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CNN NEWSNIGHT AARON BROWN
Analysis of the Second Night of the Republican National Convention
Aired August 31, 2004 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Much more coverage coming up of the Republican National Convention, a complete wrap-up of everything that's happened here, and, at midnight, a special live edition of "LARRY KING LIVE."
For now, I'm Wolf Blitzer thanking all of you for joining us. For Jeff Greenfield and Judy Woodruff, I'll throw it over to a special edition of "NEWSNIGHT." Aaron Brown standing by -- Aaron.
AARON BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, thank you. Good job over there tonight.
Good evening again, everyone.
The president arrives in New York tomorrow. He spent today on the campaign trail where we went to great lengths to say in no uncertain terms the United States will win the war on terror. The White House is busy in the meantime trying to explain why the president said yesterday he didn't think victory was possible.
Apart from all the talk, suicide bombings in Israel and Russia killed at least 25 people, and, in Iraq, Islamic militants killed 12 Nepalese hostages. So a lot going on outside the hall tonight, some of it connecting with things being said inside this week, some of it, you could argue, bearing on the president's case for another term.
We begin by checking briefly with our correspondents in the hall, beginning with our Senior White House Correspondent John King.
John, I think it was you who said yesterday the script had been perfect except for one thing: The president veered off course with his remark yesterday. He tried to get back on course today.
JOHN KING, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: He did, and the White House believes he did, Aaron. The president in his speech to the American Legion using the term "We will win the war." "Make no mistake about it. We will win the war," he said at one point, "on terrorism." That after saying in that NBC interview, "I don't know if we can the war."
White House aides say that the president was taken out of context. He meant there will be no peace treaty, but they also certainly concede privately that he could have -- and some say he should have -- chosen his words more carefully, knowing that the script at this convention is that he provided decisive leadership and successful leadership so far in the war on terrorism.
So the president had to correct himself, if you will, and put the message back -- the message train back on the right track, and here in the convention hall tonight, his wife, the first lady, trying to help out with that as well. Her key task, I thought, was quite interesting.
Senator Kerry in his campaign says that when he is president, the United States will only going to war when it has to, not when it wants to, making the case that this president, bound by ideology and bound by his advisers, went to war in Iraq because he wanted to.
The first lady tonight talking about watching him out the window, taking walks by himself around the White House grounds, agonizing with Prime Minister Blair over his decision, trying to make the case to the American people that her husband is no warmonger, that he only went to war because he thought he had to -- Aaron.
BROWN: I want to go back, John, for a second to the president's clarification. I think he said on the radio -- he did "Rush Limbaugh" today. He said he should have chosen his words more carefully or spoken more articulately.
But if you actually listen to what he said, what he said makes sense, that you want to create an environment in the world where terror is less tolerated.
Why do they feel strongly they needed to -- I don't think "apologize" is the right word, but clarify.
KING: Because we live in an environment of 24-hour news cycles, of constant Internet faxes, and rapid responses where the Democrats just took that one sentence, "I don't know that we can win" or "I don't think that we can win," and they left the rest out, and so you had headlines today and you had buzz on both liberal and conservative talk shows and buzz even here in the convention hall, and some delegates and some Republican officials around the country saying, "He said what?"
So the president certainly confused people, and we do live in an environment where anything you say can be taken out of context, where that one sentence standing alone certainly would confuse even people who support this president. It did so in this hall yesterday, and the White House felt the need to make it clear to say we will win the war, and the president said that today.
And then he went on to say this is an unconventional enemy, by winning the war, there won't be a peace treaty, there won't be a surrender, we're going to have to keep at it.
BROWN: That's right. It's a very black and white world we live in sometimes, John. Thank you. We'll talk to you a little bit later in the program.
Candy Crowley is a speck down on the floor tonight. The Schwarzenegger moment -- rarely do moments live up to their absolute billing. I've got to say, watching it on TV at least, that one did.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It did. I was sitting here thinking as we were squished in among an SRO crowd, OK, this was a movie actor so he probably never had a standing room only crowed, but he had one here tonight.
Even the fact that I was in the California delegation may have had something to do with that. I looked up as they stood up throughout his entire speech. They were ready for this, and, obviously, this is the most enthusiastic delegation.
But his story of immigrant roots and especially the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) that he did about if you believe this way, then you're a Republican, if you believe this, you're a Republican, a very strong speech, very well received, and just nary a seat except for behind where you wouldn't be able to see him at all. I mean, it was a packed, standing room only crowd.
