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JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS

The Kerry Campaign: No Holiday From the Trail; Interview With Max Cleland; Interview With Bob Dole, Senator Daniel Inouye

Aired May 28, 2004 - 15:30   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm going to be the biggest cheese head fan in the United States of America.

ANNOUNCER: Playing to the crowd. John Kerry appeals to veterans and other voters in Wisconsin.

The material girl returns. Find out how Madonna's figuring into the Democrats' financial calculations.

A new memorial with a timeless message.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Some time in your life you may be called upon to make a sacrifice.

ANNOUNCER: Veterans of war and politics help us set the stage for Memorial Day.

Now, live from the World War II Memorial in Washington, JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

JUDY WOODRUFF, HOST: Thank you for joining us at Washington's newest memorial. This long-awaited tribute to memorial to World War II veterans will be dedicated tomorrow. You can hear them rehearsing behind me.

It will be dedicated against the backdrops of new terror concerns and political fights over homeland defense. Security is going to be extremely tight for the dedication, especially with so many dignitaries on hand, including both President Bush and his rival, John Kerry.

At the White House today, the president heard international appeals to give full sovereignty to the interim government in Iraq, scheduled to take control of that country on June 30th. We'll have a live report ahead.

As for Senator Kerry, it is no coincidence that his current campaign focus on national security comes during the kickoff of the Memorial Day Weekend. CNN national correspondent Kelly Wallace traveled with Kerry to Green Bay, Wisconsin.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) KELLY WALLACE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The battleground state of Wisconsin, stop number two of John Kerry's two-week tour on national security. His main goal, trying to get the upper hand on an issue viewed as President Bush's greatest strength.

At the National Railroad Museum here, Kerry met with military members, their families and veterans. The decorated Vietnam veteran's message, that he would do a better job modernizing the military and taking care of military families and veterans. But the first question in this town meeting from a woman who lost her brother in Vietnam shows the difficulties Kerry could be facing as some Democrats want him to articulate an exit strategy for Iraq.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What do you plan to do to bring our troops home?

KERRY: I know that failing in Iraq is dangerous for the United States and for the world. I know that failing will set back the war on terror. And I'm going to have to see where we are on the ground, what the status is, what the deployment of troops are, and make my judgments. But I promise you this, I am going to get our troops home as fast as possible with honor and the job accomplished in the way that it needs to be, and we will bring other people into this process.

WALLACE: And on a much lighter note, Green Bay, of course, is Packers country, the home of the Green Bay Packers. And did you know that the Green Bay Packers could play a role in deciding the presidential race? The Packers play the Washington Redskins the weekend before the election. And in the last 18 presidential elections...

KERRY: When the Redskins have won, the Washington team, the incumbent has won the presidency. But when the Redskins get beaten, the challenger wins the presidency.

WALLACE: So John kerry's new line? He's a Packers man.

KERRY: I've got to tell you something. On October 31st of this year, notwithstanding the New England Patriots, I'm going to be the biggest cheese had fan in the United States of America. And go Pack.

WALLACE: And Kerry says he should stop by a Packers practice sometime soon.

Kelly Wallace, CNN, Green Bay, Wisconsin.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Politicians know when to promote the home team. Well, one of John Kerry's strongest advocates within the veterans community is former U.S. Vietnam senator and Vietnam vet, Max Cleland. I talked with him a little while ago about presidential politics and the opening of this World War II Memorial. I started by asking about World War II's influence on America's identity.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) MAX CLELAND, FMR. U.S. SENATOR: Well, it's the war that enabled us to survive as a nation. That's the meaning of it.

President Roosevelt called it a war for survival. That's exactly what it was. And those young men and women of that generation, which Tom Brokaw has called the greatest generation, really put everything on the line because this country and its future was on the line. And that's really the meaning of it for me.

My father served in Pearl Harbor after the attack. I was born in the middle of World War II, the summer of 1942. And so I grew up with the legacy of this country attacked, this country threatened for its sole existence, and the incredible service of men and women that went to defend it. And that inspired me and has inspired me all my life.

