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A Divided Nation; Gay Rights Activists Say Many Amendments Banning Same-Sex Marriage Won't Hold Up In Court
Aired November 3, 2004 - 14:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Dana Bash was watching all of this in Washington over at the Reagan Center, where President Bush is getting ready to address his crowd. His victory speech scheduled for about a half an hour or so from now.
Dana, what was it like in that room where you are?
DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it was really interesting. The Kerry speech was up here on the big -- the big screen, and all of the Republicans here, probably more than a thousand, maybe 2,000 who are gathered here at the Reagan Building, were very quietly watching, giving some respectful applause to Senator Kerry.
It was really -- really very quiet. You can hear the music blasting behind me now. It was nothing like that during Senator Kerry's speech.
You saw some people just sort of waving small American flags as they were watching. As soon as Senator Kerry was over, you see the big flags behind me on the stage. Without missing a beat, as soon as he was over, the folks who were -- the advance folks came out, they put the flags up, they took the velvet off the podium to get ready for the president who is going to be here in about an hour.
And Wolf, it's interesting to note, talking to one of the president's top political aides this morning, even in the early morning hours after some of the president's aides maybe got a couple of minutes of sleep, they were still planning to have the president speak even if Senator Kerry didn't concede. That was still their plan.
But at a certain point, they realized, as the aide said, they didn't want to get in his face. And then, shortly thereafter it sort of became moot because they got word from Senator Kerry's folks that they were going to get a call from the senator actually conceding. So, it just sort of shows, even up to this morning, it was unclear how this was going to play out and whether the president was going to have to come out without hearing from Senator Kerry first.
BLITZER: Dana, would you say in about an hour, has the president's speech been pushed back? Because we thought it was going to be at the top of the hour at 3:00 p.m. Eastern.
BASH: Forgive me, I must have misspoken. He is still planning on coming here at 3:00 p.m. Eastern, which, you're right, is in about a half an hour from now.
BLITZER: Dana Bash over there at the Reagan Center.
We're going to take a quick break. But give us one final thought, Jeff, before we move on.
JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SR. ANALYST: You know, I can't help but think there are any number of Democrats out there, every time people talk about the graceful concession speech and how we didn't get a human side of him. I'm thinking just once I'd like to see them give the human side during a campaign so that we could hear a graceful victory speech.
BLITZER: Bill Schneider has been watching this, as well. Bill, give us your thoughts.
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: I think John Kerry sounded an important theme, which he probably should have sounded more during the campaign. That is, "I want to reach across the partisan divide."
George Bush got elected in 2000 on a promise to be a uniter, not a divider. And a lot of people expected him to be that kind of president, but he turned out to be a president who left the country, even now, more divided than ever. I think what Americans were longing for in this campaign was someone who could unite the country. I'm not sure they saw it in John Kerry. John Kerry just made the pledge that he's going to try to do it now.
But frankly, much depends on President Bush and how he chooses to govern over the next four years. He has been a uniter in the year after the terrible attacks of 9/11. The country was united, most Democrats supported him. Then Iraq came and tore the country apart. I think it's mostly up to President Bush to heal that partisan divide.
BLITZER: Do you think the party is going to be demoralized, the Democratic party, right now? That would be certainly understandable if it happens, Bill.
SCHNEIDER: I think they've been demoralized a lot in the past. But at this point, there is something new and different in the Democratic party than what I've seen in the past, and that's anger, sometimes even rage.
Right now, I agree with John King. They feel beaten, but I think underneath it all, there is a seething anger. George Bush makes them very angry. You tell from the e-mails. You can tell from the speeches. You can tell from Michael Moore's film. I mean, these people are mad. And it's going to be some time before they calm down, and the president is going to have to do his part to reach out to them.
BLITZER: Bill Schneider, thanks very much.
