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PAULA ZAHN NOW

Politics and the Pulpit; Interview With Pakistani President Musharraf

Aired September 24, 2004 - 20:00   ET

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


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening. Thanks for joining PRIME TIME POLITICS. I'm Fredricka Whitfield, in for Paula Zahn this evening.
Coming up, preaching politics. Ministers urge conservative Christians to vote their values. Are they crossing the line between church and state?

Plus, he is one of the America's most important allies in the war on terror. Does he think Osama bin Laden will be caught? Paula's in- depth interview with Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf.

And taking aim at the president's anti-terror plan. John Kerry blasts the White House. President Bush blasts back. Have both sides gone too far?

And that's where we begin tonight. With only 39 days left until the presidential election, you would expect both campaigns to be talking tough and pulling no punches. John Kerry says the president's entire approach to the war on terrorism is wrong. The president says that kind of talk demoralizes our troops and emboldens our enemies. Today, the bitter battle continued.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WHITFIELD (voice-over): Out on the campaign trail, Senator Kerry has been sounding a simple message.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And the W. stands for wrong.

Wrong.

Wrong.

Wrong.

WHITFIELD: At Temple University today, Kerry had a long list of what's gone wrong, start with Afghanistan.

KERRY: Instead of using U.S. forces, the best trained military in the world, the most capable, the most willing to go out and capture Osama bin Laden, the president outsourced the job to Afghan warlords, who let Osama bin Laden slip away. That was the wrong choice.

WHITFIELD: Kerry's list kept going, the war on terror, postwar Iraq, the president's dealings with the CIA, the 9/11 Commission, the Department of Homeland Security.

KERRY: Those were, all of them, the wrong choices.

WHITFIELD: On what Kerry described as serious threats in Russia, North Korea, Iran, Saudi Arabia:

KERRY: The president has said little and done less. That is the wrong choice.

WHITFIELD: Kerry is now offering specific things he would do differently, although his list keeping changing and expanding.

The president isn't missing any opportunity to point out perceived discrepancies in Kerry's positions or to take offense at Kerry's criticisms, especially the Democrats' criticism of the upbeat picture of Iraq painted by its prime minister.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And 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. You can't lead this country if your ally in Iraq feels like you question his credibility.

WHITFIELD: Vice President Cheney has taken up the theme as well, invoking the Iraqi leader's name today and demanding Kerry tone down his rhetoric.

DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: John Kerry is trying to tear him down and trash all the good that has been accomplished, and his words are destructive. As Prime Minister Allawi said in his speech -- and I quote -- "When political leaders sound the siren of defeatism in the face of terrorism, it only encourages more violence."

WHITFIELD: If anything, Kerry's language got sharper this afternoon. He drew parallels between what is happening now and Vietnam.

KERRY: And once again, the very same thing that I learned when I fought in that war, leaders in Washington who, for pride and arrogance and ideology, refuse to tell the American people the truth, and I won't stand for it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WHITFIELD: A brand new "TIME" magazine policy indicates the president may have developed a credibility gap when it comes to Iraq. Only 37 percent of registered voters say the president has been truthful in describing the situation in Iraq; 55 percent say the situation is worse than he has reported.

Or senior White House correspondent, John King, is on the road with the president. And he joins us from Racine, Wisconsin.

Good to see you, John. JOHN KING, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: Well, the Democrats have put a lot of pressure on John Kerry to be more aggressive. We're seeing that both sides have gotten a lot more visceral. You've covered a lot of campaigns before. Is this unprecedented?

KING: This one's pretty tough, especially because you're having a campaign in the middle of a war, which, of course, is relatively rare in the history of this country.

You just mentioned that "TIME" magazine poll. The president has had great success in convincing the American people that John Kerry is indecisive and a flip-flopper on the issues. You see that in the polling. We now see evidence that Senator Kerry and other Democrats, by getting more aggressive, are beginning to have some success in changing public opinion on a key issue for President Bush, his credibility.

Remember, he ran for president more against Bill Clinton than Al Gore, saying he would restore honesty and integrity and credibility to the White House. Senator Kerry is raising doubts about this president's credibility on Iraq. It all sets stage, Fredricka, for the first big debate next week. The subject will be foreign policy and homeland security. Look for a slug-fest.

WHITFIELD: And it also seems as though both camps, while they have become aggressive, they have moved beyond politics, haven't they? It looks like it's gotten a lot more personal.

