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JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS

Kerry-Edwards Push Values; Congress Begins to Debate Gay Marriage Amendment; Senate Report Blames CIA for Iraq Intel. Goofs

Aired July 9, 2004 - 15:23   ET

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


JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: We are waiting to hear from President Bush. He is scheduled to begin speaking -- in fact, we think he's already started speaking in Lancaster. There he is, Lancaster, Pennsylvania. We're going to go there live.
And let's listen to the president.

(INTERRUPTED BY LIVE EVENT)

WOODRUFF: President Bush talking to supporters at a small business in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, in southeast Pennsylvania. Touting his tax cuts, touting his support for tort reform.

And you just heard in the last few minutes, arguing that his approach to the war on terror is the right approach. Talking about how difficult the war has gone, has been going in Iraq, but his belief that his approach is the right one.

So, President Bush on the campaign trail in Iraq -- in Pennsylvania. His 30th visit to that state since he became president, a state he lost narrowly to Al Gore in 2000.

But now for a look at the Democratic ticket, and what it's been up to, Senator John Kerry and John Edwards. Joining us our senior political correspondent Candy Crowley. So how are the Democrats up to today, Candy?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well Kerry- Edwards still attached at the hip since the announcement on Tuesday. Today in New York in the morning, West Virginia, on to New Mexico.

What's interesting here is that we saw, Judy, over the course of the last couple of months, John Kerry, because of current events as well as because of polls, take George Bush on what we thought was his strongest point, and that is leadership of the war.

Now we also see, with John Edwards at his side, this continuing assault on cultural values. This is now a ticket that's going to take -- look at the Republicans and say, hey, we're not the only ones that have values in the Republican Party. We have them, too. They continued along this theme today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Values are not just something you throw out in politics and you say, I've got better values than this person.

Values are something you live in the choices of your budget, in the people that you choose to help, in the things that you do and your energy to lift America and take it to a better place. Values are what you do in everyday American politics.

SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC), VICE-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Values is not part of a political slogan. Values are what's inside you, what you believe in, what you fight for, what you care about, what you've shown through your life experience.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: Now, this is sending Bush supporters up the wall. Primarily because last night the John Kerry-John Edwards ticket was at a big fund raiser in New York City at Radio Hall, filled with celebrities, where off-colored jokes were told.

And the president really got a beating. One of the things that was said by Chevy Chase, an actor, "Clinton plays the sax, John plays the guitar and the president's a liar." Also at that same event, John Mellencamp, a singer who called President Bush, quote, "just another cheap thug that sacrifices our young."

So pretty rough stuff, Judy, at that Radio City Music Hall event. The Republicans say, wait a second, wait a second. All this talk about values. And John Kerry gets up at the end of this Radio City Music Hall fund raiser and says you all really represent the values of America.

So taking great exception, the Republicans, to this, saying this sort of off-color -- there was some off-color jokes from some of the comedians at Bush's expense. So the Republicans sort of stirring this pot at the moment, saying, well, you can't talk in the daytime in West Virginia and New York and New Mexico about cultural values and not have said a word about what went on last night.

WOODRUFF: And then holding them accountable in essence for what these entertainers are saying in their presence.

CROWLEY: Right. Exactly. And pointing out that Howard Dean -- I know you'll remember also in New York, had a fund raiser where there were some comedians telling some pretty raunchy jokes. And he said, look, we can't have this sort of thing.

WOODRUFF: All right, one other thing I wanted to ask you about, Candy, new ads the Kerry camp is rolling out. What about that?

CROWLEY: Spanish language ads rolling out Monday. We're told it is a very big buy for that demographic. And that it may in fact be an historic buy in Spanish language ads.

So obviously, you know, it tells us what we already know. The Latino community, the Latino votes very big this year. Both parties fighting very hard for those votes.

WOODRUFF: All right. Candy Crowley, thanks very much.

Well meantime, members of the United States Senate have spent this day are sparring over the issue of same-sex marriage. Congressional correspondent Joe Johns has been listening to the debate. Hello, Joe.

JOE JOHNS, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Judy. It's a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. A lot of people never thought this amendment would actually reach the Senate floor during an election year, but it has.

It's the kind of amendment that appeals to conservative voters because it talks about, again, the word values. Also preserving traditions. But of course, it's also about politics.

That's because, No. 1, a court in Massachusetts has in fact ruled in favor of gay marriage recently. Also because the Democratic National Convention is in Boston this year. And most importantly, because John Kerry, of course, is from Massachusetts.

