Return to Transcripts main page
JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS
Is Bush Feeling Bouncy?; Kerry Makes Campaign Changes; Clinton Recovering from Successful Heart Surgery
Aired September 6, 2004 - 15:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: Follow the bouncing Bush. Our new poll gauges the president's post-convention advantage.
The Kerry campaign gets Clintonesque. Are the former president's fingerprints all over tweaks in Kerry's message?
SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You know, this is the most overblown thing.
ANNOUNCER: The Clinton operation. We'll have the latest on his prognosis after heart bypass surgery.
JOE LOCKHART, KERRY SR. ADVISER: He was joking about how the one thing he has in common with President Bush is he's interested, too, in four more years.
ANNOUNCER: Now, live from Washington, JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS.
JUDY WOODRUFF, HOST: Thank you for joining us.
Traditionally, Labor Day is seen as the kickoff of the fall presidential campaign. But let's face it, the Bush-Kerry contest has been going strong and running close for six months now. In this environment, even the slightest advantage is something to crow about. And that brings us to our new post-GOP convention poll and our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider.
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): Did Bush get the expected bounce from his convention? Democrats tried to set expectations high.
TAD DEVINE, KERRY CAMPAIGN SR. STRATEGIST: Incumbent presidents typically get an eight to 10-point bounce out of their convention.
SCHNEIDER: Well, let's see. Each of the last six incumbents running for re-election got a post-convention bounce in the polls. The average? Six points.
So how does President Bush measure up? Just before the convention, Bush was at 50 percent among likely voters, three points ahead of John Kerry. And now Bush is at 52 percent, seven points ahead, a convention bounce of two points, the lowest for any incumbent in recent decades.
On the other hand, two points is better than nothing, which is what Kerry got out of his convention. Where did Bush's bounce come from? Men, a six-point gain. Women were not impressed.
Why men? Because the convention was filled with talk like this.
RICHARD CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And on the question of America's role in the world, the differences between Senator Kerry and President Bush are the sharpest.
SCHNEIDER: Bush got an especially big bounce among younger men, unmarried men and veterans. Democrats are complaining that President Bush didn't address the issues.
LOCKHART: I could spend all day here talking about what he didn't address. He didn't address the health care crisis this country, he didn't address the job crisis.
SCHNEIDER: Perhaps there was a reason. Four years ago, voters said issues mattered more to them than leadership qualities and vision. Times have changed. Now personal qualities outweigh issues.
Does that help Bush? You better believe it.
Among the minority voting on the issues, Kerry has more than a 20-point lead. The race reverses among voters who give priority to leadership qualities. Bush is more than 20 points ahead.
So what kind of race are Democrats hoping for?
DEVINE: A close race that will be decided on the issues.
SCHNEIDER: They'd better hope that's the case.
SCHNEIDER: One of Bush's greatest vulnerabilities is that he failed to be deliver on his promise to be a uniter and not a divider. When our poll asked which candidate will unite the country and not divide it, the answer was virtually a tie. After a month of bitter debate over Vietnam, Kerry doesn't look like much more of a uniter than Bush does.
WOODRUFF: All right. Bill Schneider, thank you very much.
Well, those poll numbers help explain why John Kerry feels the need to fine-tune his message with a little help apparently from the last Democrat to win the White House. CNN's Ed Henry has more on the Kerry campaign and the Clinton factor.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) ED HENRY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was back to basics for John Kerry, who zeroed in on domestic issues, especially jobs on a Labor Day swing through three battleground states.
KERRY: If you want four more years of your wages falling, if you want four more years of Social Security trust funds being raided in order to give tax cuts to the wealthiest people in America, then you should go vote for George Bush.
HENRY: That's music to the ears of senior Democrats who are grumbling that Kerry has spent too much time on national security, which enabled President Bush to surge ahead in the polls. But as he spoke from a front porch in Pennsylvania, Kerry was repeatedly heckled by Bush supporters.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Flip-flop. Flip-flop.
HENRY: Kerry stayed on message, even as one protester mocked the senator's claim that he will fight for moderate Americans.
KERRY: He's right, I'm privileged. My tax burden went down, and I don't think that's right. I think your tax burden ought to go down.
HENRY: The domestic push is being made on the heels of a Saturday night phone call between Kerry and Bill Clinton. Sources tell CNN that from his hospital bed, the former president counseled Kerry on shifting the talk from Vietnam to bread and butter issues.
Add to that a slew of Clinton veterans, like Joe Lockhart, who have joined the campaign at a time of continued restructuring. But Kerry aides are downplaying the significance of the Clinton phone call and say he's not swooping in to save the day.
KERRY: This is the most overblown thing. I've talked to President Clinton many times over the last months, and people are, frankly, creating fiction out of something that doesn't exist. Our campaign, I think, is very much on track.
HENRY: Before heading to Ohio, Kerry continued beating the drum on the domestic front at a rally with coal miners in West Virginia.
KERRY: Health care costs going through the roof for every family in America. The surplus that he was left has been completely wiped away. Our alliances around the world with other countries that we rely on to help us have been shredded and left in tatters around the globe.
HENRY (on camera): Despite the new poll numbers, Kerry is feeling confident. He's privately telling his staff that this feels like 1996 all over again. That's when Kerry fell behind Republican Bill Weld in a Titanic senator re-election battle. With his back against the wall, Kerry cranked it up a notch and pulled out a victory.
Ed Henry, CNN, Cannonsburg, Pennsylvania.