KING: Well, it seems to be getting personal. Both seem to be getting under each other's skin, if you will.

Look, the White House wants to make this about Senator Kerry's apparently conflicting positions on Iraq, what it says are conflicting positions, and some of the positions at least have been shifts. The president wants to look back at Senator Kerry's record. Senator Kerry wants to say this is an incumbent president who made this decision to go to war. Let's look at the ramifications of this decision.

So they're both trying to convince the American people of what the terrain should be. It's quite interesting watching the president over the past few days. His language about the situation in Iraq has become more sober. He's talking more about the hardships in Iraq. He's been forced by Senator Kerry to do that. But he also is talking quite energetically and defiantly about defending his decision to go to war.

He says it was right to remove Saddam Hussein. Senator Kerry says Mr. Bush did that under the wrong circumstances. That will be, at this point both campaigns concede, the defining question in the election.

WHITFIELD: John King in Racine, Wisconsin, thanks so much.

Well, Racine is not only a stop on the president's schedule. It's on ours as well. Starting next month, Paula Zahn will host four town hall meeting in battleground states around the country. Join Paula October 7 in Racine, Wisconsin, October 14 in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, October 21 in South Charleston, Ohio, and November 1, the night before the election, in Orlando, Florida.

So, again, less than six weeks before Election Day, it's normal for candidates to ratchet up the rhetoric, but how much is too much?

Syndicated columnist Arianna Huffington ran for governor last year in California's recall election, and that was quite a free-for- all. We remember all that. She joins us from Los Angeles. And in New York is John Fund. He's a member of "Wall Street Journal"'s editorial board and the author of a new book, "Stealing Elections: How Voter Fraud Threatens Our Democracy."

Good to see both of you.

ARIANNA HUFFINGTON, AUTHOR, "FANATICS & FOOLS": Good to be here.

WHITFIELD: All right, well, Arianna, let me begin with you.

What's your assessment of how it's come to this, how it has become so aggressive between the two camps. What is at the root of all this?

HUFFINGTON: Well, this has been a very, very good week for John Kerry. He gave two really bold speeches that made very clear his differences with the president on Iraq and the war on terror, and which can really be summed up in two statements.

His statement today that George Bush chose to make Saddam Hussein his priority, I would have made Osama bin Laden my priority is as clear and as powerful as anything he has said on this subject. And if he can continue saying that, he will really even further erode George Bush's credibility. And his statement on Monday when he said that we have traded a dictator for chaos that has made America less safe is also a perfect summing up of what's happened.

So this has been a really bold expression of his position on the war on terror and his recognition that he has to beat Bush on this before he can fight on a domestic policy front.

WHITFIELD: All right.

Well, John, how do you explain, while there are polls that show Bush is very narrowly leading, at the America time, you have got polls that are showing the majority of Americans don't feel that President Bush has been honest with them on the issue of Iraq. How can you have both? It seems like a contradiction, doesn't it?

JOHN FUND, COLUMNIST, "THE WALL STREET JOURNAL": Well, the challenger must convince the American people that he could do a better job and is more credible than the president.

The problem that Senator Kerry has is, over the last year, he's had sever conflicting positions on Iraq. And now, only 40 days before the election, he finally he discovers his inner Howard Dean and comes forward with a real position. This is a little late in the campaign. It sounds and looks as if John Kerry has a war plan, the staged withdrawal of all American troops from Iraq, a war plan to win the election, while President Bush has a war plan implementing an attempt to resolve the situation.

Look, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mr. Myers, was on Capitol Hill this last week. He was asked about John Kerry's very controversial proposal to begin withdrawing troops in the spring and then increase the withdrawals over the next four years. And he said -- listen to this -- if we announced or intentions to withdraw, it would be detrimental.

We'd see an increase in violence because the terrorists would say there's a goal line in sight. That's what they would march to. This timetable for withdrawal that John Kerry has given us is completely unprecedented in American presidential history. It's a credibility issue. John Kerry's basically saying to the terrorists we're going to withdraw, and he's daring them to respond to that. They're not going to respond in a way that's going to help American troops.

(CROSSTALK)

WHITFIELD: And, so, Arianna, are you seeing that that is in part a way that John Kerry is empowering the terrorists? Because that's a criticism coming from the Bush administration.

HUFFINGTON: This is an absurd criticism.

(CROSSTALK)

FUND: The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

(CROSSTALK)

HUFFINGTON: One second, John. John, I did not interrupt you.

