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JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS

Kerry's Plans to Improve Homeland Security; Interview With Senator Carl Levin, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison; The Swing Vote

Aired June 1, 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: Encouraging news for President Bush...

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is a very hopeful day for the Iraqi people and a hopeful day for the American people.

ANNOUNCER: ... amid worries that violence could increase as we close in on the handover of power in Iraq.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: ... to prevent the world's deadliest weapons from falling into the world's most dangerous hands.

ANNOUNCER: A major address by John Kerry, but Republicans say he's playing politics with national defense.

RICHARD CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Senator Kerry was right.

ANNOUNCER: You won't be hearing that very often. We'll tell you what Vice President Cheney was talking about.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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

JUDY WOODRUFF, HOST: Thank you for joining us.

President Bush today used words like "encouraging" and "hopeful" to describe the formation of an interim government in Iraq. The interim leaders were announced earlier in Baghdad on a day when several explosions rocked the Iraqi capital. Here in Washington, the president was quick to praise the new leadership team just weeks before the U.S. hands over controlling authority in Iraq.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: The naming of the new government brings us one step closer to realizing the dream of millions of Iraqis, a fully sovereign nation with a representative government that protects their rights and serves their needs. Many challenges remain. Today's violence underscores that freedom in Iraq is opposed by violent men who seek the failure not only of this interim government but of all progress toward lbery. (END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: Mr. Bush said he expects the violence in Iraq to continue as the June 30th deadline approaches. But he said a free Iraq will serve as, "a decisive blow to terrorism."

Well, the threat of terrorism on U.S. soil was the focus of an early afternoon speech by the president's Democratic challenger, John Kerry. Standing at a Florida seaport, Kerry criticized the Bush response to terror threats, and he offered his own plans to improve homeland security.

For more, we turn to our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley. She's in West Palm Beach -- Candy.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Judy.

As you said, this is part of a two-week effort almost by John Kerry to focus on national security. Now, as you know, both -- on Iraq, both the president and John Kerry have plans that are more similar than they are different. Kerry today tried to make a clear dividing line between himself and the president, saying that they differed on the issue of nuclear proliferation. And Kerry declared that a nuclear weapon getting into the hands of terrorists is the number one issue facing the U.S. today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KERRY: We know what al Qaeda and terrorists long to do. They have told us. Osama bin Laden has called obtaining a weapons of mass destruction a sacred duty.

So take away the politics, take away the labels. The honest questions have to be asked. Since that dark day in September, have we done everything we could to secure these dangerous weapons and bomb- making materials?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: Kerry's clear answer to that question, rhetorical, is of course, that yes, he believes the president has not done enough to secure nuclear materials to keep them out of the hands of terrorists. Kerry outlined a plan, saying that he would -- as president, would lead a worldwide mission to reduce nuclear materials, to safeguard those that are -- that material that is already out there.

He said, if necessary, he would have direct talks with North Korea and that he would approve of a plan that would give energy to Iran so that Iran would not have an excuse to build a nuclear power plant which may, of course, be a mask for a nuclear weapons plant. So Kerry trying to, again, define the differences between himself and President Bush on the issue of national security, where polls still show President Bush sees -- that voters see President Bush's strong suit as national security -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right. Candy Crowley traveling with John Kerry in Florida. Candy, thank you very much.

Well, Vice President Dick Cheney and John Kerry and the Patriot Act on his mind during a speech in Kansas City. Keeping with the Bush campaign theme that Kerry often changes his stand on key issue, Cheney quoted Kerry as once saying the Patriot Act would make it more difficult for new terrorist organizations to develop. Cheney then questioned why Kerry now opposes parts of the anti-terror law.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHENEY: He now calls the Patriot Act a "blind spot in the American justice system." He now says he wants to let vital elements of the Patriot Act expire at end of next year. What he has not shared, however, is a single example of the Patriot Act actually being abused.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: Two senators are with me now to talk more about the new interim government in Iraq, as well as the campaign debates over national security. Democrat Carl Levin of Michigan is on Capitol Hill, along with Texas Republican Kay Bailey Hutchison.

Senators, good to see both of you.

Senator Levin, to you first. Are all of the pieces in place in Iraq for a successful handoff to an Iraqi government?

