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JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS

Kerry may Delay Acceptance of Democratic Nomination; The Bush Campaign: Public Relations and Iraq; Interview With Greg Mankiw, Senator Jon Corzine; Interview with Rev. Jesse Jackson

Aired May 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: A day of presidential pomp and circumstances in Iraq.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When this country makes a commitment, we see it through.

ANNOUNCER: The president prepares to lay out his Iraq strategy in prime time.

The states of the economy: we'll get the Bush and Kerry camp's takes on the jobs picture in the presidential battlegrounds.

Dear Abby: find out which powerful political figure dropped the advice lady a line.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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

JUDY WOODRUFF, HOST: Thank you for joining us.

We begin with an unconventional plot twist in John Kerry's campaign. CNN has confirmed that Kerry is seriously considering delaying his acceptance of the Democratic presidential nomination. The motive? Money. Our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley, has been doing some digging on this developing story.

Candy, I guess the genesis of this is the separation in time between the two conventions. The Democrats planning their convention last week in July, the Republicans not until the first week in September.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. And you'll recall they fought over that, about whose campaign was going to -- you know, the Democrats scheduled theirs, and the Republicans said, oh, that's because they want us to run during the Olympics.

So what's happened now is you do have this five-week gap. And what it means is that once John Kerry accepts the nomination, and once Bush accepts the nomination, they then fall under the public campaign financing, assuming they're going to accept it, which I assume they do. They have about $75 million to spend. But what this means is that Kerry's clock starts to run five weeks earlier than George Bush's clock. So the Kerry campaign says, look, whatever it takes, we're going to level this playing field. They stress this is not the only thing we're looking at, maybe we'll raise hard money and give it to the DNC, maybe we'll give it to the state parties and they can run some ads. But they say they're worried about this five-week gap, when George Bush can continue to spend the money he's raised, but John Kerry has to stop spending his.

WOODRUFF: Part of this, too, I gather, Candy, has to do with the fact that Kerry has been more successful than a lot of people thought he would have been at this point in raising money. So they've now seen they can raise money, and maybe they're wondering if there's a way they can take even further advantage of that.

CROWLEY: Well, that, but I think that they -- you know, you can look at this in the glass half empty range, which is how the Republicans now are looking at it. And they say, look, so far, John Kerry has raised to date $117 million, which is a fair amount of money, spent about $89 million, has about $28 million on hand. But he has some debts out there as well, so the cash on hand is less than that.

George Bush raised about $201 million, spent about $130. He has $71 million on hand.

So there is, nonetheless, some thought in the Republican circles saying, look, this is an act of desperation, he doesn't have that much money on hand and he wants to raise some more and be able to spend it during that time. They also say, look, this is part after overall pattern of John Kerry who doesn't think the rules apply to him.

WOODRUFF: Candy, you and I have covered a number of presidential conventions. What would it be like having a convention with no acceptance?

CROWLEY: Well, I mean, one assumes he would -- you know, probably minimal. I mean, if anything, maybe he gets two shots at this big national stage. He'll give a speech, I'm assuming, and say, thanks very much, gosh, isn't this a great convention, and we look forward to whatever, but doesn't say the words "I accept the nomination."

I'm not really sure exactly what happens with all those people who stand up and say, you know, the great state of Ohio casts -- FEC is looking into this. The Republicans are looking into this. It will be interesting to see, but they say, look -- the Democrats say the convention would go on, but obviously some certain things would have to change and just be a big party.

WOODRUFF: Maybe there's an element of a trial balloon in all of this, too.

CROWLEY: We'll see.

WOODRUFF: We'll see. Candy, thank you very much. And now we turn to Iraq politics. The White House says President Bush will present a clear strategy for moving forward in Iraq on Monday night. It is the kickoff of a Bush campaign to set the stage for the handover of some power to Iraqis and to counter grim news about U.S. casualties in the prison abuse scandal.

New images of abuse emerged today, even as the president went to Louisiana to give a mostly upbeat commencement address. Here now, our White House correspondent, Dana Bash.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: The White House had feared there would be a steady leak of the Iraqi prisoner abuse photos that would keep the story going. And despite the fact their fears seem to be coming true, a senior official says that they are still taking their cues from the Pentagon on whether or not to publicly release all of these photos, to try to get ahead of the story because of the legal implications for the criminal investigation. But those pictures, along with the mounting casualties in Iraq, have certainly taken a toll on Americans and their view of the mission in Iraq, and on the president's approval rating.

