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Terror and Elections; The Cheney Question

Aired July 8, 2004 - 15:30   ET


ANNOUNCER: The Bush administration raises another red flag about the election year terror threat. And critics raise questions about the timing.

TOM RIDGE, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: Al Qaeda is moving forward with its plans to carry out a large-scale attack in the United States in an effort to disrupt our Democratic process.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: John and I know how to fight a war on terror that doesn't create more terrorists but makes America safer.

ANNOUNCER: How are the Democrats responding to the latest terror warning as the Kerry-Edwards rollout tour continues?

Another take on the Cheney factor.

ALFONSE D'AMATO, FMR. NEW YORK SENATOR: I will shock Republicans and probably get them angry, but I think we could do better.

ANNOUNCER: With friends like that, is the vice president on shaky ground?



JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you for joining us.

Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge says anyone who thinks this latest terror warning is politically motivated has got it wrong. But here in Washington, people tend to view the world through the prism of politics. And that's as true as ever in this week of this election year, with the Kerry-Edwards ticket making its debut. We get details now from our senior White House correspondent, John King -- John.

JOHN KING, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And, Judy, perhaps inevitable, because we are so close to the election, and it is so closely contested, that just as the administration was giving this new sober assessment of what it says is the threat of terrorism today, some Democratic critics were saying, whoa, this must be time to try to draw attention away from the new Democratic ticket. Now, as all this played out, some Democrats privately suggesting the administration was trying to distract attention from the new Kerry-Edwards ticket. One group we know of, it's called Americans Coming Together, and it's run by a former top adviser to John Kerry, publicly issued a statement accusing the Bush administration of mounting a fear campaign, of trying to say there's a new terrorist threat to scare the American people and distract the attention away from the Democrats here at the White House. Press Secretary Scott McClellan says nonsense.


SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We have an obligation, regard regardless of the time of year, or what year we are in, to protect the American people and keep them informed about what we are doing to provide for their safety and security. And when we receive credible information, like we have regarding the increased risk we face, we believe it's important to keep the American people informed.


KING: Now, some of the criticism is quite familiar. In his briefing today, Secretary Ridge said that there was no specific information saying that either Boston or New York, the convention cities, would be targeted. No specific information saying when, where or how the terrorists, al Qaeda specifically, might strike.

But Secretary Ridge says there is a continuing stream of intelligence, suggesting al Qaeda wants to strike during this election season. And the secretary says just because he can't say when, where or how, does not mean this information is not credible.


RIDGE: We are basically laying out before the general public the kind of information that we've received. And it's not us -- these are not conjectures or mythical statements we're making. These are pieces of information that we can trace comfortably to sources that we deem to be credible.


KING: Now, Secretary Ridge has been on the phone with local police, local homeland security officials around the country, with a specific emphasis and focus on Boston and New York. Of course, Boston to come first with the Democratic convention in just a few weeks. New York, the last week of August, will host the Republican convention.

Secretary Ridge saying he will make personal journeys to each of the convention cities in the days and weeks ahead to get an update on the security operations. The White House also says it will brief the Kerry campaign, the Kerry-Edwards campaign soon, not only on the threat information, but on those security preparations.

And, Judy, as all this plays out, a new statement issued by Rand Beers. He is a foreign policy adviser to the Kerry campaign. He did not take issue with the timing of the announcement today, but he took issue with Secretary Ridge's assessment that the United States is safer because of the efforts of the Bush administration.

Rand Beers saying in the statement just released by the Kerry campaign that, in his view, and in the campaign's view, the administration still does not have proper coordination between the FBI, the CIA and other law enforcement agencies, and still has not given police, firefighters and other first responders the critical infrastructure, the critical material and equipment they need to ward off, and if necessary, to respond if there is another terrorist attack -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right. John King, a lot going on at the administration -- inside that administration today. We appreciate it.

Well, earlier today, even John Kerry was quick to send a warning of his own to al Qaeda, saying terrorists would not determine the outcome of this presidential race. But the Kerry-Edwards camp was more cautious, as you just heard John say, in commenting about the possible motives behind the Bush administration's announcement. CNN's Kelly Wallace traveled with the Democrats to Florida.


KELLY WALLACE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In Fort Lauderdale, team Kerry-Edwards tries to stay on message. No, it would not echo charges from some Democrats that the White House is playing politics with terrorism. But yes, it would hammer away at the Bush- Cheney record on homeland security.

KERRY: John and I know how to fight a war on terror that doesn't create more terrorists, but makes America safer.

