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Bush, Blair Promise to Meet June 30 Deadline; Bush, Kerry Campaigns Talk Strategy; Videotape Surfaces on U.S. Soldier Assumed Kidnapped in Iraq; Can Dems Win Back the Senate?

Aired April 16, 2004 - 15:30   ET


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We will not waiver in the face of fear and intimidation.

TONY BLAIR, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: We will do what it takes to win this struggle.

ANNOUNCER: The president and the British prime minister deliver a one, two punch on Iraq. What does it mean for Mr. Bush politically?

Inside the Bush and Kerry camps. We'll press two top advisors for information and watch the sparks fly.

Pass the Coors. We'll tell you what's brewing in the battle for the Senate.

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


JUDY WOODRUFF, HOST: Thank you for joining us.

Well, after what he calls a couple of hard weeks in Iraq, President Bush once again called in one of his most loyal and articulate allies for reinforcement, British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

We begin with our senior White House correspondent, John King -- John.

JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Judy, you turn to your best friends in times of trouble. As you noted, that's exactly what the president did today.

The British prime minister here at the White House. These two last leaders met about five months ago in England.

Prime minister Blair coming here at a critical time. Not only has there been the violent insurgency, the most deadly month for U.S. forces since their time Iraq, but as well, the fast approaching June 30 deadline for transferring sovereignty.

Some wondering, with the security situation so precarious, can the United States and the coalition possibly turn over power to a new Iraqi government in fewer than 80 days?

Mr. Bush and Mr. Blair both adamant in saying they will do that; they will transfer government on June 30.

And what was most striking about this, was this was a president who when the statue of Saddam Hussein fell a year ago said that the United States and its coalition partners had shed the blood in Iraq. The United States and its coalition partners would call the political shots in post-war Iraq.

Listen to the president here making clear as this new government takes shape, it is not the United States but the United Nations calling the shots.


BUSH: This week, we've seen the outlines of a new Iraqi government that will take the keys of sovereignty. We welcome the proposals presented by the U.N. special envoy Brahimi. He's identified a way forward to establishing an interim government that is broadly acceptable to the Iraqi people.


KING: These two leaders standing side by side, a very united front on the issue of Iraq. The prime minister also delivering a critical endorsement of President Bush's decision this week to back the disengagement plan, as Prime Minister Ariel Sharon of Israel calls it, to pull out of Gaza and to pull out of most of the West Bank.

But again, a potential fissure here between the United States and Great Britain, certainly between the United States and Europe. Prime Minister Blair says he wants to have an urgent meeting of the quartet, the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations, to come up with a plan to give some political help, some economic help to the Palestinian authority in an effort to get the peace process back on track.

The White House says it's fine to have that meeting but also makes clear that it is not ready to give any major economic assistance to the Palestinian authority, so long as Yasser Arafat is calling the shots.


SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE SPOKESMAN: The Palestinian people have a unique opportunity here that they should seize, and the president has talked about that.

We have a real opportunity to move forward on the road map and reaching the two-state vision that the president previously outlined. It is -- you know, this withdrawal proposal by Prime Minister Sharon would be the first withdrawal of Israeli settlements ever in areas that will become part of a future Palestinian state.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: The two leaders, Prime Minister Blair and President Bush, had lunch here at the White House as well, Judy, after their discussions.

Again, some difficult times ahead in Iraq, but the president and the prime minister say they will get through that to that June 30 handover of power. Look in the weeks ahead to see if the two leaders continue to see eye to eye when it comes to the Middle East.

WOODRUFF: John, when it comes to Iraq, John Kerry has been calling for the administration to reach out to the U.N., get the U.N. much more deeply engaged here. That, in effect, is what the White House is doing.

What are the differences between what the White House is now doing and what John Kerry has been saying they should do?

KING: Best I can tell, Judy, pretty much nothing. Senator Kerry would make the case that the president should have done this months and months and months ago. That he's doing it now after a year of drift inside Iraq.

The White House would dispute that. But it's a very interesting day here.

The president himself said that Mr. Brahimi, the U.N. envoy, will decide the formation, the look, the composition of the new Iraqi government. The administration to this point has always said the United States would play a vital role.

Well, we tried to ask the press secretary, isn't the United Nations now playing the lead role? And he continued to call it a vital role.

But it is very clear that the American plan and then the next American plan and then the next American plan were all rejected within Iraq.

Right now when it comes to coming up with what will the new government look like, it is not Washington. It's the United Nations, Judy, calling the shots.

WOODRUFF: Very different from what we were hearing a few months ago. All right, John, thank you very much.

Well, speaking of John Kerry, he was on the campaign trail today, still focused on the Bush administration's Iraq policy.

At the University of Pittsburgh, Kerry hit hard on his charge that the president rushed to war without adequate international support and then botched the aftermath.