The thing that got the biggest laugh and one of the biggest cheers that was outside the role of politics -- actually, inside the role of (UNINTELLIGIBLE) was this: his reference to girly men which he used in California during the budget fight, talked about it again today, and so, in California, they are sporting these girly man -- with the X through it.
So they had a lot of fun. I mean, this -- look, the reception for Laura Bush, for the first lady, was warm. It was enthusiastic. But this was rock star, and that's how they wanted him to be greeted, and they got what they wanted.
BROWN: First ladies can compete with most, but they can't necessarily compete with movie-stars-turned-governors. It's not an easy thing to do.
Candy, thank you.
Turning back to Jeff Greenfield, our senior analyst.
I want to talk about two things. First of all, sitting here now for two days, I would say we have heard a discussion of the economy, health care, in prime-time a discussion of domestic issues for about 5 percent of the time or less. This is a one-issue convention.
JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Overwhelmingly, that's true. There was some talk tonight in terms of making things better. I think you will hear from the president Thursday night this much touted second-term agenda.
But they are very clear about what they're doing, and they said it explicitly in John McCain's speech last night and again in Schwarzenegger's tonight: There's one overriding issue, and this is the issue on which you must fight. Now where I think it got expanded a little, Aaron, was in Arnold Schwarzenegger's speech. Part of the rhetoric reminded me of the Frank Capra movie. Frank Capra was an ardent liberal who made "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" and all those movies where the hero stands up and says, "This is America. This is where anybody can grow up to be anything."
It's the kind of radio dramas that liberal writers like Norman Corwin, a voice from -- a name from the past, used to write, and they were affirmations of a common man, and this is one of the good reasons why the Republican Party has succeeded in carving away from Democrats people who Democrats think should still be Democrats, working-class people, men in particular, the sons and daughters of immigrants.
And Arnold Schwarzenegger was talking to both those constituents about the opportunities here, and, while I agree with you that the war on terror and Iraq is the central theme, I think not in so much of a laundry list, Aaron, but, in the general spirit, Arnold Schwarzenegger in particular was talking to that constituency that wants to believe in the America of the common man, anyone can grow up to be anything.
So I think there was that, and I think charity would suggest that we pass -- quickly pass the Bush twins' attempt to be humorous. I think both in the hall and outside the hall, that was the one note that they would have an erasure. They would probably let them do -- have a do-over on that one, Aaron.
BROWN: I'd hate to be 21 and have to do all that they were asked to do, in any case.
Anyway, talk, Jeff, a little bit more -- you and Wolf were talking about this just before that part of our coverage tonight ended, the Schwarzenegger line that basically said if you believe in toughness -- I'm paraphrasing here -- with the war on terror, you are a Republican. If you're the Democrats right now, do you respond to that? How do you respond to that?
GREENFIELD: Yes. I have to say when I read the text of the speech, that was the one line that jumped out at me because if you contrast that to John McCain, who said last night all of us want to win the war, the question is what's the best way to do it, and this line does suggest a throwback to the old soft-on-crime, soft-on- Communism...
The implication, if you read this, is that if you're not a Republican, you might be soft on terrorism. My guess is if there's one thing the Democrats would want to respond to quickly and toughly, it would be that line.
BROWN: But how to respond to that?
GREENFIELD: Ah. Well, as the old joke goes, Aaron, maybe I should do policy. You can do the implementation. I think one of the ways you do it is you bring out all the brass that is supporting John Kerry. You know, let's start with Wesley Clark and go to the retired Air Force people's staff and say, you know, I'm sorry, but the Bush administration has not been successful in fighting this war on terrorism. President Bush's deputy Rand Beers is now working for Kerry. So there is a response.
The problem the Democrats have is that if you get past the substance and just go to the persona of an Arnold Schwarzenegger, responding to Arnold Schwarzenegger with a reply by a military guy in a suit or a government -- retired government bureaucratic -- this persona of Arnold Schwarzenegger carries a tremendous amount of weight.
I frankly think it's something that Democrats have not yet figured out of why this party, the Republican Party, has progressively succeeded in tapping into this group, and the fact that they have Schwarzenegger on their side is a kind of symbol of one of those reasons. He talks a different language.
BROWN: Jeff, thank you. We'll hear -- we will hear from you a little bit more later. Thank you.
Bill Schneider is with us, too.
One of the things you and I have talked about, as we sat and watched this, is there's a lot of talk from people like us about the moderates this and the moderates that, and, in some respects, I suppose that you'd say Rudy Giuliani is a moderate, and he had a prime-time role. Arnold Schwarzenegger is a moderate. He got a prime-time role. They weren't moderate speeches.