It's one of the reasons why I volunteered for the war of my generation, the war in Vietnam, and why I still to continue to revere and respect those who've served. And those who served in uniform particularly, and particularly the veterans when they come back.

WOODRUFF: Senator, you've been outspoken as a member of the Band of Brothers, a group of Vietnam veterans supporting John Kerry. There are other veterans, among them Rolling Thunder, who endorsed President Bush. Is this presidential election pitting veterans against veterans?

CLELAND: Well, in many ways, I think President Bush never learned the lessons of Vietnam, which I learned painfully, John Kerry learned painfully, and 3.5 million young Americans who did serve there learned painfully. A couple of key lessons. One, personally, everyday is an extra credit day. We are not, those of us who are living, we're not on the Vietnam Veteran Memorial War. Thank god. So we have our life to live.

Many of us dedicated our lives to public service. John Kerry did that. His daddy served in World War II. He picked up that sense of service from his father.

And now he wants to be the president of the United States and do what we need to do, and that is take care of our troops in Iraq by bringing in allies, making sure that we have not only a strategy for peace and for success there but that we take the target off the backs of young Americans there who are doing it all alone since President Bush decided to play lone ranger and go in really without allies. And secondly, that you never go to war because you want to, as John Kerry said. You go to war because you have to. And before you go to war, you use every tool at your disposal, particularly diplomacy and particularly your relations with your allies.

WOODRUFF: What do you say to those who say -- well, to you or others who were critical of President Bush's conduct of this war, if this war doesn't work out, then the 800-plus Americans who have lost their lives will have died in vain.

CLELAND: No. I feel with Richard Clarke that they will not have died in vain. They will have died for George Bush's misguided strategy in Iraq.

We were attacked by al-Qaeda September the 11th, by Osama bin Laden September the 11th, by a global terrorist network September the 11th. We were not attacked by Iraq.

Richard Clarke, former terrorism advisor for four presidents, three of them Republican, has said that -- declared war, in effect, in Iraq after September the 11th was equivalent to going to war with Mexico after Pearl Harbor. It didn't make any sense. And now we're bogged down there, and we have no strategy to win, no strategy to get out, and we're loing young Americans, more every day.

Now, I think the question has to be asked, do we want to stay the course with George Bush or change the course? I think we change the course and change the presidency as well. I agree with General Zinni, who on "60 Minutes" the other Sunday night said, when your boat's going over Niagara Falls, it's time to change course.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Max Cleland, former U.S. senator, supporting John Kerry. And in a little while on INSIDE POLITICS, I'll be talking with another leader of veterans, he is Artie Mueller. He is the head of the group called Rolling Thunder.

Meantime, checking the headlines in our "Campaign News Daily," John Kerry begins a $17 million ad buy next week, including his first attempt to reach voters in Virginia. Virginia will join the 19 states where Kerry has run ads during the month of May. The state has gone Republican in every presidential election since 1964.

The campaign is also launching this new Spanish-speaking ad in six states. The spot focuses on Kerry's Vietnam service, and it also includes images of the World War II Memorial.

Senator Hillary Clinton raised big money last night for Arizona Democrats and aimed some of her sharpest remarks at the Bush administration. About 1,400 people gathered to hear Senator Clinton at a fundraiser that brought in about $850,000. In her speech, Senator Clinton called the Bush administration "radical with a right wing agenda."

The Libertarian Party kicks off its nominating convention today in Atlanta. About 1,000 delegates will nominate the Libertarian candidates for president and vice president. The party is also fielding about 1,500 candidates for state and local offices around the country.

Well, this promises to be a very special Memorial Day holiday for members of the greatest generation. Up next, my conversation with two former senate colleagues who fought for their country and who fought for the World War II Memorial: Bob Dole and Daniel Inouye.