SEN. CARL LEVIN (D), MICHIGAN: Well, we don't have all of the pieces in place yet. We hope we have a couple of the very important pieces in place. But there's still a great deal of question that even if all of the pieces are in place, whether it can succeed, it's got to have the support of the Iraqi people.

That's the key issue on June 30th. And hopefully, the United Nations will be able to do that. It's long overdue that we look to the United Nations to try to select those pieces, but hopefully that can happen. But it's still very, very much up in the air.

WOODRUFF: Senator Hutchison, are you confident that the United Nations is going to be onboard with the sort of new arrangement that the U.S. could live with?

SEN. KAY BAILEY HUTCHISON (R), TEXAS: I think the signs are very good, Judy, really. I think that we are consulting with the U.N. representative. This has been very -- a broad range of consultations with the Iraqi people, with the U.N. delegation representative.

I think that we do have a very good chance of having a stable course going in. Now, that doesn't mean that we're not going to see more uprisings. I think that we will be tested between now and about June 30th, maybe even beyond that.

WOODRUFF: Senator Levin, are you confident that this new Iraqi government is going to want U.S. troops to stay there? LEVIN: I think they're going to need to have U.S. troops to stay there. Their rhetoric may or may not be that clear, but there's no way they can provide security without some outside troops.

What we have to try to do, though, is see if we can't reach out to the international community much more than has been done so that we get other countries willing to send in troops, including particularly Muslim countries. That's the major failure, it seems to me, going into the war, was the failure to internationalize it, thereby to attract Muslim countries to join with us the way it was done in the Gulf War in the early '90s.

WOODRUFF: Senator Hutchison, would you agree that's been a major failure so far?

HUTCHISON: I think we do have an international force. We have over 30 countries in Iraq. We have a strong NATO presence in Afghanistan.

I think the president has reached out. And I think as we go along in the process, and with a U.N. resolution, other countries have said they will, too, come forward. So I think we are building and I think it's going to get better.

WOODRUFF: I want to turn you both quickly to some of the points that John Kerry made today about proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. He laid out what he's calling a layered strategy to prevent the spread of these kind of weapons.

Senator Levin, the Republican campaign says this is already an urgent priority to President Bush. So how is anything John Kerry is saying any better or different?

LEVIN: It's very different in a number of ways. The Bush administration is proposing new nuclear weapons development programs. And that is the wrong way to go. We're trying to persuade the world not to go in the direction of nuclear weapons.

At the same time, this budget has money again to develop new kinds of nuclear weapons. That's a mistake. Secondly, the budget proposes a significant cut in the nuclear threat reduction program. That's the program we should be increasing in order to secure fissile material around the world.

That is the most dangerous threat we face, is that some of that fissile material could end up in the hands of terrorists. And yet, the budget proposed by the administration proposes a reduction in the program that is aimed at securing that material. And that's where John Kerry -- those are two of the places where John Kerry, it seems to me, is much more on target than this administration.

WOODRUFF: Well, let me ask you about both of those, Senator Hutchison. First of all, what about these new nuclear weapons development programs that the Bush administration is pushing?

HUTCHISON: Well, I think that the United States is never going to unilaterally disarm. We are under attack right now, and we are going to maintain our security. But the president has been very forceful in promoting the nonproliferation.

I think you see an example with Libya, now totally dismantling anything they might have had, denouncing any kind of a nuclear program, and becoming more in the community of nations. And, secondly, the difference between what Kerry, Senator Kerry is suggesting, versus President Bush with North Korea, I think is stark.

The president will not sit down with North Korea bilaterally because he knows how dangerous that would be. He is demanding that china, Japan and South Korea and Russia have a part in this which is absolutely essential.

WOODRUFF: Very quickly, Senator Levin, you want to comment on that?

LEVIN: Yes. Kerry does support the multilateral approach, but he also says that we should be willing to talk to North Korea directly and bilaterally, as our allies want us to do, by the way. Those very same allies that are part of the multilateral negotiations do encourage us to meet directly and speak directly to North Korea.

WOODRUFF: And Senator Hutchison, very quickly, the other point that Senator Levin made about the Bush administration wanting significant cuts in the nuclear threat reduction program...

HUTCHISON: Well, let me first say that if you sit down bilaterally with North Korea, you take away all the incentives of the other countries who would be happy to let us take the load. That will not work, and that's why the president is right.