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: No, that's exactly right. These are -- they featured all these self-described moderates who do differ with the party line and with the president and with the vice president on the hot-button issues of abortion, gay rights, gun control, stem-cell research, but they didn't talk about those issues.
In the past, when moderates got up at a convention like Governor Christine Todd Whitman of New Jersey or Bill Weld of Massachusetts, they would state their position, they would talk about centrist policies, the need to return the Republican Party to the mainstream, or at least talk about a big tent. None of them really talked about that very much.
Instead, it was a ringing affirmation of conservative policies. They offered no challenge to the conservative ascendancy in the party.
BROWN: Which tells you what?
SCHNEIDER: Which tells me that they are speaking on the conservatives' terms. They are there to reinforce the message that everybody, even those who disagree with Bush, are supposed to support George Bush. There is no conflict in this party.
There's no conflict and there's no news at this convention, which is bad news for us, I suppose, but, you know, a political party holding a convention doesn't want to make news.
BROWN: That's right. It is their party, and they foot the bill -- more or less foot the bill. So I guess they get to do what they want.
BROWN: Thank you, Bill Schneider.
With -- so now, if you will, to the highlight reel, or perhaps the movie trailer is the appropriate way to put it tonight. Samuel Goldwyn, the great Hollywood producer, once said if you have a message, try Western Union. In other words, don't mix show business and politics. Then again, he didn't have a campaign to run and Clark Gable wasn't the governor of California.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN (voice-over): For pure political candle power, the California governor had no equal tonight, starting with a dig at the Democrats he couldn't resist.
GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER (R), CALIFORNIA: One of my movies was called "True Lies," and that's what the Democrats should have called their convention.
BROWN: And he wove in his story, an immigrant's story, with more praise for the president.
SCHWARZENEGGER: I want other people to get the same chance as I did, the same opportunities, and I believe they can. That's why I believe in this country, that's why I believe in this party, and that's why I believe in this president.
BROWN: But this was the money line.
SCHWARZENEGGER: Ladies and gentlemen, America is back, back from the attack on our homeland, back from the attack on our economy, and back from the attack on our way of life. We are back because of the perseverance, character and leadership of the 43rd president of the United States George W. Bush.
BROWN: President Bush did make an appearance, an electronic one, from a campaign stop in Pennsylvania. The president's wife, Laura Bush, was the evening's final speaker.
LAURA BUSH, FIRST LADY: I was there when my husband had to decide. Once again, as in our parents' generation, America had to make the tough choices, the hard decisions, and lead the world toward greater security and freedom.
BROWN: A quick look at what went on tonight. With that, we bring in the Brown Table -- John Harwood of "The Wall Street Journal," Nina Easton of "The Boston Globe," Terry Neal of washingtonpost.com.
Good to have all of you with us and all of you with us in one place.
Nina, just quickly on the Kerry stuff that's been floating around today -- I don't know if you've had a chance to make any calls -- there's a lot of talk that there may be a shakeup in the campaign staff. Know anything about it? And are they a little panicky up in Boston?
NINA EASTON, "THE BOSTON GLOBE": Well, certainly, there's some nerves going on, but, from our reporting, at this point, it doesn't look like there's going to be anything else more than this sort of mid-level change that they've already done. So it does not look like there's a shakeup in the offing.
BROWN: I just -- how are they -- what's their take on how the convention has gone and how they've responded to it?
EASTON: Well, it's -- I just first wanted to say tonight I thought it was extremely interesting that you had to go to the middle of the program with Arnold Schwarzenegger to find the inner child of the Republican Party because it started the evening with this -- these signs everywhere, people of compassion. It ended the night with Laura Bush and W stands for women.
But, in the middle, you had Arnold Schwarzenegger with his extremely muscular version of the Republican Party, teasing pessimists about the economy of being girly men, his saying that we shouldn't accede to the U.N. to determine what the U.S. should do, talking about getting government off our backs, lowering taxes. It was a very muscular kind of Republicanism.
BROWN: Let me turn to John.
John, you write, I think, in tomorrow's edition of the paper that, for all this talk about optimism, that the undercurrent of this campaign and perhaps, to some degree, all campaigns is really about fear.
JOHN HARWOOD, "THE WALL STREET JOURNAL": Aaron, we see it throughout the Republican campaign, shot through John McCain's remarks, Rudy Giuliani's remarks last night, to some degree Arnold Schwarzenegger tonight. Republicans are playing on the fear of terrorism and saying that George Bush is the guy who can keep America safe.
