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


 

Return to Transcripts main page

JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS

Kerry's War Record; Iraq Politics and President Bush; Scandal at the U.N.?

Aired April 21, 2004 - 15:30   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
ANNOUNCER: John Kerry's military record: do newly released documents defend against controversy, or will his political opponents keep the attacks coming?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, the voters aren't stupid, and we don't like to be treated that way.

ANNOUNCER: Another bloody day in Iraq. What more can the Bush camp do to get out from under this cloud?

The RNC in NYC. Do Republican convention planners and protesters know what they're getting into?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: New York is the most complex environment we've certainly ever put a convention in.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're all stepping in out in our New York attitude and saying, all right, bring it on.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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

JUDY WOODRUFF, HOST: Thank you for joining us.

Presidential candidates usually don't like to see their message of the day undermined, particularly by their own campaigns. But John Kerry's campaign felt it was necessary to release more of his military records today, even if it did step on his Earth Day eve focus on the environment. Will this put the flap over the records to rest?

Here now, our national correspondent, Kelly Wallace.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KELLY WALLACE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The documents now available on John Kerry's Web site include everything the campaign says it has concerning Kerry's two tours of duty in Vietnam. More than 100 pages in all. The release designed to put to rest any questions about whether Kerry earned all three of his Purple Hearts.

MICHAEL MEEHAN, KERRY CAMPAIGN SPOKESMAN: John Kerry has a record in the military that he's running on, not running from. WALLACE: A Purple Heart, military experts say, is awarded to a soldier wounded by enemy fire. The documents show Kerry received shrapnel wounds in his left thigh when he came under hostile fire. And in another incident, shrapnel wounds and contusions when a mine detonated nearby. Those injuries resulted in his second and third Purple Hearts.

But regarding his first Purple Heart, the documents provide no details of Kerry's wounds or how they came about. Kerry's former commanding officer told the Boston Globe that he had questioned whether Kerry and his crew had taken enemy fire.

The campaign showed CNN what it calls a sick call treatment record from Kerry's personal file. It described a shrapnel wound to his left arm. Kerry's advisers say that injury led to his first Purple Heart.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Those of us who were there know what happened. It hasn't been questioned in 35 years. Obviously in presidential races, politics are politics, and I understand that. But I'm proud of my service.

WALLACE: Documents are filled with glowing praise for the young Navy lieutenant. One superior said, "In a combat environment, Kerry was unsurpassed." Another evaluation said Kerry was unofficially credited with killing 20 enemy fighters. He was awarded the Silver Star and then the Bronze Star for saving the life of one of his crewmates, Jim Rasman (ph).

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WALLACE: And Jim Rasman (ph) is the man who reunited with John Kerry just days before the Iowa caucuses. Now, over the weekend, John Kerry said all of his records were available to the public. But on Monday, a Boston Globe reporter claims he was denied access to those records, and that is when the GOP saw an opening, accusing Kerry of being a flip-flopper. The Kerry campaign then decided to have this document dumped, hoping to quell any controversy -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: And Kelly, just quickly, does this mean all of the documents are out there now?

WALLACE: All the documents the campaign says it has. Documents John Kerry has had and documents that John Kerry asked to get from the Navy last month as questions were surfacing. And the campaign says he received those documents last week. So, again, all the documents, the campaign says he and his aides say he has now.

WOODRUFF: OK. Kelly Wallace, thank you.

And we're going to get dueling takes on the release of Kerry' war record later on INSIDE POLITICS when I talk with the RNC chairman, Ed Gillespie, and with former Navy secretary, John Dalton.

President Bush spoke again today about the challenges he faces as commander in chief on a day of new suicide attacks in Iraq and amid questions about the cost of keeping U.S. troops there.

Let's check in with our White House correspondent, Suzanne Malveaux -- Suzanne.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Judy, earlier today, President Bush spoke with the Newspaper Association of America, sharing some light moments with journalists, joking that he would not dodge their questions. But it was mostly serious in tone.

He outlined his broad agenda, talked about the economy, the need to make tax cuts permanent, homeland security, to renew the Patriot Act. And finally, on the war on terror, the need for Americans to support the administration. Part of that strategy is for this White House to acknowledge the difficulties as well as the progress.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They attacked today in Basra. It's a terrorist act today. They just blew up innocent Iraqis.