Kerry also fired back at the Bush camp's attacks that he is wrong on defense.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm tired of Karl Rove and Dick Cheney and a bunch of people who went out of their way to avoid their chance to serve when they had the chance. I went. I'm not going to listen to them talk to me about patriotism and how asking questions about the direction of our country somehow challenges patriotism.


WODDRUFF: John Kerry in Pittsburgh.

Kerry's party, meantime, is question something President Bush's credibility. A new Democratic National Committee web ad uses a clip from the president's news conference this week against him.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What would your biggest mistake be, would you say, and what lessons have you learned from it?

BUSH: I wish you'd have given me this written question ahead of time so I could plan for it. You know, I just -- I'm sure something will pop into my head here in the midst of this press conference, all the pressure of trying to come up with an answer. But it hasn't yet. I hope -- I don't want to sound like I've made no mistakes. I'm confident I have.


WOODRUFF: That ad again running on the Web. The tag line reads "Credibility is on the ballot in November."

Checking the Friday headlines in our "Campaign News Daily," John Kerry is showing new skills at raising campaign cash, as President Bush prepares to head back out to raise more money for the GOP.

Kerry raised more than $13 million this week, highlighted by a record-breaking one-night haul on Tuesday of more than $6 million. Kerry is headed to Florida this weekend for a three-day campaign swing.

President Bush is also raising money in the days ahead, in this instance for the Republican Party. He has several party fundraisers next week, and like John Kerry, he is also expected to travel to Florida.

The Bush team, as we reported, plans to cut back on TV advertising for awhile, but Senator Kerry is preparing to launch his first major ad buy of the campaign.

Kerry's ads are based on findings that most voters say they don't know a great deal about him. For that reason, the ads are expected to highlight his stance on taxes and national security, as well as his military service.

From the ad war to Iraq, how are the Bush and Kerry camps responding to the latest attacks and setbacks? I'll ask Bush chief strategist Matthew Dowd and Kerry senior advisor Tad Devine.

The hot Senate races and the surprising way the majority leader's getting involved.

And he switched parties and switched back. Now a former senator has changed course again.

This is INSIDE POLITICS, the place for campaign news.



JON BON JOVI, MUSICIAN (singing): We got to hold on to what we got. It doesn't make a difference...


WOODRUFF: That is rock star Jon Bon Jovi, warming up a crowd of students at the University of Pittsburgh before today's John Kerry rally.

The event capped off Kerry's weeklong tour of college campuses.

Joining me now to talk about the Bush-Kerry campaign strategy and related issues, Matthew Dowd. He's the chief strategist for the Bush- Cheney campaign. And Tad Devine, senior advisor for the Kerry campaign.

Matthew Dowd, to you first.

With the news dominated right now from Iraq, so much of it is bad. The deaths the last week and a half, perhaps a hostage now, an American soldier. The questions about the fact that troops are going to have to stay longer.

How does the president keep from getting hurt in terms of his campaign and the plan that you all have in place for reelection?

MATTHEWS DOWD, CHIEF STRATEGIST, BUSH-CHENEY CAMPAIGN: Well, obviously, the president's first job and foremost job is his day job, which is the president of the United States. And a big part of that is the war on terror and Iraq involves that.

So he is obviously concerned about what's going on in Iraq and he's you saw at the press conference that he held this week, he's addressing it and the Army is addressing it. And it's unfortunate what's happened to various soldiers and other civilians over the last couple of weeks.

And the political impact of that, it's -- you know, it's hard to weigh that. We -- A couple of weeks ago, the race was even. It's even today. And I think we're going to be even for quite awhile, probably until the Democratic convention.

WOODRUFF: At the very last, it throws you off message. Doesn't it?

DOWD: Well, it just puts -- you know, this is an election year that is unique in that we basically start off a race that's fairly divided. The country is fairly divided.

But outside events, whether it has to do with Iraq or the economy or whatever else might come, campaigns have to be prepared to adapt to those. And obviously the last two weeks, there's been a discussion about Iraq and the war on terror. So campaigns have to adapt to that.

WOODRUFF: Tad Devine, doesn't it hurt John Kerry as well? I mean, he's been out there trying to talk about the economy, even trying to talk about Iraq and now he's being criticized for not having another -- a plan that's really an alternative to what President Bush is doing?

TAD DEVINE, SENIOR ADVISOR, KERRY CAMPAIGN: I think it's hurt at all. I think it's been a good period for our campaign.

I think John Kerry does have a plan. He laid it out in the "Washington Post" on Tuesday of this week. He laid it out in some specific detail.

He's been able to talk this week across the country about college education, which is an important issue, laid out a plan to make college more affordable for kids.

So you know, we're at the front end of the process. We've just gone through a period where the Bush campaign has dumped basically $50 million worth of negative ads on John Kerry's head. And I agree with Matt; we've got an even race. That's good for us and bad for them.

WOODRUFF: Matt Dowd, what about -- I talked to David Gergen earlier today, who's obviously worked with Republican presidents mostly, but he also worked with Bill Clinton.

