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JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS

Kerry Criticizes Bush's War on Terror; Democratic Debate a Draw; 9/11 Commission Gets Extension; Senate Races Heating Up

Aired February 27, 2004 - 15:30   ET

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

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
ANNOUNCER: John Kerry talks national security, in hopes of sharpening his differences with John Edwards, and with President Bush.

SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think it was a good, lively exchange.

ANNOUNCER: But did Edwards get the lift he needed from the California debate? We'll consider who walked away from the table a winner.

Eyes on the prize. You'll have to wait until Sunday night to find out who grabs an Oscar. But we're just minutes away from awarding the "Political Play of the Week."

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

(END VIDEOTAPE)

JUDY WOODRUFF, HOST: Thank you for joining us.

John Kerry today delivered a blistering attack on President Bush's handling of the war on terror, accusing him and his, quote, "armchair hawks" of ultimately doing too little and often too late.

Our senior political correspondent Candy Crowley covered Kerry's speech in California -- Candy.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Judy.

As you know, all the polls show that the basis of the president's popularity comes in the area of national security, which is why John Kerry is trying his best to shatter that base.

He did so today in a speech at UCLA, where he talked solely about national security, accusing George Bush not of doing too much, but of doing too little.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Where he's acted, his doctrine of unilateral preemption has driven away our allies and cost us the support and critical cooperation of other nations. Iraq is in disarray, with American troops still bogged down in a deadly guerrilla war, with no exit in sight. In Afghanistan, the area outside of Kabul is sliding back into the hands of a resurgent Taliban and emboldened warlords.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: So what would Kerry do, instead? The answer appears to be "better than George Bush."

Kerry's proposals: strengthening the military, doing a better job of sharing intelligence within the U.S., and coordinating that intelligence of FBI, CIA, and doing better with our allies.

Obviously, before Dennis Hastert made his decision to go ahead and allow the 9/11 commission the time that it wants to complete its case, Kerry also used some very Nixonian-type language to accuse President Bush of stalling that 9/11 commission.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KERRY: Well, I believe it is America's interest to know the truth about 9/11.

Mr. President, stop stonewalling the commission, and stop hiding behind excuses. Pick up the phone, call your friend Denny Hastert, and tell him to let the commission finish its job so we can make America safer.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: Interestingly, Judy this was a policy speech interrupted just twice by applause, and one of those applause lines was what you just heard.

Indeed, obviously John Kerry did not know what we now know, which is that Dennis Hastert is going to go ahead and give the 9/11 commission -- not stand in the way of the 9/11 commission getting the time it needs.

From here up north for some more California campaigning, and then John Kerry will spend most of the weekend in New York. California and New York obviously the two biggest delegate prizes in Super Tuesday -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Candy, I notice that Senator Kerry is saying that the United Nations should take charge of working out a political solution for Iraq coming up.

Is that something that Senator Kerry thinks is going to distinguish him from the president? We know this is something the administration's looked at.

CROWLEY: Well, it has looked at it. Yes, I guess so. But the problem is, as you know, that the U.N. -- the Bush administration has said that the U.N., you know, won't take over that role. So there have been a couple of the candidates out here, Judy, that have said that the U.N., in order to take this out of the realm of the U.S. fighting within Iraq, it has to be the U.N., sort of a multinational thing. And that falls under the umbrella of George Bush didn't reach out to the nations he should have reached out to before he went to war.

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

And Candy referring, of course, to that news we heard just a few minutes ago. And that is House Speaker Dennis Hastert deciding -- changing his mind and deciding after all that the 9/11 commission, the commission investigating intelligence lapses before September 11, that that commission should have extra time to get its work done.

John Kerry in a speech today calling on President Bush to insist that the speaker give way to the commission to go on and have the extra time.

For his part John Edwards scrapped plans for another day of campaigning in California, wrapping up his Golden State swing with a rally after last night's Democratic debate.

Instead, he is spending time today in a potentially greener pasture, Minnesota. This hour, he's due to meet with voters in St. Paul. Last night, Minnesota activists who had supported Howard Dean voted to back Edwards.

We'll have a live report on the Edwards campaign a little later on INSIDE POLITICS.

Edwards did sit side by side with John Kerry in last night's California debate. And by most accounts they did not get in each other's face.

In Los Angeles, CNN's Frank Buckley has been reading the post- debate reviews.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FRANK BUCKLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the burden in this debate was really on John Edwards. But if Edwards had hoped to get on the front page of newspapers today, with an eye-catching headline, it didn't seem to happen.

Just a quick sampling of newspapers across the U.S.

"The New York Times" said "Edwards challenges Kerry over who can win."