So the White House is taking the first in a series of presidential speeches on the way forward in Iraq. That's what the White House is calling it. They're taking that prime time.

The president will speak at the Army War College in Pennsylvania on Monday night. And all though the White House is not formally asking networks to break into their coverage, they are certainly hoping that they will, because they're calling it an important speech to talk about Iraqi sovereignty and security in Iraq between now and the June 30 deadline to hand over sovereignty back to the Iraqis.

Now, White House aides concede that they can't do anything about the bad news that will continue to come from Iraq. But they certainly hope by getting the president out there, they could at least try to control the message. As one official put it, they want the president's voice to be more aggressively in the mix here.

Now, graduating students here at LSU got to hear from the president today. But certainly, it was a light-hearted speech, quite typical of commencement addresses. He reprised a self-deprecating joke about his own academic record and views about the vice president.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: But you earned your degrees. And you, too, can leave today with high hopes.

I speak with some authority here. I have seen how things can work out pretty well for a C student. My job, I got to pick just about everybody I work with. I've been happy with my choices, although I wish someone had warned me about all of Dick Cheney's wild partying.

BASH: This is the president's second commencement address of the graduation and campaign seasons, and the two were very much related. Mr. Bush spoke last week in Wisconsin, a state that he lost by a razor-thin margin to Al Gore in 2000.

Today, Louisiana, this is a state that the president won handily in 2000, but it's also a state that Senator John Kerry is wanting to compete in. So Mr. Bush and his campaign are not taking anything for granted.

Dana Bash, CNN, Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Here in Washington, a House hearing on Iraq today turned at times into a partisan slugfest as Democrats and Republicans argued about the prisoner abuse scandal and other issues. After about an hour and a half of testimony by top Pentagon generals, members of the House Armed Services Committee got into political arguments at least four times. In one exchange, Democrat Kendrick Meek set off committee chairman, Duncan Hunter, by saying the panel should do a better job looking into Iraqi prisoner abuse.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. KENDRICK MEEK (D), ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: We're getting our information through the media. And being on the Armed Services Committee, that's not one of the reasons why I'm here. I could be at home, you know, reading the stuff. I would like to hear it from you all before we see it in the paper.

REP. DUNCAN HUNTER (R), ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: I don't know where you were, but we've had more hearings open and closed on this one subject than any other issue that has been before this committee.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: Hmm, pretty tough. As the prisoner abuse scandal deepens, there is a new push under way to oust Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. The anti-Bush group Moveon.org says it will begin running ads next week, including television spots in 14 major markets. The ads will show a hooded Statue of Liberty and then reveal a picture of Rumsfeld with the tag line "Why hasn't George Bush fired this man?" The Republican National Committee is already taking aim at the Moveon ad, calling it exploitation for partisan purposes by John Kerry's party.

We'll turn to another election year flashpoint ahead and get dueling campaign snapshots of employment in America with an eye toward the presidential showdown states.

Also ahead, a surprising new way to donate to White House hopefuls and buy a few things at the same time.

And our Bob Novak has learned a thing or two about free-fall. Our favorite parachutist will be along with an update of the electoral battle (ph).

This is INSIDE POLITICS, the place for campaign news.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: The Bush administration today is touting state and regional figures that show job gains in 44 states and the District of Columbia over the last year. From March to April, some of the biggest jumps in employment occurred in the showdown states of Florida, Missouri and Michigan. But Michigan is one of six states that have lost jobs over the year, along with two other presidential battlegrounds, Ohio and West Virginia. And the nonpartisan Economic Policy Institute notes that 35 states still have fewer jobs now than when the recession began over three years ago.

Well, now let's talk about those numbers with Bush and Kerry allies. We're going to hear from Democratic Senator John Corzine in just a moment. First, we are joined by the chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, Greg Mankiw.

First of all, Greg Mankiw, yes, the jobs picture has gotten better, hiring in, what, more than half the states since April. But overall, for the last year, net job loss, at least during the last -- during the three years of the Bush administration. Are you sure you can turn that into a job plus by Election Day?

