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JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS
Bush Camp Takes Aim at Kerry's National Security Record; Interview With Bob Woodward; Interview With Joseph Lieberman
Aired April 26, 2004 - 15:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: The Bush camp's big guns fan out and open fire, aiming squarely at John Kerry.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: John Kerry's record on national security troubling.
ANNOUNCER: Mining Kerry's past. Democrats respond to more nuggets of controversy from the Vietnam War era.
TERRY MCAULIFFE, DNC CHAIRMAN: But for the Republicans, twisting the truth into distracting attack is like a bad habit that they just can't break.
ANNOUNCER: Gentlemen, start your engines.
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: I'm Bill Schneider cruising the NASCAR track at the big race.
ANNOUNCER: Bill brings us up to speed on NASCAR fans and their political loyalties.
ANNOUNCER: Now, live from the Washington, JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS.
JUDY WOODRUFF, HOST: Thank you for joining us.
Both President Bush and his rival, John Kerry, are talking jobs on the campaign trail, but that is not the main source of friction between the two camps today. Republicans are unleashing a broadside on Kerry's record on national security. Our senior White House correspondent John King has more on that and on the president's day -- John.
JOHN KING, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Judy, hello to you.
Consider the president the kinder gentler part of the Bush campaign equation today, if you will. The president was in Minnesota, as you know, talking up the economy, limiting his attacks on Democrat John Kerry. Now, why in Minnesota? It is one of those states in the Midwest that the Bush campaign just lost last time around. The then Governor Bush losing Minnesota by about 60,000 votes last time, 48 percent to 46 percent. The Republicans very much would like to put that state in their column this year. So it's one of those states they are testing now to see if it is worth fighting aggressively for come September and October.
The president talking about the economy, talking about education as well, the community college system. But the much more rough and tumble part of the Bush-Cheney campaign led by the vice president. He was in Missouri giving a tough speech. And also, a new Bush campaign ad out today questioning John Kerry and his votes and his leadership, Judy, when it comes to the war on terrorism.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm George W. Bush, and I approved this message.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As our troops defend America in the war on terror, they must have what it takes to win. Yet, John Kerry has repeatedly opposed weapons vital to winning the war on terror: Bradley fighting vehicles, Patriot missiles, B-2 stealth bombers, F-18 fighter jets, and more. Kerry even voted against body armor for our troops on the frontline of the war on terror. John Kerry's record on national security, troubling.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: A very similar message from the vice president in his tough speech in Missouri. He called Senator Kerry's vote against that $87 billion to fund the war in Iraq and Afghanistan irresponsible. He also said he found it reckless that you had the presumptive Democratic nominee for president now criticizing countries as "window dressing," countries fighting side by side with the United States in Iraq and shedding the blood.
And Judy, the timing of this attack is quite fascinating. A tough few weeks, even the president concedes, in Iraq. A new national poll out today showing that a majority, very narrow, 51 percent of the American people, now disapprove of how the president is handling the situation in Iraq. Yet, when asked who they viewed as a stronger leader to deal with Iraq, President Bush, despite those troubles, has a 30-point advantage over Senator Kerry right now. This tough attack on Senator Kerry from the Bush campaign, Judy, designed to protect that advantage.
WOODRUFF: John, very quickly, the Kerry camp is saying these ads are unfair because many of these votes took place in the '90s, when the Cold War was winding down. There was no reason to support some of these weapons systems. How does the Bush camp defend them?
KING: The Bush campaign says every vote cast by a senator is fair game in politics. And if the senator wants to explain, then he can. Remember, Judy, we went through this very similarly in 1996, when Bob Dole was the Republican nominee. He complained his votes were being taken out of context all the time. It's one of the reasons you see so few senators as nominees as their party, because they do have a record you can attack.
WOODRUFF: All right. John King at the White House. Thank you.
Well, even as Republicans were digging into his past, John Kerry went into a West Virginia coal mine today. There he touted a new endorsement from the United Mine Workers, and he kicked off a tour of industrial battleground states. His next stops, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan.
Kerry began the day on the defensive about his anti-war activities after his decorated service in Vietnam. Here now, our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Hit hard by job losses, West Virginia could be fertile ground for John Kerry's economic pitch. But Monday, the senator was going over old ground: 1971, Washington, D.C., Kerry, a member of Vietnam Veterans Against the War, leads a weeklong protest culminating with vets tossing their medals over a capital fence.
SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: In a real sense, this administration forced us to return our medals.
CROWLEY: In fact, Kerry did not return his medals. He threw other people's medals and his ribbons. It took several years for that to become clear, but the senator says he never misled anyone into thinking differently. And then The New York Times and ABC found this: an interview Kerry gave to local Washington station WRC shortly after the protest.
KERRY: And that was the medals themselves. And so they decided to give them back to their country.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How many did you give back, John?
KERRY: I gave back, I can't remember, six, seven, eight, nine.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, you were awarded the Bronze Star, a Silver Star, and three Purple Hearts.
KERRY: Well, and above that, I gave back my others.
CROWLEY: The newly discovered tape led to a testy exchange this morning with Kerry.
KERRY: So the fact is that I have -- I've been accurate, precisely about what took place. And I am the one who later made clear exactly what happened. I mean, this is a controversy that the Republicans are pushing.
The Republicans have spent $60 million in the last few weeks trying to attack me. And this comes from a president and a Republican Party that can't even answer whether or not he showed up for duty in the National Guard. I'm not going to stand for it.
CROWLEY: In fact, news organizations have been looking over all aspects of Kerry's Vietnam service and protests. But the administration feels free to stoke it.
KAREN HUGHES, BUSH CAMPAIGN ADVISER: Now, I can understand if out of conscience, you take a principled stand and you decide that you were so opposed to this, that you would actually throw your medals. But to pretend to do so, I think that's very revealing.
CROWLEY: Kerry says now he never made any distinction between ribbons and medals, and neither does the military. Still, he did not mention that when asked three years ago why he did not return his medals.
KERRY: I didn't have them with me. It was very simple. And I threw some medals back that belonged to folks who asked me to throw them back for them.
CROWLEY: All just another reason to ask, at this point in the race, whatever will they be talking about come November. Getting pretty, pretty tough out there.
WOODRUFF: It's only April. And see what we are witnessing. Candy, thank you very much.
Well, there's been a lot of debate about Bob Woodward's new book on the Bush administration's march to the war in Iraq. But there's no disputing it's a best seller. Coming up: new questions for Woodward to answer. I'll talk to him about the White House love-hate relationship with his book and more.
Is John Kerry's search for a running mate slowing down? We'll get an earful of "Ticket Talk" ahead.
This is INSIDE POLITICS, the place for campaign news.
WOODRUFF: Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward is getting a great deal of attention for his new book. "Plan of Attack" traces the Bush administration's march toward war in Iraq. Bob Woodward is with me now to talk more about the new book.
First of all, thank you for being with me.
BOB WOODWARD, WASHINGTON POST: Thank you.
WOODRUFF: We appreciate it. You said yesterday on "Meet the Press" -- you said, I think, President Bush "should have followed his instinct" after the CIA gave him information that they said was a sure thing, but he had doubts about it. And yet, he moved on to war, and I never quite saw what -- where the rationale was. What did you see?
WOODWARD: Well, what happened, the CIA in the fall of 2002, six months before the war, said we know Saddam has weapons of mass destruction. And a couple of months later, there was a secret presentation to President Bush when George Tenet's deputy laid out the case, all the top secret satellite photos and intercepts. And Bush at the end of this said, nice try but it's not going to sell to Joe Public.
Tenet, himself, who was there, then stood up and said no, it's a slam dunk. Well, clearly, the slam dunk didn't meet the smell test with the president, and he should have said time out, let's go and look and see what we've really got.
WOODRUFF: But what was driving him then to go to war without what he saw as a slam dunk?
WOODWARD: Well, I think, you know, the CIA director says, look, we've got it, as we know Colin Powell made the presentation to the U.N. We were deploying troops. The CIA was putting secret paramilitary teams inside Iraq. And I attempt to chart the multiple pressures that are building on the president.
WOODRUFF: But you say, yourself, his instinct was, there's not enough evidence here of weapons of mass destruction.
WOODWARD: Or it's not selling or saleable to Joe Public. And, of course, that's a leading indicator that maybe there's not enough behind it.
WOODRUFF: So it was just a confluence of circumstances?
