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


 

Return to Transcripts main page

PAULA ZAHN NOW

Interview With Dick Gephardt; President Bush's Second-Term Agenda

Aired November 4, 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. Appreciate you joining you us tonight.
Tonight on PRIME TIME POLITICS, the second term, a chance for a president to make big changes without worrying about another campaign. And today, President Bush made it clear he is ready to roll with his agenda. So what will that mean for the country and the way we live our lives?

And while Republicans revel in victory, the bloodletting begins for the Democrats, placing blame, wondering where and how to begin again.

Well, we begin tonight at the White House, where things may never be the same. Oh, sure, President Bush was reelected this week. The questions now, which members of his Cabinet will be keeping their jobs and what are the president's new priorities? We got some hints today and they came straight from the man at the top.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN (voice-over): Two days after the election, President Bush puts his friends and foes on notice.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I earned capital in the campaign, political capital. And now I intend to spend it. It is my style.

ZAHN: The president's ambitious shopping list is the same one he outlined in the campaign.

BUSH: You've heard the agenda, Social Security, tax reform, moving this economy forward, education, fighting and winning the war on terror.

ZAHN: In terms of political capital, the price tag on some of those items will be pretty high. Once again, the president is hoping for help from the Democrats.

BUSH: Reforming the Social Security system for generations to come is a difficult issue. Otherwise, it would have already been done. But it is necessary to confront it. And I would hope to be able to work with Democrats to get this done. I'm not sure we can get it done without Democrat participation, because it is a big issue.

ZAHN: Another big issue, possible vacancies on the U.S. Supreme Court, especially with the illness of Chief Justice William Rehnquist.

BUSH: I told the people on the campaign trail that I would pick somebody who knows the difference between personal opinion and the strict interpretation of the law. You might have heard that several times. I meant what I said.

ZAHN: While there are no vacancies on the Supreme Court right now, there may soon be vacancies in the Bush Cabinet. Today's meeting could be the last time we see some of these faces around the table.

BUSH: There will be some changes. I don't know how they will be. It is inevitable there will be changes. It happens in every administration.

ZAHN: Attorney General John Ashcroft may be the first to go. Some sources close to Ashcroft say he may resign within the next two weeks, but another source says Ashcroft is energized by the election results and hasn't decided what he would do if the president asked him to stay on.

And, for months, there's been speculation about Secretary of State Colin Powell's future.

BUSH: Let me just help you out with the speculation right now. I haven't thought about it. I am going to start thinking about it. I am going to Camp David this afternoon with Laura, and I'll begin the process of thinking about the Cabinet and the White House staff.

ZAHN: The president says he's anxious to start the work ahead.

BUSH: I'm more seasoned to Washington. I have cut my political eye-teeth, at least the ones I have recently grown here in Washington, and so I am aware of what can happen in this town.

ZAHN: And it will start happening soon. A lame-duck Congress will be back this month to deal with government spending and intelligence reform. That will be our first hint about how much political capital Mr. Bush has gained with a 51-48 victory.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: And former House Democratic leader Dick Gephardt will be wrapping up his congressional career in his upcoming lame-duck session, which puts him at a unique vantage point to talk about what might happen in the next Bush administration.

Representative Gephardt joins me tonight from our Washington bureau.

Welcome back, sir. Great to see you.

REP. RICHARD GEPHARDT (D), MISSOURI: Great to be with you.

ZAHN: So do you have any confidence that the president will successfully build bridges between his party and yours? GEPHARDT: Well, we can hope for it. It certainly is what should happen. And I hope it does happen. But if history is a guide, it is not likely to happen.

And the reason I say that is that, in the House of Representatives and the Senate the last four years, it's pretty much been my way or the highway from the Republican leadership and the administration. But I can tell you that, if the Republicans reach out, if the president reaches out and tries to build bipartisan coalitions, he will have good partners in Nancy Pelosi. And if Harry Reid is elected leader in the Senate -- he probably will be -- he'll have a good partner in him as well.

ZAHN: Do you believe Democrats share any blame for the lack of cooperation or the lack of success in creating this bipartisanship during the president's first term?

GEPHARDT: Well, I'm sure no one is blameless.