GREG MANKIW, CHAIRMAN, WHITE HOUSE COUNCIL OF ECONOMIC ADVISERS: Well, I don't know where things will exactly stand on Election Day, but I can say that the economy is very much headed in the right direction now. The president inherited an economy heading into a recession. We had an end of a high-tech bubble, corporate governance scandals, terrorist attacks, and that created tremendous job losses.

The president's tax cuts, the most recent one was signed in mid May, and the labor market turned in August. Since August, the economy has created over a million jobs, the unemployment rate has fallen from 6.3 down to 5.6. So we want to see more jobs, but it's definitely heading in the right direction. We have a lot more jobs than we had a year ago.

WOODRUFF: I want to ask you about something going on in the Congress. Last night, a disappointment for the White House. Some moderate Republican senators holding up the president's budget, saying that they want to see these tax cuts offset with equivalent spending cuts. What are you thinking at this point in terms of the White House ability to assuage the concerns of these Republicans?

MANKIW: We're working with Congress. And the president's made his priorities very clear. He wants to make his tax cuts permanent, but he also wants to reduce the budget deficit over time through significant spending restraint. The president has proposed a budget that would reduce the budget deficit in half over the next five years. And we're working with Congress to make sure that gets done.

WOODRUFF: So are you saying you think you'll be able to come up with offsetting spending cuts?

MANKIW: Well, I'm not going to predict the tactics. But we're working with Congress. Our priorities, our goals are absolutely clear: deficit reduction and tax cuts permanent. Those are sort of the two overriding goals of the president.

WOODRUFF: Let me quote to you something that Senator John McCain had to say a couple of days ago. He was criticized by fellow Republicans, questioning his commitment to tax cuts. And he said, "I fondly remember a time when real Republicans stood for fiscal responsibility. Apparently those days are long gone for some of those in our party."

Is fiscal responsibility a priority for the White House?

MANKIW: Absolutely. But there's different kinds of fiscal responsibility. Some people think fiscal responsibility is raising taxes. The president believes that fiscal responsibility is holding the line on spending.

And that's what we're trying to do. We're trying to hold Congress to spending restraint so we can reduce the budget deficit without having to raise taxes on Americans.

WOODRUFF: So your response to John McCain is?

MANKIW: Is that we're in favor of fiscal responsibility, and that's why the president presented a budget that showed non-defense discretionary spending, growing at about half a percent. That's why we're holding the line on spending in order to get the budget deficit down. Fiscal responsibility is a very important priority, it's very important for the economy and it's very important for the American family. But it shouldn't be done by raising taxes.

WOODRUFF: Greg Mankiw, who is chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers. Very good to see you.

MANKIW: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: Thank you.

And now for the Democrats' view on the economy and some other issues, I'm joined by Senator Jon Corzine of New Jersey. He is also the chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, and he joins me where he is today, Birmingham, Alabama.

Senator Corzine, thank you very much.

SEN. JON CORZINE (D), NEW JERSEY: Hi, Judy. Good to be here.

WOODRUFF: You've been listening to reports on the status of jobs. The Labor Department is reporting job gains over much of the country. Your home state of New Jersey was one of the states with the biggest gain in employment. Has the economy been taken away from John Kerry as an issue in this campaign?

CORZINE: Well, I think there are real problems in the economy. All of us are rooting for job growth, and I'm glad to see that. Roughly a million jobs created in the last year.

Put it in the context that we have still lost two million private sector jobs since President Bush has been in office, and almost three million manufacturing jobs, including 73,000 in New Jersey. And in the battleground states, there's been a huge loss of manufacturing jobs. When somebody loses one of those jobs, their next job that they find generally is a lower pay scale, lower benefits. And we're seeing a real erosion in economic position of middle class America.

Health care costs are growing. Tuition costs are growing. Now we've got gasoline prices off the charts. There's a lot of pressure on middle, moderate income families in America, and I think that's going to be a big issue in the fall.

WOODRUFF: So you don't think this improvement in employment makes a difference?

CORZINE: Well, I think it surely is better news for the administration than if they had continued to lose jobs. But remember, they have had a net job loss since they've been in office, and I think there's been an erosion of real income.

WOODRUFF: All right. Senator, you sit on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. More disturbing pictures today from the Iraq prison abuse, sexual abuse, humiliation. Is this all going to have a significant bearing on the congressional investigation, or where does it go?

