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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

CNN Special Coverage Of Republican National Convention

Aired September 1, 2004 - 20:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much, Anderson.
A full night here at the Republican National Convention at Madison Square Garden. Tonight, among the speakers we'll be seeing on the agenda tonight, Zell Miller, the Democratic Senator from Georgia. He'll be speaking here endorsing the president.

Lynn Cheney the wife of the vice president. She'll be introducing her husband, Dick Cheney. He's the featured speaker tonight.

During the 10:00 pm Eastern hour, a full plate of Republican activity at Madison Square Garden.

ANNOUNCER: America Votes, 2004. This is CNN's live coverage of the Republican National Convention.

BLITZER: Thanks very much for joining us. I'm Wolf Blitzer at Madison Square Garden. The president of the United States is now in New York City. He's on the ground. He was in Ohio earlier today. He's here in New York. He'll be addressing this convention tomorrow night. The vice president will be doing that duty tonight. The vice president in a motorcade, heading over here, as he has been doing every day since this Republican Convention opened. Joining me in our coverage, as always, Judy Woodruff and Jeff Greenfield. What do you expect will be the most important thing the Republicans will have to do tonight?

JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What they've got to do tonight, wolf, is begin, for this third night in a row, to sell George W. Bush to the American people. How do they do that? With his running mate, Dick Cheney. Here is somebody who doesn't have the most favorable approval ratings in the world, and he's someone who there was a lot of speculation that he might come off the ticket. But here we are with two months to go. George Bush says this is the man I want at my side. And Dick Cheney has simply got to make the case that George Bush is the man to be reelected.

BLITZER: Jeff, what do you think?

JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think Dick Cheney is in one of the most unusual positions we've seen in politics. The very fact that he is not likely to run for president because of age and health has helped all the other Republican wannabes back off and let him, with the president's full support, become the single most powerful vice president ever, in effect the prime minister, someone who does draw the lightning, who is one of the less popular figures in the administration and someone who was never going to be dumped from the ticket in a large measure, because in many ways the conservative for the Republican party think he is their man, whether it's on the use of force in Iraq, on social issues.

So Dick Cheney really comes here, I think, less to sell George Bush to a skeptical public than to reinforce things about George Bush and also to try to redefine Dick Cheney, not as this kind of Dr. Strangelove figure hiding in an undisclosed location, but a hunter, a fisherman, a good husband, a good father, another nice guy.

BLITZER: Let's bring in Andy Card, Andy Card, the White House chief of staff who works with Dick Cheney, dare I say, every single day of the year.

ANDY CARD, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: Every single day.

BLITZER: He's been among the most active vice presidents and influential vice presidents, I believe, in history.

CARD: He has. Now, understand that Dick Cheney had been a chief of staff. He'd been the secretary of defense. And now he's been the vice president for the last 3 and three-quarter years and he's done a spectacular job. And the president picked Dick Cheney to be at his side in case anything should happen to George W. Bush. He knows that Dick Cheney would be able to lead this country. But Dick Cheney is not looking to lead the country. But if he had to, he could. And that's what this is all about.

BLITZER: Will we see a different Dick Cheney tonight, should we say, a kinder, gentler Dick Cheney than the perception, at least, that has been out there?

CARD: Well, Dick Cheney is a kind and gentle man who is a strong leader. He has great conviction. He's a terrific vice president because he is so supportive of what the president does. He's a real team player. But Dick Cheney is a very kind man. He's a wonderful, wonderful husband, a great father, a great grandfather. He's just been a really terrific person. All around this country people love him. He does understand the outdoors. He understands the West. He understands what it means to have a strong leader in the White House. And that's why he wants President Bush reelected.

WOODRUFF: Andy Card, has the relationship between Dick Cheney and George Bush changed over the last almost four years? I mean, initially, as Jeff said, there was a lot of talk he's the prime minister, he's pulling the strings behind the scenes. Now I think there's less of that perception. George Bush has been in the job. How do you see their relationship changing?

CARD: Well, Vice President Dick Cheney understands who the president is. And the president is the president. The vice president is not. The vice president is not the prime minister. We don't have one in our government. But the vice president does understand how Congress works because he was a member of Congress. He's been very helpful as we deal with Congress and work to get legislation passed in a very divided Congress, both the House and the Senate. He also has been terrific at understanding what it means to conduct a war. After all, he successfully helped President Bush, former President Bush, conduct the war in the Gulf, and that was a tremendous success.

GREENFIELD: Andy, this business about nice guy and good guy, Ed Gillespie says we've got to show the president's a good guy, now we want to show the vice president as a good guy. I'm going to be blunt about this. Why the heck should the voters care whether somebody's a nice guy as opposed to whether, for instance, he played games with military intelligence and got us into a bad war with Iraq or is pushing an agenda that is dangerous to the environment? Wouldn't it be irrelevant if he was the nicest guy in the world if his policies and judgment were no good?

CARD: Well, I can the you their policy and judgment is great. And they are also good guys, and they're fun to work with. And they work very hard, and they care about the things that people in America care about. You know, Dick Cheney is kind of a bottoms-up person. He started off right down there in Wyoming. He and his wife were in the same high school. They were good friends. He went to Yale. Then he went back to Wyoming. He's a great guy, and he knows what it is to struggle in this country and then to succeed.

GREENFIELD: But my point is Winston Churchill wasn't a nice guy, and he was born affluent. And Franklin Roosevelt wasn't the best father and husband, and he was born rich. They were both great leaders. Why should we even care about that?

CARD: I don't know that we have to care about it, but it does make a difference. And I can tell you, it's a good thing for me that both the president and the vice president like each other, number one. I don't have to separate them. Number two, they're both good guys, and I enjoy talking with them and sharing counsel and getting advice.