The assessment of John Kerry is also the assessment of John McCain, of Senator Hagel and Senator Lugar. This is not a partisan position. Senior Republicans with foreign policy experience infinitely greater than the president's have been saying that we're not winning in Iraq, that the situation is deteriorating. And they're actually telling the truth to the American people.

The problem with the president is, he's either being two-faced and he knows more than he's saying or he is being completely delusional. Either way, unless we acknowledge the reality on the ground in Iraq, we will never be able to change direction and fix things. And this is very serious. It goes way beyond what happens in November, and it has to be acknowledged.

(CROSSTALK)

HUFFINGTON: Let me just make one more point. John is completely wrong about it being too late. It's not at all too late.

(CROSSTALK)

WHITFIELD: Let me just interrupt you on that, Arianna, real quick, we're running out of time.

John, now you also have the Bush administration saying, John Kerry, you're empowering terrorists in part also by saying that you're attacking the credibility of Iyad Allawi, the prime minister of Iraq, saying that he's being dishonest, along with President Bush. Are these words likely to shoot John Kerry in the foot?

FUND: Look, President Allawi disagrees with John Kerry. Senator McCain opposes Kerry's timetable for withdrawal. Senator Hagel opposes it. Senator Kerrey opposes it, from Nebraska. He's a Democrat.

Look, the timetable for withdrawal is not supported by any former or current military leader. John Kerry has former military leaders who are supporting him. Arianna cannot name one single John Kerry supporter who has served in the military who supports his timed withdrawal for American troops, because it puts the troops in danger.

(CROSSTALK)

FUND: You cannot name a single Kerry supporter.

HUFFINGTON: I don't know what you're talking about. When you refer to a timetable for withdrawal, you are simply making something up. He has not offered a timetable for withdrawal.

FUND: He has said he will withdrawal in the spring.

(CROSSTALK)

HUFFINGTON: Let me finish.

WHITFIELD: All right.

HUFFINGTON: He has said he does not know what conditions he's going to encounter on the ground when he's president in January, and that's when he's going to make his decision

(CROSSTALK)

WHITFIELD: All right, Arianna Huffington, John Fund, thank so much. We're out of time.

FUND: There's a plan to win the election, not to win the war.

WHITFIELD: I'm going to let you have the last word on that, John.

All right, Arianna, thanks to both of you.

HUFFINGTON: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: Well, as if this year's campaign issues aren't divisive enough, in a little bit, we're going to commit a serious no- no and mix religion and politics.

But, first, PRIME TIME POLITICS continues with some real statesmanship and diplomacy.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WHITFIELD (voice-over): Tonight, a crucial ally in the hunt for Osama bin Laden, but a leader with a very uncertainly future. Paula's interview with Pakistan's President Musharraf.

Plus, it's not your average documentary.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm presenting two very different portraits. They're very close-up and they're very intimate.

WHITFIELD: A lifelong friend captures moments of failure, disappointment and sorrow, "Going Upriver: The Long War of John Kerry."

And tonight's PRIME TIME POLITICS voting booth question: How much do your religious beliefs affect the way you vote? Let us now by logging on to our Web site, CNN.com/Paula. We'll have the results at the end of the hour.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: President Bush considers Pakistan's President General Pervez Musharraf a key ally in the war on terror. The primary reason, location. Pakistan's mountainous border with Afghanistan is where Osama bin Laden is believed to be hiding, but questions have been raised about Pakistan's reliability.

While a handful of senior al Qaeda operatives have been captured there, no major al Qaeda figures have been apprehended. And President Musharraf faces serious challenges at home. Some officers in Pakistan's army have grown distrustful of Musharraf since he took power in a military coup five years ago. And he's been unable to take on hard-line Islamic religious leaders, some whom have links to the army, as well as al Qaeda.

Today, Musharraf talked about that during and the hunt for the world's most wanted terrorists during an interview with Paula Zahn.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: President Musharraf, it's an honor to meet you. Thank you very much for joining us.

PERVEZ MUSHARRAF, PAKISTANI PRESIDENT: Thank you.

ZAHN: Do you think Osama bin Laden is alive?

MUSHARRAF: Yes, I'm reasonably sure.

ZAHN: And do you have confidence that he'll be either captured or killed?

MUSHARRAF: No, I can't say that with confidence, because we don't know his location.

ZAHN: And why is he so elusive?

MUSHARRAF: Well, because of the terrain. He has supporters, and also the terrain is very inhospitable, very high mountains, easy to hide, easy to move unnoticed.