Democrats have their own weapon in this fight. They are saying that the person to be afraid of is George W. Bush -- on security because his policy, they argue, is breeding more terrorism rather than less and that he's a threat to civil liberties and the Americans' welfare at home. So this is -- conventions tend to be positive, and the parties like to present what they consider their face, but, at the end of the day, negative information is what voters respond to the most, and that's what these campaigns are counting.
BROWN: John, just to follow this a little bit, two days into this and a couple of weeks of swift boats stuff, has the dynamic of the campaign changed?
HARWOOD: Very, very hard to tell, Aaron. You know, we have polls so close that when you see variations, it's not clear whether you're actually seeing a trend or whether you're seeing a variation in the sample, the polling sample.
Democrats believe in the last few days Kerry has begun to bounce back a bit from the damage that he suffered on swift boat, but there's no doubt that he's been hurt. His numbers on leadership and commander in chief assessments are all down.
So George Bush certainly entered his convention on a bit of a roll. The question is whether they can sustain that through this week and the week after that.
BROWN: Now let's turn to Terry.
Terry, the same question in a sense. From where you sit, do you think the dynamic of the campaign has changed? Can the Democrats turn the -- I mean, the Democrats clearly need to talk about things other than terror and want to talk about things other than terror. Has the die been cast in a sense? Is this the way we're going to go for the next 60 days?
TERRY NEAL, WASHINGTONPOST.COM: Well, I think the Democrats really have a problem. I think it goes back -- in a lot of ways, you know, the swift boat thing has not been a good thing for Kerry, but, in some ways, it's done one good thing.
And it's sort of obscured the discussion over his answer about Iraq, which I think is the most important -- I continue to believe is the most important issue this year.
He said that he would have done the same thing. Even knowing what he knows now, he would have still made the decision to go to war in Iraq or, as he says, to authorize the war, whatever the case.
I think that his campaign has been complicated by that fact, and I think that that, along with the swift boat issue, has helped give -- has hurt him and helped give the Bush folks some -- you know, certainly, a lift here.
I think that combined with the convention means that coming out of this week, George Bush is going to be clearly ahead, probably by 5 to 7 points, and it's going to be real crucial to see how the Kerry folks respond to that in the weeks ahead.
BROWN: I thought you were going to tell me here that the glass was half full, and -- if you're the Kerry side, and, in fact, what I heard is the half-empty glass at least.
NEAL: I'm sorry. Say that again, Aaron. BROWN: I guess when you started, I had the impression you were going to say that there was something good that's happened on the Kerry side in all of this over the last two weeks. But I didn't hear that. I heard nothing like that.
NEAL: Oh, no, no. I -- yes. Well, yes. No, I was saying the good thing -- the good thing is that had it not been for the swift boat thing, I think there would have been a lot more discussion about what John Kerry said about this position on the war.
He has a -- he had a real opportunity to distinguish his leadership from George Bush's leadership on this issue of the war, but now he's taken what is probably the biggest issue off the table by saying he would have done the same thing that George W. Bush did.
What my point was -- was that the swift boat debate has obscured discussion of that. Once people turn back to that, it's not going to be good for John Kerry because what is he going to have coming out of this convention? What is he going to have to differentiate himself from George Bush on on the biggest issue that voters care about this year?
BROWN: Terry, I think that's a great point.
Thank you all. If you guys get a moment, stop by tomorrow. Please do. We'll talk to you tomorrow night. Thank you all.
Ahead on the program, more on the president and his men. First, a word from the first lady.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LAURA BUSH: George and I grew up in West Texas where the sky seems endless, and so do the possibilities. He brings that optimism, that sense of purpose, that certainty that a better day is before us to his job every day, and, with your help, he'll do it for four more years.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: We have -- those of us who have a special affection, love for politics, we have this thing about political operatives, Lee Atwater for the first President Bush, President Bush the elder. James Carville and Mary Matalin became media starts during their -- after their roles in the Clinton and Bush campaigns of '92.
Now it's Karl Rove who seems to get so much of the attention. He's not someone you hear a lot from, though you do hear a lot about, but this is convention week and he did sit down and do some talking, and he talked with our Senior White House Correspondent John King who joins us again to talk about what Mr. Rove talked about -- John.
KING: And, Aaron, he laughed, Karl Rove, did about that point. Some Democrats essentially call him the wizard. The joke is that he's the brain behind George W. Bush. He laughed and said Dr. Evil or maybe Mini-Me. He said he didn't know which term quite applied.
