The Web    CNN.com      Powered by
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
SERVICES
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
SEARCH
Web CNN.com
powered by Yahoo!
TRANSCRIPTS


 

Return to Transcripts main page

JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS

Politics of Terror; Hey, Big Spender?; Interview With Dan Bartlett

Aired March 22, 2004 - 15:30   ET

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


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Now a look at the latest developments at this hour.
Sporadic attacks against Israel follows the assassination of the founder of the Islamic group Hamas. The killing of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin set off rage among Palestinians who are vowing revenge.

In Washington, the Bush administration is insisting it never got any warning about that killing. Israel blames Yassin for hundreds of terrorist attacks.

The first member of the jury pool has been picked for the Scott Peterson murder trial in California. Earlier, the judge ruled that Peterson's statements to the news media are admissible as evidence. The trial is expected to last five months.

The FDA warning people who take antidepressants of a possible link to increased risk of suicide. The government wants the makers of 10 drugs to add a warning to their label. That warning is aimed at children and adults, using popular antidepressant medication.

Now, "JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: Defending the terror fighter (UNINTELLIGIBLE). The Bush team tries to shoot down a former insider's charge that the president ignored pre-9/11 warnings about al Qaeda.

SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: His assertion that there's something we could have done to prevent the September 11 attacks from happening is deeply irresponsible, it's offensive, and it's flat-out false.

ANNOUNCER: John Kerry's bottom line. Republicans step up their campaign to portray him as a big spender, but do the GOP's numbers add up?

From Paltrow to Clooney, we'll be your guide to see the stars trying to influence the 2004 campaign.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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

JUDY WOODRUFF, HOST: Thank you for joining us.

Many of the president's Democratic critics will see the former anti-terror adviser Richard Clarke as a truth teller, while some Bush supporters accuse him of being politically motivated and a shill for John Kerry. Whatever your view, there is no denying that the Bush camp is working hard to rebut Clarke's charge that the president has done a terrible job fighting terrorism.

We begin with our White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux -- Suzanne.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Judy, there has been almost unprecedented access to administration officials today, starting this morning with National security Adviser Condoleezza Rice. Since then, we have seen deputies and aides, at least 15 cable interviews scheduled alone.

That is because Bush aides say they're confident in making their case. But critics say that's because they believe the Bush administration is running scared on this one.

Earlier today, Scott McClellan, the White House spokesman, made a joke, saying that it's Dick Clarke's American grand stand, that he just keeps changing his tune. What this is the White House effort to try to discredit a 30-year civil servant who has worked under presidents Reagan, Bush Sr., President Clinton, and this administration. Both sides working very hard today to counter these allegations or support the allegations that the president was warned about these terrorist threats before September 11.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICHARD CLARKE, FMR. COUNTERTERRORISM ADVISER: I find it outrageous that the president is running for re-election on the grounds that he has done such great things about terrorism. He ignored it. He ignored terrorism for months when maybe we could have done something to stop 9/11, maybe. We'll never know.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCLELLAN: This president believes it's important to get outside of Washington D.C. and visit with the American people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: Now, as you know, this comes at a critical time for the White House. President Bush has been under incredible scrutiny concerning the war on terror. It also comes really on the eve of very important testimony not only from Clarke before the 9/11 Commission, but also Bush administration and former Clinton administration officials who will tell -- publicly testify before this commission what it was that they knew before the September 11th attacks -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right. Suzanne Malveaux reporting from us from the White House. Thank you, Suzanne.

Now we turn to -- we'll talk more about Clarke's accusations just ahead with White House communications director Dan Bartlett and with Kerry foreign policy adviser Rand Beers.

And Richard Clarke himself will be a guest tomorrow on CNN's "AMERICAN MORNING." That begins at 7:00 a.m. Eastern right here on CNN.

Now to a line of attack against John Kerry. Republicans say they will be more aggressive this week in trying to portray Senator Kerry as just another tax-and-spend Democrat. GOP members of Congress are getting into the act, including Senate Budget Committee chairman Don Nickles.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. DON NICKLES (R), BUDGET CHAIRMAN: What would happen if John Kerry was elected president, you'd see a lot more spending in almost every area of the budget, and you'd see a lot more taxes. And frankly, you'd still see the deficit rising and rising dramatically.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: Republicans have put out some whopping numbers to back up their claims about Kerry's fiscal plans. Or national correspondent Bruce Morton has more on those figures and whether you can take them to the bank.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: John Kerry's plan? To pay for new government spending, raise taxes by at least $900 billion.

BRUCE MORTON, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Wait a minute. Wait a minute. That's last week's ad.

Now the Republicans are saying taxpayers will be billed a trillion dollars over 10 years because of Kerry's spending proposals. You can see it on this handy spendometer on the Republican National Committee's Web site.

Well, that's the Republican version. Though on a conference call last week they couldn't point to a specific Kerry statement supporting that.

Kerry's people point out that President Bush has taken the budget from a Bill Clinton surplus to record deficits in dollar terms, while the economy has lost more than two million jobs. Kerry has called for some tax increases. He'd repeal the Bush tax cut for people who make more than $200,000 a year, retain the estate tax for large estates, no specific number yet, rescind for the wealthiest cuts in capital gains taxes. But he has promised not to raise taxes for the middle class and to work toward cutting those taxes further.