WOODWARD: Oh, no. I think it's very much a, as you said in the introduction, a march to war. And you have really each month, often each week, something happening where there's a pressure point, where they're deploying points and the CIA says, look, our guys inside are going to get killed if we don't have a war.
WOODRUFF: We see today The Washington Post, The New York Times, both talking about how the White House has handled this.
WOODWARD: The politics of it, your business.
WOODRUFF: On the one hand, they're trashing specifics in the book. But overall, they're saying, no, we think this is a good book and you should read it. At one point, you know, you get the impression that this whole thing was gamed out before they ever read the book. What does this tell you?
WOODWARD: Well, and somebody said that. I don't think that's right. And they're not trashing specifics. There are a couple of people not in the White House, cabinet officers who kind of tried to recharacterize things.
I think what they realize is it's an authentic portrait of George Bush at war, warts and all. And perhaps, you know -- not perhaps -- certainly more people are going to hear the sound bytes. And the White House says this shows a determined, focused president. And you know, people who actually read the book may reach a very different conclusion. But that's going to be a lot fewer people, quite frankly.
WOODRUFF: But you've had people come -- you've had Secretary Rumsfeld -- Don Rumsfeld come back. You've had certainly Secretary Powell. You've had the White House press spokesman come back and say, well, here are specifics that we think are wrong. What does that tell you about any of these individuals or these institutions?
WOODWARD: Well, in the case of Rumsfeld, out of his own mouth is what he was denying. And he deleted a portion of the transcript of my interview with him.
WOODRUFF: What does that say to you about him?
WOODWARD: Well, that he -- I believe when I interviewed him in the fall of 2002, he was being quite candid.
WOODRUFF: And what about in 2004?
WOODWARD: He either forgot or he's not being candid. I want to give him the benefit of the doubt. But this kind of sniping, as you call it, that always happens when there's a book. But I had enough time to I think get the facts right.
WOODRUFF: You said, again -- one of the things you said yesterday, that you picked up bits of information since the book was put to bed. One about the Saudi suggestion that the administration pay off the Iraqi military. Something they chose not to do. Is there anything else you picked up?
WOODWARD: Well, I think that's terribly significant. I mean, there are a number of things I've heard about. But that the Saudis, on three occasions, I understand, told the administration, look...
WOODRUFF: Three occasions?
WOODWARD: Yes. After the war, after the major combat is over, go in -- and the Saudis are very experienced at this -- and pay everyone in the military, the security service, and the pensioners, the people who are retired, three months' salary. And they will be so delighted to get the money, that they will be on your side. They know who the bad guys are around, and they will help stabilize the country.
And I think the Saudi estimate was, if you had done that, only 10 people would have been killed rather than the hundreds that have been killed since. Now, obviously, that number is an estimate. But the nightmare there is the lack of stability and the idea that you could have perhaps put the brakes on and created a better environment for -- $200 million, that's mighty cheap.
WOODRUFF: Very quickly, Bob Woodward, what other questions are historians going to have to answer about this period that even you couldn't get out right now?
WOODWARD: Well, I don't know. I put in what I knew.
One of the things a lot of people have said, that part of the significance of the book perhaps is what's not there, that there are not these kind of prolonged discussions after Powell warns the president, look, you're going to own this country, the consequences are immense. And they don't convene meetings and sit down and kind of say, well, let's go back to square one again.
I mean, there was a reluctance, an extreme reluctance to go back to square one. This is a gradual, almost unstoppable drive toward war.
WOODRUFF: No doubts?
WOODWARD: And the president has no doubts that it was the right thing to do.
WOODRUFF: We're going to have to leave it there. Bob Woodward, the book is "Plan of Attack." It is all over the bestseller list. And we thank you very much for coming by.
WOODWARD: Thank you.
WOODRUFF: We appreciate it, Bob. Thank you.
WOODRUFF: And right now, we have some developing news coming out of the Pentagon about some of the weapons the United States is using in Iraq. For that, let's quickly go to our Pentagon correspondent, Jamie McIntyre -- Jamie.
JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SR. PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Judy, even as the Pentagon is pumping hundreds of millions of dollars into a program to rush armored Humvees to Iraq, a four-star Army general is complaining that those armored Humvees are just not up to the job.
