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JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS
Cheney vs. Kerry; Florida Storm Fronts; 'Inside Buzz' With Robert Novak, Interview with Rep. Dennis Kucinich, New Jersey Governor Comes Out, Resigns
Aired August 12, 2004 - 15:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: Cheney versus Kerry on a sensitive subject.
RICHARD CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Those who threaten us and kill innocents around the world do not need to be treated more sensitively. They need to be destroyed.
Republicans use Kerry's own words against him again. How is the Democrat fighting back?
U.S. forces on the offensive in Najaf. Is this Iraqi sovereignty in action?
In the eye of the storm, the political battleground of Florida faces a double blow by the forces of nature.
ANNOUNCER: Now, live from Washington, JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS.
CANDY CROWLEY, HOST: Thanks for joining us. Judy is off this week. I'm Candy Crowley.
We are getting word this hour that New Jersey Governor James McGreevey may be preparing to drop a bombshell. The first-term Democrat is set to hold a news conference at the top of the next hour. There are conflicting reports about whether McGreevey plans to make an announcement about his future political plans. The Associated Press quotes a source close to McGreevey who says the governor is considering his options, including resignation, in the face of a possible lawsuit against him.
There are no details on that suit. We will carry the governor's news conference live.
Now to the race for the White House. Vice President Cheney put new bite today into a tried and shrewd campaign tactic, throwing an opponent's words back at him. At issue, Senator Kerry's promise to wage a "more sensitive war on terror." The Kerry camp is calling Cheney's speech a "desperate distortion" of Kerry's remarks. CNN's John King traveled with Kerry to California -- John.
JOHN KING, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And Candy, Senator Kerry here in California, a state where he is up by more than 10 points. So he's feeling good about his chances here.
The campaign decided this morning that Senator Kerry would not directly respond to this fresh attack from the vice president. Now, as you noted, the vice president delivering a tough new attack from the Bush-Cheney campaign, seizing on that speech a week ago in Washington, when Senator Kerry said that if elected president he would wage a more sensitive war on terrorism. Vice President Cheney saying that is not the necessary strategy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHENEY: As our opponents see it, the problem isn't the thugs and murderers that we face, but our attitude. Well, the American people know better. They know that we are in a fight to preserve our freedom and our way of life, and that we are on the side of right and justice in this battle.
Those who threaten us and kill innocents around the world do not need to be treated more sensitively. They need to be destroyed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Now, it was this speech you're seeing pictures of now a week ago, where Senator Kerry did say he would wage a more sensitive war on terrorism. But in that same speech he also said that he would seek out and destroy terrorist networks.
So the Kerry campaign saying the vice president is taking Senator Kerry out of context, and that by "sensitive," he simply meant that the United States needed to be more diplomatic, especially when flexing its military muscle in the world. And the Kerry campaign notes that President Bush said very much the same thing just after he took office back in 2001.
Now, Senator Kerry decided not to personally respond today because he is out in here in California trying to begin a two-week focus on the economy. President Bush right now has the issue on the war on terrorism, and the advantage on the war on terrorism. Senator Kerry has it when it comes to the economy. He is ahead in this state and hoping that he can build a bigger lead here and build some progress in some other states by focusing on the economy. That was his message here today -- Candy.
CROWLEY: Thanks so much, John King, out in California. Appreciate it.
President Bush's toughest criticism of Kerry today was not about war, but about an issue of great importance to his audience in Las Vegas, a planned nuclear waste dump at Yucca Mountain. Bush accused Kerry of changing his stand on the issue and of trying to turn Yucca into a "political poker chip." We'll have a live report on Bush's day ahead, and, of course, any White House reaction to the situation in Najaf, where U.S. Marines raided the house of rebel cleric Muqtada al- Sadr. The Bush-Kerry race may be getting more bitter, but the neck-and- neck poll numbers are barely budging. A new nationwide Gallup poll out today shows Bush leading Kerry by three points among likely voters and by just one point among registered voters.
In the current political climate you never know what might tip the balance, particularly in showdown states, which brings us to Florida and dangerous back-to-back storms. CNN's Ed Lavandera is on hurricane watch in Clearwater -- Ed.
ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Candy.
Well, here, Governor Jeb Bush of Florida urging the residents of the southwest coast of Florida to be sure to take this storm seriously as Hurricane Charley continues to gather strength out in the Gulf of Mexico, and anticipated landfall some time on Friday. We're here in Clearwater Beach, where you can see the yellow flags, medium warning, out here on the beach.
We've seen hundreds of people out here enjoying the sunny weather today. The surf is intensifying, the winds are picking up. A lot stronger as well.
We've driven around, talking to a number of people. And it seems that one of the issues the emergency management officials are most nervous about is the fact that not many people around here are taking the storm terribly seriously.
The last time it hit this part of Florida, took a direct hit, was more than 80 years ago. So the officials around here know that they have emergency management plans that haven't been tested to this kind of effect in a long, long time. And they are nervous about some of the evacuation routes. And determined on how much water falls in certain areas, how all of this will play out will be a major concern for many emergency management officials.
If you look at the situation here in Clearwater, for example, there are three evacuation routes that take you out of this area. All three of them go -- go out over water. So that's one of the situations that emergency folks are worried about.
There have been mandatory evacuations in Key West, where non- residents of the area have been asked to leave. There have also been voluntary evacuations as you start moving up the coast toward the Tampa area. But we do understand that the storm is packing winds of close to 90 miles an hour now. And by the time it makes landfall, it could be a Category Two, perhaps even a Category Three, depending on how much strength it gathers -- Candy.
CROWLEY: Thanks so much, Ed Lavandera, watching the storm in Clearwater. Appreciate it.
Presidential candidates are well aware that when a powerful storm strikes there can be serious political fallout. With more on that, here's CNN's senior political analyst, Bill Schneider.