Among other things, he said President Bush at that Tuesday news conference had an opportunity not just to show how resolute he is on Iraq, but to persuade those people who still aren't -- really aren't understanding what's going on over there. And in David Gergen's words, he didn't do that.

DOWD: Well, first, just to sort of correct a couple of things. We didn't spend $50 million on negative ads. We spent $25 million, roughly, on positive ads and $25 million on contrast ads. And we started off the race six points down, and we're now even. So we think the line of progression is very good.

But dealing with the press conference, I think it's unfortunate that this gulf has developed between what the sort of inside the Washington beltway sort of thinks the president should do or shouldn't have done and what the rest of the country thinks the president should do or shouldn't have done on this.

And I think the president did address the situation in a very resolute way, and I think the country accepted that and responded very positively.

WOODRUFF: But you do have the polls showing that support for the president -- that support for staying in Iraq is dropping. People saying that they think Iraq is going to help the war on terror down to 40 percent.

DOWD: The public's obviously concerned about the situation in Iraq, as is the president, and he's doing everything he can to address that and as well as the United Nations.

Keep in mind, though, that the president's overall approval rating has not fallen during this time. Though certain other sub- indicators have changed, his overall approval is still above 50 percent.

WOODRUFF: And Tad, I wanted to come to you with something else that David Gergen said about John Kerry. He said it's hard, in listening to John Kerry, to see where his position differs from the president on Iraq.

DEVINE: Well, I think it differs in a fundamental respect. I mean, John Kerry from the beginning has said that we need to bring in the international community, that we need to go to the U.N. as a full partner.

WOODRUFF: The president's doing that.

DEVINE: Well, the president seems reluctantly to be doing this, you know, step-by-step. I mean, Kerry from the beginning says -- said that we need to internationalize this.

And the fact that the president from the start refused to go to the U.N. in a meaningful way, refused to include them in a real international coalition...

WOODRUFF: But the fact that he's doing it now, doesn't that take away a big chunk of that argument?

DEVINE: Better late than never. I mean, I think he's come to Senator Kerry's position on a number of issues, including Iraq. And that's good for our country. We support that.

WOODRUFF: But how does that help make a distinction between the two?

DEVINE: Well, I think people are going to really get to know who John Kerry is in the weeks ahead. I mean, he's got an incredible story to tell about himself, where he comes from, what he believes, and where he wants to take the nation.

And there are fundamental differences on the economy, for example, on health care and on a broad range of issues that are going to become clear to voters in the weeks ahead.

DOWD: I think, really, the republic sort of sees the political rhetoric that's come out from John Kerry. He says that the U.N. ought to be involved the same day that Brahimi in Iraq announces that he's putting together the plans for an interim government.

He says NATO should be involved and 17 of the countries in NATO are involved.

He says that the countries that are involved are window dressing, which includes obviously Britain, where the prime minister was here today, and Italy and every other country, Bulgaria, that's -- over 30 countries.

So I think it's unfortunate that he says that when the facts are the opposite.

WOODRUFF: Very quick last word, because we've got to go to the Pentagon for breaking news.

DEVINE: I would just say this. Matt mentioned the press conference. We would hope he holds a press conference in prime time every week between now and the election, because a few months of that is going to practically ensure John Kerry will win.

DOWD: That's something we agree on.

WOODRUFF: Tad Devine, Matt Dowd. It's good to see you both. Thank you very much.

DEVINE: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: And we do have some breaking news from the Pentagon about apparently a U.S. soldier being taken hostage in Iraq.

For that, let's go to Jamie McIntyre -- Jamie.

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Judy, U.S. military officials are still being cautious about what's on this videotape that came into their possession today, but we're now told by a spokesman from the U.S. Central Command that the tape does appear to show one of the U.S. soldiers who's been missing since an April 9 attack on a U.S. fuel convoy that -- after which two U.S. soldiers were listed as missing and unaccounted for.

According that Central Command spokesman, the tape which is still -- the authenticity of which is still being verified, shows a person in an American uniform identifying himself as PFC Maupin.

Now, among the two people missing after the April 9 incident was Private First Class Keith Maupin of Ohio. Again, military officials are saying that they're working to confirm his identity.

Also on the tape, we're told, are apparently some of his abductors or other people on the tape. At this point, the Central Command says it does not know who the other people are and is not clear what their demands are. We're told the tape was delivered by the Al Jazeera television, Arab television network to the U.S. embassy in Doha, Qatar, and from there was provided to officials from the U.S. Central Command, which also has a base in Doha, Qatar, as well.

So again, the U.S. military has notified the family of Keith Maupin that there is someone on the tape, says it's him. They're reviewing the tape for authenticity. And at this point, there are no plans to release that tape.

But it does appear that there's at least a good chance it that one of the Americans missing may be being held hostage and maybe appeared on this tape -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Again, Jamie, to reiterate, right now they do not have plans to release the tape?

MCINTYRE: They don't, but it may -- as I said, it was provided by the Al Jazeera television network, and they may air the tape sometime shortly, so we may see it.

