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LIVE FROM...

Could an "October Surprise" Decide the Election?; Sen. John Kerry Speaks About the Duelfer Report in Englewood, Colorado.

Aired October 7, 2004 - 14:32   ET

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


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: And we're waiting to hear from Democratic Presidential Candidate John Kerry. That's any minute now. Live pictures here at Englewood, Colorado, where he's holding mock debates, actually preparing for tomorrow night's real thing. We're going to bring you his remarks live as soon as it happens.
Now in the news...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRENT SADLER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Get, come on, roll it. Get these lights off and roll it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PHILLIPS: That's the voice of CNN's Brent Sadler. he and his camera crew inside the Sheraton Hotel in Baghdad when it came under rocket attacks just a short time ago. U.S. troops inside fired back for several minutes. No immediate report of casualties or exactly who fired those rockets.

Two U.S. soldiers killed yesterday outside of Baghdad -- one in Fallujah, the other further north in Beiji. Both the victims of insurgent attacks; both were involved in the large-scale offensive against suspected terrorists throughout the Sunni Triangle.

Alabama Police think they have a serial killer in custody. He's 31-year-old Jeremy Brian Jones, already suspected in the rape and murder of a woman last month. He's now connected to the killings of two women in west Georgia -- and as many as five others, their cases still unsolved.

And we're waiting to hear, once again, from Democratic Presidential Candidate John Kerry. We will take this live. Live pictures, once again, from Englewood, Colorado. He will be addressing reporters there. We'll bring you his remarks as soon as they happen.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Picturesque setting there, for sure.

President Bush in Wisconsin today, debate prepping, as well. He's headed to St. Louis after a campaign rally in Wausau.

Now, with the presidential contest neck and neck, any major move -- for that matter, any minor move -- by the candidates could alter the race, so could any dramatic events on the national or world stage.

National correspondent Kelly Wallace has more on the prospect of an October surprise.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KELLY WALLACE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This presidential race, more than any in recent history, might be decided by a surprise event. Why? A close election during a time of conflict. Democrats are buzzing about it, charging the White House might engineer a last-minute surprise to win the election.

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: I assume that will be something, but we have to be ready for that.

WALLACE: Teresa Heinz Kerry went further. Of Osama bin Laden, she recent told a business group in Phoenix, "I wouldn't be surprised if he appeared in the next month." The president's supporters dismiss it all.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I think that October is going to go quietly into that gentle night, and that we'll see the president emerge with more than 50 percent of the vote on Election Day.

WALLACE: The term "October surprise" gained notoriety in 1980 when Ronald Reagan's campaign was accused of convincing Iran not to free American hostages until after the election. But political observers talk this year of an October surprise that is beyond both campaigns' control, such as the capture of Osama bin Laden.

It would provide a huge boost to the president's war on terrorism and undercut Senator Kerry's main argument about Iraq.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Saddam Hussein was a diversion from the real war on terror.

WALLACE: The Afghan elections...

GEORGE W. BUSH (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The people of Afghanistan will vote in free elections this very week.

WALLACE: ... if they are peaceful, a plus for Mr. Bush. Any violence could back Senator Kerry's charge the administration took its eye off Afghanistan.

And the biggest wild card of all, a terrorist attack. The political consequences unknown, voters could blame the president or solidly stand behind him.

(on camera): And so, one of the nastiest, most intense, and most expensive presidential campaigns in U.S. history could ultimately be decided not by the candidates themselves, but by outside forces.

Kelly Wallace, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE) O'BRIEN: So, you still can't decide how to vote in November? Tonight it's your chance to weigh in. At 8:00 Eastern, CNN's Paula Zahn hosts a town hall meeting live from Racine, Wisconsin. Go to cnn.com/paula and e-mail your questions for the Bush or Kerry camps, which could be incorporated in all of this.