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): Florida is now ground zero for two storms, as well as two campaigns. The outcome of the presidential election could be riding on those storms.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: With your help, we will carry Calif -- Florida, we will carry America, and I will continue, I will continue to honor my high office.
SCHNEIDER: For Floridians, government means Bush. The president's fortunes are tied to the governor's.
BUSH: I'm proud of the job Jeb is doing as the governor of this vital state.
SCHNEIDER: And when your brother is the president, voters expect the governor to deliver.
GOV. JEB BUSH (R), FLORIDA: We appreciate the federal government's support and anticipation of the impacts of this storm.
SCHNEIDER: While the weather center is tracking the two storms...
ED RAPPAPORT, NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER: Charley is a Category One hurricane, but is forecast to strengthen to Category Two and perhaps Category Three.
SCHNEIDER: We can track the two Bushes in Florida. The forecast? Trouble.
President Bush's latest job approval number, 44 percent, with a majority disapproving. His brother, Jeb, not much better. Forty-five percent approve of the job the governor is doing. About the same number disapprove. The two Bushes track pretty much together.
Back in 1992, Hurricane Andrew hit Florida just before their father faced reelection. The first President Bush was criticized for being slow to respond.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, do you, as president, bear some responsibility for the delay in federal help?
SCHNEIDER: It became a campaign issue.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Governor Clinton suggested, sir, that the federal response should be looked into to, to see how it could be improved. He said that he's not criticizing you, but thinks that it should be looked into you. What's your response to that?
GEORGE HERBERT WALKER BUSH, FMR. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I don't respond to Governor Clinton on these matters.
SCHNEIDER: The Bush brothers can't afford to let that happen again, because this year we know something we didn't know in 1992: the whole election could come down to Florida.
SCHNEIDER: With two brothers in charge, voters expect a fast, coordinated response. Politically speaking, each Bush is his brother's keeper -- Candy.
CROWLEY: Stormy weather all around. Thanks a lot, Bill Schneider.
We are keeping our eyes on Florida and will bring you the latest Bush-Kerry presidential poll numbers from the Sunshine State.
Also ahead, a political face-off on the situation in Iraq, as U.S. and local forces step up their battle against insurgents.
And later, the other big event that happens every four years. Could the summer Olympics in Athens influence the competition for the White House?
With 82 days until the election, this is INSIDE POLITICS, the place for campaign news.
CROWLEY: Look who stopped by, former Gore campaign manager Donna Brazile and Jim Dyke, communications director at the RNC.
I want to start talking about the vice president out there -- and, to me, it's not so much the words, as the thrust of it. The thrust of the Bush argument, as I see it, is this guy is an internationalist, he'll be soft on terrorism, you need a tough guy.
DONNA BRAZILE, FMR. GORE CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Well, there's -- there's no question that the vice president is doing what I call red meat politics. He's out there speaking to the converted, not those who must be persuaded. He's attacking, attacking, he's misleading once again. John Kerry has been very consistent on his position on the war, and he's been very consistent on what he would do differently than George Bush as president in terms of handling the war and getting our troops home safely.
CROWLEY: Let me toss you this. Is -- has John Kerry been consistent on the war and on this issue?
JIM DYKE, RNC COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: I think that's the real problem that Donna has. Donna's a genius in this stuff, and she can talk her way through anything. But the real problem here is now what she says. It's what John Kerry says.
John Kerry voted against the first Gulf War and said the reason he did that was he believed it was a vote for war and not to make a statement. He recently voted for the Iraq war today and then has taken a number of different positions on that, saying, well, he's not -- it wasn't a vote for war. So it's very confusing where he is. He voted against the funding for the troops, the $87 billion, several days after he said it would be extremely irresponsible. He was the anti-war candidate through the primaries, saying, yes, I am the anti-war candidate.
We heard him just the other day say, I support today what I did then. So the question is, I don't know how to really debate it because it's not...
BRAZILE: Well, Jim, the problem is -- because what you're doing is picking selected quotes from selected speeches instead of looking at the big picture, which is John Kerry has been very consistent from the moment he stepped on the Senate floor on October 9, 2002, and laid out the rationale for -- if this president had to go to war, what type of war we had to fight.
CROWLEY: Can I just interrupt here? Because I know that you'll continue to say he was consistent, and you'll continue to say he wasn't.
Isn't it somewhat problematic, though, that he's still explaining it three years after, and the fact that the Republicans are attacking him on this tells me that they think it's a soft spot? Do you think it's troublesome for him?
BRAZILE: Well, look, the only thing that is troublesome, in my judgement, is that John Kerry is now in a statistical dead heat with George Bush on who would do a better job as commander-in-chief and on fighting the war on terrorism. So the Bush administration and Dick Cheney is out there now trying to ruffle up John Kerry on this issues because he's been consistent.
Again, I know that's a bad word on this show, but the Bush campaign doesn't want to talk about the past. They want to talk about, you know, John Kerry's vote, not what George Bush is doing right now to keep our troops safe and secure and bring them home.
DYKE: The problem with that is, is it's John Kerry's record, it's John Kerry's words. It's John Kerry proposing to cut $6 billion in intelligence funding while he missed every intelligence hearing that year.
He's the one who relies on his intelligence committee to put himself forward. So it's the presentation that he makes.
CROWLEY: But Jim...
DYKE: It's not his record that's so troubling. What's stunning is the explanation of his own record that he tries to make and contradicts.
CROWLEY: But you are out there talking about the war and not about what we expected in the run up to the convention, the president on -- you know, opening up what he wants to do in a second term. Where is that agenda? When is he going to begin to push that? DYKE: I think he already has. I think you heard him talk about the importance of job training today. That's -- ownership, owning your own home, owning your...
BRAZILE: Jim, again, it's a blank slate because there's no "there" there. It's -- George Bush doesn't want to talk about how he misled the American people to war, how he mishandled the war. Instead, you know, what's the -- that's a good question, what is the agenda?
