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JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS

John Kerry's Take on Terror; Countdown to Debates; Reporter Roundtable; "Political Play of the Week"

Aired September 24, 2004 - 15:00   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
ANNOUNCER: Kerry versus Bush on Saddam versus Osama.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: George Bush made Saddam Hussein the priority. I would have made Osama bin Laden the priority.

ANNOUNCER: Will the Democrat get traction from his take on terror?

The president gets a new ally in the war on terror before hitting the trail and his opponent.

GEORGE W. BUSH (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I strongly disagree with the assessment of my opponent. And my opponent chose to criticize the prime minister of Iraq.

ANNOUNCER: The defense secretary in the crosshairs. Do Senator Kerry's attacks ring true?

DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: That is nonsense.

ANNOUNCER: Countdown to the debates. With so many rules and restrictions on the candidates and coverage, will voters feel shortchanged?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: Now, live from Washington, JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS.

JUDY WOODRUFF, HOST: Thank you for joining us.

With less than six weeks to go before the presidential election, John Kerry's strategy isn't quite all Iraq and terror all the time, but it's close. In Pennsylvania today, Senator Kerry hammered away at his charge that President Bush made the war in Iraq a top priority and the fight against terrorists suffered.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KERRY: The invasion of Iraq was a profound diversion from the battle against our greatest enemy, al Qaeda, which killed more than 3,000 people on 9/11 and which still plots our destruction today. And there's just no question about it. The president's misjudgment, miscalculation, and mismanagement of the war in Iraq all make the war on terror harder to win.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: Kerry laid out his own seven-point plan for winning the war on terror. Among other things, he says he would build a stronger and smarter military and intelligence operation, make homeland security a real priority, backed by greater resources, and rebuild U.S. alliances around the world.

The Bush campaign says the current administration already is following that course and that Kerry is copying the president's plan, even as he attacks it. In Missouri, Vice President Cheney accused Kerry of being desperate and wrong.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DICK CHENEY (R), VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Senator Kerry's sagging poll numbers have led him to think he has to go on the attack, and he did that once again this morning. He gave a speech assailing the president and suggesting that Iraq was not a home for terrorists before America deposed Saddam. But ladies and gentlemen, Saddam himself was a terrorist.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: The Bush administration has added another commander, you might say, in the war on terror. Porter Goss was sworn in today as the new CIA chief two days after the Senate approved his nomination. President Bush was at the Oval Office ceremony and then headed to campaign events in Wisconsin.

CNN's Elaine Quijano is traveling with the president.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Campaigning here in the battleground state of Wisconsin, President Bush talked about education, job training, and health care, but also took the opportunity to hit back hard against Senator John Kerry on the issue of Iraq, specifically the president taking issue with some of the comments Senator Kerry made yesterday regarding Ayad Allawi, the interim prime minister of Iraq.

You'll recall yesterday Senator Kerry said that both the prime minister as well as the Bush administration was painting too rosy a picture of the situation on the ground in Iraq. Well, today, President Bush criticized those comments.

BUSH: My opponent chose to criticize the prime minister of Iraq. This brave man came to our country to talk about how he's risking his life for a free Iraq, which helps America. And Senator Kerry held a press conference and questioned Prime Minister Allawi's credibility.

QUIJANO: But the Kerry campaign insists Senator Kerry was not being critical of Prime Minister Allawi. Yet, they do say the Bush administration, they feel, continues to not be forthcoming about the situation on the ground as it really exists in Iraq.

Meantime, President Bush here in Wisconsin pushing hard for votes here, at the same time aware that jobs are on the minds of voters. Here in this particular area, in Janesville, the unemployment rate is 7.9 percent, compared to the national average of 5.4 percent. Nevertheless, the campaign feels the president is making inroads and hopefully can tip the balance of votes his way come November.

Elaine Quijano, CNN, Janesville, Wisconsin.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: And now to the latest crop of presidential polls, all of them showing President Bush ahead by varying degrees. Nationwide, a new Marist poll gives Bush a six-point lead over Kerry among likely voters and a two-point lead among the wider pool of registered voters.

In a national poll for the Associated Press, Bush has a seven- point lead over Kerry among likely voters and a nine-point lead among registered voters. And in Florida, our new CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup survey shows Bush three points ahead of Kerry among likely voters in the showdown state. but has a two-point lead among registered voters in Florida.

The first Bush-Kerry debate will be held in Florida six days from now. Up next, how will the '04 debates be different from the ones in 2000? Two veterans of the process will help us set the stage.

Also ahead, remember Al Gore's Buddhist temple problem? Are there shades of that flap on the trail now?

And later, get out your calculators and find out if the "Political Play of the Week" adds up.

With 39 days until the election, this is INSIDE POLITICS, the place for campaign news.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: The air is beginning to turn crisp in some parts of the country. The leaves are starting to change color. The presidential candidates are answering mock questions from their aides. There's no doubt about it. It is debate season. The first of three presidential debates is just six days away.

Let's talk more about that with Republican strategist Scott Reed and former Clinton White House counsel Jack Quinn.

Jack Quinn, to your first.

All right, I've been reading that this first debate could have a bigger audience than even the people who vote on November 2. Is this debate, are these debates going to be decisive?

JACK QUINN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: They could be. This is a critical opportunity for both President Bush and Senator Kerry to engage on real issues, not some of the peripheral things that have dominated coverage in the last four, five, six weeks and identify the differences for the American people that they have in this first debate on issues of foreign policy and homeland security.

It's a good opportunity and it's an important one to let the American people know whether America is safer or not safer under President Bush's leadership and, on the other hand, what President Kerry would do -- what a President Kerry would do differently with respect to making us safer.

WOODRUFF: Scott Reed, there's no chance we might overplay the importance of these debates?

SCOTT REED, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I don't think so. This has been a pivotal week because I think all the polls both nationally and in a lot of the battleground states have shown that Bush has a slight edge, three or four points nationally now. In a lot of the battleground states, he's leading. And he's at 50 and 51 in some states.

This will be a challenge for Kerry, because Bush has so masterfully made this a referendum on Kerry. This is an upside-down race in a way. And most voters, these undecided voters, are going to be watching this not with a pad and paper, like reporters, but really looking for style and tone and somebody they want to be comfortable with as their commander in chief. And I think a lot of the onus will be on Kerry to be able perform at that level.

He's had to be a little negative in the last 10 days because of his August. And they've gone from measuring the drapes to all of a sudden being behind. And he has to be careful he doesn't carry that negative into the debate, because that would come right across and turn off voters.