They attacked in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, today. And they attack all the time. They'd like to attack us again.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: The president also reiterating that the United States does have strong international support, despite the troop pullout we have seen recently or the intention of troop pullouts from Spain, Honduras and the Dominican Republic.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: People assume that there's not cooperation with nations that didn't agree with the decision in Iraq. That's just simply not the case. We're sharing information with countries that may not have agreed with us in Iraq.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: And today also, Judy, the administration facing new questions about whether or not this administration can even afford this war on terror, particularly the effort inside of Iraq. We heard from powerful members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Republicans and Democrats alike, saying they believe it will cost anywhere from $50 to $75 billion extra to keep those forces on the ground.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan saying that the administration will give those troops whatever it is they need, but they defer to the commanders on the ground to ask for those particular funds. But really, what it is, is fighting the suggestion from critics that perhaps the president would not be willing to ask for additional funds, an unpopular idea during an election season -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Suzanne, slightly different story. The 9/11 Commission I think putting out word today that the president and the vice president are scheduled now to testify, to appear before the committee in private session next week. They are still going to be together. Is that right?

MALVEAUX: That's right. And White House spokesman Scott McClellan saying that it is a matter of timing, that this is the best way, the best forum to do it so that they have both of them together here. The critics say, well, perhaps it will allow them not to have conflicting testimony here.

Either way, what we're going to see, it is going to be a private session with the president and the vice president. This is next Thursday. We are told it's going to be early in the day at the White House and they'll take unlimited questions.

WOODRUFF: All right. So for an unlimited period of time?

MALVEAUX: Well, that's right. They say they'll stay here, they'll be side by side. They'll answer questions as much as the commission members would like and until the final one.

WOODRUFF: OK. Suzanne Malveaux at the White House, thank you.

And now a sidebar to the Iraq conflict that could have implications for the presidential race. The United Nations Security Council gave its blessing today to an independent investigation of corruption in the Iraqi Oil for Food Program. Our Bill Schneider looks at the reason for this probe and what it could mean politically.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): Will scandal at the U.N. affect politics in the U.S.? According to a report last month by the General Accounting Office, Saddam Hussein's government pocketed more than $10 billion from the Oil for Food Program between 1997 and 2002, which is leading to calls for a full investigation.

REP. CHRISTOPHER SHAYS (R), CONNECTICUT: There has to be a full accounting of all oil for food transactions, even if that unaccustomed degree of transparency embarrasses some members of the Security Council.

SCHNEIDER: Plus allegations that U.N. officials may have taken bribes from Saddam Hussein. The news makes the conservatives' case that President Bush was right not to trust the U.N. in Iraq.

BILL O'REILLY, THE O'REILLY FACTOR: This blows the lid off the whole Gulf War, the whole Iraq war. And that would be the biggest bribery scandal I think in history. In history.

SCHNEIDER: And the case that John Kerry is wrong to trust the U.N. now.

KERRY: The course that I have proposed is to turn over to the United Nations the full responsibility for the transformation of the government and for the reconstruction.

SCHNEIDER: But there's a problem.

KOFI ANNAN, SECRETARY-GENERAL, U.N.: Many countries are looking to the U.N. to play an important role in Iraq.

SCHNEIDER: One of them is the U.S.

BUSH: I think that one of the things you're seeing is more involvement by the United Nations in terms of the political process. That's helpful.

SCHNEIDER: Both President Bush and Senator Kerry want to end the American-led control of Iraq's government as quickly as possible. The U.N. is the only alternative to supervise Iraq's political reconstruction. And now it's under investigation by the United States Congress.

SHAYS: To ignore profoundly serious allegations of malfeasance or worse in the Oil for Food Program, would be to deny the Iraqi people the accounting they deserve and leave the U.N. under an ominous cloud.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER: Iraq is a hot potato in this campaign. If the candidates can't toss the hot potato to the U.N., they're going to have to figure out something else to do with it -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: That's a very tough question.

SCHNEIDER: Exactly.

WOODRUFF: Bill Schneider, thank you.

Well, the political maneuvering to end the U.S. occupation is getting more urgent as the June 30 deadline for transferring power to Iraqis gets closer. I spoke just a short time ago with CNN analyst Ron Pollack (sic) of the Brookings Institution, and I started by asking him if the United States can meet the deadline.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KEN POLLACK, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: Well, Judy, I think we can meet it, but it's definitely going to be hard. There's no question about it. You know, we've got ourselves into a little bit of a catch- 22.

We set this deadline back in November back at a time when we had a political process to create a new interim Iraqi government. And at that point in time, there was no reason to believe that you couldn't meet a June 30 deadline. The problem is that political process has fallen apart and we are now scrambling to try to find a new one. And in the meantime, still stuck with this date. So it's possible, but it's going to be very tight.