CORZINE: Well, I think that the kind of abuse we've seen has been registered with everybody, Republican and Democrat. I think we're all offended by it, outraged by it, and believe that we need to find the accountable parties and hold them accountable for it. And we're in the process of trying to figure that out.

I do think that this breadth of -- that we're hearing, actually described by the International Red Cross, is actually more disturbing to me than the new pictures. Although as ugly as they are and as disturbing as they are, the fact is that there are other prisons that similar sorts of things were accused of having these kinds of actions take place. And it's disturbing.

WOODRUFF: Senator, as I'm sure you know, Senator Kerry has not said a great deal about the prisoner abuse scandal. He certainly talked some about it. But more broadly, you hear people say he has not spelled out adequately his own plan for success in Iraq. Do you think he needs to be clearer about what he wants to have happen in Iraq?

CORZINE: Well, you know, Judy, I think there's one very clear ingredient that John Kerry has talked about with regard to Iraq. He has the ability, because he has not offended and undermined our relationship with the rest of the world in a way where our reputation is the lowest it's been, certainly in my adult lifetime, he will be able to reach out to America's traditional allies, broaden out that coalition, get international organizations to willingly want to participate in trying to fight this war on terrorism together.

And I think that is the biggest difference between what John Kerry can do and what George Bush can do, because he has so broken those ties, those abilities to communicate with other people to get them involved. We see them backing away, as we've seen the Spaniards and others, and I think that's the number one difference between the Kerry and Bush approach.

WOODRUFF: All right. We are going to have to leave it there. Senator Jon Corzine joining us today from Birmingham, Alabama, chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. Good to see you. We appreciate it.

CORZINE: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: Thank you.

The president travels to the Capitol to rally the troops. Did it work? Bob Novak joins me with his "Reporter's Notebook," an insight on what was said in that private meeting.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Bob Novak joins us now with some "Inside Buzz."

All right, Bob, I understand there have been changes in the Novak electoral college map.

ROBERT NOVAK, CO-HOST, "CROSSFIRE": Yes, the map that I do with my colleague, Tim Carney (ph), we have now Kerry ahead, 300 to 238 in electoral votes. Now, the big reason for that is we have given Kerry, based on polls, Florida and Ohio. That's a total of 44 electoral votes. If they switch the other way, Bush would be the narrow winner, by 16 electoral votes.

So those are two big states. They are very close, too close to call really. But we give them to Kerry right now. And keep your eye on Florida and Ohio for the next several months.

WOODRUFF: All right. This is if the election were held today. You're not making a prediction for November.

NOVAK: Not a prediction.

WOODRUFF: All right. Another subject, the president went to Capitol Hill yesterday, met with Republicans. You've been talking to some Republicans. What do they say about it?

NOVAK: It was a bust. They were told that the president would make a few remarks, closed-door session, all the Republicans in the House and Senate, they had the microphones all set up, everybody would get to ask questions. The president went on for the better part of an hour and left without a single question being asked.

The Republicans I've talked to said he meandered, it was the same kind of thing he does in a fundraiser. Really a mistake to go up there and just give them a political speech.

WOODRUFF: So no questions.

NOVAK: No questions whatever.

WOODRUFF: Bill Clinton doing something interesting now.

NOVAK: Bill Clinton, as you remember, was saying that he wanted to get rid of soft money. Well, now they have these 527 groups which are a way out to get soft money into the system.

WOODRUFF: Independent.

NOVAK: Right. And one of them is called -- it's so independent it's called the Democratic Governors Media Fund. And they're having a fundraiser for that fund.

Bill Clinton is going to be at the Waldorf Astoria Thursday night. I know you like to keep up with these things. If you want a good seat for that, Judy, it's only $25,000 in soft money. But if you want to get in the back row, $5,000, and you can get in.

WOODRUFF: You can get in the door for $5,000?

NOVAK: That's right.

WOODRUFF: All right. Bob Novak, now, before I let you go, I want to ask you something about last night. We understand that you were around town with a woman who was not your wife, Geraldine.

Now everyone take a quick -- take a close look here. The man in the middle, Bob Novak appearing in act three of Verdi's La Traviata, a performance at the Washington National Opera at the Kennedy Center. What was it like being a star?

