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JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS

Kerry on Iraq; Mission Accomplished?; Interview With Nina Easton, Michael Kranish, Brian Mooney

Aired April 30, 2004 - 15:30   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There will be a free Iraq.

ANNOUNCER: A presidential promise. One year after he flew high under the "Mission Accomplished" banner, we'll revisit the political fallout from that made-for-TV event.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is a moment of truth in Iraq.

ANNOUNCER: John Kerry finds an opportune moment to address mistakes made in Iraq. But does he have a plan to move forward?

What makes Kerry tick? We'll get the inside story from the reporters who say they know him best.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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

JUDY WOODRUFF, HOST: Thank you for joining us.

Well, it doesn't take a political genius to figure out this is a smart time for John Kerry to talk about Iraq, with tomorrow being the one-year anniversary of President Bush's famous aircraft carrier speech. But John Kerry's remarks at Westminster College in Missouri were also politically timely, since he appeared on the same stage where Vice President Cheney attacked his national security record earlier this week. Kerry began his comments suggesting he would take the high road.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KERRY: This anniversary is not a time to shout. It's not a time for blame. It is a time for a new direction in Iraq and for America to work together.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: Kerry stressed three points for moving forward: make Iraq part of NATO's global mission, authorize a high commissioner for governing and rebuilding the country, and launch a massive effort to build an Iraqi security force. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KERRY: Will a new approach in Iraq be difficult to achieve? Yes. Is there a guarantee of success? No.

In light of all the mistakes that have been made, no one can say that success is certain. But I can say that if we do not try, failure is all too likely and too costly.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: Let's bring in our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley, who was at Kerry's speech in Missouri just a short time ago.

Candy, first of all, what would you say the Kerry campaign was trying to accomplish with this?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, a couple of things. They were trying to show a contrast between Vice President Cheney's speech, largely seen as political, and the speech here today, which they wanted to be high-minded and to lay out a road to peace in Iraq and internationalizing the coalition.

So I think he sort of showed his cards in the first part of the speech. He was talking about Winston Churchill coming here and giving his famous Iron Curtain speech. Of course Gorbachev was here, a number of world leaders. And then he said, "You don't come to Fulton to give a speech. You come to Fulton to honor a tradition and give the country and the world a gift of hard truth and a sense of hope."

So this was clearly designed as a counterpoint to Vice President Cheney. Also designed to answer some of the criticism that Senator Kerry doesn't have a plan in Iraq, that he's basically doing what Bush is doing. The campaign says, look, this is a speech that laid out a process by which we can internationalize the postwar period in Iraq.

WOODRUFF: Candy, he's obviously talked about Iraq before. What were the new parts of what he had to say?

CROWLEY: Well, you know, this was sort of putting the pieces together. There wasn't a lot new.

He called for heavy U.N. involvement. He called for NATO involvement on the ground. He called for increasing Iraqi security forces, all things he's talked about before.

The campaign insists that what's new is he laid out a process. First, go to the Security Council, get Russia and other members of the Security Council, France, Germany on board. Then go ahead and endorse the Brahimi plan that he is putting together. Then go to NATO.

So he put it in a different order. But, you're right, there wasn't much in this speech that we hadn't heard before.

WOODRUFF: All right. Candy Crowley, who was with Senator Kerry at the speech today in Fulton, Missouri. Candy, thank you very much.

Well, President Bush also could not ignore the "Mission Accomplished" anniversary. Today, he stood by his speech of one year ago, despite critics who say he proclaimed success far too quickly.

White House correspondent Dana Bash has more on the president's political calculations then and now -- Dana.

DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Judy, this is the last day of the deadest month so far in Iraq, and it's a distinction that few here at the White House thought would help mark the year anniversary of what the White House saw as a day of triumph a year ago. And today, as you said, the president did talk about it. He acknowledged that there have been tough times in Iraq, but he also ceded no ground to critics who said that he declared major combat over too early.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BASH (voice-over): One year ago, Democrats worried this made- for-TV image would end up in a Bush campaign ad, glorifying a swift win in Iraq. Instead, his opponent made the ad.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who can take on George Bush and change the direction of the nation?