Also ahead...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BRUCE MORTON, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It began when Nazi troops rode into Poland, Germans in tanks shooting at Poles on horseback.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: ... Bruce Morton looks back at those days of infamy that changed America and the world.

And later, no spoilers allowed in the "Political Play of the Week."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: We're here on Washington's National Mall, where sitting between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Memorial is the newest memorial to World War II. Here on the Mall, the day before this memorial is dedicated, you can hear the rehearsals going on in the background, the Navy orchestra right behind me.

While almost everybody agreed on the need for a World War II Memorial, it turns out not everyone is happy with the final design. In today's Washington Post, columnist Charles Krauthammer called the memorial "deeply inadequate, a busy vacuity hollow to the core." And in the current issue of The New Yorker, Paul Goldberger describes the memorial as an opulent, overbuilt civic plaza.

Former Senator Bob Dole has already answered the critics. He says, "The veterans are happy, their families are happy. If we've got a few disgruntled architects, so what.?" Bob Dole, of course, led the fundraising effort to make this memorial a reality.

I recently talked to Bob Dole and with current Senator Daniel Inouye of Hawaii, both of them World War II veterans, both of them injured in World War II. I started by asking Dole what he thinks is the message of the memorial.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BOB DOLE, FMR. SENATOR: Well, I think the message is that some time in your life, you may be called upon to make a sacrifice in America. And that's the message of the whole memorial, as far as I'm concerned.

WOODRUFF: Senator Inouye, what about you? This has been a long time in the making. We're now almost 60 years since the end of this war. What does it mean to you?

SEN. DANIEL INOUYE (D), HAWAII: Well, I'm glad it's finished before all of us are gone, for one thing. But secondly, I don't know if the people have noticed. This is the first memorial that has all the states involved.

WOODRUFF: All the states.

INOUYE: All the states. WOODRUFF: Fifty states plus the District of Columbia.

DOLE: And there's a special relationship here, because Danny and I were wounded a week apart in Italy, a hill apart, and we wound up in the same hospital in Battle Creek, Michigan, for a couple years. So we've known each other long before we ever got into politics.

WOODRUFF: You sure did. What about the families? I mean, I looked this up the other day. What is it, over 80 percent of Americans were born after the end of World War II. Does the meaning of this war -- do Americans still get the meaning of this war, Senator Dole?

DOLE: Maybe not the meaning of the war, but they know their grandfather or their father was in it. And that's enough for them. Particularly with women, I found, when I speak about it from time to time, will come up to me in droves afterwards and say, my father did this, my grandfather did this, my uncle, my neighbor. I think the message is still there that the young men and women made great sacrifices.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Former Senator Bob Dole, current Senator Daniel Inouye, longtime Senate colleagues, wounded World War II veterans. Senator Inouye will be among my guests on Sunday when I sit in for Wolf Blitzer on CNN's "LATE EDITION" on Sunday at noon Eastern. For an interactive guide to this World War II memorial, we would ask you to log on to our Web site at cnn.com.

A different question. How did Madonna make her way into Bob Novak's notebook? Just ahead, we'll get the "Inside Buzz" on the material girl, and Bob will tell us why some Democrats are grumbling about the Kerry campaign.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: It's not every day I get accompanied by the Navy orchestra, but I'm enjoying it. We're here at the site of the nation's newest memorial, the memorial to World War II and all those who sacrificed and gave their lives in that memorial.

You see the flags of the 50 states behind me. Some of the critics of this memorial have noted there's a pillar for each state. And they've said, "Why was that necessary? We didn't fight state by state, we fought together as a country." But that's one of the things about this great country that we live in, we can have those kind of arguments. And we do.

Well, we're back to INSIDE POLITICS. And joining us, Bob Novak, from the "CROSSFIRE" set at George Washington University with some "Inside Buzz."

