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Bush Rallies Troops, Warns of Challenges Ahead; Invoking Reagan; Gay Marriage Showdown

Aired June 16, 2004 - 15:30   ET


ANNOUNCER: The president salutes U.S. troops around the world, praising their service and warning of challenges ahead.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The new Iraq's leaders are not intimidated. I will not yield, and neither will the leaders of Iraq.

ANNOUNCER: The controversy over same-sex marriages: will a planned Senate vote on an anti-gay marriage amendment put the Democrats on the spot?


ANNOUNCER: Ronald Reagan becomes a featured player in the political ad wars. And a family in mourning cries foul.



JUDY WOODRUFF, HOST: Thank you for joining us.

Exactly two weeks before the handover of power in Iraq, President Bush is preparing U.S. troops and the world for the obstacles and attacks that may lie ahead. He delivered the cautionary but upbeat message from showdown state of Florida, underscoring the election year importance of his wartime successes and setbacks.


BUSH: It is great to be back in Florida.

WOODRUFF (voice-over): Again. It is the president's 22nd trip to the Sunshine State since taking office. Today's tableau, a feel- good rally at MacDill Air Force Base, praising men and women for their sacrifices in Iraq and Afghanistan.

BUSH: By fighting the terrorists in distant lands, you are making sure your fellow citizens do not face them here at home.

WOODRUFF: Watching from overseas, soldiers stationed in the war zones. The president's tribute, emotional. BUSH: And by acting in the best traditions of duty and honor, you are making our country and your commander in chief incredibly proud.

WOODRUFF: Today's visit comes on the heels of Dick Cheney's own jaunt to Florida on Monday. His speech touched on similar themes.

BUSH: I thank you on behalf of a grateful nation.

WOODRUFF: But today's glowing images are what the campaign hopes will stick with Floridians, particularly veterans, a much-courted constituency in a much-courted state.


WOODRUFF: Meanwhile, John Kerry pushed ahead today with his assault on President Bush's economic policies. In the showdown state of Ohio, Senator Kerry laid out proposals to ease the burden on working families. He says he would keep schools open until after 6:00 p.m. -- or rather until 6:00 p.m. for after-school programs and give parents more money for childcare costs.


SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm going to increase the childcare credit so we can make it easier for parents to be able to afford the child care that people so desperately need. And if you're a family earning, you know, $25,000, $30,000, $40,000, two kids, you're going to get about $800 additional help in order to be able to try to take care of your children.


WOODRUFF: Kerry pulled in another $650,000 at a fundraiser in Columbus, Ohio, this morning. And his campaign says it is setting more fundraising records. The Kerry camp says that it took in at least $26 in May, reaching the campaign's 2004 goal of $100 million two months early. At the end of May, Kerry had raised a total of $145 million, still substantially less than the Bush camp's $215 million.

On the trail in Ohio, Kerry characterized Americans as can-do people of the future, recalling the Reaganesque optimism discussed so much during funeral services for the 40th president. But just days after Kerry joined the solemn tribute to Ronald Reagan, he invoked the Republican's name in a less than positive light while talking about fiscal responsibility.


KERRY: I listened to Ronald Reagan for years talk about the need to have a balanced budget. But he never submitted one. The need to have a line item veto, but he never vetoed the major appropriations bills to send them back and say take this out or I'm not signing it.

(END VIDEO CLIP) WOODRUFF: Separately, there's a new political ad out that also invokes images of Ronald Reagan, and the Reagan family is not happy about it. Here now, our national correspondent, Bruce Morton.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you been practicing?

BRUCE MORTON, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Were you wondering when the fighting over Ronald Reagan's legacy would start? Well, it already has.

REAGAN: Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!

MORTON: The Club for Growth, which supports President Bush, is running this ad showing Reagan and Berlin and Bush in New York after 9/11.

BUSH: And the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon.


MORTON: The ad, which will run on cable and in three battle ground States, compares Reagan and Bush, one fighting communism the other terror. A Reagan family spokeswoman objected, saying Mrs. Reagan supports Bush, but is not taking requests from political organizations and "has not authorized the use of her husband's image for any issues, candidates or products." The Club for Growth is going ahead.

STEPHEN MOORE, PRESIDENT, CLUB FOR GROWTH: In some of the printouts we've run, we've had images of Ronald Reagan, and the family has objected to that. But there is no legal problem with it whatsoever, because, as I said, President Reagan's image is in the public domain.