ZAHN: How closely is the FBI now working with your intelligence services in the hunt for Osama bin Laden?

MUSHARRAF: Very closely.

But the focus is not -- we are not focusing entirely on the hunt against Osama bin Laden, as you think. It's an operation against al Qaeda in all our regions, wherever they are. Now, whether it happens to be Osama who's there, we don't know. We may bump into him somewhere, but we are operating wherever al Qaeda is.

ZAHN: Everyone would agree that al Qaeda has been degraded, but how critical is it to either capture or kill Osama bin Laden to further degrade al Qaeda?

MUSHARRAF: Well, I can't be very concern, but we know that there is leadership there. There are people who are his companions, close associates. Then there is also a second tier of leadership, and they are spread all over the world, maybe.

ZAHN: So it's possible his ultimate capture or his being killed might be more of a symbolic victory than actually diminishing the power of al Qaeda.

MUSHARRAF: Well, I wouldn't call it just a symbolic victory. I think it will certainly have tremendous effects, tremendous demoralization, and the effects clear down the ladder. So it won't be merely symbolic, but the other extreme, that the whole al Qaeda being eliminated, no, I don't think that will be the case.

ZAHN: Is the United States putting increased pressure on your government to find Osama bin Laden before our national elections?

MUSHARRAF: No, not at all. There's no pressure on us whatsoever. And how can there be pressure on us? What pressure? We are operating with all our might, with all our forces. We are suffering casualties. My life has been in danger. So what are we talking? What more can be done?

It's a joint responsibility of the whole coalition and also Pakistan to eliminate terrorism from Pakistan.

ZAHN: Giving this collective effort, whose fault is it, then, that Osama hasn't been caught?

MUSHARRAF: Nobody's fault. How can you fault anyone? Talk to those soldiers who face the bullets and in the heat of everything, in the cold of everything, these are -- it's not an easy job. You can't blame anyone.

ZAHN: I don't think anybody doubts the challenge of what you're up against. But, just recently, General Tommy Franks, who was the architect of the war in Afghanistan, told me that he made a miscalculation in Tora Bora and he really wished that he had put more U.S. troops on that border, and that might have been the chance to get Osama bin Laden.

MUSHARRAF: These are all reviews in hindsights. You must allow commanders on the spot to decide. Those decisions may go wrong. The judgments may go wrong. But you must never blame them for it.

ZAHN: Is the world a safer place because of the war in Iraq?

MUSHARRAF: No. It's more dangerous. It's not safer, certainly not.

ZAHN: How so?

MUSHARRAF: Well, because it has aroused actions of the Muslims more. It's aroused certain sentiments of the Muslim world, and then the responses, the latest phenomena of explosives, more frequent for bombs and suicide bombings. This phenomenon is extremely dangerous.

ZAHN: Was it a mistake to have gone to war with Iraq?

MUSHARRAF: Well, I would say that it has ended up bringing more trouble to the world.

ZAHN: Even members of President Bush's party are saying that the United States is in trouble in Iraq and it's possible the United States won't win the war in Iraq. Is that the way you see it?

MUSHARRAF: Well, when you enter operations, you can go wrong in your calculations. That always is a possibility in any operation.

ZAHN: Has that happened in Iraq?

MUSHARRAF: Well, there are difficulties. One can't predict. Maybe the difficulties are surmounted and then it ends up with a victory, with a success. But, at the moment, we are bogged down, yes, yes indeed.

ZAHN: Are you fearful the United States will pull out before it should militarily?

MUSHARRAF: That will be a folly. They must leave a stable, territorially integrated Iraq. We have people of Iraq hard administering themselves, governing themselves, and governing their own natural resources. That must be left intact. They must not leave a disturbed area there. The disturbance can spread to other areas.

ZAHN: Do you think that the war in Iraq has undermined the overall war on terror?

MUSHARRAF: It has complicated it, certainly. I wouldn't say undermined. It has further complicated it. It has made the job more difficult.

ZAHN: Mr. President, if you wouldn't mind standing by, we're going to return in a moment and we will talk to you about how your alliance with the United States in the war on terror has made you a targeted man.

We'll be right back.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: We are back now with President Musharraf of Pakistan.

Welcome back, sir.

MUSHARRAF: Thank you.

ZAHN: I know you have described yourself as a marked man. I have never seen this level of security with any world leader I've ever interviewed. Who wants to kill you?