General Larry Ellis, who is the commanding general of the U.S. Army Forces Command, has written a memo to the Army chief of staff complaining about the armored Humvees. In the memo obtained by CNN, General Ellis writes "Commanders in the field are reporting to me that the unarmored Humvee is not providing the solution the Army hopes to achieve."
He says it's very important that the Army accelerate the production of Stryker vehicles, writing, "It is imperative the Army accelerate the production of Strykers to support the current operations." "Even though we are at war," he complains, "some Army members and agencies are still in a peacetime posture."
This comes as the number of U.S. troops losing their lives because of attacks against Humvees which, even though when they have additional armor, are still quite vulnerable. Critics point out that the Humvees, with their shoulder-high doors and windows, provide an opportunity for people to lob bombs inside them. And they're calling for either Stryker vehicles, or some critics are saying the Army should bring back some of the M-113 armored personnel carriers it used back in Vietnam. It does have about 1,000 of those in Iraq now, but it's got thousands more in storage.
General Ellis in his memo pleads for quick action, writing at one point, "If our actions impede our ability to train, equip or organize our soldiers for combat, then we fail the soldier and our nation." Again, this memo going to the Army chief of staff, complaining about the inability of armored Humvees to get the job done -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: All right. Jamie McIntyre, reporting remarkable information, especially given the reporting that the war plans began, as Bob Woodward reports, in early 2002.
INSIDE POLITICS will be right back.
WOODRUFF: Aside from November's outcome, about the only suspense left in the presidential race is the guessing game about who John Kerry will pick as his running mate. CNN political editor John Mercurio joins me now for some "Ticket Talk."
All right, John. Last week we had the impression this search for the running mate was moving full steam ahead. What are you hearing now?
JOHN MERCURIO, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: Yes. Well, we reported last week they were facing challenges in keeping to the full steam ahead schedule. It sounds like we actually ended up being right.
Two sources close to the campaign, very close, telling me that they are no longer sticking with a May timetable, that, you know, that's just not realistic given the demands that they have. Another source telling me that there's not even a VP short list drawn up.
One of the sources I talked to saying, "The campaign fully intends to make use of their time. The window leading up to the convention is a legitimate window. They don't feel any pressure to do anything before the traditional timing."
WOODRUFF: So why? I mean, why has it slowed down? Why do the think they've got more time?
MERCURIO: There are two things I think going on. First of all, a couple of months ago, people were concerned about fund-raising, they didn't think that Kerry by himself could raise enough money. They needed a surrogate, another body on the campaign trail attending fund- raisers.
Kerry raised more than $20 million in April, much more than anybody expected. People are satisfied with that.
The second is that I think they wanted to have surrogate out there, someone who could be Kerry's attack dog, to campaign against Dick Cheney, to go head to head. I think we saw today a perfect example of how the surrogate process is already working. You have Terry McAuliffe out there campaigning against Dick Cheney, going head to head.
WOODRUFF: The DNC chair.
MERCURIO: So for now -- yes, I'm sorry. The DNC chair. For now, that seems to be the workable plan.
WOODRUFF: What about the folks that you can learn Kerry has sat down and talked to? What are you learning about them?
MERCURIO: They're trying to build some time into Kerry's campaign schedule to allow him to meet individually, face to face with these people. Yesterday, he was in Iowa, he met with Governor Vilsack and the governor's wife, Christie, who endorsed him before the Ohio caucus. They had a private meeting.
WOODRUFF: It's a team thing.
MERCURIO: It's a team thing, exactly. Although Vilsack himself didn't endorse him until after the caucus.
They met last week. He met privately with John Edwards, he met privately with Bob Graham and Bill Nelson. He also talked to Dick Gephardt in Missouri.
So that's sort of what they're trying to do. Vilsack got a little support from an entirely predictable source yesterday, from Iowa Senator Tom Harkin. He called him a proven statesman, and then he went one step further, comparing Kerry to FDR.
He said when he was looking for a vice president, he came to Iowa. My friends, it's the same today. I mean, it's unclear whether or not Kerry is spending too much time and paying attention to Tom Harkin, who, of course, endorsed Howard Dean during the...
WOODRUFF: Howard Dean, we remember that well.
WOODRUFF: And very quickly, John, tomorrow's Republican Senate primary in Pennsylvania, you're picking up that could have some effect on all of us.