Judy Woodruff? JUDY WOODRUFF, HOST, "INSIDE POLITICS": But it's as if it's a Democratic party without a head, because what are they going to do with all that anger? There's no -- it seems to me what we saw today starkly underscores the fact that there's no clear leader in the Democratic party right now.
John Kerry will go on to serve another four years, apparently fill out his term in the United States Senate. But you know, as we've been discussing, it would be surprising to everyone if he made another run for president. There is no clear prominent person out there to run, to be the titular head or the figurative leader of this party.
So, what do the Democrats do? Who do they look to at this point for inspiration, to articulate their hopes and dreams. We heard a little of John Kerry there at the end, Wolf, saying, you know, these are the things we'll fight for, and they will live to see, you know, another day. But it seemed pretty vague.
BLITZER: Jeff, who's going to lead the Democratic party?
GREENFIELD: I keep -- I know that you want a name.
BLITZER: A few names.
GREENFIELD: I don't have a name, because my point is: What ideas does this leader, whoever he or she may be, pick up and run with? Bill Clinton had a quiverful of ideas created by Democrats that thought that the orthodox liberalism had died. Ronald Reagan picked up supply-side economics, moved a once isolationist Republican party to an assertive internationalism.
I really do think ideas drive political movements. And without ideas, a leader is just that.
WOODRUFF: But if you don't have an individual, Jeff, to articulate the hopes and dreams and ideas of that party, then what do you have?
GREENFIELD: You have ideas waiting for that leader.
I guess what I'm saying is you can't lead a party without both. You need both things. And right now, the Democratic party -- unlike the Republican party, which was remade from the roots up by Ronald Reagan -- Bill Clinton came in with a whole new approach. It won him two terms.
And yet, when he left, it was as if he had never been the leader of the Democratic party. They went back to the interest groups, the teachers' unions, the public employees' unions. And what I'm saying is I think this may be a long-term fight within the party to figure out what it is.
Everybody in this room can tell me -- well, that's three of us -- but anybody in this community can tell us what the Republican party stands for. When you ask what the Democratic party stands for, I think there's a long hesitant pause, or there's a rather banal laundry list: We stand for affordable healthcare; we...
WOODRUFF: The environment.
GREENFIELD: The environment.
WOODRUFF: Well, OK, they might not agree that it's a banal laundry list.
GREENFIELD: I know, I know. This is an opinion.
BLITZER: The Democrats are going to have plenty of time right now to try to sort things through for themselves.
A little update to our viewers. At the top of the hour, 3:00 p.m. Eastern, about 25 minutes or so from now, the president will be over at the Reagan Center in Washington, D.C. -- his victory speech. We'll all be back to cover that, bring that to our viewers in the United States and around the world.
Much more coverage of this historic day in the United States coming up. We'll take a quick break. When we come back, Miles O'Brien and Kyra Phillips will pick up our coverage.
We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm extremely disappointed. Extremely disappointed. It's -- I'm in disbelief. I just -- I thought there would be some changes being done, and now with Bush still in there, nothing's going to be done.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We feel good. We voted for Bush.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So we're happy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: The people have spoken. John Kerry has spoken. And soon, the president of the United States will speak within 30 minutes or so. Here, live from the Reagan Building, we expect to hear the victory speech from George W. Bush, as he begins another four years in office. We'll take that live as soon as it happens.
Meanwhile, if ever evidence were needed that this a nation divided, the election proved plenty of it. The electorate was split on all kinds of issue, but one issue -- the question of moral or cultural values -- appeared to resonate most with the supporters of the president.
Joining me now to talk about that, Roland Martin, editor of blackamerica.com, and radio talk show host Paul McGuire. Gentlemen, great to have you both. Even John Kerry in his concession speech talked about the danger of the division that was evident in this race. I want to talk about the danger, if you believe there is a danger, but why don't we talk about the division and how it is a healthy thing, Roland?