There is no agenda. There's nothing on paper. It's just empty rhetoric that comes out of his mouth every day.
DYKE: There's nothing empty about supporting our troops 100 percent, sending them what they need, standing by this war. John Kerry said originally that he would pull the troops out in six months. Then a day later he said he would rely on generals. Then a day later his campaign clarified this.
We're not doing this to John Kerry. We're trying to put forward what the president's clear agenda is, fighting and winning the war on terror. John Kerry said in his acceptance speech, if we get hit again, I will respond forcefully. We think that's a fully different approach than the president, who's taking the fight to the terrorists.
BRAZILE: George Bush said that he would take us to the U.N. before taking us to war. He didn't do that.
BRAZILE: He said that he wouldn't support a Department of Homeland Security, then he changed on that.
DYKE: We've got a Department of Homeland Security.
BRAZILE: So I mean -- and he said he would never create the 9/11 Commission and then back...
DYKE: We had it and we've got a new CIA...
BRAZILE: That's my point exactly. George Bush has evolved and has given us his explanation on these issues over and over again. And at times, they've been inconsistent. I think John Kerry's position on this war has been very consistent. That's the one thing I can say.
CROWLEY: Now that we've cleared everything up, thank you so much. Do come back. Donna Brazile, former Gore campaign manager, and Jim Dyke, communications director, RNC, thanks as well.
CROWLEY: We continue to stand by for a news conference by New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey. Reports say he is considering a major announcement about his political future. We plan to bring you his remarks live at the top of the hour.
Also, who has the edge in the race for the White House? Bob Novak will join me to update his electoral map.
CROWLEY: We want to check the headlines in "Campaign News Daily."
A new poll finds John Kerry has pulled ahead of George Bush in the state of Florida. The Quinnipiac University survey gives Kerry 49 percent, Bush 42 percent in a head-to-head match-up. Kerry led by just two points in a Florida poll taken at the end of June.
The Bush campaign has reached a milestone in its campaign fund- raising. The Bush-Cheney team announced today it is the first campaign ever to receive contributions from two million people. The campaign also says it has received donations from every county in every state of the union.
Ralph Nader has submitted signatures to get his name on the ballot in New Hampshire. A Nader spokesman says the campaign turned in 5,500 names, far more than the 3,000 required. Granite States Democrats, though, are challenging the petitions. They say Republicans helped gather the signatures, and that's a violation of election law. So far, Nader is officially on the ballot in two states, with access to the Reform Party's ballot lineup in seven more states.
Bob Novak joins us now from the "CROSSFIRE" set at George Washington University with some "Inside Buzz." Everybody else has their polls today, but we have Novak's electoral map.
How's it looking?
ROBERT NOVAK, CO-HOST, "CROSSFIRE": It's looking a little worse for President Bush, even though the Gallup poll has him a little bit ahead in the popular vote. In the electoral vote, the map that we keep and I keep with my reporter, Jim Carney (ph), we have 301 electoral votes for -- for Kerry and 237 for Bush.
That is an increase for Kerry, picking up West Virginia. We switched West Virginia from Bush to Kerry, five votes there. Florida, Michigan and Nevada are close, but they're all leaning Kerry. Arkansas is very tight, leaning Bush.
Bush needs to hold Ohio and Florida, as well as pick up another state in order to be elected. And so it's an uphill climb for President Bush.
CROWLEY: Well, it (ph) also told you it has some good news. Bad news for the Republicans. Perhaps you should start with the good news.
NOVAK: The good news is that in Colorado, the brewery owner, Pete Coors, won the primary. Republicans have felt that he was the only one who has a chance to beat the state attorney general, Ken Salazar, a very strong Democrat.
Coors had never run for office before. He's got a very good name in Colorado, and lots of money. And he's turned out to be a pretty good candidate. That's a ver competitive race.
The other good news for the Republicans is Congresswoman Denise Majette won the Democratic primary in Georgia. She is not going to be elected against Republican Congressman Johnny Isakson. So Georgia looks very much almost certain a Republican pickup.
CROWLEY: And the bad news on the issue of the week, it seems, stem cell research?
NOVAK: Stem cell research. And Republicans I talked to are very worried about that. They can't hold the party line against stem cell research in either the Senate or the House.
They trotted out Senator Trent Lott and Senator Gordon Smith today to say that, although they're for research, they don't like Senator Kerry's plan, which goes too far toward human cloning. And that's what Republicans are going to do. They're going to try to say that the Kerry plan goes beyond research to cloning. I think it's going to be a hard hill to climb, and they don't have the votes in Congress to stop it.
CROWLEY: And completely differently, we always hear convention grumbling, usually from the city the convention is being held in. But we have grumbling of a different sort.
NOVAK: Yes. The rank and file Republicans we talked to say that they don't like the decision of the party leaders to have as the convention headquarters the swanky Waldorf Astoria. I know that's where you always stay in New York, Candy, but it is a very expensive hotel.
On a normal night, a room may cost -- a single room may cost as much as $670. Goodness knows what it will cost at the convention. That makes the Republicans look like a big, fat, rich party, these critics say, and also it makes a terrific target for the left wing protesters.
The last time they had a convention in New York the Democrats had the New York Hilton, which is -- which ain't the Waldorf Astoria. And so that's what the complaining is about.
CROWLEY: And you'll be staying?
NOVAK: I'm going to stay at the Pennsylvania Hotel, a very old hotel. But I love it because it's right across the street from Madison Square Garden.
CROWLEY: Sounds like a good spot, no cabs needed. Thanks, Bob.
NOVAK: Thank you, Candy.
CROWLEY: Republican Alan Keyes, who is moving from Maryland to Illinois to become that state's new Senate candidate, has surprised some observers by his decision on where to live. Keyes has decided to establish residence in the working class suburb of Calumet City, a racially diverse area in south Cook County. A key spokesman says the candidate chose the area so he could "get a feel for the challenges facing regular working people in Illinois."