All right, Bob. First of all, you're hearing some complaining among Democrats about John Kerry's campaign. What are they saying? ROBERT NOVAK, CO-HOST, "CROSSFIRE": Yes. Even though he has moved ahead, well ahead in some polls of President Bush, they're not too happy about his campaign. He isn't showing much umph. And what really bothers some of the Democrats is this five-day trial balloon that he had where he was going to delay accepting the nomination so he could raise more money. It really didn't come off very well. So they're wondering whether it is possible to win just because George Bush is unpopular unless Senator Kerry shows more steam.

WOODRUFF: It's tough when your own party's kicking you. General Sanchez, Bob, he was the top commander in Iraq. He's going to be moving on. Where does he go from here?

NOVAK: Well, it's not clear where he's going to go, but the president has to make a decision whether he's going to promote him from lieutenant general to full general, giving a fourth star. The problem with that is that there will be confirmation hearings possibly, and this would involve Democrats getting into the whole prisoner abuse question where General Sanchez was in command.

General Sanchez is Hispanic. The Hispanic vote is very important. Will the Republicans deny him the nomination, and will the Democrats, if he gets the fourth star, really make a fuss about it? So it's kind of drenched in election year politics.

WOODRUFF: All right. Nobody follows pork politics the way you do. Bring us the latest from Capitol Hill on that.

NOVAK: This is the so-called FISC bill, the Foreign Sales Corporation bill. The United States has to repeal the subsidy to avoid European retaliatory tariffs, but they have put in, in Congress, $176 billion -- that's billion, Judy -- in tax breaks for these companies. The administration doesn't like that, but how can you veto this when they have to repeal this law to avoid tariffs?

This really bothers a lot of U.S. officials, economic officials. But this is why the president hasn't vetoed the bill yet. They wrap the pork around so much stuff he has to pass, that it's hard to make a veto.

WOODRUFF: All right. Speaking of a different kind of money, that is raising money for these campaigns, you found a way that Madonna, none other than Madonna, is involved.

NOVAK: There's a -- we have been talking about these so-called 527 groups, which are loopholes in the law so that you can have soft money, which was supposed to be abolished by the McCain-Feingold bill. The latest one is something called the Great Plains Leadership Fund. It's supposed to be independent, but it's really Democratic, headed by Democratic Senator Byron Dorgan of North Dakota.

And they, Judy, are hosting an evening with Madonna on June 14th at the MCI Center in downtown Washington. And all you have to do is spend $5,000 for two tickets. It goes to the Democrats, soft money, and Madonna is coming back from her Reinvention world tour to be with Senator Dorgan, and I'm sure all the good Democrats will just rejoice in that.

WOODRUFF: Never did I think I'd see Bob Novak showing video of Madonna. But now we've seen it. OK.

NOVAK: We've seen it all. Thank you, Judy.

WOODRUFF: Thank you, Bob. And we'll see you in about a half an hour on "CROSSFIRE." Thanks a lot.

And, of course, be sure to tune in tomorrow to a special edition of "The Novak Zone " from Arlington National Cemetery. That's going to be at 9:30 Eastern tomorrow morning.

Well, back to politics. It can be, we are told, a lot like traffic. Sometimes you wind up in a jam. Find out how some emergency assistance can merit the "Political Play of the Week."

Also ahead...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SR. ANALYST: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) absolute tell-it-like-it-is candor, we have to tell you something.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: ... listen up, America. Jeff Greenfield is ready to rain on our parade.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He said, "Do you mean full sovereignty?" I said, "I mean full sovereignty."

ANNOUNCER: Presidential promises: Bush gives and gets reassurances from a military ally in Iraq.

Hollywood gets bumped. Even some folks in Tinseltown are angry about soaring gas prices. And they're trying to do something about it.

Rolling Thunder: we'll catch up with a group devoted to a life- and-death issue for veterans.

Now, live from the World War II Memorial in Washington, JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Welcome back to the World War II Memorial. We are here on the Mall in Washington the day before it is dedicated.