"The Los Angeles Times": "Kerry and Edwards pointed and polite in lively USC debate"

"The Atlanta Journal-Constitution": "Kerry, Edwards start to sound like a team." Maybe it was the cozy setting, maybe it was the collegial nature of senators. Whatever the reason, this debate did not turn out to be a knockdown, drag-out brawl.

(voice-over) It was a decidedly civilized clash between the frontrunner, Senator John Kerry, and his biggest challenger, Senator John Edwards.

EDWARDS: He's a good man. He's a good candidate. He'd make a good president.

KERRY: I think John has run a terrific campaign. And he and I are friends.

BUCKLEY: But for Senator Edwards, it was not the breakout moment many political observers believe he needs if he's to surge on Super Tuesday. Edwards pointed out differences with Kerry, but he didn't charge after him.

EDWARDS: Do you believe that change is more likely to be brought about by someone who spent 20 years in Washington? Or by someone who is more of an outsider to this process?

BUCKLEY: Senator Kerry was already aiming at President Bush.

KERRY: He's trying to divide America. He's trying to divide America.

BUCKLEY: Kerry's view on the president's proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.

KERRY: This is a president who always tries to create a cultural war, and seek the lowest common denominator of American politics, because he can't come to America and talk about jobs.

BUCKLEY: Long shots Dennis Kucinich and Al Sharpton also had their say.

REV. AL SHARPTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Let's make a constitutional amendment against presidents that lie. Let's deal with the whole thing.

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH (D-OH), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Because I'm the voice for getting out of Iraq, for universal single-parent health care, for getting out of NAFTA and the WTO.

BUCKLEY: But the attention was on Edwards and Kerry, sitting side by side, like a ticket?

EDWARDS: I think an Edwards-Kerry ticket would be powerful.

KERRY: I want to thank him for the consideration. I appreciate it.

BUCKLEY (on camera): Senator Kerry, for his part, wouldn't commit to putting Senator Edwards on his short list of possible running mates. Kerry claims he doesn't have a list.

Frank Buckley, CNN, Los Angeles.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: You can see the Democratic debate replayed in its entirety tomorrow at 8 a.m. Eastern right here on CNN.

Getting back to that story we told you a moment ago, House Speaker Dennis Hastert changing his position, saying that he will allow the independent commission looking into intelligence lapses leading up to 9/11, to continue its work, to have an extension.

Let's turn quickly to the capitol now to our congressional reporter, Joe Johns, for the latest.

Joe, what happened here?

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Judy, certainly the speaker of the house was under quite a bit of pressure from all sides in this issue, creating a mini drama here at the capital.

He essentially finally, apparently, has decided to agree to an extension for the deadline of the September 11 report. The report of that commission that goes out of existence in late July.

Now, there was a requirement for that report to be issued in May. The speaker has released a letter to the chairman and the vice chairman of the commission saying, in part, that "I am prepared to support legislation that removes the May 27 report deadline and current law, allows the commission to issue its report on July 26."

This would give the commission the additional 60 days they requested to write the report.

Of course the stakes were increased here on Capitol Hill on this issue today, when the senator from Arizona, John McCain, went to the floor and indicated his intention to stop a stopgap spending bill for highways in this country that was going to cause quite a bit of problems down at the Department of Transportation.

So it looks like this is moving toward a final stage. Of course the question is whether the vice chair and chair of the commission will agree to the speaker's terms -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right, Joe Johns. A lot of questions being raised about not just the McCain comments, but also what was behind this in terms of dealing with the White House. Because we know there was pressure from all directions, as you said. All right. Joe, thank you very much.

Moving on now, checking the headlines in our "Campaign News Daily," the political weekly "National Journal" has released its new ratings of House and Senate members. And John Kerry's votes have earned him with the title, Most Liberal Senator 2003. Based on a computer-assisted analysis of Kerry's votes compared with those of other senators, the "Journal" rates Kerry as more liberal on key votes than 97 percent of his colleagues.

John Edwards was fourth at 95 percent, just ahead of Barbara boxer.

Senator Kerry and Edwards may cast their first Senate vote for the year on Super Tuesday. It's likely that both senators will return to Washington to vote on amendments to a gun maker liability bill, including an extension of the assault weapons ban.

Both candidates say they favor the amendment. Votes are expected to be close.

When it comes to fund-raising disclosures, the watchdog group Public Citizen describes the Bush/Cheney team as halfway decent. But it says that John Kerry is doing a half-baked job, and John Edwards is, quote, "failing."

The Bush campaign announces its fund-raisers in advance, and posts names and dollar amounts on its web site. John Edwards, however, refuses to disclose the names of donors. He raised more than $50,000. And John Kerry doesn't reveal how much money is collected at individual events.

By our count John Kerry said the name Bush 17 times in his speech today about the war on terror.

Up next, what would Kerry stand for as commander in chief? Top Democrat and a Republican will join us to consider that question.