WOODRUFF: When you say the political process has fallen apart, what are you talking about?

POLLACK: Well, back in November, Paul Bremer and his team out in Iraq came up with what was called the November 15 process, which was this very complicated caucus system you heard about to try to create a new interim Iraqi government that would be more representative, that Iraqis would feel much more comfortable with.

Now, the problem is that fell apart as a series of disputes that broke out between the Kurds, Ayatollah Sistani, the Shia leader, and a number of other groups inside of Iraq. And right now what we've got is Lakhdar Brahimi, the U.N. representative in Iraq, trying desperately to come up with an alternative.

WOODRUFF: Is there an incentive for these warring factions, Ken, to put aside their differences and to cooperate with Mr. Brahimi or the United States?

POLLACK: There certainly is an incentive out there, which is that most of these factions really don't want a full-blown civil war. They don't necessarily all like each other, they may have very different ideas about what they want in an Iraqi government. But none of them really wants a civil war. And that's the biggest thing that we and Brahimi have going for us.

WOODRUFF: But what do they want then? I guess if that's what they don't want, what do they want?

POLLACK: The problem is they all want different things. The Kurds want to be able to have a very autonomous, if not fully independent, region in the north. The Shia want to make sure that they are not just the majority, but the dominant force in the new government. The Sunnis want to make sure that the Shia aren't able to oppress them the way that they oppressed the Shia for years.

And I'll be honest with you. I think that there are ways to square those different circles. But the problem is we haven't so far. And in the way that we've handled each one of these groups, we've managed to anger each of the other ones.

WOODRUFF: All right. Let's talk about how -- whether that June 30 deadline is met or not. What about the security crisis going forward between now and then?

This is just April the 21st. You know, there's just a matter of weeks between now and the end of June. What needs to be done to secure the country?

POLLACK: Well, first, Judy, I think you're putting your finger on what is absolutely the most criminal problem inside of Iraq right now, which is that we've been in the country for a year and we have not yet secured the country. The streets are still not safe for the average Iraqi.

What we need to do, it's a tall order, but it absolutely is necessary. We need to change the mission of U.S. troops so that they are providing day-to-day security for the Iraqis in their towns, villages and cities. We're going to need more U.S. troops to do that. We simply can't do it with the troops we have on hand.

Beyond that, we are going to need foreign troops. There is no way around it, because our own Army is already stretched thin, and they can't sustain an even greater presence in Iraq for very long. We need foreign troops to help.

And then finally, at the end of the day, we're going to need to turn this over to reliable Iraqi security forces. What we saw in the last few weeks is, we don't have that yet. And that means we're going to have to pull all of these Iraqi troops off line, retrain them and re-equip them so that several months or probably more like years from now, when we're able to put them back out on the street, they can actually do the job.

WOODRUFF: So how long a U.S. presence are you talking about, Ken?

POLLACK: I think we must think about a U.S. presence that lasts for years.

WOODRUFF: And how many more U.S. troops are needed right now?

POLLACK: Honestly, I would love to see somewhere between another 40,000 to 60,000 U.S. troops sent over there, which is a commitment we can sustain for only a very short period of time.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Ken Pollack of the Brookings Institution. My apologies. I called him Ron. His name is Ken, of course.

The anti-war groups that are among those gearing up to protest at the Republican National Convention are speaking out. Up next, are Republicans ready for the security risks at their summer party in New York?

Also ahead, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay is a possible target, not of political foes but of prosecutors. Bob Novak will have the "Inside Buzz."

And later, we'll read between the lines of dueling ad campaigns aimed at defining John Kerry.

This is INSIDE POLITICS, the place for campaign news.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Looking ahead to this summer's Democratic National Convention, a published report says that the Secret Service is concerned about the relatively small police force in Boston. The Boston Herald quotes sources who say Secret Service agents have told city officials that Boston has the smallest police and fire departments of any city that the service has worked with on a major national security event.

In response, Boston's mayor criticized "naysayers." He says the city will be ready.

Meantime, in New York, former Democratic mayor Ed Koch is leading a PR campaign to round up volunteers for the Republican convention. Koch will be featured on billboards and newspaper ads like this one, urging New Yorkers to welcome the GOP.

As CNN's Maria Hinojosa reports, however, not everyone in New York shares that welcoming altitude.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARIA HINOJOSA, CNN URBAN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Twelve years ago, the Democratic National Convention became a pep rally in a largely Democratic town. But come August, New Yorkers will host the GOP, and that has some locals preparing a less than friendly welcome.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What's the proposed route of the demonstration?