WALLACE: But with homeland security officials saying al Qaeda may mount an attack, hoping to disrupt the election, the Kerry campaign felt it needed to issue a statement that said in part "Terrorists will not determine the results of this election, the American people will."

And then back on message in the plays where passions still run deep over the disputed 2000 election, when Al Gore was behind by just 537 votes, as the U.S. Supreme Court ordered an end to the recount. John Kerry delighting the crowd with this idea for his running mate's young children.

KERRY: We're sending -- we're sending Jack and Emma Claire down here to help those Republicans in West Palm Beach count those votes.

WALLACE: Polls show this race is neck and neck for Florida's 27 electoral votes, the biggest prize of any battleground state. And Democrats are hoping John Edwards, with his sunny disposition and small-town roots, can win over conservative Democrats and Independents who voted for George W. Bush in 2000.

SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We share a vision and we share a set of values. They're the same values that I grew up with in that little town out in the country in North Carolina.

WALLACE: Already, the addition seems to be loosening up the top of the ticket. Here, Kerry jokes about what they have in common.

KERRY: As you know, we both share the first name, John. John was selected as "People Magazine's" sexiest politician of the year. I read "People Magazine."

WALLACE: From here, team Kerry-Edwards heads to New York City for a star-studded concert expected to raise $5 million.

(on camera): Tomorrow, it's off to the battleground States of West Virginia and New Mexico before wrapping up this tour in senator Edwards' home state of North Carolina.

Kelly Wallace, CNN, Fort Lauderdale, Florida.


WOODRUFF: Now we know for sure he reads "People Magazine."

While in New York, Kerry and his wife, Teresa, will be interviewed by our own Larry King. You can watch it at 9:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN.

Well, it has been a while since Vice President Cheney was hidden away in a secure location because of the terror threat. With the campaign in full swing, Cheney is often smack dab in the spotlight. But even some Republicans apparently wonder if that's such a good idea. Our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider, has been listening to the spate of Cheney's second-guessing.


WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): It's a question that keeps coming up in political circles: Should President Bush dump Dick Cheney? To Democrats, Cheney is scary.

TERRY MCAULIFFE, DNC CHAIRMAN: When they think of Dick Cheney, they think of Halliburton. They think he is our new Newt Gingrich.

SCHNEIDER: President Bush likes the contrast with the less experienced John Edwards.


SCHNEIDER: The Democrats' response? He is president.

KERRY: He was right that Dick Cheney was ready to take over on day one. And he did. And he has been ever since, folks.

SCHNEIDER: Democrats believe Cheney is a liability with voters.

SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: They're also looking for people, the leadership that aren't going to be beholden to special interests. Hello? Dick Cheney, do you hear us now?

SCHNEIDER: There's the continuing squabble between Cheney and the 9/11 Commission over intelligence.

RICHARD BEN VENISTE, 9/11 COMMISSION MEMBER: We have reached a conclusion, and that conclusion is Iraq was not involved in 9/11.

SCHNEIDER: There's the potty-mouth episode, the crude remark the vice president hurled at a Democratic senator.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He ought to go back and get some vocabulary lessons.

SCHNEIDER: Cheney is not a happy warrior. This week, a Republican said it out loud: Bush should dump Cheney.

D'AMATO: And I will shock Republicans and probably get them angry, but I think we could do better.

SCHNEIDER: It's a sign some Republicans are nervous, like they were in 1992 when Bush's father ran for re-election. People urged him to dump Dan Quayle. His response?

GEORGE HERBERT WALKER BUSH, FMR. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He has been a super vice president, and he will be for another four years.

SCHNEIDER: This President Bush will almost certainly have the same response, because Cheney has real value. President Bush likes to call himself a compassionate conservative. Cheney embodies the conservative part of the formula. The Republican base loves him.

MARC RACICOT, BUSH-CHENEY CAMPAIGN CHAIRMAN: And I know the Republicans around the country feel very strong about the team, and very, very much support going forward.

SCHNEIDER: Cheney also symbolizes bush's steadfastness in the war on terror. Dumping Cheney would send exactly the wrong message.

MIKE ALLEN, "WASHINGTON POST" The sort of (UNINTELLIGIBLE) of this campaign is, change is dangerous. So there's no way that they're going to make that change.


SCHNEIDER: The Bush campaign has spent a lot of money branding John Kerry as a flip-flopper. If Bush were to dump Cheney, Democrats would respond within seconds, look who's flip-flopping now.

WOODRUFF: All right. Bill Schneider, thank you very much.


