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Democratic National Convention: Democrats Await John Kerry's Nomination Speech

Aired July 29, 2004 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Welcome to a shortened edition of LARRY KING LIVE.
We're going to go to the podium in about 20 minutes to give you all the preintroductions of the Democratic nominee and then his acceptance speech. In this 20 minutes we'll be talking with Bob Dole, our CNN contributor, former Republican presidential candidate.

And former Senate majority leader, with George Mitchell, CNN contributor, former Senate majority leader himself, and an international peace negotiator.

In Washington is Bob Woodward, reporter and editor of "The Washington Post," Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, the number one "New York Times" best-selling author, author of "Plan of Attack."

And the 19 -- 2000 vice presidential nominee of the Democratic Party, Senator Joseph Lieberman is with us here in Boston. Oops, I was going to buffalo. It's been a long week.

Bob Dole, we'll start with you. Senator Schumer of New York just passed me before we came on and said, this is the biggest night of this election for John Kerry. It will decide many things.

Do you agree?

BOB DOLE, (R) FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, we always say that. I mean every time it's the most important speech of your life and all these cliches, and I guess it is. It's a very important night for John Kerry to get back on the right side. I guess he's going to say that he supports everything that's happened in Iraq and he's going to be strong and he defended America before, he'll defend America again if it's under attack. So, yes, it's important. But I think the debates are also important. And what happens in the next 96 days.

KING: Joe Lieberman?

SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN (D), CONN.: Larry, obviously this is an important night for John Kerry. It's been a very good convention. Very united. A good message about security and values. But I agree with Bob Dole. I think more important nights for John Kerry are going to be the debates. When the American people are going to see President Bush, Senator Kerry toe-to-toe and make a judgment about these two people, and who they want to take us forward. I think that's when Kerry proves that he's ready to be president.

KING: Bob Woodward, what's the effect of tonight on the independent or that voter who hasn't made up his mind?

BOB WOODWARD, "WASHINGTON POST": Well, those who were watching or will hear about it may want -- I think there's something a little different going on tonight. It goes back to one of my favorite convention stories in the '50s, when the correspondents had to fill time, because there was gavel-to-gavel coverage, and one of the correspondents went around, and they would dig anyone out of the audience. And they found Conrad Hilton, the founder of the Hilton Hotel Chain. Very elderly at that point and they said what do you want to say to 5 million people?

And Conrad Hilton said, he seemed a little disoriented, and they said you can say anything you want. And so Hilton looked the camera in the eye and said, next time you're in a hotel, any hotel, my hotels, any hotel, and you're thinking of taking a shower, make sure the shower curtain is in the bathtub. And he was saying exactly what was on his mind. And in many ways, John Kerry has to give a shower curtain speech. He has to get up there and say, this is really what's on my mind.

DOLE: The trouble with that is what's on Kerry's mind today, may not be on Kerry's mind tomorrow. With Hilton it was always...

WOODWARD: But it's a sense, a feel you have to give, create a sense of intimacy with the audience, that this is what I really care about. And the reason people -- the reason that's important is, is everyone has said this is a programmed convention. There is a sense, I think, anyone has that, you know, well what's really going on behind the scenes?

And if Kerry can lead people with that sense that he's given a shower curtain speech, this is what I really care about. This is what's on my mind, you travel a long distance to engaging that persuadable voter.

KING: Very well put. George Mitchell, jump in.

GEORGE MITCHELL, FORMER SENATOR: The president's well known and well defined, a little less than half the people like him. A little less than half don't like him. The well undecideds, they're uncertain about him. What they need to know is that Senator Kerry is a credible alternative. I think that's his great challenge tonight. To be positive and personal. Let people know who he is as a human being. What he believes and stands for. And in that way, establish himself as a credible alternative. I think he will do that. I think the independents will vote for him.

KING: Senator Lieberman, we've read advance of the speech. And let me give you and quote and you can comment. "As president I will ask hard questions and demand hard evidence. I will immediately reform the intelligence system so policy is guided by fact and facts are never distorted by politics. And as president, I will bring back this nation's time-honored tradition. The United States of America will never go to war because we want to, only because we have to."

What's your reaction to that statement? LIEBERMAN: Strong statement. He's saying what he believes.

KING: You agree with it?