But there are other factors. Nobody can be sure how well or how badly the economy will do. That would make a difference in government revenue. And increased spending on, say, healthcare can be offset by cuts in other programs.

What might Kerry cut? We don't know.

Another question, how expensive will Iraq be or Afghanistan? Will democracy take hold? Will civil war break out? With the best will in the world, it's hard to predict economic conditions, and this is a political campaign complete with blue smoke and mirrors. The aim is to make the other guy look bad.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think in this case the Republicans are trying to play on preexisting impressions and reputations. For years, they've painted the Democrat as a tax-and-spend liberal. Another Democrat, a Massachusetts Democrat, another tax-and-spend liberal.

MORTON (on camera): Ken Mehlman, Mr. Bush's campaign manager, says the Kerry proposals will cost each American household an average of $15,500 over 15 years. That's three presidential elections from now, not counting the one we're in. Who has a crystal ball that good?

One fact, Mr. Bush as president has had to produce a budget showing those big deficits. Mr. Kerry hasn't produced one yet. His staff says he will.

Bruce Morton, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Well, meantime, the Kerry campaign is launching a new ad that alludes to the Democratic senator's budget plans, a positive spot they are billing as antidote to the president's negative ads.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For 35 years, John Kerry's fought for his country.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We need to get some things done in this country: affordable healthcare, rolling back tax cuts for the wealthy, really investing in our kids. That's why I'm running for president.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: John Kerry, the military experience...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: The Kerry campaign says it is spending more than $2 million to run this ad in 17 battleground states and to try to "change the tone" of the race.

Let's talk more about Bush versus Kerry campaign attacks and the big spender label with Ron Brownstein of the Los Angeles Times.

Ron, what exactly is the Bush campaign trying to do here? RON BROWNSTEIN, LOS ANGELES TIMES: Well, Judy, first of all, what a marker of campaign 2004. In campaign 2000, candidate Bush issued a similar challenge and report about candidate Vice President Al Gore during the first week of September. And here we are in the third week of March fully engaged on this.

Look, this is an important argument for both sides. As Bruce Morton and Stu Rothenberg suggested, it is part of an overall effort beginning with defense, now moving on to spending from the Bush campaign to paint Kerry as a traditional tax-and-spend liberal. Starting with defense, now on spending, make him into kind of a Massachusetts liberal.

For the Kerry campaign, this is a very important argument. Because I think many Democrats have assumed that Bush's fiscal record would be a vulnerability. We've gone from record surpluses to record deficits. But if the Bush campaign can shift the focus to the level of spending and the size of government, perhaps they may be able to neutralize what could be a problem.

WOODRUFF: Well, who's to determine whether they will or they won't? I mean, what, do you just watch the polls in various battleground states and see if the Bush campaign effort is working?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, you know, there's still an argument in Democratic circles about campaign 2000. George Bush relied very heavily on a similar argument after Labor Day. As you'll recall, he said, Al Gore wants to empower the government; I want to empower the people.

He's reprised that argument already this year in his speech to the Republican governors that effectively kicked off his campaign. This report today and these charges are meant to flesh that out. In essence, he's arguing that the Kerry campaign would lead to higher taxes.

I mean, that is the core of the argument here. This spending would translate into higher taxes. Now, Democrats say there's lots of logical problems with that assumption. You can offset it with spending cuts; economic growth can provide it. And by the same logic the Bush campaign is using, he could be vulnerable to the same charge because he hasn't specified how he will pay for these initiatives, particularly the idea of creating private accounts under Social Security.

WOODRUFF: You're talking about the president there at the end?

BROWNSTEIN: The president.

WOODRUFF: Ron, what about, though, the president's fiscal and economic record, the job situation in this country, the deficit? Is the Bush campaign just assuming that this could just wipe all that off the table here?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, they're assuming they can shift the terms of dialogue. And certainly, what you hear from the Democrats today in this incredible round of back-and-forth conference calls that makes you feel like the leaves should be falling out there instead of spring just arriving, the Democrats argue that Bush simply lacks credibility to make any claim about fiscal responsibility to anyone.

Government spending has increased as a share of gross national product from 18 percent to 20 percent while he's been in office. We've gone from record surpluses to the largest deficit ever. And obviously, they want to keep that deficit on the record. And they argue that, in effect, inoculates them against these charges.

WOODRUFF: But Ron, what determines who wins this battle to have the other guy, in effect, be the focus?

BROWNSTEIN: We'll be hearing this all year, Judy. They will each be the focus in each other's presentation. And ultimately, as you know, in a presidential election, it's about competing arguments. Who can build the box that voters see things through?

Both of these arguments will be present all the way through the election. The Bush campaign will be painting Kerry as a tax-and-spend big government liberal, and the Kerry campaign will be presenting Bush as a failed -- as a fiscal failure who has led to massive debt on the next generation.

WOODRUFF: It's just that we're starting it a whole lot earlier, the third day of spring.

BROWNSTEIN: Oh, boy. Exactly right.

WOODRUFF: OK. Ron Brownstein, thanks very much.