But secondly, our own dismantling, I think it is very important that we do fund, as we have in the past, and we are building on that, the procurement of fissile material. We are doing that. We have enough money to do the job. And that's exactly what the president is proposing.

WOODRUFF: All right. Well, much more to ask you, but we're going to have to leave it there. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, Senator Carl Levin, we appreciate both of you joining us. Thank you very much.

LEVIN: Thank you.

HUTCHISON: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: And this programming note: President Bush's national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, will be a guest tomorrow here on INSIDE POLITICS.

Divide and conquer or aim for the swing vote? Ahead, Bush and Kerry confront a key question: appeal to the base or make a play for the pragmatists?

Plus, a showdown state battle of the sexes. How voters in Missouri view candidates Bush and Kerry.

And later, it was supposed to be a prescription for political success. How will the new discount drug card play with seniors? I'll talk with Bush cabinet member Tommy Thompson about the new Medicare benefit.

This is INSIDE POLITICS, the place for campaign news.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: With most polls showing the presidential race too close to call right now, a very small number of votes could kill the balance. And both the Bush and Kerry campaigns are battling it out for crucial voting blocs. But is there really a swing vote to be found this year? That's a question our Bill Schneider has been looking into.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): Swing or base? We're not talking music here. We're talking strategy, political strategy. Republican and Democratic base voters are about equal in numbers and equally intense. Here's what a Republican pollster says about President Bush and the GOP base.

DAVID WINSTON, REPUBLICAN POLLSTER: He's off the charts. I have not seen any weakness at all in terms of the voting base at all.

SCHNEIDER: And here's what a Democratic pollster says about her party's base.

CELINDA LAKE, DEMOCRATIC POLLSTER: George Bush has done for the Democrats what we could never do for ourselves, which was completely unite us.

SCHNEIDER: A base strategy is divisive. You drive up turnout with issues that divide the nation between us and them. Like an issue some Republicans hope will bring out the religious right.

BUSH: I support a constitutional amendment to protect marriage as the union of a man and a woman.

SCHNEIDER: Democrats see a comparable constituency.

LAKE: The unmarried women, the women on their own.

SCHNEIDER: And an issue, abortion rights.

KERRY: We have to make it clear that we are not going to turn back the clock. There is no overturning of Roe v. Wade.

SCHNEIDER: The very things that rally your base voters, us versus them politics, turn swing voters off.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They don't want to hear the partisanship. I mean, that language is not how they're thinking. SCHNEIDER: Swing voters are pragmatists.

KERRY: Do away with the partisan politics for a moment. Take away the labels, Democrat and Republican and Independent and liberal, conservative, just think common sense about our country.

BUSH: So we listed the schools and teachers. And we're responding in practical ways.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're going to be offering solutions still very much, indeed.

SCHNEIDER: Democrats believe swing voters are energized this year by the desire for change.

LAKEL: You always have more intensity when voters are for change.

SCHNEIDER: Over 60 percent of Americans are dissatisfied with the way things are going right now. That's comparable to the high levels of dissatisfaction in 1994 and 1992, two elections that produced big changes: Newt Gingrich, Bill Clinton. John Kerry?

KERRY: So I'm here to talk about a change. I'm here to talk about how we come together, all of us, in common sense and good thought to put our country back on track.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER: Those numbers for change are creating what Republicans might call irrational exuberance among some Democrats. Not only are Democrats feeling more and more confident about Kerry, some are daring to think they can win back control of Congress -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: And that is daring.

SCHNEIDER: Very daring.

WOODRUFF: OK. Bill Schneider, thank you.

Coming up next, the pulse of the people. What do voters in the crucial showdown state of Missouri think about George Bush and John Kerry? Our Carlos Watson strikes up a conversation with some Show-Me state bowlers.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: In Missouri, our Carlos Watson has been meeting with some voters at a local bowling alley as part of his series, "The American Pulse." Today, Carlos joins us from New York.

All right, Carlos, what are you hearing from the voters?

CARLOS WATSON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Missouri remains the key battleground state. They've chosen correctly in 24 of the last 25 elections. We sat down, Judy, with five people, different parties, Republicans, Independents and Democrats, but here's what's interesting: all five voted for the president in 2000.

Not all five are leaning that way this time. And if you listen to our clip, you'll see some of the reasons why.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WATSON: Who are you going to vote for?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, I'm a Republican. So if that tells you anything, that will be who I will vote for.