Still, this is not a slam dunk for the people who support the amendment. And essentially, what they're trying to do is be very careful to push their position at the same time not sound intolerant. Let's listen to Senator Gordon Smith.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. GORDON SMITH (R), OREGON: Let me express to my gay and lesbian friends, I don't mean to disappoint you. But I can't be true to you if I'm false to my basic beliefs. And I believe that marriage, as we have known and practiced it in this country, for hundreds of years now, is something that should be preserved.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JOHNS: Now, Democrats, of course, are questioning the timing of the debate not only because of the Democratic National Convention, which is coming up, but also because they say the United States Senate this time has better things to do. Particularly because there's not a strong chance that the amendment's going to get the two-thirds majority in order to move on.

Let's listen to Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D), VERMONT: That's a shame, and a sham. When we should be considering measures to strengthen the homeland security, Republican partisans are focusing on devising wedge issues for partisan issues. Well, that's wrong.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JOHNS: Again, this is not a slam dunk, this amendment. Of course, the strong suggestion is if it were a slam dunk for the conservatives, they would have brought it up a little closer to the election. Judy, back to you.

WOODRUFF: OK. Joe Johns reporting from the Senate. Thank you.

INSIDE POLITICS will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: There is more evidence to suggest that John Kerry gained at least a bit of a bounce from his selection of John Edwards as his running mate. A "TIME" magazine poll released this hour shows Kerry now leading Bush by four points among likely voters in a head- to-head matchup.

Kerry leads by two points in a three-way race that includes Ralph Nader.

Here is a more eye-popping number indicating Edwards may be an asset for Kerry. When registered voters were asked who would make a better president, 47 percent said Edwards compared to 38 percent for Vice President Dick Cheney.

Kerry and Edwards continuing the debut tour of their ticket with stops today in New York, West Virginia and New Mexico. Along the way they've been questioning whether President Bush is paying lip service to the importance of values.

As you saw live on CNN a short time ago, the president is stumping in Pennsylvania talking up the economy and tax cuts. At his next stop, he is expected to revisit the values issue.

Let's get two campaign insiders' takes now on what's happening out on the trail and behind the scenes. We're joined by Bush campaign spokesman Terry Holt and Kerry campaign senior adviser Michael Meehan.

Terry Holt, quickly to you first, what about that what we call eye-popping poll showing more Americans think John Edwards would make a better president than Dick Cheney?

TERRY HOLT, BUSH CAMPAIGN SPOKESMAN: Well, Kerry and Edwards are having their honeymoon right now. I think it's to be expected that with all the rosy and positive press they've had over the last few days, that people would have that initial impression. But ultimately when it gets down to it, we need somebody that could be the president of the United States, not just show up well in a poll.

And ultimately, with Kerry and Edwards being so far out of the mainstream, with really not having the credentials or the tough experience that President Bush and Vice President Cheney have had over the last couple of years, that they're not really prepared to take on the national security and terror threat. In fact, both of these guys have exaggerated the terror threat. They've said it's exaggerated over time. They didn't support the troops in the field. Those are the things that qualify one to be vice president.

WOODRUFF: What about that, Michael Meehan? I mean, the fact that Senators Kerry and Edwards are just not as qualified as President Bush and especially Vice President Cheney on these questions of fighting the war on terror.

MICHAEL MEEHAN, KERRY CAMPAIGN SR. ADVISER: John Kerry is a combat veteran. He's got 30 years experience as a prosecutor. He's got 20 years on the foreign relations committee. By far he and John Edwards will walk in with more foreign policy intelligence experience than George Bush did on his first day on the job three and a half years ago.

So that's just a political answer. John Edwards is ready to be president on opening day. He has himself in his time in the Senate, whether inside of government or outside of government, has been fighting for middle class families all along and the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) poll shows the American people are seeing what John Kerry saw when he put him on the ticket that he's ready to be president.

HOLT: And as John Kerry said, he's got hair.

WOODRUFF: Terry...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Unbelievable.

WOODRUFF: A question about this Senate intelligence committee report saying the administration went to war in Iraq based on flawed and some false information, false analysis. The Kerry campaign is now saying nothing in this report absolves the White House of its responsibility. It says it's disturbing the White House continues to blame intelligence failures on the intelligence community and yet takes no responsibility for its own failings.

HOLT: Well, I think people are going to see the inherent contradiction in John Kerry's position of, been right there with the president, and supported going to war in Iraq. And then when it came down to supporting the troops that were in Iraq, voting against the funding to give them their flack jackets and their bullets and their health care.

So I mean, you can criticize in the aftermath, but ultimately John Kerry was with the entire world, the United Nations in a 15-0 vote, said that Saddam Hussein is a threat. And let's remember, he gassed his own people. He assassinated his political allies. He attacked his friends. And he funded terrorists. Now, the question is, are you going to let the terrorists come to us, or are we going to go after gathering threats? Saddam Hussein was a gathering threat. And John Kerry agreed with that at the time.