MERCURIO: In a roundabout way -- stay with me -- in a roundabout way, it sounds like Governor Ed Rendell's VP prospects could be effected adversely if Pat Toomey wins the Senate primary. By that, I mean that Rendell was expected to sort of sit out the Senate campaign.
He's very good friends with Arlen Specter. Democrats have been criticizing him of not campaigning enough. If Specter goes down tomorrow, and Pat Toomey, a conservative congressman, is the nominee, expect Rendell to get heavily involved in the general election campaign on behalf of Huffle (ph).
The Kerry campaign is watching this very closely. I talked to a Democrat, not inside the campaign, but a strategist, and asked him about how Rendell is doing in the VP process. He said it all depends on tomorrow in Pennsylvania. If he's got his hands full in Pennsylvania this fall, Kerry is more than likely to take a pass.
So it's kind of interesting.
WOODRUFF: Wow, fascinating. That's -- obviously, we're going to be watching the results, returns out of Pennsylvania tomorrow.
WOODRUFF: John Mercurio, thank you very much.
MERCURIO: Thank you.
WOODRUFF: The second half-hour of INSIDE POLITICS starts right now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: John Kerry has repeatedly opposed weapons vital to winning the war on terror.
ANNOUNCER: True or false? We'll put the Bush camp's latest ad attack to the test.
Turning the tables. Democrats throw the vice president's words back at him.
TERRY MCAULIFFE, DNC CHAIRMAN: We remember Dick Cheney. And he is the last guy that should be lecturing John Kerry about how to defend America.
ANNOUNCER: Iraq conflict. We'll talk to Senator Joe Lieberman about his call for a political truce at home.
SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN (D), CONNECTICUT: We've got to separate the conduct of the new war in Iraq from the normal politics of Washington and the hyper politics of the presidential campaign year.
ANNOUNCER: Now, live from Washington, JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS.
WOODRUFF: Welcome back. John Kerry says Republicans are spending $10 million to attack his credentials on defense, and he says he is not going to stand for it. But how strong is his counter offensive against the Bush camp's new TV ad blitz? Well, that may depend on whether the spots ring true with voters.
Howard Kurtz of CNN's "RELIABLE SOURCES" has a reality check on the Bush ad campaign.
HOWARD KURTZ, HOST, "RELIABLE SOURCES" (voice-over): John Kerry may have served in Vietnam, as his television ads often remind us.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: John Kerry. The military experience to defend America.
KURTZ: But that hasn't stopped President Bush's campaign from attacking him on defense. And today, they're rolling out the big guns. In a coordinated assault, Vice President Cheney took aim at the Democratic candidate's national security record, while a new campaign ad practically accused him of being AWOL on what it calls "the war on terror."
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As our troops defend America in the war on terror, they must have what it takes to win. Yet John Kerry has repeatedly opposed weapons vital to winning the war on terror -- Bradley fighting vehicles, Patriot missiles, B-2 stealth bombers, F-18 fighter jets and more.
KURTZ: Kerry cast those votes, no dispute there, but his campaign says most of the votes reflect budget battles in the '80s and '90s over the proper level of Pentagon spending as the Cold War was fading. Kerry aides say the senator voted for many of the same weapons systems at different times, more than $4 trillion in defense spending overall, and that Cheney, as Pentagon chief for Bush's father, proposed plenty of weapons cutbacks, including terminating the Apache helicopter.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kerry even voted against body armor for our troops on the front line of the war on terror.
KURTZ: Kerry didn't cast a specific vote against body armor. It was part of the president's $87 billion request for troops in Iraq and Afghanistan that the senator says he opposed to protest the president's Iraq policy and says he would have supported if Bush tax cuts, targeted at the wealthy, were dropped to pay for the bill.
What's more, Kerry had criticized Bush for sending about 40,000 troops to Iraq without sophisticated body armor, a problem the $87 billion was designed to correct.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yet John Kerry has repeatedly opposed weapons vital to winning the war on terror.
KURTZ: The Bush ad has an economic aspect as well, with nine versions tailored to specific states, such as the Florida spot, noting that parts of Apache helicopters and Hercules F-16 fighter jets are, quote, "built here in Florida." The subtext, Kerry is hurting the local economy as well.