LIEBERMAN: I don't agree with the last -- I certainly agree with the principle. We have a specific disagreement about the war in Iraq. I think we had to go to war. I don't think we went to war casually. And I've thought this since John McCain and I put in legislation in '98 making it the law of the land that we change the regime in Baghdad. And I think we're safer as a result of having done it.

KING: And Kerry's implying then that he would not have gone isn't he?

LIEBERMAN: Well, he's certainly saying saying -- you know you better ask him the next time he comes on.

KING: I will.

LIEBERMAN: But I think the first part is very important. Tonight I'm flying back to Washington. Tomorrow the Government Affairs Committee, Senator Collins and I begin hearings on the 9/11 Commission report. I'm glad that John Kerry has taken a leadership role in supporting the recommendations of that report. That's a good sign for the kind of president he will be.

KING: Senator Dole, he also says we need to make America once again a beacon in the world.

We need to be looked up to, and not just feared.

You have a comment?

DOLE: Well, I don't think anybody with quarrel with that statement. I think we are looked up to by most people in the world. We've had our differences with some of the leaders in the world. We've got 30 nations supporting us. But, you know, I want John Kerry and I to tell the American people, you know, I've been on this side and I've been on that side, but tonight and forever more...

KING: Bob, we're watching..,

DOLE: I'm going to be on your side.

KING: I'll get right back to you, but we're watching the Kerry motorcade come into the Fleet Center in his hometown of Boston.

Bob, I'm sorry, go ahead.

DOLE: No, that's fine. I was just saying tonight's a real opportunity for Kerry to say I've been on both sides of most of the issues, but tonight I want to tell you where I really stand.

KING: You won't get off that. All week you won't get off that.

LIEBERMAN: I will not, therefore, be surprised that he phrases it exactly that way.

DOLE: I think he's going to do that Joe. One thing we're lucky, we have Joe Lieberman in the Senate through these hearings. He was my favorite in the Democratic primaries. He's a great guy. And Joe, you do a great job for the country, not just for the party. For the country.

LIEBERMAN: Thank you. You know, Larry, we're members of a club together, Bob Dole and I. He called me the day after the election was decided in 2000, said, Joe, welcome to a very exclusive club, people who have lost national elections. And Dole says I'm the leader of the club because I've lost more than anybody else.

MITCHELL: Larry, it is beyond dispute that the United States is held in the lowest esteem around the world at any time in the past 50 years. It's true among former allies, former adversaries, and Senator Kerry, I think, will go a long way toward restoring the traditional good relationship. The North Atlantic Alliance is arguably the most successful political alliance in human history, certainly in recent years. It's been breached and we have to restore it because we benefit from it. Kerry will do that.

KING: We'll be back with some more with our guests as we lead up to the acceptance speech. Carole King is currently singing and we'll listen to her as we go to break. We'll be right back on LARRY KING LIVE.


KING: As we come back, the outside of the Fleet Center in Boston. A jam-packed Fleet Center tonight, as Wolf pointed out earlier today, they're filled up to the rafters. This is one of the largest crowds -- maybe the largest crowd I've ever seen in an indoor arena.

Bob Woodward, he also says tonight, John Kerry will be saying in about an hour, we can do better, we are optimistic and in dangerous days ahead, there's a right way and a wrong way to be strong. And strength is more than tough words. Is he referring to the president?

WOODWARD: Well, he -- Bush's game plan is to present himself as this strong leader. And that's the Bush theme that we've seen and I think will continue to see. And Kerry's meeting him on that ground and saying hey, look, I can be strong. And that's why there's all of this emphasis on Kerry's Vietnam and war record. Which I think is very significant.

The Senators were talking about the Senate being a club. And in many ways, obviously, it is. In many ways, Kerry's kind of an embodiment of the Senate, been there 20 years, played by the rules.

At the same time, in many ways, he's the Senate's most interesting, one of the most interesting exceptions. He's the loner. He's somebody who -- I mean, they all knew him and worked with him, and you look around, you say -- you ask Senators, were you really friends with John Kerry? Did you feel you knew him? And most of them say no.

KING: Bob are you shaking your head no?

DOLE: Well, no, I think John Kerry is a very bright, able guy, don't misunderstand me. We worked with him for a long time. But there was that sort of, wasn't a close relationship with Kerry as we had with people like George Mitchell and Joe Lieberman, and they had friends across the aisle. And Kerry had friends with John McCain and others.

