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JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS
Iraq in Crosshairs on Capitol Hill; View From Battleground State of Ohio
Aired April 20, 2004 - 15:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: The fight for Iraq in the crosshairs on Capitol Hill. Will the hearings be a showcase for answers or anger?
SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D), DELAWARE: It is outrageous that they're making the same arrogant mistake they made when we held the hearings the first time.
ANNOUNCER: From Baghdad to the Buckeye State, how is the Iraq conflict playing with voters in the political battleground of Ohio?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Everything after 9/11 is a small thing.
ANNOUNCER: Attention, sports fans, we'll go courtside to find out which election-year issues are hot in Florida.
ANNOUNCER: Now, live from Washington, JUDY WOODRUFF's INSIDE POLITICS.
JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you for joining us.
Members of Congress are reexamining the U.S. mission in Iraq at a crucial time, with the troop death toll soaring and voter anxiety rising as well. What do these committee members hope to learn and how might election-year politics figure in?
Let's begin with our congressional correspondent Joe Johns -- Joe.
JOE JOHNS, CNN CAPITOL HILL CORRESPONDENT: Judy, the Senate is just back from spring break extremely eager to hear how the administration plans to handle the June 30 transfer of power to the Iraqis.
But the Senate Foreign Relations Committee still has not gotten a commitment from the Department of Defense to get someone there to testify on Thursday about the transfer. So, today, the administration got, frankly, a bipartisan earful from the top two senators on the committee.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BOB GRAHAM (D), FLORIDA: The administration must present a detailed plan to prove to Americans, Iraqis, and our allies that we have a strategy and that we are committed to making it work.
BIDEN: They are totally incompetent and they don't have anything to tell us, which would constitute incompetence or -- or -- they're refusing to allow us to fulfill our constitutional responsibility. And there's always a price to pay for that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JOHNS: Now, over in the Senate Armed Services Committee today, the Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz did appear and he took some tough questions, particularly from Democrats again on the issue of a plan for Iraq after June 30.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CARL LEVIN (D), MICHIGAN: Either you have a plan or you don't. I know you don't want it to happen. Nobody does. Mr. Brahimi doesn't want it to happen. Kofi Annan doesn't want it to happen. Everybody wants that interim government to be established by the people of Iraq, presumably that will have the broad support of people. But if the pieces can't be put together, my simple question is does the administration have a plan?
PAUL WOLFOWITZ, DEPUTY DEFENSE SECRETARY: There are certainly ways to proceed if it can't be done by July 1. But the reason for keeping so much pressure July 1, is as I said earlier it will improve the security situation of the country enormously if people stopped thinking of themselves as occupied.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JOHNS: So people here are certainly clamoring for more information. They apparently will have the opportunity, two more days of hearings planned, including one in the House of Representatives -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: All right, Joe Johns with the very latest from Capitol Hill -- Joe, thank you very much.
Well, the Bush administration today separately playing down plans by Spain and Honduras to withdraw their troops from Iraq. Secretary of State Colin Powell says that he has been calling remaining members of the U.S.-led coalition and they are giving him, he says, solid commitments to stay and finish the job.
And the White House says that it hopes a new U.N. resolution for Iraq will encourage other nations to participate in aiding security and reconstruction.
Meantime, Iraqi and coalition officials are working to stabilize the city of Fallujah, the site of pitched battles against insurgent forces.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: The current state of affairs in Fallujah will not continue indefinitely. Thugs and assassins and former Saddam henchmen will not be allowed to carve out portions of that city and to oppose peace and freedom. The dead- enders threatened by Iraq's progress to self government may believe they can drive the coalition out through terror and intimidation and foment civil war among Sunnis and Shias or block the path to Iraqi self-rule, but they're badly mistaken.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOODRUFF: There were only scattered reports of fighting between coalition forces and insurgents across Iraq today.
Let's talk more now about the fight for Iraq with two members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Joining me first, Republican Sam Brownback. In a moment, we expect to have Democrat Jon Corzine as well.
Senator Brownback, do you share the view of your chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Richard Lugar, that the Bush administration over the last year and a half has failed to communicate its plans for Iraq to the American people, that this is something it must do so that the people will understand what it has in mind?
SEN. SAM BROWNBACK (R), KANSAS: Yes, I think they've communicated at times pretty well and at other times I don't think they've done particularly well at all.
I think we should have had the top officials from the administration at the committee today. They did have lead officials at the Armed Services hearing that was going to simultaneous to the Foreign Relations. Under either situation, we have a heavy U.S. investment in the region and I think the administration really needs to really go over -- overboard as much as possible in communicating more of that and we need a lot more of that taking place now.
WOODRUFF: We just heard, Senator Brownback, in testimony before the Armed Services Committee Paul Wolfowitz say -- among other things, he said there are ways to proceed without a plan. He went on to say, we do hope to have a plan. But what is your understanding of what that plan will be?