WOODRUFF: And now checking the headlines in our "Campaign News Daily," an early poll of polls finds that John Kerry's choice of John Edwards has been rewarded with an apparent political bounce. Among registered voters, Kerry's support has climbed an average of five points since picking Edwards. As for the presidential horse race, the results are varying. Kerry's lead stands anywhere from two to 11 points, according to all these surveys.

The Bush campaign is hitting the airwaves in North Carolina tomorrow with two TV ads. The first time the campaign has advertised in the home state of John Edwards. Bush-Cheney strategists are also replacing the ad featuring John McCain that started airing this week nationwide on cable and in the 18 showdown States. In its place will be this ad, which questions John Kerry's political priorities.

A new TV ad by the Human Rights Campaign Fund is designed to mobilize public opinion against the proposed federal amendment banning gay marriage. The spot is part of what the group says is a multi- million-dollar campaign to defeat the amendment.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Constitution of the United States.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Preserve the Constitution of the United States.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So help me god.



WOODRUFF: The ad started airing here yesterday in Washington with plans to stay on the air through next week's expected Senate vote on that amendment.

Do U.S. senators know anything we don't about a possible terror attack before the election? Up next, I'll discuss the al Qaeda threat and the briefing lawmakers got today with senators Dick Durbin and John Ensign.

Also ahead, would John Kerry fight the war on terror all that differently from President Bush?

And postcards from Florida. We'll get early reaction to the Kerry-Edwards ticket in a famously divided battleground state.

With 117 days until the election, this is INSIDE POLITICS, the place for campaign news.


WOODRUFF: We continue our focus on terror threats and the November elections. I'm joined from Capitol Hill by two members of the Senate who attended an intelligence briefing this morning at the Capitol, Democrat Dick Durbin of Illinois and Republican John Ensign of Nevada.

Senator Durbin, to you, first. What did you learn today that would warrant this information, this announcement that came out from Homeland Secretary Tom Ridge?

SEN. DICK DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS: Judy, I'm on the Senate Intelligence Committee, so many of the other things that the other members heard today we heard before. But it's sobering.

It was a warning by Secretary Ridge and FBI Director Bob Mueller that we fear another al Qaeda attack here in the United States before the election. It was the kind of a warning that brought us all together very early in the morning in a must-attend meeting. So we took it very seriously.

WOODRUFF: Senator Ensign, what -- for the American people who are out there trying to understand just how worried to be, how concerned to be, how to change -- whether to change our habits, what would you say to them about what's different about this information that you were given today?

SEN. JOHN ENSIGN (R), NEVADA: I think what was different is that the amount of intelligence, the amount from the various sources, from overseas, from here, and how credible those sources, the people in Homeland Security Department, the FBI, the CIA, you name it, they're taking this very, very seriously. But, you know, if we really allow it to change our -- our regular routines, I think that the terrorists win.

All we should be doing is be on more alert, especially when there are large events. Look for anything unusual. And if there -- if anybody sees anything unusual, that can prevent a terrorist activity from going on. It's individuals who can -- who, for instance, stop the -- if you remember when the people were trying to get in up in Seattle on the turn of the century, that was ordinary citizens doing their jobs that prevented that from happening.

WOODRUFF: Senator Durbin, there are groups out there, independent Democratic groups, who were saying that -- or suggesting that there's political timing involved here. Senator Kerry just two days ago announced his choice of a running mate in John Edwards. And they're questioning why was this major announcement -- why did it have to come out today?

DURBIN: I don't draw that conclusion. Frankly, I have the greatest respect for Tom Ridge and Bob Mueller. I think they called this meeting and called the press conference because they thought it was a legitimate issue of national security.

I don't think we want al Qaeda to have an impact on our election, if that is their intent. Let the American people decide it. But I'm not going to question the motives of either of those gentlemen. I have the greatest respect for them. WOODRUFF: Senator Ensign, I mean, just to get to the point here, is it your belief that John Kerry would be as tough on these terror questions and the war on terror as President Bush?

ENSIGN: The bottom line, I think that anybody who's going to be commander in chief has to protect the American people. And Senator Kerry, I'm sure, would be very tough on the terrorists. It's a question of how your strategy is going to deal with the global war on terrorism.

I think that President Bush has done a fabulous job leading our country, understands how the world is, where the threats are. And in this long-term global war on terrorism, you have to have the same kind of long-term view that we had with the Cold War.

There's an evil out there in the world that wants to destroy the United States, wants to destroy western values. And you have to have the proper perspective. And I believe that President Bush has that.