But having been leader for 10 years in the House up until 2002, I can tell you that I tried repeatedly to be included in deliberations on issues, and there was really no interest from the other side. They really feel they know the truth. They don't need to hear from anybody else. And if that continues, it's pretty hard to get anything done. It takes two to tango, is the old saying. And that really is true still today.

We need a real sincere reaching out by the president, by Republicans to put together the consensus and to really listen to people, not just fake it or to act like they're interested in having bipartisan coalitions, but to really do it.

ZAHN: But don't you think the president at this stage, with the numbers coming out of this election, that he has a true mandate here?

GEPHARDT: Well, I'm sure he does, but he also said in his statement that he wants to earn the trust and the adherence of the people who didn't vote for him.

And I think that's very important for any president, to reach out and try to get people who disagree with him to come to the table and see what can be worked out. Look, none of us knows the truth. None of us knows everything we need to know. And we all see the world from a different viewpoint. And we need to listen to our adversaries to try to find a better way to do things. And if he'll do that, he'll find ready partners among the Democrats.

ZAHN: Probably on to your least favorite subject of the night, and that is the outcome of this election. Why do you think John Kerry lost?

GEPHARDT: Well, first, I think we've got to look at the positives. This was not all negative.

John Kerry ran a good campaign. He's a good candidate. And he did a great job. He did a great job in the debates, and he did a great job generally. The party also got a lot more people to vote than we usually have. And we had a good ground game. It wasn't good enough, but it was better sometimes than it's been in the past. So there are some good things to look at.

I think we can improve. We've got to improve and we've got reassess everything that we did and we've got to do better. First of all...

ZAHN: What do you think you could improve at?

GEPHARDT: Well, the mechanics of politics. The Democratic Party used to be known as the party with the best ground game, the best get- out-the-vote effort.

And the truth is, we didn't do that as well as the Republicans did at this time in states like Ohio and Florida. We've got to look back at that effort, figure out where it failed, and do it better.

Secondly, we've got to have a better way of speaking to the moral values and the values of a lot of voters out in the country who don't think Democrats are speaking to their values. We need to do...

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: Well, polls would suggest that is what lost John Kerry this election. Do you agree with that assessment?

GEPHARDT: Well, there were probably a lot of things that went into the ultimate outcome, but that clearly is a big factor. If you just look at the map today in one of the newspapers that showed where the Democratic and the Republican votes came from, there are huge parts of our geography where we're just -- we're not winning.

We're not speaking to these voters on issues that they care most about. Now, that doesn't mean we should change our values or change what we believe. You shouldn't do that. You can't do that. But we need to talk to these voters on their values that they think are important and find a way to put an attractive set of ideas and efforts in front of them.

ZAHN: Congressman, need a brief answer to this one.

I know, during the campaign, when you were running for president, you suggested you could beat the president in a one-on-one race. Do you think you could have won had you gotten the nomination?

GEPHARDT: Oh, I have no -- I think John Kerry ran a great race. I have tremendous admiration for him. And I'm not sure and given the circumstances -- we're at war and people are worried about that and worried about terrorism -- that any Democrat could have beaten him in this race.

You've got to give the president some credit and his people. They got their vote out. So I give great respect for John Kerry, and he did a great job, and I really admire the job that he did. ZAHN: Well, Congressman Gephardt, thank you for your time and we wish you the best of luck as you look in on the waning days of your congressional career here. Thanks for your time tonight.

GEPHARDT: Thank you.

ZAHN: There is still much more to come on PRIME TIME POLITICS, as we look ahead to the president's second term.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN (voice-over): A conservative victory, a demand for change.

BUSH: This week, the voters of America set the direction of our nation for the next four years.

ZAHN: What will the next four years bring? Tonight, George W. Bush, the change to come.

And the blue state blues, blue islands in an ocean of red. The Democrats turn inward. Let the bloodletting begin.