But a fascinating conversation today about the campaign strategy, about those Democratic allegations that he is quietly orchestrating a dirty tricks campaign against John Kerry. Also a conversation about the strategy heading out of this convention, whether it be the debates or promoting the agenda the president will outline.
But one interesting thing is Karl Rove says, for all the money and all the time being spent on this convention, he's not sure how much the president will get of a bounce in the polls because it's -- when I asked him about what is the president's greatest liability right now, he essentially talked about the partisan divide in the country.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KARL ROVE, BUSH CHIEF CAMPAIGN STRATEGIST: What we face is a highly polarized electorate, and that's the biggest difficulty the president faces, but, look, he's got -- he is the president. He can talk about -- on the biggest issues facing America, the war, the economy, the values of our country, he's in sync with the American people.
His opponent is not. His opponent is the most liberal member of the United States Senate, and that's saying a lot when your fellow seat mate from Massachusetts is Ted Kennedy.
KING: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) ... administration officials who have been questioned in this whole investigation, did someone in the White House leak the name of the CIA operative? What is your assessment of the status of the investigation, and can you tell us that you had nothing to do with...
ROVE: Well, I'll repeat what I said to ABC News when this whole thing broke some number of months ago. I didn't know her name. I didn't leak her name.
This is at the Justice Department. I'm confident that the U.S. Attorney, the prosecutor who's involved in looking at this is going to do a very thorough job of doing a very substantial and conclusive investigation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: I asked Karl Rove that question about the investigation, and he didn't like it because some worry in the Bush campaign that that could be the October surprise, if you will, if there are indictments or any progress in that investigation. That could be one of those events that tends to redirect the campaign from the track the campaign wants to put it on.
Aaron, going forward, Karl Rove saying that he believes the president will leave there with some momentum. He also embraced the message of those Swift Boat Veterans' ads, although he said he wanted the ads taken off the air because he thinks all of those so-called 527 groups should be illegal. But he was very tough on John Kerry's criticism of fellow servicemen in Vietnam, raping and war crimes, Senator Kerry's words back in 1971. Karl Rove very critical of that, saying he understands why some veterans might want to raise those concerns, although he said that the Bush campaign continues to think those ads are a bad thing.
BROWN: He embraced that part of the swift boat campaign that deals with what Senator Kerry did after the war. Did he embrace the medals controversy and all that?
KING: No, he did not.
KING: He said it was inappropriate that some of those Band-Aids were being worn down here on the floor last night. An old friend of his was spreading those Band-Aids. Karl Rove said he had nothing to do with it.
BROWN: And just, John, one quick question: Do you think anything that's happened so far in two days -- they're halfway home -- has caused a problem for the president, or has this gone pretty darn well?
KING: I think inside the hall, it's gone pretty darn well, from their perspective. You have Senator John McCain saying the war in Iraq was a noble thing. You have Laura Bush tonight saying my husband's not a warmonger, he did this only because he felt he had to. They believe Iraq is the biggest credibility question, if you will, about this president of the United States, and they believe they've handled that pretty well.
They did have the dustup we talked about at the top of the show, the president sort of going off message, but they also think that that's a 24-, maybe 48-hour thing, and they've moved past that.
And now we go to the main event, the vice president and the president.
BROWN: Well, the vice president's an interesting case. We'll talk more about that tomorrow. The vice president does not poll especially well out there, but we'll leave that for another night.
John, thank you.
John King, our senior White House correspondent, is doing lots of duty these days.
There is, of course, another campaign out there. It is the Kerry campaign, and unusual in a convention week to see the opposition candidate out on the stump, but Senator Kerry is out there tonight. He is in Nashville. So is CNN's Joe Johns.
Joe, good evening.
JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Aaron, this is Nashville, Tennessee. You can see hopefully Senator Kerry right behind me giving a speech in an airport hangar. Several hundred people turned out to greet him. He's in town to speak to the American Legion convention of course. If you look at what this campaign has been trying to do over the last several days during the Republican convention, they're trying to be heard much as I am over the roar of the Republican convention in New York, also trying to go where they can, do some good, to sort of pick their spot as well as get ready for the fall stretch.
Now on the issue of being heard over the roar of the GOP, as you know, they've been keying on those statements by President Bush, including the statement that the war against terrorism cannot be won. Kerry said just a few minutes ago that all of the world, people are counting on the United States to handle the situation. He did address that question directly.