MORTON: Another instance of Reagan pointing out differences between the two presidents, Reagan's son, Ron, a TV commentator, noted at Friday's funeral service in California that his father, like this president, was religious, but more private about it.

RON REAGAN, RONALD REAGAN'S SON: Dad was also a deeply, unabashedly religious man. But he never made the fatal mistake of so many politicians, wearing his faith on his sleeve to gain political advantage. True, after he was shot and nearly killed early in his presidency, he came to believe that god had spared him in order that he might do good. But he accepted that as a responsibility, not a mandate. And there is a profound difference.

MORTON: A slap at this president who talked about his religion in his eulogy at the Washington service? A reference to the two families' differing views on stem cell research? Maybe just a natural desire to protect the image, the privacy of a man who's just died.

STUART ROTHENBERG, ROTHENBERG POLITICAL REPORT: I think the family is probably going to be very protective of the former president and his memory and what he stood for. And I'm sure they'll be hesitant to allow groups, no matter what group it is, to use his face or his name to sell an ideology or to sell a product.

MORTON: We'll see.

Bruce Morton, CNN, Washington.


WOODRUFF: And now to a brewing election year showdown over gay marriage. Some Republicans are pushing for a Senate vote this summer. The timing aimed at making Democrats uncomfortable. Let's get details now from our congressional correspondent, Ed Henry -- Ed.


Senate Republican leaders confirmed to CNN that they are planning a mid to late July vote on a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. The point here is they want to try to get political -- maximum political benefit leading into the Democratic convention this summer. And they think that they can drive Democrats to the left on a key social issue.

But the real news here is that Senate Republicans are privately admitting that it's very, very unlikely they will reach the 67 votes they need to pass a constitutional amendment. And House Republican leaders privately say they're not even committed to bringing this issue up at all before the election.

And so the bottom line here is it's very likely -- very unlikely to pass. And it's really all about trying to please the conservative base. And, in fact, one conservative activist, Matt Daniels, told CNN that he realizes this is a long struggle they're very likely to lose in the short term. But he thinks it's important to get it on the radar screen. Here is what Daniels had to say.


MATT DANIELS, ALLIANCE FOR MARRIAGE: It's the beginning of a long process that we have wanted to see happen, where this issue will be taken out from behind the closed doors of the courts and put onto the playing field of democracy because we think the American people should decide the future of marriage.


HENRY: Judy, this is a far cry from just in February, when President Bush was very aggressive about saying that he wanted to see Congress pass a constitutional amendment this year before the election. He wanted to get the ball rolling on that.

The Republicans say they can still get political gains out of trying to drive people like Senator John Kerry to the left on the eve of that convention this summer. And also, Democrats, on the other hand, say they believe a constitutional amendment is unnecessary, that this is just a political stunt. And, in fact, Democrats think there is a political risk here for Republicans, where Republicans may please their conservative base but might turn off more moderate swing voters. Here's what Senator Edward Kennedy had to say.


SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: I'm opposed to amending the Constitution when we don't have to have a change in the Constitution. And I'm strongly opposed to putting bigotry and prejudice in the Constitution, so I'll oppose that particular amendment.


HENRY: Judy, the bottom line is that at the beginning of this year, it looked like gay marriage might be the sort of pivotal issue that might divide the parties, the pivotal social issue. But Republicans, like Senator Jon Kyl, say that they believe Iraq is actually trumping gay marriage and all of the other issues, and that -- Senator Kyl said this could be the rare election where foreign policy actually crowds out social issues like abortion, and foreign policy, national security is the dominant issue -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: So, Ed, if they're saying -- if they're telling you they're not even sure they can get the 67 votes, then that says that there are a number of Republicans who are not going to support this ban on gay marriage, too.

HENRY: Well, that's right. Undoubtedly, you're going to have several moderate Republicans who are in the Senate or are going to oppose this.

As I mentioned, the House Republican leadership cannot find a consensus on a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, so they may not even bring this up for a vote. What House Republican leaders are saying is they're going to wait and see what the Senate does.

Normally the House moves first. In this case, they're going to wait for the Senate. So it's not even clear that Republicans in the Senate could get a simple majority, let alone a 67 threshold that they would need to clear to send this to the states -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: OK. Ed Henry, with the very latest from the Hill. Thank you very much.