(on camera): Kerry's last two ads were positive in tone, just the senator talking to the camera, and his team wants to stay positive for now rather than responding to every incoming grenade from the Bush campaign.
The question is whether all this Bush ammunition will cause so much collateral damage that Kerry will feel compelled to return fire.
This is Howard Kurtz of CNN's "RELIABLE SOURCES."
(END VIDEOTAPE) WOODRUFF: Well, Democrats are already returning fire against Vice President Cheney's attacks on John Kerry. DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe unleashed the first shot this morning, accusing Cheney of, quote, "twisting the truth" about Kerry's record.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCAULIFFE: Dick Cheney is still able to stand by with a straight face and watch these attacks unfold. With all the time Dick Cheney spent in that bunker and those secret energy task force meetings, sometimes it's hard to remember all the tall tales that he's been telling. But we remember Dick Cheney. And he is the last guy that should be lecturing John Kerry about how to defend America and keep faith with those men and women who wear the uniform.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOODRUFF: Terry McAuliffe speaking today. Well, CNN political analyst Ron Brownstein of "The Los Angeles Times" joins us now to talk more about the Democrats and what they're saying about Dick Cheney. What is this all about? Is this a smart thing for the Democrats to be doing?
RON BROWNSTEIN, L.A. TIMES: Inevitable and a bit remarkable at the same time. Inevitable in the sense that Cheney has established himself as the point of the spear on the Republican case against John Kerry, especially on national security issues. So in that sense, it's unavoidable for Democrats to want to try to tarnish his credibility in making that case, particularly, as Howie Kurtz pointed out in his piece, by linking him to some of the same decisions as defense secretary on individual weapons systems that they're criticizing John Kerry over.
A bit surprising in the sense that there's an old adage that you don't want to get into an argument with anybody who isn't on the ballot. Dick Cheney is literally on the ballot, but they are running against George W. Bush, and I think that the Kerry campaign and the Democrats in the end want to keep most of the focus there.
WOODRUFF: So how do they know how much longer to carry on with this line of argument, this line of attack?
BROWNSTEIN: Well, we're going to hear more of it, at least this week. The Kerry campaign is saying that on Wednesday, after the Supreme Court rules tomorrow on the energy task force records issue, that John Kerry is going to talk about that. He may himself also talk about Halliburton on Friday. Dick Cheney, Judy, has become a very polarizing figure in a very polarizing administration. He's someone who is very attractive to the Republican base, but he is someone who riles up Democrats quite a bit.
Quite an enormous change from the image he had when he was in Washington for most of the 70s and '80s. I think when George Bush first picked him, he was seen as sort of adult supervision. He has become much more of an ideological lightning rod, and that's reflected in his unusual prominence here. WOODRUFF: But as you just pointed out, when people think of whom they're voting for for president, they're going to think of the guy at the top, they're not going to think in most instances about the running mate.
BROWNSTEIN: Well, no, that's right. Absolutely. In the end, this is going to be about President Bush and John Kerry.
Now, Dick Cheney is assuming the kind of role that presidents often want for their vice presidents. An incumbent president doesn't want to be out in the muck and mire, throwing elbows at their rival. They usually ask their vice president to do that.
One thing I wouldn't be surprised is if this influences John Kerry's thinking about a vice president. In 2000, there was some feeling that Joe Lieberman was a little bit too gentlemanly. With Dick Cheney being quite so aggressive, I would think there's going to be a real premium in the Kerry camp on finding someone who will go toe to toe and be every bit as tough.
WOODRUFF: Does that put any certain names at the forefront here, do you think?
BROWNSTEIN: No, but I think it shows how you audition for the job.
WOODRUFF: By being as tough as you possibly can.
BROWNSTEIN: By being as tough as you can in the weeks ahead. That's right.
WOODRUFF: All right. Ron Brownstein of the "Los Angeles Times." Ron, thank you.
BROWNSTEIN: Thank you.
WOODRUFF: Well, checking the headlines now in our "Campaign News Daily." A new Marist poll indicates the November presidential election will be very close. In a nationwide match-up, President Bush leading John Kerry 47 percent to 44 percent. When Ralph Nader's factored in, Bush stays at 47 percent, and Kerry drops one point to 43 percent.
Now, in the Marist poll voters in 17 battleground states, though, John Kerry came out on top, by a 47 to 44 percent margin.