HINOJOSA: Protest groups large and small are gearing up for counter demonstrations and even counter conventions, with Web sites and logistics almost as organized as the convention itself.

LESLIE CAGAN, UNITED FOR PEACE & JUSTICE: We right from the very beginning were wondering what was the Republican party leadership thinking about coming to New York?

HINOJOSA (on camera): New York must have seen a perfect venue to highlight the president's response to the September 11 attacks. But now some critics wonder if the city could instead highlight the president's weaknesses.

ROGER STONE, POLITICAL CONSULTANT: If you want to talk about the government's response to 9/11, if you want to talk about the war in Iraq, then New York's the right place to go. But if you want to de- emphasize those issues and talk about something else, say the economy, then New York will turn out to be the wrong place to go.

HINOJOSA (voice-over): Even New Yorkers who welcome the convention will have to live with heightened security because of terror threats against New York.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: New York is the most complex environment we've certainly ever put a convention in.

HINOJOSA: Protest groups say any September 11 references by Republicans will backfire.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think that's what angers a great deal of New Yorkers, just outside of wherever you stand politically, is that this is not a celebratory thing. This is not a party. This is not -- so that's kind of why we're all stepping up on our New York attitude and saying, all right, bring it on.

HINOJOSA: The convention's chief says they didn't choose New York because of September 11.

BILL HARRIS, CEO, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL CONVENTION: We came here because the business leaders, the civic leaders and the labor leaders in New York offered us the best business deal to come here. And so we came here for that reason. You know, there are some people who don't necessarily share our political viewpoint who try to make other accusations, but that's not true.

HINOJOSA: New York's mayor, Mike Bloomberg, says the city will make sure that protesters and security threats are a minor inconvenience in a major victory celebration.

MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (R), NEW YORK: There's no regret whatsoever. We will always have events here that will draw big crowds and will be potential target -- make you a potential target. The only ways to ensure that New York is not a potential target is to take away everything that's great about New York, and nobody suggests that we do that.

HINOJOSA: Certainly not the city's highest ranking elected official, a Republican.

Maria Hinojosa, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Bob Novak joins me next. He has word of possible legal problems back home for House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. We'll have the "Inside Buzz."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Bob Novak joins me now from the "CROSSFIRE" set at George Washington University with some "Inside Buzz."

All right, Bob. First of all, what's this about somebody dropping the ball at a Kerry rally recently in Philadelphia?

ROBERT NOVAK, CNN "CROSSFIRE": Yes, the senator was in Philadelphia, and his wife, Teresa, asked the master of ceremonies, Congressman Bob Brady, if she could introduce Governor Ed Rendel, who would then introduce her husband. Well, Teresa went on for about 10 minutes about her life in Mozambique and what bad people the Bush people are, but she forgot to introduce the governor.

So Congressman Brady had to introduce him. And afterwards, Brady went up to one of the Kerry people and said, next time you come to Philadelphia, leave Teresa in Pittsburgh.

WOODRUFF: We'll see what they do.

All right. Turning to Tom DeLay, the majority leader in the House, some troubles maybe back home for him?

NOVAK: There is a possibility that he will be indicted by a grand jury led by a very partisan Democrat, Ronny Earl (ph). Now, several years ago, when Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, Republican, who was making her first run for the Senate in Texas, Ronny Earl (ph) indicted her on trumped up charges. She was acquitted.

Now, I talked to Majority Leader DeLay. He doesn't think he will be indicted. But you never know with a grand jury under the control of a partisan district attorney.

This is in connection with the redistricting which is going to win the Republicans about six more seats in Texas. It makes DeLay a hero. But there's some claims that some money was passed. If he is indicted, would he have to stand aside as majority leader for a while?

WOODRUFF: All right. Move over to the other body, the Senate. What are you hearing how much work they're getting done?

NOVAK: It's an absolute gridlock, not only the filibusters against judges, but Senate Democratic Leader Daschle is now waging filibusters against sending any bills to Senate-House conferences to get the final version of the bill unless he gets preordained results of that conference. So nothing is happening.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist is being asked to lay down an ultimatum, if you don't stop this, we won't pass anything. Frist is not a hardball player, but you have the worst gridlock in the Senate I think there's ever been.

WOODRUFF: Finally, Bob, a wrinkle in the Republican primary for the Senate seat from Pennsylvania next week. What's that all about?