Well, Donna Brazile and Bay Buchanan are ready for a showdown of their own. Coming up, the gun lobby targets radio listeners. Does a new NRA broadcast cross the line?

And was there a link between Iraq and al Qaeda? The 9/11 Commission says one thing. Is the Bush administration saying another?

This is INSIDE POLITICS, the place for campaign news.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) WOODRUFF: Joining us now here in Washington, Bay Buchanan, president of American Cause. And we hope in just a minute, Donna Brazile. We think she's going to join us from Memphis, Tennessee, if we can just figure out the audio.

So, Bay, to start out with, let's talk about the report today from the 9/11 Commission, basically saying they could find no connection between Saddam Hussein of Iraq and al Qaeda. Just two days ago, Vice President Cheney said there is a direct link. Who is right?

BAY BUCHANAN, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN CAUSE: Well, I think Dick Cheney is wrong. He said this many, many times, and I don't know where he gets this information. But I know I was very careful before the president announced this war.

You read all of the papers, The New York Times, you read what was coming out of the CIA, and over there in the English intelligence, the British intelligence. And there was never, ever any indication, any evidence that there was a link between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda. So it doesn't surprise me, I think, the 9/11 Commission has come up with the facts as they were presented pretty much before that war was announced.

This was not the reason to go to the war. I don't know why the administration would say something that would be the reason when it wasn't necessary and there is no evidence of that.

WOODRUFF: But don't -- haven't most public opinions shown -- polls shown that many, if not most Americans, believe there is a connection? Because that is the thrust of what they think they've been hearing from the Bush administration all along as a principal reason for going to war in Iraq.

BUCHANAN: Well, I don't know if that would be the principal reason. But certainly, there -- the polls out there are clear that the American people do feel there was some kind of connection. And I think where that comes from, Judy, in some regard, is the fact that there is a tie-in for the war on terror, that the president has said this is one front of the war on terror in Iraq. Another front, obviously, directly against al Qaeda.

And so then the American people obviously put it together. But in fairness, when you look at the facts prior to going to war, it was clear to those who studied it that there was no connection. And I am not sure the information that was handed to the vice president that gave him the impression that there was.

Now there is. We do have al Qaeda down there in Iraq, and trying to make certain that they disrupt things to the full extent as possible.

WOODRUFF: So -- so, Bay, is there any price to pay on the part of the administration? Does this -- does this finding by the 9/11 Commission have any bearing politically on the debate in this election year, do you think? BUCHANAN: Well, you know, I think the administration has to acknowledge, you know, what the real reasons are going to war. They've laid them out. The president has made it very, very clear.

There has been a lot of talk by people in the administration that there was this connection, and I think when you talk politically, I think the president has said that this is -- he felt there was a threat a threat, a threat to the United States security. And, therefore, he took action, and I think that's extremely legitimate, and the only reason he needed to take action.

I think that he has to keep stressing with the American people that this is what we did. We eliminated this threat, and now we're trying to give the Iraqi people a real chance for self-governing. And that is the whole story right there. I think they do harm if they kind of continually try to move some other story that might not be accurate.

WOODRUFF: Bay, one other footnote today on Iraq. I don't know if you'd accurately call it a footnote, but information. The administration letting Congress know there may be a problem providing enough food for the Iraqi people.

We're now finding that some of the very basic things that the U.S., that the Iraqi people have been counting on, I guess that the U.S. had assumed was going to be -- were going to be no problem, is turning out potentially to be a problem. Again, how much is this going to contribute to Iraq being a drag on the president in this election?

BUCHANAN: You know, Judy, I think there is no question Iraq is the issue in this campaign. You're not going to get away from that, as things develop on a daily basis over there in much -- which is not expected. But I think, again, it is a war. The American people know it's a war.

There are times when things happen that you can't plan for. And that is what we have to do, is be quick response and be able to turn things around when we recognize a problem.

If there is a food shortage -- shortage, the American people are going to support any action whatsoever the president needs to take to make certain food gets to the people there. That is your very basics. And we're trying to work on electricity and other basic needs, but, clearly, if you don't have food, the rest really doesn't matter. So that is what the president is going to have to do, to be obviously constantly doing -- taking the action that he didn't think was anticipated or needed and making certain that those people have an opportunity here really to move forward in a progressive manner.