WOODRUFF: All right. Jamie McIntyre with the latest on what apparently is a U.S. soldier taken hostage in Iraq. Jamie, thank you very much.

INSIDE POLITICS will be right back.


WOODRUFF: Former two-term New Hampshire Senator Bob Smith has called off his attempt to return to the Senate from his adopted home of Florida. Smith moved to Florida last year and took a job as a real estate agent.

He blamed fundraising problems for his decision to leave the race to replace retiring Senator Bob Graham. Smith lost the 2002 Republican primary in New Hampshire to challenger John Sununu.

Political analyst Stu Rothenberg has been tracking the race for the control of the closely divided United States Senate. He is with me now here in Washington.

Let's talk about what -- Something interesting going on, Stu, between the fellow who was the majority leader in the Senate, Republican Bill Frist and the Democratic leader, Tom Daschle, who wants to hang on to his job.

STUART ROTHENBERG, ROTHENBERG POLITICAL REPORT: Right, well, Senator Frist is traveling out late in May to South Dakota on behalf of John Thune, who's running again for the Senate out there. Frist is celled to do a rally and fundraiser.

It's unusual for one party's leader to travel to the state that the other party's leader.

WOODRUFF: Not unprecedented, though. ROTHENBERG: No, but you know, usually, Judy, party leaders aren't vulnerable; they're not under serious attack.

This is one of those cases where Daschle is in a Republican state. Two years ago, Thune lost by 524 votes. So we all know it's a real contest.

Remember, Frist was the chairman of the national Republican Senatorial committee last cycle. So this is an interesting confluence of events here. We'll see whether there's any fallout on the Hill after Frist goes there and the two men come back here.

WOODRUFF: Trying to remember whether the Republican leader campaigned against Tom Foley when he was defeated in his race.

ROTHENBERG: I don't know. I don't know.

WOODRUFF: We'll have to go back and look at the history books for that one.

ROTHENBERG: For the Senate, we're talking about 30, who years. I think it's been over 50 years since a leader was actually defeated.

WOODRUFF: All right. Moving on to Colorado, There's a new name that's emerged in the last several days on the Republican side there. Tell us about that race.

ROTHENBERG: The new name, a familiar name if you're in Colorado or a beer drinker, right? It's Peter Coors, the CEO of Coors Brewing Company. Very active politically in the state and in terms of civic activities. Obviously, very wealthy, can self-fund the campaign. Has not been a candidate before.

So this is one of those interesting cases of somebody who does not have a lot of political baggage in terms of a voting record. Somebody who has a nice profile, seems conservative, but yet a uniter. At least that's what the Republicans will say.

But at the same time, we don't know how he's going to be a candidate. And I think back to somebody like Wesley Clark: on paper one thing, as a candidate, a little something different.

We'll have to see about Peter Coors.

WOODRUFF: Now Alaska, there is -- there was an interesting situation there the last go-round where the daughter of the former senator was appointed by her dad, who became the governor, Lisa Murkowski.

ROTHENBERG: Right. And that has created the No. 1 issue, far beyond any others in the Alaska Senate race, that is nepotism.

Lisa Murkowski is now on the air with an ad addressing this, looking to camera, saying, you know, I know there are questions how I got here. Let me tell you who I am and what I'm doing. She is running ads to try to change the focus so this is about who she is and what she is trying to do and what she hopes to accomplish.

She has a Republican primary and even if she gets through that, and most of us expect that she will, she faces a credible Democrat in form of two-term governor Tony Knowles.

But nepotism is the issue, and she can crack that nut now, then she's in good shape. Many of us think it will be awhile before we know.

WOODRUFF: OK. All right. Overall, step back, Stu. Overall what, does it look like for the Democrats? Clearly, they would love to win back control of the Senate. What are the real prospects?

ROTHENBERG: Well, it depends who you ask, Judy. The Democrats are a wash in terrific stories over the past few weeks about how now the fight for the Senate is 50/50, and the playing field has been changed and they have great opportunities and great candidates.

I agree with a lot of that, not all of it. They do have terrific candidates, and I think their prospects are improved because states like Colorado are in play, and the situation looks a little better for me for them in Oklahoma.

I still think it is difficult. Because if you look at this, if you look at all the states in play, they're all Republican states and conservative states, except for Illinois, the top ten races. Nine of the top ten are very Republican and conservative states.

They're going to have to sweep -- almost sweep those, win seven out of ten or eight out of ten. I think it's going to be hard. I think they're in the game. They have an opportunity. If you ask me who has the advantage, I think the Republicans do. I don't think it's 50/50, though I think we can credibly talk about the Senate as in play.

WOODRUFF: That's enough to make it exciting for me.

ROTHENBERG: Sure. Me, too.

WOODRUFF: Stu Rothenberg, thank you very much. It's always great to have you.

ROTHENBERG: Sure. Thanks.