And now checking the headlines in our "Campaign News Daily," there's a new poll out that finds positive signs for President Bush in Nevada, but a tight race overall. A Newsweek survey of registered voters has Mr. Bush and John Kerry deadlocked essentially with 48 percent each. Now, when Ralph Nader is added to the mix, the race remains close, but with the president two points ahead.

In Nevada, one of the so-called battleground states up for grabs this fall, Mr. Bush has a double-digit lead. A Mason Dixon poll shows the president at 49 percent, Senator Kerri yet at 38 percent.

Another GOP senator has come to the defense of John Kerry's voting record on military matters. Nebraska's Chuck Hagel yesterday joined John McCain in defending Kerry against a Bush-Cheney ad that labels Kerry "weak on defense." Senator Hagel also echoed comments by McCain and Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman in calling on both Mr. Bush and Senator Kerry to raise the level of campaign debate. Lieberman and McCain both say the early trend toward negative attacks will suppress voter turnout.

Well, there's certainly no shortage of verbal fire despite all that between the Bush and the Kerry campaigns. Coming up, did President Bush ignore early warnings about al Qaeda? We'll ask White House communications director Dan Bartlett and Kerry foreign policy adviser Rand Beers. Also ahead, Kerry's race to raise money. Is it uphill or downhill from here?

This is INSIDE POLITICS, the place for campaign news.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Former White House counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke's charges are a hot topic here in Washington. The Bush administration is eager to tell its side of the story. I'm joined now by White House communications director Dan Bartlett.

Dan, thank you very much for being with me.

DAN BARTLETT, WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Hi, Judy. Thanks for having me.

WOODRUFF: First of all, essentially what Richard Clarke is saying -- he says, look, a lot of blame to go around for 9/11. He says he himself deserves some of that blame. But the main point, it seems to me, he's making is that time and again he tried to get this administration to focus before 9/11 on the looming threat from al Qaeda. He couldn't get anybody to respond to an urgent request for an urgent meeting.

BARTLETT: Well, obviously, we have a different opinion on the course of events when President Bush came into office and the advice we took from Dick Clarke. President Bush understood the threat of terrorism when he took office. In fact, the very reason why he kept Dick Clarke on staff and his team on staff was because he understood the importance of some continuity to make sure we were in place.

Now, we understand that he was there for eight years, compared to the 230 days that the president was in office before 9/11. But every time he came forward with a policy recommendation, those policy recommendations were being acted upon. It seems to me that Dick is more involved in or more concerned about is the process, what meetings he didn't get to go to or meetings he wasn't involved in, or maybe his title.

WOODRUFF: Well...

BARTLETT: But if you look at the policy, the president was acting on the policies, which were helping protect America.

WOODRUFF: Well, I don't know about the part about his title, but what I have seen are the interviews that he's given. Among other things, he says he said, time and again, al Qaeda, as a subject, was pushed, in his words, back and back and back on the agenda. Something that he felt the administration needed to address.

BARTLETT: Well, that's fundamentally not true. In fact, President Bush showing the importance of terrorism and the importance of intelligence, reconstituted the act of having the head of the intelligence agency -- in this case, George Tenet -- personally brief him every single morning. He was bringing the urgency of this matter to the Oval Office every single morning.

Now, Dick Clarke is worried about what meetings he was in. But the principals were focused on this matter. In fact, three weeks after he took office, President Bush took office, one of the first messages he sent to President Musharraf was the importance of al Qaeda and the importance of putting the pressure on the Taliban in Afghanistan because he understood that it was a threat to national security.

WOODRUFF: How do you explain the encounter that he says he had with the president shortly after 9/11, where he said the president said to him -- and I guess there were other people in the room -- Iraq, Saddam. He said the president said, "Find out if there's a connection." He said the president said it in an intimidating way, as if he expected Richard Clarke to go off and come back with the answer he wanted to here.

BARTLETT: Well, I've known President Bush for over a decade, and I've never been intimidated in one conversation I've had with him. The fact of the matter is, whether there was a meeting or not -- and we'll take Dick Clarke at his word and say that there was a meeting -- let's go to the substance of it.

Twenty-four hours after one of the worst attacks on our country, President Bush was asking his counterterrorism officials, what is the evidence, who should we be worried about? We have sworn enemies out there, including Iraq. Was Iraq involved?

Iraq had made it known that they were an enemy of the United States. He was making a decision about military action, and he wanted to make sure he had all the information possible.

WOODRUFF: Dan...

BARTLETT: Now, let the record show that three days later, the president made the decision, the one that Dick Clarke and the others were saying was the correct one, that it was supposed to be Afghanistan and al Qaeda to be the focus. So I think this is a bit of a red herring, when he said he had this meeting. He told them that it wasn't Iraq, and president, taking that advice, made the focus al Qaeda and Afghanistan.

WOODRUFF: Dan Bartlett, let me quickly just quote something that Democratic Senator Bill Nelson of Florida is saying today. He said this is the second high-ranking insider in the Bush administration -- he's referring to Paul O'Neill -- to accuse the president of mishandling the al Qaeda terrorist threat and instead going after Saddam. He said, "We can't let the White House brush this off as sour grapes by Mr. Clarke or anything else."

BARTLETT: I'm not here to brush it off. I'm here to take it directly on because the facts speak for themselves.