WOODRUFF: Bay, let's move on to -- to something that we're watching here politically in the United States having to do with the Club for Growth. This, of course, is a conservative group that advocates tax cuts.

They're now running an ad starting today on national cable networks, among other outlets, saying -- essentially showing a picture of Ronald Reagan, aligning him with President Bush and his policies, and criticizing John Kerry. Now, the Reagan family has come out and said, we don't think it's appropriate for you to use the late president's picture. The Club for Growth says, we're going ahead anyway. Is this the sort of thing that should be done or not?

BUCHANAN: Absolutely. President Reagan was our president, was all of our president, you know? And so we all have public domain. And so the picture that they're using is in the public domain, and they have a right to use that.

I think the point they're making is a superb one in a very important time. The American people are now going to elect or reelect an individual that is going to be the leader in a war on terror. What they're saying it's a leadership issue. The president, Reagan, showed enormous courage and was a great leader, and really took on communism.

And this ad specifically points to John Kerry. And they have a quote of having him saying in his own words that he didn't think America should fight communism, it was a battle we couldn't win. Well, that says something about the man that is being -- that's asking for American votes.

The Club for Growth is doing a wonderful job. I think this ad is terrific, it makes the point that John Kerry is the not the right person to be sitting in the White House during a time of war.

President Bush is. He also has shown enormous leadership in very difficult times. And this is the times we have, is perilous times, and we need somebody who has a real commitment to some real tough decisions, as President Bush has shown and as President Reagan obviously did as well.

WOODRUFF: Bay, one other political development. We're learning that the National Rifle Association is going to begin broadcasting a daily radio program this week to give essentially pro-gun commentary to something like 400,000 listeners. This is being seen as one way to get around campaign spending restrictions because they're going to be able to say this is a news program, we're simply giving our point of view, it's not political advertising.

Is this going -- is this beyond the pale or is this OK?

BUCHANAN: It's called First Amendment. I think it's quite acceptable for all of us to do. I think it's a great idea.

You know, they have a very good message and they want to get it out. And, of course, talk radio everyone knows is a much more conservative form of information. And so conservatives are going to tune into it who want to.

And they can get the message out of what votes are coming up, who stands for what. And I think it's a very, very fine idea. I'm going to ask Donna if she wants to join me and go over there to see if they need any kind of hosts for a couple of their programs.


BUCHANAN: We could move some guns maybe while we're at it.

WOODRUFF: Well, as long as we don't lose you on INSIDE POLITICS. Bay Buchanan, normally she's joined by Donna Brazile, who's in Memphis, Tennessee, today. But we're having audio difficulties with the station there in Memphis. So our apologies that we can't bring Donna but, Bay, we're delighted to have twice as much of you today.

BUCHANAN: Thanks very much, Judy.

WOODRUFF: Thanks very much.

BUCHANAN: Good to be with you.

WOODRUFF: And we'll see you next week. We appreciate it.

BUCHANAN: Very good.

WOODRUFF: Well, the commander in chief rallied the troops today in the state of Florida, but some former diplomats and military officials are not cheering. Their criticism and a rebuttal coming up.

Also, is John Kerry getting any closer to picking a running mate? Stand by for some "Ticket Talk" as INSIDE POLITICS continues.



ANNOUNCER: Did Saddam Hussein help al Qaeda target the U.S.?

RICHARD CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He had long-established ties with al Qaeda.

ANNOUNCER: But a new report says no.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have no credible evidence that Iraq and al Qaeda cooperated on attacks against the United States.

ANNOUNCER: A confusing contradiction?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it's probably appropriate for Senator Kerry to tell you who he's meeting with.

ANNOUNCER: Who is talking about the Democratic ticket now? There appears to be new movement in John Kerry's VP selection process.

The president's foreign policy comes under attack.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The lack of confidence in the present administration in Washington is so profound that a whole new team is needed to repair the damage.

ANNOUNCER: We'll speak with one of the former diplomats against Bush. (END VIDEOTAPE)


WOODRUFF: Welcome back.

John Kerry got some new campaign ammunition today from the 9/11 Commission. The panel reports it could find no credible evidence that Iraq and al Qaeda cooperated in the September 11 terror attacks. In a radio interview, Kerry called that a very, very serious finding, and suggests that the Bush administration went to war in Iraq on false premises.