As far as going where he could do some good, he's here in Tennessee speaking to the American Legion, also John Edwards today was in Beckley, West Virginia, another place I think is key to try to pick up some votes, getting ready for the home stretch. Today they announced a $45 million ad buy. Also they had Joe Lockhart, the former press secretary for President Clinton on the campaign plane. He was brought along about a week ago. They're trying to use him to beef up the rapid response, which has been a big problem, Aaron.
BROWN: Can you add anything in the reporting to this talk that's gone on for the last 36 hours, maybe actually a little longer, that a larger shake up is in order or is in store for the Kerry campaign?
JOHNS: On the way down, Joe Lockhart did talk to reporters on the plane and he said, no major shake up of the people at the top in the Kerry campaign is anticipated. He said we can't expect (ph) for other faces as he put it, to actually come on board, which he says was perfectly normal and natural for a campaign at this stage, entering the home stretch, Aaron.
BROWN: Joe, I'm not going to make you contort yourself any more than you already have, thank you. Joe Johns is in Nashville, Tennessee tonight. That is tough duty if you're a reporter. There's a lot of noise going on, trying to keep your thoughts.
Coming up on the program, we'll talk to "Time" magazine and a regular contributor of ours, Joe Klein. We'll take a break first.
BROWN: "Time" magazine political columnist and a contributor of ours, Joe Klein is over at the Garden tonight. He has been watching it all and doing some reporting as well. So let's talk on the reporting side. There's been a kind of persistent sense that the Kerry campaign, at some level is going to get shaken up, that they handled the Swift boat thing slowly for sure and badly perhaps. What do you know?
JOE KLEIN, "TIME" MAGAZINE: Well, you know, I want to (UNINTELLIGIBLE) what new faces mean. You know, Joe Johns was just talking about Joe Lockhart saying that there may be some new faces, but that's a natural thing. Well, I think that what's happening here is that John Kerry doesn't like to fire people. He didn't even want to fire Jim Jordan, his campaign manager last fall. Jordan quit.
What he will do in this -- what he does normally is just pave people over and bring in a new layer above them. And I've been talking to very prominent Democrats all day today, who have had nothing but bad things to say about the people running the John Kerry campaign, specifically the campaign manager, Mary Beth Cahill, the communications director, Stephanie Cutter and Bob Shrum, the media guru and I think that there's a lot of pressure from within the Democratic party to make some changes, maybe not firings, but to bring some people, new people in, to run a more effective, quick, supple and clever campaign.
BROWN: Is it possible that they just haven't nailed down the right message coming from the -- you know, that the country hasn't heard from the candidate. Forget the people making the commercials and running the show, but the candidate himself hasn't really delivered yet.
KLEIN: Well, the candidate has twisted himself into an unbelievable pretzel over the issue of the war in Iraq. I mean even his recent statement that he would voted to give the president the authority to go to war, still doesn't mean that he favored the president going to war if you listen to it closely. The question is, how closely are the people going to listen to his guy and when is he going to say something that you don't have to listen to closely, that is clear as can be about whether he thinks this war has been the right thing to do and direct criticism of how it's been fought.
BROWN: Thirty seconds on what you heard from Karl Rove.
KLEIN: Well, you know, an old friend of Karl Rove is distributing these disgraceful bandages with purple hearts and another old friend of Karl Rove contributed $200,000 to the Swift boat veterans and helped put that group together. At a certain point in all this, you got to say, oh, please. Come on. I mean this is as clear as clear can be.
BROWN: This is walk like a duck, is that what that is?
KLEIN: Yes. I think it's walk like a duck.
BROWN: Thank you.
KLEIN: Or maybe some other animal, I don't know.
BROWN: Thank you Joe, Joe Klein, over at the Garden.
This is the point in the program where we look for another point of view to what in this case the Republicans are saying. In Boston, we booked conservative voices for the segment. This week, we booked liberal voices. Now it gets complicated. Last night we booked "New York Times" op/ed columnist Bob Herbert and the banner underneath him said, Democratic response. It shouldn't have. When we make mistakes, we admit them and we fix them. We made a mistake last night and now we fix it. We apologize to Mr. Herbert. We apologize to you and with that, for another way to look at this, Farai Chideya joins us. She is I think at the Garden. Farai, good to see you.
FARAI CHIDEYA, FOUNDER, POPANDPOLITICS.COM: Absolutely. Good to see you too.
BROWN: Haven't see you in a while. The -- anything that you've heard that would say to the undecideds, the true undecideds, the true independents out there, you know what, the Republicans got it wrong. I'm going to vote Democratic.