Ralph Nader looms as a major factor in the battleground states, however. In a three-way match-up, both Bush and Kerry get 45 percent; Nader getting 5 percent.
And some fans of National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice apparently think it's never too early to start planning ahead. They have launched an unofficial but very colorful Web site called Rice2008. They are offering a variety of bumper stickers and apparel, including a few items that say "Bush-Rice 2004." Finally, Bill Clinton's long awaited memoir will be out in time for summer reading, we're told, at the beach. His publisher announced today that Clinton's book, "My Life," will be published in late June. The initial printing is 1.5 million copies. And it's a campaign year.
Senator Joe Lieberman is asking the question, can't we all just get along? Up next, I'll talk with Lieberman about his appeal for a truce in the political battle over Iraq playing out here at home.
Also today, the Pennsylvania challenge. We'll have a live report on the Republican Senate race on the eve of a contentious primary.
And behind the scenes of the ad war. How the campaign decides where and when to air their spots.
WOODRUFF: As American troops keep up their battle against insurgents in Iraq, Senator Joe Lieberman is calling for a political truce here at home. The former Democratic presidential campaign says the sniping between Republicans and Democrats is undermining support for U.S. forces. The senator from Connecticut is with me now.
Senator, good to see you.
LIEBERMAN: You, too, Judy.
WOODRUFF: What sniping, what bickering are you referring to?
LIEBERMAN: Yes, here's the point. The next six months in Iraq are critically important months for the safety and lives of the American military there, for the security and freedom of the people of Iraq. They also are times, obviously, of a presidential election campaign. And I know that I'm asking for something that may seem unnatural, but I fear that the smallest disagreements develop into opportunities to have political backbiting. And we ought to...
WOODRUFF: Well, give me an example of the bickering or the sniping.
LIEBERMAN: It goes on almost every day. The question is raised, should -- and it often happens across the distance in a congressional hearing room. First, should we transfer sovereignty to the Iraqis on June 30? If we do, how much power should they have? Why hasn't the administration put forth a special supplemental appropriations bill?
Here's what I'm saying: These are all important questions and they're reasonable questions, but if we fight them out and bring them into the heat of a political campaign, we're not going to see the most essential fact here, which is that today almost no one disagrees with our purpose in Iraq. Everyone agrees that we've got to win now, no matter whether you thought we should have...
WOODRUFF: And we're even seeing a convergence between John Kerry and President Bush over internationalizing the war. But what about...
LIEBERMAN: We are.
WOODRUFF: What about when John Kerry says President Bush made a mistake in the way he took the country to war? Is that helpful?
LIEBERMAN: Well, here's what I'd say. Look, I agree with some of the criticism of the Bush administration before and after the war against Saddam, but what I'm saying is, let's focus now on where we are in the future, because we do have 135,000 American lives -- Pat Tillman, soldiers that are not as well known dying every day -- and the future security of the American people, because we're fighting the terrorists now, the same kinds of people who attacked us in 2001. And I think we've got to pull together.
You know, in some countries in a crisis like this, they'd form a unity government. We don't have that here, but we ought to be patriotic...
WOODRUFF: We sure don't.
LIEBERMAN: ... enough to say...
WOODRUFF: And you think that's realistic...
LIEBERMAN: I do.
WOODRUFF: ... in this political -- highly charged political...
LIEBERMAN: Look, here's my feeling. The reason I made this proposal is I've watched for weeks as the smallest, most sincere, important questions end up being occasion for political backbiting and sniping. Our troops can't afford it, our enemies don't deserve it, and our allies don't like it.
WOODRUFF: Senator, let me turn back the clock and ask you about something that you said during the pre-Democratic primary period about John Kerry. You said, at one point, the statement that he made in his announcement address that he voted for the resolution to authorize the use of force, quote, "just to threaten Saddam Hussein," you said that was unbelievable. You said, "I just don't get it. We don't need a waffler in charge of our country's future." Do you still believe that?
LIEBERMAN: Do you have the right Joe Lieberman?
No, I'm sure I said that. And I was just plain, as I said, surprised to hear John Kerry say that. To me, the resolution that he voted for, that I voted for, that a majority of Democrats and Republicans voted for that authorized the war against Saddam was very clear. We were giving the president, as commander-in-chief...