Also ahead, gentlemen start your engines, the Bush team revs up its campaign to win over NASCAR fans.

And later, how far would actor George Clooney go to get his dad elected to Congress? Find out right here on INSIDE POLITICS, the place for campaign news.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: We have already reported on Senator John Kerry's speech this afternoon indicting the Bush administration's international policy. We're going to take a further look now at the contrast in foreign policy between Senator Kerry and President Bush.

Joining us from New York, Richard Holbrooke, U.S. representative to the United Nations during the Clinton administration. He's now advising the Kerry campaign. And on Capitol Hill, Republican Senator Jon Kyl.

Ambassador Holbrooke, to you first.

Now that Speaker Hastert has changed his mind and said that that 9/11 commission should have an extension, does this mean the president's off the hook in terms of what Senator Kerry accused him of, stonewalling and not cooperating with the commission?

RICHARD HOLBROOKE, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO U.N.: Well, I'm glad that the speaker has reached the same conclusion as President Bush, and most Americans.

I testified before the 9/11 commission, Judy. They're doing a very good job. They need the time. It is essential not only to find out why 9/11 happened, and whether it should have been prevented. It's my view that it could have been and should have been prevented. But to figure out above all how to avoid it.

And if they need more time they should be given it.

WOODRUFF: Senator Kyl, any doubt in your mind that the commission should have gotten more time?

SEN. JON KYL (R), ARIZONA: Well, that's what the White House wanted. That's what the commission wanted. And so it's probably the appropriate thing just to give them the time they needed to complete their work.

WOODRUFF: But Senator Kerry in his remarks today accusing the president of stonewalling the efforts of the commission.

KYL: Yes, I saw it.

WOODRUFF: Hiding behind excuses, Senator.

KYL: Yes, this is a political time. It was a political speech and he's a political person. And I think one can expect that kind of rhetoric.

WOODRUFF: Ambassador Holbrooke, Senator Kerry today says that President Bush has done too little in the war on terror. What exactly is he accusing the president of?

HOLBROOKE: I think if you look at the speech, Judy, you'll see that he talks about inadequate support for first responders and homeland security. Inadequate armored protection for our troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, a failure to trap bin Laden, Osama bin Laden, initially in the mountains on the Afghan/Pakistan border.

By the way, John Kerry had gone to Afghanistan right after Afghanistan war, and had visited that area. And drawing on his own combat experience he had publicly stated at the time that we had let bin Laden get away.

At the time the administration accused him of playing politics. But, in fact, afterwards, military officials agreed that...

WOODRUFF: Well, Senator...

HOLBROOKE: ... they had let him get loose. And now I think the new offensives show that Senator Kerry was absolutely right on that point.

WOODRUFF: So Senator Kyl, what do you say to that?

KYL: George Bush let him get away? Come on. As I said, this is a very political speech.

And if Senator Kerry really wanted to do something about the situation, rather than talk about it or criticize the president, he might want to support the legislation that would fund the effort: the money in Afghanistan, the money in Iraq.

You mentioned he was critical of the troops not having body armor and so on. You know where that was provided? It was in the $87 billion supplemental appropriation bill, and John Kerry voted against it.

So the very things that he criticizes the president for not adequately funding, or doing, he voted against. I think you have to compare his words in the speech with his actions here on the Senate floor.

WOODRUFF: What about that, Ambassador Holbrooke?

HOLBROOKE: Well, in regard to Afghanistan, he didn't -- I'm not -- I don't think he accused President Bush personally of letting bin Laden get away. In fact, all Americans agree with President Bush that we have to capture him.

But the fact is that the effort in the -- right after the war to get bin Laden was inadequate, and when Senator Kerry first stated that he was then accused of playing politics.

I agree with you, Senator Kyl, that we're in a very political season. You and I have been allies on several issues. In fact we were just in the Baltics together promoting freedom in Belarus, and I'm proud we were part of that team.

WOODRUFF: Senator...

HOLBROOKE: But on this issue, I respectfully disagree. I think Senator Kerry is a very aggressive pursuer of our national security in Afghanistan...

WOODRUFF: Senator...

HOLBROOKE: ... and Iraq and at home.

WOODRUFF: Senator Kyl, I want to jump in here and ask you about something else that Senator Kerry said.

He said our safety at home may some day be in danger as Iraq becomes a training ground for the next generation of terrorists. In effect, he's saying that Iraq is more dangerous, may be more dangerous now than it was.

KYL: Well, so what do you do about it?

He says we should have stronger intelligence and stronger law enforcement. And yet he says he's against the Patriot Act which our law enforcement says is one of the best things that we can do to catch these terrorists.

He has personally sponsored legislation to cut back on intelligence spending. He's voted on more than 38 times against the kinds of weapon programs that we need in places like Iraq and in Afghanistan, to fight the war over there.