WOODRUFF: And Jack Quinn, is it a referendum on John Kerry. Is that how much pressure is on him now?

QUINN: Well, that's certainly the way the president's team has tried to position it.

But typically, as well you know, a reelection campaign for an incumbent is usually a referendum on that incumbent. I think, at the end of the day, this one will be if Senator Kerry can forcefully enough elaborate on the criticisms he so well articulated today of the president's failures in Iraq and in fighting al Qaeda and really making America a safer place for all of us.

WOODRUFF: What's going to be critical -- everything's critical here, Scott, obviously in these 90 minute debates. But what's going to be important here for the president in particular? Given the scenario you described going in, this is not just another speech. What's different about this debate?

REED: President Bush has to frame this whole debate about this broader worldwide war on terrorism and not just be sucked in to the day-to-day headlines of what's going on in Iraq, because that is terrible and negative for Bush right now.

And I think, by his ability to do that and rise above that, communicate in his skills, which are very down-home and folksy, which I think is connecting with most voters, and he'll be contrasting that with Kerry. This Democrat is viewed as an elitist. The parties have almost switched roles this time. People see Kerry as someone who's a little out of touch. And so, Bush will just be himself, make it a broader argument about a worldwide war on terror, and let Kerry be in the defensive situation, where he has to claw ahead. And that's going to be tough.

That's a tough strategy for a challenger.

WOODRUFF: Do you agree that that's what Kerry's up against?

QUINN: I do agree that's what he's up against.

But I think he's up to that challenge. And I think that, when the American people have an opportunity really to look at the differences that these men would bring to office, that that will work favorably for Senator Kerry. I don't want to minimize it. President Bush is a terrific debater. Scott's right. He's folksy. He's friendly. He's down-home. He did extraordinarily well against Governor Ann Richards.

And as you well know, and I know painfully, he did very well against Vice President Gore. So, Senator Kerry has a lot to deal with. But I certainly think he's up to it. And I think he'll do a great job in explaining the differences and why President Bush has gone off track in this important area.

WOODRUFF: What about the whole expectations game here, though, Scott? I mean, President Bush is clearly -- we talked about low expectations in 2000. Can he still benefit from low expectations, having been president for four years?

REED: Well, he can some.

But what's also important about these debates is not just the night of the evening of the debate, but it's really the 72 hours out of the debate, where the campaigns have to come out, declare victory, get on the offense, have enthusiasm, have good crowds that first day to show that they won, because this is about momentum right now.

It's a close race. Whoever can come out of this first debate with some momentum, looking like a winner, I believe is going to have a head of steam going into the next two debates, which won't be as widely watched unless somebody slips on the stage.

WOODRUFF: So, are we saying it's how you play what comes out of the debate, Jack, that matters more than what's said in the debate?

QUINN: Well, I agree with -- it's certainly important. I agree with Scott on that. And as you well know, it's important to be disciplined about how one interprets the events that just happened. But the most important thing is how, as Scott said earlier in this discussion, is how the American people feel about these two men as people and how comfortable they are with the idea of their being leader for the next four years.

WOODRUFF: How much of them is really going to come through, though, Scott? One of you, I think Jack, said this is the first time we've seen them, you know, in this setting.

QUINN: Unfiltered.

WOODRUFF: Unfiltered.

And yet there are, what, over 30 pages of an agreement dealing with everything from lighting to makeup to the shape of the lecterns, whether they can approach each other and on and on. Is it really unfiltered?

REED: Well, it's unfiltered. These have an audience that's almost as big as the national conventions.

And look, all this practice -- we're going to have all these stories next week about who they're practicing with, where they are practicing. That's all meaningless. The first 15, 20 minutes of the debate are when the American people are going to tune in. They're either going to like what they see and stick with it. They're going to make a lot of decisions in those first 15 or 20 minutes, I believe. And that will set the tone for who will come out the winner. This is their shot.

WOODRUFF: Rehearsals right now. We know they're going to be going through questions and getting ready. How important is that? What are they likely to be doing that can really be helpful to them?

QUINN: Well, I think there are a couple of things that happen in these preparation sessions. One is to make sure that the candidates have at hand all the facts they need to prosecute effectively their arguments and their positions.

Secondly, they need to anticipate what the other candidate is going to say on a particular issue and be ready to offer a strong rebuttal. But I quite agree with Scott. I think these guys have been talking about these issues for months and months and months. They're familiar with them. They know their positions. And at the end of the day, it's how they connect personally and the manner in which they make these points to the American people.

WOODRUFF: You said something a minute ago, Scott, about President Bush needs to sort of rise above the daily ebb and flow of what's going on in Iraq and make a larger -- paint a larger picture here. But he also needs to answer the questions, as does John Kerry, right? He can't seem to be avoiding the questions.

REED: He does. And the Iraq question is going to be the most important question for both candidates in this debate, Kerry, who struggled with it and had his nine and 10th idea on what to do about it, and Bush, who has to defend it.

Just one last point on this practice. The best thing that can happen in these practice sessions is the teams get under the candidate's skin, make them explode in practice, let them see that, what it looks like, so they calm down when they go into this debate, so they don't overreact, because that's the last thing you want to do in front of 30 million people.

WOODRUFF: Whatever that is, all right, or more, if it's as many people as go to the polls.

All right Scott Reed, Jack Quinn, great to see you both.

(CROSSTALK)

WOODRUFF: Thanks very much. I know you're going to be watching, as are we.

REED: For sure.

WOODRUFF: I think so. OK.

(LAUGHTER)

WOODRUFF: Well, just ahead, overlooked or overplayed? Our political editor John Mercurio joins me to talk about the stories not getting a lot of attention or maybe too much attention in the race for the White House.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Our political editor, John Mercurio, is with me now to talk about some of the recent campaign news that has been both overlooked and overplayed in recent days.

John, all right, first of all, what story would you say has not gotten the attention that it should have?

JOHN MERCURIO, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, there was a very interesting story that the Associated Press broke earlier this week about a South Korean spy and his efforts to infiltrate the Kerry campaign.

But what was more interesting, I thought, was how little coverage the story got. The AP reported on Monday that a South Korean Embassy official earlier this year met with a Kerry campaign fundraiser to talk about trying to set up a political action committee for Korean- Americans. Well, it turns out that this official, this embassy official, was actually a spy. He works for sort of the counterpart, the CIA counterpart, in South Korea.