But I think even on the war issue, Kerry has to be a little careful because he has an outstanding war record, but then he comes back and dumped his medals and testified before the Senate how innocent people were killed. So even there, there's some ambivalence that I think the American people need to think about, and make a decision on whether or not he is that strong leader.

KING: Senator Lieberman, he will emphasize a lot tonight his war record. It occurs often in the speech. Is that smart?

LIEBERMAN: Yes, it's very smart. I mean, we are a nation at war. For a lot of people, Democrats don't have credibility as war fighters. And the fact that he went to war, risked his life, was a decorated hero, gives him a credibility. Then he's got to go on to say exactly what he'd do. And I expect to hear that tonight. But it's a great start.

KING: Senator Mitchell?

MITCHELL: I don't agree with Bob Woodward. John Kerry is no more of a loner than 60, 70 other Senators. The fact is, the demands on the time of Senators are so great that most of them form a few close personal relationships and have an acquaintance with others. Very friendly with John McCain. He was quite friendly with John Heinz who I knew well and worked with on committee. And John Kerry was very friendly with him. He has a few other close friends.

That's about the pattern for most Senators. You've got acquaintanceship with most and a few close friends. Because the fact is, they don't hang around and socialize very much anymore. They're off doing their work. The demands are great.

LIEBERMAN: Larry, let me just say on that statement -- go ahead, Bob.

DOLE: Well, George and I had a few more friends because we were the leaders, and people want to be friendly with you, particularly Mitchell. This guy was tough. I was pretty soft and easy. But we had extra friends.

LIEBERMAN: That's not the way I remember it much.

MITCHELL: Neither do I.

LIEBERMAN: But Larry, I say this, tonight the public doesn't have to come away feeling close to John Kerry, they've got to feel like they know him better and they have confidence in his strength as a leader. That's what's important in a president.

KING: Bob Woodward, we will be seeing you -- we want to thank you for your help all this week. We'll be seeing a lot of you, of course, all week at the Republican Convention, as well as Bob Dole. But before we leave you, we're going to be breaking in a couple of minutes. Bob Woodward, how do you see this election right now?

WOODWARD: I think anyone who thinks they see it is not telling the truth, or is deluding themselves. I think it's too close to call. There are obviously events that are unforeseen. I agree with what was said, the debates are critical. Their proximity to the election, that's the moment when you not only see the two contestants giving their speeches, just pad on into the camera, but they have to face each other, and that's a form of combat. And people place some great weight in it.

KING: We'll be seeing you at the Republican Convention with us. And Bob Dole, how do you see it? Thanks for being here all week.

DOLE: I see about a ten point bounce for the Democrats which will last about 30 days.

KING: And then what?

DOLE: And then I think it's going to be back to a horse race again. Then we have our convention. Hopefully we get a little bounce. And then we're into Labor Day, and then the campaign is really on in full force.

But who knows. I mean one day can change the whole political picture. But right now it's a horse race. I think it's going to be a horse race after our convention.

KING: Thank you Senator Dole. We'll be seeing you all week at the Republican National Convention in New York.

DOLE: Just send me my check.

KING: Dole and Woodward are part of our regular coverage. We appreciate all you've done.

Let me spend just a couple minutes left with our two distinguished Senators. How do you see it, George?

MITCHELL: Very close. How John Kerry does tonight is important. The debates are important. I think it could go either way depending on events. I give a slight edge to Senator Kerry right now.

KING: Right now, voting tomorrow, Kerry?


LIEBERMAN: Larry, it is literally undecided now. You've got a group on each side that is totally committed to Bush or Kerry. That group in the middle is looking. And their votes are going to be determined by two things: events, particularly some kind of national or world event. And how these two candidates do in the debates. I think that head-to-head, it's really going to decide this in the end.

KING: Thank you, Joseph.

LIEBERMAN: Thank you, my friend.

KING: George, see you in New York.

MITCHELL: On to New York.

KING: We want to thank Bob Dole and George Mitchell, and Bob Woodward for being with us all week long, as they have. And serving with us in this wonderful capacity of being an analyst.

Right now it's time for big goings on on the floor as we lead up to the speech by John Kerry accepting the nomination of his party. To take us to that, we'll be back at midnight, here's Wolf Blitzer -- Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much, Larry. There is a lot of excitement as they're getting ready for the children and step children of John Kerry to come up to that podium, not far away from where we are. Right now, here at the Fleet Center in Boston.

