The Web    CNN.com      Powered by
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
SERVICES
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
SEARCH
Web CNN.com
powered by Yahoo!
TRANSCRIPTS


 

Return to Transcripts main page

PAULA ZAHN NOW

Fact-Checking the Vice Presidential Candidates; President Bush on Offense

Aired October 6, 2004 - 20:00   ET

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


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening and welcome. Thanks so much for joining us tonight on PRIME TIME POLITICS.
It was a contentious battle, a vice presidential debate that turned into a barrage of point-blank accusations. But how close were their facts to hitting the target? Well, tonight, we'll put the candidates' words to the test.

They are against abortion, against gay marriage. So does the Republican Party have more than a prayer of winning these traditional Democratic voters?

And the president's defense turns into a sharp new offense.

We are just 27 days from the election, of course, and only two days from another Bush/Kerry battle. But today's biggest news barely made a ripple on the campaign trail. The news in a long-awaited CIA report is that when the U.S. invaded Iraq last year, Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction, no stockpiles of them, no way to produce them, only the hope of building them some day if international sanctions were lifted.

Well, out on the campaign trail today, you might think the CIA report didn't exist at all. President Bush went to Pennsylvania, but stayed focused on Senator John Kerry.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN (voice-over): President Bush's spokesman promised a significant speech on the economy and Iraq. What the president delivered was a significant attack on his opponent.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The senator speaks often about his plan to strengthen America's alliances. But he's got an odd way of doing it. In the middle of the war, he's chosen to insult America's fighting allies by calling them window dressing.

ZAHN: The president made many of the same remarks he used in last week's debate, but the responses were tighter, more polished, sharpened.

BUSH: Senator Kerry assures us that he's the one to win a war he calls a mistake, an error and a diversion. But you can't win a war if you don't believe in fighting.

ZAHN: The president also used humor to deflect criticism of his own performance in the first debate.

BUSH: He said terrorists are pouring across the Iraqi border, but also said that fighting those terrorists is a diversion from the war on terror.

(LAUGHTER)

BUSH: You hear all of that and you understand why somebody would make a face.

(LAUGHTER)

ZAHN: The next debate this Friday will include domestic issues. So the president's speech anticipated and rebutted some of Senator Kerry's likeliest lines of attack.

BUSH: In the past year, the United States of America has added about 1.7 million new jobs.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

BUSH: More than Germany, Japan, Great Britain, Canada and France combined.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

ZAHN: Kerry's running mate, Senator John Edwards, responded directly to the president's speech.

SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Earlier today, President Bush gave what they described as a major address on the economy and on terrorism. The problem is, of course, you got the same old tired ideas, the same old false attacks, the same old tired rhetoric. There are no new ideas. There are no new plans. This president is completely out of touch with reality and it showed again in his speech today.

ZAHN: Senator Kerry is in Colorado getting ready for Friday's debate. Senior strategist Mike McCurry pointed reporters' attention to the final CIA report on Iraq's missing weapons of mass destruction.

MIKE MCCURRY, SENIOR KERRY CAMPAIGN ADVISER: This is a damning report. It's one will probably dominate a lot of the discussion on foreign policy, because it casts such a negative comment about the reasons which the administration said to America we were going to war.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: And joining me now from Washington, Senator Jon Corzine, a Democrat of New Jersey, and Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican of South Carolina and a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Welcome, gentlemen. Good to see both of you. (CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: Senator Graham, I'm going to start with you this evening.

First of all, you have the chief arms inspector testifying today that not only did Saddam Hussein have no stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction when this war started, that his stockpile of chemical and biological weapons were gone after '91, and that his nuclear capability was degraded after 1991. Why shouldn't that hurt the president's credibility when he stated to the American public one of the reasons we were going to the war in Iraq was this argument over weapons of mass destruction?

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Well, we asked the weapons inspector who had been involved for many years, did you believe that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction? He said yes because he'd had an insatiable appetite. He's used these weapons during the '80s.

ZAHN: But that's not what this report shows, sir.

GRAHAM: Well, but the question is, what did the world believe at the time of the resolutions, the 13, 14, 15 resolutions? The world believed, not just our intelligence services, but every intelligence service believed that his weapons programs were intact. I asked him, did he transfer any weapons material to a third country? That is still uncertain.

On paper, what we knew he had before the 1991 war and what was accounted for was a huge gap. And the dilemma for the world is, do you take his word for the fact that he disposed of it, because he could never prove it?

ZAHN: Senator Corzine, do you buy that argument? Because a lot of people are saying, even Tony Blair admitting that this intelligence was flawed. You have got a lot of stories that even Saddam was confused about his capability and that people underneath him were trying to convince him he had weapons programs he didn't even have.

SEN. JON CORZINE (D), NEW JERSEY: We prematurely made the decision that we were going to attack without having -- allowing for the inspectors to do their job.

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: Did you believe at the time that we went into war that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction, Senator Corzine?

CORZINE: I didn't believe that there was a presentation made to any of us in the United States Senate that this case was strong enough to send our men and women into war. That's one of the reasons that personally I voted against the use of force resolution.