WOODRUFF: But specifically what about Iraq being more dangerous now?

KYL: That's what I'm saying. He -- The question is not words, it's actions.

This president supports taking the kind of action that's necessary to defeat all of the people over there who are causing the problems. And it requires, as Senator Kerry said, a combination of good intelligence, good law enforcement, and good military.

And all I'm saying is that Senator Kerry has had his chance to support all of those in the past. And he's not only refused to support them, but he has led the effort to deny some of that funding.

WOODRUFF: All right.

KYL: So you have to look at the actions as well as the words.

HOLBROOKE: Judy, may I just comment very, very quickly?

WOODRUFF: Two words. We're out of time.

HOLBROOKE: Senator -- Senator Kerry did support the president's authority. He feels it wasn't carried out correctly.

Every single benchmark, every single day for the so-called post- conflict phase in Iraq has been missed. And the truth is that we are now in Iraq in the most serious situation for the United States since Vietnam, and that is what Senator Kerry was pointing out correctly today.

WOODRUFF: All right.

KYL: He didn't support the president there.

WOODRUFF: We're going to have to leave it there, gentlemen. Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, Senator Richard Kyl, thank you very much. We appreciate both of you being with us today. Senator Jon Kyl, my mistake.

KYL: That's all right.

WOODRUFF: Gentlemen, good to see both of you. We appreciate it.

KYL: OK.

WOODRUFF: Thank you. Well, the White House race has fueled the headlines, but this fall's Senate race has promised fireworks of their own. The race for Bob Graham's Florida seat could be one of the hottest in the country. It's one of the contests I'll discuss with analyst Stu Rothenberg.

Plus George Clooney makes an unorthodox offer as a political fund-raiser. Is he serious?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: The race for the White House is dominated headlines in recent weeks, but there are also some very tight Senate races on the ballot this November.

Stu Rothenberg of the "Rothenberg Political Report" is with me now to talk about some of the more intriguing ones.

All right, Stu, just how uphill is it for Democrats to try to win back control of the Senate?

STU ROTHENBERG, "ROTHENBERG POLITICAL REPORT": Well, it's difficult, Judy. Although they only need a seat or two depending on what happens in the presidential race.

They're defending more seats. There are more Democratic open seats. So the Republicans really have an opportunity to pick up a seat or two here.

WOODRUFF: Talk about Oklahoma. Now this is usually thought of as a Republican state. What do you see there?

ROTHENBERG: Well, I see an increasingly interesting race with a good opportunity, actually, for the Democrats.

They seem to have solidified around Greg Clarkson. He's a moderate Democrat, a good campaigner.

The Republican race is fractured. There's an established candidate, Kirk Humphreys, the mayor of Oklahoma City. There's a more insurgent populist candidate the state corporation commissioner. And former congressman Tom Coburn, a social conservative may enter the race.

The Republicans seem divided, fractured. There's a lot of power politics going on between different elements of the state party. This is a really interesting opportunity for the Democrats.

Everywhere the Democrats really have good candidates. Their problem is they're in difficult states. This is a classic example.

WOODRUFF: What about South Dakota? Everybody's going to be watching Tom Daschle.

ROSENBERG: You bet. This is one of the premiere races, because the Democratic leader, Daschle, is involved. And he's running up against John Thune, who lost very narrowly two years ago to Tim Johnson.

Thune waited to get into this race. Daschle has been spending considerable money on television, has a narrow lead in the polls.

Look, everybody agrees Tom Daschle is a charismatic personality. He has great strength in his home state. But this is still a Republican state and John Thune is an unbelievably attractive and appealing candidate.

I think it's going to be a close race. Last time Thune lost because the Democrats carried the clout argument that Tom Daschle has to stay as the leader of the Senate. Tom Daschle is now not the leader of the Senate. I think that's a good opportunity for Thune.

WOODRUFF: Very quickly Florida, Bob Graham, interesting stuff on both sides.

ROSENBERG: It's kind of a zoo. You have three major Democratic candidates, including Congressman Peter Deutsche, Alex Penelas, the mayor of Miami-Dade, and Betty Castor, the former state education commissioner.

She's from the Orlando area. The two other candidates are from the southeast corner of the state. She may -- Many people regard her as somewhat more electable in the general election. But it's not clear she can raise the money.

On the Republican side, it's chaotic. You have former United States Senator Bob Smith, moving down from New Hampshire to Florida. I think he opened a real estate business. In addition, on the side, he's running for the United States Senate.

But most of the focus is on former Congressman Bill McCollum and former HUD Secretary Mel Martinez. Martinez, recruited by the White House, clearly recruited by the White House. He was aiming for the governorship in a couple of years, switched his gears to the Senate.

The question is whether or not he is painted as too squishy, too moderate and whether McCollum gets the conservative support and gets the nomination.