WOODRUFF: Michael Meehan, a quick answer and then I want to move on to one another thing.

MEEHAN: The administration took us to war because it said there were weapons of mass destruction. We now know from the 9/11 commission that there isn't a linkage between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein. We now know from this intelligence report that the same thing is true. The White House is the one that moved false information along and led us -- misled us into this war. And now we're bearing 90 percent of the cost both in human lives and in dollars. And we disagree with that. WOODRUFF: Michael Meehan, one other thing. The Bush-Cheney campaign is today coming after John Kerry and John Edwards for this big gala in New York City last night with a lot of star entertainment, stars. And in fact, they are calling it a star-studded hate fest. And they're challenging the campaign to release the video. Because they're saying, how can John Kerry and John Edwards embrace the values of these entertainers at the same time they say they represent the mainstream of America.

MEEHAN: Well, John Kerry and John Edwards didn't swear on the floor of the United States Senate to a member of the...

WOODRUFF: Looks like we may have lost Michael Meehan. Do we still have Terry Holt with us.

HOLT: I'm here, Judy.

WOODRUFF: OK. Well, you're going to get a chance to respond, even though he didn't get a chance to answer. I think you can anticipate what his answer would be.

HOLT: I think we need Michael here to respond to this, frankly. Because to embrace the values of the liberal cultural elite at that hate event last night, and then go to West Virginia and say that they share the values of West Virginians is just dishonest. It's flat dishonest. And I think Michael should be on to say, why won't they release the tape of that. All those stars, you would think that they would get pretty good ratings. You should release that tape and let us see what was said at that event last night.

WOODRUFF: So every political candidate should be responsible for whatever an entertainer says?

HOLT: But you know, ultimately, maybe not that people say a lot of different things. But this has been a pattern of hate in the Democratic party. The faces of John Kerry's Democratic party include people that have compared the president to Hitler. That have said some of the things that don't inform the public and that degrade the office of the president.

WOODRUFF: We're going to have to leave it there with a solo Terry Holt. Thank you very much, Terry, for being with us. And our thanks, too, to Michael Meehan. We apologize about losing the signal. Thank you both.

And now checking the headlines in our Friday "Campaign News Daily." Three new polls find John Kerry leading President Bush in two showdown states. Out west in New Mexico, the American Research Group gives Kerry an eight-point lead among likely voters. In Michigan, the results are the same. Kerry has 51 percent, Bush 43 percent.

Another Michigan poll, this one by the Epic MRA group finds the race is slightly tighter. In this survey, Kerry has 48 percent, Bush 45 percent.

Former Democratic hopeful Howard Dean who now backs John Kerry squared off in a debate this afternoon with Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader. The event was sponsored by National Public Radio. The discussion covered ballot access in the role of third parties as well as Nader's role in the current campaign.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RALPH NADER (I), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: In a desperate attempt to smear our campaign, which is struggling to get on the ballot against the massive anti-civil liberties obstruction of the Democratic party, which is the one that's really interfering with our campaign. Not the press releases by Democrats -- or Republicans who haven't produced any results.

HOWARD DEAN (D), FMR. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That is also more disingenuous nonsense. The truth is that you told the people of this country that you would were going to use volunteer help to get on the ballot in Arizona. You hired out that help and that's why they made so many mistakes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: Ralph Nader also said he's running because Americans shouldn't have to, quote, "settle for the lesser of two evils."

Howard Dean countered by saying that John Kerry is the best hope for people who support progressive politics. Sounds like a lively debate.

Still ahead, who's to blame for the war in Iraq? Calling it a global intelligence failure, a Senate intelligence committee releases its findings on what the U.S. knew before the invasion of Iraq.

More just ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: The Senate Intelligence Committee released its report on pre-Iraq war intelligence failures. CNN's Sean Callebs has more on the findings in the report and reaction to its conclusions.

Hi, Sean.

SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Indeed, Judy, the committee was in step with its conclusion, that the U.S.-led intelligence leading up to the invasion can be characterized as horribly flawed, saying it was based on unreasonable information that is largely unsupported.

Among the key assertions from the Bush administration leading up to the war, that Saddam Hussein had chemical and biological weapons, and if left unchecked, he would soon have nuclear weapons.

Now, earlier today, the committee said, we know now that information simply isn't true.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. PAT ROBERTS (R-KS), INTELLIGENCE CMTE. CHMN.: Debate over many aspects of the U.S. liberation of Iraq will likely continue for decades. But one fact is now clear. Before the war, the U.S. intelligence community told the president, as well as the Congress, and the public that Saddam Hussein had stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons, and if left unchecked, would probably have a nuclear weapon during this decade. Well, today we know these assessments were wrong.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CALLEBS: The committee supported the findings and conclusions of this 500-plus page report unanimously. But to characterize both parties as being completely in step would be wrong. Democrats and Republicans differ on the role that political pressure played in the development and dissemination of the intelligence.