MUSHARRAF: The extremists, foreigners, al Qaeda, or our own extremists.

ZAHN: There have been two attempts on your life. How have those assassination attempts affected your resolve to win this war on terror?

MUSHARRAF: I think, if anything, they've increased my resolve, frankly. I can't leave this country in the hands or at the mercy of such extremists and terrorists. I am a soldier and I'm supposed to face dangers, and so it doesn't ruffle me. I don't get ruffled that easily.

But, however, the greater concern is the nation. And the nation I know is moderate. The nation I know, a vast majority, vast, vast majority is a moderate majority, or really just moderate people. So we have to rid the country of the foreign elements, whoever it is, whether you call it al Qaeda or Taliban, any foreign element who is carrying out terrorism, perpetrating that in Pakistan.

ZAHN: What is it going to take to do that?

MUSHARRAF: What the world must understand, it's not -- nobody has a magic wand to do it. One has to see the history of what has happened in the region over the last 25 years, maybe.

Now, we have evolved a strategy, frontally, military action, and also the soft action of where we take these issues that give rise to extremism. And we are addressing those also through governmental actions, through changing, maybe even bring about a societal change, giving a voice to this vast majority which is voiceless at the moment, telling them to stand up and be counted against this small minority of extremists.

ZAHN: Can you win those battles you're talking about?

MUSHARRAF: There's no doubt in my mind that we will eliminate terrorism or terrorists from Pakistan, or these foreigners from Pakistan. They cannot be overnight changes, but slowly and steadily, it will keep moving forward towards normalization.

ZAHN: You mentioned that, as a soldier, you are trained for self-preservation, and that you haven't been all that shaken by the assassination attempts. What keeps you awake at night knowing that you are so vulnerable ?

(CROSSTALK)

MUSHARRAF: It was a close shave, all right. But I have fought wars. I have seen danger before, so -- and I've been pretty good at facing it.

I'm not a hermit, not at all. I go to the hotels around. I go and have a hot chocolate or coffee at 12:00 at night. I do go around in Karachi or Lahore and, with my friends, I barge into restaurants, to the, I would say, disappointment of my security staff.

ZAHN: Who knew you were a party crasher? America never knew that, sir.

(LAUGHTER)

ZAHN: Let's talk about the critical meeting you've had today with the prime minister of India. Is this what you see as the first real positive step in coming to some kind of resolution in Kashmir?

MUSHARRAF: Yes. I see it that way. I see sincerity in him. I think he's sincere towards peace. And so am I. So, therefore, I see hope.

ZAHN: On to the issue of Iran. Iran now declaring it has successfully completed one of its tests in its uranium enrichment program. Iran says it's for peaceful purposes. Do you believe that's the case?

MUSHARRAF: By enrichment of uranium, beyond a certain limit, is never to peaceful purposes. It depends on to what limit.

ZAHN: But what do you suspect is the case?

MUSHARRAF: I can't comment really. I would like to comment it. That is for IAEA to find out whether they are enriching uranium beyond the limit of peaceful purposes.

ZAHN: The United States would like to take more aggressive action, and now three European countries announced today they would like Iran to stop this program. Would you like to see them stop this testing?

MUSHARRAF: One is very disturbed on whatever is happening around the world already. We've opened so many fronts. Open -- there's a time to close fronts. So I would appeal to both Iran and the United States and the world community to somehow try their best not to open another front.

ZAHN: Final question for you, Mr. President. You know we're coming upon our national elections. Who do you think would be a more effective leader on the war against terror, President Bush or Senator John Kerry?

MUSHARRAF: That's a very unfair question you're asking me. I have -- I know President Bush. I have a personal relationship with him. He's a friend, and I like him very much because of his sincerity and straightforwardness.

I don't know Mr. Kerry at all. I wouldn't like to comment more than that.

ZAHN: So it may not be a fair question, but you answered it, sir.

President Musharraf, it's been a delight to be with you.

MUSHARRAF: Thank you.

ZAHN: And an honor. Thank you so much for joining us.

MUSHARRAF: Thank you. Thank you very much.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WHITFIELD: Paula Zahn with Pakistan's president, Pervez Musharraf.

In Pakistan as well as in the United States, religion and politics touch sensitive nerves, but who would accuse liberals in this country of wanting to ban the Bible? Stay with us as we look at the fight for the faithful.