WOODRUFF: Very quickly Stu, an overarching kind of question, if John Kerry is the Democratic nominee, what effect overall does that have on the Democrats' efforts to take back the Senate?

ROSENBERG: Well, two quick points. One is it depends on how well Kerry does and how poorly or well the president does in the re- election.

But clearly, the states that are in play are Southern or Western, generally Republican states, not the kind of states where you think that John Kerry would be a huge help. It's hard for me to believe that Inez Tannenbaum, the Democratic nominee in South Dakota, really wants to run with John Kerry.

So the Democrats, whether it's Brad Carson or Tannenbaum, Erskine Bowles, whomever I think are going to have to run their own races, more local state contests rather than part of any national Democratic strategy.

WOODRUFF: So maybe a little bit at arm's length?

ROSENBERG: I think that it's going to be arm's length, or two arms in some places.

WOODRUFF: Stu Rothenberg of "Rosenberg Political Report," it's always great to talk to you. Thank you very much.

ROSENBERG: Thanks Judy.

WOODRUFF: Coming soon to a television near you, the Bush/Cheney campaign's first salvo in the re-election ad wars. Stay with us for a preview of what's hitting...

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: On the trail with John Edwards.

SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Between now and Tuesday, get out your friends, your neighbors. Get on the phone, call. We've got to get people to the polls.

ANNOUNCER: Can the senator from North Carolina pull off some Super Tuesday victories?

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: For NAFTA, and against NAFTA. For the PATRIOT Act, and against the PATRIOT Act. And that's just one senator from Massachusetts.

ANNOUNCER: So where does John Kerry stand on the issues? We'll take a look at his record.

GOV. JEB BUSH (R), FLORIDA: My brother is a man of unimpeachable integrity. He's a person who speaks plainly. He's not a fancy -- even though he went to Yale and Harvard Business School -- which comes as a shock when I hear him talk.

ANNOUNCER: Sibling rivalry, or brotherly love? Either way, it's part of the "Political Week That Was."

Now, live from Washington, JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Welcome back. Well, John Kerry dismissively calls it cherry picking. But John Edwards probably would call it smart politics. As Super Tuesday draws closer, the North Carolina Democrat is increasingly focusing on the states where he is most competitive with Kerry. Today, it is Minnesota. CNN's Kelly Wallace is with Edwards in St. Paul. She joins us now on the telephone -- Kelly. KELLY WALLACE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Judy, John Edwards just starting to speak to this crowd here in St. Paul. And he opened up with a little bit of good news for his campaign. Last night a group, the Minnesota for Dean Activists, voting to support John Edwards on the March 2 caucus as opposed to John Kerry or Dennis Kucinich.

And John Edwards saluting those supporters for going behind him, and also keep heaping some more praise on former Vermont Governor Howard Dean, although it does not appear that Howard Dean will likely come out and endorse anyone, including John Edwards, before Super Tuesday.

His goal now, Judy, aides say, to focus on Minnesota. Also later, going to Georgia, focusing on Ohio, and New York this weekend. All states where there have been thousands and thousands of jobs lost. John Edwards (UNINTELLIGIBLE). He's hoping that will hope that will help him pull out some upsets on Tuesday.

A big question continues to be, Judy, his strategy in the debate last night. Aides say they are very pleased with what he did, that he was able to draw contrast between his background, between his sense of bringing an outsider's perspective, aides say, to Washington and to the White House. A contrast say with John Kerry.

But you listen to a lot of political observers throughout this day, they believe he was not quite as forceful as he was in the Wisconsin debate. And it does not appear as if last night's debate changed the dynamics significantly.

But of course there will be another debate Sunday morning. And aides say they're looking forward to that match up once again -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: And that one is only two days away. Kelly Wallace traveling with John Edwards right now in St. Paul, Minnesota.

When Edwards arrives at his next stop, Georgia, he may find the turf less promising than he once thought. A new Insider's Advantage poll of likely Democratic primary voters in Georgia shows Edwards trailing Kerry by 30 points. Now, other recent polls suggested a much closer race.

Meantime, Kerry received the endorsement today of Atlanta's major newspaper, "The Journal and Constitution." Kerry got the nod while stumping in California, where he delivered a speech outlining his plan to fight terrorism, and rebutting increasing Republican criticism of his national security credentials.

A new poll suggests John Kerry does face strong competition from Edwards in another Super Tuesday state. The survey of likely voters in the Maryland primary shows Kerry seven points ahead of Edwards, 42 percent to 35 percent. Meantime, Kerry is picking up a key endorsement in Maryland, from Baltimore Congressman and Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Elijah Cummings.