BLITZER: It's important, Jeff, because that's what voters like. They want the president and the vice president in addition to being smart and strong, they want them to be nice guys as well.

CARD: They want them to get along. And they do get along.

BLITZER: The Democratic presidential nominee today, John Kerry was at the American Legion convention in Nashville, Tennessee. He made some very serious charges against the president and the vice president. Among other things, "I would have never gone to war without a plan to win the peace. The president has now acknowledged he had a miscalculation, didn't plan appropriately for what he called a catastrophic success, the speedy destruction of Saddam Hussein's regime. And look what's happened, a lot of American troops have died over the past year."

CARD: Well, the war was such that we got to Baghdad faster than the pundits predicted and it was much easier for us to go into Baghdad and to secure that facility around which Saddam Hussein had his palaces and everything else. Saddam went hiding in a hole, and the public was left in anarchy. And the United States came in very quickly and provided leadership and guidance to get them out of the anarchy. It's been a struggle, but it's the right struggle. But the victory came very quickly on the ground war. And we did get to Baghdad faster than most pundits had predicted.

BLITZER: What did the president mean when he said there was a miscalculation?

CARD: Well, I think there was an expectation -- there were many expectations that did not materialize. One is we thought there would be starvation. There was no starvation. We thought there would be a lot of refugees. There were not a lot of refugees. We thought that we'd have problem with unrest from, kind of, the military and then we'd have the civil workers ready to do the job. And they weren't ready to do the job. The Baathist regime was more involved in everyday activity in Baghdad than probably many of us had thought possible. So we did have challenges that we didn't expect, but we also had successes that we didn't expect.

WOODRUFF: Let me ask you about something else that happened today. Karl Rove, who's the president's chief political adviser gave an interview to the Associated Press in which, among other things, he said that John Kerry tarnished the reputation of all those American soldiers who fought in Vietnam with his opposition to the war and the accusations that he made. The Kerry campaign has come back and said, in fact, Merrill McPeak (ph), the former Air Force general said "who the hell" -- and I'm quoting him -- "who the hell is Karl Rove to comment on what John Kerry did?" They're calling for Karl Rove to step down, to resign from office.

CARD: Well, I assume that General McPeak and the others who served in the armed forces have all been fighting to defend our Constitution and protect us. And one of the aspects of our Constitution is free speech. And Karl Rove exercised his constitutional right to speak.

WOODRUFF: But do you think -- do you agree that by what John Kerry did, he tarnished...

CARD: Well, you know, I've known John Kerry for a long time, and I have great respect for anyone who wears the uniform in the armed services, especially I have respect for those who sacrificed and earned a Purple Heart. And John Kerry wore the uniform. He sacrificed and earned a Purple Heart.

BLITZER: All right. Andy Card, hold on one second. I want to go to the floor. They're just making it unanimous the nomination of the vice president of the United States and the president, of course, President Bush. Right now, that's Michael Steele the lieutenant governor of Maryland. Let's listen in.

MICHAEL STEELE, LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR OF MARYLAND: The chair proudly announces that this convention's unanimous choice for the office of president of the United States is George W. Bush! We can do better than that! We can do better than that. George Bush, George Bush! Come on, now. Bring it home for the president. All right.

BLITZER: All right, so they're celebrating here. It's official, it's unanimous. George W. Bush the unanimous, the unanimous selection. What a surprise, Andy Card. We had expected -- maybe we'll still see -- the president's supposed to be in Queens addressing a group. Let me call it specifically, the Italian Charities of America hall in Elmhurst with firefighters. Is he going to make a remote appearance here?

CARD: It's my understanding that he is watching as he's won that nomination, and he'll be ready to beam into this convention hall. But I have also been down on the floor for the last hour and-a-half, so I don't know if the satellite truck showed up.

BLITZER: I'm sure if the president wants a satellite truck and the Bush/Cheney campaign wants it, it'll show up.

GREENFIELD: Andy, while we wait perhaps for your boss to show up, job figures are supposed to come out, I think, at the end of this week. Advance word is they are not going to be good. Candidly, is the economy not the soft underbelly of your reelection effort?

CARD: Well, I actually feel that the president put a solid foundation, and the economy and is building on that foundation. It was a foundation of tax cuts, and it was a foundation that had to correct for the corporate governance scandal that we had. And all of that made for an opportunity for to us grow. I actually think the jobs numbers will still show growth, so we won't dip into the negative range. They will show growth.

GREENFIELD: My question, though, is that's still the biggest obstacle you have to reelection, no?

CARD: We're not going to be happy until everybody in America who wants a job is able to get a job. And we won't quit.

BLITZER: If the president makes his acceptance speech -- of course he will make the acceptance speech tomorrow night, but what is he going to do if you do get this hook-up with the firefighters in Queens? He's going to say what?

CARD: Well, I think first of all, he's going to be thrilled that he's won that nomination. And he'll say I'm ready to come to that convention hall. And you're going to hear a great speech tomorrow night. But he's got a hopeful speech for America. You know, it's not going to be talking about the past. It will talk about the foundation he's laid for success and optimism. He's a leader that will take us to a better place.

BLITZER: How do you feel about all the criticism that Zell Miller, the Democratic senator from Georgia, is getting? You probably don't remember, but maybe you do. In '92, right here in Madison Square Garden, he was speaking very, very strongly against the first President Bush. Now he's endorsing the second President Bush. They call him zigzag.

CARD: Well, I tell you, he respects strong leadership. And Senator Zell Miller has been a careful observer of the president during times of challenge for this country. And he's come down on the side of saying, George W. Bush is the right leader for the time. BLITZER: Andy Card, you've got a long night ahead of you. You've got a big day tomorrow. Thanks very much for spending a few moments with us.