KERRY: That seems to be what we've learned and the indications from the intelligence community in the last months. The administration misled America, the administration reached to far, they did not tell the truth to Americans about what was happening or their own intentions. And the president rushed to war without a plan to win the peace.

I've said this before. And I say it again. I think the president owed it to America to be completely candid when the lives of young men and women are at stake.


WOODRUFF: The 9/11 Commission is throwing more cold water on the Iraq-al Qaeda connection just days after Vice President Cheney spoke of the, quote, "long-established ties between the two." A comment backed up by President Bush just yesterday. As our senior political analyst Bill Schneider explains, this is further muddying the administration's early justification for war.


WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): When President Bush made the case for war with Iraq, it was very clearly based on U.S. interests.

BUSH: Saddam Hussein has got weapons of mass destruction. Saddam Hussein has made -- defied the United Nations. Saddam Hussein is providing links to remember rifts. Saddam Hussein is a threat to America. And we will deal with him.


SCHNEIDER: One by one, those claims have been thrown into doubt. More than a year after the fall of Saddam Hussein, the weapons of mass destruction have not turned up.

Early this year, the former chief weapons inspector made this startling revelation. DAVID KAY, FRM. CHIEF WEAPONS INSPECTOR: It is highly unlikely that there were large stockpiles of deployed, militarized chemical and biological weapons there.

SCHNEIDER: As for links between Iraq and al Qaeda, the former White House counterterrorism chief had this to say.

RICHARD CLARKE, FRM. BUSH ANTI-TERRORISM ADVISER: In the weeks immediately after 9/11, the president signed a national security directive instructing the Pentagon to prepare for the invasion of Iraq even though they knew at the time from me, from the FBI, from the CIA, that Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11.

SCHNEIDER: Now we have a staff report from the bipartisan commission investigating the 9/11 attacks that says, quote, "We have no credible evidence that Iraq and al Qaeda cooperated on attacks against the United State."

Is Bush's case for war demolished? Not quite.

G.W. BUSH: Come to know your skill and bravery.

SCHNEIDER: The president made the case for war, not just in terms of American interests, but also in terms of American value.

G.W. BUSH: But since we value all human life and everybody matters, we can achieve peace in parts of the world that have quit on peace.

SCHNEIDER: Does the United States go to war to defend its values? Not just its interests? Actually, yes. In 1990, after Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, the first President Bush made the case for the Gulf War in terms of values. He never mentioned oil.

GEORGE H.W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, 1989-1993: I want to talk to you about what's at stake, what we must do together to defend civilized values around the world.

SCHNEIDER: That was a short, decisive war. No occupation, no controversy.

In 1999, it was difficult for President Clinton to argue that the U.S. had any interests at stake in Kosovo. But the photographs of concentration camps and people being herded into trains presented a challenge to American values.

BILL CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, 1993-2001: We must have an end to ethnic cleansing.

SCHNEIDER: The U.S. did not use ground troops in Kosovo. No Americans were killed during that war. More than 800 Americans have been killed in Iraq.


SCHNEIDER: You can rally Americans to fight for their values. Polls show most Americans reject a view that the war in Iraq was a mistake, but most Americans also feel the war was not worth the cost -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: An important distinction.


WOODRUFF: OK, Bill, thank you very much.

U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and other places across the globe got to hear from their commander in chief today. President Bush defended the war on terror and his push to bring democracy to Iraq in a speech at MacDill Air Force Base in Florida. The speech was beamed by satellite to U.S. forces worldwide.

As the president defended his foreign policy, the issue served as a lightning rod for a group of former high level diplomats and military officials. They gathered here in Washington this morning to issue a statement condemning Bush's foreign policy.

With us now, Phyllis Oakley who worked in the State Department in the Reagan and the Clinton administrations. She is one of the signers of that statement.

And from Capitol Hill to respond to the statement, Republican Congressman Steve Buyer of Indiana.

Secretary Oakley, to begin, this is rare, to say the least, for a group like yours to put out a statement so critical of a sitting president. The language in it is very strong. Why are you doing this?

PHYLLIS OAKLEY, FRM. ASSIST. SECY. OF STATE: Judy, it is a rare thing for career foreign service officers, even though we're retired, to speak out like this. And we're doing it because we are so deeply and profoundly concerned about the status of the United States and the world.