ROLAND MARTIN, EDITOR, BLACKAMERICA.COM: Bottom line is it shows the passion and the energy on a variety of issues, and so if we all agreed on the same thing, it wouldn't make any sense at all. But the bottom line is the Democratic party has an inability to speak to the heart and the soul of today's voter. And that's one of the reasons why they cannot win, and in fact, this is a party I think is in need of a political Viagra because right now they are impotent when it comes to speaking to the electorate.
PHILLIPS: Paul, what about you? You've talked about recognizing diversity to heal the divide. What are the dangers of the divide?
PAUL MCGUIRE, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: First of all, Kyra, I want to acknowledge the fact that John Kerry -- I saw a greatness in John Kerry that I hadn't seen before. I thought his concession speech reflected a solaceness, a lack of self that was exemplary.
Regarding the division, clearly, there are some very serious divisions. Gay marriage, abortion, the war in Iraq. The challenge for George W. Bush if he's to be a truly great leader is not for us as conservatives to gloat over this election but to find practical and tangible ways to reach out to the disenfranchised, to all the Democrats who feel anger and rage. And I think that that can be done.
One practical way would be for George W. Bush to give a thorough and adequate explanation as to why we're in Iraq, regarding homosexual marriage. Conservatives turned out to support traditional marriage, but the reality is in a pluralistic society, we have large numbers of people who are homosexuals and are seeking some kind of legalized sanction.
PHILLIPS: Paul, just a second. Just for a moment. I just want to let our viewers know we're looking at live pictures right now of John Kerry and his wife Teresa Heinz Kerry, family included, courtesy of our affiliate WCVB, John Kerry leaving Faneuil Hall after giving a pretty powerful speech as Paul, you were saying, a humble speech. Let's continue to hold on this picture as he continues to shake hands with supporters here.
You mention, Paul, gay marriage, and Roland, let me get you maybe to expand on this a little bit. If you look at gay marriage in all the states that voted to ban this marriage amendment, let's talk about the nuances of politics here. It's not necessarily if you look at it, you might think, oh, my gosh, there are so many people that are homophobic, but actually you're saying it's more the definition of marriage versus gay marriage.
MARTIN: Absolutely. There are some people who are clearly homophobic, who don't like gays and lesbians. But the reality is it was the issue of the word "marriage" itself. When you say marriage, folks want to believe in and know it is a man and woman. Remember, George W. Bush early on said he was for civil unions, and so John Kerry never really tried to drive the conversation towards that. In fact, Bush said I'm for civil unions but really said we need a marriage amendment. So that's what's caused a tide in the conversation. And so that is the nuance.
So people believe in the word "marriage." That's what they believe in and that's why that issue was so potent across the board. Black, white, Hispanic, male and female.
PHILLIPS: Let's move, then, into the issue of sort of a moral code here and how the moral code of each candidate really played into this election. If you look at the numbers, an incredible amount of white evangelical Christians voting for George W. Bush. I want you both to respond to. Paul, let's talk about the significance of the moral code and how it played a huge part in a victory for President Bush this time around?
MCGUIRE: Well, there is a massive number of evangelical Christians and conservative Catholics who believe in traditional marriage. They came out to the polls in record numbers. However, because we live in a pluralistic and diverse society, the reality is that the gay activists and people who support alternative forms of marriage are not simply going to go away.
We have a tension. We have a disagreement in America. What we need to do in America is bridge-build. We have to solve the problem, and I think that the challenge for George W. Bush is to continue to become right of center, to appeal to his base, not to compromise his core values. But to reach out to those Democrats who feel disenfranchised by the political process.
MARTIN: Kyra, why?
PHILLIPS: Roland, do you think Democrats feared faith, do you think they feared talking about faith more, Roland?
MARTIN: Obviously, Democrats fear talking about faith, because they're not comfortable. Look at Howard Dean. He said I really didn't talk about my faith. I really only go church around election time. But when he goes to the south, he wants to then open up about faith. John Kerry began to open up about faith. The reality is we are a faith-based country. That's what we are...