CARD: Thank you. Judy, Jeff, thank you.

WOODRUFF: Thanks, Andy. We appreciate it.

BLITZER: And we'll look forward to hearing from the president if, in fact, that's going to happen. We'll find out if that satellite truck showed up. I suspect if it didn't show up, someone is going to be in deep, deep trouble. We've been speaking a lot about Zell Miller. At 10:00 p.m. eastern, he's going to be speaking the key note address, highly unusual for a Democrat to be doing that at a Republican convention. CNN's Dan Lothian has been taking a closer look at Zell Miller. And CNN's John King has been taking a closer look at the vice president of the United States, the two prime speakers later tonight. First, let's get behind the scenes and what made Zell Miller endorse this president.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): His critics call him zigzag Zell. Senator Zell Miller has danced with both political parties and in between. Now the Georgia Democrat is in step with President George Bush, a key voice from the other side, trying to inspire not only conservatives, but moderate Democrats.

SENATOR ZELL MILLER, UNITED STATES SENATE: The world was changed as far as I'm concerned by 9-11. And I want a president now that's got a little [inaudible] in his craw (ph).

LOTHIAN: Seventy-two-year-old Miller is a former mayor, state senator, lieutenant governor and governor of Georgia. He's independent, outspoken, and sometimes downright different. Miller once sent a truckload of Georgia onions to Capitol Hill and passed them out to every senator, along with a recipe for onion soup, a small taste of the senator's colorful southern style. He once ranted on the Senate floor about Kid Rock's controversial flag-draped performance at the Super Bowl.

MILLER: He should be tarred and feathered and ridden out of this country on a rail.

LOTHIAN: But it's Miller's high profile role in both parties and seemingly changing views that have drawn so much attention, praise, and criticism. In 1992, he gave the keynote speech at Bill Clinton's nominating convention, also at Madison Square Garden. At that time, Miller spared few words in criticizing Clinton's opponent, former President Bush.

MILLER: Americans have seen plants close down, jobs shipped overseas, and our hopes fade away as our economic position collapses right before our very eyes. And George Bush does not get it.

LOTHIAN: He also blasted the Republican party. MILLER: We can't all be born rich and handsome and lucky. That's why we have a Democratic party.

LOTHIAN: But Miller has often shot from the hip. And in this campaign, a different view. Miller criticized Senator Kerry, began supporting the president on key issues and joined Bush on the campaign trail.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: He puts his country ahead of the political party.

LOTHIAN: Miller's new allegiance has prompted Georgia's Democratic party to launch this Web site.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was a time when Zell Miller did get it.

LOTHIAN: The senator on the record, then and now.

BLITZER: Dan Lothian, reporting on Zell Miller who is going to be one of the major speakers later tonight. Another major speaker, the vice president of the United States himself. Our senior White House correspondent, John King, has been taking a look at the vice president of the United States and has this report.

JOHN KING, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it might be a surprise for some around the country to see a Democratic senator up here promoting the Bush/Cheney ticket tonight. No surprise at all to see the vice president when he enters this hall tonight. But back early in this political season, there was rumbling about in Washington among some Republicans who thought the president should get somebody younger, somebody more dynamic to share the ticket. President Bush quickly stepped forward and put that talk to rest, saying no, if he gets four more years, he wants Dick Cheney by his side.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In an iffy economy, every purchase helps. And what a coincidence. Pennsylvania just happens to be a November showdown state. No, cows don't vote, but their owners do, and rural communities tend to be a little more conservative, which suits Dick Cheney just fine.

DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: President Bush and I will also continue to defend our society's fundamental rights and values. We stand for a culture of life, and we reject the brutal practice of partial birth abortion. And we will defend the individual right of every American to bear arms.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Courting conservatives is one campaign role. Leading the attacks on the opposition another. This is a staple.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHENEY: America face as choice between our president and a man calling for us to fight a more sensitive war on terror.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This one tailored to auto making Michigan.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHENEY: Throughout his 20 years in the Senate, John Kerry has supported unreasonable fuel standards for American cars and trucks. Analysts say the cafe standards supported by Senator Kerry would cost up to 450,000 American jobs.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: Like his boss, the vice president is a polarizing figure. Forty-four percent of Americans have a favorable view of him, 45% unfavorable. To the president, and other conservatives, he's a trusted voice of experience, from taxes to terrorism.

BUSH: Though he's not the prettiest face on the ticket. I didn't pick him for his looks. I picked him because he can do the job.

KING: To Democrats, the vice president is too eager to flex military muscle, too cozy with big energy companies and their poster child for an administration they portray as cold-hearted.

SENATOR JOHN KERRY (D-MA) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: They think we ought to cut life saving medical research and even homeland security. And if you think that's compassionate conservativism, then Dick Cheney is Mr. Rogers.

KING: But it is not always so black and white.

CHENEY: Lynn and I have a gay daughter.

KING: In a rare public disagreement with the president, the vice president makes clear he does not support a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.

CHENEY: States have made that basic fundamental decision in terms of defining what constitutes a marriage.

KING: But for the most part, he and the president have been in sync. Before the war in Iraq, his were the most dire warnings about Saddam Hussein.

CHENEY: The issue is not inspectors. The issue is that he has chemical weapons and has used them. The issue is that he's developing and has biological weapons. The issue is that he's pursuing nuclear weapons.

KING: No such weapons have found in Iraq, but don't come to a Cheney event expecting an apology.

CHENEY: In Iraq, of course, not only is Saddam Hussein no longer in power, today he's in jail, which is where he ought to be. KING: Flashy is not a word that comes to mind, but he is loosening up as a campaigner and seems at ease in the small town settings where the Bush campaign believes the election will be decided.