We expect a news conference by New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey just minutes from now. We plan live coverage for what reports say could be a major announcement about his future in office.
Also ahead, John Kerry and the war in Iraq. Is his position on the war getting lost in the heat of the campaign battle, and can he hold on to anti-war Democrats? I'll talk with one-time rival, Congressman Dennis Kucinich.
Plus, California's most popular Republican offers a potential boost to President Bush.
ANNOUNCER: Violence continues in Iraq. As U.S. and Iraqi forces launch a major offensive against militaries in Najaf, a critical test for the country's fledgling government and for President Bush.
The Republicans are coming. As New York City prepares for the GOP convention, the party flushes out its roster of speakers and stars.
ANNOUNCER: Now, live from Washington, JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS.
CROWLEY: Welcome back. I'm Candy Crowley, sitting in for Judy today.
At this hour, we are waiting for New Jersey Governor James McGreevey to hold what could be an emotional news conference. The Associated Press quotes a source close to McGreevey as saying the first-term Democrat is considering options that may include resignation.
"The New York Times" is saying that, in fact, McGreevey will announce that he is not going to run for reelection. And the AP just now reporting that McGreevey will be resigning.
We do know that McGreevey has been meeting with top staff in anticipation of some sort of lawsuit that may be filed against him. Some staffers were seen leaving McGreevey's office apparently crying. And McGreevey's parents have arrived at the state house.
We will go to that news conference live when it happens. But, again, The Associated Press reporting that Jim McGreevey, the governor of New Jersey, will resign at a news conference this afternoon. Now to the fight for Iraq and the war on terror. In Najaf today, U.S. Marines raided the house of rebel Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, seizing weapons and bombing a nearby building. CNN has learned the cleric was not found in the raid. He is believed to holed up at a mosque with thousand of insurgent. Along with Iraqi forces, U.S. troops today stepped up their offense against militants after seven days of fighting.
President Bush pretty much stuck to his regular stump speech on Iraq today during a campaign stop in Nevada. He left it to Vice President Cheney to take on John Kerry and the senator's battle plan for the war on terror. Our White House correspondent, Suzanne Malveaux, joins us from Las Vegas -- Suzanne.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Candy, this is really about the Bush administration's efforts here to paint Kerry as being weaker when it comes to protecting the country and the war on terror. The Bush administration insisting that Kerry has what they are calling a pre-9/11 mindset, that he is not tough enough when it comes to defending this country.
Now it was earlier that we heard from the vice president. He was in Dayton, Ohio, before a very friendly group of law enforcement officers and veterans. He took on -- Kerry on a comment that Kerry had made just last week about trying to fight a more sensitive war on terror.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Senator Kerry has also said that if he were in charge, he would fight a more sensitive war on terror. America has been in too many wars for any of our wishes but not a one of them was won by being sensitive.
President Lincoln and General Grant did not wage sensitive warfare, nor President Roosevelt nor Generals Eisenhower and MacArthur. A sensitive war will not destroy the evil men who killed 3,000 Americans and who seek the chemical, nuclear and biological weapons to kill hundreds of thousands more.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MALVEAUX: Now the Kerry camp of course responding to that as well. We'll get to that later. But they're saying, of course, that this is simply the height of arrogance, this is not a matter of sensitivity.
Now as you know, Candy, of course, Las Vegas, Nevada, very important for the president for a number of reasons. Nevada he won by just three percentage points, but he lost Las Vegas. And that is one of the fastest growing cities in the country.
The president today focusing on essentially on three different groups, Hispanics, the labor vote as well as environmentalists. The big issue over Yucca Mountain still a very controversial one. That is something that the president also addressed as well -- Candy. CROWLEY: Thanks so much. Suzanne Malveaux, traveling with the president, we appreciate it.
CNN has confirmed according to sources in New Jersey that in fact, James McGreevey, the governor of New Jersey, will be resigning at a news conference we expect sometime within minutes.
We want to turn to our deputy political editor, John Mercurio. John, what can you tell us?
JOHN MERCURIO, CNN DEPUTY POLITICAL EDITOR: Candy, just as you just reported, CNN has confirmed, we've talked to New Jersey Democratic sources, Jim McGreevey, he is a first-term governor, elected by wide margins in 2001, will hold a press conference within minutes. He's going to be announcing that he will be resigning.
We understand there are reports that he will address a lawsuit. We don't have any details we can report about the specifics of the lawsuit. But he will address a lawsuit that may be pending against him. And because he will be announcing his resignation, we hear that he will be stepping down before September 15.
Now by law, that means that the president of the state senate, whose name Codey, Richard Codey, also a Democrat, can take his office, can assume his office.
CROWLEY: Now this has been sort of a troubled term for McGreevey to begin with. But this is something new, I take it, that we're talking about now?
MERCURIO: Well, it is and it isn't. It's new, obviously, that the pressure has risen to the point that there was a lawsuit and that he is being forced to resign. There has been widespread corruption charges, not against Governor McGreevey himself, but against fundraisers associated with his campaign, against high level members of his administration. So this sort of culture or this sort of situation has definitely been circulating around this governor throughout his term in Trenton.
CROWLEY: And what does this do, if anything, John, to politics there, since it goes from Democrat to Democrat, is this sort of a one- day political story?
MERCURIO: Oh, I don't think so at all. I mean, this is definitely a state that's flipped back from Republican to Democrat to Republican over the past several years. Jim Florio, then Christi Todd Whitman served popularly for about -- for two terms before Jim McGreevey was elected in 2001.
Whether or not -- obviously because the president of the state senate will be taking over, he's a Democrat, it doesn't mean anything in the short term. It probably won't mean anything to the presidential campaign as we know John Kerry leads by a wide margin in New Jersey.