Now, the story raised major concerns at the State Department about whether or not there were efforts on the part of the spy or even the South Korean government to try to influence the U.S. presidential election. Now, the worker, Chung Byung-Man, was actually sent back to South Korea. The Kerry campaign has let go of its fundraiser. And they say they don't know anything about the South Korean spy.

But what I thought was -- the story in no way sort of implicates John Kerry or anybody on his campaign of doing anything illegal or unethical. But given the sort of focus we have this year on national security and the sort of growing nuclear threat in North Korea and all the obsession that we had in 2000 on Al Gore's fundraising activities, I was surprised after reading the story that there wasn't more coverage on it. In fact, there was almost no coverage.

No major newspaper picked it up. No network ran a story about it. "The New York Post," actually, which loves to run anti-Kerry stories, was the only paper I saw that had anything in it. And it was just a five-paragraph story on page eight.

WOODRUFF: Just a quick point of clarification. Was a political action committee created out of this discussion?

(CROSSTALK)

MERCURIO: No. No. No, this was just an early preliminary discussion.

WOODRUFF: Why do you think it is, though, that the story didn't get wider pickup?

MERCURIO: I think it's probably because it didn't fit within the sort of two or three topics that the political press corps is able to handle on any given week. And that's not necessarily a criticism of the press corps. it's a very busy time. We're covering the CBS News scandal, fluctuation in the polls, Iraq, the economy, you know, different things like that.

(CROSSTALK)

WOODRUFF: The debates.

MERCURIO: The debates, exactly. So, a story about a South Korean spy and his efforts in the Kerry campaign unfortunately didn't seem to fit into that mix.

WOODRUFF: All right, if that story didn't get the play that it deserved, what story did we overplay?

MERCURIO: Well, frankly, I think it probably had to be the emphasis we all put on polling and the sort of growing sense that here, six weeks before the election, we can all pack up and go home because George Bush has already won this election.

There are headlines this week asking whether or not it's too late for John Kerry. There's a lengthy article in "The New York Times" starting on the front page today comparing his 1972 congressional race, which he lost, with his presidential campaign, the message sort of being he hasn't really learned any lessons since 1972. There's even this sort of -- I think this notion that Kerry's last chance to really turn this election around is during the debates. But I think, if we all look back to only 2000, Al Gore was 10 points down in mid-October. He certainly hadn't wowed anybody during the presidential debates, and we know how that race tightened up, so, you know...

WOODRUFF: So, we are all loathe to pronounce anything over until it's over.

MERCURIO: Exactly. Exactly.

WOODRUFF: OK, John Mercurio, our political editor, thank you very much.

MERCURIO: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: Ahead here, the candidate and the defense secretary, a look at John Kerry's latest criticisms of Donald Rumsfeld and how Rumsfeld is fighting back.

Also, the latest CNN electoral map. George W. Bush had the lead in our last analysis. Now more two more states have taken sides.

(FINANCIAL UPDATE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Jeanne Meserve in Washington.

Coming up at 5:00 p.m., four for Florida? The battered state is bracing for still another hurricane. We'll have the latest forecast just out when our show begins.

Critical developments in the trial of Saddam Hussein, details of a major delay.

Plus, a Massachusetts town is fascinated by a surprise guest, a great white shark.

Those stories and much more later on "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS." Now back to JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS.

WOODRUFF: John Kerry has wrapped up two campaign stops in Pennsylvania. Now he's heading to Boston for a weekend of debate preparation for next week's first presidential candidate showdown.

President Bush is stumping for votes in Wisconsin, his seventh trip to that battleground state, before flying to his Texas ranch for a few strategy sessions of his own.

Welcome back to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm Judy Woodruff in Washington.

Well, John Kerry has publicly criticized Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld several times in recent days. And Rumsfeld has fired back with several comments of his own. Our senior Pentagon correspondent, Jamie McIntyre has more on the back and forth between the candidate and the cabinet secretary.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SR. PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: John Kerry has stepped up his attacks on Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld with his latest barb aimed at Rumsfeld's admission that January elections in Iraq may not be perfect.

KERRY: Now, if there was any doubt that the leaders of the Bush administration are living in a fantasy world of spin, I think Secretary Rumsfeld put that to rest.

MCINTYRE: The day before, Kerry sharply rebuked Rumsfeld, accusing him of deliberately overstating the number of Iraqi troops that are combat-ready.

KERRY: He didn't tell the truth to the Congress. There were 5,000 -- 5,000, that's a disgrace.

MCINTYRE: A Pentagon official called Kerry either misinformed or malicious, saying he's citing only Army troops while ignoring more than 90,000 Iraqi police, border patrols and National Guard forces. In response, Rumsfeld has not mentioned Kerry by name, but he's ridiculed his suggestion that the Bush administration might resort to a military draft in a second term.

RUMSFELD: I'm not supposed to get in politics, but it is absolutely false that anyone in this administration is considering reinstating the draft. That is nonsense.

MCINTYRE: Rumsfeld left it to his top general to refute Kerry's assertion the Pentagon plans a secret call-up of Guard and Reserve troops after the election. The call-ups were long scheduled and no secret, insisted Joint Chiefs chairman General Richard Myers.

GEN. RICHARD MYERS, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF CHAIRMAN: So, yes, there will be. None of them have been delayed for any reason.

MCINTYRE: Rumsfeld also says Kerry is relying on bad information when he repeatedly claims Army chief of staff Eric Shinseki was forced out for giving unwelcome advice.

KERRY: Go ask the military leaders. General Shinseki told this country how many troops we need. The president retired him early for telling the truth.

RUMSFELD: First of all, he was never fired. And the newspapers that repeat that month after month after month are wrong, inaccurate, unreliable, irresponsible. I could think of a few more adjectives.

Egregious, yes. But it's a myth. He was never fired. He served out his full term.

(END VIDEOTAPE) MCINTYRE: Now, Secretary Rumsfeld is fond of saying that everyone is entitled to their own opinion but not their own set of facts. And the fact that the Army chief of staff was not fired or forced to retire early is just that, Judy. It is a fact.

WOODRUFF: All right. Jamie McIntyre setting the record straight. Jamie, thank you very much.

Well, checking the Friday headlines now in our "Campaign News Daily," the latest CNN electoral map finds George W. Bush adding to his lead over John Kerry. According to the latest polls and research by the CNN political unit, Bush has added New Hampshire and Iowa to his column.

By our count, Bush would win 301 electoral votes if the election were held today. Kerry would win 237 electoral votes -- 270 electoral votes, of course, are needed to win the White House.