In the days and hours after 9/11, the president rallied the nation and rallied the world to fight and defeat terrorism. We took out the Taliban. We took out al Qaeda and Afghanistan. We got more than two-thirds of the al Qaeda leadership either in custody or otherwise dealt with. We removed a dictator, a tyrant out of Iraq that is liberating more than 25 million Iraqis. We are narrowing the area of operations for al Qaeda and other terrorist operations.

And when we get it right in Iraq -- which we are on the way to democracy in the Middle East -- it is a powerful signal that this administration and the United States of America understands that freedom and liberty is the path to peace. And that's why it's so important that the president took the world's demands that he disarm and enforced those demands. And the world is better off because of it.

WOODRUFF: Dan Bartlett is the White House communications director. We thank you very much for taking time to talk to us. Dan, thank you very much.

BARTLETT: Thank you, Judy.

WOODRUFF: Former White House counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke's charges are a hot topic here in Washington. The Bush administration is eager to tell its side of the story. I'm joined now by White House communications director Dan Bartlett.

Dan, thank you very much for being with me.

DAN BARTLETT, WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Hi, Judy. Thanks for having me.

WOODRUFF: First of all, essentially what Richard Clarke is saying -- he says, look, a lot of blame to go around for 9/11. He says he himself deserves some of that blame. But the main point, it seems to me, he's making is that time and again he tried to get this administration to focus before 9/11 on the looming threat from al Qaeda. He couldn't get anybody to respond to an urgent request for an urgent meeting.

BARTLETT: Well, obviously, we have a different opinion on the course of events when President Bush came into office and the advice we took from Dick Clarke. President Bush understood the threat of terrorism when he took office. In fact, the very reason why he kept Dick Clarke on staff and his team on staff was because he understood the importance of some continuity to make sure we were in place.

Now, we understand that he was there for eight years, compared to the 230 days that the president was in office before 9/11. But every time he came forward with a policy recommendation, those policy recommendations were being acted upon. It seems to me that Dick is more involved in or more concerned about is the process, what meetings he didn't get to go to or meetings he wasn't involved in, or maybe his title.

WOODRUFF: Well...

BARTLETT: But if you look at the policy, the president was acting on the policies, which were helping protect America.

WOODRUFF: Well, I don't know about the part about his title, but what I have seen are the interviews that he's given. Among other things, he says he said, time and again, al Qaeda, as a subject, was pushed, in his words, back and back and back on the agenda. Something that he felt the administration needed to address.

BARTLETT: Well, that's fundamentally not true. In fact, President Bush showing the importance of terrorism and the importance of intelligence, reconstituted the act of having the head of the intelligence agency -- in this case, George Tenet -- personally brief him every single morning. He was bringing the urgency of this matter to the Oval Office every single morning.

Now, Dick Clarke is worried about what meetings he was in. But the principals were focused on this matter. In fact, three weeks after he took office, President Bush took office, one of the first messages he sent to President Musharraf was the importance of al Qaeda and the importance of putting the pressure on the Taliban in Afghanistan because he understood that it was a threat to national security.

WOODRUFF: How do you explain the encounter that he says he had with the president shortly after 9/11, where he said the president said to him -- and I guess there were other people in the room -- Iraq, Saddam. He said the president said, "Find out if there's a connection." He said the president said it in an intimidating way, as if he expected Richard Clarke to go off and come back with the answer he wanted to here.

BARTLETT: Well, I've known President Bush for over a decade, and I've never been intimidated in one conversation I've had with him. The fact of the matter is, whether there was a meeting or not -- and we'll take Dick Clarke at his word and say that there was a meeting -- let's go to the substance of it.

Twenty-four hours after one of the worst attacks on our country, President Bush was asking his counterterrorism officials, what is the evidence, who should we be worried about? We have sworn enemies out there, including Iraq. Was Iraq involved?

Iraq had made it known that they were an enemy of the United States. He was making a decision about military action, and he wanted to make sure he had all the information possible.

WOODRUFF: Dan...

BARTLETT: Now, let the record show that three days later, the president made the decision, the one that Dick Clarke and the others were saying was the correct one, that it was supposed to be Afghanistan and al Qaeda to be the focus. So I think this is a bit of a red herring, when he said he had this meeting. He told them that it wasn't Iraq, and president, taking that advice, made the focus al Qaeda and Afghanistan.

WOODRUFF: Dan Bartlett, let me quickly just quote something that Democratic Senator Bill Nelson of Florida is saying today. He said this is the second high-ranking insider in the Bush administration -- he's referring to Paul O'Neill -- to accuse the president of mishandling the al Qaeda terrorist threat and instead going after Saddam. He said, "We can't let the White House brush this off as sour grapes by Mr. Clarke or anything else."

BARTLETT: I'm not here to brush it off. I'm here to take it directly on because the facts speak for themselves.

In the days and hours after 9/11, the president rallied the nation and rallied the world to fight and defeat terrorism. We took out the Taliban. We took out al Qaeda and Afghanistan.

We got more than two-thirds of the al Qaeda leadership either in custody or otherwise dealt with. We removed a dictator, a tyrant out of Iraq that is liberating more than 25 million Iraqis. We are narrowing the area of operations for al Qaeda and other terrorist operations.