BUSH: Iraq is free.

BASH: May 1, aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln to declare major combat over in Iraq. But the war continued. On that date, 139 troops had been killed. A year later, six times that, 740 casualties. In the rose garden Friday, the president conceded there have been tough times in Iraq, but defended the event a year ago and the policy now.

BUSH: I did give the speech from the carrier saying that we had achieved an important object, that we had accomplished a mission, which was the removal of Saddam Hussein.

SEN. ROBERT BYRD (D), WEST VIRGINIA: Mission accomplished? The mission in Iraq as laid out by President Bush and Vice President Cheney has failed!

BASH: For Democrats, "mission accomplished" is now a metaphor for Bush mistakes. The president now says to focus on his words at the time, warnings there could be danger ahead, not just the images.

Since then, Karl Rove and other top advisers say they wish that banner wasn't overhead. Tough lesson in how images can quickly turn with events.

DAN BARTLETT, WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: I won't call it a mistake, but I will call it, you know, hindsight is always perfect.

(END VIDEOTAPE) BASH: And while most Americans, according to polls, show that they agree with the president, it's important to stay the course in Iraq, approval for how he is personally handling the situation has dropped 30 points in the past year. That's according to the latest CNN-USA Today-Gallup poll. But Bush campaign officials say that they do take solace in the fact that the same polls show that when you compare the president to Senator Kerry, most people think that the president is a better leader for dealing with Iraq at this time -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right. Dana, thank you very much.

Well, on the actual "mission accomplished" anniversary, tomorrow, Vice President Cheney will deliver the commencement address at Florida State University in Tallahassee. After his highly-partisan speech at Westminster College this week, some FSU Democrats sought assurances that Cheney would not go on the political attack in his graduation remarks. An FSU spokeswoman tells CNN that there is every indication that Cheney will deliver an "inspirational speech" tomorrow, focusing on the university and the commencement.

And now our "Campaign News Daily" headlines.

President Bush hits the road next week for a two-day bus tour in the Midwest, including the showdown state of Ohio. It is his first bus tour of the 2004 campaign.

Meantime, in the battleground of Arizona, a new poll shows the president and John Kerry in a tight race. Among registered Arizona voters, Bush gets 41 percent to 38 percent for Kerry. Ralph Nader is getting 3 percent.

The Kerry camp says it is ahead of schedule on fundraising, reaching its $80 million goal three months early. Now, that is still less than half of what the Bush camp has raised.

And read what you will into this tidbit about Dick Gephardt and his vice presidential prospects. One day after we reported that Gephardt is one of the VP contenders already being vetted by the Kerry campaign, we're told that Gephardt is expected to appear with Kerry in Gephardt's hometown of St. Louis tonight.

Well, as some tell it, John Kerry is not necessarily easy to get to know. But some veterans of covering John Kerry offer some unique insight in their new biography of the candidate. I'll talk with all three of them just ahead.

Plus, Kerry's spin on why his wife switched parties. It's not for the reason you might think.

And later, is syndicated television ready for the man whose scream rocked the political world?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: An update now from New Jersey on the trial of NBA basketball player, Jayson Williams, accused of -- in the death of a driver. Let's quickly go to CNN's Deborah Feyerick, who is in Somerville, New Jersey -- Deborah.

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Judy, I can tell you that the judge received a note from juror number 5 just a few minutes ago. It is described as a small note.

All the jury members were called back into the courtroom, and that's when the judge said that he wanted them to consider whether "it would be worthwhile to continue deliberations." Remember, yesterday, they reached verdicts on six of the eight counts, and now it sounds as if they are stalemated on the last two counts.

The judge has sent them back telling them, just please, think, is it worthwhile to continue deliberations. The judge does not want to know the details of what they have agreed on as to the six counts. He just wants to know whether in fact they can go on.

That's it from here, Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right. Deborah Feyerick watching developments in the trial of Jayson Williams in New Jersey.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Voters who want to know more about the presumptive Democratic nominee for president have a new source, "John F. Kerry" the complete biography by the Boston Globe reporters who know him best. I spoke a little while ago with the book's authors, Nina Easton, Michael Kranish and Brian Mooney. And I started by asking, since polls show that people don't know who John Kerry is, many people, exactly who is he?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NINA EASTON, AUTHOR, "JOHN F. KERRY": It's fascinating, because he's been in public life for, what, 30 years now. And, in fact, he really is still a mystery to the public.