BROWNBACK: Well, you've got two sets of things that are here as I look at it.
One, you have what the provisional government in Iraq has come up with as a basic document for governance. It's kind of a basic constitution. That's a form. That's like our Constitution.
The second is what Brahimi is working on from the U.N., which everybody is pushing for it to come forward and be usable in a time to implement by that July 1-June 30 deadline. That is key that we get Iraq in control, civilian control by the Iraqis. We're going to be there militarily for some period of time, but we need to get that civilian control of Iraq in Iraqi hands as soon as possible.
WOODRUFF: And how exactly that would work? Would the U.S. be completely hands-off in making decisions in Iraq?
I mean, you're seeing right now what's taking place for as far as Brahimi is developing his plan. There's close communication with the administration and with many key countries that's taking place at this point in time. That is going to develop united, the United States and the U.N. and others working together.
But I've got to back up this point again. We've got to get Iraq being run by Iraqis, so that they are responsible for their future, not just an outside force, like the U.S. and the British.
WOODRUFF: Senator Jon Corzine also joining us. He's another member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Senator, what is your understanding of who among the Iraqis will be running the country after June 30?
SEN. JON CORZINE (D), NEW JERSEY: Well, I think this is one of the problems.
I don't think anybody knows who's going to run. I don't think they really have established what sovereignty means, what happens when an attack like happens in Fallujah, who is going to be responsible for dealing with that. What if the United States forces take a certain action and the new government objects to that?
I think, frankly, this is a rush to an arbitrary deadline and I'm actually very frustrated that there is not the detail on the table and the discussion, whether in the Foreign Relations Committee or with the international community, about what this transfer of sovereignty is all about.
WOODRUFF: Senator Corzine, though, just quickly, why does that matter? As long as they are moving to get the Iraqis in control, why do some of these details as you call them need to be resolved by June 30?
CORZINE: Well, I believe that if we don't get this right and then if the new provisional government doesn't have credibility with the Iraqis, then we undermine our long-run ability to get to an effective election and an effective transfer of long-run power further down the road.
It seems to me that we set an arbitrary date without setting any kinds of terms and conditions of what we're trying to accomplish. I'm glad the United Nations is involved. It's a late date for that to happen. But it seems to me that we throw into jeopardy the real transfer of power, which comes through the electoral process and the building of a constitution as we go forward.
WOODRUFF: Senator Brownback, again, if there is a disagreement between the U.S. forces who are still going to be in Iraq in large numbers after July 1, and this new Iraqi administration, who's going to be governing it? Who is going to be the one who makes that decision?
BROWNBACK: The U.S. is going to be in charge of the security situation, it appears to me, for some time to come. You don't have an Iraqi police force nor a military that's stood up that's being effective.
But that's part of the security situation, is that we don't have Iraqis in control. So when we ask Iraqi policemen and soldiers to put their lives on the line, it's being asked by an American and they are less likely to respond. You're going to have the security situation will improve when you get an Iraqi civilian authority doing the civil part of the governance. And then we're going to have to grow and improve substantially this Iraqi military force for them to be able to take over the security picture.
WOODRUFF: Gentlemen, we are going to have to leave it there. Senator Sam Brownback, Senator Jon Corzine, who unfortunately had to join us late, both members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senators, good to see you. We appreciate it.
WOODRUFF: Thank you very much.
Well, how voters in the nation's November battlegrounds view the situation in Iraq could help determine the outcome of the presidential election. We asked our Chris Lawrence to gauge how the Iraq issue is playing in the showdown state of Ohio.
CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The problems in Al-Kut seems a world away from the mundane routines in Kettering. But come November, will the violence in Iraq affect the way people vote in Ohio?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's a battleground here.
LAWRENCE: A battleground that's being shaped by the economy in a state that lost a quarter million jobs since President Bush took office.
JOHN GREEN, UNIVERSITY OF AKRON: Exactly how important will depend on how the economy performs, quite frankly. If we start getting some job growth, that will make it a little less of a burning issue. And something like the war could very much supplant economic concerns.
LAWRENCE: Private Matt Maupin's videotaped capture had just started to sink in when the Pentagon announced Tuesday that another Ohio Marine is among the latest American casualties.
DENNIS MAY, OHIO MAY: I'll remember. Everybody will. They've done a lot of killing, a lot of deaths. They will remember.
LAWRENCE: Construction worker Dennis May plans to vote for John Kerry, but others on his crew like the way President Bush has handled the war.
RANDY KABLER, OHIO VOTER: The unions are also always for Democrats, but I'm going to probably vote for Bush this year.
LAWRENCE: Kabler says the American deaths in Iraq should not be blamed on one man.