And we rushed prematurely and diverted our attention away from what I think was the No. 1 problem for the United States, the No. 1 issue; 3,000 American lives were lost on September 11 and we should have been pursuing those who brought that injustice and that tragedy to the American people.

ZAHN: Senator Graham, what about Senator Corzine's criticism that this administration took its eye off the ball and that it diluted its ability to get Osama bin Laden because of this war on terror? Even President Musharraf told me in a one-on-one interview last week he believes that this war in Iraq has made the world a more dangerous place.

GRAHAM: Well, I don't think it's diluted our ability to get Osama bin Laden.

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: It hasn't helped it, though, has it?

GRAHAM: Well, I think what did help, it helped us get Libya to disarm. I don't think Libya would have ever given its weapons program up if we had not been forceful with Saddam Hussein.

The reason Saddam Hussein got invaded at the end of the day is his stubborn refusal to comply with U.N. inspections. The analyst who testified today said that he was certain that the U.N. inspection regime would not have worked over time, would have fallen apart, and this man would have acquired weapons the day the world turned the other way.

So I don't think it's diluted our ability to fight terrorism. I think Iraq is part of the war on terror. That's the big issue in this race.

ZAHN: And, Senator Corzine, as the president tries to defend his war record, your candidate, John Kerry, of course, was hit with some withering accusations from the president today about his flip-flopping on the issue of Iraq and how can you be critical of a war and say you can lead it at the same time?

CORZINE: He has laid out a four-point plan with regard to internationalization, to training the troops, to reconstruction, making sure that the political process works properly.

It is about 110 percent more than what the president did before the war. And, matter of fact, all we're going to do is get more of the same from the president, and I don't think that's a plan. And I don't think what we see coming out of -- happening on the ground in Iraq, including, by the way, what Prime Minister Allawi is talking about with regard to the security conditions, tell us that we have a plan under the president.

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: Senator Corzine, Senator Graham, thank you for both of your perspectives. Appreciate it.

GRAHAM: Thank you.

CORZINE: Thank you. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN (voice-over): We'll be covering a lot of ground tonight.

DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They just got it wrong.

EDWARDS: They got it wrong.

ZAHN: If two wrongs don't make a right...

CHENEY: Your not credible.

EDWARDS: Complete distortion.

CHENEY: The senator has got his facts wrong.

EDWARDS: The truth is...

ZAHN: ... what's the bottom line on last night's debate? Our truth squad sorts out the facts.

Faith, politics and the hot pursuit of the African-American religious vote.

And tonight's voting booth question: Which presidential candidate will benefit most from the town hall meeting format of Friday's debate? Vote at CNN.com/Paula. We'll have the results at the end of the hour and much more as PRIME TIME POLITICS continues.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Vice President Cheney and Senator Edwards spent a lot of time last night accusing each other of getting the facts wrong. So let's put their statements to the truth squad.

Joining me now, senior Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre, congressional correspondent Ed Henry, and CNNfn correspondent Kathleen Hays. And as I did after the presidential debate, I'm going to put everyone on the clock tonight. When the signal at the bottom of the screen flashes red, your time is up.

Now, I know three of you had your operatives fighting with my staff all day long to change the rules of the debate here tonight, but you lost. You're living with the flashing lights and the beeper tonight.

Jamie, let's start with you.

First, the vice president talked about whether he had ever made a connection between Saddam Hussein and the 9/11 attacks.

Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHENEY: The senator's got his facts wrong. I have not suggested there's a connection between Iraq and 9/11.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: Jamie, true or false?

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SR. MILITARY AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think the key word there is suggested. Has he suggested it? Well, he seems to have.

When he was asked last year about whether there was a September 11 connection to Iraq, he said, we don't know. And then on "Meet the Press," he said Iraq was the geographic center for the terrorists who were opposing the United States. So he hasn't said it flat-out. But did he suggest it? I think you could make a case for that.

ZAHN: All right, Kathleen Hays, your turn. Listen to what both candidates said about jobs.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

EDWARDS: In the time that they have been in office in the last four years, 1.6 million private sector jobs have been lost; 2.7 million manufacturing jobs have been lost.

CHENEY: The data he's using is old data. It's from 2003. It doesn't include any of the gains that we've made in the last year, as we've added 1.7 million jobs to the economy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: All right, Kathleen, old data, new data. Who got the numbers right?

KATHLEEN HAYS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we talked to the Labor Department. There's a lot of truth, but each side chooses its math rather conveniently.

True, as John Edwards said, total private sector jobs lost since January 2001 when the president took office, 1.65 million. But add back in 737,000 government jobs added since then, the net loss is smaller, 913,000. No doubt, manufacturing job losses have been severe, Paula, since Jan 2001, 2.67 million.

As to Dick Cheney's point, well, total jobs added since August 2003 when the economy started adding jobs, 1.686 million.

ZAHN: Right on the cue there, Kathleen. Sweating bullets there.

Ed Henry, the president said he had never met Senator Edwards before last night's debate.

Let's listen to that part.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHENEY: You've got one of the worst attendance records in the United States Senate.