Part of that is because there are two sides to John Kerry. There's the independent-minded maverick, the guy who in Vietnam beached his boat, defying Navy policy to chase down enemies. Then there's this other side of him that seems almost painstakingly calculated. His opponents would say it's politically calculated and he's extremely cautious.

This is the young man who criticized the Vietnam War in his Yale grails graduation speech but, nevertheless, enlisted and went to serve in combat as an officer because in 1966, if you wanted to follow in the steps of John F. Kennedy, that's what you did.

WOODRUFF: Michael Kranish, you did focus a lot of your writing on his service in Vietnam. Who is he is based on what he did and didn't do in Vietnam?

MICHAEL KRANISH, BOSTON GLOBE: Well, certainly, Vietnam shaped John Kerry in so many different ways. He tells the story of being in Cambodia one night in December of 1968 and firing with the enemy and so forth, and hearing that Nixon's telling the American public we're not in Cambodia.

So his skepticism about government and politics was formed right there. He went to Vietnam with the best of intentions, became quickly concerned about where the war was going, that innocent people might be being killed. So clearly that shapes a lot of who he is.

He always has wanted to be in public office, and Vietnam did shape him to a great degree. But that's not the only thing the campaign is about, obviously. So he's trying to tell the people exactly what he stands for.

WOODRUFF: And Brian Mooney, you have focused a lot and have covered John Kerry as a politician in the home state of Massachusetts. What do you see in who John Kerry is?

BRIAN MOONEY, BOSTON GLOBE: As a campaigner, he's very competitive, and very inconsistent. And I think there's a pattern in all his past campaigns -- I think we're seeing some of it now -- where he has long stretches where he's very unimpressive. And then somewhere late in the campaign, when his candidacy is in danger, he kicks in and becomes a thoroughbred and runs a flawless, energetic campaign to the end. That's when he succeeds.

WOODRUFF: Nina Easton, a lot of what we're hearing from the Republicans right now is that John Kerry is a waffler, he can't take a position and stick with it, he makes decisions on the basis of expediency. Is this reflected in the life of John Kerry?

EASTON: I think that that charge has dogged him through his Senate career, certainly, dating back even to his period as an antiwar protester. One of our columnists put it well when they said he wants to be both a war hero and an antiwar hero.

Yes, that charge has dogged him, will continue to dog him. Nevertheless, there are a core of issues in which he has staked out very clear positions: gay rights, abortion rights, the environment, which, of course, is a passion that he shares with his wife, Theresa. So there are core issues. I think particularly on the issues of war and peace, he brings that conflicted sensibility in part because of his experience in Vietnam.

WOODRUFF: And picking up on that, Michael Kranish, some people have said he has wanted to be president of the United States for a long time. Why does he want to be? Why has he wanted to be president?

KRANISH: I asked that exact question of some of his best friends from Yale who remember him very vividly. In fact, they tell the story of when he would pass by (UNINTELLIGIBLE), because this is what they saw John Kerry as many, many years ago, 40 years ago. And I asked one of his best friends from the debate club, and he responded that he didn't know Kerry had a specific position or issue that he wanted to run about, but that he saw himself as a person in public service. And clearly, his life has given some of those issues, Vietnam being the most obvious, the questioning of government, not taking things at face value.

WOODRUFF: Right.

KRANISH: Some people try to pigeonhole Kerry, but I don't think we do. I think in the book we show very clearly that he is an investigative entrepreneur. For example, in Congress, going on investigative cases, Iran Contra, and other things like that.

WOODRUFF: Brian Mooney, what do you see in your reporting on John Kerry over all these years? Why do you think he wants to be president?

MOONEY: That's an almost impossible question to answer. There's an unusual pathology I think in all these people to aspire to be the leader of the free world. And it's sort of a mystery.