And when we get it right in Iraq -- which we are on the way to democracy in the Middle East -- it is a powerful signal that this administration and the United States of America understands that freedom and liberty is the path to peace. And that's why it's so important that the president took the world's demands that he disarm and enforced those demands. And the world is better off because of it.

WOODRUFF: Dan Bartlett is the White House communications director. We thank you very much for taking time to talk to us. Dan, thank you very much.

BARTLETT: Thank you, Judy.

WOODRUFF: And we want to go quickly to a live event now at the Department of Homeland Security. Secretary Tom Ridge talking to reporters and others about the security of the nation's railroads.

TOM RIDGE, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: ... most public discussion of that threat reporting has focused on other areas, other sectors, like aviation. But the bombings in Madrid are a solemn reminder that terrorists continue to expose and exploit our vulnerabilities.

The American public should know that the leaders at all levels of government and the private sector, with the responsibility for transportation security, have been hard at work every single day since 9/11 to find more and better ways to secure our railroads and our mass transit systems. The Department of Homeland Security has been working with the Department of Transportation and other partners in the public and private sector to significantly upgrade rail and security -- transit security over the past two years.

Now we are adding several new layers of security that we believe will help reduce vulnerabilities to our systems and make commuters and transit writers more secure aboard our nation's trains and subways. The Department of Homeland Security will develop a rapid-deployment, mass transit K-9 program to assist state, local and transit authorities in the event of the special explosive threat situation.

We will use current DHS resources in creating these mobile response teams that will be specially trained to work in the undergrounds and tunnels unique to some transit and rail environments. Building upon TSA's work in aviation, the Department of Homeland Security will partner with local authorities to provide additional assistance and training for their local K-9 teams.

One of the additional challenges we have is to work with the railroads and these transit authorities to build a level of best practices. I mean, part of the federal government's role is leadership, and providing leadership and sitting down with the rail and transit systems to determine what, under any and all circumstances, we want as a baseline of best practices to be employed and then building additional measures depending on the threat or need as it arises.

Now, one of the challenges we also know is that we have a situation where we cannot apply an aviation standard to railroads and mass transit, in the particularly challenging area of trying to preserve the flexibility, the convenience, and the easy access to mass transit and railroads particularly and balance that off with security. Clearly, we could provide enough security to put the mass transit systems out of business. So trying to find that balance is something we need to do.

So in that end, the department's Transportation Security Administration will begin to implement a pilot program to test the feasibility of screening luggage and carry-on bags at rail stations and aboard trains. We want to see if there are other protocols we might be able to use. Again, not the aviation model, but other systems that might assist us in providing added security to commuters and rail passengers.

WOODRUFF: We are listening to the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Tom Ridge, describing some new measures that the department is looking at to raise the level of security on the nation's railroads. This in the wake of the terrible incidents in Madrid and Spain just days ago, when hundreds of people were killed after a series of terrorist attacks. You heard Secretary Ridge talking about putting the rail system on heightened alert, and also about looking at measures, ways to make the nation's railroads and highways, mass travel, mass transit, safer than it is.

INSIDE POLITICS will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: More now on the partisan part of it reaction to charges made by former Bush administration counterterrorism adviser Richard Clarke. Rand Beers was President Bush's terrorism adviser for part of 2002. He is now Senator John Kerry's foreign policy adviser.

At today's White House briefing secretary Scott McClellan called Rand Beers, quote, "Clarke's best buddy." So I guess the first question is are you best friends with Mr. Clarke? RAND BEERS, KERRY ADVISER: Dick Clarke and I have been friends for 25 years. And, yes, I think we're best friends.

But I sort of resent that charge that somehow that takes away from the truth of Dick's story. Dick is telling a story that, quite frankly, is his perspective of his years in the White House and not much that's in there hasn't been reported.

It's the richness that he brings to this story, not the newness. This is old news many in many ways.

WOODRUFF: Because some of this information had come out -- pieces of it had come out earlier.

Rand Beers, what about the basic White House response, that Mr. Clarke is just wrong? That the president was focused on al Qaeda, that there were meetings having to do with al Qaeda, that the essence of his charge is flat-out wrong?

BEERS: I think Dick's book speaks for itself. It certainly has come out, again in numerous other reports with respect to the congressional investigation of 9/11, and now the reports that are coming out in association with the 9/11 commission.

All of these pieces of information have been reported before. And the slowness with which the administration moved to deal with terrorism is a matter of record.

If one looks just at the immediate period before 9/11, when the administration was cutting funds for counterterrorism, that certainly doesn't suggest an administration that was bent on making terrorism a priority.

WOODRUFF: We just heard from the White House communications director Dan Bartlett, who said to me -- well, he said, Dick Clarke is more focused on process, on meetings that he wasn't in, than on the policy. That in other words, the suggestion is maybe he wasn't aware of what the administration was doing.

BEERS: Well, if Dick Clarke wasn't aware of what the administration was doing, then shame on the administration. This is a man who has the greatest amount of expertise on terrorism in the U.S. government.

And to have excluded him from meetings and claim that they were making up a policy of their own without the benefit of his expertise suggests that they had a process that should be stood on its head or failing to draw on people who knew what was going on.

WOODRUFF: Let me also quote to you something the national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, is saying about his charges in an interview. She said, "Dick Clarke was in charge of counterterrorism when the embassies were bombed in Africa in 2000. He was in charge of counterterrorism when the Cole was bombed. And in the late 1980s when al Qaeda was strength strengthening."