Some Democrats have expressed dismay that their party's presidential candidates still are stuck in primary season mode. Our Bill Schneider doesn't necessarily see that as a disadvantage -- Bill.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Judy, the Democratic race is down to two major contenders, but the contest isn't splitting the party, it's uniting the party. And, it's the "Political Play of the Week."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): It's supposed to get rough, charges and countercharges, bitterness. Not at the debate Thursday night in Los Angeles. Instead, you got the sense that John Kerry and John Edwards actually like each other. Or at least respect each other.

Oh, sure, they stressed their differences. This was a debate, after all.

EDWARDS: We got to really for the first time in many ways talk about some of the differences that exist between Senator Kerry and myself.

KERRY: I think there is a significant difference in my preparedness, my readiness to be president of the United States.

SCHNEIDER: Edwards needs to shake up the race. So it was up to him to go on the attack, which he did, without rancor.

EDWARDS: I also think we need to change the influence of Washington lobbyists. And that is a distinction.

SCHNEIDER: Kerry's response? No it isn't.

KERRY: There's not really a difference in this race between us in our commitment to get the lobby out.

SCHNEIDER: When Edwards was invited to take the gloves off...

RON BROWNSTEIN, "L.A. TIMES": Do you think he can meet your test and connect with voters in the South and in the border states in the general election?

SCHNEIDER: ... he didn't quite do it.

EDWARDS: I think it depends on what's happening in the country at the moment. What I know is that I can.

SCHNEIDER: The two act like spirited competitors playing for the same team -- who actually like each other. So, who wins? Not Edwards. He has to make Democrats change their minds about Kerry.

The winner is, the Democratic Party, which gets the best of both worlds. A contest that continues to grab media attention, without dividing the party. Where does the Democratic Party come out of this contest? With the "Political Play of the Week."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER: What Democrats watching the debate saw was not a brawl. Judy, they saw a ticket.

WOODRUFF: That is one way to look at it maybe. We'll see. Bill Schneider, thank you.

Meantime over at the Bush campaign, Republicans are cranking up their ad machine with an apparent eye toward sports fans and NASCAR dads. Let's check in with our senior White House correspondent John King. Hello, John.

JOHN KING, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hello to you, Judy. Less than a week away now from the first Bush/Cheney campaign ads of this campaign. They will go up next Thursday, two days after those Super Tuesday primaries that the White House believes will be the deciding moment in the Democratic presidential race.

Now, President Bush is sitting on more than $100 million in his campaign bank account. Here's what we know about what will be in this first wave of ads. The president we are told will spend at least $4.4 million, sources tell CNN, on the first ad buy. It will begin next week and it will run this first ad buy will run for about three weeks beginning on the 4th, March 4.

And they're buying air time on CNN, on other cable news networks. Also though on Fox Sports Channel, and other sports networks trying to reach out as you noted to those watching NASCAR races, those watching golf contests. The administration targeting its ads to key voters.

And they're looking to buy time not only in those national cable networks but also in 50 markets in 17 key states. The states are quite predictable. The big, industrial states and the contests that were closest in campaign 2000 will get the first wave of the Bush/Cheney campaign ads.

Judy, there's one ad that will launch beginning on March 4. It is a positive ad promoting the president's record. There will also be a Spanish version for Spanish language stations in key state.

We're also told there will be a second ad added to this mix after several days. As of now the plan is to air another positive ad. But the Bush/Cheney campaign does not rule out going up second with what it would call a contrast ad. What the Kerry campaign would call a negative ad.

WOODRUFF: Very interesting they're doing the Spanish language ads, as well.

John, I want to ask you about what happened at the Capitol within the hour, and that is House Speaker Dennis Hastert changing his mind and going ahead saying he agrees with the -- letting the 9/11 Commission have another two months to finish its work. What are they saying about all that at the White House?

KING: They're very happy with the speaker's decision. We're told not only did the White House Chief of Staff Andy Card call the speaker earlier this week and say he should relent and let the commission have another two months, but that the president himself, we're told by senior administration officials, had a brief conversation with the speaker on this issue when he was here at the White House with other Republican congressional leaders the other day.

And we also are told that throughout the past few days, including today, there were continued conversations between the White House and the speaker's office. And we are told one tenor of those conversations was that this was becoming a bigger political issue than anyone wanted and perhaps it was best to just give the commission two more months to do its work.

And, Judy, just moments ago I spoke with a spokesman for the commission who said to the speaker, thank you. And the spokesman said he now believes that the commission will be able to prepare the best possible report detailing everything it knows about what happened on 9/11, why it happened, and making what this spokesman said would be key policy recommendations.

WOODRUFF: So, John, to the Democratic charge that the White House wasn't doing enough to change the speaker's mind, the White House would say not true.

KING: The White House says not true. There's been a lot of speculation that the Speaker Hastert was essentially carrying the ball for the White House in trying to shut the panel down. The speaker has said that's not true, the administration say that's not true. now it's a moot point anyway, the speaker deciding the commission will get two more months.