The Republican National Committee has acknowledged mailing flyers to people in Arkansas and West Virginia, warning them that "liberals will try to ban the bible." The flyers included this one, which urges people to vote and also includes the word "banned" across an image of the bible.

Another flyer featured the image of a same-sex couple. An RNC spokeswoman said activist judges have made issues out of gay marriage and the words 'under god' in the Pledge of Allegiance.

Here in Washington, meantime, the Christian Coalition is holding a training conference for conservative activists. House speaker Dennis Hastert is among those who addressed the group today. He took direct aim at Democrat John Kerry.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DENNIS HASTERT, SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: We are at a critical moment in this nation's history. We can reelect a pro-family, pro- life president, or we can elect a man who's hostile to traditional family values and voted against the partial-birth abortion ban.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: The Bush campaign has made increased voter turnout among Christian conservatives a major part of its election strategy.

Well, three reporters join me now to talk about the days -- this week's major political stories. They are Liz Marlantes with "The Christian Science Monitor"; Vince Morris reports for "The New York Post"; and Jill Zuckman writes for the "Chicago Tribune."

Great to see all of you. Thanks very much.

Jill, let me start with you. The story coming out of Iraq relentlessly negative, John Kerry trying to -- to turn that to his advantage in this campaign. So far, he's struggling to do that. Is he going to make any headway with the -- sort of the new vigor that he seems to have added to his arguments this week?

JILL ZUCKMAN, "CHICAGO TRIBUNE": Well, I think what's happened is John Kerry decided to embrace his inner Iraq. He's out there, he's talking about it every day.

Before he was shying away from it and it was a problem for him. He just couldn't get away from the questions.

He's finally decided to try to take it to President Bush. And I think his message is a little clearer, a little sharper. But it remains to be seen whether this is an issue that's ultimately going to work for him.

WOODRUFF: How do you see it, Liz?

LIZ MARLANTES, "CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR": I was going to say, I agree with that. But I do think one of the things that we've seen throughout this campaign is that it really is event-driven more than anything else. And yes, Kerry decided to take a more aggressive stance on Iraq over the past week.

But to a large extent, I think that's because Iraq has been a disaster and the news out of there has been very, very bad. And so, it gave him an opening that I'm not sure we would have seen quite the same strategy out of the Kerry campaign if the news out of Iraq had been, say, you know, less violent, less obviously horrible than it was.

WOODRUFF: Vince, the Bush campaign keeps insisting, despite the news out of Iraq, that things are improving in Iraq, that elections will be held on track. They had Prime Minister Allawi in town this week to help them make that argument. Are they going to be able to hold off some of the reality coming out of that country?

VINCENT MORRIS, "NEW YORK POST": They're hoping that Allawi can take control of that country and maybe try and keep the body count down. Because that's the one thing the president can't control is the casualties coming out of Iraq.

And I agree, that is the number one issue and that is the one thing that has the president, I think, the most frightened in terms of his re-election. Because that's the one issue that Americans across the country can relate to. And if they see continued images of people dying and chaos and destruction, I think they're going to be very worried about giving the president another four years.

WOODRUFF: But is John Kerry going to be able to capitalize on that?

MARLANTES: Well, I think -- I was going to add to that, one of the things I think we've seen this week is, because the news has been bad, both sides have to acknowledge that. And so, we've seen a sort of shift in how they're framing it.

And the Bush campaign is now trying to frame it as optimism versus pessimism on Iraq. In other words, they're saying it is bad but we have an optimistic vision that will carry us through. And Kerry is just being defeatist and pessimistic. Kerry's trying to frame it slightly differently in saying, no, it's not optimism versus pessimism; it's realism versus fantasy.

ZUCKMAN: And of course, the Bush campaign has been taking that tact all year long, trying to portray Kerry as dour and pessimistic. And he's finally saying, no, you're living in a world of fantasy and I'm trying to tell you what's really going on here, which matches what people are seeing on the nightly news.

WOODRUFF: Clearly, a lot of focus now on the debates. I was talking to Scott Reed and Jack Quinn about that.

You know, Vince, is this -- are these debates going to be everything for the campaign going forward? Or one more thing that happens and then we've got another three-and-a-half, three weeks to go?

MORRIS: I'm definitely in the camp that believes the debates are completely overrated. I don't think -- there will be a lot of reporters there, there will be a lot of focus on it leading up to in terms of the preparation and who will -- how will they prepare and who comes -- both candidates will be very conservative, very cautious. And unless somebody makes a mistake, which I don't think will happen, I don't think the debates will really resonate. I don't think any of the debates coming up will have that much of an impact on the race.

WOODRUFF: Liz.

MARLANTES: I think they could. I agree, I think it could go either way. And I think in some ways we may see a race that comes down to turnout in the end.

But I do think one of the things going into these debates is that Kerry has an opening. What we've seen in the polls so far is that the right track-wrong track numbers are still very favorable to Kerry. Most Americans still think this country is not on the right track.

He hasn't been able to capitalize on that so far. But a debate is the kind of environment in which you can. If he can come across as confident and capable, maybe he can convince some of those Americans who think the country is on the wrong track that he would be a better leader, that, you know, they should give him power instead.

WOODRUFF: Jill.

ZUCKMAN: You also have to remember that not all of America knows who John Kerry is or has a feeling of who he is like he's someone they really know. I mean, he's just been a senator from Massachusetts for the last 20 years, and most people don't know other states' senators.

WOODRUFF: And other than his acceptance speech the night of the convention.

ZUCKMAN: Exactly. Exactly. So, this is a huge opportunity for him. Everybody knows President Bush. Everybody has a sense of him, I think, throughout the country. And it's sort of a fixed feeling about where he's coming from. But Kerry is still kind of wide open and has an opportunity here.

WOODRUFF: Last quick question. The Kerry camp has added some new folks in their -- their advice counsels of wisdom and advice over the last few weeks. Are these mainly Clinton people, many of them, Vince? Are they making any difference in his campaign?

MORRIS: I think -- I think they are. I mean, I know both the president and Senator Clinton are advising John Kerry, and all these people that John Kerry has hired are giving him advice on how to sharpen his message. And I think that works.

The problem will be is if there's disagreement, because then you will start to have a muddled message, which I think was the problem for John Kerry for most of the summer. So, it remains to be seen whether these people can all mesh and all these personalities and egos will mesh, especially if John Kerry's poll numbers do not start going back up in the next few weeks.

WOODRUFF: Egos in politics?