WOODRUFF: Was he being disingenuous?
LIEBERMAN: I was just taking the fact of what he said that day and responding to it. But here's the important point -- and this is why I said...
WOODRUFF: I'm asking you this because the Republican National Committee is putting out this quote from you.
LIEBERMAN: Yes. But this is not the first time. They do that all the time.
But here's the point: Senator Kerry has said -- just said last week, two or three times -- we've got to stay the course in Iraq. We've got to defeat the terrorists. It's important to our principles of freedom and our national security.
He's saying very much on this, when it comes to the overall purpose, the same things as President Bush is saying. And I'm saying today, with a nation at war, with people dying every day, let's put that and their interests ahead of scoring points in a political campaign.
WOODRUFF: Do you agree with the administration policy that there should be no pictures shown of the coffins, the caskets of American soldiers, troops, killed in action in Iraq?
LIEBERMAN: I do not. I don't know the history of this. I heard somebody say the other day that it may have gone back to earlier administrations.
I think the main factor is to respect the privacy and desires of the families of the deceased. But as I saw those flag-draped coffins, to me, they inspired my renewed commitment to seeing this war to a successful conclusion. Anybody who has lost anybody in Iraq that I've met, particularly in Connecticut, has said: Please carry on the fight so that our son or daughter will not have died in vain.
WOODRUFF: Senator Joe Lieberman, thank you for stopping by. We appreciate it.
LIEBERMAN: Thank you, Judy.
WOODRUFF: Good to see you again.
LIEBERMAN: You, too.
WOODRUFF: Thank you.
Well, it is one of the most watched election battles of this year. Coming up, Republican Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania trying to fend off a tough primary challenge from Congressman Pat Toomey. CNN's Joe Johns has a live report on this battle in the Keystone State when we come back.
JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Conservatives say Arlen Specter, Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania is simply too liberal for his own state, and that's why they say they want him out. Still, Senator Specter leads in the latest poll 42 -- that's 48-42. We caught up with him today. He was sounding upbeat and confident.
President Bush has campaigned for him, as have a number of other conservatives. Campaigning with him today on his plane, in fact, is Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania. Conservatives, some conservatives in the Senate say they're very concerned that even if Pat Toomey manages to win this primary, they're not so sure he'll be able to win in November. And that's why. So there's a big effort right now on both sides to get out the vote -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: All right. Joe Johns, bringing us the very latest. This is one everybody's watching from back here in Washington. All right, Joe, thank you very much.
The strategy behind campaign commercials. Why a big ad buy doesn't really help if the wrong people are watching TV.
WOODRUFF: TV ads can clearly make or break political candidates, but like any advertisement, product placement is important as well. Buying ad time on television is a tricky business, as we find out in this edition of "How It Works."
WOODRUFF (voice-over): Television advertising.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He later voted against funding our soldiers.
WOODRUFF: The single biggest expenditure of a presidential campaign, a way for candidates to beam a message straight into living rooms without interference from the pesky press.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's part of a detailed economic agenda to create 10 million jobs.
WOODRUFF: But ads work only if the right voters are watching.
EVAN TRACEY, THS MEDIA INTELLIGENCE: There are many examples when we look at ad buys unfold where ads that are clearly aimed at senior citizens are showing up on programs like "American Idol" and "The O.C." on Fox, which tend to skew very young.
WOODRUFF: Evan Tracey, who tracks political ad spending, says campaigns can get caught up in a kind of advertising arms race, competing with each other to buy time on programs with high ratings among likely voters.
But ratings don't matter if the right voters aren't tuning in.
TRACEY: Those ads are essentially wasted unless somebody sees them by mistake when they are flipping handles.
WOODRUFF: So look for health care and education themes during the day, when seniors at stay-at-home moms are watching. And economic messages in the evening, as folks get home from work.
Oh, and don't expect to see much of anything if you live in say, Vermont. Campaigns will be busy pumping advertising dollars into battlegrounds, like Ohio and Pennsylvania.
And then just like that...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The average family would pay $657 more a year.
WOODRUFF: It all will be over.
WOODRUFF: And with that, that's it for this Monday's INSIDE POLITICS. I'm Judy Woodruff. Thanks for joining. "CROSSFIRE" starts right now.
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