But I think his behavior through the years, he would do -- and you have to do anything you can to keep the dream alive, to keep yourself in the game. And he's done that, and I think that has created some of this record that the Bush campaign has exploited, where he seems to be on either side of an issue and has shifted over time on different issues. You know, circumstances change, and I think that's left him vulnerable and allowed the Bush campaign to try to define him early on.

WOODRUFF: Is there something that's a favorite that each of you has in the book? We don't have a lot of time left. But Nina, is there something that tells us a side or a piece of John Kerry that we don't know?

EASTON: Absolutely. I think there's a -- he has this label that everybody likes to stick on him, aloof. And we explore in the book through his past history why that is. And it's largely because he's not a man connected to a Massachusetts neighborhood.

People always think of him as being from Massachusetts. In fact, he -- his father was a foreign service officer. He grew up in several towns across two continents. He was shipped off to boarding school when he was age 11. And he says very wistfully in the book, you know, I was always moving on, I was always saying good-bye.

It steeled you. And I think that really does go a long way towards explaining the public persona of John Kerry we see.

WOODRUFF: Brian, what about with you? Is there a story or something about him that's a favorite of yours in this book?

MOONEY: Well, one of the more interesting chapters that I wrote was, his campaign for Congress in 1972, it was his first major run for office. And he was a young man, ambitious, parachuted in out of nowhere.

He shopped in three congressional districts in a matter of weeks, looking for a seat to run for Congress in. And he was pummeled by the local press. And lost the race he was supposed to win. And I think and didn't defend himself well.

And I think the loss in that race taught him a lesson, as a result of him fighting back. And I think we'll see it in this campaign, no Bush charge will go unanswered.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Three authors of the biography of John Kerry.

Well, Senator Kerry made a rare reference to his wife's GOP past last night. Theresa Heinz Kerry was the widow of Pennsylvania Republican senator, John Heinz, who died in a plane crash in 1991. Speaking in Harrisburg, Kerry talked about what made her switch to the Democratic Party.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KERRY: You know, my wife, Theresa, until very recently, was a registered Republican all her life. And what changed her ultimately, what sort of broke the core, if you will, was what she saw the Republican Party do to Max Cleland, when they attacked the patriotism and questioned the willingness to defend America of a man who lost three of his limbs on the battlefield in Vietnam.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: Max Cleland, of course, is the former Democratic senator from Georgia who lost his 2002 reelection bid in a bitter contest with Republican Saxby Chambliss.

Still to come, Bob Novak will be along with his notebook, including a look at a statement by a presidential contender that could prove costly.

And he is no longer in the race, but Howard Dean could stay in the public eye. Could he be the next Dr. Phil?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Well, Howard Dean is out of the race for the White House, but he may have found a new forum. Variety.com reports that the former Democratic presidential candidate is talking with producers about a possible syndicated TV talk show. The man behind such shows as "Judge Judy" describes Dean as an outspoken cross between Howard Beal (ph), Dr. Phil and Phil Donahue.

We may learn a little more about Howard Dean's future when he joins us on INSIDE POLITICS this Monday. That's at 3:30 p.m. Eastern, of course.

Coming up, the campaign ad wars. An update on the weapon of choice in the battle for the White House.

Plus, comings and goings at the White House. Why an early departure by two 9/11 commissioners is creating a little up roar.

INSIDE POLITICS continues in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Bob Novak joins us now from the "CROSSFIRE" set at George Washington University with some "Inside Buzz." All right, Bob, first of all, I understand you have some fall-out from that hot Republican primary, Senate primary in Pennsylvania.

BOB NOVAK, CO HOST CROSSFIRE: Yes, Judy. Senator Arlen Specter barely won the primary against Congressman Pat Toomey thanks to help from President Bush. And so the day after, about 12 hours later, after getting -- instead of thanking President Bush, he says, I'm not a rubber stamp for Bush, he can't expect my vote.And so around the Senate (ph), they're saying, that's Arlen for you.

Now, the White House is playing it down saying they'll get his votes when it counts, but I believe they're a little bit miffed about the show of ungratitude.

WOODRUFF: And I gathere there's some other thread, another story emerging from that Pennsylvania runoff involving another Pennsylvania politician.