And we're concerned, not only for ourselves, but for our children and our grandchildren. What we're worried about is the standing of the United States and the world for the long-term.

WOODRUFF: And what is your main complaint against President Bush?

OAKLEY: We think that the fundamental thrust of his foreign policy is wrong, that it has been an arrogant attempt at world dominance by military power, neglecting our friends and allies and classical, although, certainly -- diplomacy that has been relegated to the side line.

We feel that the structure that we had all worked to build up over 50 years is crumbling. And that the security of the United States is less.

WOODRUFF: Congressman Buyer, you're a member of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee. You are a colonel in the Army Reserves. Just I wanted to get some of your credentials out there. How do you respond? I mean, this is...

REP. STEVE BUYER (R), INDIANA: Well my first reaction when I heard the secretary -- first of all, let me complement the years of service, valued service that those who signed this letter have given to the country. They did so in a non-partisan fashion throughout their career in the diplomatic corps and in the United States military.

What is different today is they cannot cloak their status in that non-partisanship. This is a very partisan letter. They've now taken off the coat of their nonpartisanship and become very partisan.

For Mrs. Oakley to talk about domination by our military is almost -- that's offensive. And I'm very concerned about the sort of language that they would use.

In fact, upon President Bush's inaugural address, her own husband talked about that the threat of terrorism was exaggerated. And I think that was an example of the last administration.

WOODRUFF: Let's -- Ambassador -- Secretary Oakley, how do you answer?

OAKLEY: Oh, there you go again.

BUYER: Oh, Ronald Reagan was pretty good at that, wasn't he?

OAKLEY: He really was. And it applies in many situations.

We are a non-partisan group in the sense that we're not going as far as endorsing Senator Kerry. Clearly, in calling for a defeat of President Bush because of his foreign policy, we do approach that step, but whatever we do in support of Senator Kerry will be on an individual basis.

We realize that this is going to be seen as a partisan ploy. And I'm sure that there will be many other charges...

BUYER: Judy...

OAKLEY: ... that it is nothing but political.

BUYER: ... may I respond to this?

OAKLEY: But we're doing it because of deep concern for the United States.

BUYER: Let me show you a good example of why this is so partisan. Miss Oakley testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee January 28th of 1998. Let me show you what she had to say in a non-partisan fashion on behalf of our country with regard to Iraq. As a matter of fact, she testified before Senator Shelby and Senator John Kerry, of whom she wants to support. "There shall be no doubt that Saddam will rebuild his weapons of mass destruction programs at the earliest possible opportunity. There should also be no doubt that Saddam will continue to capitalize on perceived differences of opinion among our allies on this issue. His recent efforts to exploit French and Russian diplomatic initiatives to loosen sanctions..."

WOODRUFF: Well, what is the point?

BUYER: "... regime are the latest examples of such behavior."

The point is this. The point is that you sought to represent the country in non-partisan fashion. What you said here...

OAKLEY: All right.

BUYER: ... I believe is in fact true, Miss Oakley.

OAKLEY: All right. Well, I believe...

BUYER: Ms. Oakley, please don't be rude.

WOODRUFF: No, we are not going to be accusing one another of that sort of thing. Congressman Buyer, we're just not going to do that on this program.

BUYER: What are you talking about, Judy? Here she said one statement in a non-partisan fashion on behalf of our country. Now she's coming out with a very partisan letter attacking our president and our foreign policy.

So what my example here, Judy, is is how they moved the non- partisan jacket and have now put on their partisan jacket.

WOODRUFF: All right. I will let her respond, but I don't think it's appropriate for you to accuse her of being rude. That's my point.

BUYER: Well The rude is if you're going to try to interrupt me. That's what I wanted to say.

WOODRUFF: Please let her answer! Please let her answer! Thank you.

OAKLEY: Thank you.

I did testify before the House Intelligence Committee. I was the assistant secretary for intelligence and research for two years. I stand by what I said in 1998. It was what we believed true at that moment.

I retired from the State Department in 1999. I have been a private citizen for five years. I'm an adjunct professor now. And certainly I have a right, as a private citizen, to express my views...

BUYER: Absolutely. OAKLEY: ... on how I think the situation has changed. And that's what I'm doing.

WOODRUFF: All right. We are going to take a short break and when we come back, we're going to continue our discussion with former Secretary Oakley, with Congressman Buyer to talk more about what this group has to say about President Bush's policies. We'll be right back.