WOODRUFF: We appreciate it.

Well, Tony Blair helped the president out today, but did Bush help himself this week in stemming the fallout from the instability and bloodshed in Iraq? That and much more in our next half hour.

Plus, a reversal leads to political fortune and the political play of the week.


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) ANNOUNCER: A political union on the rocks over same-sex marriage as gay Republicans meet in California. Are they turning their backs on President Bush?

PATRICK GUERRIERO, LOG CABIN REPUBLICANS: We consider this a line in the sand.

ANNOUNCER: He's played presidential politics on both sides. How does David Gergen see the political scene now?

Will John Kerry ever reveal a VP shortlist? We'll have the latest ticket talk.

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


WOODRUFF: Welcome back. Two traditional allies of the Republican party are gathering for their annual conventions today but with widely varying degrees of support for the president. As the National Rifle Association opens its meeting in Pittsburgh, the group is all but certain to endorse George Bush. The same cannot be said about the Log Cabin Republicans, the gay political activist group cannot forget one of the president's most controversial stands this year.


WOODRUFF (voice-over): It was a sensation but the media's moved on. Gay marriage no longer dominates headlines and news casts.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Radical right is pushing an anti-family amendment...

WOODRUFF: But it will be topic A at one GOP gathering this weekend, the annual convention of the Log Cabin Republicans, a network of gay political activists.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our government should respect every person. And protect the institution of marriage. There is no contradiction between these responsibilities.

WOODRUFF: The president's declaration was a stinging blow to Log Cabin members...

GUERRIERO: We consider this a line in the sand.

WOODRUFF: Who up till then felt they had a friend in the White House.

GUERRIERO: There might be polling on some desks that shows that gay marriage is not endorsed by the majority of Americans but I think they overplayed this card.

WOODRUFF: In response, Log Cabin launched its first-ever television commercial using Dick Cheney's own words from the 2000 vice presidential debate.

DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't think there should necessarily be a federal policy in this area.

WOODRUFF: No top White House aides were invited to address this weekend's convention in Palm Springs. A senior Log Cabin official tells CNN, we didn't think that invitation would be a wise use of paper.

BUSH: I'm troubled by what I've seen.

WOODRUFF: And the group is clearly torn over whether to endorse George W. Bush for reelection, with Log Cabin political director Chris Baron saying members are on different places on this, but it's hard to say at this point what people are thinking.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The number of issues facing our community...

WOODRUFF: They'll surely be discussing it in Palm Strings this weekend, but officials say there won't be a formal decision until the Republican National Convention this summer. Bush campaign spokesman Terry Holt doesn't sound worried, telling us, we feel confident that at the end of the day, all Republicans will be behind the president based on his leadership on key issues that face the nation.


WOODRUFF: Meantime, in Pittsburgh, many National Rifle Association conventioneers (ph) are looking forward, they say, to tomorrow's keynote speech by Vice President Dick Cheney. Today, the gun lobbying group's leaders tell CNN that they will use the gathering to portray John Kerry as a threat to gun rights. Behind the scenes, some NRA members still are grumbling about President Bush's support for the assault weapons ban. You can hear more on the gun lobby when NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre is a guest on INSIDE POLITICS SUNDAY at 10 a.m. Eastern.

Well, gun rights and other domestic issues haven't been getting quite as much attention lately as international affairs. The situation in Iraq remains combustible. Today's talks between President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair certainly kept Iraq in the spotlight. As we reported, the two leaders promised to stand firm in Iraq and they welcomed a U.N. envoy's efforts to craft a plan for the government that will take control of Iraq from coalition authorities at the end of June.


BUSH: One of the essential commitments we've made to the Iraqi people is this -- they will control their own country. No citizen of America or Britain would want the government of their nation in the hands of others. And neither do the Iraqis. And this is why the June 30 date for the transfer of sovereignty will be kept.

(END VIDEO CLIP) WOODRUFF: The Bush/Blair meeting gave the president yet another chance to ease political fallout from the bloodshed in Iraq and to stabilize or at least try to stabilize his poll numbers. Let's talk more about Iraq now and politics with Karen Tumulty of "TIME" magazine.

Karen, what about the president's handling of Iraq this week? We've seen him in several outings. We certainly saw him at the news conference Tuesday night. Today he's standing firm but there are still questions about whether he's explained what he's doing to the American people.

KAREN TUMULTY, "TIME" MAGAZINE: As you said, today once again with Tony Blair at his side, the message was that his resolve is firm, that he will not be shaken. But for that slice of the American public who have been telling pollsters that they are getting more and more nervous about this, his resolve is not really the question. It's whether or not there is a plan for getting out of Iraq. And that is why you increasingly hear the president talking about a more internationalist solution.

WOODRUFF: Karen, I want to interrupt just now because I'm told we do have a videotape that's been made available from al Jazeera. This the tape of a U.S. soldier apparently being held hostage by Iraqis. This is the tape that's just been provided to CNN. You're seeing it at just about the same time we are.