NOVAK: Yes, conservatives, of course, were deposing Senator Specter. And they're absolutely furious with the other Republican Senator, the conservative, Rick Santorum, one of the stars of the conservative movement, who not only supported Specter, but went out of his way to put his organization at the polls on election day. He couldn't have won without Santorum.

Santorum, on Wednesday morning, showed up at the Catholic National Prayer Breakfast. And when he got up to speak, some people happen to walk out. They said, well, they had other engagements, but it was a protest.

I think Santorum is in a little bit of trouble with his constituency.

WOODRUFF: All right. All right, John Kerry out on the campaign trail, may have made a boo boo this week, you're saying?

NOVAK: Yes, he was -- in preparation for going to Michigan, he had an interview with the Associated Press. And he was talking about the hybrid gas and electric car. He said that this car should be made in Michigan, not by Honda and Toyota.

Now, the problem with that is, there's about 50,000 Americans working in auto plants in Ohio for Honda and Toyota and they are those transplant plants. So, naturally, that is being spread around by the International Automobile Dealers Association.

WOODRUFF: Last time we looked, John Kerry did want to win Ohio.

NOVAK: Big state.

WOODRUFF: Bob, we've been hearing about this transportation bill, this highway bill for a long time. What's it coming down to?

NOVAK: This is a crisis week. And the Chief of Staff of the White House, Andy Card, will sit down with Congressional leaders in the question of what is the bottom line number that the president will accept. Now, the president has said that he has to have a bill no bigger than $256 billion, anything smaller -- anything larger than that, he will veto it. And the House bill is $275, the Senate is $315.

Now, the president -- a lot of people in the White House would like to see a veto. The president has not vetoed a bill to show he cares about money, but Speaker Denny Hastert is furious about that. He says he will not tolerate the president's vetoing a bill, putting his Republicans on the spot on overriding the vote to get highway money. And they're going to sit down and bargain it out as to what the number will be.

I'll make a prediction. I think the White House will yield and he will sign a compromised bill acceptable to the speaker.

WOODRUFF: All right. Well we'll find out on Monday who was right. Bob Novak, we'll see you on "CROSSFIRE" in a few minutes.

NOVAK: Thank you Judy.

WOODRUFF: Thank you.

Well, Howard Dean is out of the race for the White House, but he may have found a new forum. Variety.com reports that the former Democratic presidential candidate is talking with producers about a possible, syndicated TV talk show. The man behind such shows as "Judge Judy" describes Dean as an outspoken cross between Howard Bealle, Dr. Phil and Phil Donahue. We may learn a litle more about Howard Dean's future when he joins us on "INSIDE POLITICS" this Monday. That's at 3:30 p.m. Eastern, of course.

Coming up, the campaign ad wars, an update on the weapon of choice in the battle for the White House.

Plus, comings and goings at the White House, why an early departure by 2 9/11 commissioners is creating a little uproar. INSIDE POLITICS continues in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: We're breaking in now to take you quickly to New Jersey. The judge in the Jayson Williams case talking to the courtroom. Let's listen.

(INTERRUPTED BY LIVE EVENT) WOODRUFF: Jayson Williams, the former NBA basketball star found guilty of the lesser charges. Guilty of hindering apprehension tampering with a witness and so forth. But acquitted on the most serious charges of aggravated manslaughter, aggravated assault. And no decision from this jury on the charge of reckless manslaughter. We're going to continue to monitor developments in New Jersey in and around that court. If there are any, we'll go back.

In the meantime, we'll take a break and be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(AUDIO/VIDEO GAP)

WOODRUFF (voice-over): But two words in full view spoke volumes: "mission accomplished."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Take cover!

WOODRUFF: Well, it is not. One year later, the situation in Iraq remains chaotic. And the American death toll is mounting.

Polls show voters increasingly dissatisfied with the administration's handling of the war. More and more people questioning the decision to engage in the conflict in the first place. Today, the president argues mission accomplished didn't mean case closed.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I also said on that carrier that day that there were still difficult works ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator John Kerry.

WOODRUFF: But Democrats have seized on the words as evidence of the administration's hubris and lack of foresight.