(END VIDEOTAPE) WOODRUFF: Ed mentioned Bill Clinton in the hospital. Clinton's office says the 58-year-old former president is resting comfortably after undergoing successful heart bypass surgery in New York today. We expect to learn more about the President Clinton's condition and his prognosis during a hospital news conference that's scheduled for the top of the next hour. CNN plans to carry it live.
Well, President Bush this Labor Day heading to a rally in Missouri, even as his strategists pore over post-convention polls. CNN's Elaine Quijano is at the White House.
ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Judy.
This Labor Day, President Bush will be highlighting his domestic agenda on a trip to Missouri, as you said. The president is in the middle of a post-convention campaign swing, a swing that will take him through six states, and a tour that the campaign is dubbing "The Opportunity Tour."
Now, President Bush left the White House just a short time ago on his way to Poplar Bluff, Missouri. Campaign officials say there he will focus on his small business agenda at a rally.
The president has said he believes boosting small businesses is the best way to get more Americans back to work. He says the majority of the country's new jobs are created by small businesses.
Now, over the weekend, the president noted the government's latest jobs numbers showing some 200,000 new jobs created in July and August. But the president's opponent, Democratic Senator John Kerry, has said that is not enough. The Kerry campaign points to an overall deficit of roughly one million jobs lost under President Bush's watch.
Still, White House officials insist that the economy is recovering. They cite other factors behind its sluggishness, things like a recession they say was inherited, corporate scandals, the September 11th attacks, and also the war on terrorism. Now, tomorrow, the president will embark on a bus tour, stopping off in three cities in the western part of Missouri. His first stop will be at a rally in the town of Lee's Summit. He will then move on from there to an "Ask President Bush" event in Sedalia, Missouri, and finally he will wrap up with a rally in Columbia. Now, the campaign says that Mr. Bush will talk about the importance of spreading prosperity to all corners of America.
And an interesting side note today on his appearance in Poplar Bluff, Missouri, Judy. Poplar Bluff is a town of about 17,000 people in the southeastern part of the state. Residents there very much wanted to have the president come visit. They launched a petition drive back in June to try to get that to happen. They were able to gather about 10,000 signatures in the town, as I said, of 17,000 people, and they learned just last week that their efforts paid off -- Judy. WOODRUFF: Maybe that's a message to both campaigns. Elaine, thank you very much. Appreciate it. If you send in a petition, maybe you can get the candidates there.
Well, back at the Kerry camp, are Democrats feeling a sense of, "We've seen this before?" Up next, I'll talk with one of the Clinton- era figures turned Kerry team player, Joe Lockhart.
Kerry is reaching back even farther into political history to a veteran of the Dukakis campaign. We'll look at John Sasso's political career.
Plus, the state of the presidential race through the eyes of top political reporters.
With 57 days until the election, this is INSIDE POLITICS, the place for campaign news
WOODRUFF: Former Clinton White House press secretary, Joe Lockhart, recently joined the Kerry campaign as a senior adviser. Joe Lockhart joins me now from Kerry headquarters here in Washington.
Joe Lockhart, staff changes. You're on board. John Sasso is moving over from the DNC, Michael Whouley moving into the DNC. What does all this add up to?
LOCKHART: I think it adds up to we now know it's Labor Day and the general election's starting. There's -- a few people came in, myself and Joel Johnson. Some people got shifted around to meet the needs of the last two months -- John Sasso to the (UNINTELLIGIBLE), Michael Whouley to the DNC.
You know, it's the general election. This is the last 60 days. And we're going to do everything we can to maximize the organizational power.
And frankly, you know, this is a lot less interesting to me than what's going on out in the country. And I think you saw John Kerry today talking about jobs, health care, economic opportunity, and the miserable record that -- the wrong choices that George Bush has brought.
WOODRUFF: Well, let's talk about that. The race moving in President Bush's favor over the period of the Republican convention. We're hearing Democrats criticizing the campaign out in the open, saying there should be this move to domestic issues.
Is this something that the Kerry campaign realizes was a mistake in not focusing on domestic issues more?
LOCKHART: Oh, no. I think we've known for some time that as we got to Labor Day and moved into the last phase of this campaign, we were going to join very aggressively and make a contrast between John Kerry's plan for economic change and George Bush's record of failure. So, listen, we love the advice. It should keep coming. But we had planned to do this, and we're going to execute this in a very aggressive way.
WOODRUFF: Some pretty, I would think, concerning numbers for you, though, out of our latest poll done after the GOP convention. People asked who would be a stronger and decisive leader. Bush now leading Kerry by two to one on that question. Bush also has a double-digit lead on who can better handle the job of commander in chief.
How do you turn this around?
LOCKHART: Well, listen, I think the appropriate question is that -- commander in chief is a threshold question. If you ask people, do you think John Kerry has the strength, the character, the resolute just to be commander in chief, the majority of people say yes. It's an unfair comparison to compare a challenger to incumbent on that.
So, you know, we're very confident that we passed that threshold. And once you get -- once you get into the domestic issues, the miserable job record, the -- you know, one of my favorite parts of the convention was George Bush standing up and saying he's got a plan to keep health care control -- health care costs under control. And then Friday, like we weren't even watching Thursday night, they announced the biggest premium increase in the history of the Medicare program.
The public is pretty smart. They're starting to add this stuff up. I think we're in a very strong position, very strong historically as far as a challenger on incumbent. And any time a president is hanging around the numbers where he is, an incumbent president, they're in trouble.