WOODRUFF: Returning now to today's statement by a group of former U.S. diplomats and military officials are criticizing President Bush's foreign policy. With us again former U.S. secretary -- assistant secretary of state Phyllis Oakley and Republican Congressman Steve Buyer.

Congressman Buyer, I want to get to the substance of the criticism that they are making. Among other things, they say the national security of the United States has been weakened because of Bush policies. Very briefly, why is that not so?

BUYER: I would say the president has strengthened our alliances as he also made the country more secure. I'd also like to make the point that the world has changed.

That's what September 11 has taught us and that we cannot return to what we now know as some failed policies that were inadequate to protect our country and we -- our borders are so porous and we never believed that terrorism would strike upon our own shores and we have to change on how we protect not only the homeland but how we engage with our allies to go after this new century's threat.

WOODRUFF: Secretary Oakley, you say that's not the case. How so? I mean, he's saying the world is changed and the country is more secure.

OAKLEY: I would certainly agree with him that the world has changed since September 11, but the world wasn't created on September 11 and there are many Americans values, many traditions, many alliances that we have used before and we still need, I think, in this world today.

It is clear to me that the perception of the standing of the United States has changed since September 11 and, of course, we have to rise to that new challenge.

And I don't want to argue why we went into Iraq. What I would point out is the year that we've been in Iraq has been disastrous. It's been disastrous for our armed services, we were ill-quipped, ill- trained, ill-prepared for nation-building and what the occupation there would be. We don't seem to have a clear exit strategy.

We have now belatedly gone back to the United Nations and to working with our allies. We think that is terrific and we're glad that we have made those changes, tactical moves, I fear, to get the international support that we really need. I agree there are unprecedented challenges, but we didn't start fresh on September 11.

WOODRUFF: Congressman Buyer, how do you respond specifically to the point about the war in Iraq having been disastrous in the last year?

BUYER: That just shows the partisanship nature of this group and that's what's unfortunate. Mrs. Oakley gave some testimony that -- I want to say she's very correct and on point when she said that when there is a vacuum of power, it invites aggression and mischief in the world.

And, Ms. Oakley, you're absolutely right and when the Russian bear was replaced by a thousand vipers and we have a asymmetrical threat in the world, we have to change with regard to how we protect the homeland, our trading routes and our allies. The engagement policies of the past, while you may have enjoyed those, the world is different today, Ms. Oakley.

OAKLEY: I'm not saying it isn't.

WOODRUFF: All right. We are going to have to leave it there. Obviously, two fundamentally different views. Former assistant secretary of state Phyllis Oakley and Republican Congressman Steve Buyer, we thank you both for joining us.

BUYER: Thank you, Judy.

WOODRUFF: We appreciate it.

A governor, a senator, a congressman and a retired general thought to be on the list. Who else may John Kerry be considering as a running mate? We'll have the latest ticket talk when INSIDE POLITICS returns.


WOODRUFF: John Kerry is back in Washington this afternoon. He's already had a busy day this morning in Ohio. The senator attended a fundraiser and gave a speech on the economy. This afternoon stop, Kerry allies on Capitol Hill tell CNN that the campaign is being very tight-lipped leading at least one to speculate that the senator is focusing on, quote, "veep stuff." That sounds like a good time to do some ticket talk of our own. I'm joined by CNN political editor John Mercurio who watches all this and much more. John, what are you hearing about these meetings?

JOHN MERCURIO, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: Well, one thing I can tell you for sure is that he's not meeting with John Edwards. There was a lot of speculation, a lot of buzz when we heard that Kerry was coming back to Capitol Hill that he's going to be sitting down with John Edwards as one of his top picks for VP. Edwards is in New York. He's not expected to get back to D.C. until tomorrow around noon at which point Kerry is scheduled to be on his way to Detroit but there are meetings taking place this week so I think it's sort of the big story of the week is that Kerry is trying to have these sit-down face-to- face meetings with his short list. We know for sure that Wes Clark, two of his top candidates, Wes Clark and Dick Gephardt are in Washington this week tonight and tomorrow. Clark gets into Washington tomorrow morning and sources tell us that he has private meetings scheduled throughout the day. He holds a fundraiser for Kerry tomorrow night and whether or not they're actually meeting, we don't know. Gephardt also in D.C. Whether or not they're actually meeting, we don't know but we have to assume that they're going to meet sometime this week.