WOODRUFF: Senator Durbin, separately, I want to ask you about a report I understand the Senate Intelligence Committee is issuing tomorrow, expected to be highly critical of pre-war intelligence on Iraq. But among other things, we're told it is going to side step any comment or criticism of the Bush administration. What's your understanding of that?

DURBIN: That's exactly right. A decision was made by the chairman of the committee and the Republican majority not to go into the question about the misuse of intelligence by any decision-makers or policymakers in the administration until after the election. So the report tomorrow is important, but it's only half the story.

Reliable intelligence is our first line of defense on the war on terrorism. And that intelligence-gathering and assessment broke down before our invasion of Iraq. And that's very clear from this report.

WOODRUFF: And -- and you're comfortable with that decision, Senator Durbin?

DURBIN: I'm not comfortable at all. I think the report should have been complete. But the decision was made by those in charge that it would not be. We'll have to wait until after the election to tell the other half of the story.

WOODRUFF: And a very quick comment from you, Senator Ensign?

ENSIGN: Well, personally, what the report is about is showing that the intelligence did break down. There was no question that -- that what we thought -- the entire world's intelligence broke down, not just the United States.

And I -- from what I understand -- I haven't seen the report. We're supposed to get it later today -- that that what I hear about the report, though, is that it says that the president received the wrong information. Not that he misused it, but that he received the wrong information. And I don't think that you can put blame on somebody if they get the wrong intelligence, especially when the entire world's intelligence was saying the same thing, including the people who were under the Clinton administration.

WOODRUFF: All right. We're going to have to leave it there, Senator Ensign, Senator Durbin. Thank you both.

We're all going to be looking, of course, for that report when it is released. And more discussion about that tomorrow. But thank you both very much for joining us.

DURBIN: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: We appreciate it.

We're going to have more about the al Qaeda threat and the war on terror in a few minutes. But next, we're switching gears for some pure politics. Stay with us and follow John Kerry and John Edwards to the Sunshine State.


WOODRUFF: The John Kerry and John Edwards road show spanned a steamy night and morning in the showdown state of Florida. John Zarrella reports on how the new ticket is playing in a state where the Democrats are still holding a grudge.


JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN MIAMI BUREAU CHIEF (voice-over): Eight-six- year-old Amadeo "Trinchi" Trinchitella doesn't sugar coat his political feelings. He doesn't like Republicans in the Rose Garden.

AMADEO TRINCHITELLA, POLITICAL ACTIVIST: I'm going to stay alive just to see the bushes get replanted.

ZARRELLA: For decades, Democrats looking for votes in Broward County looked to Trinchitella. The political activist could get them if you could get his blessing. And this old war horse is giving his blessing to John Edwards.

TRINCHITELLA: He's going to be able to get the people out, young people out. And that's going to help us with senators, congressmen and governors.

ZARRELLA: It's early, but so far the Kerry-Edwards ticket is playing well in Florida. There is a sense that Edwards will attract voters who got away four years ago: young people, African-Americans, and conservative Democrats in north Florida. On their first foray into the state as a team, the candidates' first stop, St. Petersburg in Pinellas County, is viewed by both parties as a county critical to winning the state.

KERRY: Thank you, Florida.

ZARRELLA: Political analysts Susan McManus says the Pinellas stop was an immediate challenge to the Republicans. SUSAN MCMANUS, POLITICAL SCIENTIST: Well, the Republican Party of Pinellas County has been identified as a key role model for "get out the votes" grassroots precinct level organization in the state of Florida. And yet it's in their own back yard that the Kerry-Edwards ticket appears.

ZARRELLA: There has been little, if any, salting by Florida Democrats that their favorite son, Senator Bob Graham, was passed over for the vice president's job. People we spoke with felt Edwards was the right choice.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think I would have voted the other way if he would have picked Graham. So I definitely like the Kerry-Edwards -- Kerry-Edwards ticket.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think that Edwards is probably just as good as Graham. I don't really see a big difference.

ZARRELLA: Other political experts say Graham could have delivered two or three additional percentage points to Kerry in Florida. In a close contest, that might have been the difference between winning or losing the state.

(on camera): While the Democrats are enjoying a euphoric frolic through Florida right now, no one doubts that come November it will still be a state too close to call.

John Zarrella, CNN, Miami.


WOODRUFF: We will see about that.

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton says, when it comes to homeland security, she's never been more frustrated than she feels today. Next on INSIDE POLITICS, we'll go to Capitol Hill for a report on what Senator Clinton and other Democrats say is inexcusable.

Later, we'll comb through one of the most improbable issues being raised on the presidential campaign trail.