Now, in my capacity as vice president, I am the president of Senate, the presiding officer. I'm up in the Senate most Tuesdays when they're in session.

The first time I ever met you was when you walked on the stage tonight.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: Ed, was last night really the first time the two of them had met?

ED HENRY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No, the vice president was wrong. This was at least their third encounter.

In fact, we have video from three years ago at the National Prayer Breakfast, where in fact Mr. Cheney and Mr. Edwards shook hands. And during his speech, the vice president actually mentioned and thanked John Edwards.

And also in January of 2003, in his role as president of the Senate, Vice President Cheney swore in newly elected Senator Elizabeth Dole. And as is the custom, standing beside Elizabeth Dole was her fellow North Carolinian, John Edwards.

ZAHN: Convenient memory loss?

HENRY: That's right. Clearly, they had met at least twice before.

ZAHN: All right. And one more for you now, Ed. What about Edwards' attendance record, a fair criticism? And what about Cheney. Is he there every Tuesday?

HENRY: The vice president was right that John Edwards' attendance record is bad. He misses most of the floor votes, but also he missed most of the meetings of the Intelligence Committee, a key panel that John Edwards sits on.

But the vice president was only half right at best about his own attendance record. He's right that on most Tuesdays the vice president is in the Capitol, but he is not there as he suggested to preside over the Senate. Instead, he's at a Republican-senators-only luncheon, where they plot political strategy. He does not mostly preside over the chamber. Instead, he just has lunch with his Republican friends.

ZAHN: Yes, they both should admit they are very both busy with their respective campaigns.

OK, Jamie McIntyre, you're up. Listen to Senator Edwards' claim about the Bush administration and combat pay. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

EDWARDS: While they were on the ground fighting, they lobbied the Congress to cut their combat pay. This is the height of hypocrisy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: Is that true?

MCINTYRE: Well, here's the deal. The Pentagon did want to allow a temporary combat pay increase for troops worldwide to expire and replace it with something that was more targeted to troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

So while it's true some troops would have lost some compensation, not the ones in Iraq. So to say that they lobbied to cut combat pay in Iraq is not accurate.

ZAHN: Kathleen Hays, back to you now because you did such a good time with the cue the first time.

(LAUGHTER)

ZAHN: Here's what the president said about taxes for people in the top tax bracket.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHENEY: A great many of our small businesses pay taxes under the personal income tax, rather than the corporate rate. And about 900,000 small businesses will be hit if you do, in fact, do what they want to do with the top bracket.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: Kathleen, is this really going to be the effect of a tax hike for people in this top bracket he was referring to?

HAYS: Well, first of all, let's look at the small business part. The Small Business Administration defines small businesses as firms with fewer than 500 employees. That covers about 90 percent of all U.S. businesses.

And it's true that most small businesses file under the personal income tax code because they are not incorporated. As for the 900,000 businesses hit, well, there's about 20 million small businesses in the United States. So 900,000 out of that pool, a drop in the bucket. Cheney also said that seven-tenths jobs are created by small businesses. That's true as well, Paula.

ZAHN: That's a squeaker. She made it.

(LAUGHTER)

ZAHN: Three times in a row. Kathleen Hays, Ed Henry, and, Jamie McIntyre, thanks so much for answering our questions. And we have some lovely parting gifts for all of you.

(CROSSTALK)

MCINTYRE: Don't we get to wager any amount we run in the final round?

ZAHN: The next -- at the very end of the show, you get to do that.

But what I am hoping is that our specialists that we get on tomorrow for both campaigns as we join you live from Racine, Wisconsin, will be as disciplined as you all have been with your answers tonight. Thank you, my trio.

In politics, a lack of accuracy is not necessarily known to hurt a campaign. So which camp is likely to get a bounce from the Cheney/Edwards battle. We'll look at that next.

But first, what the radio talk show hosts are saying about last night's debate for the right and the left.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

AL FRANKEN, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: The vice presidential debate is over and both candidates did well. John Edwards compellingly shredded the Bush-Cheney record of failure, and Cheney managed not to bite the head off any puppies.

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Bottom line, that debate last night was whatever you wanted it to be. As far as I'm concerned, it was good stuff going both ways. Dick Cheney was not Dr. Evil, as he's been made out to be. And the Breck Girl offered more substance than his detractors would let you believe he was capable of doing. There you go.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Well, as you probably noticed, this presidential campaign may be getting a little fuzzy on the facts, but it is providing a clear bonanza for the late-night comedy shows. Here's a quick sample of what they are saying about the Dick Cheney/John Edwards debate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN")

DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST: I thought Dick Cheney did pretty well. He only flatlined twice.

Good news for John Edwards. If he does not win in November, he has a firm offer to be the new host of "Family Feud."

(END VIDEO CLIP) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE")

JIMMY KIMMEL, HOST: A few things about this debate that varied format-wise from the Bush-Kerry debate. Most noticeably, the candidates sat on beanbag chairs, which was I thought was a nice

(LAUGHTER)

KIMMEL: But coming into tonight, a lot of the experts, they said it was the nice guy vs. the ice guy. Edwards is like the sweet-faced Southerner against Cheney, who is the menacing older businessman. But it turned out they really weren't so different after all.