WOODRUFF: Well, let's also talk about the Iraq war, Joe Lockhart. This was clearly a drag for President Bush. But now, again, since the convention, the percentage of people who say it was a mistake have dropped 10 points. Only 38 percent of people are saying that now, compared to over 50 percent earlier.
Is John Kerry losing this argument about Iraq?
LOCKHART: No, I don't think John Kerry is losing the argument. I think the American public knows that George Bush went into the war without a plan for peace. And that's where the losing is taking place.
I mean, we're $200 billion into the hole, and that cost is rising. And that's shortchanging us here at home.
You know, listen, I think the great part about a convention, whether it's Democrat or Republican, is you get to set the stage. You get to decide what kind of picture you want to paint of America.
I think we painted a realistic picture of a great country that has great challenges. I think George Bush and his team painted a picture of some fantasyland, some America that the middle class has no connection to: everything's going great, we've turned the corner. Middle class Americans know that just isn't the case. Reality is coming back into the picture here, and the reality in Iraq is it's a very expensive mess for us right now.
WOODRUFF: Well, the -- John Kerry today called it the wrong war, the wrong place, at the wrong time. But my question is, does he risk confusing voters? Because it wasn't so long ago that he said he would have voted to give the president authority even knowing the weapons of mass destruction aren't there.
So people are wondering, does he think it's the right war or the wrong war?
LOCKHART: No, I think you have to be very careful about what he said and what Republicans say he said. I think Senator Kerry's been very clear on that vote.
He believed that the president would do what he said as far as building a coalition, letting the inspectors do their job. And he thought it was important to give the president maximum leverage as far as going into a potential conflict and trying to force Saddam Hussein to come clean on the -- on the weapons of mass destruction.
So I think we have to be clear here on what he said and what Republicans want to imply that he said. He has been consistent, but he said very clearly last week at the American Legion that his policy is not like President Bush's, as the Republicans are trying to imply. That he would have done not just one thing differently, but almost everything differently.
WOODRUFF: We're going to have to leave it there. Joe Lockhart working in a senior communications role at the Kerry campaign. Good to see you again, Joe.
LOCKHART: Thanks Judy.
WOODRUFF: Thanks very much.
Well the news that veteran Democratic strategist John Sasso has also joined the Kerry campaign brings to mind Sasso's previous stint as a top presidential campaign adviser. Here now, CNN's Bruce Morton.
BRUCE MORTON, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): John Sasso joining the Kerry campaign? What does it mean? Well, he's been down this road before.
In the 1988 campaign, Michael Dukakis of Massachusetts was running. Sasso at his side. Senator Joseph Biden was running, too, and it was Sasso who handed out tapes alerting reporters to the fact that Biden was using the speech by British Labor Party leader Neil Kinnock without attribution.
Listen. NEIL KINNOCK, BRITISH LABOR PARTY: Why am I the first Kinnock in a thousand generations to be able to get to university? Why is Glenys the first woman in her family in a thousand generations to be able to get to university?
SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D), DELAWARE: Why is it that Joe Biden is the first in his family ever to go to a university? Why is it that my wife, who's sitting out there in the audience, is the first in her family to ever go to college?
MORTON: Biden acknowledged error and withdrew.
BIDEN: I did not say, "To paraphrase Neil Kinnock." I should have.
MORTON: Dukakis, apparently shocked that his staff would play hardball, fired Sasso.
MICHAEL DUKAKIS (D), FMR. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And my job now is to make sure that everybody in my campaign, whether they're volunteers or paid staff or whatever, understand that we just don't do this.
MORTON: OK, but Sasso was the most experienced staffer he had. Others, like Susan Estrich, had conquered Harvard, but not a presidential campaign. George Bush attacked Dukakis for prison furloughs, to murderers, for belonging to the American Civil Liberties Union, even campaigned in a flag factory. Dukakis, who had said Sasso was gone for good, rehired him.
DUKAKIS: John Sasso is rejoining the campaign as our vice chairman.
JOHN SASSO, DUKAKIS CAMPAIGN: I will adhere to the very high standards, of course, that Governor Dukakis has set.
MORTON: And he probably did, but it was too late. George Herbert Walker Bush won big.
So now Sasso is helping another troubled Massachusetts candidate, John Kerry. He's good help, but can he make a difference given all of the advisers Kerry already has? We'll see.
Bruce Morton, CNN, Washington.
WOODRUFF: When we return, the latest dynamics in the battle for the White House. We'll hear from "TIME" Magazine's Jay Carney and Ron Brownstein of the "Los Angeles Times."
WOODRUFF: As we've said, John Kerry's on the offensive this Labor Day, after making new moves to refocus his campaign message. All this comes as President Bush gets encouraging news from some new polls. With me now, Jay Carney, deputy Washington bureau chief for "TIME" Magazine, and CNN political analyst, Ron Brownstein of the "Los Angeles Times."
Ron, to you first. What's the state of this campaign coming out of the Republican election?
RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think President Bush has clearly established the advantage. We're still a 50-50 country in many ways, but it has tilted slightly in his direction, the entire playing field.
What I think really has to concern the Kerry people the most is not so much the movement in the horse race, but the movement in the underlying assessments of President Bush's performance. Overwhelmingly, a race with an incumbent is a referendum on that incumbent.