KABLER: Just like our crew leader. If we mess up, he takes it.
LAWRENCE: Restaurant manager Randy Ulness likes the job President Bush is doing, but says he is ultimately responsible for those soldiers in the same way Randy is for his restaurant.
RANDY ULNESS, OHIO VOTER: If something go wrong in that kitchen, it's totally my responsibility no matter what happens. Even if I didn't do it, if I wasn't there, it's my responsibility. And, yes, I think he deserves the blame, but I think he deserves the credit, too, if something happens right. And that's just the way politics are.
LAWRENCE: And it's undecided voters like Ulness who could tip the balance this election on whether they remember the successes in Iraq or its failures.
LAWRENCE: And I asked Randy, what would it take to push you either way? He said, well, it's not enough that I moved here from John Kerry's home state of Massachusetts. And if things went back to the way they were in Iraq up until recently, he'd probably lean towards sticking with the president. But another three or four months of violence like we've seen so far with April would probably push him the other way -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: Some very tough decisions voters are making this year. All right, Chris Lawrence, thank you very much. And we welcome you to CNN and INSIDE POLITICS.
LAWRENCE: Thank you.
WOODRUFF: Thank you.
Well, the Kerry campaign apparently meantime trying to fend off the flack over the Vietnam veteran's military records. Two days ago, Kerry said he'd make all of his military records available for inspection, as President Bush agreed to do after questions about his National Guard service. But "The Boston Globe" reported today that the senator's campaign staff at first refused to release any new documents, including Kerry's evaluation by his Navy commanding officers.
Well, now the Kerry campaign says that it will make the records available on its Web site later today. In fact, we've just been told that those records are available now.
There is more on the Kerry military records ahead when I talk to top officials from the Bush and the Kerry campaign Ken Mehlman and Jeanne Shaheen. And I'll get their takes on the latest presidential poll numbers.
Up next, after all of the buzz about the 9/11 Commission hearings, how long it will take before Congress takes any action? We'll get the inside story from the Hill.
And later, Ralph Nader's bid to be the anti-war candidate. Has he found his niche and what could that mean for John Kerry?
WOODRUFF: We have a new addition to our congressional reporting team. Ed Henry, formerly with the Capitol Hill newspaper "Roll Call," joins CNN as our newest congressional correspondent.
Ed Henry, welcome.
ED HENRY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Great to be here.
WOODRUFF: We've been reading you and now we have a chance to have you in our midst and work you hard.
HENRY: Thanks. I'm honored to be here.
WOODRUFF: It's great for you to be here.
Well, as we know, Congress is back at a time when the country is very much focused, among other things, the 9/11 Commission and what it has been reporting.
HENRY: That's right.
WOODRUFF: That commission's report comes out at the end of July. The expectation has been Congress is supposed to do something with the report.
HENRY: That's right. I think the families are counting on Congress to act on these recommendations in late July when the 9/11 Commission reports. The nation has been riveted by these hearings, these massive intelligence failures that have been uncovered.
But I spoke today to the Senate intelligence chairman, Pat Roberts. And he's saying that the calendar is stacked against Congress right now. As you know, the political conventions will take up July and part of August. Congress will be away. They don't get back until September. And then they're going to go home for the election. And so, basically, what Senator Roberts is saying is that he doesn't see any reform coming this year.
He has an aggressive agenda for next year. And the bottom line is that Senator Roberts says that he hopes to have hearings this summer to get the ball rolling on some very interesting proposals, including maybe merging the House and Senate Intelligence Committee hearings into one super congressional Intelligence Committee in order to have one voice and in order to streamline the oversight of the intelligence community. But some people might not be satisfied with that. WOODRUFF: Is that going to satisfy the 9/11 families?
HENRY: I think that's the question.
And I spoke to other senior Republicans who told me over the last couple of days that it is going to take public pressure. And if the 9/11 Commission issues some findings that are very urgent, that say, unless Congress does this, there will be another 9/11, only that will force Congress to do something this year.
WOODRUFF: Let's talk about another issue before the Congress. Last year, they dealt with Medicare prescription drug reform. At least, they thought they had dealt with it. Now it turns out there are real questions about seniors who were counting on this Medicare prescription drug benefit are getting what they're looking for. And, as a result, you have got something else now happening on the Hill.
HENRY: That's right.
Basically, seniors, as you know, key voting bloc in the next election. Republicans thought they had the silver bullet when they passed a prescription drug benefit for Medicare last November. They thought they were done with the issue, but no. All of a sudden, we see a lot of controversy about the new Medicare law, a lot of seniors saying maybe they're not as enthusiastic as Republicans thought.
So Congress is probably going to take a second bite of the apple. Republicans John McCain and Olympia Snowe are going to unveil a proposal tomorrow that will allow seniors to buy cheap drugs from Canada and the European Union. Ted Kennedy, Tom Daschle, some of the Democrats, also involved in this.