NOVAK: Yes, that's Senator Specter against Congressman Toomey, it wasn't widely noted, but a district court judge in the middle district of Pennsylvania has ruled that the results of overseas balloting will be delayed from the April 27th primary to May 17th because the mail system of voting overseas is so messed up. That's a nationwide scandal.

Now, if this is a close election, it means that the results of that primary could wait on this overseas vote until May 17th. But Judy, the real point is that, looking ahead to November, if the federal courts are going to say you must get these overseas votes in on time, the results of the national election, which sometimes gets very close, if you'll remember, could be delayed for weeks.

WOODRUFF: Boy, wouldn't that be a story. I wonder where that's happened before. Bob Novak, we'll see you on "CROSSFIRE" at 4:30 Eastern.

NOVAK: Thank you, Judy.

WOODRUFF: Well, many political operatives and analysts are pouring over John Kerry's newly released war records. A Kerry ally and an opponent will share their views on the release of the documents and John Kerry's military history.

Also head, despite Kerry's Heinz connection, Democrats may not be as thick with the ketchup company as you might think. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: Defining John Kerry.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: As president, I'll set a few clear national priorities for America.

AD ANNOUNCER: John Kerry says, a lot of people don't really know who I am. We'll, actually, a lot of people do.

ANNOUNCER: Both campaigns are taking to the airwaves with very different descriptions.

He's No. 1, but who is No. 2? Could this picture be revealing? Find out in "Ticket Talk."

Who's in the money? We'll count the campaign cash.

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

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Welcome back.

When many voters across the country watch television in the coming days, they may see two very different portrayals of John Kerry. Howard Kurtz of CNN's "RELIABLE SOURCES" and "The Washington Post" looks at the latest round of dueling Bush and Kerry campaign ads. And whether they tell it like it is.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HOWARD KURTZ, HOST, "RELIABLE SOURCES" (voice-over): After a brief respite, the Bush campaign is back on the air, slamming John Kerry once again.

AD ANNOUNCER: John Kerry says, a lot of people don't really know who I am. Well, actually a lot of people do.

KURTZ: The angle? Don't take our word for it, look at what the newspapers have been saying about him.

AD ANNOUNCER: Kerry's hometown paper says, "in his continuing effort to be all things to all voters, John Kerry is engaging in a level of double speak that makes most voters wince."

AD ANNOUNCER: "The Wall Street journal" said, "Kerry's tax plan would mean increasing the tax burden again, which would likely kill the recovery."

KURTZ: The catch? These are editorials, not news stories in conservative papers. "The Boston Herald" and "The Wall Street Journal" and "Manchester Union Leader" which rarely say anything nice about Democrats. But the ad also quotes a liberal editorial page that was pro-war.

AD ANNOUNCER: On Iraq, "The Washington Post" said, "Kerry's attempts to weave a thread connecting and justifying his positions are unconvincing."

KURTZ: The Democratic candidate who raised an impressive $55 million in the last quarter matched the 60-second Bush spot today with two 30-second ads.

But Kerry, whose image has been tarnished by the Bush barrage, isn't attacking the president. He's trying to sell himself to look presidential, as one aide described it, and tackling the foreign policy issue that has dominated the news.

KERRY: Let me tell you exactly what I would do to change the situation in Iraq. I would immediately reach out for the international community in sharing the burden, the risk, because they also have a stake in the outcome of what is happening in Iraq.

KURTZ: Not a lot of specifics and persuading other countries to send troops to bloody Iraq is easier said than done.

In the other ad, the senator simply recites his priorities.

KERRY: First, we will keep this country safe and secure. Second, I'll put an end to tax incentives that encourage American companies to ship jobs overseas. And, third, we'll invest in education and health care.

KURTZ: No word in the end on how he'd pay for these promises.

(on camera): What we have here is a classic contrast, the incumbent trying to discredit his opponent earlier, the challenger trying to help voters envision him in the Oval Office. A top Kerry strategist says his team plans to stay positive for the several weeks unless he says there's an attack opportunity too good to resist.

This is Howard Kurtz of CNN's "RELIABLE SOURCES."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: I'll be talking about those ads with the chairman of the Republican National Commit Ed Gillespie in just a few minutes.

While the ad war plays out for everyone to see, John Kerry's running mate selection process has not proven to be a made for TV event, at for the latest "Ticket Talk," we're joins by CNN political editor John Mercurio.

All right, John, bring us up to date. What are you hearing about this quiet process?