WATSON: You would vote for the president again?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I would vote for the president again.

WATSON: Now, are you voting for the president with energy, with excitement, with reservations? How do you feel?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just like President Bush. Ever since he's been in office, he's had a hard road. I think he's got compassion, he's got concern. I think he speaks well.

He's got a good lady behind him. I think a lot of Laura Bush.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If I had to say, I would be leaning more towards Kerry as opposed to Bush. I think the war on terrorism is the right war. I think the war in Iraq is the wrong war.

WATSON: Carrie (ph), what about you? You are paying attention to the election?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, yes.

WATSON: And do you have a preference one way or another right now?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm all about President Kerry.

WATSON: Oh, you are? Why do you think he's going to win?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because George Bush has been an embarrassing president. He's made a mess out of everything he's touched. You know, he's lied to the American people, he's lied to the world. And if one of my kids acted like that, I would send them to their room and punish them. And I won't tolerate a president who treats me like that either.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I vote for George Bush in the last election and I'll do it again this time. And there are a lot of the things that the Republican Party might do that I don't agree with. But at the end of the day, I still would like to see the Republican Party maintain power.

WATSON: When you think about John Kerry, does he have a prayer with you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, not a prayer.

WATSON: Not a prayer. So you're one of the voters John Kerry shouldn't even waste a stamp on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Spend his campaign money sending it to me. It keeps it from going somewhere else.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WATSON: Judy, you can see that on a number of issues they split here. As we'll see tonight on Paula's show at 8:00 p.m. Eastern, terrorism, the economy and abortion, they divide on that. And depending on what happens over the next couple of months, a number of them say their votes can change from Bush to Kerry or from Kerry to Bush.

WOODRUFF: That's very interesting. But as you said, all five of them voted for Bush last time.

WATSON: We were down in the ozarks in a more conservative part. The last thing I'll add is, interestingly enough, none of these folks got excited about Dick Gephardt, a potential vice president. Given that Congressman Gephardt is from Missouri, you would have thought there would have been more excitement. But you didn't hear that excitement there. A number of them said, nah, he's been around too long.

WOODRUFF: Very interesting. From his own home state. All right. Carlos Watson, thanks.

And be sure to join Carlos, as he said. He'll continue to be sampling America's political pulse. Tonight, you can hear him on "PAULA ZAHN NOW" at 8:00 Eastern here on CNN.

Well, as the calendar turns to June, the presidential race eat heats up. The Kerry campaign is launching a new wave of advertising. The story just ahead.

Plus, he is one of the most popular Republican politicians in the country. So how much time will Arnold Schwarzenegger spend stumping for President Bush? The answer when INSIDE POLITICS returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: We talk a lot about the battle for the White House, but what about the fight for Congress? Can the Democrats retake control? An election today could be a key barometer.

New Medicare discount drug cards go into effect today. Are they the right prescription for seniors overwhelmed by rising drug prices?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I've heard rumors that the new law is not good for seniors. And I haven't had a chance to go over that yet.

ANNOUNCER: She was the first black woman to run a major presidential campaign, and she's a regular here on CNN.

DONNA BRAZILE, FMR. GORE CAMPAIGN MANAGER: I believe the Kerry campaign should look at all of the options to ensure that we're leveling the playing field.

ANNOUNCER: Now Donna Brazile gives us a taste of cooking with Greeks (ph).

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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

WOODRUFF: Welcome back.

John Kerry's campaign today unveiled a new TV ad meant to build on last month's $25 million ad buy that blanketed the nation's showdown states. The new positive spot goes along with a theme of trying to introduce the longtime senator to a national audience.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For John Kerry, a stronger America begins at home.

WOODRUFF (voice-over): John Kerry launches a charm offensive in the showdown states, releasing a warm and fuzzy campaign ad full of blue skies and smiling children.

KERRY: We are a country of the future. We're a country of optimists. We're the "can do" people.

WOODRUFF: The $18 million ad buy will blanket the 18 battlegrounds, plus Virginia, which the Democrats are trying to put in play. Virginians will also get a first look at the 60-second biographical spot Kerry released last month.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He went to college at Yale and volunteered to serve in Vietnam.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The decisions that he made saved our lives.