And be sure to join CNN tomorrow 7:00 Eastern for our live coverage of the second presidential debate. Cancel those dinner plans, you didn't want to go to that movie anyway, set the TiVo, watch the debate here on CNN.

PHILLIPS: Well, lawmakers give southern comfort in the form of aid to hurricane and drought victims. That story tops our news across America now.

The House unanimously approved a $14 billion aid package. Most of the money would go to Florida, the state hardest hit by those hurricanes. The bill now heads to the Senate for a vote.

An accused fire-starter will answer to charges today in the largest and one of the deadliest wildfires ever in California. Sergio Martinez is charged with last year's Cedar fire. Authorities say Martinez was hunting and set that fire when he got lost in the woods. Fourteen people died.

Tons of trash in New York could be shipped out. That's Mayor Michael Bloomberg's plan. He announced that his idea is to use barges instead of trucks to move trash from New York. City council must approve that plan.

And this baby giraffe is making its public debut at the Los Angeles Zoo. Baby Damani, which is Swahili for "thoughtful," is the newest Masai giraffe at the zoo. Only 70 live in North America.

Straight ahead, photos that inspire from across the world. A look behind the lens at the "National Geographic's" new book putting together its greatest pictures. I'll give a talk with one of the photographers coming up right after a break.

Also, why Saint Bernards will no longer be patrolling the slopes of the Swiss Alps. What's up with that?

ANNOUNCER: You're watching LIVE FROM on CNN, the most trusted name in news.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: All right, first we saw the melee in Miami, then we saw the carnage in Cleveland, and now we're ready for the town hall tussle. I'm stealing most of that from John Mercurio, our political guy who got carried away today with alliteration as he did his "Morning Grind" report.

Which brings us to our "CROSSFIRE" folk out there at Washington University. There they are, Paul Begala, Tucker Carlson. And we hear -- let's talk about the debate. But hey, first of all, who are those characters behind you there?

TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST, "CROSSFIRE": No clue.

PAUL BEGALA, CO-HOST, "CROSSFIRE": Reprobates, ne'er-do-wells -- here we go. Oh, actually, they're Democrats.

CARLSON: People who ought to be in class, right. Yeah...

BEGALA: We encourage them to drink heavily and...

(CHEERING)

O'BRIEN: Oh, yeah -- Democrats, OK. All right.

BEGALA: We've offered free beer, and the Democrats were there to take it. Of course, the Democrats always want a free hand. We're happy to have them here.

O'BRIEN: And what kind of free items do you have to offer Republicans, Tucker, to get them to come?

CARLSON: I guess -- I don't think they go here is the real answer.

BEGALA: I think they were looking for free caviar and champagne, and that's a little beyond CNN's budget. So...

O'BRIEN: Go to another school, yeah, definitely.

All right, let's -- Tucker, let's talk about this debate, what you anticipate. This is town hall meeting stuff. I'm going to guess -- let me just take a wild guess, George W. Bush will not look at his watch, right?

CARLSON: I suspect -- I suspect he won't. And you know, I don't think you can really overstate the importance of clear speaking in this next debate. If you go and look at the debate from last week again or read the transcript, Bush actually didn't -- I don't think screwed up thematically so much as his verbal gaffs, which are just kind of a par for him, unfortunately, really rattle people who aren't used to listening to him speak.

And I think -- I got to believe that the Bush people are focusing on keeping Bush speaking in clear sentences, possibly even grammatical sentences.

But the format favors him. He's good at this.

O'BRIEN: Wait a minute, wait a minute, wait a minute.

CARLSON: He's a likable guy.

O'BRIEN: I'm sorry, they have to get him to do clear sentences and good grammar in just a week? CARLSON: Well, you know, I think it would be bad for him to do a lot of "strategery" type stuff, start talk about the "Grecians." I mean, that stuff doesn't -- you know, truly in like the grand scheme, you know, history will ignore it. It makes no difference.

But for the purposes of tomorrow night's debate, yes, I do think it's significant.