JOHN MERCURIO, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: Isn't it? It's a terribly quiet process. Frustratingly so. They're still sticking I think with a target of trying to finish this whole process up in May. That might be a little bit of a challenge. Sources are telling me that Jim Johnson, the head of the process, the VP selection process, hasn't even begun the vetting process, whereby he sits down with candidates, with a short list of candidates, and interrogates them on a whole range of issues.

Sources are telling me that he is still in the process of consulting with Democratic Party leaders which can mean union leaders, congressional leaders, governors around the country. And that he won't finish that process until this week. Next week, the vetting begins and possibly the week after that. But they are still aiming for May.

As you said, this is -- we have one of the quietest, most secretive processes we've ever had. Frustrating for reporters trying to break news on the subject. They're doing it by not telling anybody, including the staff. I'm told by a source in the campaign that as of today there hasn't been one staff-level conversation about this other than Mary Beth Cahill, the campaign manager. Nobody's in the loop.

WOODRUFF: That's fascinating.

All right, given how secretive it is, John, are you hearing anything about who's up in this process?

MERCURIO: Yes. Well, I'm hearing one candidate we all know, Dick Gephardt, ran in the presidential primary, has one thing going for him. And that's that John Kerry really, really likes him the best.

What I'm told is that if all other things were equal, which of course in politics they never are, but if all other things were equal, if he knew that he was going to win the presidency, Kerry is telling people that he wants to choose Gephardt.

There are a couple of reasons for that. He likes Gephardt, he trusts him, he has worked with him in Congress, he respects the work that he's done. He and his family get along very well, which can be very important.

Obviously, this doesn't mean that John Kerry is going to choose Dick Gephardt. There are detractors even within Kerry's inner circle to Gephardt. But it is important, I think, to have a certain comfort level with your potential candidate.

WOODRUFF: That seems to be there with him.

MERCURIO: And I'm not hearing that from the Gephardt camp either. That's actually coming from other people. So it's not just a (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Gephardt.

WOODRUFF: What about on the other side? Are you hearing about anybody who's maybe out already. MERCURIO: I don't know if he's out, but yesterday we saw Bob Graham, senator from Florida, campaigning with Kerry down in Miami and around the state.

But from what I'm hearing, he's not going to make the short list. There's a couple of reasons for that. He obviously ran a presidential campaign that didn't last very long. His fund raising wasn't stellar. He would be 68-years-old when he was inaugurated if he were chosen and the ticket won. That would make him it the fourth-oldest vice president in the history of the country, which I think are factors that are weighing on Kerry.

In addition to that though, one other note. Kerry is not ignoring Florida Democrats completely. I'm told that Bob Graham's counterpart, Bill Nelson, is up there on the list. And I'm positive -- the possible thing weighing in Nelson's favor might be the fact that Bob Strong (ph) is a good friend of his and obviously Bob Strong very influential in this process.

WOODRUFF: No question. The other -- Bill Nelson of course the other Democratic senator from the state of Florida.

All right, John Mercurio picking up every tea leaf he can find.

MERCURIO: Trying.

WOODRUFF: We'll be talking to you in the days to come. John, thank you very much.

We turn from "Ticket Talk" to a showdown state in our "Campaign News Daily." As we reported, both Bush and Kerry are working hard to win Pennsylvania come November. And a new poll gives Bush the early lead. A Quinnipiack University survey shows Bush with 45 percent, Kerry 39 percent. Ralph Nader makes one, his best poll showing so far with 8 percent.

The Kerry campaign has filed its latest fund raising totals with the Federal Election Commission. As of March 31, Kerry had raised more than $85 million and spent more than $53 million. He had $32 million on hand at the end of last month.

As we have already noted, Bush has raised $185 million and spent more than 99 million dollars.

John Kerry's wife Theresa Heinz Kerry has no involvement with the operation of the company that makes Heinz Ketchup. In fact, the company's pac appears to favor Republicans. The AP, Associated Press, reports that the H.J. Heinz corporate pac has given about three times more money to Republicans than Democrats over the past six years.

The pac has not contributed any money to the Kerry campaign. The AP reports the Heinz board members have donated thousands of dollars to Republican candidates, including to the Bush campaign this year.

Now that John Kerry's military records are posted on his Web site, will it quiet his GOP critics? (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator Kerry has demonstrated a clear pattern of vacillation of saying one thing, of flip-flopping.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: Up next, I'll talk about Kerry's records and more with RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie and with Kerry supporter and former Navy Secretary John Dalton.