EDWARDS: John Kerry will never give control over the security of the United States of America to any other country. We will not outsource our responsibility to keep this country safe.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: John Edwards, I am your father.

(LAUGHTER)

KIMMEL: Well, you can see they are virtually the same guy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "LATE NIGHT WITH CONAN O'BRIEN")

CONAN O'BRIEN, HOST: Speaking of Cheney, in a recent interview, an author who is writing a book about Dick Cheney said that Cheney is misunderstood and is not a monster.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

O'BRIEN: That's what he said, yes. Then the author admitted, Cheney told me, if I didn't say that, he'd eat my children.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE")

KIMMEL: A lot of talk about Edwards' sex appeal. And I guess it's more than just talk, because, regardless of their party affiliation, women seem to love this guy.

EDWARDS: Thank you, the folks of Case Western and all the people in Ohio for having us here.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

ZAHN: That is the take on the debate from the late-night comics. We've also seen the polls here and heard the spin. So what does it all mean for the race? Let's ask CNN contributor and "TIME" columnist Joe Klein, who is going to go beyond the Huck Finn/Darth Vader comparisons for us this evening.

It's tough work.

JOE KLEIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: You think so.

(LAUGHTER)

ZAHN: Let's talk a little bit about how you can almost look at this debate through any prism you want to. The CBS poll showing that Edwards did better, the ABC poll showing the vice president did better. What did you think?

KLEIN: Well, I thought that both sides, both parties were really happy with their guy.

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: And don't they have to be happy with their guy?

KLEIN: No.

Well, last week, when I was down in the spin room -- which is really becoming notorious and evil in this campaign, isn't it -- when I was down in the spin room after the first Bush/Kerry campaign, the Bush people, clearly, the body language said uh-oh.

ZAHN: The body language said that, but they didn't say that verbally.

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: No one conceded it was disastrous until days later.

KLEIN: Off the record, they were saying things like, how did we do?

Last night, they were saying, boy did he kick Edwards' -- and I think that both sides had really strong moments. The big surprise was that nobody expected that Edwards would be able to stand toe-to-toe with Dick Cheney. The other really interesting moment that nobody is talking about is when Edwards went into some great detail about the Cheneys having a gay daughter and how well they had treated her and so on.

And there may have been a political message in there to discomfort the religious right. I don't know how people responded to that. But it was an extremely personal moment.

ZAHN: How do you think that will play? Because I heard a lot of people on talk radio today saying they were quite offended by the tack John Edwards took, that you take the words and they seem gracious and all that other stuff, but it was very much a loaded statement.

KLEIN: Well, you know, it took me back when I heard it. I thought Cheney's response was totally gracious.

But I think that John Edwards may have been sending a very tough political message to the religious right, which is that when your conservative heroes like Dick Cheney are faced with these sort of situations in real life, they act like liberals. So, I mean, I don't know what effect it had, but it may have crossed a line.

ZAHN: Let's look at the broader issue that this campaign is unfolding against. This has been a really tough week for the Bush administration when it comes to the issue of Iraq. We've seen parts of the CIA report leaked today that said there were no weapons of mass destruction at the time this war was launched. The report goes on and on.

You had Ambassador Bremer's remarks that he thinks there should have been more troops on the ground when the invasion started, and Secretary Rumsfeld's remarks about no hard evidence between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein and 9/11.

KLEIN: And the massive "New York Times" story on Sunday which proved -- which seemed to prove that the reports of Saddam's nuclear program were totally hyped, and which Condi Rice had a very difficult time defending on Sunday.

You know, the interesting thing about this run of days -- and this is far more important than the spin of the campaign -- is that the rationales for this war are just disintegrating and the sources of the disintegration are the president's own people.

(CROSSTALK)

KLEIN: Rumsfeld on Monday, and then Bremer yesterday saying that there's -- that we never had enough troops, and then this report today saying that there was never any weapons of mass destruction.

ZAHN: But, in spite of what you're saying, Senator Lindsey Graham was on tonight and he was talking specifically about the evidence he thought the Bush administration relied upon to go to war. And he said that's the best we had at the time.

It's one thing to look at this stuff retrospectively, this aluminum tube story, sort of separate from the CIA report.

(CROSSTALK)

KLEIN: Well, the aluminum tube story seems very clearly a case, the clearest case so far of the Bush administration purposely ignoring the advice of the intelligence community and the Energy Department. But there's another point here, which I'm struggling to remember at this point.

ZAHN: I know. We're all brain-dead from traveling all over the country. But let's talk a little bit about how the Kerry campaign can refute that. They didn't. Although John Edwards came out swinging, obviously, John Kerry

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: ... prepare for the debate.

KLEIN: Here's the point that I was going to make, that the Kerry counter argument to this is that one thing that the president did have was time.

He had time to let the U.N. inspectors work and see whether they could find anything, and the chances are, they weren't going to find anything because there was nothing there and we wouldn't have had to go to war. The fact that we're in this entire mess over these very tenuous causes is a big issue.