(LAUGHTER)

WOODRUFF: What do you think?

MARLANTES: Yes. I mean, there were -- there were a lot of stories immediately after this campaign takeover about disagreements between advisers and that sort of thing. And that, I think, was not helpful, because in some ways it just reinforced an image of Kerry as too weak to control his own staff.

We've seen less of those recently. And I do think he's had a good week. This has probably been the best week he's had in a long time. He's been on message, and that has been very noticeable and might be attributed to a new team.

ZUCKMAN: One of the reasons I think he's doing better also is because this new group of people who came in, they are clearly in charge. There's not a pitched battle going on between the old camp and the new camp.

The new camp clearly has control of his message and has changed his message. And he's doing better. And one thing is he's very happy about that. I mean, he worked hard to get Mike McCurry to come work for him for months and months and months.

WOODRUFF: Clinton's press secretary for a long time in the White House.

ZUCKMAN: Exactly. And these are people that Senator Kerry wanted to have on his team and really hoped they would come join him.

WOODRUFF: And for a long time they didn't or couldn't, or whatever.

ZUCKMAN: Right. Had other things going. And finally realized that they needed to.

WOODRUFF: All right. We're going to leave it there. It's great to see all three of you.

ZUCKMAN: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: I hope we get many chances to talk to you again before the election. Jill Zuckman, Liz Marlantes, Vince Morris, great to see all three of you. We appreciate it.

MARLANTES: Thanks, Judy.

MORRIS: Thanks.

WOODRUFF: Well, next it's Friday, and that means time for the "Political Play of the Week." Well, it's good news for you now, but potentially bad news in the long run.

And later, Teresa Heinz Kerry does it again, some people say. See why some are talking about another one of her comments. Hint, she sets her sights on the world's most wanted man.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: This is Friday. It's pay day for many Americans and, believe it or not, your paycheck is at the heart of our "Political Play of the Week."

Here's our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider.

All right. Connect the dots.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: OK. Well, you know, when it comes down to a choice between good politics and good policy, which usually wins? Well, let's put it this way: we don't call it the "Political Play of the Week" for nothing.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): The child tax credit, tax breaks for two-income married couples, more taxpayers in the lowest tax bracket, all tax cuts that help the middle class. All set to expire this year. President Bush has been campaigning all year to make those tax cuts permanent, using an implied threat.

BUSH: If they don't make these tax cuts permanent, it means they're raising taxes on people with families, it means they're raising taxes on people who are married, it means they're raising taxes on people who are in the 10 percent bracket.

SCHNEIDER: For a long time, a coalition of Democrats and moderate Republicans resisted, claiming that extending the tax cuts would worsen the deficit unless Congress found a way to pay for them. But this week, with the tax cut set to expire, and an election looming, the resisters gave in.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: My advice to my colleagues, is when they're dealing politically on the floor, you deal with it any way you need to deal with it.

SCHNEIDER: John Kerry issued a statement saying, "I support middle class tax cuts, including the tax package now being considered in Congress." Suddenly, it was a done deal.

A bill extending the tax cuts passed the Senate 92-3. House Republicans voted for it unanimously. Two-thirds of house Democrats voted for it, too.

The cost of extending the tax cuts, $146 billion. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that over the next 10 years, the public debt will nearly double to $8 trillion. Politically, however, it's a no-brainer.

REP. CHARLES RANGEL (D), NEW YORK: Assume that they believe that -- that we won't notice that they're running us deeper and deeper and deeper into deficit. But since they have no winners or don't care about it, then once again we have a political issue that's brought to us on the floor.

SCHNEIDER: Politics triumphs over policy. After all, it's the "Political Play of the Week."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER: It's very difficult for members of Congress to defend a vote to raise middle class taxes. Now, will their opponents attack them for voting for a tax cut that increases the deficit? Don't count on it -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: You're saying the deficit isn't such a big issue after all.

SCHNEIDER: It is not such a big issue. Not like raising taxes.

WOODRUFF: Bill Schneider, "Political Play of the Week." Thanks very much.

SCHNEIDER: Thanks.

WOODRUFF: Well, now that John Kerry has laid his blueprint on the table, Capitol Hill is sizing up two different plans for the war on terror. Coming up, CNN's Bob Novak opens his notebook and finds that Kerry's proposals left some Republicans conflicted.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Bob Novak joins us now from the "CROSSFIRE" set at George Washington University with some "Inside Buzz." All right, Bob, first of all, what are you hearing in terms of Republican reaction to John Kerry's speech about terror, about Iraq today?

BOB NOVAK, CO-HOST, "CROSSFIRE": Well, behind the scenes, some of the Republicans on the Hill agree with Senator Kerry's criticisms, particularly on border control. They think the administration hasn't done very well. But this is election time, and the campaign time, and they'll support the president on it anyway.

On the other hand, I think Senator Kerry made a boo-boo when he said go ask Tommy Franks whether going into Iraq didn't hurt the effort in Afghanistan. I think that Senator Kerry forgot that Tommy Franks is a big supporter of President Bush's re-election, and the general has said many times that it did -- that going into Iraq did not hurt the effort in Afghanistan.

WOODRUFF: All right. Let's talk about the race to win majority control of the Senate, Bob. Where does it stand right now? The Republicans have a one-seat majority now. What's it looking like?

NOVAK: The Evans-Novak political report has a one-seat gain by the Republicans if the election were held today. That would make the lineup in the Senate 52-48 Republican.

We have the Republicans losing Colorado, Illinois and Oklahoma. The Democrats winning South Carolina, Georgia, Louisiana. And get this, South Dakota. We think if the election were held today that Tom Daschle would go down.

Now, this setup has two very, very close races. The Republicans retaining Alaska in a close race and losing -- and the Democrats retaining Florida in a close race.

WOODRUFF: All right. You realize we're saving all these projections, right?

NOVAK: I hope so.

WOODRUFF: OK. All right. What about the House? What are you showing there?

NOVAK: If the election were held today, we find that the Republicans would have a gain of six seats in the House, increasing their majority to 235-199. But all six seats are from Texas on the redistricting there. The rest of the country, absolutely even if the election were held today. So, Tom DeLay is the most valuable player in the Republican Party, because he has picked up by that odd redistricting, off-year redistricting, we'll call it, a gain of six seats nationally.

WOODRUFF: All right. Let's focus on a state you know very well, Illinois. What does it look like for the Republican Party?