And tonight's voting booth question. What is responsible for the failure of the Kerry-Edwards ticket, a strong Bush campaign or a weak Kerry campaign? We ask for your vote at CNN.com/Paula. The results and much more ahead as PRIME TIME POLITICS continues.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: There are a lot of numbers for Democrats to look at, as they try to figure out why John Kerry lost and how to win in 2008. There was that surprising finding from exit polls that moral values were a huge factor. And among those who said values were their top concern, 80 percent voted for President Bush; 18 percent went for Senator Kerry. The exit polling also found that among voters who said religious faith was the most important quality in a candidate, 91 percent voted for Bush, 8 percent for Kerry.

The president also improved his numbers among Latino voters, taking 44 percent of the Latino vote, to Kerry's 53 percent. That compares to 35 percent for Bush in the year 2000, a nine-point increase for the president. And there is just plain old geography. Look at the electoral map. Kerry took only the Northeast states, some of the Upper Midwest and the West Coast. The rest of the country is a sea of red.

So what can Democrats do with all this post-election knowledge? Joining me now from Denver, former Democratic Senator and presidential candidate Gary Hart.

Always good to see you. Welcome sir.

GARY HART, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Great pleasure. Thank you. ZAHN: Thank you, Gary.

So, you now have the Bush administration owning the White House, both houses of Congress, likely to be able to pick a number of Supreme Court justices and end up with a court that will likely mirror the president's views of many social issues, including the issue of abortion. How weakened are the Democrats coming out of this election?

HART: I think the Democratic glass is more than half-full. John Kerry got 54 million votes. That's not chopped liver. It's a base from which our party can operate going forward, and we should.

I think if you look at this as a president who's in office during a time of war, it's difficult, if not impossible, to unseat that president. And you could argue that he should have run up the score even more than he did. A three-million vote margin out of 115 million isn't all that much. But it is a setback for the party.

I think when the average Americans, ordinary Americans, begin to understand that the timetable or the agenda for this administration is virtually to dismantle the social safety net constructed by Democratic presidents in the past, starting with Social Security, they may begin to react against that.

ZAHN: But it seems to me that the key issues that have been the stronghold of the Democratic Party didn't matter as much this time around, when it comes to the issue of economy and jobs. It was the moral issues in many cases that trumped those issues.

Where did John Kerry go wrong with these issues?

HART: I don't think he went wrong. He's a practicing Catholic and he even mentioned that.

It's only in recent years that candidates, particularly I think Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, have begun to run in effect on their religious beliefs. You can say that's an advantage politically, but it also has a certain danger to it. And again I have to emphasize that 54 million Americans did not agree.

ZAHN: Were you surprised at all by these numbers showing that, in many cases, voters were driven to the polls by these social issues, not the issues of war and the economy?

HART: Not really.

We're living in a troubled time. I think people are feeling vulnerable. We have been attacked on our homeland for the first time since 1812. And 3,000 Americans lost their lives. And we've seen tapes of bin Laden saying, I'm going to kill more Americans. And, in a time like that, and, again, post-Cold War, there is a vacuum of belief, and I think a lot of Americans, understandably, have turned back to their faith and have found new faith.

I think frankly, this is an abstraction in a way. A lot of Americans may not know what George Bush's faith is or what faith means.

ZAHN: It's interesting, though, because a number of powerful Democrats have told me they believe their party has been tone-deaf to these issues of faith and the issues of gay marriage, not realizing that, when you have these ballot initiatives banning gay marriage, that that was just really an incentive for a lot of people to go out and vote.

HART: Well, I think the White House and Mr. Rove are very clever at seeding those referenda in key states. I think it's now in retrospect clear what they were doing. They were energizing their base, as they would say, and getting people active who might have not otherwise have voted and who voted on this issue and transferred their votes to George Bush.

I don't think Democrats have been tone-deaf to these things. They just not have sought to impose their religious beliefs on the society at large the way conservative fundamentalist Republicans have.

ZAHN: In hindsight, was a liberal Massachusetts senator the best choice for the Democratic Party to run for president?

HART: Oh, in my judgment, as an early supporter of John Kerry, I thought he was and away the strongest candidate in the field in terms of being qualified to be president. He was a decorated combat veteran. He understood war. He understood the military. He had traveled the world.

He certainly was prepared to be head of state and chief diplomat. And he had spent 20 years understanding the economy of the United States. Those together comprise the job of being president. And he was much better qualified to be president than George W. Bush was four years ago.