In your poll, and in a number of polls, his approval rating is now over 50 percent. You mentioned the dramatic drop in the percentage of people who think the war in Iraq was a mistake. Those underlying trends, if Kerry cannot find an argument to reverse them -- which probably explains what you're hearing -- what you're hearing on the campaign trail -- those underlying trends will make it almost -- continue to make it almost impossible to win.
WOODRUFF: Are the changes, Jay, the Kerry camp is making going to make a difference here?
JAMES CARNEY, "TIME" MAGAZINE: Well, they might make a difference, because I think what happened here -- and the polls that -- in "TIME" Magazine, "Newsweek," that we saw last week, and now the CNN poll, I think our poll especially was more a measure of the momentum the president had going into the convention and through the convention than any sort of bounce coming out of it. And I think that then traces back to the Swift Boat ads, which -- which, I mean, John Kerry was mugged.
Now, you know, most crimes are committed by people you know. This was a crime committed by somebody he knew.
I mean, these Swift Boat Veterans, John O'Neill, these people, you know, he should have seen it coming and he should have reacted more quickly. Now he's got a team in place that's more likely to punch back right away. And I think if these attacks come again or any other kinds of attacks, you'll see a much more aggressive campaign.
BROWNSTEIN: Look, the basic calculation -- we've talked about this many times, Judy -- the basic calculation the Kerry campaign made several months ago and reflected very much in their convention was that there was a majority in the country ready to change. And their job was more to reassure people that Kerry would be an acceptable change than to persuade them that George Bush has failed.
I think beginning last Thursday night you saw the acknowledgment that that strategy had sort of failed on both ends. Doubts about Kerry had increased in August amid the Swift Boats, and I think just as importantly, but independent of the Swift Boats, confidence in President Bush has also been increasing as he has been making the case for continuity.
With Bush making the case for continuity, Kerry, I think, has finally realized that the inescapable, the one unavoidable job for the challenger, is to make a case for change. And that's where they are now, trying to focus voters on the things about the Bush record they don't like, to move those approval ratings, those right track numbers back in a direction where Kerry can compete.
WOODRUFF: That's a tough assignment for the Kerry camp, isn't it?
CARNEY: It is a tough assignment. And in some ways, they're -- they're going to be victims or beneficiaries of events beyond their control.
And one thing that strikes me, you know, we just had seven more U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq in a car bomb in Fallujah. Now, with all the other news going on, I mean, we're almost at 1,000 deaths now in Iraq, and it seems like just another day's news. But if Iraq begins to fester again, if more economic numbers come out that aren't very good for the president, you know, a series of events could converge and really help the Kerry campaign. But without them, I think they got a real tough road to hoe.
WOODRUFF: But the president has done a good selling job -- a good selling job in Iraq, hasn't he, Ron? I mean, the numbers you just cited, and John Kerry's out there today saying wrong war at the wrong time.
BROWNSTEIN: One of the central arguments of the -- excuse me -- at the convention by the president was to try to reframe the debate over Iraq by placing it in the context of what really he described as a decade's long struggle to democratize the Middle East. I mean, he was basically making this one small skirmish in a kind of a generational commitment comparable to the containment of communism.
He really has, I think, tried to make a different argument. And this one may have more resonance, I think, to voters, judging by your polls.
Kerry's challenge, I think, is still to make a case both on Iraq and on foreign policy. That's why, you know, some Democrats say they've got to focus more on domestic policy because the president's more vulnerable. That's probably true, but the real overriding goal is to make the case for change on both fronts. Because if the public is confident that Bush's strategy on national security has indeed made us safer, overcoming that simply with the health care and the economy may not be possible. Kerry's got to challenge him on both fronts.
WOODRUFF: At the same time, Jay, what about this whole flip- flopper business? We heard so much of that coming out of the Republican convention. Does Kerry need to address that?
CARNEY: Well, not directly, because he could get himself really in a pickle trying to explain, you know, away some of the things he said in the past. He needs to take some clear positions on key issues, like Iraq.
Don't try to explain where he's been in the past. You know, he'll be forced to do that in the debates. But right now he needs to have a position on Iraq, state it clearly, bumper sticker fashion so that people understand where he is, understand how he's different from the president, and the same with some of these key economic issues.
You know, he'll have to deal with the flip-flop issue during the debates, but he should not get into an argument with himself in these town hall meetings or other appearances.
BROWNSTEIN: Very quickly...
WOODRUFF: Very quick.
BROWNSTEIN: ... one sleeper question: did President Bush create long-term problems for himself at the convention by embracing, again, Social Security and tax reform, introducing issues in the campaign that John Kerry may be able to use against him by filling in blanks that the president doesn't want to provide himself?
WOODRUFF: Something we're going to have to look at and address in the days to come. Fifty-seven days to go.
Ron Brownstein, Jay Carney you're going to be with us the whole way. Thanks a lot. We appreciate it.
Well, the doctors who performed heart surgery on former President Clinton are scheduled to hold a news conference just minutes from now. CNN plans live coverage.
Also ahead, no holiday break for Bush and Kerry. They are on the road in the nation's battleground.
Plus, Howard Kurtz explains why John Kerry went negative with his latest round of TV ads.
ANNOUNCER: He's down in some polls. And he's made changes within his campaign. Can John Kerry bounce back?
KERRY: Our campaign, I think, is very much on track.
ANNOUNCER: He's on the attack.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Four years ago, George Bush came to Milwaukee promising to keep our economy growing, expand opportunity. Four years later Wisconsin has lost 84,000 manufacturing jobs.