NOVAK: I just got back from Illinois this morning. The Republican Party is a basket case in my home state of Illinois. The Alan Keyes candidacy for the Senate is an absolute disaster. And it's so bad that there is a possibility that the senior Republican member of the House of Representatives, Phil Crane, may lose his seat. That's what I'm told by Republicans in Illinois, a district in the Illinois suburbs which is very Republican. So, that would really be something if Phil Crane were to go down in the Illinois Republican disaster.

WOODRUFF: Barack Obama holding on to his big lead.

NOVAK: Absolutely.

WOODRUFF: OK. Bob Novak, thanks very much. And we're going to see you again on "CROSSFIRE" at 4:30 Eastern.

NOVAK: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: 1:30 Pacific. Bob, thanks very much.

And one more take now on those House races. It didn't take long for the controversy over the CBS report about George W. Bush's National Guard service to appear in a political ad.

CBS News is mentioned in this spot by Republican challenger Louis Gohmert in the first district House race in Texas. The Gohmert ad says the commercials being run by Gohmert's opponent, incumbent Democrat Max Sandlin, have "more holes than a CBS News story by Dan Rather."

Well, the presidential candidates may be trying out some debate lines on the campaign trail today. Coming up in the next half-hour, a report on John Kerry's day and his attack on rank and the war on terror, and his preparations for next week's face-off with President Bush.

Plus, more on Bush today and America's economic outlook now that Congress has voted to extend some of his tax cuts.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: Congress passes the fourth major tax relief package of the Bush presidency. But some Democrats claim politics over policy.

RANGEL: Where were those responsible Republicans when they decided to do the political thing rather than the right thing?

ANNOUNCER: We'll speak to Democratic Congressman Charlie Rangel.

Debate deadlock. As the first presidential match-up approaches, why aren't the debate organizers and the campaigns seeing eye to eye?

And what's in a name? A football team's controversial mascot receives some surprising support. (END VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: Live from Washington, JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS

WOODRUFF: Welcome back.

As the Kerry camp describes it, the Democrat's latest speech on Iraq was meant to define the parameters of the political debate over the war and the most effective way to fight terror. But the Bush camp is accusing Kerry of being negative and inconsistent. CNN's Bob Franken is traveling with the Kerry campaign.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BOB FRANKEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The afternoon rally at the University of Pennsylvania was really a sendoff for John Kerry as he headed for debate preparations with a reminder of a debate past.

SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D), DELAWARE: I know this man. And I know George Bush. And this guy ain't no George Bush, thank god.

(APPLAUSE)

FRANKEN: The man who's doing his dead-level best to beat George Bush had added an event at nearby Temple University, part of a new strategy of aggressively criticizing the Bush record on Iraq and terrorism. It included the fundamental message that the war on Iraq had undermined the war on terror.

KERRY: George Bush made Saddam Hussein the priority. I would have made Osama bin Laden the priority.

FRANKEN: The Bush campaign had its usual quick response, saying, "John Kerry called Saddam Hussein a terrorist before. But now he's taking the opposite position."

Kerry presented a seven-point plan, promising to make all the changes recommended by the 9/11 commission and, in effect, to do everything that Bush has done on the war on terror better.

KERRY: We are confronting an enemy and an ideology that must be destroyed. We are at war. We are in a war that must be won.

FRANKEN (on camera): Kerry is still nursing a cold, but he's about to cut his speeches, at least his public ones, as he uses his voice for intense debate preparations with a surrogate for President Bush. The real thing happens in less than a week.

Bob Franken, CNN, Philadelphia.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: John Kerry's wife has been sharing her own thoughts on the hunt for Osama bin Laden, apparently suggesting that the Bush camp could have an October surprise up its sleeve. "The Phoenix Business Journal" quotes Teresa Heinz Kerry as saying about bin Laden, Quote, "I wouldn't be surprised if he appeared in the next month," end quote.

Well, the Kerry campaign has released a new television ad featuring comments made just yesterday by George W. Bush. The spot features the president at Thursday's news conference, where he said polls, asking Iraqis if their nation is on the right track, received higher numbers than the polls asking the same question here in the U.S. The ad criticizes Bush's remark, noting that the number of Americans killed in Iraq and the recent kidnappings and murders of American civilians. The ad will air in battleground states and national cable networks.

President Bush plans to do some debate preparation of his own at his Texas ranch this weekend, after campaign appearances today in Wisconsin. Bush continued his long distance sparring with Kerry over Iraq. He accused the senator of undermining Iraq's interim leader, by questioning Ayad Allawi's optimistic view of the situation in his homeland.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: You can't lead this country if your ally in Iraq feels like you question his credibility. The message ought to be to the Iraqi people, we support you. The message ought to be loud and clear. We're standing with you as you do the hard work.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: The Kerry camp denies that the senator showed a lack of respect for Allawi and said President Bush is simply trying to change the subject.

Well, President Bush got another campaign plug in today for his tax cuts, a day after Congress voted to extend several popular cuts for the middle class. Some lawmakers from both parties are raising questions about the price tag, as the federal deficit keeps growing.

Joining us now from the White House, Republican Congressman Rob Portman of Ohio. He's a member of the Budget Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee.

Congressman Portman, what this tax cut, fourth one of the Bush presidency, $146 billion -- it's pointed out today at the current rate of spending, the government debt by the public will almost double to $8 trillion.

Given that, how is the president going to cut the deficit in half in five years?

REP. ROB PORTMAN (R), OHIO: Well, Judy, it all works if two things happen: one, if we continue to grow the economy; and two, if we restrain our spending. And we're doing that.

You know, this year's budget, which the president proposed and the House has kept to, and I think the Senate will, does not permit any real increases in spending, except for the areas of really anti- terrorism, which is defense and homeland security. And second is the economy is growing. We added 1.7 million new jobs in the last year. And despite the tax relief last year, Judy, we're actually increasing receipts to the federal government this year, and that's because the economy is growing.

So, we are, in fact, reducing the deficit. As you know, the Congressional Budget Office recently announce that this year's deficit will be $55 billion less than previously projected, because revenues are going up faster than we had previously anticipated.

So, that's what we need to do. To not allow these tax cuts to continue, I think, would have been a big mistake, because as you said in your intro there, this is about married folks with kids. They would have had another 300 bucks of taxes next year, tax increase -- married couples would have tax increases. People would not have been able to take advantage of this expanded 10 percent bracket, which basically allows modest income people to pay less taxes.

So, I think it was important to extend the tax release that was already in place.