The implication being that he was in a place to do something about al Qaeda. Why didn't he do more?

BEERS: Dick Clarke was responsible during that timeframe for arguing for the most strenuous responses that the government could undertake. And to suggest that he was sitting back and performing his business as usual is to not have any recognition of the kind of dedicated public servant that Dick Clarke is.

WOODRUFF: There's also separately -- and this is coming from a Democrat, Bob Kerrey, who says, the Clinton administration didn't do enough about the terrorism threat, didn't consider military retaliation against al Qaeda. I guess the connection being, you know, that the fault lies everywhere and it shouldn't be foe cushioned just on the current Bush administration.

BEERS: I think that Dick would say that. I think he said that in the book that there's plenty of blame to go around.

The focus today, of course, is because the president is running on his conduct of the war on terrorism, and I think that that's a legitimate issue that ought to be aired publicly. And that's what Dick has contributed to with this book.

WOODRUFF: All right. Rand Beers, who is a senior adviser to the John Kerry campaign, formerly at the White House. Thank you very much.

BEERS: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: We appreciate you coming by to talk to me. We appreciate it.

And the second half hour of INSIDE POLITICS starts right now.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: He may be on the slopes, but for John Kerry, there's no vacation from fund raising. We'll check out Kerry's campaign cash flow.

SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I guess this president believes it's important to get outside of Washington D.C. and visit with the American people.

ANNOUNCER: And what better way to travel than Air Force One? But when a president's running for reelection, who foots the airfare, the White House or the campaign?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Neither one of these men has ever had cosmetic enhancement.

ANNOUNCER: Political Blarney, South Boston-style.

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

(END VIDEOTAPE) WOODRUFF: Welcome back. Former anti-terrorism adviser Richard Clarke may be the newsmedia's man of the moment after his strong criticism of his former boss, President Bush.

But even after Clarke's spotlight fades, will his accusations resonate with voters? Here now are senior political analyst Bill Schneider.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): Richard Clarke makes two serious charges against President Bush. The first is about 9/11.

RICHARD CLARKE, FRM. COUNTERTERRORISM ADVISER: He ignored terrorism for months when maybe we could have done something to stop 9/11.

SCHNEIDER: That charge is likely to be received with skepticism. The president's rating on handling terrorism is very high. Given Clarke's personal role, the White House has suggested he may be speaking out of guilt.

BARTLETT: Dick Clarke, when we came into office, was saying that we need -- he had some ideas that we could act upon against al Qaeda. There were roughly about five recommendations.

All of those recommendations were focused on overseas efforts that would have done nothing to prevent the attack of 9/11.

SCHNEIDER: Everything depends on the findings of the commission investigating the 9/11 attacks, which will weigh Clarke's testimony against other evidence.

Clarke's second charge may be more damaging. It deals with Iraq, where the president's ratings are considerably lower.

CLARKE: The president dragged me into a room with a couple of other people, shut the door, and said, I want you to find whether Iraq did this.

Now, he never said make it up. But the entire conversation left me in absolutely no doubt that George Bush wanted me to come back with a report that said Iraq did this.

SCHNEIDER: The White House is suggesting that Clarke may be disgruntled because he didn't get the No. 2 job in the Department of Homeland Security.

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: When he asked me to support him in that job he said he supported the president. So frankly, I'm flabbergasted.

SCHNEIDER: But Clarke's story fits together with other reports. Bob Woodward has written that the day after the attacks, Rumsfeld raised the question of Iraq. Why shouldn't we go against Iraq not just al Qaeda?

Former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill has said that going after Saddam Hussein was the subject of the very first National Security Council meeting just ten days after President Bush took office.

And then there was the testimony by the former chief U.S. weapons inspector.

DAVID KAY, FRM. CHIEF U.S. WEAPONS INSPECTOR: The intelligence service believed that there were WMD. It turns out we were all wrong, probably, in my judgment.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER: Richard Clarke's book feeds the belief that the Bush administration manipulated the evidence for going to war in Iraq. The charge of manipulating evidence has "royaled" Tony Blair's government in Britain, and it just got Spain's government thrown out of office -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right, Bill Schneider, thank you very much.

SCHNEIDER: Sure.

SCHNEIDER: By the way, retired general and former Democratic presidential candidate Wesley Clark will talk with me about the terror accusations tonight when I fill in for Aaron Brown on "NEWSNIGHT." That's at 10:00 Eastern here on CNN.

Well, John Kerry is preparing to go into fund raising overdrive once he wraps up his Idaho vacation. A DNC Unity event in New York on Thursday is expected to pull in more than $10 million. And next week, Kerry launches a 20-city tour designed to raise up to $20 million.

CNN's Bob Franken looks at the state of Kerry's war chest and how it compares to the president's.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BOB FRANKEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The bottom line is the Bush campaign has an almost bottomless reservoir of cash, more than $110 million left from the $159 million raised since money from the president's supporters started flooding in. Certainly enough to pay $90,000 in debts.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Over the past three years, Americans have faced many serious challenges.

FRANKEN: The Republican advertising plans, to put it mildly, will not have budget problems.