ANNOUNCER: A new warning on a possible al Qaeda attack to disrupt the presidential election.

RIDGE: We live in serious times. And this is sobering information about those who wish to do us harm.

ANNOUNCER: Do President Bush and Senator Kerry see eye to eye on the war on terror? We'll take a look at a where they stand.

He's No. 1 on the most wanted list. But is the administration trying to put pressure on Pakistan to capture or kill Osama bin Laden before the November election? We'll take a look at a new allegation.

The John Edwards effect.

EDWARDS: Let me tell you what I know. What I know is we're going to win this election and we're going to make America strong at home.

ANNOUNCER: Can John Kerry's running mate make the pair a competitive duo in the South?

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


WOODRUFF: Welcome back.

The renewed warnings about a possible terror attack aimed influencing the presidential election may be hitting political figures especially close to home. Homeland Security chief Tom Ridge said again today that al Qaeda is planning a large-scale attack in the United States. But he offered few details and said he had no specific information about threats to the upcoming political conventions. The information may be sketchy, but Ridge says it is credible.


RIDGE: We are very comfortable with the credibility of the sources themselves. Obviously how credible some of the information is is something that we continue to try to corroborate. But in terms of the sources we have, they are deemed by everyone involved as credible.


WOODRUFF: The Kerry campaign issued a statement saying, quote, "Make no mistake about it. As president, John Kerry will improve security for all Americans and restore our place in the world. Terrorists will not determine the results of this election, the American people will," end quote.

Kerry was on the trail in Florida today with running mate John Edwards. Earlier this week, he was offered a briefing on the al Qaeda threat, but campaign aides say they have not yet been able to arrange it.

Kerry and Edwards may have missed it, but other lawmakers were briefed behind closed doors today by Secretary Tom Ridge. Some Democrats came out fuming, not at the White House, but at their GOP colleagues on the Hill. Here now our congressional correspondent Ed Henry -- Ed.

ED HENRY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Judy. Democratic senators in particular came out of this briefing today with administration officials. It was held in a secure room in the Capitol.

I spoke to Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle who said he's been in a lot of these briefing before, but he considered this one much more elaborate than previous ones, more detailed. He suggested that the threat level, at least privately, was described as being higher.

Not that the public threat is being lifted higher, but that privately officials are describing this as a much more serious situation than we've had in recent months. And that it's something to be very concerned about.

Another Democratic senator told us that the situation was described as, quote, "the most worrisome situation since 9/11."

Now, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, however, came out of that same briefing and was much more cautious. He told everyone to calm down. Here's what he said.


SEN. BILL FRIST (R-TN), MAJORITY LEADER: There's obviously no reason for panic or no reason for paralysis. But the fact that general intelligence, that the country is at some increased risk between now and the time of the presidential elections, it is important for people to be aware of that.


HENRY: Now, Judy, Democrats seized upon this news today about the alerts and about the concerns over the summer leading into the election. democrats claim that the Republicans the Senate have misplaced priorities. They used this to make a political point and say that the Senate right now is tied up in knots over a bill trying to restrict lawsuits.

Also Senate Republicans next week planning to bring up a debate and a vote on a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. Senator Hillary Clinton in particular lashed out at the priorities of the Republican leadership in the Senate. Here's what she said.


SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: We have two weeks left before we are in recess. Do you think al Qaeda's taking a recess?

You know, right now as we speak, in cafes in Europe and in tents in North Africa and in caves in Afghanistan, they are plotting against us. It's not as though they say, oh, OK, everybody's on recess. They're having their political conventions. We'll wait until later.


HENRY: Judy, the bottom line here is that Democrats are claiming that the Republicans should be moving faster to Homeland Security- related legislation such as a spending bill dealing with Homeland Security.

But I just spoke a moment ago to Senator Frist spokesman Bob Stevenson who says he thinks Democrats are -- the quote is, "playing politics with Homeland Security." Bob Stevenson went on to say that all of this should be focused as one nation, not splitting up along party lines. And Republican leadership aides are obviously very frustrated. They think Democrats are playing politics here -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: But no answer, I gather, on why it isn't -- these questions of Homeland Security aren't being taken up any sooner?

HENRY: The Republicans are saying that they have brought up Homeland Security measures before, but they've had to move on to other business. And what Frist aides are saying is that the Democrats have not brought up this legislation before.

Now all of a sudden they're doing it after this briefing. And Republicans smell a rat here. They think that Democrats are playing politics.

WOODRUFF: OK, we're hearing that from both sides. Ed Henry, thank you very much.