WOODRUFF: With the new buy, Kerry will be on air in all the same states as the president, except Delaware, where Bush-Cheney is advertising and Kerry is not. The Democrats aides say their recent biographical spots have helped boost Kerry's standing with key voters. The latest ad is designed to build on that with more positive spots planned for the coming weeks.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Meanwhile, that 60-second biographical ad that Kerry ran during May and plans to run in Virginia this month has angered a group of Kerry's fellow Vietnam veterans. The group which calls itself Swift Vote Veterans for Truth is demanding that Kerry remove this image from the ad because some of the men don't want their image used in a campaign ad.

Late today a Kerry spokesman dismissed the group's claim and pointed out that the anti-Kerry group used an enlarged version of the photo at a news conference without asking for Kerry's permission.

Ordinarily a special election for the only House seat in South Dakota would not attract national money and media coverage, but these are no ordinary times. CNN congressional correspondent Ed Henry explains.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ED HENRY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): South Dakota is considered Bush country, but Democrats have high hopes of seizing a Republican House seat there in today's special election.

This follows a recent Democratic pickup in Kentucky, fueling claims that the president's sliding poll numbers are loosening the GOP's grip on Congress.

REP. STENY HOYER (D-MD), MINORITY WHIP: I think you're going to see a very good victory by a very good candidate, Stephanie Herseth. And that's going to say one more time that in Kentucky and South Dakota, two different areas of the country, two different kind of states, that people are looking for change.

HENRY: Herseth is 33-year-old attorney and the granddaughter of a former governor. Independent polls give her a 10-point lead over Republican state Senator Larry Diedrich, former head of the South Dakota Soybean Association.

Republicans concede Herseth has the edge, but say polling shows a tighter race.

The seat was vacated by Republican Bill Janklow who beat Herseth in a tight race in 2002, but resigned after being convicted of a vehicular manslaughter. Republicans say that scandal, plus the fact that Herseth has been essentially running for two years, make it an isolated case.

Independent analysts say Democrats have some momentum, but they shouldn't get carried away.

AMY WALTER, COOK POLITICAL REPORT: They really do have reasons to be optimistic. At the same time we are still looking at a pretty small playing field in terms of seats that are up for grabs here. And Democrats would need to win a disproportionate number and incredibly large number of those competitive seats to be able to take the number they need to win to gain control of Congress.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HENRY: Judy, regardless of the outcome today we're very likely to see these same two candidates square off again in November when a full two-year term will be up for grabs. Republicans say that candidate Larry Diedrich will probably do a lot better with President Bush at the top of the ballot.

But "Role Call" newspaper today took a look at the 23 House elections that have occurred since 1997. And an all but one case the person who wins the special election goes on to win in November.

So if Herseth is able to pull it out, Democrats will have history on their side, -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Sounds like t. Ed Henry at the Capitol, thank you.

And now checking the headlines in our "Campaign News Daily," billionaire philanthropist George Soros has donated millions to anti- Bush political groups. But he says he probably won't spend much more on the effort.

Soros tells "USA Today," quote, "There probably will be some further contributions, but I don't expect any substantial increase." In his word, "I now take the defeat of Bush more or less for granted," end quote.

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger says that he will campaign for President Bush this fall, but only in California. The nation's best-known governor tells "California Journal" that he will vote for Bush and he will support Bush in California. But Schwarzenegger also says he wants to maintain his working relationship with state Democrats. And he adds, quote, "I don't want to rub that in their face."

A court battle over gay marriage is playing out today in the showdown state of Missouri. The state's supreme court is hearing argument over when the state's proposed constitutional amendment banning gay marriage should be voted on. The governor and the state Democrats want it on the ballot in August. The secretary of state and fellow Republicans want it on the November ballot. Many experts say the issue could spark higher GOP turnout.

Well, Medicare's drug discount program, part of President Bush's Medicare reform bill went into effect today. But so far the program is off to you might say, a rocky start. The number of older Americans who have signed up to get the drug discount cards far fewer than expected. And critics who call the plan confusing say price discrepancies are already causing problems.

Among the critics, Democratic Senator Edward Kennedy who says, quote, "The drug companies keep gouging all Americans on exorbitant drug prices, and the Bush administration keeps cheering them on. It is no accident," he continues, "that the drug companies are working hand in pocket with the administration in hyping these cards and keeping prices high," end quote.