And remember to stop by our PRIME TIME POLITICS "Voting Booth." Tonight's question, "How much do your religious beliefs affect the way you vote?" Tell us by logging on to CNN.com/Paula, and casting your vote. The results at the end of the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: The Republican Party acknowledges it is behind mailings in two states that claim liberals want to ban the Bible. Voters in Arkansas and West Virginia received the flyers, which have the word "allowed" over a picture of a same sex couple and "banned" over an image of the Bible.

The mailing is just the latest evidence of the huge effort being made to get conservative Christians to the polls.

Judy Woodruff has more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PASTOR DAVE LANDIS, WORD OF GRACE MINISTRIES: You say I don't believe Jesus would vote, but I believe he would.

JUDY WOODRUFF, HOST, "INSIDE POLITICS": Last Sunday Pastor Dave Landis preached an unusual sermon that was more secular than sacred.

LANDIS: We need to make sure godly men are appointed in positions as Christians. That is our responsibility.

WOODRUFF: And with that in mind...

LANDIS: There is a voter registration Sunday. You say, what is that? Well, we as pastors in the area went to a meeting here about two months ago...

WOODRUFF: A meeting convened by Let Freedom Ring, a socially conservative group working to organize ministers in key campaign battlegrounds. The goal: to register church goers and get them to vote.

LANDIS: They told that us one out of four Christians voted in the last elections.

WOODRUFF: That statistic troubled Pastor Landis, so much so that last Sunday in front of his Word of Grace Ministries, he placed a sign with a very secular message.

For George W. Bush, evangelical churches like Word of Grace are political gold mines. Polls have shown that two-thirds of people who attend church more than once a week vote Republican.

But in the last election, four million people who identified themselves as Christian and conservative stayed home. So the president's campaign has urged supporters to distribute voter materials in churches across the country, including 1,600 Pennsylvania congregations it's identified as friendly.

At Word of Grace, the voter registration materials came from Focus on the Family, one of the largest evangelical associations in the U.S.

The kits include registration forms and pamphlets, explaining why Christian conservatives need to vote now more than ever. They also spell out exactly what a pastor can and cannot say from the pulpit, to get the message across without jeopardizing a church's tax-exempt status.

LANDIS: We as the church can't give you -- tell you how to vote. We can't, you know, say you should vote for this person or not that person, but we can encourage you to register.

WOODRUFF: He can also tell his congregants to...

LANDIS: Vote your values, how's that? Vote your values. Amen. Be informed on the issues.

WOODRUFF: And at Word of Grace, values are steadfast and unambiguous.

LOIS ROMBERGER, CHURCH MEMBER: I'm looking at abortion, same-sex marriage. I'm -- I'm looking at educational issues. I'm looking at where the man stands morally.

WOODRUFF: Lois Romberger lets social issues guide her vote.

ROMBERGER: If he has good moral stance, then the economic issues and all that will fall right in line. I don't even have to look at those.

WOODRUFF: And don't ask her to consider pro-choice John Kerry.

ROMBERGER: I don't like his values. The man's pro-abortion. I can't possibly vote for someone who's pro-abortion.

WOODRUFF: Her church neighbors are equally resolute.

RICKY BUGG SR., CHURCH MEMBER: The primary issue, pro-life versus pro-choice. We can have lean times, tough times and recover, but once life is taken, it's taken.

WOODRUFF: And on the issues that matter to them, there is clear daylight between the presidential candidates.

BUGG: If I have to take a stand based on what God says and what his word says, so again, that would be a value base, then President Bush leans more toward that than the other candidate, Kerry.

WOODRUFF: President Bush, a self-proclaimed born again Christian, speaks openly of his faith.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In this world of change, some things do not change. The values we try to live by, the institutions that give our lives meaning and purpose.

WOODRUFF: And that's music to the ears of evangelicals.

Patsy Zehring says that for Christians, Bush is the only real choice and that evangelicals have erred by staying at home on past election days.

PATSY ZEHRING, CHURCH MEMBER: I believe that a lot of Christians had the conception, the idea that, you know, we just let things to God. But I do believe we need to get involved politically.

LANDIS: We as Christians should be involved with our voice and being light. The Bible calls us light, and we're to bring some illumination to situations.

WOODRUFF: And so for the next six Sundays, Pastor Landis will encourage his flock to...