CHIDEYA: You know, it's interesting. I think that the Republicans got a lot of things wrong. For example, Laura was talking about the leave no child behind, the education bill. Well, you know what, that's an unfunded mandate and what's really interesting is that of course she followed Governor Schwarzenegger. I have been in California for four months now. I moved there and host a radio show there and the California school system is in desperate, desperate shape. It's billions of dollars in the hole, $9 billion in cuts in the past three years and Governor Schwarzenegger, for all his charisma and he gave I think a just out of the park fabulous speech tonight, has not idea what to do about it.
And no child left behind is actually a huge problem, because you have people teaching to the tests. You have the obesity epidemic and kids getting no PE and no recreation, music classes being cut and even basic scholastic classes being cut to teach to the tests. So I think that's the back story to really what happened tonight and if people know the back story, if they have children in school in California or in many other states across America, they're going to know that some of this rang false.
BROWN: In a way, this goes back to something we talked about at the top of the program with the president's comments on terror, that we present politics these days in a very black and white sort of way and nothing frankly is that simple. The world is full of grays and whether it's education or stem cells or the war on terror, it's all there. The question is, are people of a mind to look at them?
CHIDEYA: Well, you know what's really interesting to me is having lived in New York for almost 15 years and now having moved to California, being back here for the convention really lets you know that the way that people deal with politics is often very personal. A lot of this has to do -- for example, half of Americans simply don't vote and I think it's in part because they don't feel a personal connection to politics and these conventions are in some way an attempt to bring people into having a personal connection with politics, which is why people like Schwarzenegger and Obama, both immigrants or children of immigrants or immigrants who are sounding those themes, try to put out this message of the big tent.
But when you talk to people in New York for example, they -- most New Yorkers don't support the Republican Party. They're angry both at the party for sort of clogging up the streets and also at some of the protesters for clogging up the streets. What I think is missing from both this convention and from the Democratic convention is really messaging that is going to reach not undecided voters who do vote, but who swing back and forth between parties, but non voters, the 100 million Americans who don't regularly go to the polls.
BROWN: This is one to me, one of the great issues. I know you've been thinking about this and writing about this and we're going to do a bunch on this between now and November so we'll talk again soon. It's nice to see you.
CHIDEYA: It's great to see you too.
BROWN: Thank you, still to come on the program, more fallout from the convention, some other news of the day, most of it bleak. We'll take a break first. This is a special edition of NEWSNIGHT from New York.
BROWN: Madison Square Garden down on 34th and 8th Avenue in Manhattan. Clearing out the world's most famous arena, getting a lot of air time this week, the Republican National Convention. In Virginia, Republican leaders have named a new candidate to replace U.S. Congressman Edward Schrock in November's election. Real estate agent Thelma Drake will take his place on the ballot. Representative Schrock dropped out of the race yesterday, the latest twist in a drama and it was a drama, that began a couple of weeks ago. Reporting this story for us, CNN's Tom Foreman.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Republican Congressman Ed Schrock, an opponent of gay rights, abandoned his reelection bid two weeks after a stunning accusation. Gay rights activist Michael Rogers said on his Web site that the conservative, married, Baptist father was leading a secret gay life.
MICHAEL ROGERS, GAY RIGHTS ACTIVIST: We're telling people that there are legislators in the government who are on one hand leading double lives and then turning around and legislating against the very people that they're living these lives with.
FOREMAN: Rogers has a recording of what he says is Schrock using a telephone dating service to contact gay men. CNN cannot confirm its authenticity and Schrock has admitted nothing. But in a written statement, he said, these allegations will not allow my campaign to focus on the real issues.
TOM GORDY, SCHROCK CHIEF OF STAFF: At the end of the day, he wanted to spare this district and the voters of this district the endless barrage of ads participating in the politics of personal destruction.
FOREMAN (on-camera): Many gay rights activists were furious with Schrock, a Vietnam vet, for wanting to end the military's don't ask, don't tell policy. He reportedly proposed questioning each new soldier about his or her sexuality, so that gays could be driven out.
(voice-over): They were mad that he was strongly backing efforts to ban same sex marriage, but some gays are still uneasy about how he was attacked. The Log Cabin Republicans fear such tactics are so mean-spirited they will undermine support for gay issues.
PATRICK GUERRIERO, LOG CABIN REPUBLICANS: I wish all the energy that is going into delving into people's personal lives was put into changing the hearts and minds of members of Congress.
FOREMAN: Are the methods you use really fair?
ROGERS: Absolutely. Absolutely.
FOREMAN: Rogers is not apologizing and he is promising more outings in coming weeks. Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.
BROWN: We said at the top of the program tonight, there's no lack of news beyond the convention today and much of it was grim, all of it important. So here now a few of those stories from around the country and around the world.