NOVAK: It was terrific. I really like that better than what I'm doing now. It was a pretty girl. It was in a bordello scene, and I was in white tie and tails with a young lady who's actually a nurse playing this trumpet (ph). And Patricia (ph).

And that will be on the "Novak Zone" tomorrow as I interview Placido Domingo, the pet of the Washington Opera. And then he said, "Would you like to be in the opera?" And I said, "I would like to. I can really sing." He said, "No singing."

WOODRUFF: That's your next goal, right?

NOVAK: That's right.

WOODRUFF: But you didn't ask him about politics?

NOVAK: Not a word.

WOODRUFF: All right. Bob Novak, a star in every way we can imagine.

NOVAK: Thank you very much, Judy.

WOODRUFF: Thanks very much. We appreciate it. All right. It's been two decades since Jesse Jackson first ran for president. Coming up, I'm going to talk to the Democrat and civil rights leader about the Kerry campaign and whether it's giving short shrift to African-Americans.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: John Kerry's cash: his campaign's in the money, but just where is the Democratic presidential hopeful spending his dollars?

You can buy just about anything on Amazon.com, and now you can invest in the candidate of your choice.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a growing part of the fund-raising pie for presidential candidates.

ANNOUNCER: But which party is benefiting the most?

The ground wars...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm trying to mobilize people to get out and vote, period.

ANNOUNCER: Both the Bush and Kerry camps are picking up the pace.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I've never seen anything like it in my 10 years being very politically active.

ANNOUNCER: But which side is winning this crucial contest?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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

WOODRUFF: Welcome back. It could be one of the Kerry campaign's worst nightmares, having money and not being able to spend it. That is why, as we reported minutes ago, Senator Kerry is seriously considering delaying his acceptance of the Democratic presidential nomination for an additional five weeks. That would allow team Kerry to keep spending primary season money, that is, privately raised money, on TV ads until President Bush accepts his party's nomination in early September. Republicans are already trying to use all this against the Democrats saying, quote, "only John Kerry could be for a nominating convention but be against the nomination." But the latest figures show donations to Kerry have been pouring in.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF (voice-over): John Kerry hit the jackpot in April, pulling in more than $30 million nearly double the sum raised by the president. KERRY: We have to get back to that.

WOODRUFF: Kerry's overall haul just over $117 million shatters the fundraising record for a nonincumbent, a record set by George W. Bush four years ago. Still it is nowhere near the $201 million the president has raised and the Democrat lags far behind in terms of money in the bank, as well. Where team Bush has hoarded nearly 72 million, the Kerry camp has just $28 million on hand. April was also a banner month for spending with both campaigns dropping a bundle on television ads.

AD ANNOUNCER: The decisions that he made saved our lives.

WOODRUFF: Kerry recently rolled out a pair of 60-second bio spots, the centerpiece of a $22 million advertising spree which accounted for approximately two-thirds of the campaign's April expenditures.

AD ANNOUNCER: John Kerry's record on national security, troubling.

WOODRUFF: The president also dumped millions into advertising shelling out about 20 million in April out of roughly $30 million spent that month. Team Bush notes that they completed the bulk of their fundraising sometime ago. But Kerry's April haul is still impressive. After fighting off criticism that he's been slow to establish ground forces in key showdown states, the Democrat finally has the money to start setting up shop in the battlegrounds crucial to a November victory.

It's a luxury Al Gore didn't have four years ago.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KERRY: Now all this is not to say that the ground war isn't already underway. Both the Bush and Kerry campaigns are mobilizing their grass-roots armies, especially in the battleground states. Our national correspondent Kelly Wallace went to Pennsylvania to see some of those troops in action.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KELLY WALLACE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the Pittsburgh suburbs, home of some of the state's highly coveted swing voters, some new faces. First-time players in the ground war game.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm a volunteer for the Allegheny county reelection program.

WALLACE: Like Karl, a 31-year-old registered Republican and 45- year-old Leonard Nesbit, an unemployed steelworker who now goes door to door for $8 an hour. Armed with a smile and a palm pilot, he's contacting registered voters and helping to sign up new ones.

(on camera): You're trying to mobilize people to go out and vote for the Democratic party? LEONARD NESBIT, AMERICA COMING TOGETHER: I'm trying to mobilize people to get out and vote, period, to make a difference in this world.

WALLACE: Nesbit is one of 85 paid staffers in Pennsylvania working for an independent group called America Coming Together, also known as ACT.