With me now from the White House is Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson. Secretary Thompson, what do you say to Senator Kennedy? TOMMY THOMPSON, HHS SECRETARY: I say to Senator Kennedy, he should sign up. He's a senior and he should sign up. It's a good program. It's a very good law. And it's going to be very good for low-income seniors all across America.

Besides getting approximately an 18 percent reduction on their purchases, they're also going to be able to get a $600 kicker, a credit on their drug purchases this year, another $600 next year. And most of the pharmaceutical companies have said that those individuals that are qualified for the $600 credit will also get their drugs free of charge as well after they use up to $600.

So all you're at risk is by not signing up. Those individuals need to sign up, they should sign up, it's a good law.

WOODRUFF: What about all of the confusion, apparent confusion out there, though, Mr. Secretary? You've got the woman who runs the Department of Aging in New Mexico saying people are bewildered, this is not simple. You have just ordinary senior citizens.

Quoted one woman today, a 59-year-old in Columbus, Georgia, in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, she says, "I could not understand it, I got such a headache." She said there were so many choices, it's a mess.

Another, 76-year-old woman in Los Angeles told newspapers, she said, "They tell you to go on the computer, but everybody doesn't have a computer." She said the government needs a plan you can understand.

THOMPSON: Judy, first off, 2.8 million Americans have already signed up. This is, to me, is a wonderful program. And we have many ways in which you can get enrolled. The easiest and best way is to call up. You don't need a computer. Just call 1-800-Medicare, and you can use our toll-free lines to be able to get up-to-date information.

All you need is your name, your address, your zip code and the prescriptions you're taking, and we will make the decision or give you the information to make the correct decision as to which drug card company will give you the best deal and which pharmacists in your neighborhood are going to take the drug card and utilize it.

THOMPSON: All you're at risk is if you don't sign up.

WOODRUFF: You mentioned 2.8 million. Some of those people automatically got these drug cards. It's not a matter of signing up for a lot of those folks, correct?

THOMPSON: That is correct, Judy. We have 2.8 million people already enrolled, 2.3 million were Medicare Advantage. And hundreds of thousands have signed up, and many more are coming in on a daily basis.

And all I'm telling is that this a good law. It's a good program. WOODRUFF: Let me ask you about a study by the American Association of Retired Persons, AARP. You know, of course, they endorsed the program initially, but they're now saying the cost of prescription drugs has far outpaced inflation. They're saying the value of these discounts are going to be eroded if the prices keep on rising as rapidly as they are.

THOMPSON: Well, Judy, we're seeing that the prices are going down. We had our Web page up as of May 1st, and we've seen the prices go down.

Right now if you sign up, there will be about a 15 to 18 percent reduction for premium drugs and 30 to 40 percent reduction for generic drugs, what you would pay.

And seniors are the only group, Judy, that pay the full amount. This drug card gives them the bargaining power, the purchasing power to get these credits.

WOODRUFF: But you're posting the highest possible prices, as I understand it on the Web site rather than the lowest in a community. Is that right?

THOMPSON: That is correct, because we want to make sure that there is no way to say that we're not giving out the best information possible. So we give the highest number out, and that still is 18 percent what the senior would be paying if they would walk into a drug store today without the card.

WOODRUFF: But there's some critics today saying, you know, seniors need to know what the absolute lowest price is in their neighborhood. You're saying...

THOMPSON: We can give that to him. All they have to do is call 1-800-Medicare. We have 3,000 operators to take their calls today.

WOODRUFF: A different question altogether, Secretary Thompson. Today a federal district judge out in California ruled that the so- called partial birth abortion ban act -- this is the form of late-term abortion -- that was declared unconstitutional. This judge is saying that this is unconstitutional, the act is unconstitutional. And what does this do to the administration's effort to try to put an end to this procedure?

THOMPSON: Well, you know that the California court is the lower court. And this will be appealed. And we're fairly comfortable and confident that the rulings will come down on the side of being constitutional, Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right. We are going to have to leave it there.

THOMPSON: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: Secretary Tommy Thompson with the Department of Health And Human Services.

Very good to see you again.

THOMPSON: Thank you, Judy.

WOODRUFF: Thanks a lot.

THOMPSON: Well, thank you.

WOODRUFF: Still to come on INSIDE POLITICS, how cooking and politics are connected. We'll check out Donna Brazile's new book "Cooking With Grease."