We were told just a moment ago, this was a soldier who appeared to have the same name as a soldier who had been -- who had disappeared earlier in the week. And again, these pictures just coming into CNN from al Jazeera. We don't know where these pictures were taken. We don't know when. And our CNN correspondent Jamie McIntyre is with me now. Jamie, as we look at this video, tell us again what you know from the Pentagon about the identity of this soldier.

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, the Pentagon is working to confirm the veracity of this tape, the authenticity, but the soldier does identify himself as PFC. Maupin (ph) and according to the Pentagon, Private First Class Keith Maupin of Batavia, Ohio, has been missing since the April 9th attack on a convoy, and it is highly likely that it, in fact, is him, although they are being very cautious to say they are working to confirm the authenticity and the identity of the apparent soldier on the tape.

Maupin was one of two soldiers who's been listed as missing since that attack. The other is Sergeant Elmer Crouse (ph) of Greensboro, North Carolina. Both are from the army reserve 724th transportation company out of Bartonsville, Illinois and they had been listed as duty status whereabouts unknown since the April 9th attack. At this point, his status would be changed to probably prisoner of war -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Again, Jamie, saying this apparently, according to what he says may be Private First Class Keith Maupin from Batavia, Ohio. Jamie, I'm told that if we listen in, we may be able to hear some audio on this tape where the soldier identifies himself. Let's listen. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Keith Matthew Maupin.



WOODRUFF: Sounds like he said Private First Class Keith Matthew Maupin. Jamie, so no information on the other soldier, you said, who was missing in that same convoy?

MCINTYRE: That's right. His status is still unknown. He is obviously not showing up in this tape. One of the two that the Pentagon has been concerned about since they first reported that they were missing. Elmer Crouse is a sergeant, and he's more senior enlisted officer and he's been missing as well, and there's been no word of his status.

WOODRUFF: Jamie, is it fair to say this is one of the worst nightmares at the Pentagon or anywhere in the government to see one of America's uniformed soldiers being held hostage?

MCINTYRE: Well, you know, in some ways it's good news and bad news. It's good news for the family and if they find out that the soldier is alive and apparently unharmed at this point, of course, it's a difficult problem for the U.S. military. The Pentagon has said from the very beginning that they will not be negotiating with hostage takers. That they will make every effort to rescue the hostages when they can. To work their intelligence sources to go after the people taking the hostages.

Of course, the soldiers are trained that they could face this kind of situation and how to deal with it. They get that kind of training as part of their routine, but it's always a difficult situation, and the uncertainty for the families is particularly difficult. The Pentagon has just and the U.S. military feels it just has to be resolute in these kinds of situations to make sure they don't show any sign of weakness and make every effort possible both through military means and also sometimes through other channels as well to try to secure the safe release of any hostages.

WOODRUFF: All right, Jamie McIntyre as we see for the first time this video released, we are getting it from al Jazeera, the Arab television network, pictures released by clearly a terrorist group that has taken hostage evidently, an American soldier, Keith Matthew Maupin from Batavia, Ohio who has been missing since April the 9th.

I'm -- still with me in the studio here in Washington, Karen Tumulty of "TIME" magazine. Karen, how does something like this affect the overall support of the American people for what's going on in Iraq, do you think?

TUMULTY: Well, of course, these sorts of pictures come against a backdrop in which 20,000 American families are learning that their own loved ones who are serving in Iraq won't be coming home when they expected them when many more thousands of military families are learning that their loved ones will be probably going over there earlier than expected this year. And this is the kind of thing that really does put a strain not only on these families but on their communities as well, and this is the sort of strain that could become corrosive.

WOODRUFF: Karen, let me ask you about what the president and the White House appears to be doing this week in embracing what the U.N. envoy, Mr. Brahimi is recommending and saying after June 30, let's turn Iraq over from a U.S. essentially-controlled government to an Iraqi-controlled government leading to elections. In effect, he's embracing what John Kerry has said he should do. Is there now any separation between their two positions?

TUMULTY: It is in fact becoming harder to tell the difference between what the two of them are advocating. It's more of a matter of degree, Kerry is talking more about the international participation in the reconstruction of Iraq, but this is a difference that probably most Americans cannot see.

WOODRUFF: So if it continues in this vein, how does John Kerry -- how does he, out on the campaign trail or anywhere, explain his differences with George Bush?

TUMULTY: We saw a little bit of that this week. He began talking essentially about the president's competence and suggesting that it is going to be harder to get this kind of international participation, this kind of international support as long as George Bush is in the White House. He also, yesterday, took a turn in accusing the president essentially of exploiting the word terror to essentially build support on the basis of fear, and this was a really hard attack on Kerry's part.

WOODRUFF: We are going to have to leave it there, Karen Tumulty of "TIME" magazine joining us here in the Washington studio. Karen, thank you very much. It's good to see you.