Now, I got to disagree....
One second, Paul. I got to disagree.
PHILLIPS: Go ahead, Roland. I'll let you have the last word, Paul. Go ahead, Roland.
MARTIN: Paul, I got to disagree with you on something. The Republicans increased their numbers in the Senate, increased their numbers in the House, they got more governors, they won the White House, they're not going to change their strategy, so reaching out across line and trying to find a common bridge on this issue, no. The American public said we don't want a bridge, we are against it. It's simple as that.
PHILLIPS: Paul, final thoughts because we've got to wrap it up and get ready for the president's speech.
MCGUIRE: I agree that the vast majority of Americans believe in traditional values but I think it's a great mistake for Republicans and conservatives to assume that they have a monopoly on virtue and morality. If we're going to heal America and heal the great divide, we have to assume that people that are not in our party do have moral values and share moral concerns.
MARTIN: But the Democrats got to step up and actually talk about it and not run away from it, and that's why they're going to continue to lose if they don't find a back bone and speak to the issues that touch the hearts and minds of people.
PHILLIPS: Roland Martin, Paul McGuire, gentlemen, thanks for sticking around throughout the hour.
Appreciate it. We're about 10 minutes away from the president of the United States making his victory speech live here at the Reagan Building. The minutes ticking away. We're going to take a short break. We'll be right back.
O'BRIEN: John Kerry has spoken. The president of the United States is due to speak about 10 minutes from now. We will bring that to you live as it happens from Washington, D.C. at the Reagan Center there. The president of the United States and a victory address to supporters there.
Well, red state, blue state -- it appears there is one thread that unifies our united nation, and that is strong opposition to same- sex marriages. Eleven states had gay marriage bans on their ballots, and all 11 Constitutional amendments passed.
Gay rights activists called votes a blip in the long-term and say court challenges in at least three states are possible. Gay rights activists say many of these amendments won't hold up in court -- as a matter of fact, a lawsuit challenging Georgia's ballot initiative on gay marriage -- and it's likely there will be others.
Among the groups suing is the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund. Michael Adams is a director for the gay rights advocacy group. He joins us now from New York. Mr. Adams, good to have you with us.
MICHAEL ADAMS, LAMBDA LEGAL DEFENSE FUND: Good afternoon. Good to be with you.
O'BRIEN: I assume you were most disappointed about Oregon. I know that you fought hard in particular -- I don't know about you personally, but groups fought long and hard in Oregon to try to see that particular amendment not passed.
ADAMS: Yes. I mean, there's no question yesterday was not a good day for the gay community at ballot box. We were disappointed by Oregon and the other states. But we are a civil rights movement that has been working for decades. We don't measure our success by electoral campaigns. So, we're disappointed, but we're -- we believe that time is on our side on this work.
O'BRIEN: How so? How is it on your side? Because this is such a -- really a stunning repudiation of what you are crusading for?
ADAMS: Well, you know, the fact is if you look at the American people and their opinions about gay and lesbian relationships, they're trending in a very positive direction. The fact is exit polls indicate that a majority of voters yesterday support some kind of legal recognition for gay relationships but not marriage.
O'BRIEN: So, let's -- help me with this, though. Is it the M- word that upsets people, just marriage? When people given the option of civil union -- whatever that means, it's another term for marriage, I suppose -- they go along with it more? What does that mean then?
ADAMS: Well, it's no question. People have a tough time with marriage. But four years ago, people had a tough time with civil unions. We see progress. And what we're seeing, for example, yesterday...
O'BRIEN: But it's a difference without a distinction, isn't it?
ADAMS: It's not a difference without a distinction. The fact is that, in the country, the word marriage has a currency. People understand what it means. People understand it means respect and equal rights. And we need that in addition to the practical legal protections that would come with civil unions.
O'BRIEN: OK. But then, does that imply that civil unions would offer you less respect and, therefore, wouldn't you want to pursue marriage?