WOODRUFF: You were telling me the White House not happy with that. They're not ready to come on board.
HENRY: The White House is thinking, they dealt with this issue last year. They don't want deal with it again before the election.
WOODRUFF: Very quick last word. An Indiana congressman caught packing heat?
HENRY: That's right. John Hostettler, Republican from Indiana, Democrats already pouncing on the fact that, on his way back to Washington today, in a Kentucky airport, he was caught with a handgun in his baggage.
His office says it was a complete mistake. There was no harm intended. The bottom line is, we know the FAA used to ask us whether you packed your own bags. They might have to start asking, "Did you pack the right bag?" because he says he just packed the wrong bag.
WOODRUFF: All right, well, now we know he owns a gun, I guess.
HENRY: Exactly. WOODRUFF: And he's not denying it's his.
HENRY: That's right.
WOODRUFF: Ed Henry, our new congressional correspondent, thank you very much.
HENRY: Thank you.
WOODRUFF: We'll be seeing a lot of you in the days to come.
Another question, what really matters to voters across the United States? When we return, CNN political analyst Carlos Watson will be with me to talk about a new segment he's doing for CNN's "PAULA ZAHN NOW." It's called "American Pulse" and it looks at what voters see as the real issues this election year.
WOODRUFF: For the next few weeks, CNN political analyst Carlos Watson is traveling across America to talk to voters about what really matters to them this election year. It is a new segment called "American Pulse." And it makes its debut tonight on America's "PAULA ZAHN NOW" at 8:00 Eastern.
Carlos is with us now from New York to tell us about it -- Carlos.
CARLOS WATSON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Hey, Judy, how are you?
WOODRUFF: Good. Tell us about it.
WATSON: Well, it's a fantastic new segment. We're going to key battleground states like Florida, Pennsylvania, Arizona and Minnesota. And we're going to unconventional people in order to have the conversation.
Our first stop in Florida, you'll love this, we went not to senators or congressmen, but we went to speak to some of the basketball players for the NBA's Miami Heat. We also spoke to several of the their fans. And you heard them talk about everything from war to the economy.
And in the segment that have coming up, we have got a little clip for you, you hear them talk about an issue that you hardly hear about anymore. Listen to what they had to say.
WATSON: I remember election after election where, remember when crime was often the big issue.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not on the radar screen.
WATSON: Why is it not on the radar screen, do you guys think? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you look at South Florida, for example, and we have local elections coming up here, the No. 1 issue is transportation and education.
WATSON: But not crime?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not crime.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Since, I guess, 9/11, everybody's gotten together and supported each other. And now we're on the same side. So now we have a new enemy to go against which is an outside enemy.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Everything after 9/11 is a small thing. You know, it's like a lot -- crime used to bother me, the economy. That's small stuff now. I don't lose any sleep over those things anymore because 9/11 is always in the back of my mind.
WATSON: Judy, so you can see that it's a very interesting piece. You'll hear athletes open up and talk about gay marriage. You'll hear talk about who they think Kerry should select for vice president. And they've got some very interesting thoughts on taxes and the economy.
So it's a great segment beginning every Tuesday on Paula's show at 8:00. And tonight is the first installment.
WOODRUFF: I can't wait to hear what some of these people are saying. It sounds like you didn't have any trouble drawing them out.
WATSON: They were good. They were good.
WOODRUFF: Carlos Watson, we look forward to ti.
And you can catch Carlos Watson's "American Pulse." It's on CNN's "PAULA ZAHN NOW" starting tonight at 8:00 Eastern.
From Florida to Wisconsin, New Hampshire to Arizona, we'll read between the lines of the latest polls and see how Bush and Kerry are doing in the big showdown states.
And how much is President Bush spending on his campaign? The number may surprise you.
RALPH NADER (I), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have started an impeachment petition against President Bush for his illegal war in Iraq.
ANNOUNCER: Can Ralph Nader step into the void and become the anti-war candidate in the race for the White House?
Is President Bush widening his lead on John Kerry? That's what's some new polls show, but what do the two campaigns say about the new numbers?
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Arlen Specter is the right man for the United States Senate.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
ANNOUNCER: But Pennsylvania's senior senator faces a tough battle for reelection. We'll talk with his Republican opponent.
ANNOUNCER: Now, live from Washington, JUDY WOODRUFF's INSIDE POLITICS.
WOODRUFF: Welcome back. George W. Bush and John Kerry are zeroing in on different states and different campaign issues today. In Tampa, Florida, Kerry accused Bush of, quote, "playing dirty by gutting the nation's environmental laws." He then headed off to several fund-raisers. The president in the meantime went to New York state to raise campaign money in the Big Apple and to tout the Patriot Act in Buffalo. For Independent candidate Ralph Nader he has tweaked his mission statement this week. Our senior political analyst Bill Schneider looks at Nader's line and the possible fallout.