ANNOUNCER: And he's going positive.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Bush and our leaders in Congress have a plan.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Strengthen our economy.
ANNOUNCER: When it comes to campaign commercials, are we seeing a role reversal?
Now, live from Washington, JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS.
WOODRUFF, HOST: Welcome back.
We are waiting for a news conference in New York on former President Bill Clinton's condition after heart bypass surgery the doctors are calling successful. We'll go live to the briefing just as soon as it gets under way.
Well, once Bill Clinton is feeling up to it he may join other political junkies in pouring over the latest presidential polls.
Our new survey taken Friday through Sunday through Sunday suggests George W. Bush got a small bounce from his convention. He now leads John Kerry 52 percent to 45 percent among likely voters. Bush gained two points, and Kerry lost two since late August.
Among registered voters, Bush is just one point ahead of Kerry, 49 percent to 48 percent.
Bush has gained ground in other areas. On the question who would do a better job fighting terrorism, Bush now leads Kerry by 27 points, up from a 17-point lead just 11 days ago.
Well, John Kerry is trying to turn the campaign conversation back to domestic issues. During stops today in the showdown states of Pennsylvania and West Virginia, as well as Ohio, one of Kerry's new campaign officials is traveling with the senator.
So is our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley, following the changes in the Kerry campaign.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: One of the main things that changed is that John Sasso, who currently is over the Democratic National Committee, is going to move over and be the senior person on the Kerry plane.
Michael Whouley, who does the ground game, as we say, you know, deciding which states go and which areas of which states, is going to move on over to the DNC. Now, that's already taken place. In fact, John Sasso was here in West Virginia with John Kerry.
So the main purpose of that, Judy, I am told is that this is someone that the candidate can gripe to. It's someone he trusts, someone on the plane who can keep him focused, a concillary (ph), if you will, that every candidate needs to say, "You messed this up. You did this well."
They feel like they have lacked that along the way. And so John Sasso, who has known John Kerry for some time, is going to come over and play that role.
Beyond that, they do have a new sort of set-up for the communications that will be overseen by Joe Lockhart who, of course, was last seen as the press secretary for Bill Clinton.
So we are getting some more Clintonites in here, as well, and also people who worked for the Gore campaign. But those are really the two major ones.
WOODRUFF: Candy, besides shifting responsibilities, we're also hearing of shifting message on the part of John Kerry. What are you learning about that?
CROWLEY: Well, one of the major complaints -- two major complaints about John Kerry.
One was that he ought to get off Vietnam, stop talking about that. And the other was that his message was not focused. This is nothing that the whole campaign wholeheartedly agrees with, yet they do agree they have to make a changes.
So what John Kerry wants to do, and the polls indicate is a very smart move, is he wants to move off of the war in Iraq, off terrorism and focus on the economy, where polls do show that, in fact, he enjoys at least a bit of an edge over George Bush when people are asked who do you most trust on the issues of jobs and healthcare.
So they want to focus on that. The problem is no one told the audience this morning when we were in Pennsylvania, so we got several questions on Iraq.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KERRY: They talked about a coalition; that's the phoniest thing I've ever heard. You've got about 500 troops here and 500 troops there. And it's American troops that are 90 percent of the combat casualties, and it's American taxpayers that are paying 90 percent of the cost of this war. It's the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: Focusing on the economy is one thing. Getting the audience to do it is something else.
WOODRUFF: Candy Crowley, she was reporting from West Virginia just a couple hours ago.
Well, President Bush is due at a rally in Missouri less than two hours from now in another chance to try to get more mileage out of his GOP convention message.
Tomorrow Bush has a daylong bus tour planned in Missouri. That's a state he narrowly won four years ago.
John Kerry takes the offensive against George W. Bush in his latest round of television ads. Howard Kurtz of CNN's "RELIABLE SOURCES" has more on the new Kerry ad campaign and the strategy behind it.
HOWARD KURTZ, HOST, "RELIABLE SOURCES" (voice-over): For six long months John Kerry held his fire. His ads stayed positive, even as President Bush pounded him on the airwaves.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As a member of the intelligence committee, Senator Kerry was absent for 76 percent of the committee's hearings.
KURTZ: Then he got hammered at the Republican convention.
SEN. ZELL MILLER (D), GEORGIA: On every one of the great issues of freedom and security, John Kerry has been more wrong, more weak, and more wobbly than any other national figure.
KURTZ: Now Kerry is fighting back with a wave of attack ads comparing Bush's rhetoric in 2000 to his results in 2004.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Four years ago George Bush came to Cleveland promising for a family without health insurance, "We must help." Four years later, five million more people without health insurance. Now Bush is back, but around here, we remember Bush's broken promises.
KURTZ: That's true, though the problem didn't start with Bush. Nearly 40 million Americans lacked health insurance under President Clinton.
Kerry's broken promises ads are targeted at states the president has visited in recent days.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Four years ago George Bush came to West Virginia, promising $2 billion for clean coal technology.
KURTZ: Now in a nationwide ad buy, the Democratic nominee is trying to use Bush's own New York convention speech against him.
BUSH: I believe we have a moral responsibility to honor America seniors. Now seniors are getting immediate help.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The very next day George Bush imposes the biggest Medicare premium increase in history while prescription drug costs still skyrocket. The wrong direction for America.
KURTZ: But, wait a minute. George Bush didn't impose anything. The 17 percent boost in premiums was decided by Medicare administrator Mark McClellan, not the White House, under the law and based largely on such factors as rising health costs and increased services for Medicare patients.