LANDIS: Vote prayerfully. And if you don't know who to vote for, come see me. I'll help you out.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WHITFIELD: And that was Judy Woodruff. John Kerry is Catholic, George W. Bush Methodist. Which candidate's followers are crossing the line of separation between church and state? We'll debate religion and politics from both sides of the aisle, coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: CNN's Judy Woodruff just told us about conservative efforts to harvest more votes for George Bush among evangelical Christians. Are religious groups going too far in trying to sway voters?

Frances Kissling is president of Catholics for Free Choice. She joins us from Washington. Tony Perkins is president of the Family Research Council. He comes to us from Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Good to see both of you.

TONY PERKINS, PRESIDENT, FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL: Good evening.

FRANCES KISSLING, PRESIDENT, CATHOLICS FOR FREE CHOICE: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: All right. Ms. Kissling, let me begin with you. By way of religious groups, are the campaigns going too far to try and capture the most votes?

KISSLING: Well, I think that, you know, the Democrats are lagging behind in terms of efforts to appeal to people of faith. And I think that the Bush campaign and the Republican Party is perhaps overreaching in terms of really making claims that somehow President Bush and the Republican Party is the party of God, and the party of those who are good and decent people.

And the reality is that if -- the election is much more complicated, and I don't think God is either a Republican or a Democrat.

ZAHN: And -- and Mr. Perkins, oftentimes we hear the president espousing his religious views. Why is it any different to hear you advocate pastors being able to influence the congregation of which way they should vote?

PERKINS: Well, see, I think pastors have every right and responsibility to inform their congregants about issues not only in scripture but how that applies to the world around them, and that includes politics.

WHITFIELD: Is it still not borderline -- is it still not borderline a separation between church and state? PERKINS: No, this whole thing of church -- separation of church and state, until the 1950s, when Lyndon B. Johnson actually amended the tax code, it was not an issue.

And we're not talking about, you know, pastors trying to -- going up there and endorsing candidates. What we have them is informing their congregations on where the candidates stand. You know, this is more of a buzz word...

WHITFIELD: But you do have -- but you do have pastors using sort of code language, don't you, by saying "vote prayerfully," "vote values"? Isn't that another way of saying vote...

KISSLING: We actually have pastors going further than that.

PERKINS: What this is really about...

KISSLING: We do have pastors who actually go right in and tell -- pretty much tell people to vote for George Bush. I mean, you heard the pastor there say, "If you don't know who to vote for, come and see me privately, wink-wink, nod-nod."

PERKINS: He is -- He is a citizen and has -- he is a citizen and has a right to speak.

KISSLING: You know, I mean, there is a way in which is have to protect...

PERKINS: This is more about...

KISSLING: He's insistent but what he doesn't have...

WHITFIELD: OK. Well, Mr. Perkins, let's...

KISSLING: Let me say...

WHITFIELD: We can't hear you if you're both talking at the same time, so one at a time. But Mr. Perkins, an example of that code language, we talking about "vote values" also means vote anti-gay marriage, also means perhaps, you know, taking a position on the abortion issue.

So haven't the Republicans and Democrats adopted views on those issues?

PERKINS: Well, I mean, they certainly have a right to -- the party has a right to adopt a position on that, and pastors have a right and responsibility to teach their congregations where they stand.

This thing about separation of church and state is more about trying to separate Christians from government, because they're fearful that an energized and mobilized Christian community is a very significant factor.

WHITFIELD: All right. Ms. Kissling, let me give you a chance to respond to that.

KISSLING: I think -- I think that what we're fearful of is, first and foremost, a violation of the tax code.

All of us who have tax exemptions, and every religious organization has a tax exemption, agreed not to participate by endorsing candidates either explicitly or implicitly. There's a reason why we try to control...

WHITFIELD: So it's the problem policing.

KISSLING: There is a problem policing.

PERKINS: There is not.

KISSLING: But the fact of the matter is that no religious leader...

WHITFIELD: OK.

KISSLING: ... just like corporations, you cannot endorse candidates.

WHITFIELD: All right. Frances Kissling and Tony Perkins, we're out of time, but thanks so much for a spirited debate.

KISSLING: Thank you. Thank you so much.

WHITFIELD: An intimate portrait of a candidate, 30 years in the making. The life and times of John Kerry, the lows as well as the highs when we come right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: This campaign has produced two intimate portraits of the presidential candidates. We'll focus on a book of photographs of the president very soon, but tonight we have a portrait of John Kerry produced by a close friend of his.

Over more than 30 years, George Butler shot 6,000 photographs of Kerry, and now he's gathered some of them in a book. Butler has also put together a documentary entitled "Going Up River: The Long War of John Kerry."