But sure, in the long term, whether or not Republicans are able to frame the Democratic Party as the party of corruption, the party of sort of political abuse, i think that sortt of remains to be seen. But sure, that's certainly a case that I think Republicans are going to make in the state.
CROWLEY: And in sort of cutting this off now, I mean, if he goes ahead, as sources tell us he's going to do, and the governor resigns, does he blunt some of that criticism going into the presidential campaign by deciding not to kind of stick it out as we saw happen in Connecticut?
MERCURIO: Sure. Absolutely. I think that any time any sort of politician sees a major scandal or a major political crisis in his near future, they're well advised to try to cut it off as quickly as possible.
That's what we think he will be doing in the next couple of minutes when he holds his press conference. That's what the Kentucky governor, Paul Patton tried to do last year in a situation down in Kentucky. Whether or not that means anything for his political future, i think that probably remains to be seen.
CROWLEY: Our deputy political editor John Mercurio on top of the story as always. We want to take a quick break. We'll be right back.
CROWLEY: A Kerry spokesman told reporters today the senator would quote: "not take the bait from Dick Cheney." And Kerry did avoid direct counter fire at the vice president after he blasted Kerry's remark that he would conduct a more sensitive war on terror.
In California a short while ago, Kerry seemed to try to stick to the high road in response to a question about Cheney's comment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: Senator, any response about Vice President Cheney's comments today?
KERRY: No, just it's sad that they can only be negative. They have nothing to say about the future vision of America. I think Americans want to positive vision for the future. I intend to keep offering real plans and positive set of possibilities for Americans to do better.
QUESTION: What did you mean by "sensitive"?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: Kerry's campaign went further, accusing Cheney of launching a desperate and misleading attack to divert attention from the administration's record
Kerry and Bush sparred long distance this week over the Senator's latest statement about his vote to authorize the Iraq war. Senator Kerry was asked if he would still have voted yes if he knew everything he knows now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KERRY: Yes. I would have voted for the authority. I believe it's the right authority for a president to have. But I would have used that authority, as I have said throughout this campaign, effectively. I would have done this very differently from the way President Bush has.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: Independent candidate Ralph Nader accused Kerry of me- too-ism on Iraq and of letting down the anti-war movement.
Joining us now, an anti-war Democrat and rival turned supporter of John Kerry, Congressman Dennis Kucinich.
Congressman, thank you so much for being here.
REP. DENNIS KUCINICH (D-OH), FMR. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you.
CROWLEY: Look, are you and will the anti-war wing of the Democratic Party be satisfied with these sorts of answers from John Kerry?
KUCINICH: Well, you know, I led the effort in the House in challenging the Bush administration's march towards war. And everything I said about it was true. I mean, Iraq was Bush's blunder. And Candy, that's what you have to remember about this. This is Bush's war.
I'm proud to be supporting John Kerry. I think that he'll be a great commander-in-chief and I think that the people of this country deserve better.
CROWLEY: It's Bush's war. But Kerry did in fact vote yes. And as you know, the anti-war movement was very much front and center during the primary season, it's what drove the primary. I'm wondering if you can get out anti-war voters with the Democratic candidate saying, yes, even knowing what I know now I still would have supported this war?
KUCINICH: I think most Americans know the only hope we have for getting out of Iraq is to elect John Kerry. And that while I had differences with John Kerry over the Iraq war, I can certainly say that he has taken a very strong position about his desire to bring our troops home. That's something that this administration isn't even talking about. We really ought to be concerned about what we're going to do to bring our troops home and you don't even hear that.
This administration, by the way, doesn't have any plan at all to end the war. They don't have a plan to win with the peace. They went into the war without any plan, this is an administration that rushed the war without our allies. Vice President Cheney's remarks have to be seen as the remarks of a desperate administration that is trying to deflect attention from their own blunders.
CROWLEY: But if I could ask you, Congressman, when Senator Kerry that said he would try to bring home a lot of troops in the first year of his administration, he did that predicated on a lot of things. First of all that he could get allies who at the moment show absolutely no desire to send troops over there, that he could change their minds and if the commanders on the ground didn't ask him for more troops. I just wonder again how that sells?
KUCINICH: Well, I think what happens is that the world community is bound to have more confidence in an American president who will work cooperatively with the world community, who isn't in the mindset of rushing into war. Here's Vice President Cheney, by the way, Candy, in Ohio, my state, totally ignoring the fact that our economy is collapsing with a quarter million people who've lost their jobs, a million people who don't have healthcare and he has the nerve to stand in Ohio and not even mention that. Well, he issues this phony attack on Senator Kerry. I mean, this election is going to be about the war but it's also going to be about the economy and I think on both issues John Kerry is head and shoulders above George Bush.
CROWLEY: Since you bring up your home state, why is it so close then? Indeed you mentioned correctly Ohio has lost -- is up in the top ten of states who have lost the most jobs and yet it's a very close race right now?
KUCINICH: I think that as we get the campaign going, strong grassroots campaign and get Senator Kerry's message across, a message that's about jobs and healthcare and education, about our manufacturing base, I think we have a chance to win Ohio and I think Senator Kerry will win Ohio and Ohio will help him become the next president of the United States. But these kind of desperate attacks by the vice president on behalf of the president indicate an administration that has no plan. Remember, they were supposed to roll out for the American people in mid-August what they're going to do. They apparently don't have anything except mud to throw and you keep throwing mud, you lose ground.
CROWLEY: One last question on the war and that is, if John Kerry should become president and in that first year, he doesn't begin to withdraw troops, will you feel misled?
KUCINICH: Listen, I don't feel misled about anything. I continue to oppose the war. I want that understood. I continue to oppose it but I believe that John Kerry represents the best hope for the American people to get us out of this mess. We're in a mess. $200 billion of American tax dollars have been spent, almost 1,000 lives lost. This is Bush's blunder, it's Bush's war and Bush must be held accountable for it.