WOODRUFF: Well, if the revenue picture is so positive, how do you account for this comment from Republican Senator John McCain. He was one of the Republicans, he voted for this tax cut, but he expressed what he called grave concerns about very serious financial situation facing our country.

And I'm just going to quote briefly. He said, "Who are we hurting by our continued spending, Mr. President. We're hurting our children, our grandchildren, and who knows how many future generations of America. We're tying a millstone of debt around their necks, and it is a grave mistake."

What do you say to John McCain?

PORTMAN: I say John McCain is exactly right. By the way, that Mr. President was president of the Senate, not the president of the United States.

WOODRUFF: Right.

PORTMAN: And what he's saying is that Congress needs to keep its spending under control. And John McCain has been a hero on that. And you know, if you look at the spending proposals from President Bush and his campaign for the next four years and compare those to the spending proposals from John Kerry for the next four years, you find that the Kerry proposals are not paid for, it's more spending, it's also more tax increases. And that's the difference.

So, I, you know, the reason John McCain is supporting George Bush for president is because he believes in his foreign policy, he believes he's a strong leader, but also when you compare these two candidates, Senator McCain is right. We need to keep our spending under control, and George Bush believes that, too.

WOODRUFF: But the four tax cuts add up to hundreds and hundreds of billions of dollars, which has contributed to the deficit...

PORTMAN: Well, Judy, you're right, except that if you believe the tax relief leads to greater economic growth, which is -- again, I would tell you that it's happened already, the tax cuts are already working -- then what happens is you grow the revenues to the federal government, at the same time you keep spending under control.

That's how we did it back in the 1990s. We actually got, not just to a balanced budget, we got to surpluses. We did it actually by reducing some of the taxes, including capital gains taxes at that time, and then keeping our spending under control. And as the economy grew, we got into that surplus.

And that's what we need to do again. And that's what President Bush wants to do.

WOODRUFF: Let me ask you about something some Democrats and John Kerry are saying. They are saying here you have the White House and Republicans accepting a deal that includes corporate tax breaks worth something like $13 billion, while denying many minimum wage workers access to these child tax credits, something that would have cost around, what, $4 billion.

How do you explain that? How do you defend it?

PORTMAN: Well, it's very simple to defend in the sense that all we did on the so-called corporate side is we extended for another year current tax law, such as research and development tax credit -- which I believe is the single biggest one of those, which is very important to our economy and which I think Republicans and Democrats alike agreed we need to extend.

With regard to the comment on being able to cover more children of those who are below minimum wage, if you look at what we did yesterday, we added a considerable and very generous amount to those people at modest income.

In fact, as you may know, there's a $23 billion outlay in the bill yesterday -- meaning not even tax relief, but an outlay of federal spending for folks who do not pay federal income taxes at all, but get a refundable tax credit under the child credit we passed yesterday.

So, yeah, we could have gone further. We could have done more, and there was a Democrat proposal to do that. But in fact, this is a very generous extension to what the president did in 2001 -- which, for the first time, by the way, covered families with children in a more extensive way.

Prior to that time, we were very limited in terms of what we provided in terms of a child tax credit on a refundable basis, meaning for people who did not have income tax liability.

So, the reason this bill was so popular, the reason it only was opposed by I think three senators of the United States Senate -- and was very popular in the House of Representatives, as well -- is that this is truly middle income tax relief extending what George Bush put in place in 2001. And it's working for our economy.

WOODRUFF: All right. We hear you loud and clear.

PORTMAN: Thanks, Judy.

WOODRUFF: Congress Rob Portman joining us today from the White House. We appreciate it.

PORTMAN: Thanks for having me on.

WOODRUFF: Thank you very much.

Well, still another presidential poll was released a short time ago. The "TIME" magazine survey shows President Bush's lead over John Kerry narrowing to six points among likely voters nationwide. It was about 12 points just a couple of weeks ago.

On the upcoming debates, 44 percent of those surveyed say they expect Bush to win, 32 percent say they expect Kerry to win the debate. And more than two-thirds of what the poll calls movable voters said they plan to make their choice based on the outcome of the debates.

Well, we'll get an opposing view on the Bush tax cut, coming up next, from Democratic Congressman Charlie Rangel.

Also ahead, the next chapter of presidential debate history? Will the Bush/Kerry showdown represent a break from the past?

And are Native Americans getting their due in Washington? Questions about political correctness ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: President Bush's tax cut extension is essentially a done deal, thanks to yesterday's easy trip through the Congress, but there are plenty on Capitol Hill who say they are not happy with the outcome, Democratic Representative Charles Rangel for one. He joins me now with his take on it.

Congressman Rangel, good to see you. Thank you very much for joining me. You heard Congressman Portman saying this is absolutely the right thing to do. It will grow the economy, get business going, more jobs created and more revenue flowing in.

REP. CHARLES RANGEL (D), NEW YORK: No economists have ever said that giving the type of tax cuts to the wealthy that the Bush administration started out doing as soon as they got in office was a stimulant to the economy. The truth of the matter is that history is never recorded during a time of war. Would you really borrow money in order to give these type of tax cuts. When it comes to the deficits, swinging from the surplus that we had of $5.6 trillion to a $3 trillion deficit, just the interest on this that prevents us from doing things, in terms of healthcare and education that a nation should be doing, it's tragic, the legacy we're leaving to our children and grandchildren as a result of borrowing this type of money. WOODRUFF: If it's so terrible, why did you and so many other Democrats vote for it?

RANGEL: We're anxious to take back the House of Representatives. We had no problems at all with the tax cuts. Many times I was the conferee. I was the sole Democratic House member in the conference and I supported the tax cuts there, but I also supported a way to pay for them. No one, Republican or Democrat can challenge that there are enough corporate loopholes that we could have closed up so that when we brought this bill to the floor, we would have given the tax credits, provided benefits for the working poor, so that they could have been the beneficiary, we would have made permanent benefits to those soldiers in combat that had a temporary fix in their problem. We could have done all these things and not increased the deficit.

But if these people going back home and running for reelection were being asked the question, did you vote against the Child Tax Credit? Did you vote against the 10-percent bracket? Did you vote against giving relief for married couples? And the answer is, yes, I voted, but the deficit is a problem. Once we take back the House, once we win the presidency, we can once again get this nation under right economic footing.

WOODRUFF: But what happened to voting on principle?

RANGEL: The principle is we have to survive and if you think this is something, you wait until the package that the Republicans are coming up next week. They call it the jobs bill. It's going to be the super billion dollar deficit lowering the rates of all corporations and it's going to be an inspiration for people to send jobs overseas. They have all these things on the eve of the election. The principle has to be, you have to be able to survive and we have to have an economic plan to get ourselves out of this deficit. I think John Kerry has such a plan.