BEGALA: But here's the best way to get Bush to speak in clear, simple sentences, put him with real people. And that's what the format does.

CARLSON: I agree.

BEGALA: Bush does not do well -- I was surprised...

O'BRIEN: This is a better format for him, right, Paul? I mean, you got to be a little more...

BEGALA: Much better. I expected him to do better the at set debate, as well, because he's always excelled at that in the past. He didn't. He performed poorly there. But believe me, he's the most competitive guy you've ever met. Deeply, really tough competitor.

On top of that, he does connect well with ordinary people. On top of that, he's got an opponent, John Kerry, who -- while a better debater than I thought he would be -- sometimes doesn't connect very well with ordinary people...

O'BRIEN: Well, no, no, let's call it like it is.

BEGALA: Sometimes he can be a little stentorian and...

O'BRIEN: Stentorian?

BEGALA: He's got a little bit of corn cob disease, which happens to a lot of senators.

CARLSON: No, that's not true. That's not -- I know for a fact as a guy who tends to his windsurfing yacht -- truly, he's nice to all...

BEGALA: Is there a windsurfing yacht?

O'BRIEN: All right, wait a minute.

CARLSON: Good point.

O'BRIEN: Who among us is not a fan of football or whatever that nonsense? Yes, he's aloof at best, -- as we look, by the way, right over there is a live picture of Englewood, Colorado. We expect to hear from Senator Kerry at his stentorian best, talking about the Duelfer Report.

But the truth is he does -- every opportunity that he gets to connect with people, he does an exact opposite of Clinton, doesn't he? Kerry, I'm talking about now.

BEGALA: You know, often. It's hard to measure anybody against Bill Clinton or maybe Ronald Reagan on the Republican party. I mean, those are two great communicators of our time. Neither of these guys are Ronald Reagan in the Republican party or Bill Clinton in the Democratic party.

But this is going to be Kerry's challenge.

O'BRIEN: All right, Paul -- Paul, I got to dive in.

John Kerry, stentorian best, Englewood, Colorado.

(BEGIN LIVE NEWS EVENT -- JOINED IN PROGRESS)

KERRY: ... lives here in Denver. And he and Ruth Steiner (ph), who is 71, also lives in Denver, both come in every Tuesday and every Thursday to my headquarters. They're volunteers, and they've just been volunteering away to try to help change things, make them better.

And Pat Banditch (ph) is 81 years old, and Pat just showed up one day and said, "I'm your senior coordinator." And I want to thank you for that, Pat. It's making a difference, and we really appreciate it.

This week has provided definitive evidence as to why George Bush should not be reelected president of the United States. Whether it's the situation in Iraq or whether it's the situation here in America, he is not being straight with Americans.

Earlier this week, Paul Bremer, the president's hand-picked person to run Iraq in the aftermath of the fall of Saddam Hussein, told America that the president had not sent enough troops in to get the job done in Iraq. President Bush's decision resulted in chaos on the ground, and it emboldened a growing insurgency with terrorists flocking across the borders in the tens of thousands.

Ambassador Bremer finally said what John Edwards and I have been saying for months: President Bush's decision to send in too few troops, without thinking about what would happen after the initial fighting was over, has left our troops more vulnerable, left the situation on the ground in chaos, and made the mission in Iraq much more difficult to accomplish. That is the truth.

The result is that President Bush's serious errors in judgment have left us more vulnerable and less safe as the terrorists continue to murder schoolchildren and target our brave soldiers.

So, how does President Bush respond? Does he take responsibility for his mistakes? Does he recognize publicly how bad the situation is and lead the way a leader should lead? Of course not. The president responded with a brand-new stump speech, featuring more dishonest attacks on me.

The president's national security advisor went even further. She said that if we didn't have enough troops, that was the fault of our military. Imagine, the national security advisor in the White House, the place that used to have a sign that said "The Buck Stops Here," blaming our military for the decisions of the commander-in-chief.