Well, amid all the partisan wrangling on the war on terror, many voters are left to wondering what John Kerry would or could do differently from President Bush.


WOODRUFF (voice-over): The war on terror. Hard to fight. Harder still to define.

BUSH: I know that some people question if America is really in a war at all.

WOODRUFF: No ambivalence lens from the president. His two- pronged program, anchored by aggressive military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, and expanded domestic intelligence through the PATRIOT Act.

His opponents, however, see major gaps.

KERRY: John and I know how to fight a war on terror that doesn't create more terrorists, but makes America safer.

WOODRUFF: John Kerry charges the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have spread the military far too thin. And that the key to combating terrorism is to internationalize the effort.

KERRY: The key to the war on terror is the thing these guys are worst at. It's called cooperating with other countries and with the rest of the world.

WOODRUFF: Kerry says the administration is also neglecting domestic security concerns by underfunding first responders and failing to protect the ports and other potential targets. It's a theme the Democrat hammers on the trail, and on the airwaves.

KERRY: We have to strengthen our homeland security, protect our trains and our ports. We shouldn't be opening fire houses in Baghdad and closing them down in our own communities.

WOODRUFF: The president and his allies counter that Kerry sees the effort as an exercise in law enforcement and not an all-out war.

AD ANNOUNCER: Kerry's focus? Global crime, not terrorism. How can John Kerry win a war if he doesn't know the enemy?

WOODRUFF: Bush dismissed his rival's approach as small solutions to giant problems.

BUSH: It is not enough to serve our enemies with legal papers.

WOODRUFF: And so far, most Americans support the president's handling of terrorism. And a wide majority feel he is better able than Kerry to continue the fight.


WOODRUFF: And now, another campaign angle to the war on terror. "The New Republic" magazine reports the Bush administration has been putting new pressure on Pakistan to kill or capture Osama bin Laden and other top al Qaeda fugitives before election day here at home.

I spoke just a short time ago with one of the authors of that report, John Judis. I asked him what exactly was said or done to make that pressure. In their words, unseemly.


JOHN JUDIS, "THE NEW REPUBLIC": There's nothing unseemly about the pressure in itself. It's even laudable. But what we found was that Pakistani officials were hearing from the Bush administration, that they had to find these high-value targets by the November election.

So it seemed to us that foreign policy was being politicized, that our efforts were being dictated by the electoral calendar and not by what should be our foreign policy in that part of the world.

WOODRUFF: You also say that the Bush administration matched this pressure with, quote, "enticements and implicit threats." Can you be more specific?

JUDIS: The enticements were that Colin Powell arrived in Islamabad last spring, and gave Pakistan a new status as a non-NATO ally which will allow Pakistan to receive military equipment from the United States that it hasn't gotten before.

But Powell did not give Pakistan what it wants most, which are F- 16 fighter jets that will equalize the balance of power with India. What people in Pakistan, officials fear is that if they don't deliver these high-value targets, then the Bush administration will turn on them. First by not giving them the F-16s, and secondly, by going after them for the nuclear proliferation, which we know about in the last winter.

WOODRUFF: So you're saying secretary of state Colin Powell, CIA Director George Tenet, among others, are part of this political...

JUDIS: They were all part of the pressure.

WOODRUFF: Are you...

JUDIS: What we -- what we're saying is that that pressure was accompanied by specific messages to people in Pakistan. In particular, the intelligence services, that this deed had to be accomplished by a certain time namely, November.

In addition to that, we have one source that said to us that they were given a specific time, the last weeks in July. And it was said that it would be preferable if the Pakistanis could announce their discovery on July 26, 27 and 28. Now, what are those dates. Those are the first three days of the Democratic convention.

WOODRUFF: Why wouldn't this pressure, though, John Judis, be entirely appropriate? Today you have Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge saying the administration has ongoing reason to believe al Qaeda is in the operational phase of disrupting the elections. Why wouldn't they want to go after top al Qaeda leaders?

JUDIS: Look at it this way. We've always wanted to go after them. But why did it take until this year for us suddenly to exert the pressure. What concerns us is that the pressure itself seemed to be dictated by the electoral calendar. We had not made demands on the Pakistanis to go into these fierce tribal areas before. We're doing that this year. The question is, why? Is it entirely because of strategic reasons, or is there an electoral reason as well?


WOODRUFF: John Judis, one of the authors of that piece in the "New Republic."

In just a minute, we're going to get Bush administration reaction to that charge.

Stay with us for more on the political calendar and the hunt for the world's most wanted terrorists.