(MUSIC)

KING: At first glance, this stop might seem ill advised for candidate with a history of heart trouble. But look closely and listen to his spouse who helps both with message and menu discipline.

LYNN CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT'S WIFE: Such willpower.

CHENEY: It's hard (ph).

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: A salad at McDonald's there for the vice president. Look for a little red meat in the hall tonight. He will try to be more personal, perhaps more friendly, try to boost his own personal standing with the American people. But make no mistake, Wolf, he also will deliver a crystal clear contrast, saying President Bush has been decisive as a commander-in-chief and should stay the course in the war on terrorism. And in the vice president's view, he will tell the American people John Kerry is anything but decisive and has a 20-year record soft on national security issues -- Wolf.

BLITZER: John, by all indications, his health is strong right now, given the fact he's had a series of heart attacks under those circumstances. There's no indication of any serious medical problem beyond what we know, is there?

KING: No, he has routine checkups for his heart. And if you get off the Cheney plane and you travel with him, if you look back a few second after you get off the plane, you usually see his exercise bike brought off and put on the tarmac. He tries to ride a little bit every day.

BLITZER: All right. John King reporting on the vice president of the United States. He'll be the principal speaker coming up tonight. CNN's Candy Crowley is in the Florida delegation. What's happening there?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is one of the occasions and we have them along the way where two stories collide. Now that another big storm appears to be heading toward Florida, what you're seeing here is a divided delegation weighing whether do we go home now, batten down the hatches, ride out the storm. Bit what they really would like to do is hear George Bush speak tomorrow night. So we are told by delegates here that some people are, in fact, going home. They do need to go home because there's one woman here whose pets are being taken care of by someone else, some evacuation is going on. She needs to go home. But by and large, they're going to stay here, though they are monitoring back home very closely. On a political note. They do agree here, some that our producer, Sasha Johnson, has talked to have head said, listen, you know, how the Bushes -- that is, Governor Bush and President Bush -- respond to these storms is going to be important. Because as you know, Wolf when Charley came through, it hit very Republican areas. You want to keep these folks happy in particular. But the entire state, they give George Bush and Jeb Bush, no surprise here, a very high marks for their handling of the first storm. But they admit that with the second one coming, this is something that they look at but they first look at home, property and lives. So a little split delegation here as they try to figure out what to do and watch the weather map as well as the podium. Wolf?

BLITZER: Hurricane Frances a very, very serious problem for Florida. Already in Palm Beach County, 300,000 people along the coast have been told perhaps tomorrow to start evacuating that area. Carlos Watson, our political analyst, is from Florida. Carlos, as we see Don King, the boxing promoter, on the floor of this Republican convention. More about him later. Two hurricanes within a matter of a few weeks within Florida, potentially sets the stage for some serious political ramifications.

CARLOS WATSON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It certainly does. Certainly more visits by the president by John Kerry, more of an opportunity to spread help in the form someone called largesse from FEMA in order to help people get back on the ground. But, Wolf, I'll tell you, what's happened in Florida this week, three dramatic things that many people may have missed. One, Ralph Nader seemed to qualify to be on the ballot. That could be big news for John Kerry. Number two, Mel Martinez a Cuban-American Republican, won the nomination. That could help President Bush increase turnout. And last but not least, when you look at the turnout numbers from yesterday's primary, they were up, Wolf, 33% over where they were four years ago. If that is right, we may end up not just in Florida, but across the country with the highest voter turnout we've seen since 1968. I'm talking some 56, 57 percent of the voting age population turning out. And Dick Cheney may be a big part of that when it comes to the Republicans. They'll use him in a number of ways and in a number of states in order to turn out the base.

BLITZER: Carlos Watson, thanks very much.

Judy, all this Florida talk, Jeb Bush, the governor of Florida, the brother of the president, he has important business down there and helps explain why he decided not come to this convention.

WOODRUFF: Absolutely. They've had one storm come through, they're facing another one. Wolf, I want to add something right here about this whole turnout question. The people of Florida, especially Democrats, have said that they are not going to let happen again what happened in 2000. It wasn't that long ago that Karl Rove -- and we just heard about this the other day. When he heard the Democrats had registered something like 150, 175,000 new voters in Florida, he turned around and found out Republicans had only registered about half that. And he said let's gear up Republican registration efforts. This is turning out to be a battle of new voters, a battle of registrations. It's just one part of why we're going to be watching Florida very closely in the next few days.

BLITZER: Very briefly.

GREENFIELD: Wolf if you want to know why this hurricane matters so much, John Lindsay, mayor of New York, almost lost his job in 1969 because a snowstorm crippled part of the city. Mayor Blandvick (ph) of Chicago did lose his. Weather can be the most significant part of how people feel about their leaders.

BLITZER: In Florida, the weather is going to be very significant by all accounts over the next few days. We're going to take a quick break here. At the Republican National Convention, we're standing by. The president of the United States is in Queens, meeting with firefighters, watching this convention. We expect he's going to be beamed in to this convention momentarily. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Madison Square Garden, the Republican National Convention. Let me tell our viewers, what we're standing by -- there he is, the president of the United States in Elmhurst, New York. That would be in Queens. He's meeting with firefighters, specifically Uniformed Firefighters Association members. They're watching the convention from there. He only got into New York a short time ago from Ohio, that important battleground state. The president, we expect might be saying some words to this convention momentarily. The firefighters, Judy and Jeff, something that the Democratic presidential nominee has been using extensively as a base of support here.