According to the newest reports from the Federal Election Commission, John Kerry's campaign is fighting an uphill batting with $2 million-plus in the till after raising nearly $41 million since the beginning of this year's election effort.

Kerry owes over $7.5 million, but more than $6 million of that he lent himself and he won't have to pay that back.

But when the John Kerry campaign buys a TV commercial...

ANNOUNCER: John Kerry will crack down on the export of American jobs.

FRANKEN: ... his campaign has to make sure the money is spent wisely.

Things are picking up for Kerry how that he is alone as the Democratic favorite. He's lately been raising over a million dollars a day. He spent over $2 million in TV ads with $2 million more on the way, compared to well over $20 million by Bush.

Kerry's top contributors are lawyers. The Bush support comes first and foremost from the financial sector -- banks, major accountants and the like. And why do the givers give?

LARRY NOBLE, CTR. FOR RESPONSIVE POLITICS: What you see when you look on the list of givers is you see people who have interests, who are giving for a reason.

FRANKEN: The reason, more often than not, is protecting and promoting one's financial well-being. And sometimes there's even a matter of principle involved.

(on camera): Whatever the reason, Kerry will scramble to raise the money to stay competitive. The Bush forces will have to scramble to spend all they have.

Bob Franken, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: By the way, if you look closely through the candidate's latest filings with the federal election commission, some celebrity names jump out at you. Among those we found, actress Gwyneth Paltrow has donated $1,000 to John Kerry's campaign. The creator of "The Simpsons," Matt Groenig, gave Kerry the maximum contribution of $2,000.

If you think politics has some elements of soap opera, you might not be surprised to learn that "Days of our Lives" star Deidre hall gave one grand to Kerry.

And search as we might, the only celebrity we could find who gave money to the Bush-Cheney campaign in February was former Nixon speechwriter turned actor Ben Stein, who gave $100. By the way, stein also gave $500 to independent candidate Ralph Nader.

The Bush campaign has a money saving advantage over the Kerry camp. It's called incumbency. Here's how the perk-filled process works.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) WOODRUFF (voice-over): For the price of a first-class ticket, American presidents can turn Air Force One into their own private reelection express.

OK, so it's not really that simple, but there's no denying White House perks are a boon to reelection campaign budgets.

MCCLELLAN: If there are political events they are paid for out of campaign funds.

WOODRUFF: It's not really that simple either. If the president uses Air Force One to get to a campaign event, he and his political aides must reimburse the government roughly the cost of a first-class ticket per person. Of course, Air Force One basically flies at the pleasure of the White House, and its operating costs far exceed what you would pay for first-class treatment on a commercial flight.

Bush aides won't say how much travel costs. But it's worth noting the president isn't really given a choice.

MCCLELLAN: This president believes it's important to get outside of Washington D.C. and visit with the American people and hear their concerns and talk to them about what we are doing to address those concerns.

WOODRUFF: Hence another benefit of incumbency. The one-stop shopping trip. The president flies to a , quote, "official event in the morning," like this New York 9/11 memorial earlier this month.

Then later that same day...

BUSH: Senator Kerry. He's been in Washington long enough to take both sides of every issue.

WOODRUFF: ... he piggy-backs a nearby fund raiser on the official visit. After all, in a reelection year official and unofficial often get swept up in the campaign.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: And speaking of money, John Kerry is spending some of his own money on his current vacation in Idaho. Up next, should Kerry be cutting the R and R short to get back on the trail and defend himself against Republican attacks?

And later, by George, look who had a cameo on the campaign trail in Kentucky.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: More now on the state of the 2004 campaign as well as the Richard Clarke allegations about President Bush, Iraq, and the war on terror. Jay Carney of "TIME" magazine is with me here in Washington. Jim VanDehei of the "Washington Post" is with us from the "Post" newsroom. Jim, to you first. How damaging do you think these allegations from Richard Clarke, who formerly worked in the Bush White House, are going to be?

JIM VANDEHEI, "WASHINGTON POST": It certainly doesn't help the president whenever you have people from inside the administration coming out and criticizing the way the President handled both the run- up to the terrorist attacks on September 11 and his fixation on Iraq afterwards. It seems to play into John Kerry's hands. It continues a trend that we've seen over the last couple of weeks where you have both people inside the administration and some Republicans on the hill echoing some of the things that John Kerry is saying. So none of this is good for the president.

WOODRUFF: Jay, is this something the White House can explain? The White House is all over the place, Condi Rice, the press spokesman. They're trying to knock this down.

JAY CARNEY, "TIME" MAGAZINE: Well, they are and what's interesting is they feel that the more serious allegation is the one that this administration, the Bush administration did not take terrorism seriously enough until 9/11 happened. They seem less concerned about the charge that the Bush administration was fixated on Iraq. I tend to think because the fixated on Iraq charge has resonance, because we've heard it from Paul O'Neill and other quarters, and I think it plays into the public's anxiety about the state of the situation in Iraq and the fact that we're still losing soldiers there, might actually create more long-term problems for the president.

WOODRUFF: But the two things are really connected, aren't they, Jim, in the public's mind?

VANDEHEI: I think very much so. The president wants them to be connected. He's been saying all along he's the war-time president. He's better situated than John Kerry to protect the country from terrorism, and in this uncertain future. So all of this stuff seems to undermine the message that he's taken to the voters right as he's really moving that message out through TV ads and through campaign appearances. This is very untimely for the president.