The vice chairman of the committee, Senator Rockefeller, says there's no question that the mistakes leading up to the war in Iraq rank among the most devastating losses and intelligence failures in the history of the United States.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JAY ROCKEFELLER (D-WV), INTELLIGENCE CMTE. VICE CHMN.: Leading up to September 11, our government didn't connect the dots. In Iraq, we are even more culpable because the dots themselves never existed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CALLEBS: When asked point blank if Congress would support the invasion of Iraq today with the information it has, committee chair Pat Roberts said, I don't know.

Chairman Roberts was highly critical of the U.S. intelligence gathering, what we called most alarming, but after the United Nations left Iraq in 1998, there were no human intelligence sources working in Iraq. The deputy director of the CIA is questioning the committee characterization.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If it's intended to convey a timidity on the part of our officers in terms of working in dangerous environments, I would just reject that totally out of hand. I mean, we put stars on the wall out here this year. We put stars on the wall out here this year.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CALLEBS: The stars on the wall at the CIA are there to memorialize agents who died in the line of duty. And while the report was simply scathing, it did not focus entirely on U.S. shortcomings. It also blames the United Nations and other countries as well, saying this is a "global intelligence failure." Rockefeller, however, said the credibility of the U.S. is diminished, that the United States' standing in the world has never been lower. And as a result of our actions, there's a deep hatred of Americans in the Muslim world that will only grow -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Sean Callebs, thanks very much.

And Sean, we would just quickly note that President Bush, in remarks in Pennsylvania just a few moments ago, said that Americans -- he said, we thought there were stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction. He said, we haven't found them yet. But he went on to say, we know Saddam Hussein had the intention and the capability to make weapons of mass destruction.

Well, it is Friday. And it's Bill Schneider's day to feel unusually out of the loop. Still ahead, you can find out why when Bill reveals the "Political Play of the Week."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Bill Schneider likes to keep his pick for the "Political Play of the Week" a secret until the last possible second. This week he has company. Here's Bill.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: That's right. When it comes to keeping secrets, the Bush White House runs a tight ship. Remember that surprise visit to Baghdad last Thanksgiving? But this week, the Kerry campaign shows it knows how to compete on that front, well enough to score the "Political Play of the Week."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): John Kerry's choice of John Edwards as his running mate was no big surprise. The only surprise was that Kerry kept his decision such a surprise. Four years ago when Kerry was on Al Gore's short list, he found the process far too public. He was determined to handle it differently.

STEPHANIE CUTTER, KERRY COMMUNICATIONS DIR.: He's doing a very respectful, thorough process. He's honoring the privacy of everybody involved.

SCHNEIDER: The press wasn't quite so standoffish.

GOV. TOM VILSACK (D), IOWA: Talking about the vice presidential job. You'll have to ask him those questions. I'm not going to answer any questions about that.

SCHNEIDER: One network reported that Kerry had held a secret meeting with the top prospect at former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's home in Washington Thursday night.

Dick Gephardt was known to be in Washington that night. Then came more reporting.

DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Although John Edwards was on vacation in Walt Disney World, he did come up to Washington.

SCHNEIDER: Senator Kerry?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In fact, the report that you had met with Madeleine -- at Madeleine Albright's home with John Edwards are true. Is he now leading in -- on your short list?

KERRY: I have no comments at all on the public process. I don't know how people are reporting some of the things they are.

SCHNEIDER: So who the story? This guy, Bryan Smith, an airline mechanic who happened to be walking through the hangar at Pittsburgh airport Monday night and saw new logos being applied to Kerry's campaign plane. Smith went home and posted this message on an aviation Web site.

VOICE OF BRYAN SMITH, AIRPORT EMPLOYEE: John Kerry's 757 is was in Hangar 4 pit tonight. John Edwards V.P. decals were being put on engine cowlings and upper fuselage.

SCHNEIDER: That was nearly 12 hours before Kerry made his announcement. All he would say Monday was...

KERRY: At 9:00 tomorrow we're going to have some fun.

SCHNEIDER: A secret operation handled with care and respect, very presidential, and worthy of the "Political Play of the Week."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER: The Bush campaign came out with ads claiming that Kerry's first choice, John McCain, was supporting President Bush. But you know, that was no surprise. We reported those ads days earlier.

(LAUGHTER)

WOODRUFF: All right. Bill Schneider, thanks very much, have a good weekend.

That's it for today's INSIDE POLITICS. Coming up next, "CROSSFIRE."

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