WOODRUFF: Wolf, the union that came out front and center, four square, whatever you want to use the term behind John Kerry, first was the International Association of Firefighters, Harold Shaitberger, something like 270,000 members across the country. They came out early for John Kerry. They worked for him hard throughout the primaries, and they're working for him now. But just this week, right here in New York City, one of the firefighters unions with 8,700 members, the union that you're going to see tonight, the United Firefighters Association, are endorsing George W. Bush. There's another Firefighter Officers Union. You can say why does it matter? It's become a turf thing to some extent. It's, you know, 8,700 members in New York. They lost over 200 firefighters on 9-11. The other union lost over 100. You know, whenever you talk to firefighters and police New York City...

GREENFIELD: First of all, they're the heroes of 9-11. Second of all, they represent one of those Democratic groups, traditionally Democratic groups, blue collar, unionized, public employees, many of whom have moved in the uniformed services to Republican. This is the same kind of turf that Bill Clinton fought very hard for in 1992, when he was surrounded by policemen to overcome the soft on crime issue. Firefighters are like domestic soldiers. And to have them as another symbol of strength, a symbol of traditional values, traditional heroism, it's understandable why both candidates want that image so much.

BLITZER: Let's go upstairs. Donna Brazile and Victoria Clarke, two of our analysts. Donna Brazile, the former campaign manager for Al Gore's campaign four years ago. Victoria Clarke worked in the Bush campaign four years ago, went on to become the spokeswoman over at the Pentagon. First to you, Donna Brazile, is the president stealing some of John Kerry's thunder by sitting down with firefighters, getting this endorsement in Queens tonight?

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN ANALYST: Well, you know, Wolf, there's an old saying, it's not what you sit, it's where you stand. And on those issues, John Kerry has stood up for firefighters. He's standing up for first responders. He will get their strong support this fall.

BLITZER: What about that, Victoria Clarke. This is shaping up as somewhat of a little sideshow, but somewhat significant, given the heroic role that firefighters play every day, especially 9-11.

VICTORIA CLARKE, CNN ANALYST: Absolutely right. But I'll tell you, I met some of those firemen a few years ago, right after 9-11. I've seen some of them since then, some of the policemen. And I've talked to some of the policemen in New York since I've been here. I think there are an awful lot of them that are big fans of the president.

BLITZER: Donna Brazile, let's talk about Senator Zell Miller. He says he's still a Democrat even though he's endorsing and will be the keynote speaker tonight at this Republican convention. How do you explain his change? He says he hasn't changed. What he says is the Democratic Party has changed.

DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, you know, Wolf, if you go back and look at the speech he gave in 1992, endorsing Bill Clinton, serving as the keynote speaker, you know, he could come into this convention and really give that same speech to the Republican Party has grown out of touch with mainstream values.

But Zell Miller is staying good-bye to the Democratic Party. I don't know if he's ready to say hello to the Republican Party. But if this is his -- his swansong, then good-bye, Zell. So long.

We have a lot of great conservatives in the Democratic Party, along with moderates and liberals. We all get together. We stand together. We fight together for the values that the American people care about.

And I know John Kerry and John Edwards will be proud tonight to know that there are many other Democratic senators, conservative, liberal and others who will continue to stand by them this fall.

BLITZER: Victoria Clarke, what do you think?

VICTORIA CLARKE, FORMER PENTAGON SPOKESPERSON: Well, I've seen him quoted as saying he was born a Democrat, and he's going to die a Democrat. So he's not ready to be pushed out of the party yet.

I think it's just another sign of the remarkable depth and breadth of opinion and political persuasion you're seeing coming out here and supporting the president this week.

JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: If I may?

JUDY WOODRUFF, CO-HOST: Yes, go ahead.

GREENFIELD: Donna, you know, the thing, though, Zell Miller has stayed with the party and its candidates, long after other conservative Democrats, starting with Strom Thurmond in 1964, fled.

Doesn't this bother you a little it's a sign that there's increasingly no ground left, at least in the South, where conservative Democrats are willing to stand with their nominee?

BRAZILE: Well, there's a lot of conservative Democrats who are still standing with their nominee and will be running this fall as Democrats. We have a lot of great candidates who will be seeking reelection under the Democratic banner.

And look, I went back home to Louisiana to support one of them in 2002 and she got reelected.

So this is Zell Miller. Somehow or another he's grown uncomfortable with the Democratic Party. But look, he's now standing behind a party that cannot create one job, that cannot provide healthcare, that have left the -- those who are unemployed and impoverished behind. So if that's the party that Zell wants to join, then they should go ahead and give him a lifetime membership.

WOODRUFF: Tori -- Tori, I guess my question to you is does Zell Miller have the kind of credibility that matters when, again, at the Democratic convention 12 years ago, he was calling George Bush's father, the first President Bush, somebody the public couldn't trust. He had gone off in the wrong direction.

If he was right then, how can he -- how can he be right now?

CLARKE: I think he's got an awful lot of credibility. But, you know, to Donna's point, this isn't going to come down to one person or endorsement. But if you look at what's been going on this week, people who have disagreed with the president about different things, people who have run against the president in the past, all these people, including Democrats, have come together this week to say, "All things considered, we think President Bush is the guy."

That's pretty powerful.

BLITZER: All right. Victoria Clarke, Donna Brazile, we'll be getting back to both of you.

BRAZILE: Thank you.

BLITZER: Let's go down to the Georgia delegation right now. CNN's Dana Bash is down there.

This must be strange, Dana, for a lot of Republicans in Georgia. They're about to applaud very enthusiastically for a Democrat.

DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly what they're saying here, Wolf. The folks here certainly are very happy that Zell Miller is going to be here.

But they say that it was really hard for them to imagine having one of their -- a Democrat at one of their conventions to be the person giving them the red meat against the Democratic candidate. This is somebody that they have run races against for 40 years. So certainly, they are very excited that he's going to endorse their candidate.