Now while Kerry goes on the attack, Bush, in a role reversal, is going positive.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Bush and our leaders in Congress have a plan.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Strengthen our economy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lifelong learning.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Invest in education.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: New skill force better jobs.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A fairer, simpler tax code.
FINEMAN (on camera): Kerry strategists argued for months that they had no need to slam the president on the airwaves, because voters already knew his weaknesses. But they changed their approach in a New York minute.
The barrage will continue because Kerry aides are learning what the Bush camp figured out long ago: negative ads may be harsh, but they work.
Howard Kurtz, CNN, "RELIABLE SOURCES."
WOODRUFF: We're still standing by for a news conference with the doctors who worked on President Clinton. We know that -- we are told that the bypass surgery that he had this morning had been a success, but we are waiting for details. A lot of reporters gathered there at New York Presbyterian Hospital. We're standing by.
In the meantime, we're going to be catching up with the vice presidential candidates out on the trail.
Plus, Frances on the move in Florida. We'll have the latest on where the storm is headed and the damage in its wake.
WOODRUFF: The doctors at New York Presbyterian Hospital sitting down to talk to reporters about successful bypass surgery on President Clinton.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I will serve as moderator for this afternoon's press conference. I want to thank all of you for being here today, for your patience and also your interest.
We're going to have remarks made by the members of the President Clinton's medical team. Then I'll conduct a question and answer session. We will not be having one-on-one interviews after the Q and A. I appreciate your cooperation in all of this. Let me introduce my colleagues. To my right is Dr. Robert Kelly, at the far end, who is the senior vice president and chief operating officer at New York Presbyterian Hospital, the Columbia University Medical Center.
To my immediate right is Dr. Allan Schwartz, who's chief of the division of cardiology at New York Presbyterian Hospital, Columbia University Medical Center, and professor of medicine at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons.
To my immediate left is Dr. Craig Smith. He is chief of the division of cardio thoracic surgery at New York Presbyterian and Columbia University Medical Center and professor of surgery at Columbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeons.
I want to read a statement that Mrs. Clinton, Senator Clinton, and her daughter prepared and asked me to read to you.
"Chelsea and I thank God, and the incredible medical team and staff here at New York Presbyterian team hospital, for taking such good care of my hospital. Bill, Chelsea and I stayed up pretty late last night talking, playing games, and just being with each other.
"These past few days have been quite an emotional roller coaster for us. As so many families know, open heart surgery, though increasingly common, is a very serious procedure. That is why we are so grateful to the people of this hospital and so many others around the country and the world who have been giving us their prayers and support.
"The president's optimism and faith will carry him through the difficult weeks and months ahead. Of that, we have no doubt. But we welcome your continued prayers, and we are so deeply thankful for the good news that we've received today."
That's the end of the statement from Senator Clinton. I'm going to now turn it over to Dr. Allan Schwartz.
ALLAN SCHWARTZ, CHIEF OF CARDIOLOGY, NEW YORK PRESBYTERIAN HOSPITAL: I'm going to briefly tell you President Clinton's medical history that led up to this procedure.
Basically, several months ago, President Clinton, who's very physically active, began to notice that he was getting short of breath and also developing some chest constriction with activity.
The amount of activity that produced these symptoms gradually declined, and ultimately he had an episode of discomfort and rest lasting 15 to 20 minutes that led to hospitalization and ultimately to angiography.
The angiography or pictures of the arteries to his heart showed extensive blockage in each of the blood vessels supplying blood to his heart muscle. It also confirmed that his heart muscle was normally strong with absolutely no damage. And because of the extensive nature of the blockage, he was transferred here for a procedure to improve the blood supply to his heart.
I'm going to address one other issue, just because it's been a point of speculation. The reason that we waited several days, even though the decision was made soon after his arrival that he needed a bypass -- and, in fact, almost immediately he had been placed on a blood thinning medication as part of his treatment. And it was our decision that it would be safest to wait until this medication had decreased to greatly cut down the chance of bleeding with surgery -- Craig.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Turn it over to Dr. Smith now.
CRAIG SMITH, CHIEF OF CARDIOTHORACIC SURGERY, NEW YORK PRESBYTERIAN HOSPITAL: I won't elaborate on what Dr. Schwartz has given you in the way of background already, except to simply say that he presented on Friday and after thorough review of the anatomy, it was obvious fairly quickly that what he needed was an operation.
And then for the reasons that Dr. Schwartz just mentioned, it was equally obvious that the safety of the operation would be improved by waiting a few days. So that is why we waited until this morning to do the operation.
Starting this morning around 8 a.m. he had a relatively routine quadruple bypass operation. We left the operating room around noon, and he is recovering normally at this point.
So I think right now, everything looks straightforward.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We'll open it up for questions now. Go ahead, please.
QUESTION: What's involved in recovery? Was must the patient do and what must the doctors do? Dr. Schwartz?
SCHWARTZ: I think the recovery goes in several phases. The first part of the recovery, he's well into. The president is awake, and over the course of the next several hours, we hope to get the tube that assisted his breathing out.
He'll spend a period of time in a closely monitored area, an intensive care unit. He will then be progressively ambulated and continue his recuperation at home.
At home he'll have a schedule of exercise that will gradually increase, and he will gradually resume an entirely normal physical exercise and work schedule.
QUESTION: Sir, go ahead. Within what period of time?