PROF. JON DELANO, CARNEGIE MELLON UNIVERSITY: I don't think there's any doubt that act is going to make a tremendous difference in Pennsylvania, simply by identifying Democrats and others who support John Kerry.

WALLACE: ACT's competition fired up volunteers like Raszewski, an artist by day who oversees phone banks at night.

KARL RASZEWSKI, BUSH-CHENEY VOLUNTEER: I think it's crucial Bush wins the presidency this year.

WALLACE: Republicans say they have learned from the Democrats who traditionally have a grassroots advantage. They're halfway to their goal of registering 140,000 new voters by November.

JAN REA, CO-CHAIR ALLEGHENY COUNTY BUSH-CHENEY CAMPAIGN: I've never seen anything like it in my ten years being very politically active.

WALLACE: While the Bush team has a headquarters in Pennsylvania, the Kerry team has yet to open an office, sharing space with the local Democratic party.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's been very, very effective.

WALLACE: Camp Kerry gearing up for some 1,000 house parties this month in Pittsburgh, has five paid staffers in the state. Bush-Cheney has 11.

DAN ONORATO, KERRY SUPPORTER: They can spend as much as they want on professional staff. It's the quality of your volunteer staff that's going to win the race.

WALLACE: George W. Bush lost to Al Gore here by just four percentage points, a near miss Republicans say, motivating them this year. What's motivating Democrats, the fact this state went their way in the last three presidential elections. And the stakes of this ground war could not be higher. The road to the White House could very well lead through Pennsylvania. Kelly Wallace, CNN, Pittsburgh.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: There's been a push in this election year to get more people involved in the campaigns beyond the typical party activists. The Internet has been a useful vehicle for that and now there is a new online outlet for campaign donations that's designed to appeal to the masses. Here's CNN's technology correspondent, Daniel SIEBERGg.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DANIEL SIEBERG, CNN TECHNOLOGY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Amazon.com sells everything from books to blenders to binoculars. And these days you can also use the mammoth retail site to invest in your favorite political candidate. Amazon is inviting people to donate small sums of money from $5 to $200 to their choice for president.

LARRY SABATO, UNIVERSITY OF VA. CENTER FOR POLITICS: This is a growing part of the fundraising pie for presidential candidates. My guess is that in 2008, every candidate is going to have a major Internet fundraising division and probably 15, 20 percent of their overall funds will be raised in small dollar contributions via the Internet.

SIEBERG: Amazon says for now the idea is to promote grassroots involvement, but the candidate touting himself as a grassroots contender is notably absent. Asked why, the Ralph Nader campaign says it's chosen to stay away from corporate fund raising.

SABATO: Ralph Nader marches to his own drummer and here's another case of it. This site is made to order for a candidate like Nader.

SIEBERG: Overall, President Bush has raised much more money than any challenger. The Democratic hopeful, John Kerry, leads the president by a wide margin in donation dollars from Amazon's site.

SABATO: The people who use Amazon.com for whatever combination of reasons, tend to be more liberal and more Democratic, more inclined to support the Democratic nominee for president than the Republican nominee.

SIEBERG: A recent survey also found that Kerry's website generates more traffic been the Bush-Cheney page for the third month in a row. Under federal regulations, Amazon says it must charge the candidates a nominal fee but says it donates the proceeds to a nonpartisan charity for kids. Amazon offered a similar donation service on behalf of the Red Cross during the aftermath of September 11.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SIEBERG: Incidentally, it's not an anonymous donation. Amazon says it's required to turn over your name, billing address and other details to the party that receives your money. If you're looking to somewhere else to donate online, you can always try the web pages for the respective candidates. They're just a few clicks away and what a surprise, Judy, making it easy to turn over your cash.

WOODRUFF: And I'll bet you they'll keep on looking for ways to make it even easier.

SIEBERG: Absolutely.

WOODRUFF: Thank you very much. Former President Bill Clinton is speaking now at the University of Kansas at a lecture series honoring former Kansas Senator Bob Dole. Clinton, of course, beat Dole in the 1996 presidential election. Dole says that it sets an appropriate nonpartisan tone to have Clinton delivering the first lecture. By the way, the event had to be moved to the 12,000-seat university fieldhouse in order to accommodate an overflow crowd.