WOODRUFF: John King at the White House. Thank you.

Donna Brazile, Bay Buchanan are standing by. In a minute they will add their voices to a debate over a proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.

And later...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REV. AL SHARPTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: All right, I'm going to do what the others can't do. I'm going to walk around Harlem.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: Stay with us for a stroll through the highlights of the "Political Week That Was."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: With us now, former Gore campaign manager Donna Brazile and Bay Buchanan, president of American Cause. Bay, you watched the debate last night. Did it change anything on the Democratic side?

BAY BUCHANAN, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN CAUSE: Absolutely nothing was changed. And you have to take a look at something like that and wonder why Edwards wasn't much, much more aggressive. He's running from behind. It's a two-man race. He needed to be far more aggressive to turn things upside down. I believe that he's obviously conceded this race and is actually in the short-term running for vice president. Long-term running for president in 2008.

WOODRUFF: Is that what's going on?

DONNA BRAZILE, FMR. GORE CAMPAIGN MANAGER: No question that John Kerry continued his lead as a front-runner. But you know, I think last night I finally got a chance to see Al Sharpton in black and white. My color went out on TV. And I think Sharpton should be given a large church in a battleground (UNINTELLIGIBLE). The guy was amazing. He stole the show. He kept a focus on his message. He did a great job. He also, I thought, helped John Kerry get his message out much stronger last night. No question Kerry did well. Edwards is still fighting an uphill battle this Tuesday.

WOODRUFF: Will Edwards stay in, let me put it that way, if he doesn't win one of these states or some of these states on Tuesday?

BUCHANAN: It doesn't hurt Kerry as long as he's being a nice guy and he's out there and he's very positive and talking about a vision. Democrats like that. So he's not harming the front-runner and he's obviously trying to stay in as long as he can to pick up enough delegates and play that card where he looks like he should, indeed, be given the vice president spot.

BRAZILE: I wouldn't mind this race going until March 9 to allow the people of Florida to get a chance to vote and to have every vote counted this time for a Democratic winner.

WOODRUFF: That's a week from Tuesday.

BRAZILE: That's a week from Super Tuesday. That southern Tuesday where my daddy and my family can vote in Louisiana, Texans, Louisianians and some other southerners can also participate.

WOODRUFF: Those are all important states.

BRAZILE: Absolutely.

WOODRUFF: All right, last week the president put it out there on the table, Bay, he said he thinks there should be an amendment to the United States constitution in effect banning gay marriage. Smart move on his part?

BUCHANAN: Absolutely. First of all, it is needed. He's absolutely correct that it's the right thing to do. Marriage does need to be protected now, because of a decision by the Supreme Court last summer. And so that has to be done. And politically very, very wise. This is extremely popular position to take with his base so it energizes them. Secondly, it's strong in Florida. In the south it's very, very strong, including Florida, Midwest, it's a good position to be, the right side on that. And then you have Catholics and working Americans feel very strongly about this and they usually vote Democratic. So I think it's very harmful to the Democrats, very good for Republicans.

BRAZILE: Once again, that's the problem. It's a wedge issue. It's the mother of all wedge issues, divisive. It's going to polarize the American people. It's not needed. It's unnecessary. We've amended the constitution 17 times since the Bill of Rights and on those occasions thank God we admitted it to expand people rights not take away people's rights. This will...

BUCHANAN: We're not taking anybody's...

BRAZILE: We are...

BUCHANAN: It does not take anybody's rights away.

BRAZILE: We're saying to gays and lesbians you're second-class citizens you're not entitled to the same benefits and same rights as all other Americans.

BUCHANAN: We are protecting what has been in existence of the United States and the entire history of civilization. Marriage is now between a man and a woman. So we're not taking anything away. We want to protect that. It is sacred for millions of Americans. You talk about a wedge issue. If something as politically important and morally important to this nation, it's important that our leaders speak up.

BRAZILE: And that's why Congress passed (UNINTELLIGIBLE) in 1996. And Clinton signed it and that's why 38 states have outlawed it.

We don't need it. Dick Cheney was right in 2000 when he said marriage, this issue is not a federal issue.

WOODRUFF: We have to leave it there. We noticed some important Republicans on the Hill are saying they're not sure they want to move on it. We'll talk about this another time. Bay, Donna, great to see you both. Thank you.

BRAZILE: Have a good weekend.

WOODRUFF: Our highlights of the political week that was still ahead. Also John Kerry's voting record under the microscope. Republicans say Kerry's campaign rhetoric is in conflict with his Senate vote. Our Bruce Morton checks the facts.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: If John Kerry wins his party's nomination, the Bush/Cheney team already has signaled plans to make an issue of his Senate voting record. Our Bruce Morton has more on claims that Kerry's Senate votes are at odds with his campaign rhetoric.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Bush says the Democratic front-runner has been flip-flopping on major issues.