ADAMS: I'm sorry, I'm getting some interference, so I can't hear what you're saying. There's somebody else speaking into the...
O'BRIEN: Can you hear me now? Can you hear me now? Can you hear me now? Michael Adams?
All right. Unfortunately, we have lost our two-way communication with Mr. Adams. Can you hear me now?
Our apologies. We're going to take a break. When we come back, Michael Adams, by the way, with the Lambda Legal Defense Fund.
This is the scene in Washington, D.C. at the Reagan Center. George W. Bush now faces four more years. He's going to celebrate that moment with his supporters in just a moment. And you'll be there along for the ride, if you stay tuned.
O'BRIEN: Live pictures now. This is at the Reagan Center in Washington, D.C. The president of the United States should be arriving at that podium in about five minutes' time -- four minutes' time. And we will bring it to you live as he addresses supporters, and offers up his victory speech, having been re-elected.
PHILLIPS: John Kerry and the president both deciding on pretty historical spots to give their speeches. John Kerry, of course, we heard at Faneuil Hall, the ever famous, I guess, political place for tremendous speakers, dating all the way back to the revolution.
Now, the president of the United States getting ready to step up to the podium here at the Ronald Reagan Building. Pretty amazing architecture, known for that, and a trade center within that building, also.
O'BRIEN: Wolf Blitzer is going to walk us through this, as he has all throughout the night, all throughout today. He keeps going. Wolf Blitzer joining us now from New York.
BLITZER: Thanks very much, Miles and Kyra. This hour, George W. Bush set to claim victory and a mandate to lead the nation for another four years.
I'm Wolf Blitzer in New York, along with my colleagues Judy Woodruff and Jeff Greenfield. We're all waiting for the president to start to speak on this historic day after the presidential vote.
The president will be addressing the nation -- and indeed, the world, we can say -- from the Reagan Building, it's just around the corner from the White House -- less than an hour after Senator Kerry publicly conceded. Kerry spoke at Faneuil Hall in Boston with running mate John Edwards right at his side, following the Democrats' decision not to contest the vote in make-or-break Ohio.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN F. KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: In America, it is vital that every vote count and that every vote be counted. But the outcome should be decided by voters, not a protracted legal process. I would not give up this fight if there was a chance that we would prevail.
But it is now clear that even when all the provisional ballots are counted, which they will be, there won't be enough outstanding votes for us to be able to win Ohio. And therefore, we cannot win this election.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Before speaking to the American people, Kerry phoned the president to congratulate him on winning a second term.
John King is over at White House watching all of this. John, set the scene, what we can expect to hear from the president.
JOHN KING, SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: A conciliatory, but an upbeat, message in which the president will claim a governing mandate for a second term. He will say the American people have spoken with clarity and given him a majority. He will reach out to Senator Kerry and the Democrats, congratulating his opponent on hard-fought campaign and thanking him for his very graceful words today.
A fitting sight, Wolf. This has been Ronald Reagan's Republican party for a generation. I think as this president accepts the verdict of the American people and says he's ready for a second term, this is George W. Bush's Republican party now.
BLITZER: Condoleezza Rice walking in. Andy Card, the White House chief of staff.
Judy, I think at some point in the not-too-distant future, we're going to start seeing some changes in this administration, perhaps some officials leaving, cabinet members, new officials coming in. The speculation, I assume, is going to begin very, very quickly who's going to be in, who's going to be out.
WOODRUFF: I'm sure it is. That -- we know that always happens in the second term, Wolf.
At the same time, it's interesting that some of the names that were being brooded about not so long ago, the signals seem to be coming now that maybe they're not going to leave after all. And first one that comes to mind is Secretary of State Colin Powell. There had been widely-held speculation that he was going to leave, but he sent a signal about a month or so ago that he wasn't all that interested in leaving.
The same with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. A lot of second guessing about the war in Iraq. But I think the belief is now that, you know, he may well stick around to see that through.
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