WOODRUFF: Jay, let me turn the table and talk about John Kerry. The White House, the Bush campaign unloading a whole lot of -- a barrage, in effect, this week going after Senator Kerry saying he's another tax and spend liberal, talking to this trillion-dollar gap between what he wants to do and how much it would cost. Is the Kerry campaign prepared? The senator's still in Idaho snowboarding.

CARNEY: You can't begrudge Senator Kerry a vacation. I don't think any person, man or woman, could be expected to go full throttle from the beginning of the primary season through the general election without taking a break. What's surprising, Judy, is that they seemed unprepared for this barrage of attacks from the Bush campaign when the Bush campaign was telegraphing very clearly they were going to start spending their money in large amounts doing just this and going after the senator's votes. So what they have to defend themselves against is very clear and should have been clear to the Kerry campaign from the beginning. While the senator may have needed a vacation and probably should stay on it, they should have had a more coordinated reaction on the spending issues, for example. It seems like their only response to the Bush attack is we haven't developed our economic plan yet. Well, that's not going to get a lot of coverage.

WOODRUFF: Jim VanDehei, tactically, is it a mistake for the Kerry campaign to wait to answer these charges?

VANDEHEI: Well, I think he definitely -- Kerry had a bad week last week. He said a couple of things, and I think it really reflected that he's really tired, and he needed a vacation more than he needed to be out there defending himself. I don't know that they did anticipate how fast and furious these attacks would come. Because like Jay said, they're not responding as quickly and as deftly as they probably should be. On the budget, it's tough for them to respond to this latest attack because, as we wrote about a couple of weeks ago, his numbers don't really add up. That's the argument that Bush is making. He's a big spender, and he happens to be calling us a big spender too. I don't know if that's the best response you can have to that attack line.

WOODRUFF: Jay, what's to stop these charges from sticking from now till November?

CARNEY: I think there's a real danger that they might stick, and the Kerry campaign will find itself on its heels trying to get a new advantage in the weeks to come. The Bush campaign is clearly going to continue this through the next six or so weeks, taking issue after issue. I think from now until tax day, we'll hear a lot about Kerry the big spender, Kerry the tax raiser. And the Kerry campaign, as we just heard, doesn't have the money to respond with political advertisements.

WOODRUFF: Very quickly, Jim -- and I asked Ron Brownstein this question earlier. Does this pretty much wipe off the table the whole question about the deficit and jobs? The problems that I guess one thought would have been a problem for the incumbent.

VANDEHEI: I think it's still going to be a huge issue. At the end of the day, this election is going to be very much a referendum on the president, and that's going to be judged on how is the economy doing a couple of months from now, are we creating jobs, and what's the situation in Iraq? Is it stabilizing, and does it look like there's a timetable where we can get out there? Those two things are very much going to dictate whether President Bush wins re-election.

WOODRUFF: All right. We're going to leave it there. Jim VanDehei, Jay Carney. Good to see you both. We appreciate it. Thanks for coming by.

Well, it may not seem like very many things can bring George W. Bush and John Kerry together, but both men took time to phone in some jokes to a Boston political breakfast over the weekend. We'll compare punch lines just ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: A famous name can make a big difference when it comes to fund-raising. Up next, actor George Clooney turns on the star power in an effort to help his father's campaign.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Checking our final edition of campaign news daily, Idaho Republican Senator Mike Crapo won't have to worry about ballot opposition this fall. No Democrat filed a run against him. In what is thought to be a first in Idaho history, state Democrats were not able to meet the Friday deadline to field a candidate. Unless a write-in challenger joins the race, Senator Crapo will run for re- election unopposed.

Actor George Clooney is using his star power to raise money for his father's congressional campaign. The younger Clooney hosted events Saturday and Sunday in Kentucky, where his father, Nick Clooney, is running for the fourth district house seat. The private events raised an estimated $200,000 for Nick Clooney's campaign.

President Bush and John Kerry phoned it in to the annual breakfast before yesterday's south Boston St. Patrick's Day parade. President Bush ribbed current Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. Senator Kerry joked about his so-called foreign supporters.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KERRY: I'm feeling very confident about my ability to win. I've been told by a lot of foreign leprechauns they want me to win.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you name them?

KERRY: Not on your life.

BUSH: I know there's a lot of talk about a Massachusetts politician who has his eye on the president. But tell Mitt it's not open until 2008.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: Referring to Governor Romney. During that same call, Mr. Bush made reference to a Catholic priest attending the breakfast. Referring to the heavily Democratic audience, President Bush joked, "I presume he's got quite a few souls to save in that crowd."

Well, that is it for INSIDE POLITICS this Monday. I'm Judy Woodruff. Thanks for joining us. "CROSSFIRE" starts in two minutes.

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



Bartlett>


International Edition
CNN TV CNN International Headline News Transcripts Advertise With Us About Us
SEARCH
   The Web    CNN.com     
Powered by
© 2005 Cable News Network LP, LLLP.
A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us.
external link
All external sites will open in a new browser.
CNN.com does not endorse external sites.
 Premium content icon Denotes premium content.
Add RSS headlines.