CROWLEY: Congressman Dennis Kucinich, it's good to see you. Thanks for joining us.
Yet another national poll out today on the presidential horse race. The Pew poll shows Senator Kerry narrowly leading President Bush 47 percent to 45 percent with 2 percent for Independent Ralph Nader.
We're still waiting for that news conference by New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey. As we reported a short while ago, McGreevey is expected to resign according to sources in New Jersey. We will carry his remarks live. Also ahead, new tidbits on what to expect when the Republicans hold their convention at Madison Square Garden.
Plus the plight of a party switcher. Congressman Rodney Alexander speaks out.
CROWLEY: The Republican convention is fast approaching and we are learning a little more about the party's big gathering in New York. With just 18 days to go until the big event, the Republicans have expanded their speaker's list. Among the additions is Michael Reagan, son of the late president. Reagan is a conservative talk show host and a Bush supporter unlike his brother Ron Reagan who spoke at the Democratic convention.
There is word that primetime convention speaker Arnold Schwarzenegger may campaign with Bush outside of California after all. The governor said a while back he didn't plan to stump for Bush outside his home state, but now he tells the "L.A. Times," quote, "if there is a place, one place where they want to pop me in, this makes sense for me."
Ever since the original GOP convention speakers list was announced there has been rumbling by some on the right that social conservatives are being kept of primetime.
With me now to talk more about the upcoming convention is the Reverend Jerry Falwell. He joins me from Lynchburg, Virginia. Reverend Falwell, thank you so much for being here.
I want to ask -- I saw a quote from you, saying that you were going to go quietly in and quietly out of the convention. I haven't known you as a quiet man and I want to know why you made that statement.
REV. JERRY FALWELL, CHANCELLOR, LIBERTY UNIV.: Well, I was responding to an interviewer who was asking if I'd be speaking at the convention. Well, the answer is, I'm not speaking. I, often, as you know, I will offer a prayer, when asked. I'll be available for that. I have not been scheduled, but I will be there strongly supporting George Bush and doing all I can, have been and will continue to do, to register millions of voters and get this man back in the White House for four more years.
CROWLEY: I've talked to a lot of conservatives, not just Evangelical Christians, but a lot of conservative supporters of the president who feel that this list of speakers, particularly in primetime, is designed to keep conservatives out of primetime. Is that what you see in the speakers list?
FALWELL: No, I do not. In order to be elected president of the United States as a Republican or a Democrat, you have to have all of your supporters represented, treated fairly. Everyone knows that Mr. Bush is pro-life, pro-family. That's where I am. But we also know that the Republican party wins national elections when three constituents vote for him, conservative politically, conservative fiscally, conservative socially.
I am in all three groups but some people are not and so I applaud the fact that Schwarzenegger may in fact campaign for Mr. Bush in other places. We will take any vote we can get. I just believe George Bush is as fine a president we've had in my lifetime, equated with Ronald Reagan. I do believe he is going to win. I will be there -- if condemning him will help him, I'll condemn him, if applauding him will help him, I will applaud him.
CROWLEY: Sounds like you've turned into a pragmatist here.
FALWELL: I am not a pragmatist in the sense that I would compromise my views and values. But in order to elect a president politics and religious are totally different. Biblical religion is not pragmatic. Politics is very pragmatic and George Bush is the only guy running who can win or should win. I am behind him. And when I can't support something I will go fish a little while. But come election day, November 2, I will be casting my vote with my family and 24,000 members of Thomas Road Church, I hope, doing the same.
CROWLEY: We have a little under a minute and I wanted to ask if you agree or disagree with this statement. The agenda primetime list at the Republican convention is designed to reach out to swing voters and therefore highlights the moderate wing of the Republican party.
FALWELL: I don't think there's any question about that. Karl Rove is a master politician and I'm willing to follow him over the cliff. I think he's doing what is right to get this president elected and you know I preach 25 times a week so I don't need another place to preach. I'll just be cheering the president. I believe in him, I think he's great, I hope he gets four more years and I hope you vote for him, Candy.
CROWLEY: Reverend Jerry Falwell, we certainly thank you for all your remarks. All of them. Talk to you later. Thank you.
Once again, we are awaiting a press conference from New Jersey Governor McGreevey. There is word from New Jersey sources telling CNN that McGreevey will resign at this press conference. We will of course bring it to you. We have a break right now.
CROWLEY: Welcome back to "INSIDE POLITICS." Just wanted to let you know that we are on the story in Trenton, New Jersey, where we are awaiting a news conference from the Governor of New Jersey, James McGreevey, who we expect, according to New Jersey sources, to announce his resignation at this news conference. We will bring it to you live when it happens.
Moving on, Louisiana Congressman Rodney Alexander qualified to run for reelection last Wednesday as a Democrat, but Friday just before qualifying ended, he switched his registration to Republican. Alexander's switch has enraged state Democrats, as well as his colleagues on Capitol Hill.
Our Congressional correspondent Ed Henry recently spoke with Alexander about his decision.
ED HENRY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Congressman, how does it feel to be a marked man?
REP. RODNEY ALEXANDER (R), LOUISIANA: A marked man. I don't know. I wasn't aware I was a marked man. But...
HENRY: Democrats are pretty steamed at you here in Washington.
ALEXANDER: Are they? Yes, well, I'm sorry. You know, they're still my friends.
HENRY (voice-over): Friends? Like House Democrat Whip Steny Hoyer, who say Alexander has no honor and integrity?
ALEXANDER: Well, I'm -- I'm sorry. Steny's a fine man, and I respect the concern that he has. And I know he's disappointed, but I'll still be the same friend to him tomorrow that I was yesterday.
HENRY (on camera): But somebody who knows you well, John Breaux, said you're a confused politician who has loyalty at the bottom of the priority list.