G. BUSH: Candidates are an interesting group, with diverse opinions. For tax cuts, and against them. For NAFTA and against NAFTA. For the Patriot Act and against the Patriot Act. In favor of liberating Iraq and opposed to it. And that's just one senator from Massachusetts.

MORTON: Well, let's look at that.

G. BUSH: For tax cuts. And against them.

MORTON: In fact, Kerry didn't vote for either the 2001 or the 2003 tax cuts. He says now he would repeal tax cuts for the rich, those making more than $200,000 a year.

KERRY: And it will be affordable by a combination of rolling back George Bush's tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.

G. BUSH: For NAFTA and against NAFTA.

MORTON: Yes, Kerry did vote for NAFTA. Now...

KERRY: If it were before me today, I would vote against it because it doesn't have environmental or labor standards protections in it.

MORTON: And he says he would make sure any future trade agreements did have such standards.

G. BUSH: For the PATRIOT Act and against the PATRIOT Act.

MORTON: Kerry voted for the act. He isn't for repealing it. But he does say that Attorney General John Ashcroft has violated civil liberties, and abused his authority with unjustified invasion of privacy, holding detainees indefinitely without cause, and refusing to provide information on how his department is using the act.

Kerry promises to end the era of John Ashcroft.

G. BUSH: In favor of liberating Iraq and opposed to it.

MORTON: Kerry voted in favor of giving the president the authority to use force but says Bush went at it wrong.

KERRY: There was a right way to do this and there was a wrong way to do it. And the president chose the wrong way because he turned his back on his own pledge to build a legitimate international coalition, to exhaust the remedies of the United Nations in the inspections, and to go to war as a matter of last resort.

MORTON: So he's changed on some issues, not on others. But come to that, four years ago President Bush and Vice President Cheney both said it was up to the states to regulate marriage. Now they favor a constitutional amendment.

Bruce Morton, CNN, Washington. (END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: So much that we'll be looking at through this coming year.

Well the Hawaii caucuses may not have gotten the same attention as Iowa's but the Aloha State won't be overlooked in our look back at this week's "Highlights from the Campaign Trail." Stay tuned for our Friday tradition.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: A cute picture of Bill in his tux.

Well, only four presidential candidates are left on the Democratic side. But the Republicans' top man stepped squarely into the fray. Rest assured no shortage of highlights for our Friday look back at the "Political Week That Was."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's no place to find a job. Everywhere is awful, I tell you. Get more jobs for the American people if you are going to win for us...

(APPLAUSE)

G. BUSH: Call on Congress to make the tax cuts that are set to expire permanent.

KERRY: The biggest story today, Larry, 43 million Americans who have no health care.

EDWARDS: The White House put out its economic report a couple of weeks ago. Did you know that the economy's doing great? Well of course they're talking about Wall Street. They're not talking about Main Street.

G. BUSH: So far all we hear is a lot of old bitterness, and partisan anger.

ALAN GREENSPAN, FED CHAIRMAN: The degree of uncertainty about whether future resources will be adequate to meet our current statutory obligations for the coming generation of retirees is truly daunting.

G. BUSH: My position on Social Security benefits is this, that those benefits should not be changed for people at or near retirement.

KERRY: The wrong way to cut the deficit to cut Social Security benefits.

G. BUSH: An amendment to our Constitution, defining and protecting marriage as the union of a man and woman, as husband and wife.

EDWARDS: Amending the United States Constitution for a problem that does not exist.

KERRY: He is doing this because he's in trouble, he's trying to reach out to his base.

EDWARDS: I don't personally support gay marriage myself. But, my position has always been that it's for the states to decide.

KERRY: Marriage is between a man and a woman. But that doesn't mean that we can't protect people's rights.

JON STEWART, "THE DAILY SHOW": Oh, my God! It can't be.

RALPH NADER (I), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I've decided to run as an independent candidate for president.

STEWART: He's back! Oh, sweet -- whoa!

NADER: Relax. Rejoice.

SHARPTON: All right, I'm going to do what the others can't do. I'm going to walk around Harlem.

J. BUSH: He's a person who speaks plainly, he's not a fancy -- even though he went to Yale and Harvard Business School -- which comes as a shock when I hear him talk.

EDWARDS: I think an Edwards/Kerry ticket would be powerful. And that's the ticket that I think we should have.

KERRY: I want to thank him for the consideration. I appreciate it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: What a week it's been. Hard to believe.

That's it for INSIDE POLITICS. I'm Judy Woodruff. Have a good weekend. "CROSSFIRE" starts right now.

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



Draw; 9/11 Commission Gets Extension; Senate Races Heating Up>


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