WOODRUFF: So your sense is that they're getting down to serious talk...


WOODRUFF: About the vice president?

MERCURIO: Right. We're getting to the stage. Jim Johnson and John Kerry have vetted all of these guys. We know the short list, we could recite it in our sleep but we're at the stage at this point where Kerry has to sort of establish a comfort zone with the candidate that he's going to pick. Now he's met the guys. He knows some of them very well, he's known them for years. At this point, though, he wants to sit down, I think, and kind of look at them in a different context. Not just look at them as a running mate, what sort of running mate they'd be but also sort of what kind of vice president, potentially, what kind of president they would be eventually.

WOODRUFF: Tom Vilsack, governor of Ohio has been in town for a different reason, a healthcare event. What do you know about that?

MERCURIO: Well, like the rest of them he's reading off the same script. He's not saying yes and he's not saying no to whether or not he's meeting with John Kerry. He was asked earlier today at a press conference whether or not he's meeting with John Kerry in D.C. today and this is what he had to say.


GOV. TOM VILSACK (D), OHIO: In terms of meetings, I think it's probably appropriate for Senator Kerry to tell you who he's meeting with and what he's talking about and what he's doing these days.


MERCURIO: So these guys are good. I mean, these guys are good. They're reading from the same script literally.

WOODRUFF: They have it down. We're not able to tail them, I guess, every minute of their day.

MERCURIO: Unfortunately, no.

WOODRUFF: How are they able to maintain so much secrecy about something that everybody wants to know about?

MERCURIO: It's actually pretty simple. What Kerry has done is sort of assemble a very, very small group of trusted loyal longtime aides. There is not more than two or three people I'm told other than Kerry and Jim Johnson who really, really know what is going on in this process and these candidates, all of them, have been told, have been instructed that the top priority is to keep this a secret process and they want to. The candidates want to, also. So it sort of works in Kerry's favor to just keep this whole thing quiet and he's doing a good job of doing that.

WOODRUFF: As long as they share it with CNN first, they're welcome to do that.

MERCURIO: Exactly. Did you hear that, John Kerry?

WOODRUFF: OK. John Mercurio, thanks very much.

MERCURIO: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: And now checking the headlines in our "Campaign News Daily." Speaking of John Kerry, he's gotten his first major newspaper endorsement in his race against Bush with election day still more than four months away.

"Philadelphia Daily News" explains why it is backing Kerry so early citing Pennsylvania's crucial role as a showdown state. The endorsement says, quote, "for Kerry supporters to prevail, they must do more than just vote. They must bring a ringer into this contest: the more than a million people in the region who did not vote in the last presidential election."

Meantime, in Michigan, Kerry is giving in to some powerful competition. The new NBA champs, the Detroit Pistons. The Pistons fans preparing for a parade tomorrow. The Kerry camp scrapped a planned event in Detroit to avoid all the hoopla.

Reports from Boston today say that next month's Democratic National Convention already is going millions of dollars over budget. Rising production and construction costs at the Fleet Center have pushed the price tag at least $5 million and perhaps as much as $10 million over the original budget estimate of $64.5 million.

And in New York state, President Bush's approval rating has sunk to its lowest level ever. 36 percent in a new Quinnipiac poll. This drop comes less than 2 1/2 months before Republicans hold their nominating convention in New York City.

Still to come, First Lady Laura Bush squares off against Teresa Heinz Kerry in a national contest with the sweet side. Details just ahead.


WOODRUFF: Finally today, a Bush-Kerry battle on the sweeter side. "Family Circle" magazine is sponsoring a cookie cookoff using recipes provided by Laura Bush and Teresa Heinz Kerry. The magazine wants its readers to bake up a batch of Mrs. Bush's oatmeal chocolate chunk cookies, yum, and Mrs. Kerry's pumpkin spice cookies. Yum, again.

And then readers get to vote for their favorite. The winner is going to be announced one week after election day which means, I guess you can vote twice. Coming up next on "CROSSFIRE" James and Tucker and the audience will put both recipes to the taste test. They're going to pick their favorite. I'm going to be watching. That's it for INSIDE POLITICS. I'm Judy Woodruff. "CROSSFIRE" starts right now.


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