John Kerry and African Americans. Is he doing enough to attract their support? I'll discuss Kerry's outreach to a key Democratic voting bloc next with the Reverend Jesse Jackson.

An unwritten rule goes by the wayside. The Senate majority leader heads out to the campaign trail to try to unseat the Senate minority leader.

And a powerful political leader turns down the nation's top job. A decision worthy of the political play of the week.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: John Kerry has come under fire recently from some African American leaders over the level of diversity in his campaign. Joining me to talk about this and related issues, the Reverend Jesse Jackson. Reverend Jackson, is the Kerry campaign diverse enough?

REV. JESSE JACKSON, RAINBOW/PUSH COALITION: I think it's diverse and getting broader. For example, Congressman Harold Ford is the chair of his campaign, but more than that, to me, he has reached out to the Congressional Black Caucus which Bush has adamantly refused to meet with, reached out to the NAACP. Mr. Bush promised to me with NAA (UNINTELLIGIBLE) three years ago, he has not met one time the NAA or Legal Defense Fund or organized labor, a complete lockout by Mr. Bush, Cheney and Ashcroft. First time it's happened since Warren Harding. So I see Kerry reaching out to the black caucus, the civil rights organization in ways we've not seen in the last three years.

WOODRUFF: What about John Kerry's message? Is it resonating, do you think, with African American voters?

JACKSON: His message certainly can be sharper in the sense that a reinvestment for America (UNINTELLIGIBLE) will have broad applications not just to African Americans. I think that some would tell him be other than Bush and that's not enough. When you look at more than 3 million jobs lost the last three years. We're taking a tour across Appalachia, June 6 through the 9th so I'm going to invest the issue of poverty getting broader, 40 million Americans without health insurance, jobs going down, benefits going down, tuition going up. I think the message to include all Americans and leave none behind is a message that can resonate. His position so far on challenging this war and challenging trade policy, these are steps in the right direction.

WOODRUFF: What about the criticism, though, that Senator Kerry tells people what they want to hear? For example, recently he went to the Centrist Democratic Leadership Council. In so many words he said he was like Bill Clinton and Al Gore and then just the other day, he told Ralph Nader, "don't compare me with Bill Clinton and Al Gore." Is he vulnerable on this?

JACKSON: Well, I don't know the context of those statements but suffice it to say, he will appoint a Supreme Court that will not be like pickering (ph) and prior (ph) for example. Mr. Bush, one day, put a picture of Dr. King up in the White House, next day sent Olsen to the Hill to kill affirmative action.

One day, he puts a wreath on Dr. King's grave, the next day, (UNINTELLIGIBLE), congressional recess, sends a confederate judge up to the court. So we see a decided clear right-wing exclusive agenda. And so I'm sure that Kerry will be getting challenges from labor and civil rights to get broader, but the fact he is talking with labor and civil rights and talking to working poor people and talking with women, those are steps in my judgment that are moving toward the formation of a sound campaign.

WOODRUFF: How often do you talk to John Kerry?

JACKSON: Not very often. I talk with him maybe once every two weeks or thereabout. I've not been directly involved in the campaign. We've talked several times.

WOODRUFF: But is he -- do you sense that he is reaching out to people you respect in the African American community?

JACKSON: I think he's reaching out but must do even more. For example, Mr. Dean got, say, half of the Congressional Black Caucus and then Gephardt got a big number because he's connected to labor and then Clark because of his connections to the Clintons. And so when he won, he was kind of the dominoes fell. But now he's reaching out to that broader base, and clearly, his reaching out to blacks, Latinos, labor and women are in great contrast to what we've seen the last three years.

WOODRUFF: Earlier this month, you said that John Kerry should consider picking an African American vice presidential running mate.

JACKSON: It's not just a matter of picking one. It's an matter of doing an impact study. When they looked to get Lieberman, they said he's Jewish, he's smart, he is credible, he would have an impact on, say, Florida, on New York and fundraising. So let's look at Gephardt. He's strong in Missouri and in the Midwest. I mean impact. What would a black mean on the ticket, for example, in the -- in the battleground states? What would a black mean in Georgia and South Carolina? We don't know but we deserve to know what an impact study would look like?

WOODRUFF: Who are some African Americans he should be looking at?