And tomorrow's ceremony here is likely to be bittersweet for many reasons, including the fact that U.S. troops are once again dying for their country on foreign soil. The conflict in Iraq is weighing heavily on many Americans in and out of uniform, including the president and the Democrat who wants his job.

As usual, discussions about Iraq were on President Bush's agenda as he met today with the prime minister of Denmark. Let's check in with our White House correspondent Dana Bash -- Dana.

DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Judy. And the president came out to the Rose Garden with the prime minister of Denmark and struck quite a conciliatory tone. The issue of course is the U.N. Security Council resolution that the United States is trying to get. They're back at the U.N., of course.

The question is, how much control Iraqis will have over the troops that are there, particularly the U.S. troops. Mr. Bush tried to make it crystal clear that the U.S. does intend to give up total political control over to Iraq just, like the key members of the Security Council are looking for.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: I told the prime minister that our government and our coalition will transfer full sovereignty, complete and full sovereignty to a Iraqi government that will be picked by Mr. Brahimi of the United Nations.

He said do you mean full sovereignty? I said I mean full sovereignty.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: Now, Judy, while the devil of course in the details, particularly this White House understands with anything involving the U.N. in Iraq, they are trying to go out of their way to strike a compromising tone. The president, other senior officials trying to make it clear that they are going to do what it takes to get a U.N. blessing, if you will, over the plan to transfer sovereignty back to Iraq.

And even conservatives that you talk, Judy, to not fans of the United Nations, say that this is something the White House simply has to do because the president is backed into a corner at this point.

Another issue on the domestic front here at the White House, Judy, the White House is defending itself over Democratic criticism that the White House is planning to have cuts across the board in the future in 2006. That is from a memo that Democrats have got their hands on and leaked, a memo from the Office of Management and Budget that had some suggested cuts even in veterans' benefits.

The White House came out swinging today. The press secretary, Scott McClellan out the gate in the briefing went through a list of things the president has done for veterans, in particular.

On this particular weekend, given who the president's opponent is, a decorated war veteran, the last thing this White House wants to do is give any impression that they are not doing enough for veterans. And on that memo they are simply saying that this is something that is suggested and it doesn't necessarily have to do with what the reality of what the president's budget will be because it's a year away -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right, Dana Bash with the latest from the White House. Dana, thank you.

As we reported, John Kerry once again tried to show his commitment to veterans during a campaign appearance in the battleground state of Wisconsin today. Now the senator is coming back to Washington to tape the Democratic response to the president's radio address and to appear at tomorrow's dedication ceremony here at the World War II Memorial.

It is not always easy to get the ear of a soon-to-be presidential nominee. But if you do, big things sometimes happen. Here now our senior political analyst Bill Schneider -- Bill.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Judy, Boston worked hard to get the Democratic Convention. And the nominee, a senator from Massachusetts, was threatening to spoil it. But then came the mayor of Boston with the "Political Play of the Week."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Word got out last Friday that John Kerry was thinking about not formally accepting the Democratic nomination at the Boston convention. The Kerry campaign probably figured nobody's going to care about this except a few political insiders. After all, it's a legal issue.

Wrong. It quickly turned into a political issue, one that was embarrassing Democrats and the city of Boston.

MAYOR THOMAS MENINO (D), BOSTON: My Republican friends (UNINTELLIGIBLE) are laughing at us because of the indecision we're going through right now.

SCHNEIDER: Mayor Thomas Menino didn't need this. He's been under fire ever since the city announced that for security reasons it will close 40 miles of streets and highways and a major commuter rail station during the convention.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's going to be crazy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They should have come up with a better plan.

SCHNEIDER: Add to that, the nominee says he might refuse to accept the nomination in Boston to make a statement about the campaign finance system? The acceptance speech is the only piece of, quote, "news," unquote, left at a convention these days. Take that away, and what's left to cover?

TOM BROKAW, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: My personal belief is that if he announces that he's not going to accept the nomination, that there's no good reason for NBC the network to be in Boston covering the convention.