SCHWARTZ: I think -- I can't give you an exact period of time. There's quite a window here, but, again, the recovery takes place over a period of weeks rather than days. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go ahead.
SMITH: That's hard to give you specific answers to, except I can answer you the generalities, based on experience with similar patients, which is to say that it would be common for him to be ready to leave the hospital within four or five days.
Right now, based on how he's doing, there's no reason to think that he wouldn't fall within the same experience.
After that, people are usually 70 percent or so back to baseline by around six weeks. And to be really 100 percent in every respect takes two to three months in many patients. But there is quite a bit of variability.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Please, go ahead.
SMITH: He isn't awake yet.
SCHWARTZ: Can I -- I'm sorry, Craig. He is awake but still sedated. So he is arousable. He moves everything. He follows simple commands. And gestures to us, showing that he understands. But he still has enough of the sedation in him that he's not quite ready to have the breathing tube removed. So that's a longwinded; he can't speak yet.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's try to spread it around. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Can you show us on the model what exactly (OFF-MIKE)
SMITH: As well as you can see the model, I can show you. You can see this?
Well, the vessel coming down the front of the heart is the major branch in most people, and was certainly true in the president, if not even a little more major in his case than some.
This vessel also has a major sub-branch in many people, which was true in the president. These were the main focus of our interests. And these two branches were each bypassed using an artery from the chest wall called the left internal mammary artery.
There's another branch that comes around the back of the heart that was also significantly obstructed. It was bypassed using the right internal mammary artery.
The right-sided coronary artery that comes around the back was bypassed using a saphonous (ph) vein from the left leg.
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) SMITH: He and I had a very superficial conversation. He seemed in a good mood, ready to proceed.
SCHWARTZ: I think he approached the operation in a rather very positive way.
QUESTION: Did you consider -- did you consider...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go ahead.
SMITH: The surgery was on the heart lung machines, so he was on pump. The neurocognitive effects of cardiopulmonary bypass are a discussion that takes us far beyond what you want to go into here today.
But it is -- it has been difficult to prove that there is benefit with respect to neurocognitive deficits in doing these procedures without the heart and lung machine. Although it might be intuitively logical that there would be that benefit. It's been difficult to prove.
QUESTION: Why did you decide in the president's case to do it on pump?
SMITH: Well, it actually had to do in his case with some anatomic idiosyncrasies with these two main branches in the front that made it, in my estimation, would have made it more challenging to do it off the pump than I thought was warranted and made it much more simple to do with the heart stopped for those two branches in particular.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go ahead.
QUESTION: What percentage of blockage was in each artery?
SMITH: Do you want to score that?
SCHWARTZ: In several of the vessels the blockage was well over 90 percent.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Other questions? Go ahead. Go ahead; go ahead.
SCHWARTZ: So because of the syndrome he had with progressive symptoms culminating in rest pain, there was a substantial likelihood that he would have had a substantial heart attack in the near future. And that was the reason for the time urgency of what was done.
Since his heart muscle is normal, and since after the surgery he's going to resume his very active exercise. And we will work with him to control other factors that can lead to the recurrence of this disease. With those things under control, with the normal heart muscle, he will have a normal longevity.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go ahead, sir.
QUESTION: Over the several hour surgical procedure, were there any tense moments, any difficulties whatsoever?
SMITH: Well, there are always a few minor anxious moments during heart surgery. There was nothing in this case that was outside the realm of routine.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Please?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a question of any other aspects of his health which is a problem and what you would recommend in terms of activity levels?
SCHWARTZ: I think that he is generally extremely healthy, that it's possible to have an extraordinarily active schedule and remain healthy, and that we will work with him to fashion and exercise a diet and medication program that allows him to continue his active schedule.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The question was, would you encourage him to refrain from extensive activity? I think you were talking about campaign activities; is that what you said? Right.
Just let him finish first, please.
SCHWARTZ: I would encourage him to resume all activities, including campaigning, as we both deem that safe and appropriate, you know, in consultation with his entire healthcare team.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Please.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Talk a little louder.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What role does diet play?
SCHWARTZ: His future diet is going to play a major role in preventing recurrence.
QUESTION: Can you outline what that would be, please? Can you outline what that would be?
SCHWARTZ: I think as a general statement, it's going to be a somewhat salt-restricted, low saturated fat diet.
As a specific statement, we will work with the president in terms of his likes and dislikes with guidance from professionals in the area of preventive health to work out a diet that is attractive to him and that he can follow.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go ahead.
SMITH: It's really hard to generalize about that, also. When we have patient who live at a great distance, out of the country or across the country who really feel the need to get home soon, we've had people travel away from this center as early as a week or two after surgery. So that's not out of the question.
But when you -- if you add to the stresses of routine travel, the stresses of campaign appearances and all this stuff that goes along with that, I think it might be a bit more of a stress.
So we're going to be prepared to individualize this recovery to a great extent. After all, this is not the average person in recovery.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bob -- thank you. Go ahead, Bob.
QUESTION: Question for Dr. Smith. How long -- two parts. How long was he on the heart-lung machine. And you said there are always some anxious moments in heart surgery. Could you describe the anxious moments that took place during this surgery?
SMITH: The answer to the first question, it was 73 minutes. And I don't think there's any point in going into that. It was within routine, you know. It was a routine operation. It's heart surgery.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dr. Pardes -- Please, go ahead. Go ahead, miss, yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Talk up a little louder.