BROWN (voice-over): The number of hostages confirmed killed in Iraq now stands at 23, the number more than doubling in a single act of mass murder. A Web site today posted the video of 12 hostages from Nepal being murdered, one beheaded, the others shot in the back. A Napalese diplomat confirmed their deaths.
The fate of two French journalists kidnapped in Iraq remains uncertain tonight, although CNN's Jim Bittermann reports that French diplomatic efforts have apparently gained them another 24 hours of life.
Their captors are demanding that France repeal a law that bans many religious items, including Islamic head scarves from public schools. In the central mosque of Paris, Moslem leaders joined in a prayer service, praying for the hostages release.
In the Israeli city of Beersheba, two suicide bombers destroyed a pair of city buses, killing 16 others and wounding more than 90, the first such bombings in Israel since March. The military wing of Hamas said the bombings were in retaliation for the killings of two of their leaders.
In Washington, the investigation into a Pentagon analyst suspected of passing classified information to Israeli diplomats, with the assistance of an American lobbying group appears to be heading for the courts. Government officials have told CNN the matter will now be presented to a grand jury for possible criminal prosecution.
In Fort Bragg, North Carolina, the preliminary hearing in the case of Private Lynndie England ended with prosecutors alleging that she was celebrating her 21st birthday when she posed for photographs with Iraqi prisoners being abused at Abu Ghraib. A military court will now recommend whether or not she should stand trial.
And in Virginia, the remnants of hurricane Gaston caused massive flooding in Richmond, leaving at least five people dead in the state. Meanwhile, Hurricane Frances now packing 145-miles an hour winds. It seems set to hit the Bahamas on its way to a collision with the east coast sometime this weekend.
BROWN: There's a nasty storm out there. We'll take a look at the morning papers after the break.
BROWN: OK, time to check morning papers from around the country and around the world. We're on late, of course, therefore we have access to the front page of the "New York Times," so we'll lead with the "New York Times." Upbeat Republicans revive Bush theme of compassion, first lady and Schwarzenegger speak to convention and broader audience. They did do that, but I think what will catch your eye if you get the "New York Times" tomorrow morning and I will, is the picture of the suicide bombing in Israel today. It is a truly horrific picture and was a truly horrific act.
What else on the front page? Oh, here's something that will cheer you up. Talks to disarm Shiites collapse, prime minister said to cancel tentative pact, so I guess we're going to go back to that whole Mahdi army thing again.
The "Washington Times," Arnold appeals to immigrants, assures them a place in GOP. It's actually been a problem for Republicans because of what happened in California with Pete Wilson, ran an initiative dealing with immigrants 12 years ago I think, but I'm probably wrong.
GOP keeps faith but not in prime time, a look at how the values discussion has been off camera for the most part during the convention,
The "Dallas Morning News," one-two punch, the Republican convention is their lead, but I really wanted to get to the "Detroit News" and so I shall, because it's my segment, isn't it?
Feds admit errors, asked to toss terror verdicts. This is a very big story. Justice Department cites prosecutorial misconduct in post September 11th trial of (UNINTELLIGIBLE). You may remember this case. These were accused terrorists. The verdict's going to get thrown out. They're not going to be retried on the terrorist actions and a lot of people are in trouble. How much time do I got?
Oh, my goodness, "Cincinnati Enquirer," leads local, Allen's wife, the former Hamilton County prosecutor, I think former, I think he resigned. I thought she would do this. He was involved in an affair and the wife gave an interview. My goodness.
Governor Arnold, Governor Arnold, America's back, "Chicago Sun- Times," the weather in Chicago tomorrow, money, a pretty nice day in Chicago, 82. We'll wrap it up in a moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JENNA BUSH, PRESIDENT BUSH'S DAUGHTER: You know all those times when you were growing up and your parents embarrassed you? Well, this is payback time on live TV.
BARBARA BUSH, PRESIDENT BUSH'S DAUGHTER: Take this. I know it's hard to believe, but our parents favorite term of endearment for each other is actually bushy (ph).
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: The Bush daughters, Jenna and Barbara had their moment at the convention. Tomorrow, the Cheney family has its moment. Mrs. Cheney and the vice president will be the featured speakers tomorrow, along with Zell Miller, the Georgia Democrat who will keynote the convention and we'll be here after to talk about what they said and didn't say and what it means and how it changed the campaign, if it changed the campaign. A special edition of "LARRY KING LIVE" coming up next. We'll see you tomorrow. Good night for all of us.
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