And later, the presidential race is not a beauty contest. Or is it?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Returning now to the release of some of John Kerry's military records. In a just released statement, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Terry McAuliffe, is criticizing Republicans who have raised questions about Kerry's records. McAuliffe is contrasting what he says is the senator's record of sacrifice and service to what he says is President Bush's record of, quote, "evasion and cashed in connections." Republican National Committee chairman Ed Gillespie is with me now to talk more about John Kerry's records and some other campaign issues. First of all, I don't know if you want to respond to what Terry McAuliffe is saying.

ED GILLESPIE, CHAIRMAN, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE: No, that's typical Terry.

WOODRUFF: Let's talk about these records. We have you quoted on the show we showed you saying Ed Gillespie, that it was just more John Kerry flip-flopping about these records. The records are now out the campaign says. Are you satisfied now?

GILLESPIE: Look, Judy, if John Kerry did what he said he was going to do on television on Sunday and did exactly what President Bush did when he was asked the exact same question on the exact same program and released all of his military records and made available his medical records related to his military service, if that's what John Kerry has done in accordance with what he said he would do, that's great. The question has never been the record of service. We never talked about this prior to him being asked about it on "Meet the Press" because it didn't matter. It was only when he said he was going to release them in response to a question then somebody went to his campaign and they said we're not. That's what struck me. I mean, how dumb does he think the voters are? You can't say something like that on television and not follow through.

WOODRUFF: Is there something about John Kerry's military record, about the purple hearts or any other award that he was given that you or anybody else in the Bush campaign are questioning.

GILLESPIE: Not that I'm aware of. We never raised the question or talked about this because I have always said and continue to say, Senator Kerry served admirably in Vietnam. He deserves the credit for that. We don't begrudge him that at all. What was striking here is that it did fit a pattern of him saying one thing and doing another when he said on a national television program he would make them public and then said the next day, well, I'm not going to.

WOODRUFF: Now they say they're out. So you're saying...

GILLESPIE: If they're out, they're out. That's great. Just stick to your word. Do what you say you're going to do.

WOODRUFF: Let's talk about the two ads. Bush campaign is putting out new ads today, the Kerry campaign is putting out new ads. We just heard from Howard Kurtz a few minutes ago say that you have the Kerry campaign putting out ads where he's looking directly at the voters. The Bush ads cite criticism of John Kerry from the editorial pages of what Howard Kurtz says are mostly conservative newspapers, newspapers you wouldn't expect to say something positive about Kerry. Is that the case.

GILLESPIE: There's lots of different ads. The president was up with ads earlier where he was directly to the camera talking about his vision and policies and the fact is it's not uncommon in ads to cite third-party sources because people tend to discount things that they hear directly from a campaign and if they hear it from a third-party source, they consider it to be more credible. The fact is when you look at John Kerry's ads now he's running talking about making America more secure, his record is completely at odds with that. If you look at his proposals to gut the intelligence budget that not only Republicans were concerned about but Democratic senators like Dennis Dickerson (ph) or Daniel (UNINTELLIGIBLE) who weren't on the Senate floor, this is dangerous to our national security.

WOODRUFF: But when the Kerry campaign as they did yesterday said that these positive ads that he's running now contrast with the president's ads which they say your campaign is running a wholly negative campaign.

GILLESPIE: That's not accurate. There's a mix of positive and negative ads. It's important to remember that John Kerry ran in the Democratic primary before he even squared off against President Bush as the nominee, three out of four ads he ran were attacks against the president. 75 percent of his ad budget in a Democratic primary was directed at attacks at the president so there seems to be a little bit of somebody saying I'm shocked there's gambling going on here. The fact is that these guys have been running negative ads for eight months now.

WOODRUFF: On a much more serious note, so much of the news, Ed Gillespie, as you know is Iraq and the ongoing fighting, the casualties, more young Americans killed already in the month of April than were killed during the entire initial phase of combat. How much does this worry you as someone who is in charge of the party and in charge of seeing George Bush reelected?

GILLESPIE: Look, it concerns me as an American, not as a party chairman. The fact is, we all hate to see the loss of life in Iraq. I believe that the American people continue to stand by, rightly, the important policy imperative here of making sure we do have a free and democratic Iraq in heart of the Middle East. It was not in our national security interest. It was not in our interest to have someone who used weapons of mass destruction against his own people, had an avowed hatred of the United States, invaded his neighbors, was not complying with U.N. resolutions and not making clear to the weapons inspectors that he had disarmed. So I think that having -- completing our mission there is completely imperative. We shouldn't be moving around the deadlines or backing away in the wake of violence. That's the time we need to demonstrate resolve.