SMITH: As far as I know, they were waiting in the waiting area where they had been waiting with the president pre-surgery. And they were very pleased and relieved to hear that things had gone well.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would say they've been with him constantly. Please. Go ahead.
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) How do we get a card or a recording or something to him through the hospital or the news media? How do we do that?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I was going to make that comment a little later, but I'll say this now. The Clintons are grateful. There have been many people sending flowers and the like. And we'll be trying to share those with other patients in the hospital. But they're asking that, instead of sending any more, that people who are interested in expressing their support can send a message through the Clinton Foundation web site, which is ClintonFoundation.org. ClintonFoundation.org.
QUESTION: How much will the entire hospitalization and surgery cost roughly?
SCHWARTZ: I don't have any idea.
ROBERT KELLY, COO, NEW YORK PRESBYTERIAN HOSPITAL: Usually costs for bypass surgery range in about $25,000.
QUESTION: And the hospitalization?
KELLY: For the hospitalization.
QUESTION: For the whole thing?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, please, go ahead.
QUESTION: How aggressive was the doctor and regimen (ph)?
SCHWARTZ: Well, he's -- he had actually recently, meaning a day or two before arriving, been placed on a statin medication with already a substantial reduction in his lipids.
SCHWARTZ: His LDL on arrival here was 114.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go ahead, sir.
QUESTION: How many people were involved in the operation?
SMITH: There were about 15 people in the room. There were a team of three surgeons, a physician's assistant, four anesthesiologists, two profusionists, a circulating nurse, and a scrub nurse. I'll let you do the arithmetic; that's around 15 probably. That's not atypical.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Say it a little louder.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: During the operation?
SCHWARTZ: He was -- He had received Plavix, and -- P-L-A-V-I-X -- and that was the reason for the delay in the surgery.
We kept him on Heprine (ph) intravenously to keep the situation stable until we were able to do the surgery.
SCHWARTZ: It's standard -- it's standard after both, because of this illness and because of the bypass, that he be on aspirin afterwards.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go ahead, sir.
SCHWARTZ: At the present time, all we would plan is aspirin.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go ahead, sir.
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) Did he seek medical care before (OFF-MIKE)
SCHWARTZ: I think that he had attributed his shortness of breath initially to, you know, deconditioning and more importantly interruptions in his exercise schedule because of his being so busy.
He also has some reflux, and that is symptoms of acid reflux. And I think that also misled the president into thinking that these symptoms perhaps were not that significant.
When he reported this -- this set of symptoms to his physicians they reacted promptly, and you're seeing the result today.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go ahead.
QUESTION: Was he being treated for high cholesterol prior to this?
SCHWARTZ: He had been in the past for a period of time on a statin drug. Then that had been discontinued after he had lost weight.
SCHWARTZ: Was that a mistake? No, it was a judgment. The -- now knowing what he has, the levels of cholesterol that we're going to target are quite low, and certainly will require medication in addition to diet.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go ahead, sir.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think that's a speculation. What you've heard is that these are very individualized.
And what the president will do will be a matter of his own choosing. And, again, people have recovery in very varying kinds of ways.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Behind you.
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) need a nurse to help him out or anything like that? (OFF-MIKE)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm not sure that the high profile has anything to do with the need for a nurse at home. Most people don't need a nurse. Especially in his age group, they don't need a nurse at home when they go home, if they've had routine recoveries. So I wouldn't expect that he would.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go ahead, sir.
SCHWARTZ: The president had labile high blood pressure and had been started on a type of medication called an ACE inhibitor.
QUESTION: Will he be on that (OFF-MIKE)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He will be on a set of medicines to be determined prior to discharge.
QUESTION: Without going into too much detail, can you talk about any memory problems or cognitive problems someone might have on pump? I know there have been a lot of studies specifically about that. Would you expect that given that he was on pump?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's really hard to answer that question quickly, but what is known about that is still evolving and may be less specific to the heart-lung machine than we thought maybe a year or two ago, before there were any studies done using real control groups.
Be that as it may, the main finding has been that as many as 30 percent of people on the heart-lung machine or having major surgery might have a measurable, but very subtle neurocognitive deficit if measured at three months. But in virtually all the studies, with one exception, it's been gone by a year. So whether that has long-term significance and exactly what causes it is unknown.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We'll take a last question.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, they had a lot of privacy of their own. And they bond very closely together. And they were obviously trying to support each other in dealing with this. And I think they handled it very well. I want to thank you all for coming.
WOODRUFF: The doctors at New York Presbyterian Hospital giving an upbeat report on President Clinton. He did undergo four hours of a quadruple bypass operation this morning in New York City. You heard them giving some details, that the president -- they delayed the procedure because he was on blood-thinning medication, but they say he has come through it very well. They called it a routine surgery. They went on to say the president is still on a breathing tube because he is still being sedated. They did expect that he would leave the hospital in the next four or five days, go home and undergo what they said would be a routine recuperation.
They also read a statement from Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, the wife of President Clinton, and their daughter, Chelsea, saying they thanked the staff and the hospital and everyone who has contacted them for their prayers and they are thankful for President Clinton's coming through this successfully.
And, again, we want to let you know, "CROSSFIRE" coming up. But the four doctors you just saw, the surgeon and the others, will be on "LARRY KING" tonight at 9:00, "LARRY KING LIVE," the doctors who took part in that surgery today at New York Presbyterian.
I'm Judy Woodruff. That's it for INSIDE POLITICS.
"CROSSFIRE" is coming right up.
TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com