SEN. JOHN KERRY, (D-MA) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't think there's anyone in this room today or 6,000 miles away who doesn't wish that those words had been true. But we've seen the news. We've seen the pictures. And we know that we are living through days of great danger.

WOODRUFF: John Kerry marked the mission accomplished anniversary with his own major Iraq address. But he's found it difficult to convey a clear position himself, clouding the message his own vote to authorize the war. The fact that he agrees with Bush, the U.S. cannot cut and run, and the ever-changing events on the ground. Still, this is Bush's war.

BUSH: When Iraqi civilians looked into the faces of our servicemen and women, they saw strength and kindness and good will.

WOODRUFF: Not anymore. The Iraq campaign is not where it was expected to be one year ago. And the mission may have changed, leaving American voters to decide whether it has, in fact, been accomplished. (END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Let's talk about the situation in Iraq now and the politics here at home with Republican Congressman David Drier of California and former Clinton State Department official, Ambassador Wendy Sherman.

Ambassador Sherman, let me start with you. President Bush said today, politically, militarily, yes, there have been problems, but it is on track in Iraq.

WENDY SHERMAN, FRM. CLINTON AMBASSADOR: Well, I don't think anyone thinks it's on track when there have been 722 deaths, when the month of April has been the bloodiest yet. And most importantly, when the Iraqi people are concerned about their future in a way no one expected them to be.

I quite agree with what senator Kerry said. We all wish those words had been true that the mission was accomplished. And I think the Senator showed great leadership putting out a plan to get this back on track for the sake of the Iraqi people. And he even said, that if President Bush supplies the leadership, he'll be right there supporting him.

WOODRUFF: Why isn't that Kerry's formula, a formula for success.

REP. DAVID DREIER, (D) CALIFORNIA: We should look at what has been accomplished. Remember, Saddam Hussein was removed from power. No one needs to have described to them what Saddam Hussein did. He used weapons of mass destruction against his own people. He is someone who, in fact, supported terrorist activities outside of his country. And was pursuing destabilization of the region.

I believe that based on what I've seen of Mr. Kerry's speech today in Fulton, Missouri, that he was basically supportive of what President Bush is pursuing here, and I think that's a very, very important thing. We're in this together and everyone does want success to take place.

WOODRUFF: Ambassador Sherman, a lot of people are looking at what John Kerry is proposing and they're saying it sounds a lot like what George Bush has moved to.

SHERMAN: Well, actually it's the opposite, George Bush has moved to where John Kerry has been for many months now. And that is to internationalize this process, to take off the made by America in its face. Just a minute, Congressman. To in fact, get NATO troops involved, to really change this process. Remove the hubris, put a little humility here and protect our American troops.

DREIER: We can't forget that George Bush spent seven months diplomatically pursuing the United Nations route from August of 2002 all the way up and until the invasion in Iraq. We have to remember that he has consistently built -- yesterday I had the privilege of meeting with Prime Minister Martin from Canada, and the president met with him today. And we are building this coalition. There are 30 nations involved right now.

SHERMAN: And very few troops, Congressman. The vast majority of troops are American troops.

DREIER: Because the United States of America is the only country on the face of the Earth that can provide strong and decisive leadership in Iraq to deal with global war on terrorism and we're doing that with the president's leadership.

WOODRUFF: The question I hear from some people is if John Kerry's position is now so close to President Bush's, what's the difference? what is he offering that the president isn't offering?

SHERMAN: I think John Kerry is offering leadership that I wish we had had for the last seven months. And it's a leadership that says that we must protect the American troops. We must help the Iraqis get their sovereign country back. And the way to do that is to ask the rest of the world to share some of the burden of the costs, not only in treasure, but in lives that we are facing that we are facing, that the Iraqi people are facing, that others in Iraq are facing.

And the president's leadership -- the president has only begun to do that. He said for months and months, he said for months and months, the U.N. was a useless institution. That's why he operated unilaterally with a coalition of the willing.

DREIER: There was no unilateral action.

We pursued for seven months, as I said, from August of 2002 all the way up to the invasion, the United Nations. The president has clearly utilized the United Nations. He's called for -- and we've just seen John Negroponte, our ambassador to the United Nations, who's going to become the ambassador to Iraq. This is something the president has pursued all the way down the road.