WOODRUFF: You say the principle is to give Democrats a leg up. Haven't you just handed President Bush and the Republicans another victory out of the Congress just before the election? How does that help...

RANGEL: We didn't have any problem at all with any of these tax benefits to the middle class. We have a serious problem in how we're borrowing the money to pay for it and we have to make certain that we're going to be here to get us out of this, a world war that we shouldn't be involved in the first place. To be able to get more money into education which they really want to eliminate all of the social programs.

They promised us that next year, they're going to pull out all of this tax system, remove taxing earners from wage earners, as well as corporation and bring us a national sales tax type of thing, which will really hurt the middle class and the poor, so we have to have a party to fight against them and we can't allow ourselves to get caught in the position, where Senator Kerry, in voting against the $87 billion, he voted for it saying that, if we were going to make certain it wasn't borrowed money, that it was loan to these people and he voted for something like that, but they wouldn't let him have it that way.

So, now they say he flip-flopped and that's the way it's reported in the media. The truth of the matter is that Democrats voted for the tax cuts but vigorously opposed going further and further into the deficit.

WOODRUFF: How do you feel -- last question -- about John Kerry's chances right now?

RANGEL: Everyone knows that it's going to be a very, very close election. I think a lot of people aren't outspoken as they want to be against a president that got us in the war in the wrong country, where we're losing thousands of people, unknown tens of thousands of Iraqis being killed. There's no plan to get us out of it. I think Kerry has given hope and inspiration to people already discouraged with the president, that he can bring us out of this mess he does have a plan and we can get on a sound economic footing, as we once enjoyed under President Clinton.

WOODRUFF: Congressman Charles Rangel, it's always a pleasure you to have you on. We appreciate it.

RANGEL: Good to be with you again, Judy.

WOODRUFF: Coming up next, a clause about camera angles, makeup, and who can say what. This is no Hollywood movie contract, it's the fine print of the presidential debates. The rules are the rules but are voters getting shortchanged? Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: As we mentioned the first presidential debate of the 2004 campaign is set to take place in less than a week. But questions remain about some of the rules that will govern how the candidates talk, behave, and even look on camera.

Joining us now is Alex Jones, director of Harvard University Shorenstein Center on Press and Politics. Alex Jones, thanks very much.

I guess the question a lot of people have is are the American people really going to be treated to a full and fair and complete debate of the issues when you have a 30-some-odd-page, very detailed agreement restricting the size of the lectern, whether the candidates can move or not and so forth and so on?

ALEX JONES, HARVARD UNIVERSITY: One of the things that's happened since these televised debates began, is that we've had the creation of shows like "CROSSFIRE." Most Americans now probably think that's what a real debate looks like. A moderated yelling match and people really arguing, really going at each other, hammer and tongs.

That's clearly not going to be the way this is going to be structured. A presidential debate is something a little bit different. There aren't restrictions like that when you go on a program like "CROSSFIRE" or the other ones that are now on cable news so much.

But I think that for both campaigns, this is a really high stakes moment. I think that it's not really surprising that along with many other things we've come to understand, the subtleties of a presidential debate can be very, very important from the very beginning. The perspiration on Richard Nixon's upper lip, in many cases, many people think that may have cost him the election. I think that, of course, is one of the clauses in this particular set of conditions and understandings and laying everything out in great, great detail.

I'm not so worried about the rules as I am about whether the -- you know, the questioners are going to be able to follow up are going to be able to say, but Mr. So-and-So, you did not really answer this question and what about this? That's much more of a limitation than the kinds of rules that have been promulgated.

WOODRUFF: And there are very strict guidelines in that agreement about how long those follow ups can be and whether they can even take place.

JONES: You can't if you are, as I understand it the way it's been structured in the recent past, you can't say -- essentially cross-examine or contradict in a very pointed way at least that's not been the convention, that's not been the way it's been conducted. And I think that that is something that really does shortchange.

Also, the fact that the candidates cannot address each other directly, I think that what would really appeal to most Americans and would perhaps be most revealing is if the two candidates really did address each other. There was more of a sense that they were addressing each other than that kind of mediated debate that happens when you have someone answering and someone else answering and so forth like that. It's not the way it used to be.

Back in the -- like the early part of the 19th century, this was great theater. It still is. I think the head-to-head aspects of it are what really makes it dramatic. It may be informative. A lot of people are going to be watching but it probably won't be as interesting.

WOODRUFF: Alex, as you know, the agreement that the candidates came up with, they have now asked the Commission on Presidential Debates and each one of the moderators, the journalists to sign that agreement. Up until now as far as we know that has not happened. What does that say to you?

JONES: I think that what it says is that this is, one, completely unnecessary. These are very honorable people, they've been chosen by both campaigns, they're acceptable by both campaigns because they are honorable. I think the Bob Schieffer and Gwen Ifill and Jim Lehrer and Charles Gibson, they don't need to sign anything. All they need to do is say we understand the rules and this is the way the game is going to be played and we've agreed to play it.

I don't think you need to have anyone to sign those rules anymore than you have to have a football player sign that he will obey the rules in football. It doesn't make any sense. It's kind of silly. So, I think it is an indication of just how legalistic and pedantic it has gotten, as far as the negotiating is concerned.

WOODRUFF: We'll leave it there. I hope we get a chance to talk to you before and after these debates coming up. Alex Jones. The Shorenstein Center. Thanks very much. I appreciate it.

Up next, an update on Washington's second most popular spectator sport. Politics comes first, then the Washington Redskins. A new poll gauges Native American views towards the team's nickname.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: The NFL's Washington Redskins have faced calls in recent years to change their team nickname because some consider it insensitive or even racist. The team has been known as the Redskins since it was created in 1933 and the current owner, Dan Schneider says he has no plans to change the name. In a new poll of Native Americans by the Annenberg Center, it turns out an overwhelming majority say the nickname doesn't bother them. Ninety percent of those questioned say the name is not a big deal, while only 9 percent say they were offended.

That's it for INSIDE POLITICS. Thank you for joining us. I'm Judy Woodruff.

Be sure to tune into Jeanne Meserve this Sunday morning at 10:00 a.m. Eastern, 7:00 a.m. Pacific for "INSIDE POLITICS SUNDAY." Have a very good weekend.

"CROSSFIRE" starts right now.

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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