Question. What is new in John Kerry's search for a running mate? Coming up, Bob Novak's inside buzz on the veep stakes and whether names will soon be released.

Plus, an anti-Bush group's plan to give the Bush campaign it's, quote, "just desserts." And next, David Gergen's unique take on the election and the hot campaign issues as a former adviser to both Republican and Democratic presidents.


WOODRUFF: Whether or not President Bush scored points at his primetime news conference, he did manage to land a strong political hand to someone else this week. Let's bring in our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Judy, this week, the White House press corps tried to get President Bush to admit he had made mistakes. They failed. He said he couldn't come up with one. But someone else succeeded in getting this president to reverse himself, and that's quite an achievement. It's also the political play of the week.


SCHNEIDER (voice-over): After meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon this week, President Bush agreed to recognize Israeli settlements in the West Bank, accept a temporary security fence between Israelis and Palestinians, and repudiate Palestinian claims to a right of return to Israel. In every case, a departure from long-held U.S. positions. Sharon was pleased to say the least.

ARIEL SHARON, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: I was encouraged by your positive response and your support for my plan.

SCHNEIDER: How did he get President Bush to sign on? Frustrated Palestinians saw election year politics going on.

RASAN RAHMAN, PLO REP. TO THE UNITED STATES: I don't see why the United States would involve itself in two issues that are left for final status negotiations. Except maybe for political expedience in the United States in an election year.

SCHNEIDER: Sharon did not seem unaware of politics.

SHARON: You have proven, Mr. President, your ongoing deep and sincere friendship to the state of Israel and to the Jewish people.

SCHNEIDER: Sharon's deal is with Bush and Palestinians are enraged that they were left out of the negotiations. Bush is telling Palestinians to accept reality. This is the only way you will get what you want. A state.

BUSH: And all previous efforts to negotiate a two-state solution have reached the same conclusion.

SCHNEIDER: On May 2, Sharon faces a crucial vote by his Likud Party on whether or not to endorse his plan. That vote was in doubt before this week. Bush's endorsement is likely to put it over.

DAVID HOROWITZ, ISRAELI ANALYST: I think that the presidential position represents really as good as it could get for Sharon. The Israeli television correspondent came out of the White House session yesterday and said, you know, short of going to the homes of every Likud and telling them to support Sharon, Bush did everything that Sharon could have wished him to do.

SCHNEIDER: Including giving the Israeli prime minister the political play of the week.


SCHNEIDER: Sharon's plan has been criticized as a unilateral plan. But you know, that's not exactly a term that horrifies President Bush -- Judy.

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

On the eve of national elections in Spain, last month's terrorist bombs ripped through Madrid train stations killing 190 people. In the aftermath, the prime minister was defeated. And the new government vowed to pull Spanish troops out of Iraq. Could such an attack happen here before the November election? Earlier today, I talked about all this with journalist and former presidential adviser David Gergen. I started by asking him why he has recently been urging Republicans and Democrats to remain united, at least on the issue of terrorism.


DAVID GERGEN, KENNEDY SCHOOL OF GOVERNMENT, HARVARD UNIVERSITY: Well, Judy, there is a substantial fear in homeland security folks in Washington, D.C. about whether terrorists will try to interfere with this political election as they did in Spain, and clearly, they triumphed in Spain, turned the results of that election. So there's fear among people who follow these things that they might try to strike via one of our political conventions, which of course are right nearly on top of train stations. Or whether they might try to strike during the campaign.

It seems to me that there would be a great deal to be gained by the two sides coming together, indeed the two candidates, Senator Kerry and President Bush coming together and issuing a statement to potential terrorists that on this issue, we stand as one. Don't mess with us during this campaign. Don't assume you can drive a wedge among us. We will stand as one and we will smother you if you try to do this.

I think that the message that came out of Spain to terrorists, if you interfere with an election, you may get something from it, and there would be great value in the two campaigns coming together and making it clear to potential terrorists that there is nothing to be gained by trying to strike Americans, trying to drive wedges between us as we go about our democratic process.

WOODRUFF: That raises an interesting question whether the campaigns would be willing to do that but it's certainly worth putting it on the table. David, you've also been talking lately about how leadership may be an issue in this campaign. What about the president's news conference Tuesday night? What sort of leadership message did we see there?

GERGEN: Well, it has been true for some time now that people's belief in George Bush's personal leadership, that he's decisive, responsive, effective, has been his greatest asset politically. Support for his policies in Iraq support for his economic policies have consistently been lower than the view, whether you like his policies or not, he's an effective leader, and I think that leadership has been called into question by events in recent days, not only on 9/11 but especially in Iraq.

As to the press conference this week, the president struck me as reinforcing himself with his base, with his strong set of convictions, in fact, he was unwavering. That is a piece of leadership, but the other piece of leadership that -- the presidency as Richard Neustadt (ph) reminded us years ago, is the power to persuade, the power to persuade. I thought on the question of persuasion, he was much less effective.