Also ahead, Donna Brazile and Bay Buchanan get their first chance to take issue on John Kerry's choice of a running mate.


WOODRUFF: We just heard John Judis of the "New Republic" explain and defend his report that the Bush administration is pressuring Pakistan to capture or kill top al Qaeda leaders before the November election.

With me now from the White House to give us the administration's response to the article is Sean McCormack. He is the spokesman for the National Security Council. Sean McCormack, what about this broader charge here that this year, election year, you all are putting the sort of pressure on the Pakistanis you had not done before?

SEAN MCCORMACK, NATL. SECURITY COUNCIL SPOKESMAN: Judy, I just have found no evidence to corroborate these assertions. Certainly 24/7, seven days a week, 365 days a year since September 11, we've been pressuring allies all around the world, working with them as well to get terrorists off the streets. But for this assertion that somehow there are new dates associated or new types of pressure put on Pakistan concerning the elections and the timetable for turning over high-value targets, just can't find any evidence to support that assertion.

WOODRUFF: What about his statement that this year -- he said, what we're seeing this year is the sort of pressure on the Pakistanis to go into these very difficult tribal areas in the mountains along the Afghan border. The kind of pressure to do that, that they weren't getting in 2002 and 2003.

MCCORMACK: Well, Judy, I think we, first of all, have to go back to 2001, when Colin Powell and Rich Armitage sat down with President Musharraf and the Pakistani leaders and said, look, you have to make a choice in this war against terrorism, you're either with us or you're against us.

They made a choice to be with us. And we have worked with the Pakistani government. And frankly, having them do some hard things. And part of that has been going into these territories that really have not been under the control of any Pakistani government for 100 years. So what we have done and what we have achieved with the Pakistani government in working with them is to have them do these difficult things, and really to do unprecedented things in this war against terrorism.

WOODRUFF: What about the notion that the Pakistanis telling these reporters that their feeling is if they don't come up with these al Qaeda leaders, they might not get those F-16 fighter jets and they might face greater scrutiny of their nuclear program?

MCCORMACK: Well, Judy, we now have a broad and deep relationship with Pakistan in fighting the war against terrorism. This is not about quid pro quo, trading one thing for another. The Pakistanis understand that they have a stake in fighting and winning the war against terrorism. Al Qaeda is a threat to them. President Musharraf had two attempts on his life recently. So they understand that this is a threat to them. It's a threat to us. And it's a threat to the world. And they are good partners in the war against terrorism.

WOODRUFF: One other thing I asked John Judis. I asked him about how, you know, how did he know his sources were credible. And he came back and said, "we checked these sources." He said, for example, if they said the leader of the ISI, the intelligence sources in Washington and heard certain things. He said, we tried to find it independently if such a meeting had taken place. And he said in every instance, these things had happened. MCCORMACK: Judy, these decisions about what to print and what sources to believe, these are generalistic decisions that are, frankly, up to the journalists and the editors. They're going to have to stand by their judgments. I've done my homework on this. I can't find any facts that would support these assertions.

WOODRUFF: OK. Well, we do appreciate your talking to us. Sean McCormack is the spokesman for the National Security Council. Thank you very much, Sean. We appreciate it.

MCCORMACK: Thank you, Judy.

WOODRUFF: Good to see you again.

MCCORMACK: Good to see you.

WOODRUFF: Donna Brazile and Bay Buchanan are standing by to take issue on what's being done to counter al Qaeda's plotting.

It's also their first chance to weigh in on the new Kerry-Edwards ticket. Stay with us.


WOODRUFF: With us now, former Gore campaign manager, Donna Brazile and Bay Buchanan, president of American Cause. Great to see you both.


WOODRUFF: All right, Donna, no sooner that did John Kerry roll out his choice of John Edwards than the Republican campaign came right after them. President Bush suggests John Edwards couldn't be president. He said Dick Cheney could be president, suggestion being Edwards can't.

DONNA BRAZILE, FRM. GORE CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Well Dick Cheney has been president. I'm sure that's why he said it.

But the truth is that John Edwards has incredible experience, not only in the United States Senate, but as a real life person who understands the complex problems that face the middle class in this country.

If experience, Bay, is balancing the budget, then we need a new leader in the White House. If experience, of course, is running up out federal budget deficit, we need a new leader. So I think John Edwards' experience in the Congress has been a good experience. It's going to be great for the ticket, great for the country.

BAY BUCHANAN, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN CAUSE: You know, it's John Kerry himself that indicated that John Edwards did not have the experience. He has no experience in the military, no experience in the foreign policy. Those are his words.