But Zell Miller is somebody, Wolf, who was a state chairman for Walter Mondale, not exactly a liberal, as we just heard. Miller is somebody who now says the Democratic Party is too partisan, that they have lost their way on foreign policy.

The Republicans think that his message can resonate with conservative Democrats; hopefully vote, they hope for George Bush after listening to Zell Miller.

BLITZER: We'll see how enthusiastic that speech is, that keynote speech. I expect it will be very enthusiastic tonight. Zell Miller, the Democratic senator from Georgia, speaking in support of this Republican president.

Let's get back to the issue of firefighters. The president of the United States right now in Queens, New York, meeting with firefighters, sitting down with them, watching this convention. A very symbolic act, especially here in New York City, in the aftermath of 9/11.

CNN's Aaron Brown is watching all of this together with all of us.

Aaron, as all of our viewers know, you were so, so instrumental in our coverage of 9/11. You know this city. You know the firefighters. How important is this meeting between the president and these firefighters?

AARON BROWN, HOST, "NEWSNIGHT WITH AARON BROWN": Well, I'm -- I'm sure the meeting with the president and the firefighters is important to the firefighters. Anytime you meet any president, it's an important moment, and I'm sure they're excited.

I would just take the option here of flipping the question, Mr. Schneider, a little bit.

One of the lines that the party, the Republicans have had to walk is at what point remembering 9/11 becomes exploiting 9/11 for political reasons. Is there a danger that being seen at a firehouse in the context of a political convention, creates a kind of hokey exploitive feel to it?

BILL SCHNEIDER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I honestly don't think so. I think that this union endorsed Mr. Bush. So, you know, it's a local union. It's not a huge union. But it is symbolic, and I think it's appropriate for him to appear with them.

It would be something quite different, however, if he were to try to use Ground Zero as a political backdrop.

BROWN: Why is it different? Because here's the argument I think critics will make.

We all know why they will say -- we all know why he's with the firefighters. Three hundred...

SCHNEIDER: Yes.

BROWN: Three hundred or almost 350 of them died. It's a great way to -- you done have to go to Ground Zero to get the same effect of being at Ground Zero.

SCHNEIDER: Ground Zero is sacred territory for the families of the 9/11 victims, who have become a potent political force. And I think they would respond very negatively if this convention or this president came there and tried to use it as a political backdrop.

The firefighters, of course, sacrificed, suffered, lost a great number of their own people. But the fact that they endorsed him means that his appearing there as part of a political campaign doesn't appear inappropriate.

BROWN: OK. Let me ask you -- let me just change because we were talking a bit about this last night.

John Edwards, who remains relatively -- I wouldn't say unknown, but not as well known as the vice president, and the vice president, and people are asked who do they prefer? I asked you this last night, before we looked at the poll results. And you actually nailed it.

How do you explain this, that Edwards polls so much better than Cheney?

SCHNEIDER: Well, there's a simple explanation, which is this. Cheney is not a happy warrior. John Edwards is. People don't warm up to Dick Cheney. He's not warm and fuzzy. He's a tough guy.

And I -- I saw Cheney's ratings really take a dive when it was revealed a couple months ago that he swore, rather ferociously at Pat Leahy, a Democratic senator, on the floor of the Senate. That was a lapse of decorum. He never apologized for it. I think a lot of people were shocked by it.

He's not an easy guy to like, unlike President Bush.

BROWN: Well, we'll see how he does tonight -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Aaron, thanks very much. Bill Schneider, thanks to you, as well.

An important note to our viewers. Aaron will have a complete special edition of "NEWSNIGHT." That comes up at 11 p.m. Eastern tonight.

Aaron Brown and Bill Schneider, thank you very much. We're going to get back to both of you in a moment. But we're going to take a quick break.

We're standing by; we're awaiting more speakers here at the Republican convention in Madison Square Garden. The major speakers later tonight Zell Miller, Lynne Cheney and the vice president, Dick Cheney. Much more of our coverage when we come back.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: At the 1888 Republican convention, Fredrick Douglass became the first African-American to receive a vote for president. Douglass had spoken about the thousands of black soldiers who fought in the Civil War but could not vote. The former slave, an abolitionist, received one vote.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Madison Square Garden, the Republican National Convention. Zell Miller will be making the keynote address tonight, a highly unusual event for a Democrat to be doing it at a Republican convention.

GREENFIELD: Unprecedented. And there are two things about it...

BLITZER: Unprecedented?

GREENFIELD: Yes, it is. Not that one party member would cross, but at this level.

But there are two things you should know about Zell Miller, why this is important to voters. He was the most popular politician in Georgia, because he used the state Lottery money to create these scholarships. One of the few states that actually made a difference. If you have a B average, and you're a Georgia kid in high school, you go to college for a few years.

Second, this is how popular he is. Zell Miller has on his wall a whole bunch of pictures of Mickey Mantle, the great New York Yankee centerfield with whom he bonded. Now for a Georgia senator to have as a hero a New York Yankee says something about how confident and strong Zell Miller is politically in Georgia.

BLITZER: Well, we'll be watching. He's -- It could be a very lively enthusiastic, rousing kind of speaker.

WOODRUFF: I don't know what that says about the Atlanta Braves, but we can talk about that another time.

BLITZER: That's another matter. Throughout these conventions, the Democratic convention at the FleetCenter in Boston, the Republican convention here at Madison Square Garden, we've given some mini cameras to some delegates to take us behind the scenes, get a little flavor of what they're doing when they're not necessarily sitting right here at Madison Square Garden.

Here's today's edition of our "Delegate Diary."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi. I'm Andreas Salvalas (ph). I'm a delegate from Puerto Rico.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi. I'm Katarina Tabalaras (ph), and I'm a delegate from the great state of California.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm Jack Kapper (ph). I'm a delegate from Jacksonville, Florida.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm Georgia Moss Backer (ph). I'm a delegate here in the great state of New York.