Plus, crucial stakes for the race for the White House. Is Arkansas still in play? Are Virginia and Tennessee on the bubble?

And the presidential battle as it plays out in cyberspace. We'll tell you about two new web games attacking President Bush and Senator John Kerry.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: President Harry Truman once said if you can't stand the heat then get out of the kitchen. Well, there is a natural connection between cooking and politics and Donna Brazile's new book "Cooking With Grease" as she puts it, is all about stirring the pots in American politics. She joins me now from New York. We usually see her with Bay Buchanan but we are delighted to have you to talk about the book. Donna, all right, this is not a book of recipes. This is a book about your journey in politics.

DONNA BRAZILE, AUTHOR, "COOKING WITH GREASE": It is, Judy. All my life I've stirred the pots and I describe some of the great moments in politics when I worked for Reverend Jackson, his first historic bid. That chapter is entitled "Jambalaya." Working for Walter Mondale when he selected Geraldine Ferraro, "Melting Pot." On down to one of my favorite chapters, "Dirty Rice," during the entire Florida debacle and some of the experiences I had with the Gore campaign. It's a really an easy read and I believe that my friends and the readers out there will enjoy politics. It's street-level politics, it will help any young person who wants to understand how to get involved and how to keep your juices flowing to just go out there and make a difference here in between the 2004.

WOODRUFF: Before I ask you about what's going on today, what was it about growing up in Louisiana, do you think, that prepared you for the rough-and-tumble world of politics.

BRAZILE: Louisiana is the best people and clearly, James Carville, we all like to cook up and stir up the pots and shake things up. It was a great time to grow up during the late '60s and early '70s, America was changing. My home state was changing. It was an opportunity to not only get involved with politics, but also to work with such national leaders like Stevie Wonder who wanted to make King's birthday a holiday.

I felt the need early on to become deeply involved in grassroots organizing and politics and this book was an opportunity after the Gore campaign to basically tell young people that you can do it. You can go out there and make a difference if you really want to.

WOODRUFF: Donna Brazile, we were just showing a picture of you as a third grader. It's one of the pictures in the books. The 2000 election, you make it very clear that the defeat of Al Gore was devastating for you on so many levels.

BRAZILE: Well, I personally believe that Al Gore would have made a great president. He was not only best -- the best prepared person to lead our country. We worked very hard. Gore came from behind in 2000. We were outraged but we were not out organizing and Gore was a tremendous campaigner and although we made some mistakes and clearly some of the problems that existed in Florida prevented him from becoming president, I believe ultimately, Gore would have done a fabulous job had he had the opportunity to serve.

WOODRUFF: And it is fascinating that the one person who called you when you thought you were pretty much at your lowest was none other than Karl Rove.

BRAZILE: I met him in the 2000 campaign. When you look around this country and you meet people from all walks of life, this was a guy who could recite the political figures from a hundred years ago. He talked about the vanishing voter, gave me wonderful books to read and so we have maintained a friendship. He often calls me. I told him I'm producing my first book, I'll send him a copy when he pays, of course, but he's a smart and terrific guy and I have a lot of respect for Karl Rove, although I'd like to beat him again on the political field.

WOODRUFF: 15 seconds. What more should John Kerry be doing right now that he's not doing?

BRAZILE: Well, as I describe in the book, you know what? Solidify your base, expand, go to the middle, rally swing voters and then take this election to the American people. I think John Kerry has a terrific opportunity to become the next president of the United States.

WOODRUFF: We're going to have to leave it there. Donna Brazile, but we get more of her tomorrow. She'll be right back here on INSIDE POLITICS with her usual partner Bay Buchanan. Again, the book is Donna Brazile, "Cooking With Grease: Stirring the Pots in American Politics." A great read. Donna, thank you very much.

BRAZILE: Thanks, Judy.

WOODRUFF: When we come back, a look at the so-called bubble states. The Bush and Kerry campaigns focusing on states that weren't that close in 2000, but could be in play this year. Chuck Todd of "The Hotline" joins me just ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: This presidential race is expected by the experts to be decided in a dozen and a half so-called showdown states. But both the Bush and Kerry campaigns are also paying more attention to other states that are on the bubble.

Today Chuck Todd continues his focus these so-called bubble states. He's the editor in chief of "The Hotline," an insider's political briefing produced every day by "The National Journal."