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): Ralph Nader looks like the candidate without a cause. Defeating President Bush, if that's Nader's cause he ought not to be running. He splits the anti-Bush vote, but this week there are indications Nader may have found his cause. Iraq.
RALPH NADER (I), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have started an impeachment petition against President Bush for his illegal war in Iraq and for plunging our nation into that war on a platform of fabrications, deceptions and prevarications.
SCHNEIDER: Nader is making a bid to become the anti-war candidate. At a breakfast meeting with print reporters on Monday, Nader put out a plan for U.S. withdrawal from Iraq in six months and called himself the only reasonable choice for the peace movement. What about John Kerry?
SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think the vast majority of the American people understand that it is important not just to cut and run. And I don't believe in a cut and run philosophy.
SCHNEIDER: He's right. Americans want to stay the course. Most Americans polled this weekend believe the recent attacks show that the U.S. must intensify its military efforts in Iraq. Only 35 percent say they show the policy is not working and the U.S. should reduce its military commitment, but that antiwar minority is becoming vocal in its criticism Kerry.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You may fool some of the Americans that you are different from George Bush on this war, but you're not fooling most of the world and you're not going to fool Iraqis.
KERRY: It would be unwise beyond belief for the United States of America to leave a failed Iraq in its wake.
SCHNEIDER: On Monday, Nader said of Kerry, he is now bogged down in the quicksands of Iraq. An anti-war movement may be emerging. Take the 22 percent of likely voters who say Iraq will be the deciding issue for them when they vote for president this year. Right now they support Kerry which suggests that voters with the strongest feelings about Iraq tend to be anti-war. If they begin to see Kerry as a sellout on the war, they may find there's another candidate who says exactly what they believe about the war and about President Bush.
NADER: Bush is just such a messianic militarist.
SCHNEIDER: Kerry has said he would keep Iraq from becoming another Vietnam, quote, "by maximizing the capacity for success." The problem is anti-war voters may not be interested in turning President Bush's Iraq policy into a success.
WOODRUFF: It would be interesting to hear, Bill, what John Kerry has to say about the call for impeachment coming from Ralph Nader. I guess we haven't heard from him yet.
SCHNEIDER: I haven't heard anything yet.
WOODRUFF: We'll have to ask. All right. Bill Schneider, thank you.
President Bush right now is leading John Kerry by five points in our latest poll of likely voters nationwide taken over the weekend, by six points when you factor in Ralph Nader. We've been crunching the Bush and Kerry numbers and comparing them to the Bush-Gore results back in 2000.
As you might suspect Bush leads among likely voters in the states he won in 2000. Kerry leads among likely voters in the states that Gore won four years ago and in the showdown states where the 2000 vote was decided by less than five percentage points, our polling shows Bush and Kerry are dead even. Now 47 percent to 47 percent. Just a very short while ago I spoke with Bush campaign manager Ken Mehlman and Kerry campaign chairwoman Jean Shaheen. I started by asking Mehlman if he's worried about the tight race in the battleground states.
KEN MEHLMAN, BUSH CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Well, I think that as more people learn more about Senator Kerry and more about President Bush what these polls show is whether they're in the battleground states or other states, they're making the decision that George W. Bush is the right kind of leader, has the right kind of leadership qualities and is right on the issues as compared to Senator Kerry which remarkable about the polls, is it isn't just the ballot test that's changed, Bush versus Kerry, it's also who do you trust on Iraq? Who do you trust on education? Who do you trust on the war on terror and who's the kind of leader you want leading our country?
WOODRUFF: But this is an incumbent president and I'm saying the polls are dead even.
MEHLMAN: Well, we always believed this would be a marathon, not a sprint. We always said we thought this would be a close election, but what these polls show me is more Americans hear about George W. Bush and as more Americans hear from John Kerry they're making the decision that George W. Bush is the right kind of leader for our country.
WOODRUFF: Jean Shaheen, let me ask you from a national perspective, it is the case that President Bush is moving ahead of John Kerry in the national picture. Given the bad news that we've had out of Iraq in the last couple of weeks and elsewhere, the 9/11 commission, you would think that President Bush wouldn't be doing as well as he is. How do you explain this?
JEAN SHAHEEN, KERRY CAMPAIGN CHAIRWOMAN: Well, I think the Bush campaign has reason to be very concerned. The fact is they've spent $55 million in ads attacking John Kerry and the race still at dead heat. We haven't yet heard what the fallout will be from Bob Woodward's book. He raises some serious questions in there about what the president did on the Iraq war, what he told the American people. How he misled them about weapons of mass destruction, so I think this race is very close and it's going to continue to be very close.
