White House misrepresented the evidence -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: And we'll see how much that continues to be an issue out on the trail. Bill, thanks very much.
Well, consumers aren't the only ones with a headache over the ever-increasing price of prescription drugs. Coming up I'll ask the Bush administration's Secretary of Commerce about the ballooning price tag for Medicare's latest benefit.
Plus, Bob Novak has word of a potential problem on the right for President Bush.
And John Kerry faces plenty of questions himself these days. Some are about his face. Coming up. Does he or doesn't he?
WOODRUFF: And now an answer to what has been called the Botox question. Senator John Kerry says reports that he has been using Botox to look younger are absolutely untrue. A "New York Post" article yesterday said that the rumors were given credence because Kerry's wife Teresa Heinz Kerry is an advocate of Botox injections based on a previous interview. Well Kerry denied the reports in a radio interview and his press secretary calls them ridiculous. INSIDE POLITICS will be right back.
WOODRUFF: The Commerce Department today put growth in the fourth quarter of last year at 4 percent. That's about half the growth rate seen in the previous quarter but still evidence that the recovery was on solid ground heading into the new year. But there is a dramatic new increase in the cost of the recently enacted Medicare overhaul to the tune of $535 billion over the next decade.
A little while ago I discussed these issues with Commerce Secretary Don Evans and started by asking, with the administration celebrating the growth rate, what do you say to those Americans still looking for jobs?
DON EVANS, COMMERCE SECRETARY: What I say to them is the economy is strong and getting stronger. Unemployment is coming down. It peaked at 6.3 percent, it's now at 5.7 percent.
But I really say to them that, look, as long as there's one person in America that wants a job, that does not have a job, we've got work to do. And so we know we've got work to do. I say it's important that we pass the president's six-point growth plan. We're going to keep this economy on the right track. There are other good indicates like unemployment claims -- the four-week average of unemployment claims is the lowest it's been in three years.
So there are lots of good signs as to the strengthening of this economy. But that's not good enough, Judy. It's just not good enough. If there are workers out there that are looking for a job that don't have a job we've got work to do. And we know that.
WOODRUFF: Mr. Secretary, I also want to ask you about the word coming from the White House today that the price tag for the Medicare drug bill is going to about a third again as high as predicted by the administration. Instead of $400 billion it's going to be something like $535 billion.
What do you say to those who question the administration's credibility since this number is coming out so soon after the other one?
EVANS: Well, Judy, first of all, we didn't know this number until the last couple of weeks. We weren't able to calculate the number until we knew what was in the bill.
Secondly, I would say to you the number's not going to be right at the end of the day. It's a ten-year projection and there's no way to really forecast accurately over a ten-year period. So it's important that you stay focused on policy, good policy. And what the president has stayed focused on is delivering modern health care to the seniors of this country.
What he has told the seniors is that we're going to provide prescription drug coverage for you. What he's told seniors is we're going to reform the Medicare system so we're delivering to you effective, efficient, health care. We're going to empower individuals. We're going to empower seniors to make more choices. And so, the president stays focused on policy.
Also asking one other policy question, which is very important. If the numbers are, in fact higher, will we still be able to meet our goal of cutting the budget deficit in half within the next five years?
And the answer to that question is yes. and so the president knows we're continuing to move toward good policy. He also knows this means we can continue to drive toward our objective of cutting the budget deficit in half in five years.
WOODRUFF: All right, and I want to ask you about that deficit. But first I want to quote a Republican member of Congress, Congressman Matt Collins of Georgia who were quoted as saying, "All of us were afraid it was going to be greater than the estimate. It's unfortunate that Congress was put in the position of dealing with a bill that was going to be very expensive, going to be an entitlement, was going to make it into law."
Other members of Congress who are Republicans are saying they feel they were browbeaten into voting for this.
EVANS: Well, Judy, as I say, it's good policy. The president has told the seniors of this country, as well as all Americans, that we need to reform health care in this country. A part of it is reforming the Medicare system.
And that's precisely what this policy is doing. This policy that has now been signed into law means that Americans, including seniors, are going to be empowered more. And that means market forces will begin to work more. That means that costs will come down over the long term.
WOODRUFF: You mention the deficit. And I want to quote former House Majority Leader Dick Armey who's quoted in "The Wall Street Journal" today as saying, "I'm upset about the deficit, I'm upset about spending." he said, "There is no way I can pin that on the Democrats. Republicans own the town now."
What do you say to Dick Armey?
EVANS: Well, Judy, listen. What I say to him is Dick knows full well that when we showed up in this town some three years ago we had an economic slowdown. We had a recession. We were hit by 9/11. We've got a war against terrorism under way.
I mean there are periods of time in our history that it's understandable why we would have a deficit. This happens to be one of those periods. But it's also understandable that others are saying, look, we need to start driving these deficit numbers down. And that's exactly what the president is saying.
But you don't do it by moving away from the president's policies. He has this country on the right track.
WOODRUFF: Commerce Secretary Don Evans. I talked to him just a short time ago.
And picking up on that last point about the deficit, should the president, could the president develop the label the big spender? Well Bob Novak says that has some conservatives worried. He joins us with that and more, coming up next.
WOODRUFF: Bob Novak joins us now from the "CROSSFIRE" set at George Washington University, with some "Inside Buzz."
All right, Bob, picking up on what I was just talking to Commerce Secretary Don Evans about. You're hearing about some discomfort among conservatives with the president?
ROBERT NOVAK, CO-HOST, "CROSSFIRE": That's putting it mildly. They were just furious when word came out that the Medicare reform will cost one-third more than the president led them to believe that it would. That's a credibility problem. They're furious.