But that being put aside, if indeed this issue is that the Kerry campaign really needs to energize its own base. And so they're bringing aboard somebody with that energy who can reach out to those people, the youth and the workers of the Democratic Party and get them excited, it's a good move.

But the sad thing is that Kerry himself cannot do that. And when you have the top of the ticket unable to energize this base who is absolutely flatlined they have a real problem.

BRAZILE: I also think that Edwards can appeal to more than a base in the Democratic Party. Edwards can appeal to the independents and swing voters and perhaps those Republicans who are looking for a base now that they are losing, you know, touch with the Bush campaign.

But, look, I think, Bay, in terms of experience, this is a very experienced ticket, this is a very strong ticket, dynamic ticket. And it's a successful ticket. That's why the Republicans are going out of their way to badger it.

BUCHANAN: Donna, you cannot make a case that John Edwards is experienced. It's just not the case at all.

BRAZILE: I'm going to make that case, Bay.

BUCHANAN: It the war on terrorism becomes the dominant issue, which it appears it's going to be, then the president already is -- overwhelmingly has the strength as a commander in chief. The people feel he's much stronger, much more qualified than Kerry.

And the on the second person on that ticket has no experience whatsoever or interest in foreign policy.


BRAZILE: He's been on the committee investigating September 11. This is a guy who probably knows more foreign leaders by name than the current president of the United States.

WOODRUFF: All right. Aside from that, the Bush campaign is rolling out a new ad -- and let me just read part of what they are saying in this ad -- "Kerry found time to vote against the Laci Peterson law that protects pregnant women from violence. Kerry has his priorities. Are they yours?"

I mean is this a line of attack that...

BUCHANAN: There's no question on -- there's a number of social issues which will clearly expose the Kerry-Edwards ticket as as liberal as it is.

When you hit the social issues, they're both for -- they don't agree with the -- they support partial birth. That's something Donna even has trouble with, for heaven's sake. These are issues -- federal marriage amendment. Both of them support gay marriage. These are issues that will resonate with the voters.

BUCHANAN: How does Kerry combat that? BRAZILE: Well, first of all, the Republican Party is out of touch with its own values and mainstream American values.

John Kerry has made it very clear what he stands for in terms of the social value issues that, by the way, most Americans will no not pay attention to. I know, Bay, in some communities, gay marriage, affirmative action, all of those wedge issues will come into play.

But on mainstream, mainline issues that the American people care about, jobs, economy, health care, Kerry is well positioned in the polls, well positioned to defend his record. And well positioned, I believe, to make a go out there and credible challenge against this president.

That's what the polls show. And that's...

BUCHANAN: You know, well, I disagree with you on what the polls show. But clearly, the war and the economy are key issues. But when you take those social issues and you put those other two so far into left wing of the Democratic Party, what you do is you energize the Republican...


BUCHANAN: ... they come out -- they are not mainstream. Come on.


BRAZILE: I can say it with a straight face, I am more liberal than John Kerry.

BUCHANAN: There's not one issue that John Kerry is not on the far left side.


BRAZILE: He's on the mainstream.

BUCHANAN: There's nothing mainstream about...

BRAZILE: When you talk about extending unemployment benefits for jobless workers, that's mainstream.


BRAZILE: I'm for extending unemployment. I'm for everybody getting a job as well.

WOODRUFF: We're going to let you continue this. But we're going to have to go to a break.

BRAZILE: All right. Thank you.

WOODRUFF: But we always wanted to have you every Thursday on INSIDE POLITICS. Keep it up. We appreciate it. Straight ahead, a political hair update you don't want to miss. Presidential candidates appear to be learning what super models have always known, the right hairstyle can make all the difference.


WOODRUFF: Well, the political hair wars continue.

As we reported John Kerry declared yesterday that not only to he and John Edwards have the right ideas, they also have, quote, "better hair."

A Bush campaign spokesman disputed that claim as we reported. And we learned later that Teresa Heinz Kerry told her husband, quote, "You just lost the bald vote."

President Bush appears though to have public opinion on his side. A recent poll commissioned by the makers of Wall Clippers found that when asked who has the best hair, 51 percent said Bush, 30 percent said Kerry.

There you have it. That's it for INSIDE POLITICS. I'm Judy Woodruff. Thanks for joining us. But before we go, we would like to congratulate our senior political correspondent Candy Crowley. We found out she has been nominated for an Emmy awards for her work on the "CNN PRESENTS" report "Fit to Kill." We congratulate you, Candy.

"CROSSFIRE" starts right now.


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