ZAHN: So far, though, that issue has not impacted John Kerry's numbers much. We'll see what the second debate will do in that regard.

Joe Klein, thanks.

KLEIN: OK.

ZAHN: You can get some sleep between now and next week.

KLEIN: Maybe.

ZAHN: We're all just running ragged here.

(CROSSTALK)

KLEIN: We're going to Saint Louis with you.

ZAHN: I know we are. We are going to be there Friday night.

And tomorrow, I will hear from voters in another hotly contested state. On the road again, I'll be moderating a live town hall meeting from Racine, Wisconsin. Voters there will get a chance to put questions to representatives of both the Bush and Kerry campaigns.

Then, on Friday, a Joe and I were just talking about, the candidates meet again for the second presidential debate, town hall meeting-style in Saint Louis. And our live special coverage will get under way at 8:00 p.m. Joe Klein will have some more dos and don'ts for the candidates that night.

KLEIN: That's right.

WOODRUFF: I'd give you a preview, but he's going to save it for Friday night.

With the race neck and neck, the parties are grasping for every possible vote, even from those who traditionally support the other side, moved by the spirit of politics, as well as faith, different sides of the same aisle when we come back.

And remember our voting booth question: Which presidential candidate will benefit most from that town hall meeting format of Friday's debate? Click on CNN.com/Paula and let us know what you think.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: With the presidential race so tight this year, both Republicans and Democrats are finding ways to mix politics with religion. And when you go to your church or synagogue, your pastor, priest or rabbi by law is bard from telling you who to vote for. But signs can be stronger than words.

Here's Judy Woodruff.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JUDY WOODRUFF, HOST, "INSIDE POLITICS": Morning dawns at the Mount Sinai Baptist Church in Cleveland, Ohio.

People drift in seeking spiritual guidance...

REV. C.J. MATTHEWS, MOUNT SINAI BAPTIST CHURCH: So if you want to be rescued, it's in your hands.

WOODRUFF: ... and information.

Here, parishioners clutch Bibles in one hand, campaign fans in the other. And preaching is infused with politics...

MATTHEWS: Now that we've registered people to vote, we've got four weeks to get people out to vote.

WOODRUFF: ... just as worship is with song.

The Reverend C.J. Matthews continues an African-American tradition more than a century old, using the pulpit as his bully pulpit.

MATTHEWS: Between the ages of 16 to 65, 40 percent of black males in this country are unemployed. Why should we vote?

WOODRUFF: The message: we don't have much, but we do have a voice.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whatever white man is running you got to know, you got to come by me in order to get to the White House.

WOODRUFF: In most black churches, politics flows from a homegrown theology of liberation.

MATTHEWS: God is a god who raises up and empowers the oppressed to become empowered, eventually to stand free and liberated, to -- both from sin and from the hostility of the environment.

WOODRUFF: The marriage of religion and politics is a big theme this year. Take the political revival among conservative white evangelicals.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sadly there's a voice within the Christian churches across America.

WOODRUFF: They share something special with black Baptists like those who worship at Mt. Zion. More than other religious groups, these two feel that God has a role in government.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Bible is a life instruction booklet. You know, God made us. And this is our instruction -- this is his booklet to us to let us know how to live.

WOODRUFF: But the difference is one of emphasis. In Harrisburg's Word of Grace Church, gay marriage and abortion are major concerns.

Not so here in Cleveland.

REV. LEROY ADAMS, SECOND BAPTIST CHURCH: The main issue now is to make sure that the economic conditions get better, which we have hope for that because I don't think we can get too much worse than what it is right now.

WOODRUFF: So while African-American Baptists and conservative white evangelicals share many views on social issues, these are not the ones that guide black voters.

Why not? An answer found at another Cleveland church.

REV. MARVIN MCMICKLE, BAPTIST MINISTER: We have to be faithful to the world as we experience it. They're trying to respond to the world as they experience it.

WOODRUFF: And those experiences are quite different.

MCMICKLE: A social issue like school prayer or school vouchers or anything like that is not paramount if you're unemployed, if you don't have health insurance.

WOODRUFF: And so white conservative Christians lean Republican, while black Baptists cleave to the Democrats, traveling down two paths with the same guide.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm waiting on the Lord. I know I'm going to make it because he's faithful.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: That was Judy Woodruff.

Joining me now, former Democratic presidential candidate, the Reverend al Sharpton, and the Reverend Joe Watkins, the director of Fill Solutions (ph), also an adviser to the Bush campaign.

Good to have the two of you back. Welcome back.

REV. AL SHARPTON (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you.

REV. JOE WATKINS, DIRECTOR, BUSH CAMPAIGN ADVISER: Thanks. ZAHN: Let's go straight to the statistics tonight. The latest CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup poll showing which shows that only seven percent of African-Americans plan to vote for President Bush.

Reverend Watkins, you've got an additional problem. A "New York Times" poll showing 93 percent of African-Americans don't even think the president's election was legitimate. How do you turn those numbers around?