Now there was a Republican retreat of House members in Philadelphia today. And the budget director Joshua Bolton said to them that the rise in discretionary spending will be only one half of one percent in the budget.
But get this, Judy, he told them if they want to cut it more, go ahead. Please cut it. I don't think I've heard ever that before.
WOODRUFF: All right, Bob, we know you not only talked to Republicans, you talked to Democrats, as well. What are you hearing about John Kerry and the primaries to come?
NOVAK: I've been talking to some people in the other camps and they say now privately that they believe it is possible for Senator Kerry to sweep all seven states in the February -- next Tuesday's February 3 primaries. He still got tough races in Oklahoma and South Carolina, but it is possible.
I reported here last week, Judy, if you remember, that Governor Dean was out of -- was getting out of money. That's been confirmed. You see, you can never have enough money, the way the system is. What you need is momentum. And Kerry has the momentum. The other candidates don't.
WOODRUFF: Dean did have the money, but apparently no longer. Bob, speaking of John Kerry. New York state obviously one of the most populous states. They've got a primary coming up on March 2. But what about Kerry's position in New York?
NOVAK: I think this is hilarious. As you know, they still elect delegates by Congressional district. And Kerry did not even enter candidates in eight of the 29 congressional districts. He has disputed filing of delegates in four of them.
So that means 12 out of 29 he wouldn't even have delegates. If this were a close race for delegates, it would be a lot of trouble in a big state like New York for Kerry. But, it doesn't look like it's going to be that close.
WOODRUFF: And, Bob, finally in next door neighboring New Jersey, what's this about a Democrat may challenge the Democratic governor?
NOVAK: Yes, this is fascinating. Democratic sources in New Jersey tell me that Senator Jon Corzine is thinking about running against a Democratic Senator (sic) James McGreevey in the primary election next year. That's up in 2005.
McGreevey has a popularity rating of 34 percent. The joke around the state house in Trenton was that when McGreevey endorsed Dean, that he brought Dean down to his level in the state. As you know, Corzine was more on the what was happening, endorsed Senator Kerry just before Kerry won in New Hampshire.
So that would be an interesting thing if Corzine runs for governor. Very influential senator in Washington now.
WOODRUFF: Oh, those politics can get mean, can't they?
NOVAK: They sure can.
WOODRUFF: All right. Bob Novak. And we'll be watching you on "CROSSFIRE" at 4:30.
NOVAK: Thank you.
WOODRUFF: You could say they've just begun to fight. Coming up, the '04 Dems pull up stakes in New Hampshire and take their show to Dixie and the West. A look at this week's victories, defeats, and shake-ups.
WOODRUFF: You could say Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean racking up the frequent flyer miles today. These are live pictures coming in from St. Louis, Missouri where former Vermont Governor Dean is speaking at a town education event in St. Louis at the Lee Auditorium there.
He flew in to St. Louis from Columbia, South Carolina where he was last night and this morning. After Missouri, the governor will fly on to Albuquerque, New Mexico. And at the end of the day, he will land in Phoenix, Arizona, spend the night there, and be in Phoenix for an event tomorrow.
All of that aiming toward the February 2 primaries -- February 3 primaries next Tuesday.
Well from the Super Bowl to the capital it seems the New England Patriots' quarterback Tom Brady is all over the place. That is him earlier this month as President Bush's guest at the State of the Union Address. He says his teammates now call him "Little Bush," although some say perhaps "Arnold" would be more appropriate. Athletic, from California, and a nontraditional route to politics. Don't be so quick to rule it out.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TOM BRADY, NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS: Political aspirations? I enjoyed it in college. You know, I enjoyed the politics in college.
WOODRUFF: Some, though, aren't so sure about Mr. Brady ending up in politics.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIE MCGINEST, NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS: Never. I would never vote for Brady.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOODRUFF: But that's a teammate, so we know he's not serious. Tom Brady is only saying the only thing on his mind right now is Sunday night. As it should be.
Well what a week it's been. John Kerry's big win in New Hampshire, Dean's loss, and then it's on the road to South Carolina and points beyond for the Democratic presidential hopefuls. Let's take a look back.
DEAN: Thank you for the applause. It makes me so happy I could just scream.
KERRY: Bring it on!
EDWARDS: Early on there's a lot of window shopping going on. I'm doing everything I can possibly do to close it.
CLARK: I'm an outsider. I'm not part of the problem in Washington.
KERRY: I love New Hampshire. I love Iowa, too.
DEAN: We really are going to win this nomination, aren't we?
EDWARDS: This momentum is extraordinary. LIEBERMAN: The people of New Hampshire put me in the ring, and that's where we're going to stay.
JON STEWART, HOST, "THE DAILY SHOW": When did our elections become the Special Olympics? You're not all winners.
JAY LENO, HOST, "THE TONIGHT SHOW": Already it looks like Bush and Kerry started going after each other. President Bush there. It gets a little vicious. Just looks -- just a little nasty. It got a little nasty.
KERRY: I thought for a white guy I showed some rhythm.
BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I still think we got a good field. And by the way, you may know what's going to happen, but I don't.
WOODRUFF: How did Jay Leno get that snowball fight? We didn't have those pictures.
Well that's it for another exciting wee of INSIDE POLITICS and out on the primary campaign trail.
Coming up on "INSIDE POLITICS SUNDAY" among my guests will be Joe Trippi, who left the Dean campaign just two days ago as its general manager. We'll be talking to Joe Trippi and others.
We'll be in Charleston, South Carolina starting on Sunday and Monday. And then covering all seven of those primaries coming up on Tuesday.
That's it for today's INSIDE POLITICS. Thanks for joining us. Have a great weekend. "CROSSFIRE" starts right now.
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