WOODRUFF: Have you had a chance to talk to any of the families of those who have been lost?

GILLESPIE: I've not. I'm not sure that would be appropriate as a political party chairman.

WOODRUFF: OK. We hear you. Ed Gillespie is the chairman of the Republican party. Appreciate your being with us.

Just ahead, more on John Kerry's military records. I'm going to have a live interview with former secretary of the Navy, John Dalton.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Returning now to John Kerry's military records. As we have said, the Kerry campaign started posting those records on its website after the "Boston Globe" reported that the campaign refused to provide access to some of the documents. With me now, former secretary of the Navy, John Dalton. John Dalton, first of all, why was there any delay at all in putting these documents out?

JOHN DALTON, FMR. NAVY SECRETARY: Well, Judy, this issue came up on "Meet the Press" on Sunday. Within 48 hours, the records were on the website. Some of the records with the Navy department, they wanted to look over what was there, and then they put it on the website. It was 48 hours in comparison to four years was the time in which it took the Bush administration to have the president's military record made public.

WOODRUFF: I'm asking because we just heard from Ed Gillespie, the chairman of the Republican Committee and he said the reason they brought it up is because John Kerry said on Sunday on "Meet the Press" I'll put these out but they weren't available on Monday.

DALTON: 48 hours is a reasonable amount of time. I mean, clearly, I think before anybody puts anything out, they want to know what's there. They just looked at it and put it out. 48 hours is two days, is I think a very reasonable amount of time. I don't really see any issue here. He has been very forthcoming. He's got a military record. He's very proud of it, and well he should be. Somebody who volunteered to serve, who volunteered for a second term in Vietnam, who won the silver star, the bronze star three purple hearts. His unit got a presidential unit citation. That's a remarkable record. He's proud of that record. Anybody that's ever worn the uniform of the military would be proud to have a record like John Kerry earned as a Navy lieutenant. WOODRUFF: Is there anything in this record that should give voters pause about John Kerry?

DALTON: I haven't read the whole record myself, but I can't imagine. You don't get a silver star for doing something that's not highly unusual. You have the congressional medal of honor, the Navy cross and the third highest award a naval officer can earn is the silver star. In the whole time that that unit of the whole year that that unit that he served in was there, only one silver star was awarded. It was awarded to Lieutenant Junior Grade John Kerry. That's remarkable.

WOODRUFF: All right. This purple heart, Kerry -- Kelly Wallace who was our reporter today covering this story said that the first purple heart that John Kerry was awarded happened, I think, in December, 1968, she said there's a description of the wounds in a general way that, shrapnel was removed from a thigh, but no detail of the wounds or no detail about how that came about. Should people be suspicious? Why not, I mean, where is that information?

DALTON: It's in his medical record. What happens was on December 2 as you point out, he was in heavy fire up there with two other sailors in a whale boat. All kind of fire going on. He was shooting a rifle. He was hit by enemy fire in the left arm just above the elbow. He was taken to a hospital in Cameron Bay (ph). That shrapnel was removed from his arm. If you get hit in combat, you spill blood for this country, you get a purple heart. There's no questions asked. It is very clear he earned it.

WOODRUFF: What about this former commanding officer of his who told the "Boston Globe" at some point that he questioned whether they had taken on enemy fire.

DALTON: It's politics. He's known to be a very active member of the Republican party. He's on all the Republican talk shows, he doesn't like John Kerry and it's politics. It's the political season.

WOODRUFF: But as far as you know, all the records are out there that are available.

DALTON: The records are there and very impressive. I know that John Kerry's proud of his record. Anybody who's ever served in the United States Navy would be proud of the record John Kerry earned in the United States Navy as a volunteer.

WOODRUFF: John Dalton, a former secretary of the Navy, thank you very much for being with me. We appreciate it.

And up next, John Kerry, quote, "pours it on" at a Florida fundraiser. Kerry's words of praise for a former rival when INSIDE POLITICS returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: At a poolside fundraiser last night in Florida, you might say John Kerry went beyond the usual words of praise for a one- time presidential rival. After praising Senator John Edwards who was standing nearby as a, quote, "great leader for the future, the "Raleigh News" and "Observer" reports Kerry went on to joke, quote, "what a gathering of talent, good looks, brains. I'm just talking about John Edwards and me." And they're both modest. That's it for INSIDE POLITICS. I'm Judy Woodruff. "CROSSFIRE" starts right now.

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


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