The stepdaughter -- the stepsons that is, Chris and Andre Heinz of John Kerry, and his two daughters who will be speaking. They'll be introducing John Kerry. But before John Kerry speaks, some of his comrades from that swift boat in Vietnam will be speaking, as well.

And in addition, beyond that, there will be that Steven Spielberg produced video. That nine-minute biographical film. Who is John Kerry? This is what the Kerry/Edwards team wants viewers around the United States to see. We'll show it to you to get a flavor of what they have in mind.

And then Senator Max Cleland, the former Senator from Georgia, himself a Vietnam war veteran who was badly injured in Vietnam, he will get up on that stage and he will introduce John Kerry himself. John Kerry's speech expected to last for at least 50 minutes. That's expected to be starting around 10:00 p.m. Eastern.

Jeff Greenfield, as you get into this mood to anticipate what these people are expecting to hear tonight, what goes through your mind?


JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: I think we, all of us -- I think what all of us are looking at, Wolf, is that moment in the convention when everybody -- you know, you could call it fever pitch, whatever you want to call it, but they are ready to hear from John Kerry.

They're ready to hear from the man who they really want to win this election. They want him win, not only win them over, they want him to win over the millions of Americans who are watching this convention on television. They know the stakes. More people care about this election than -- at this stage in the election year than any election frankly in our memory.

They know a lot is at stake.

BLITZER: All right. Judy, Andre Heinz, he's the older son -- the stepson of John Kerry, the son of wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry. He's going to be coming on first. He'll be speaking. Let's listen in.


BLITZER: That was the Democratic Party video -- the film of John Kerry. It was produced, put together by among others, Steven Spielberg, the narration, the actor Morgan Freeman.

We're standing by, momentarily John Kerry will be walking into the FleetCenter here in Boston. This is the aisle where he will be walking in, going through the crowd as he makes his way to the podium.

Before he does so, though, we will be hearing from some of his comrades in arms from that swift boat in Vietnam. We'll also be hearing from Senator Max Cleland.

Much more coverage coming up, including John Kerry's acceptance speech. We'll take a quick break. We'll be right back.


BLITZER: Welcome back to the FleetCenter here in Boston. We're going to be hearing shortly from Jim Rassmann. In that film that we just saw put together by the Democratic Party we saw Jim Rassmann, the Green Beret, who was thrown overboard that swift boat whose life was saved by John Kerry during the Vietnam.

What do you make of that nine-minute-plus videotape, Judy.

WOODRUFF: Well, I think it was effective. Clearly its a political statement. It was exactly what the campaign and the party wanted us to see. And I don't know how many people across the country saw it, but I think combined, frankly, with the very touching introductions by his daughters, Vanessa and Alexandra, which frankly personalize him in a way we have not seen this entire week, I think together they give him the kind of lift and begin to fill in some of the picture.

You know the story about what he did when his daughters were younger, the whole story about the hamster, those are the kind of things people need to know I think to understand who he is.


GREENFIELD: Almost no mention of his Senate record or the fact that he was not really cautious (ph) as lieutenant governor. Some hints to those four questions that we want see this speech answering.

BLITZER: Those would be the questions that would be asked earlier, what you're going to be looking for in the course of his speech. GREENFIELD: Right, the balance of strength versus civility, strength clearly was the message we were hearing. Biography versus an agenda, very little biography of his Senate races. Iraq, that was really -- there was one sentence in that film about that.

And second, what kind of a person he is. That's what Judy was talking about. Way more personal stuff about him as a loving father. Kind of close to the edge, almost, of sentimentality.

In terms of saving the hamster's life, that was a funny story, and caring for his ailing mother. So clearly at least they're at pains in this part of the presentation to say, look, this is not some agenda-spouting guy who reads policy papers in his spare time. He's a caring, loving, funny guy.

BLITZER: And you know, it's interesting because you're absolutely right. They want to show that he is a warm human being, not just this aloof politician. He has that reputation.

WOODRUFF: He does. And Wolf, this is -- even his friends say John Kerry is someone that's hard to get to know. But when you run for president, if you're going to get people to vote for you, you have to open up. You've got to let them see something of what's inside of you.

He's got a tough job tonight. He has got to get that -- who he is across. But he has also got to get across that he's strong. He'll fight for this country. He won't let anybody run over America. That's how he has got to be seen.

BLITZER: All right. They are introducing now the members of that swift boat crew, the men who served with John Kerry aboard that swift boat in Vietnam. Let's listen in there.



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