WOODRUFF: The Bush-Cheney campaign, the Republican National Committee, I understand, is promoting the Bob Woodward book. They must not think it's a liability.
SHAHEEN: I think there are serious questions raised in there that the president needs to answer about whether the Saudis are trying to manipulate the election here over the price of gasoline. If there is a deal around gasoline, then why are the American people still paying historic high prices for gasoline at the pumps today. Why doesn't the president put the pressure on the Saudis to go ahead and produce more gasoline today? Why wait until the election?
WOODRUFF: Let me give Ken Mehlman a chance to address that quickly.
I was surprised that the governor raised that since Bob Woodward himself along with Saudi Prince Bandar and along with our government has said there was no deal. What's interesting is you would not expect Senator Kerry's campaign chairman, Senator Kerry having said he's had secret conversations with foreign governments. Senator Kerry having 11 times supported higher gas prices, been in favor of it, you wouldn't expect him to raise this issue. The fact is it's a red herring, Bob Woodward has said so, the administration has said so, the Saudi government has said so.
WOODRUFF: What about that, Jean Shaheen? SHAHEEN: Well, Bob Woodward, on "60 Minutes" said that there had been an agreement between President Bush and Prince Bandar making sure that there was plenty of gasoline before the election. I don't know if that happened or not, but the fact is if there is an agreement around how much gasoline to produce, I sure wish they'd do it now so the American people could pay lower prices for gas and that's what John Kerry wants to do.
MEHLMAN: Bob Woodward, in his book, said it wasn't the case, page 242 and he yesterday said it wasn't the case. The fact is this president has consistently worked for lower gas prices.
SHAHEEN: But they're not lower.
MEHLMAN: We're working to make them lower.
MEHLMAN: He's been on the record consistently saying we need higher gas prices.
SHAHEEN: That's incorrect. He has not supported an increased gasoline price. In fact he said that there are...
MEHLMAN: 11 times he's come out in favor of higher gas prices.
SHAHEEN: To make sure we need to lower gasoline prices like stop putting them in the strategic petroleum reserve.
MEHLMAN: But the 50 cent per gallon gasoline tax increase would raise prices.
SHAHEEN: Which he never supported.
MEHLMAN: In 1984 he said he was for it and he voted ten times for it.
WOODRUFF: Ken Mehlman, I want to raise something else with you. The Bush campaign has spent $45 million, we are told, on television ads for the last several weeks, many of which accused John Kerry of changing his position on the issues. I want to ask you about something that President Bush has done. Not so long ago this administration was saying it was wrong to involve the U.N. in Iraq. Now they're saying the U.N. should be involved in Iraq. A number of people are saying that's a 180-degree change in view. If it's not OK for John Kerry to change his mind, why is it all right for them?
MEHLMAN: I would respectfully disagree with the premise of the question. One of the reasons we have the book on the website, that we encourage people to purchase is because when you read the book, what you find out is from the beginning George W. Bush tried to involve the international community and did involve them. He went to the United Nations twice, he worked to include our allies in the effort.
What President Bush has done is involve an international coalition but he has not and will never outsource defending America and so George W. Bush has said that we need to make sure we involve other nations. We need to involve the United Nations, we have a good plan to do that, but we cannot sacrifice American security when we do it and one of the disputes we have with Senator Kerry's campaign is that we think that when it comes to who will stand up for this country, unfortunately, the senator has said he would support providing veto power to someone on the United Nations security council.
WOODRUFF: Quick answer on that and then I want to ask you about something else.
SHAHEEN: Yes. Talk about a flip-flop. The fact is that the position the president is moving to is the position that John Kerry has had for over a year which is we need to share the burden in Iraq and in order to do that, to get the U.N. involved. John Kerry has never supported giving anybody a veto over U.S. foreign policy. He's a decorated military hero. He understands the importance of the military.
WOODRUFF: Speaking of that, your campaign today releasing what you say are all of John Kerry's military records. Does this include all of the material, evaluations by his commanding officers? All of his medical records?
SHAHEEN: Listen, our intent is to make all of those records available. Most of them are -- they're all available on the Web site that we have today. John Kerry has a military record to be proud of. He was decorated in Vietnam. He asked for a second tour to go on the swift boat...
WOODRUFF: Is everything going to be put out is my question?
SHAHEEN: We intend to put out everything that we have.
WOODRUFF: And, Ken Mehlman, quickly, the Bush campaign is releasing e-mails like this one, the Boston fog report saying why didn't John Kerry do this sooner? Are you trying to make an issue...
MEHLMAN: Well i think that what we're pointing out is that on this issue as with many others, what John Kerry said and what John Kerry does are two very different things.
John Kerry said to Tim Russert, he'll find the information, it's available for you. And in fact the next day his aides said it's not available to you.