WATKINS: Well, you know, we know that the numbers are changing. We just checked a few days ago and saw that -- that John Kerry's support was very soft among African-Americans because he has, really, no track record with African-Americans.

ZAHN: Changing? You're going to have to come up another 90-odd percent if you're going to get...

WATKINS: We're not going to get -- we're not going to get all of the African-American vote. There's no doubt about that. But we're going to get a significant portion of the African-American vote, because this president really has a great message for what he's done with regards to the black community.

John Kerry really doesn't have any track record with African- Americans. He never had a black on his Senate staff, and if past performance is any indication of what he does in the future, that's not a good sign for black people.

ZAHN: Do you concede that John Kerry's support among blacks has softened?

SHARPTON: No. No.

ZAHN: You don't buy that?

SHARPTON: They're changing because two months ago they had John Kerry getting 70 percent of the black vote. So he's gone up 23 points. That's how he's changing.

And I think that what you've got to realize is, as African- Americans here that this president, George Bush, sent lawyers to the Supreme Court to argue against affirmative action when we had...

WATKINS: George Bush had the same position...

SHARPTON: I let you finish.

WATKINS: I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry.

SHARPTON: Second, that the vice president, as he admitted last night in a nationally televised debate, voted against the release of Nelson Mandela. Those -- that seven percent is going to keep coming down.

ZAHN: And what about the Martin Luther King holiday? SHARPTON: Any Republican that talks about track record. Here's a man who was against a Martin Luther King holiday and has the nerve to ask blacks to vote for him?

George Bush and Dick Cheney are as antithetical to the interests of African-Americans as you could possibly get in the 21st Century.

ZAHN: And why is Reverend Al incorrect?

WATKINS: Let me respond to that, please.

ZAHN: What's wrong with his argument?

WATKINS: Bill Clinton had the same position that George Bush had with -- with regards to affirmative action.

SHARPTON: That's not true.

WATKINS: Absolutely right. Bill Clinton was against quotas and he...

SHARPTON: He -- you voted to end it, Mr. Bush. It was ending.

ZAHN: Let's fast forward back to John Kerry.

What one issue do you think that George Bush is going to counter him on that's going to bring more blacks into the tent?

WATKINS: Well, look at what George Bush has done. There are more black young men and women going to college under President Bush. A million new African-American homeowners under President George Bush.

SHARPTON: There are more black men in jail than in college under George Bush. That's a fact.

WATKINS: That was the case under Bill Clinton as well.

SHARPTON: No, it has increased under George Bush.

WATKINS: And the No Child Left Behind Act.

SHARPTON: And he left children behind.

WATKINS: We have a chance to change that by making sure that more young people, especially in tough communities, get a chance to get a good education.

SHARPTON: Then why didn't he finance it, Reverend?

WATKINS: He has financed it.

SHARPTON: He did not -- he did not finance his own Leave No Child Behind program.

You know, his presence with African-Americans is synonymous with the weapons of mass destruction. It's not there. You all run phantom campaigns.

WATKINS: Think about it, Reverend.

SHARPTON: You have phantom weapons. You have a phantom track record.

ZAHN: You get 15 seconds for closing on part one.

SHARPTON: One thing we're not is stupid. Black people, like whites, like Latinos, are not going to be snowballed this time.

WATKINS: Absolutely not. And they should realize that this president has put more money into historically black colleges and universities than in the previous administration. He's done so much to change the -- the course of history for African-Americans in a positive way.

ZAHN: All right. Reverend Sharpton, before we hit the break here, just a 15-second answer. There are a lot of African-Americans that think that the Democratic Party has taken the black vote for granted. Are you among them?

SHARPTON: And I am among those that said the Democrats must do more. I said that during my campaign. But there's a difference in having a quarrel with your wife and then saying, "I'm going to go out and just go with any woman walking the street."

ZAHN: And we will continue to talk about the candidates and your reaction to this provocative question last night from the debate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GWEN IFILL, PBS, DEBATE MODERATOR: In particular I want to talk to you about AIDS and not about AIDS in China or Africa but AIDS right here in this country, where black women between the ages of 25 and 44 are 13 times more likely to die of the disease than their counterparts.

What should the government's role be in helping to end the growth of this epidemic?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: And we will get your thoughts on the vice president and Senator Edwards' responses right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: And we are back with Bush campaign adviser, the Reverend Joe Watkins and former Democratic presidential candidate, the Reverend Al Sharpton. Welcome back.

Before we went to the break we were talking about a very pointed question Gwen Ifill, the moderator, asked last night at the debate, and it was a specific question about AIDS. Not AIDS in Africa, but AIDS right here in America. Let's review both of the candidates' responses.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DICK CHENEY (R), VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When you think about the enormous cost here in the United States and around the world of the AIDS epidemic.

SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: First, with respect to what's happening in Africa and Russia.

CHENEY: The president's been deeply concerned about it.

EDWARDS: The AIDS epidemic in Africa, which is killing millions and millions of people.

We have children who don't have health care coverage.

CHENEY: I had not heard those numbers with respect to African- American women.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: Reverend, are these candidates out of touch with the scourge of AIDS in America? They didn't want to answer that question.