JACKSON: Well, first of all, there are people like Congressman Scott, there are people, the Congressman from North Carolina. I mean, there's a significant number. But there is no talent shortage in the Democratic party. If the Republicans can find a national security director in Condoleezza Rice, Dr. Rice, they can find a secretary of state and a Supreme Court justice, clearly -- and they represent less than 5 percent of the black population -- there is no shortage of black and Latino talent in the Democratic party. It's not a matter of just dropping names. It's a matter of a real search for an impact analysis.

You know, South Carolina last election, 480,000 blacks didn't vote. 278,000 did vote. They lost the governor's race by 40,000 votes. What would be the impact? They lost a Senate race in Georgia by 50,000 votes. 650,000 blacks unregistered. Suppose a black inspired those masses? When I ran in '84, we put on 2 million new voters. We took the Senate back in 1986. What would an impact be and so if you're going to consider anybody, certainly blacks and Latinos like Richardson, of course, should be in that mix.

WOODRUFF: Right. We hear you. Jesse Jackson who himself ran for the Democratic nomination in 1984. Good to see you. We appreciate it.

JACKSON: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: Thank you. John Kerry comes in for criticism from a new source in our Friday campaign news daily. Vice President Cheney's wife, Lynn Cheney. Yesterday she questioned Kerry's statements on the No Child Left Behind education reforms. Mrs. Cheney said, quote, "it is hard to come up with a satisfying explanation" for what she called Kerry's change of heart on the president's education initiative. Kerry voted for the bill in the Senate, but he now frequently criticizes the way the Bush administration has implemented the law and for its lack of funding.

In South Dakota, the president enjoys a solid lead over John Kerry in a new poll, a Mason/Dixon survey gives Bush 51 percent to Kerry's 35 percent, Ralph Nader getting 4 percent.

South Dakota's senior Senator Tom Daschle facing a strong challenge in November and his Senate counterpart is coming to the aide of Daschle's challenger. Republican Majority Leader Bill Frist travels to South Dakota this weekend to campaign for Daschle's opponent, John Thune. It is believed to be the first time in a half century that a Senate leader has actively campaigned to defeat the other party's Senate leader.

A huge surprise in the world's largest democracy. That's next in Bill Schneider's political play of the week.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Bet you thought we'd gone away. We're still here. Political leaders are always seeking higher office, or are they? Bill Schneider has our political play of the week.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): In recent years, India's Congress Party has been in decline eclipsed by the growing power of religious fundamentalists. So confident of victory for his Hindu Nationalist Party, Prime Minister Vajpayee called an election six months early. The country was supposed to be feeling good. India's high-tech sector was booming. The government's campaign slogan, "India Shining." Underneath the shining surface, however, there was discontent.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Whichever religion these ruling politicians belong to, I abuse them. They don't even care if we have food to eat.

SCHNEIDER: The opposition leader had a magic name and an ability to connect with India's discontented masses. Sonia Gandhi, widow of Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, daughter-in-law of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi who's father Nehru was India's first prime minister. This week, Mrs. Gandhi led the Congress Party back to power in a sensational upset victory. Her opponents protested that because Mrs. Gandhi was born in Italy, she should not have India's top job.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is the biggest national shame ever. We want an Indian-born prime minister.

SCHNEIDER: On Tuesday, Mrs. Gandhi stunned her party with this announcement.

SONIA GANDHI, CONGRESS PARTY LEADER: The post of prime minister has not been my thing (ph). I was always certain that if ever I found myself in the position that I am today, I would follow my inner voice. Today, that voice tells me I must promptly decline this post.

SCHNEIDER: Who can blame her? Both her husband and her mother- in-law were assassinated by fanatics. But Mrs. Gandhi is not leaving politics. She handpicked the new prime minister and will control policy as leader of the party.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She is the queen. She's appointing a regent to run some of the business of government for her, but it is she who will be in charge.

SCHNEIDER: Power but no top position. A novel concept and the political play of the week.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER: India has a tradition of renunciation and self sacrifice going all the way back to Mahatma Gandhi, no relation to Sonia Gandhi but clearly an inspiration.

WOODRUFF: You don't see that very often.

SCHNEIDER: Not at all.

WOODRUFF: Bill Schneider. Political play of the week. Thank you.

And that's it for today's INSIDE POLITIC. I'm Judy Woodruff. Have a good weekend. "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


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