All right, Chuck, last week you talked about the bubble states, states that are almost showdown states, but not quite. This week we're talking about some states that have maybe slipped out of play for the Democrats.

CHUCK TODD, "THE HOTLINE": Right, the first among two of these states are Arkansas and Tennessee, both of which were on the first round of TV buys when President Bush went on the air with his reelection campaign. And so far the Democrats have followed suit on Arkansas, but they have not done so in Tennessee. And since then, President Bush has pulled out of Tennessee.

The interesting thing about both Arkansas and Tennessee are what? They're the home states of President Clinton and Vice President Gore. And the fact that there's this feeling that Democrats might end up pulling out of both say states, we've heard some words, for instance, that Americans Coming Together Act, the leading democratic five-point (UNINTELLIGIBLE), may not end up organizing in Arkansas.

That would be the first sign of thing to come that maybe, just maybe, the Kerry folks may not end up targeting Arkansas. There are southern states that kind of should be swing states, but they may be just burned out.

WOODRUFF: So Democrats may just be giving up.

TODD: Giving up a little bit.

WOODRUFF: All right. Meanwhile, conversely where you're seeing Democrats make a new push for another southern state that has not been friendly to Democrats, Virginia.

TODD: It's interesting with Virginia. And it's a state that I've been hearing Democrats harp about for a while. They think that it always should have been more in play over the last cycle or two. And are now at least seeing some fruits.

One of the reasons, first of all, in 2000, outside of the battleground states that we talked about, the 17, it had the best Democratic performance. Al Gore did the best there out of any of those 17 that the two campaigns do agree upon.

Also, it's a suburban state. It is very much the way New Jersey is where it's the suburbs of this big, huge metropolis. And Democrats do well in suburban areas. And the more the suburbs of Northern Virginia grow, the more it seems to be moving in the Democratic column.

Maybe that's why Mark Warner had some success. You know George Allen's first election to the U.S. Senate was much closer than people it would be against Chuck Robb. So there is some evidence that it should be shifting. However, I think we're a cycle too soon. Probably more like 2008.

WOODRUFF: Interesting how many government employees work in the Washington suburbs.

(CROSSTALK)

TODD: People coming in and out. It's always a new voter to target.

WOODRUFF: For sure.

Now there's one other Southern state that's adjacent to Virginia that Democrats maybe dream about?

TODD: Well, no, it's North Carolina. And this gets fast forwarded. This is, again, this is if you're buying futures in future swing states in 2008, 2012. Buy North Carolina. Except, it could, of course, accelerate if somehow John Edwards gets on the ticket. Then Democrats would almost have to target because it would look weird if they weren't targeting John Edwards' home state.

But same thing with Virginia. It's a growing suburban population. Research triangle has new voters coming into it all the time. And in some ways if you're looking for a mirror image state, Colorado is sort of almost a mirror image of North Carolina. A lot of non-natives are suddenly becoming a growing part of Colorado. Non- natives are a growing part of North Carolina.

And wherever there are new people moving in, there are new targets and sudden suddenly things are up in the air. So small eye on North Carolina.

WOODRUFF: A lot cooking on the griddle.

TODD: Always.

WOODRUFF: Chuck Todd, thank you very much.

We appreciate it. Meantime, we want to let you know once again that "The Hotline," an insider's political briefing is produced daily by "The National Journal." You can go online to NationalJournal.com for subscription information.

Still to come on INSIDE POLITICS, the battle for the White House in cyberspace. We'll check out some new Web games attacking President Bush and John Kerry.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: The Republican, and Democrat parties are putting Internet to use in new ways as they it out for the White House.

The Kerry campaign is out with a new Web game, "Learning Your ABCs About What Experts are Saying About the Bush-Cheney Ad Campaign." The Kerry camp says the players can type in a letter and learn how Bush's ads are false and misleading. Not to be outdone, the Republican national committee has launched a "Kerry-oply" game. Players roll the dice and land on such properties as Nantucket and Beacon Hill. The game also pokes fun at what it says are Kerry's expensive haircuts.

That's it for INSIDE POLITICS. I'm Judy Woodruff. Thanks for joining us this Tuesday. Join me tomorrow when one of my guests will be President Bush's national security adviser, Dr. Condoleezza Rice.

"CROSSFIRE" starts right now.

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