SHARPTON: I think that it was very, very telling, particularly when the vice president could not deal with the fact that we do not have enough money for research. We do not have enough money for alternative medical care. HIV and AIDS are at epidemic proportions in black communities around this country.

ZAHN: But your candidate was talking about Russia and Africa when the question was specific...

WATKINS: Because he didn't want to talk about the rising health care cost he's helped to raise by virtue of what he's done as a trial lawyer.

ZAHN: Did he or the vice president answer that question satisfactorily?

WATKINS: He didn't answer it at all. They talked about the importance of eradicating the issue. And this is an important issue.

SHARPTON: And not addressing the issue.

You're right, Reverend. He wanted to eradicate the issue.

ZAHN: The only time that you two could ever agree on anything.

WATKINS: No, clearly -- clearly...

ZAHN: Was that an acceptable non-answer?

SHARPTON: Absolutely. WATKINS: No, I think that this administration has done so much to raise money to -- to raise money to -- to fight the epidemic of AIDS around the globe and also here in the United States.

Of course...

SHARPTON: Did he forget (ph)?

WATKINS: ... and people of color are affected by it, white people, black people are affected by AIDS. And anybody that's affected by AIDS...

SHARPTON: Well, why didn't Cheney lay that out? Cheney said that he's here on his record. He forgot his record last night?

WATKINS: He did say what we are doing, especially over in Africa. We have spent billions of dollars...

SHARPTON: No. The question is here.

ZAHN: Do you think he has a record here?

SHARPTON: Absolutely not. And -- and they didn't give the money they promised Africa, but the question was here. They didn't give all the money they committed to Africa.

And I think for Dick Cheney to sit there and -- and waffle on something that is devastating...

WATKINS: The vice president didn't waffle. Clearly not. He wouldn't waffle. He talked about exactly what the administration has done and what the administration is doing.

SHARPTON: You're right. He said nothing.

ZAHN: You guys must have been watching a different debate than I was watching last night. Both of these candidates waffled.

WATKINS: I think Dick Cheney...

ZAHN: I'm back on a specific issue.

WATKINS: ... the debate was substance over style. John Edwards is a trial lawyer, a smooth guy. Dick Cheney was substance.

ZAHN: Let me move you on to another issue, voter registration. And it appears from statistics that the minority areas really are enrolling, if not in record numbers, in impressive numbers.

SHARPTON: Absolutely.

ZAHN: The DNC is going to even have what they call voter protection coordinators on the ground.

WATKINS: That's correct.

ZAHN: How will this impact the election?

WATKINS: You know, I don't know why they need that. There's a bill, the HAVA Bill.

ZAHN: That's a different answer than I asked.

WATKINS: It actually was passed in 2002, which is supposed to help -- which is meant to make sure that Americans -- the vote -- the right to vote is protected by all Americans.

You know, what the Democrats have done is they've -- they've tried so hard because they don't have an issue to try to scare African-American voters into registering...

SHARPTON: ... two percent and 300 and 400 percent, flying to Ohio, many extensive voter registration campaigns. Our campaign, True Faith Initiative (ph), what the hip-hop artists have done have brought in unprecedented registration, millions. Millions of new voters.

They call that democracy, Reverend. That's not scaring people.

WATKINS: Registering -- No, no, registering people to vote is a good thing. We want Americans to vote.

SHARPTON: Then why didn't you all do it? Why didn't you do it?

WATKINS: The problem is when the Democrats get on the radio and television and have ads that scare African-American voters away from the Republican Party and away from this president.

And when they miscast the president's record and they miscast the record of this party and what this party is doing for African- Americans. That's not right.

SHARPTON: Why didn't the Republican Party go to register black voters?

WATKINS: The Republican Party is registering voters all around the country.

SHARPTON: Where?

WATKINS: Everywhere in every state in this union.

SHARPTON: You have -- they have not gone for voter registration into minority communities. They have not done anything to try to stimulate.

And to try to say we're trying to scare people by telling them you're voting for people that have increased unemployment. They have -- have a track record of voting against everything from Mandela to Dr. King, those are facts.

WATKINS: The fact is that...

ZAHN: I need an answer to this question. Is it because the Republican Party knows that they're going to basically write off 90 percent of the black vote?

WATKINS: We're not going to write off anything, Paula. We're not going to write off any segment of the vote. And this president is going to continue to press his message to African-Americans of homeownership, entrepreneurship, stronger education, because he has been a strong proponent of education of folks. And also...

SHARPTON: How can you talk about homeownership when we're double-digit unemployment? That's like telling them...

WATKINS: Over one million...

ZAHN: We need a final thought from both of you.

WATKINS: Over one million new homeowners who are African- Americans since this president took office. That's a good, good record.

SHARPTON: And we don't have the jobs to pay our mortgage. We're tired of the Republicans telling us to tighten up our belt when they've left us standing in our underwear.

ZAHN: And I think we need seat belts when the two of you do come on again.

WATKINS: Come see us in church.

ZAHN: I'd love to see you in action in the church.

SHARPTON: I will be anointing George Bush's farewell.