So if he's changed again that's appropriate. We think it's good. He has always said he believes in public disclosure. Unfortunately in (UNINTELLIGIBLE) areas he has not provided public disclosure.
SHAHEEN: ... we're proud of that record. We're happy to put that up against the president any day.
WOODRUFF: We're going to leave it there. Jean Shaheen, Ken Mehlman, thank you both.
And more presidential headlines in our "Campaign News Daily." The Kerry campaign has released three new TV ads, designed, they say to rally supporters and raise money. All of the spots end with fund- raising requests and they highlight Kerry's stands on different issues including abortion.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AD ANNOUNCER: The Supreme Court is just one vote away from outlawing a woman's right to choose. George Bush will appoint anti- choice, anti-privacy justices. But you can stop him. Help elect John Kerry and join the fight to protect our right to choose.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOODRUFF: The Kerry campaign is spending less than $100,000 to run these ads. They will air for five days across six states and on basic cable channels including CNN.
The Bush campaign has spent a sizable amount of its record fund- raising in recent weeks. According to latest FEC filing, the Bush campaign has raised more than $185 million and has spent more than $9 million. That is almost as much as President Bush spent to win the GOP nomination four years ago.
The Bush campaign spent more than $49 million in March as it launched its first TV ad blitz. That is almost double what the campaign raised over the same one month period.
How much does political capital or political capital does the president have in the state of Pennsylvania? Up next we'll get the inside story on his campaign in that battleground state and whether he's giving Senator Specter any coattails.
Plus I'll talk to Specter's rival in next week's Republican the primary, Congressman Pat Toomey.
This is INSIDE POLITICS, the place for campaign news.
WOODRUFF: The battle for Pennsylvania is the topic for the latest "Hotline Tip Sheet." Chuck Todd is with me here in Washington. He's the editor in chief of "The Hotline, an Insider's Political Briefing" produced everyday by "The National Journal."
All right, Chuck, let's start by talking about Pennsylvania. What sort of a commitment are Bush and Kerry making?
CHUCK TODD, "HOTLINE" EDITOR: There's no battleground state or swing state or purple state, what ever you want call them, that President Bush has visited more than Pennsylvania. He's been there 27 times including yesterday on behalf of Arlen Specter and of course himself.
Of all the states they lost, this is one state that Karl Rove wants back badly. The one state they feel they can grow the most. The large Catholic population in the state is something that the Bush and Cheney campaign believe that they have an in with.
Already in the past 40 some odd days through the end of this week, the Bush campaign would have spent over nearly $5 million in TV ads there. The Democrats have spent nearly $4 million in competition. So it might be the most competitive state going on right now in the presidential race.
WOODRUFF: At the same time you've got that, right now you've got going to a hot and heavy Republican primary contest for the Senate between the long-time incumbent, Arlen Specter, and a conservative Republican Congressman, Pat Toomey, who's challenging him. How does this affect the presidential race?
TODD: It effects it directly, it's round one. Specter wins the Bush campaign feels like they have an even money shot, that they don't have to worry about any kind of weird drag on the ticket.
If Toomey wins, I've heard there are some Republicans who believe Pennsylvania is not in play for President Bush, that it's gone, that they would have a very hard time winning the state anyway, never mind a drag on the ticket because Ed Rendell, the governor there, would suddenly open up the spigots of money for Joe Hoeffle, the Democratic candidate who hasn't raised a lot of money yet.
And then all of sudden there would be a lot more Democratic money in the Democratic hands and Arlen Specter's always had a way to sort of keep some Democratic money from being spent.
WOODRUFF: In other words, the Democrats lay low unless Toomey's the...
TODD: Absolutely. And then all of a sudden it just comes flooding in.
So this is round one. And you know the Bush campaign's testing its field operation, I hear, on behalf of Specter in this primary. So we're also going to get a test run of their field operation.
WOODRUFF: I'll be talking to Congressman Toomey in just a minute. I'll be sure and ask him about that.
Last, but not least, outside of Pennsylvania, the former presidential candidate on the Democratic side, are they thinking about running for any other office?
TODD: Well, remember, all the losers in 2000 on the Republican side all ended up running for other stuff. We had Lamar Alexander and Elizabeth Dole end up running for the Senate. The were rumors that (UNINTELLIGIBLE) office. It look like you may see the same boomlet now of these failed 2004 Democratic candidates. Arkansas Democrats are very much recruiting Wesley Clark to run for governor, something he almost thought about doing in 2002. Wasn't as well known then. Now he'd be the kingmaker. He'd be the front runner automatically.
Joe Lieberman the other day has been rumored about possibly running for Connecticut governor. John Rowland there is under -- might be impeached, might kicked out of office. So who knows? We might see a whole slate of new candidates come up from the presidential wrecks.