I mean, how does that make you feel?
ALEXANDER: Well, it makes me feel bad. I'm a confused politician? No, I was -- I'm not confused. And my priorities are the people of Louisiana, the people of the 5th Congressional District. They have been and will always be at the top of the list, not a party.
HENRY: So, why did you switch parties?
ALEXANDER: For a good while now, for two years that I've been here, it's been difficult. I came to Washington as a conservative Democrat -- it's not unusual in Louisiana, but it's perhaps rare here -- and was constantly defending my vote in my own party. And I found it a difficult position to be in.
HENRY (voice-over): What infuriated people like Breaux, also of Louisiana, is that Alexander first filed for reelection on August 4th as a Democrat, then switched two days later. Alexander blames a sudden primary challenge, which Democrats dismiss as a ridiculous excuse.
ALEXANDER: Well, one, that a person from my own party filed against me, I began to recognize the fact that I was going to struggle. I was going to have to be spending the next three months running against my party and running against another party, too. And defending my votes one after the other, and I just felt uncomfortable.
HENRY (on camera): Well, what's wrong with defending your votes? Isn't it about -- isn't your party affiliation about principles? Why not stick to the principles and fight it out?
ALEXANDER: Because my principles are the same regardless of the party affiliation. But it's just a lot easier -- it'll be easier in the Republican party. And I will be able to represent the 5th District easier.
HENRY: But Democrats are saying you're just taking the easier road, that it was also deception. You file as a Democrat for reelection, and then 48 hours, about 30 minutes before the filing deadline, you switch and file for reelection as Republican so that another Democrat couldn't jump in at that point, and now you're going to coast to a reelection victory as a Republican. They say it's deception.
ALEXANDER: Well, I don't understand how it could be deception there. There was one in the Republican party and one in the Democratic party, too.
HENRY: For the last week, House Democratic leaders have been angrily demanding that Alexander give back the $70,000 he received from his Democratic colleagues. Alexander told CNN he is going to make a full refund of that campaign money.
The Congressman is also busy hiring staff. Several of his Congressional aides and several campaign consultants resigned because they were kept in the dark about the party switch, Candy.
CROWLEY: Looks like a pretty lonely place for him right now.
HENRY: That's right.
CROWLEY: Yes. Thanks so much, Ed Henry.
We want to remind you again that we are monitoring the news conference room, where we expect the Governor of New Jersey to come out shortly. You're looking at a room inside the state house in Trenton. We expect that the governor, according to sources from New Jersey, will resign today, under the shadow of a lawsuit.
We'll be right back.
CROWLEY: As promised, the Governor of New Jersey.
(BEGIN LIVE NEWS EVENT)
Throughout my life, I have grappled with my own identity, who I am. As a young child, I often felt ambivalent about myself, in fact, confused. By virtue of my traditions, and my community, I worked hard to ensure that I was accepted as part of the traditional family of America. I married my first wife, Carrie, out of respect and love. And together, we have a wonderful, extraordinary daughter. Carrie (ph) then chose to return to British Columbia.
I then had the blessing of marrying Dina, whose love and joy for life has been an incredible source of strength for me. And together, we have the most beautiful daughter.
Yet, from my early days in school, until the present day, I acknowledged some feelings, a certain sense that separated me from others. But because of my resolve, and also thinking that I was doing the right thing, I forced what I thought was an acceptable reality onto myself, a reality which is layered and layered with all the, quote, "good things," and all the, quote, "right things" of typical adolescent and adult behavior.
Yet, at my most reflective, maybe even spiritual level, there were points in my life when I began to question what an acceptable reality really meant for me. Were there realities from which I was running?
Which master was I trying to serve?
I do not believe that God tortures any person simply for its own sake. I believe that God enables all things to work for the greater good. And this, the 47th year of my life, is arguably too late to have this discussion. But it is here, and it is now.
At a point in every person's life, one has to look deeply into the mirror of one's soul and decide one's unique truth in the world, not as we may want to see it or hope to see it, but as it is.
And so my truth is that I am a gay American. And I am blessed to live in the greatest nation with the tradition of civil liberties, the greatest tradition of civil liberties in the world, in a country which provides so much to its people.
Yet because of the pain and suffering and anguish that I have caused to my beloved family, my parents, my wife, my friends, I would almost rather have this moment pass.
For this is an intensely personal decision, and not one typically for the public domain. Yet, it cannot and should not pass.
I am also here today because, shamefully, I engaged in adult consensual affair with another man, which violates my bonds of matrimony. It was wrong. It was foolish. It was inexcusable.
And for this, I ask the forgiveness and the grace of my wife.
She has been extraordinary throughout this ordeal, and I am blessed by virtue of her love and strength.
I realize the fact of this affair and my own sexuality if kept secret leaves me, and most importantly the governor's office, vulnerable to rumors, false allegations and threats of disclosure.
So I am removing these threats by telling you directly about my sexuality.
Let me be clear, I accept total and full responsibility for my actions. However, I'm required to do now, to do what is right to correct the consequences of my actions and to be truthful to my loved ones, to my friends and my family and also to myself.
It makes little difference that as governor I am gay. In fact, having the ability to truthfully set forth my identity might have enabled me to be more forthright in fulfilling and discharging my constitutional obligations.
Given the circumstances surrounding the affair and its likely impact upon my family and my ability to govern, I have decided the right course of action is to resign.
To facilitate a responsible transition, my resignation will be effective on November 15th of this year.
I'm very proud of the things we have accomplished during my administration. And I want to thank humbly the citizens of the state of New Jersey for the privilege to govern.
(END OF LIVE EVENT)
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN ANCHOR: New Jersey Governor James McGreevey announcing that, as of November 15, he will resign his position, revealing with his wife, Dina, standing by his side, "My truth is" -- quote -- "that I am a gay American. He said that he had engaged in a consensual adult affair outside of his marriage. McGreevey is a Catholic.