For President Bush, it's always someone else's fault -- denial and blaming someone else. We've heard this before. It is wrong for this administration to blame our military leaders, particularly when our military leaders gave him the advice that he didn't follow. The truth is, the responsibility lies with the commander-in-chief.

Yesterday, the CIA released a wide-ranging report on Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction. The report concluded that Iraq had essentially dismantled its weapons of mass destruction and stopped any further military WMD production after the end of the first Gulf War. In other words, the report concluded that the inspections and the sanctions worked.

The report further concluded that the sanctions leveled against Iraq during the 1990s prevented Saddam Hussein from resuming his weapons of mass destruction program.

Now, my fellow Americans, remember -- remember the facts, remember the truth. The facts and the truth are that the primary justification for going to war, the reason the Congress gave the president authority to use force after he had exhausted all the other remedies, was to disarm Saddam Hussein of the weapons of mass destruction.

We remember the pieces of evidence, like aluminum tubes and Niger yellow cake, uranium, that were laid out before us: All overblown then, we said they were, and now completely known to be wrong; all designed, all purposefully used to shift the focus from al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, to Iraq and Saddam Hussein; all with the result that the president shifted the focus from the real enemy, al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden, to an enemy that they aggrandized and fictionalized; all put forward with an urgency requiring immediate action before another attack on the U.S.

The president this morning was in absolute full spin mode about the CIA report. He cited several new reasons for taking America to war and reiterated the belief that he would do everything exactly as he did it even knowing what he knows now.

My fellow Americans, you don't make up or find reasons to go to war after the fact. That's not how it works in the United States of America, and that's not how it should work.

This morning, the vice president actually said that the CIA report did not undermine the rationale for going to war. He said the CIA report justified the decisions.

Ladies and gentlemen, the president of the United States and the vice president of the United States may well be the last two people on the planet who won't face the truth about Iraq.

Mr. President, the American people deserve more than spin about this war. They deserve facts that represent reality, not carefully polished arguments and points that are simply calculated to align with a preconceived perception. Sending men and women into combat is the gravest responsibility of all, and asking the American people for their truth with respect to that requires that you tell them the truth.

The pattern of deception goes beyond Iraq. Just yesterday, the president said, because of his education reform, reading scores are increasing in our public schools. Well, ladies and gentlemen, a new study released today says that is just plain not true. The facts are that 11 out of our largest 15 states, reading scores are flat or have gone down.

George W. Bush thought the job was done when he just signed that bill into law, the No Child Left Behind Act. He believed the mission was accomplished. And from that point forward, he has consistently broken his promise to the parents and to the children of America. He's left millions of children behind.

John Edwards and I have a specific plan for success in Iraq, and we have a specific plan for success here at home. And it is not more of the same.

At home, we're going to turn our economy around by creating good jobs and not just talking about it. And we're going to make sure that the standards are raised in our schools and that children truly aren't left behind. And we're going to make sure of it, because we're going to make sure the resources are there to accomplish it.

There is a clear difference between President Bush and me. You'll always get the truth from me, in good times and in bad times. And I will never mislead the American people. The president has not met that standard, and America is ready for change.

And I'm ready for your questions. I'll take a few questions. Yeah, you know, I want to ask Jim Tankersley to be able to ask the first question, because we haven't been able to get out and around this state very much -- if that's all right with everybody? Jim?

JIM TANKERSLEY, "ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS": We have a proposal on Colorado's ballot (INAUDIBLE) state's electoral votes, effectively by portions. For example, if you won 51, the president won 49, you'd take five to four. Do you support the proposal?

KERRY: Well, obviously, I'd like to win all of Colorado's electoral votes. But I've always believed that those electoral votes belong to each state, and it's up to each state to decide what they're going to do with them.

KERRY: I said that the last time I was here in Colorado, and I say it again. It's up to Coloradans to decide what they want to do with them.