What you see on the floor at Madison Square Garden was just part of it. The rest of the day, we're going to a number of other activities that have been arranged for us, both educational activities, with respect to being able to talk to other Republican activists...

I think this is an opportunity for us to do our part.

And also to have a chance to experience this great city.

I've just come from a fabulous lunch with the first lady, Laura Bush.

LAURA BUSH, FIRST LADY: All issues facing our nation are women's issues.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Laura Bush spoke to the sold-out room here of Republican women about the importance of women to the president and her.

Some of the events we'll be going to symposiums and lectures.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is it about...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: "W Is for Women" is something that actually started four years ago, that I started to get out the vote for the president.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We do a lot of networking, which again is very important for local politics.

We all come to the convention with our own agendas, and they're usually local agendas. We feel that if we can move towards being a state, Puerto Rico will have a much better business climate.

The schedule can be hectic. I've attended two Hispanic functions. This is the third one today.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We want Bush!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We want Bush! UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We want Bush!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We want Bush!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're about to hear George 41 former president, speak to a very large group of Hispanics.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They asked me to lead the pledge of allegiance on Wednesday for the Florida delegation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I pledge allegiance to the flag...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I pledge allegiance to the flag...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I pledge allegiance to the flag...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'd like to meet as many people as I can. I'm not going to chase them down the street.

This is Katherine Harris, congresswoman from the state of Florida.

REP. KATHERINE HARRIS (R), FLORIDA: No, that's my hero.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're my hero.

HARRIS: No, you're the hero. You're the American hero.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My primary responsibility as a delegate here is to vote and to help renominate George Bush, the president of the United States.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: That's our "Delegate Diary" for today. Tomorrow, we'll have another "Delegate Diary." Katherine Harris, she may have to get down to Florida pretty quickly if Hurricane Frances, which is a very, very serious, Category Four right now, gets there. A lot of the Florida politicians will be heading down.

You know, Jeff, a lot of us think, a lot of the pundits, a lot of the experts, so-called, this has been a pretty successful Republican convention. On Monday night, Giuliani spoke enthusiastically, McCain. Last night, Schwarzenegger, Mrs. Bush. They all did very strong, powerful speeches.

You would think that the trend in that famous market that you've been looking at in Iowa would show a slight increase going up for the Republican ticket, wouldn't you?

GREENFIELD: Really funny. And I think -- I'm guessing here what happened.

We showed you the Iowa electronic futures that this market that, in effect, puts value on which candidate's campaign is doing better. And we showed you the last 12 days have had a big movement toward Bush.

Take a look at the graph and see what happened today. Well, look at that. In the space of about two days, it appears that Bush has collapsed and Kerry has now caught up with him.

Now, before you get all hot and bothered, and say, "Oh, there must be some secret reason," here's my guess. That the Kerry supporters who've seen this on our air and others have said, "Well, you know, it only costs a buck to play. We're going to get in, show our support for Kerry so that it will look better for him than it is."

Which means, Wolf and Judy, that it just may turn out to be less valuable a measurement than it's been in the past and people tried to gave it.

WOODRUFF: My theory is they saw Jeff Greenfield talking about it, the Kerry supporters did, and they said, "We're calling up and we're putting our money on John Kerry."

WOODRUFF: Well, for you campaign managers out there, if the price is right, I can show you whatever number you'd like to see.

BLITZER: What will they do with all that money?

GREENFIELD: It's a tiny little amount of money. It's really a market so that people can feel part of it. The point of it, the theory of it is that if you ask people what's going to happen, not what they want to happen and you ask as wide a net as you can, it doesn't matter the motive. In the long run, and this is the cliche, markets advocate information and historically this...

WOODRUFF: You said it's been accurate over time.

GREENFIELD: It's been accurate because this may be the first year people have tried to play it, though, for its public relations value.

WOODRUFF: And it's all because of Jeff that it's changed.

BLITZER: All right, Jeff Greenfield. We'll watch it together with all of our viewers.

Much more coverage coming up from the Republican National Convention in Madison Square Garden. We'll take a short little break.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: On the last night of the 1988 Republican Convention in New Orleans, George Bush accepted the nomination with words that would haunt him throughout his presidency.

GEORGE H.W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Read my lips: no new taxes.

ANNOUNCER: It was a promise he couldn't keep.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Politics has changed so dramatically in recent years with the advent of the Internet and the opportunity for people to just simply go to various sites and get so much information instantaneously.

There's no place, by the way, better to get that information than CNN.com. If you go to the main page and you take a look at the various options there, the history, the speakers, all of the activity going on in the world of politics right now, a wealth of information. You can literally spend hours, days going through that information. CNN.com, that's the place for politics right now.

CNN's Carlos Watson knows a great deal about this. He spends hours and hours on the Internet.

You're also looking at some of the blogs, as well, Carlos.

CARLOS WATSON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I am. There are 60,000 serious political blogs. Interestingly enough, Wolf, 60 percent of them weigh in conservative, whereas only about 40 percent lean liberal. You would think otherwise, given Howard Dean's success with the Internet.

Today, you're seeing a lot of conversation on the blogs about what happened yesterday, about the twins' -- about the twins' speeches, Arnold's speech.

But tonight, expect to see something called fisking. That's am unusual term, but it's a term that bloggers know. And it means that when someone gives a speech, they go point by point and deconstruct that speech, often offering counter points that you read in your newspaper the very next night or the very next day.

So when Zell Miller speaks tonight, expect to see a number of these blogs fisk his speech and say, "Here's where he contradicted himself in 1992. Here's where he contradicted himself in 1996."