SCHNEIDER: Kerry's campaign finance statement was threatening to step on his message, as Mayor Menino gently reminded him.

MENINO: you can't make a campaign money. It's not about money, it's about issues, it's about what the future is for American people.

SCHNEIDER: This week, Kerry rethought the matter.

KERRY: I don't want my election to the presidency to hinge on a rules change.

SCHNEIDER: Good thinking. Thank you, Boston.

KERRY: I felt the journey to the nomination ought to be properly completed in Boston.

SCHNEIDER: And thank you Mayor Menino for the "Political Play of the Week."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER: Today, the Massachusetts Congressional Delegation sent a letter asking the city of Boston to make the subways free during the convention. So finally after all these years of riding 'neath the streets of Boston, poor Charlie can get off the MTA -- now called the MBTA. It's been so long since the Kingston Trio sang that song -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Do you think we can get an interview with him? I want to talk to him when he gets off.

SCHNEIDER: Right.

WOODRUFF: Bill Schneider, thanks a lot.

We all know that late-night comics often look to the political world for material. There's plenty there. But up next, high gas prices are no joke to some political activists in Hollywood. I'll talk to Laurie David, wife of "Curb Your Enthusiasm" star Larry David, ahead.

Plus, they are revved up for Memorial Day and for President Bush. The head of Rolling Thunder joins us to talk about veterans' issues and the presidential race.

And later, what is it about the unofficial start of summer that's got our Jeff Greenfield so hot and bothered?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: In Florida, county election boards are reviewing a list of state felons to determine if they will be properly denied the right to vote in November. Well, today, CNN sued the state for a copy of the list claiming the information should be made public, four years after Florida was at the center of a disputed presidential election. CNN and the public were invited to view the documents and state election headquarters in Tallahassee, but were prevented from making copies or from even taking notes. Civil rights advocates charge that in 2000, thousands of eligible voters were prevented from casting ballots because they were improperly listed as felons.

INSIDE POLITICS will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Here on the National Mall at the site of the World War II Memorial to be dedicated tomorrow, INSIDE POLITICS has just learned that the Nader campaign, the campaign of Ralph Nader, the Independent candidate is announcing that it has qualified for federal matching funds, that the Federal Election Commission has approved the campaign's application for federal matching funds. Up until now, the campaign has raised about $850,000.

Well, three environmental groups have joined forces and released a new ad slamming Bush administration energy policies. Spearheading the ad campaign are Arianna Huffington and Laurie David, founding members of the so-called Detroit Project. David is a Hollywood fundraising powerhouse and a trustee of the National Resources Defense Council. I spoke with Laurie David earlier today and I began by asking her how the group plans to convince more Americans that President Bush should be held responsible for gas prices.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LAURIE DAVID, THE DETROIT PROJECT: Well, that's why we made the commercial, and by the way, while we were shooting that commercial, the price of gas went up four cents during the shooting of it. We've got to get the American public to connect the dots between the current administration's oil policies that are written -- our energy policies that are written by the oil industry for the oil industry and the American public's being taken for a ride and I hope this commercial will help point this out.

WOODRUFF: Why do you think people don't make the connection? I mean people know that the president came out of the oil industry and other people in his administration, but they have not made the connection before now.

DAVID: Well, I think, you know, I think the whole problem, it's a bigger problem. Why don't people ask what the mile per gallon of their cars are when they purchase them. Detroit says that the American consumer doesn't care, and I don't think that's true. I think that gas prices going up is helping point out the fact that our cars are not fuel efficient and we have to increase fuel efficiency standards and we have to demand that the administration starts paying attention to this. WOODRUFF: Laurie David, you've not only been involved in gas prices, you've also been working very hard in the environmental arena. You've worked and helped organize the National Resources Defense Council's efforts. Do you think -- to what extent is the Hollywood, the entertainment connection of help when you are pushing an issue that you care about like this?