SHERMAN: We want too make sure John Negroponte does not become the next target in Iraq. That he doesn't become a pro counsel in Iraq. And that we make sure, as Senator Kerry has suggested today, that there be a high commissioner that has the U.N. resolution behind it, so that this can belong to the Iraqi people.

WOODRUFF: And you're saying that that's different from what the president...

SHERMAN: Absolutely, because Senator Kerry's had this out there in the public for months and the president is only now accepting John Kerry's leadership.

DREIER: The fact of the matter is the president has shown strong decisive consistent unwavering leadership. John Kerry has been all over the map on this issue,And i think that it's very clear. Inconsistency is something the American people have come to expect from John Kerry. From President Bush, they expect and have gotten decisive leadership.

And on these issues, the president has decisively worked to build this international coalition. I talked about the meeting he had today talking about Iraq with the prime minister of Canada. If you look at the fact that he has been constantly been working on this. I just returned from visiting 12 countries in 12 days and I will tell you, there is broad international support for this effort.

SHERMAN: We traveled to different places Congressman.

DREIER: Well, I've been to central and south Asia where it's very, very important on this.

WOODRUFF: All right. We are going to have to leave it there. Congressman Dreier, Ambassador Wendy Sherman, good to see both of you. Thank you very much for being patient with us.

Well, that 9/11 question and answer session was just one example of a certain political figure's prominence this week. Now, our senior political analyst Bill Schneider with his play of the week.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): When an incumbent president is running, the election is supposed to be a referendum on the incumbent. Vice president Cheney is turning it into a referendum on the challenger.

DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Senator Kerry has repeatedly called for major reductions or outright cancellations of many of our most important weapon systems.

SCHNEIDER: This week, Cheney kept the war on terror at the top of the agenda.

CHENEY: Senator Kerry has questioned the war on terror is really a war at all. Senator Kerry's record raises serious doubts about his understanding of the broader struggle against terror.

SCHNEIDER: The war on terror is Bush's issue. Drawing the Democrats into that debate means they're fighting on the president's turf.

TERRY MCAULIFFE, DNC CHAIRMAN: Dick Cheney, the Bush campaign's attack dog in chief is kick off a week-long ad campaign that will question John Kerry's commitment to defending the country he risked his life for.

SCHNEIDER: It also kept the Democrats message from getting out.

KERRY: This is the worst jobs president since Herbert Hoover was president.

SCHNEIDER: Cheney took a lot of heat for his attacks on Kerry.

SEN. FRANK LAUTENBERG, (D) NEW JERSEY: The lead chicken hawk against Senator Kerry is the vice president of the United States, Vice President Cheney.

SCHNEIDER: But that drew fire away from Bush, and left the president above the fray.

Sure, there was snickering when Cheney and Bush testified together before the 9/11 commission. Cartoonists portrayed Bush as Mini Me to Cheney's Dr. Evil, as Cheney's little buddy.

REP. NANCY PELOSI, (D) MINORITY LEADER: It really begs the question of why they had to go in hand in hand into this very, very important commission meeting.

SCHNEIDER: But the testimony was private. And afterwards, the president appeared alone.

BUSH: I answered every question they asked.

SCHNEIDER: Cheney baited the trap. The Democrats fell into it, making it tough for Kerry to gain momentum, and giving Cheney the political play of the week.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER: Vice President Cheney dominated the news all week, including the Supreme Court hearing over whether he should be forced to release records of his energy task force meetings. At a time when the president is facing a lot of bad news, it's not such a terrible thing for the vice president to be the center of attention -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right. Bill Schneider. The play of the week. Thank you.

And now updating a story that broke this hour. The jury in the trial of former NBA all-star Jayson Williams has found him not guilty on charges of aggravated manslaughter and aggravated assault, but he was found guilty of 4 lesser charges. Jurors could not agree on a charge of reckless manslaughter.

More on this story at the top of the hour with "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS." That's it for INSIDE POLITICS. Thanks for joining us. "CROSSFIRE" starts right now.

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