I do hope to win them, though. Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) that Saddam Hussein has the means and the materials to build weapons of mass destruction. Do you agree with that? KERRY: No. The president's not telling the truth, and the Duelfer Report says otherwise. That the sanctions had prevented him from being able to reconstitute his program. The sanctions had prevented him and the inspections from being able to rebuild. And in fact, he was not pursuing it at that point in time.

And according to the Duelfer Report, if the sanctions had been lifted in the future, he might have wanted to start it up. But ladies and gentlemen, if you're doing good diplomacy, you wouldn't lift the sanctions. This underscores the failure of this administration's diplomacy. They only have one attitude, and their attitude's the wrong one for making America safer.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (OFF-MIKE).

KERRY: I will do what the generals believe we need to do without having any chilling effect, as the president put in place by firing General Shinseki.

And I'll have to wait until January 20th. I don't know what I'm going to find on January 20th the way the president is going. If the president just does more of the same every day and it continues to deteriorate, I may be handed Lebanon, figuratively speaking. Now, I just don't know. I can't tell you.

What I'll you is I have a plan. I've laid out my plan to America. And I know that my plan has a better chance of working. And in the next days, I'm going to say more about exactly how we're going to do what has been available to this administration that it has chosen not to do.

But I will make certain that our troops are protected. I will hunt down and kill the terrorists. And I will make sure we are successful. And I know exactly what I'm going to do and how to do it.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Senator, Duelfer also said that Saddam fully intended to resume his weapons of mass destruction program because he felt that the sanctions were going to just fritter away.

KERRY: If they -- we wouldn't let them fritter away. That's the point.

Folks, if you got a guy who is dangerous, you got a guy you suspect is going to do something, you don't lift the sanctions. That's the fruits of good diplomacy. This administration -- I beg your pardon?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (OFF-MIKE) said he fictionalized him as an enemy, now you just said he's (INAUDIBLE).

KERRY: No, what I said -- I said it all the time. Consistently, I've said Saddam Hussein presented a threat. I voted for the authorization because he presented a threat.

There are all kinds of threats in the world, ladies and gentlemen. Al Qaeda is in 60 countries. Are we invading all 60 countries?

Thirty-five to 40 countries have the same war capability of creating weapons, nuclear weapons, at the time the president invaded Iraq that Iraq did. Are we invading all 35 to 40 of them? Did we invade Russia? Did we invade China?

The point is there are all kinds of options available to a president to deal with threats. And I consistently laid out to the president how to deal with Saddam Hussein, who was a threat. If I had been president, I would have wanted the same threat of force, as I've said 100 times, if not 1,000, in this campaign.

There was a right way to use that authority and a wrong way. The president did it the wrong way. He rushed to war without a plan to win the peace, against my warnings and other people's warnings. And now we have the mess we have today.

It is completely consistent that you can see them as a threat and deal with them realistically, just as we saw the Soviet Union and China and others as threats and have dealt with them in other ways.

Thank you very, very much.

O'BRIEN: Senator John Kerry, the Democratic nominee, Englewood, Colorado -- the location -- with a statement -- a very, very aggressive statement aimed at the president, saying the president made serious errors of judgment, now is in full spin mode. And talking about the decision to invade Iraq -- a rough quote, "You don't make up reasons to go to war after the fact."

Senator John Kerry responding to President Bush, who in turn was responding to the Duelfer Report on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

And that just about does it for us.

PHILLIPS: That's right. Judy Woodruff now with "INSIDE POLITICS" takes it from here -- Judy?

JUDY WOODRUFF, HOST, "INSIDE POLITICS": Kyra, Miles, thank you very much.

Yes, that is a very aggressive statement on the part of John Kerry, among other things saying that George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, the only people on the planet who won't acknowledge the reality of what's going on on the ground in Iraq.

"INSIDE POLITICS" begins right now.

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