ZAHN: I bet you will be. Well, I can't say that, but I'm sure that that's what your actions will be at the pulpit.

Reverend Sharpton, Reverend Watkins, thank you.

SHARPTON: Thank you.

WATKINS: Thank you very much.

SHARPTON: At least you said more than Cheney.

ZAHN: Thank you.

And politicians live much of their lives in public. But what you don't see on the tube is a whole different story. A rare insider' peek at the Democratic campaign. The things some people do to become president, when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Welcome back.

Filmmaker Alexandra Pelosi has a good eye for politicians. That figures, because she happens to be the daughter of Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. She has also earned an Emmy nomination for her first documentary, "Journeys with George," which focused on George W. Bush's first campaign for the White House.

In her latest film called "Diary of a Political Tourist," she turns her camera on the Democratic presidential candidates.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALEXANDRA PELOSI, FILMMAKER (voice-over): Look at all these Democrats. It seems like everyone and their mother wanted the chance to race against Bush.

And then somehow this guy ended up as the last man standing, the Democratic nominee. Why was he the winner?

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Look at that. Do they talk?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: And joining me now, filmmaker Alexander Pelosi.

Welcome.

PELOSI: Thank you for having me.

ZAHN: You know, we all can have pretty short memories in this bombastic political cycle, but it wasn't all that long ago that your mother was endorsing Dick Gephardt. Is John Kerry really the best man left standing for the Democrats?

PELOSI: It's amazing how quickly people rally behind the nominee once he was selected. Everybody is very enthusiastic about him now.

But my movie is about the good old days, the invisible primary last year when everyone had different candidates that they were endorsing and that all the Democrats were vying for the nomination.

ZAHN: Now, even with your camera trained on them basically around the clock, there had to be a point where they let their guard down. What was the most revealing moment that you caught, an unscripted moment, a moment where someone wasn't playing to the cameras?

PELOSI: Well, I think during the period in which Kerry was dead. You recall, there were some months in which the pundits wrote Kerry off.

ZAHN: Some months? A lot of months there.

PELOSI: And so during that period, there weren't many cameras. And he was sort of desperate and alone.

Now he will never have a moment alone. There's going to be Secret Service press, handlers. He has a whole entourage. But back then, he was all alone on a city street for, like, a half hour by himself.

ZAHN: Almost guy watching his own political, what, funeral being drawn up?

PELOSI: Yes. That was back when he was reading the papers every day. "You should pull out of the race. It's over, go home."

And I asked him, "Are you a dead man walking?"

And he said, "No, you know, I've been beaten up and tossed around before."

ZAHN: There is a pretty funny exchange between you and John Edwards, where he's giving you a tour of the campaign bus. Let's watch that together.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PELOSI: So life on the road. How -- how are you holding up?

EDWARDS: I'm holding up great.

PELOSI: You know, we went to the -- we went to Boston and we went to the JFK Library. And at the JFK Library they have a film of JFK, and he says that being on the road is just a combination of the grind and self doubt. Are you feeling that?

EDWARDS: Oh, yes. Among -- that among a whole range of other things.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: A politician who actually admits self-doubt.

PELOSI: Well, wait a second. He said it in the context when I said I went to the library and saw JFK say it.

ZAHN: You gave him the opening there.

PELOSI: I didn't say it as any politician. JFK said he halted kissing babies and they'd probably say they hated kissing babies. Everyone wants to be JFK. It's not the most honest moment.

ZAHN: What do we learn from this documentary that we don't know about these two candidates?

PELOSI: Well, I think it's more like a dummy's how-to run for president.

If you are ever wondering, sitting home thinking, "I'm going to run for president some day," this is just a primer. It's just what you have to do if you're going to run for president.

You know, the rubber chicken circuit and the eating a deep fried Twinkie at the Iowa state fair and the house parties going door to door. It's just a picture of what it takes to run for president. ZAHN: You should be glad to have a little rest once this election is over.

PELOSI: Thank you.

ZAHN: Alexandra, thanks for dropping by.

And "Diary of a Political Tourist" debuts on HBO on October 11. HBO, like CNN, is part of the Time Warner family.

We're going to be back in a moment with the results of tonight's "Voting Booth" question.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: And here are the results of our "Voting Booth" poll tonight. We asked which candidate you think will benefit most from the town hall meeting format of Friday's debate. Seventeen percent of you said President Bush; 83 percent of you said Senator John Kerry.

A reminder, this isn't scientific. It's just a reflection of those of you who logged on tonight.

Remember, tomorrow night the first in our series of live town hall meetings. I will be in Racine in the key battleground state of Wisconsin, where undecided voters will ask the Kerry and Bush campaigns about the issues that matter most to them.

That wraps it up for all of us here. Good night.

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


International Edition
CNN TV CNN International Headline News Transcripts Advertise With Us About Us
SEARCH
   The Web    CNN.com     
Powered by
© 2005 Cable News Network LP, LLLP.
A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us.
external link
All external sites will open in a new browser.
CNN.com does not endorse external sites.
 Premium content icon Denotes premium content.
Add RSS headlines.