WOODRUFF: We need to ask General Clark if he indeed may do this.
WOODRUFF: We will -- or you will.
TODD: I hope to.
WOODRUFF: Chuck Todd, with "The Hotline," thank you very much. It is, of course, the insider's political briefing produced every day by "The National Journal." You can go online to NationalJournal.com for subscription information. Chuck, thanks.
Well we've seen President Bush standing shoulder to shoulder with Senator Arlen Specter. Up next, Congressman Pat Toomey does join me to talk about why he thinks he can defeat an incumbent senator who has White House support.
WOODRUFF: We have more now on next Tuesday's Pennsylvania GOP Senate primary. The challenger, Congressman Pat Toomey, is with me now from Philadelphia.
Congressman Toomey, first of all, welcome. I want to ask you first of all about the polls showing it's a close race. Senator Specter in a poll out today, Quinnipiack University, Specter's ahead 49. You've got 44.
But even more than that you got the President Bush, President Bush campaigning with Senator Specter. You've got, you know, the other Republican senator in the state, Rick Santorum, campaigning for Senator Specter.
How in the world do you plan to up end the entire Republican establishment?
REP. PAT TOOMEY (R), PENNSYLVANIA: Judy, I think it's pretty amazing when you think about Senator Specter's advantages, having been in office for 24 years, having four times as much money as I have and having all of the endorsements that he's got and he can't get above 50 percent on a ballot test.
I think it confirms what I've been saying all along. Senator Specter is just is way outside the mainstream of the Republican Party. He's been too liberal for too long. He's undermined what Republicans have tried to accomplish.
And my simple message is it's time for Republicans to have a chance to actually govern with people who believe and the ideas at the heart of the Republican Party. And I think that's why I am so thrilled to have the support I've got all across the commonwealth. And I'm convinced we're going to win a week from now.
WOODRUFF: Let me read a quick quote from Terry McDonogh. I'm sure you know who he is, the director of the Franklin and Marshall College Keystone Poll. He says it's hard to find any group or community in Pennsylvania that Senator Arlen Specter hasn't helped. Meaning he's really played to his constituents.
TOOMEY: Arlen Specter likes to take credit for spending an awful lot of money. And frankly, it's not a good deal for Pennsylvania. It's not a good deal for our federal budget. He's supported all kinds of wasteful spending. He's been recognized as the most wasteful spender in the entire United States Senate.
And at a time when we're running $500 billion deficits, I don't think that's what most of the people of Pennsylvania want.
WOODRUFF: What do you say though -- we just heard from Chuck Todd of "The Hotline." Republicans are worried that if you were to somehow pull off a win in this primary, that Pennsylvania would be gone for George Bush in November.
TOOMEY: Judy, Chuck is just dead on wrong this. The fact is when we win this primary there is going to be so much energy and enthusiasm amongst Republicans across this commonwealth who have really been geared up for my race and will be in high gear for the general.
There is no such enthusiasm for Senator Specter. He campaigns on a liberal basis. I'm going to do a lot to help President Bush get reelected. That's very important to me. And I'll be reinforcing the president's message. Arlen Specter runs a totally different kind of message.
WOODRUFF: What about the point that Chuck Todd made? At least I had not heard this. He said that he's hearing that the Bush presidential campaign field operation is going to be testing its operation in Pennsylvania on behalf of Senator Specter this week.
TOOMEY: I haven't heard anything of this sort.
You know, voters across Pennsylvania understand something very simple. And that is people in political office have political obligations. It is the standard operating procedure of this White House and really every White House to support incumbents within their own party.
That's what's going on here. And the day after this primary, I'll be doing everything I can to help President Bush get reelected. And I'm sure he'll do everything he can to help me get elected to the U.S. Senate. WOODRUFF: Congressman Pat Toomey hoping to knock of the incumbent, senator from the state of Pennsylvania, Arlen Specter. Congressman Toomey, good to see you.
TOOMEY: Good to see you. Thanks, Judy.
WOODRUFF: Thank you very much. We'll be watching that race very closely.
New clues about possible choices for John Kerry's running mate. Up next, several senators join Kerry for a flight across Florida. Is it enough to engage in a little ticket talk?
WOODRUFF: Finally, we'd like to be a fly on the wall of John Kerry's campaign plane this afternoon as he flies from Tampa to Miami. That's because three potential running mates are on board with him. At least we think these people are potential running mates. Senator John Edwards of North Carolina and Senators Bob Graham and Bill Nelson of Florida.
Our political producer Sasha Johnson tells us Kerry was asked what the four of them were talking about. He simply smiled and walked away. Very clever of him.
That's it for INSIDE POLITICS. I'm Judy Woodruff. Thanks for joining us. "CROSSFIRE" starts right now.
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