Conversely, you'll see some fisking on conservative sites of John Kerry's speech earlier today to the veterans and again when he speaks later this week.

So the blogs are offering not only new stories, but also they're undercutting current stories and current perspectives from Kerry, Bush and others.

BLITZER: Jeff, some of these blogs are pretty reliable, but some of them are total junk.

GREENFIELD: And that's one of the glories of it. In the blogosphere, as Carlos well knows, they claim -- and it's a self- correcting process. Somebody can write something stupid and another blog will correct it. And in fact, Carlos, you may have seen this. There was a lot of blogging about the central theme of the Republicans, about George Bush's determination. And there were bloggers who came in and said, "Wait a minute. What's so good about sticking with a policy that turns out to be wrong? Don't you want somebody to change his mind?"

So I think that's a perfect example of this fisking that went on. And hope you'll help us see what's going on tonight with Dick Cheney.

WATSON: You know, one other interesting thing that's happening with blogs is they're not only playing a role in presidential campaigns, but even in congressional campaigns.

This past week, another story that not many people covered was a congressman in Virginia, a Republican congressman, who declined to run for reelection after one of the blogs claimed that he called a gay porn line. And that's where the story broke. And that's ultimately, a week and a half later, where he resigned.

And this is not the first time that the blogs have driven a resignation. Remember, Trent Lott stepped down as Senate majority leader in many ways because these blogs, not the mainstream press, ourselves included, kept the story alive.

WOODRUFF: Carlos, for people out there who don't follow the web logs that closely, how much relation do they really have to how people vote? I mean, you know, is there a direct correlation between the activity on these web logs or blogs and -- and what happens at the polling places?

WATSON: Not yet. Not in the sense that the people who are reading them are truly undecided voters at the moment. They're more likely to be political junkies, people like me, people like you, who are involved.

But it's growing rapidly. You probably have five to six million people a day in the U.S. who are tuning in to these. In some cases, some of these blogs have bigger daily readers than some midsized newspapers, like "The Orlando Sentinel," as an example.

BLITZER: All right, Carlos. We'll be getting back to you on that and other issues, as well.

Let's go back to CNN's senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley. She's down in the Florida delegation, where there's serious concern about Hurricane Frances -- Candy.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There is, Wolf. Standing beside me, Mel Martinez. Congratulations, you just won the Republican nomination for the Senate seat down there being vacated.

I want to ask you, first, about what you hear about the hurricane and what you can tell us about preparations.

MEL MARTINEZ (R), FLORIDA SENATE CANDIDATE: Candy, I just flew in from Florida a couple of hours ago. And unfortunately, it looks like we're on the eye of the hurricane again.

South Florida evacuation orders have already been issued. And reports I'm getting from family and friends is that already shelves in stores are emptying, and people are beginning to make serious preparations.

It's unfortunate. We didn't need another storm right now.

CROWLEY: No, you didn't. You're, in fact, just recovering.

We have talked a lot about the politics of storms and not so much the storms, but the response to them. Now that you're reeling here in Florida from Charley and now this other one is coming, how confident are you that the -- what you need is going to be there?

MARTINEZ: I think that Charley proved that the response that Florida provided was very adequate. I think -- you know, I was in some of the damaged areas last Sunday. And I think it's obvious that things have improved tremendously from Andrew.

The question now is we're going to be tested to the max. You know, people have been stretched thin already. And now this is really going to compound the problem.

Governor Bush, you know, stayed home in order to deal with the emergency. I saw him on the TV as I was leaving Orlando today. And he is, of course, facing the issue. I spoke with him last night. He's very concerned. But I think we have, in Florida, a very good emergency response situation that ought to be up to the task.

CROWLEY: You know a couple of people in Washington. Has anybody been put on alert in Washington? Are they already helping?

MARTINEZ: FEMA is very involved in Florida already. So I believe that they'll be deploying even more resources.

I think FEMA's response and Florida's response was very good. And I think what we need to do now is redouble our efforts. This is a very big storm, a very bad storm. And it looks like no matter which way it moves, it's going to hit some of Florida.

CROWLEY: Now, as far as your delegation is concerned, some of them obviously have homes in the target area. Are any of them going home? Or what's happening?

MARTINEZ: I ran into some people at the hotel who were going home. They had family, elderly parents that they had to go see about, because they were in evacuation areas. So unquestionably, it's going to have an impact.

CROWLEY: Mel Martinez, new Republican candidate for the Senate seat there, appreciate it. We'll see you down there when the sun comes out. All right, thanks.

Back to you, Wolf. BLITZER: Candy Crowley in the Florida delegation, where there is serious concern. Indeed, serious concern around the country about Hurricane Frances making its way towards Florida.

Already, evacuation orders along the coast. Palm Beach County, some 300,000 people told starting tomorrow a good time to start thinking about evacuating that area.

Unclear where this hurricane is going to make landfall, where it's going to hit. But there's a wide area of deep concern for Friday, Saturday, Sunday, especially over the weekend. Hurricane Frances, following Hurricane Charley, Florida. Coming deeply -- getting deeply involved in hurricanes, unfortunately.

We'll take a quick break. A special edition, by the way, of "LARRY KING LIVE" coming up from here at Madison Square Garden. Larry standing by with a full -- a full panel of guests, special guests, big Republicans. He has them all. They're all here with Larry King. We'll have a special edition at midnight, as well.

We'll take a quick break. We'll be right back from Madison Square Garden.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Judy Woodruff, Jeff Greenfield and I are going to be back in one hour, 10 p.m. Eastern. It's that hour that the vice president of the United States will be speaking.

In the meantime let's throw it over to Larry King. He's got a special -- you've got some good guests tonight, Larry.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com


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