It was -- his arguments were really assertions, not arguments. That has traditionally not been a way to bring people around, to build up support for one's policies. So I thought by the new stat test of the presidency being ultimately the power to persuade, wasn't there.

WOODRUFF: What about John Kerry? How is he doing in the perception of leadership?

GERGEN: Well, I have to tell you, I don't think either man right now is over the top on the leadership issue. John Kerry, while he's been shrewd, he keeps his head down a little bit during these troubles in Iraq, I think continues to strike many listeners, including some of his own best supporters as being a little mushy and uncertain. His position is so carefully calibrated on Iraq to be a bit of this and a bit of that and that it doesn't have that clarion call one ordinarily likes to have in a leader. There's no certain trumpet here. I think that's an issue for him. He's going to have to address that in the weeks ahead.

WOODRUFF: Is it possible to have a certain trumpet in these circumstances where you've got 130-some odd thousand American troops over there.

GERGEN: Well, I think it's more difficult and there's no question with that especially as the opposition candidate. He is walking a fine line, obviously, but it's not clear. Do you know, I certainly don't, what John Kerry would do differently if he were president and what he would do after he becomes president if he were elected, in Iraq? I don't have a clean clear sense of that, a certain trumpet. You have to be a little bit muffled during a war. Yes, you have to be careful, but I still think that there is not the kind of clarity that one can rally to him and say John Kerry is going to be terrific in getting us out of this situation in Iraq.


WOODRUFF: David Gergen, now with Harvard University's Kennedy School.

Coming up next, Bush, Kerry, the 9/11 commission, and more. All part of Bob Novak's political notebook.


WOODRUFF: Bob Novak joins us now from the "CROSSFIRE" set at George Washington University with some inside buzz. All right, Bob. We were led to believe, some of us this week, that the Bush campaign was cutting back on ads. But now you're saying that they're out raising a lot more money. What's going on?

BOB NOVAK, COHOST, "CROSSFIRE": The president has finished fundraising for the campaign but not for the party. In the next week, there are five chances, Judy, for you to spend $25,000 for you and your husband to help the Republican National Committee. Monday in Chattanooga, Dick and Lynn Cheney have a lunch. On Monday night, Laura Bush is out in the Virginia suburbs at a millionaire's house, Dwight Shar (ph). Then on Tuesday afternoon, the president has a luncheon in New York City and then the president has a fundraising lunch in Daples (ph), Florida, Friday afternoon and Friday night in Miami. Five events. Only cost you $25,000 to be with those big-time Republicans.

WOODRUFF: Sounds like they're all over the country and I guess I'll see you at one of those events. All right. Bob, John Kerry, the vice presidential selection process, what are you hearing about when we may know something?

NOVAK: Don't expect for the vice presidential selection, for Senator Kerry to put out a vice presidential proposals like a finalist and semifinalist like Al Gore did four years ago. I am told that John Kerry was very hurt by that, his name was put out. He was eliminated. It was a humiliating process. He's not going to put anybody through that. The plans are just to announce somebody. They're not saying when it's going to happen. People who say they know who's on the list probably are not very close to Kerry because he ain't talking.

WOODRUFF: Let's go to a very different subject, the 9/11 commission. Some speculation, Bob, over the last couple weeks that maybe the commission can't come together on a report. What do you hear?

NOVAK: The commission members I talk to feel that even though there is a deep division, a partisan division, there are mostly politicians on the commission, they believe they can come together on a recommendation for changes in the intelligence system, even if they disagree badly on the role of President Bush and how he's handled himself. The guy who's holding the commission together is the Democratic vice chairman, Lee Hamilton. Some of the Democrats on the commission are very partisan, but Lee Hamilton, former congressman, is not. I think he is at a point in his career where he's beyond partisanship.

WOODRUFF: Last but not least, let's turn to the state of Pennsylvania and the incumbent Republican senator fighting to hang on to his job.

NOVAK: Four-term senator, Arlen Specter is really -- he is really seriously threatened now by conservative Congressman Pat Toomey. The president is coming in Monday to help him. George Soros who hates George Bush, a billionaire financier and investor, Mr. Soros has already spent $15 million to beat Bush. He has also given $50,000 to a group called the Republican Mainstream Partnership to Help Out Senator Specter. The problem with that is, it's embarrassing to be campaigning with Bush when Soros, Bush's enemy is helping Specter. Specter called Rush Limbaugh's program, said he has no connection with the Republic mainstream partnership. The problem with it is that the organization's web page has Senator Specter as a member. So the Republicans, I always love these intraparty fights. They're at each other's throats and when you're trying to be a friend of both George Soros and George W. Bush, you've got a little problem -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: There you go. Looking at the Internet again, Bob. We always get in trouble when we do that. Bob Novak. We'll see you on "CROSSFIRE." INSIDE POLITICS will be right back.


WOODRUFF: That's it for INSIDE POLITICS this Friday. Thanks for joining us and I'm Judy Woodruff. "CROSSFIRE" is next.


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