DAVID: Well, I think it's helpful because here I am on television talking about gas prices and fuel efficiency, and I think that, you know, I applaud anybody that comes out of the Hollywood community and takes on issues knowing that they're probably going to be criticized for doing it. I admire people who do it and I'm trying to do it myself and we're trying to bring some attention to some really serious issues here, global warming, national security, these are all related to the amount of gas we're using and our insane addiction to oil.

WOODRUFF: A lot of people focused on the so-called 527s, independent groups that are spending money advertising in this campaign, mainly against President Bush. What do you say to those people who say this is, pure and simple, a way around the new campaign finance laws, that it's a violation of what those laws were intended, the spirit of what those laws were intended to accomplish?

DAVID: You know what, the 527s are not doing anything illegal and they're as legal as anything else. I'm pretty sure the Republican party has a lot of 527s themselves. We have to be able to be competitive, we have to be able to compete against the fundraising abilities of the Republican party and that's what the 527s are doing and when they decide that they're illegal, they'll stop doing it. Right now they're legal and I say full steam ahead.

WOODRUFF: As everybody knows, your husband Larry David is a big part of "Curb Your Enthusiasm." I guess the last show, the season finale took some jabs at President Bush. What does that say about the Hollywood community in its attitude towards George W. Bush.

DAVID: Well, most of the people I know in Hollywood are supporting a change in the administration come November and Larry had a little dig there but he also drives a hybrid car on the show, too, Judy, so hopefully that will encourage other people to drive hybrid cars which, by the way, get 40 miles to the gallon.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Laurie David, getting in a plug for fuel efficiency. She talked to me just a couple of hours ago.

Rolling Thunder rolls into Washington. I'll talk with the leader of the veterans group up next. I'll get his thoughts on the World War II Memorial and the presidential election.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Members of the veterans group Rolling Thunder have arrived here in Washington for their annual Ride for Freedom event. On this Memorial Day weekend, I'm joined here on the Mall by the leader of Rolling Thunder, he is Artie Muller. Thank you for talking with me. We were talking earlier about how more than 80 percent of Americans were born after World War II. What does this memorial mean to you as someone who fought in Vietnam.

ARTIE MULLER, PRESIDENT, ROLLING THUNDER: The World War II memorial? It's great that the World War II veterans are finally honored and given the respect that they earned for fighting for all these foreign countries and giving up their lives and many of them gave all they could give. Others came back with limbs missing and psychological problems, and you know, I'm glad to see it and I'm glad to see it's on the Mall.

WOODRUFF: Does America respect its veterans enough?

MULLER: Not the general American public that does not have any veterans in their families. The veterans in this country have given them everything they have. They risked their lives on battlefields. They give their lives and arms and legs and hearing. They come back from these wars, they have all kinds of mental, physical problems. And a lot of people really don't care. It's sad.

WOODRUFF: Earlier in the program, I talked with former Senator Max Cleland who, of course, was grievously wounded in Vietnam, is a veteran supporting John Kerry. I asked him if this presidential campaign this year is pitting veteran against veteran because he and other veterans support John Kerry. You, Rolling Thunder, and other veterans supporting George W. Bush. How does it feel to be pitted against other veterans on this.

MULLER: We really don't like to split against other veterans like during the Clinton campaign, the Democrats said we don't need a president that was in the military and now they're saying we do need a president in the military. What side of the fence are we going to stay on tomorrow? George W. Bush has done more for the veterans in the past three and a half years than the Clinton administration tore down everything. Our VA hospitals were being stripped, people were being laid off, doctors were being laid off, the health care was bad. He put Senator Principi in charge of the VA and Mr. Principi has really been trying to straighten out the VA hospitals.

WOODRUFF: So these latest reports over the last few days about cuts in veterans budgets?

MULLER: I don't see that true. We've had the biggest increase in the Bush administration dollar-wise in many, many years.

WOODRUFF: Let me ask you about something Max Cleland said. He said that George W. Bush has not learned two of the lessons of the Vietnam war. He said he didn't learn that America needs allies when it fights abroad and he said another lesson is that America shouldn't go to war unless it absolutely has to.