He said, given the circumstances around the affair and his desire to try to protect his family, he would be resigning as of November 15.
I want to bring in John Mercurio, who is our political editor, to talk to.
John, this is probably as poignant and painful a news conference as I've seen in a long time.
JOHN MERCURIO, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Absolutely. You'll forgive me if I'm still picking my jaw up off the floor. I don't think I've ever seen a political press conference like that in my life.
CROWLEY: I wonder -- the November 15 thing struck me, for this reason.
CROWLEY: There would probably be time for this to be otherwise. MERCURIO: Well, actually, exactly, that's a very good point.
If McGreevey had resigned before September 15 , New Jersey actually would have a special gubernatorial election on November 2, obviously, the same day as the general election. By choosing to resign after that date, as I mentioned earlier, Richard Codey, will hold the office, we understand, until McGreevey's term expires in 2006. So, yes, that's a very important date to be keeping an eye on.
CROWLEY: And what I'm wondering, though, is, this was, at least to my eyes, gracious, did everything a politician is supposed to do when caught in something he should not have been doing, in this case, an affair outside his marriage, as well as the fact that he's a gay American. He owned up to it. He took -- he said: The blame is mine.
He asked his wife's forgiveness. This is a man with two daughters. He explained his struggle throughout his adolescence. And I'm just wondering if there is any room there in that timing for New Jerseyans to step up and say, well, rethink this?
MERCURIO: For them to ask him to rethink his decision to resign?
CROWLEY: No, I just wonder if -- because it was so kind of -- it just seems to me a long time until November 15.
MERCURIO: Well, I think what he is trying to do is -- and I'm not obviously in Trenton, so I haven't talked to the governor himself -- but I think what he is trying to do is put his resignation, delay it until after the presidential election, so that there won't be any sort of link between the two.
You know, I do think that it was very heartfelt, it was obviously a speech or some remarks that he had spent quite a bit of time working on. What we have to remember though is that there are reports out there today that there is a lawsuit pending against the governor. He didn't directly address the specifics of the lawsuit but when those reports come out I imagine that that will sort of blend in with this story today, this dramatic, this political bombshell of a story. And we'll have a fuller picture, I think, of what's going on. At this point we just have his statement to go on.
CROWLEY: Let's take a swing at this from a political angle on the national level. We have today a court telling the mayor of San Francisco, you have no right to have superseded state law therefore all of the gay marriages that took place there are not valid and then we have this news conference here. What does this do to the debate about gay marriages? I'm asking you to speculate here but it seems to me that somehow this all has to fit in to what has been one of the cultural issues in the campaign.
MERCURIO: Well, I think that's a very good question. What Governor McGreevey did here today I don't think necessarily relates directly to gay marriage. He certainly is not addressing the issue of marriage himself and he's certainly not, you know, making any proposal to another man of any sort. I think what he is doing here today though, and again, we have this big caveat out there. We're really waiting to see the specifics of this lawsuit against him or the reported lawsuit against.
But anytime a high-profile American or a high-profile anyone sort of comes out, admits their homosexuality, discusses it in a public way, and does, as Governor McGreevey did here today, talk about it in sort of a proud way, tries to put the best face on it, I think that, you know, tends to help the gay movement, the gay rights movement, shows that they're human beings who are admired and respected in their community although Governor McGreevey's public opinion -- public approval ratings haven't been that high, he is still an elected governor of the state. I think that certainly works in the favor of the gay rights movement. Again, the lawsuit against him and the specifics of that lawsuit could change that image dramatically.
CROWLEY: Right. There's a background to this that we're not aware of at this point. We do know about the possibility of the suit so we -- always that sort of a caveat. I'm just wondering that this is a -- certainly, the first time I have seen the issue of being gay at so high an office and I just think that it brings that conversation to the table, not necessarily about marriage, but about a man that struggled with this so hard obviously for societal reasons as well as personal religious reasons and I just wonder if that sort of brings this subject back up as an issue politically.
MERCURIO: Well, you know what I think it does in a way, it doesn't so much address the issue of gay marriage as it does address the issue of self acknowledgment or sort of the public coming out process that sort of a small faction of the gay rights movement is pushing pretty hard this year and that is the issue of public officials, elected officials who are homosexuals but choose to keep that issue private now making this public. There are certainly several politicians that are being targeted in this sort of semi or mini movement and I think what we'll see now is sort of a larger discussion of the issue of coming out, of acknowledging your sexuality in a way that five, 10, 20 years ago was never even part of the debate.
CROWLEY: And if you're a Democrat at this point and you're wondering how a New Jersey -- you know, a senator, whatever, how do they treat this? Is this -- OK, this is a personal thing and has nothing to do with his sexuality, it was his decision. How do Democrats address this issue, if at all?
MERCURIO: This is such -- as we talked about earlier, there has been a sort of a circle of corruption surrounding Governor McGreevey, none of it directly related to him but related to his fundraisers, to high-level members of his administration. This seems to be a separate situation, a separate incident. I think Democrats in New Jersey are going to have -- or Republicans in New Jersey, I think, are going to have a hard time making the case that Governor McGreevey's sexuality somehow reflects poorly on the Democratic party of the state or to a larger extent, the national party. I think this is a very sort of specific situation affecting one person, affecting one person dramatically but just affecting the governor himself.
CROWLEY: Our political editor John Mercurio. As always, again, an amazing and sort of heartbreaking in some ways news conference from Governor James McGreevey of New Jersey announcing that as of November 15, that is after the election, he will leave his post as New Jersey governor, declaring, "I am a gay American" and more to come on this story I'm sure.
Right now we want to thank you all for joining our rather extended version of INSIDE POLITICS. I'm Candy Crowley. We are moving on now to "CROSSFIRE."
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