He recently sat down with Paula Zahn to talk about the film.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN (voice-over): A father, a husband a candidate. Images captured by a lifelong friend.

(on camera) You met John Kerry back in 1964. What struck you about him?

GEORGE BUTLER, FRIEND OF JOHN KERRY: I just thought to myself on the spot, this guy could be president of the United States. ZAHN: What made you think that?

BUTLER: Just a kind of sixth sense, a premonition, an idea, and I just thought, you know, this could happen.

ZAHN: In 1970, six years after that meeting, when John Kerry returned from Vietnam, George Butler began photographing him. That would continue for 30 years.

BUTLER: I actually started taking these pictures because no one else was around who could photograph John, or wanted to photograph John.

ZAHN: What do you think you saw in him that escaped the rest?

BUTLER: I saw someone of great ability, with amazing willpower and determination.

ZAHN (voice-over): Butler followed John Kerry through his post- war activism, his early political career, even his personal life.

(on camera) You and your camera were basically present literally for the most important events of John Kerry's life going back to the day of his marriage to Julia Thorne. What do you remember about that day?

BUTLER: It was an exuberant time in our lives. We had an amazing future, or we all thought we had amazing futures, and it was a very moving period. And the photographs sort of show the exuberance and the happiness.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We came here to undertake one last mission.

ZAHN: There is a series of photos of the 1971 demonstration that culminate in John Kerry's testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

KERRY: A monster in the form of millions of men who have you been taught to deal and to trade in violence, and who were given the chance to die for the biggest nothing in history.

ZAHN: You sat behind him that day, a watershed moment for Kerry. Tell me about what you remember?

BUTLER: We were both 26 and 27 years old. And this wonderfully articulate, moving speech was coming out of John's heart and soul. There's no other way to put it.

And by the time he finished the speech, I think everyone in the room knew that John Kerry's life had changed.

ZAHN: There is an image you captured of John Kerry with his wife shortly after he threw his medals over the fence. What do you see in that picture? BUTLER: He was crying, and John Kerry's not the kind of person who normally cries. And this is a very sort of delicate moment, so I took three or four pictures from a distance and let it go at that.

ZAHN: Did he ever talk about that moment to you?

BUTLER: John doesn't talk about personal moments a lot, and when he does, they're quite profound. He really didn't need to say anything to me at that point.

ZAHN (voice-over): Professional failures, campaigns lost. The man George Butler saw through his lens inspired a book and now a documentary. The film chronicles Kerry's service in Vietnam and antiwar activism that followed. And it is a sympathetic portrait.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At the White House, the Nixon administration is watching John Kerry, and they're creating a "get John Kerry" campaign. Their exact word of a Chuck Paulson memo was "destroy the young demagogue before he becomes another Ralph Nader."

ZAHN: As you might imagine, with the election so close, the impending release of the film has not gone without controversy. Some see this as more of a campaign ad than a documentary.

John Kerry was not interviewed for the film. His campaign says they had nothing to do with it.

(on camera) Your critics are out there lambasting you, saying how could you produce an objective documentary when you have been a close friend of John Kerry's for many, many decades. Your response?

BUTLER: Well, there are a number of answers. Good filmmakers show, they don't tell. I did a lot of research for this project. I stand by my film. And I think when people see it, they'll be impressed by a certain degree of objectivity, for certain.

ZAHN: You know a John Kerry that the average voter doesn't know. What are they missing when it comes to his personality? What don't they see that you see?

BUTLER: Kerry is a very moving character, and he's been a very close and good friend to me. I've known him for 40 years.

I'm presenting two very different portraits of John Kerry, the very close up and very intimate. And they show the kind of person he is. That's what I do in this world; I show people parts they haven't seen before.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WHITFIELD: Paula Zahn with George Butler. His book of photographs, "John Kerry: A Portrait" is published by Bullfinch Press, a division of Time Warner Book Group, which is owned by CNN's parent company.

And we'll be right back with tonight's poll results. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: Well, now for our "Voting Booth" results. We asked, "How much do your religious beliefs affect the way you vote?" Twelve percent said "completely"; 12 percent said "somewhat"; 15 percent "not very much"; 61 percent "not at all."

This is not a scientific poll, just a sampling of our audience.

Thank you for joining us tonight. I'm Fredricka Whitfield, in for Paula Zahn. Up next, "LARRY KING LIVE."

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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