MULLER: Well, does everybody in this country want to wait until somebody buys a nuclear weapon from one of these countries because we know Hussein had a lot of money? And if he could buy a nuclear missile, we want to wait till he hits us again that bad. We have two towers taken down. A lot of people killed. A lot of people killed in the Pentagon. A lot of people went down on a plane. Do we wanted to have a war here or do we want bring it to their land? Let's do it on their turf.

WOODRUFF: We hear you. Artie Muller is the head of Rolling Thunder in Washington this Memorial Day weekend. Very good to see you. Thank you for talking with me. Appreciate it.

With summer just around the corner, the question is, are more Americans thinking about Shaquille O'Neal, Kobe Bryant and Barry Bonds than they are about Bush and Kerry? Coming up, our Jeff Greenfield has some thoughts on that.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: A follow-up now on the controversial film "Fahrenheit 9/11" by anti-Bush filmmaker Michael Moore. Media owners and producers Bob and Harvey Weinstein announced today that they have acquired rights to the film from Miramax and they will have it distributed worldwide. Earlier, Disney, which is the parent company of Miramax blocked Miramax from distributing the film.

It is an annual rite. When Memorial Day weekend arrives, Americans turn their attention to leisure and the summer vacation season. That doesn't leave much time for campaign watching. As our senior analyst Jeff Greenfield sees it, it is fortunate that there are still some political junkies out there.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SENIOR ANALYST: Friends, if you're watching this it's a good bet that you care about politics. You think it's very important or at least intriguing. Obviously we think that's a very good thing but in the interest of absolute tell-it-like-it-is candor, we have to tell you something.

You are not like most Americans. Oh, yes, if you listen to what Americans say -- the average Joe and Jane is as fascinated as you are, particularly with this election. A poll this month, you know how you love those numbers, don't you, found that 64 percent of Americans said they were paying quite a lot of attention to the election. Four years ago, only 42 percent said that. And when asked this month how likely it was they would vote in November on a 1 to 10 score, 70 percent picked ten.

Now, if you believe that, I have a great deal for you on a vacation condo in downtown Baghdad. We've never had an election where 70 percent turned out. We haven't cracked 60 percent in more than 40 years. Last time, we barely reached 51 percent. Here are the contests most Americans are fixated on, how Fantasia Barrino got to be the new American idol.

DONALD TRUMP, "THE APPRENTICE: Bill, you're hired.

GREENFIELD: How Bill Rancic got to be Donald Trump's No. 1 apprentice. How close Barry Bonds will get to Hank Aaron's home run record. Whether the Lakers will reclaim the NBA crown.

KOBE BRYANT, LOS ANGELES LAKERS: I really don't know.

GREENFIELD: And it's not the campaign trail on most of our minds, but this trail. How bad will the holiday traffic be. Will the kids have a good time this summer with someone else looking after them for a while? Will we knock off those extra 10, OK, 20, OK, 25 pounds. And if politics does enter our thinking, here's where it will happen. At the gas pump or when we face reminders of a dangerous world.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ...For a second attack in the United States.

GREENFIELD: It is not that Americans are necessarily apathetic, in fact, the voting turnout may well spike up this year, but what the great majority of Americans know is they have months to figure out what they think about the candidates, months to answer for themselves the question best phrased 24 years ago by Ronald Reagan.

RONALD REAGAN, FMR. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Are you better off than you were four years ago?

GREENFIELD: What they know is that it's way too early to show up at the school gym and vote. They know that following every twist and turn in the public opinion polls doesn't tell them all that much because people can change their minds. They know not every single thing a candidate says and does is of earth-shaking importance but for those of you who don't know that, we're really very grateful. Jeff Greenfield, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: I could say we watch politics so you don't have but we want you to watch, too. That's it for INSIDE POLITICS. I'm Judy Woodruff. Thanks for joining us. "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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