ZAHN: So there's not any part of you that wished you had been on the ticket this time?

HART: Oh, no.

ZAHN: You're over that?

(LAUGHTER)

HART: Well, I was well over that.

(LAUGHTER)

ZAHN: Gary Hart, thanks so much for your perspective tonight.

HART: A pleasure. Thank you.

And now we're going to turn to another Democratic voice before we catch up with Republican Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas. Let me introduce you now to New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson. He was chairman of the Democratic Convention, served as energy secretary under President Clinton, and he is being mentioned as a potential candidate in the year 2008.

Always good to see you. You always laugh whenever we speculate about that. If you should decide run, though, in the year 2008, what are some of the lessons you learned from John Kerry's loss?

GOV. BILL RICHARDSON (D), NEW MEXICO: Well, first of all, Paula, I always laugh. You're very generous when you mention that. But I'm only focused on the New Mexico legislature, and then my own reelection. We'll see after that.

ZAHN: Oh, come on. You know the speculation out there is rampant. You read it in every single newspaper in the country today, sir.

RICHARDSON: Well, let me talk about...

ZAHN: It's not my generosity. I'm just reporting what people are talking about here.

RICHARDSON: OK, well, let me talk about the future and the Democratic Party.

Clearly, we need to appeal more to the South and the West, secondly, obviously, cultural conservatism. We need to find a way to start a dialogue on some of those issues that involve cultural conservative issues, guns, same-sex marriage, values, religion. And then, lastly, I believe that it's important that we not go after our core values.

We're the Democratic Party, the party of the middle class, the party of the people. I hope none of that is touched. And we need to stop talking about, oh, we need to go to the left or we need to go to the right, or we need to go to the center. I think what we need to do is be pragmatic, move forward, come back to the Clinton dogma of public-private partnerships, of using the private sector effectively, but basically being a party of the people.

And, lastly, Senator Kerry ran a good race. He remains a leader of the party. He should be treated that way, and he has to be part of this dialogue. And I'm very concerned, Paula. I want everybody to be bipartisan. But I hear Vice President Cheney and the Republicans talking about a mandate. This was a 51-48 race. The president had 55 million Americans vote against him. I can't understand, if he wants to reach out and work with Democrats, he says, well, I'll work with those that have my same goals.

Well, most of the people don't have his same goals. So I just hope, really...

ZAHN: That may be true, but isn't that an uphill battle for your party when this president's administration not only controls the White House, both houses of Congress, and will likely have a tremendous impact on the shape of our Supreme Court?

RICHARDSON: Well, of course he has the upper hand. But for him to think like he did four years ago -- he didn't win the popular vote and he governed on the right. And one of the reasons we had so many divisions in the country is because there was not a reaching out to others that didn't share his view.

My hope is that president rejects what the vice president said. I liked what the president aid, but then with the vice president following that he had a mandate and many conservative pundits and Republicans saying this is a mandate to privatize Social Security, to pass an energy bill, this race was not a mandate. It was a victory. No question about it. He deserves credit. They ran a good race. They worked hard.

But to say that everybody should just roll over and do whatever they want, that's not going to happen. I'm certainly, as a governor from New Mexico, not going to do that. And the Democratic governors, by the way, Paula, we didn't suffer any defeats. We picked up two governorships, so we're not lying dead.

ZAHN: All right. That may be true on the governor's side, but I have talked with a bunch of Democrats who are basically saying, in spite of the fact that they thought that John Kerry was a credible candidate, that he blew it on these social issues. Do you think he was tone-deaf?

RICHARDSON: I disagree with that.

We got beat on those social issues by Republicans that have embraced them and given a perception that we don't care about those cultural issues. We've gotten beat at the perceptions game. But the fact -- to admit that Democrats are not as religious as everybody else, that Democrats are not as patriotic, that is wrong.

And the problem is that too much policy of the Democratic Party is made in Washington by the Congress, by the Senate, many my friends. I served there. What about the West? What about the South? What about Democrats' grassroots around country that should have a voice in the party? Instead of going around and moping and being upset and whining, we ought to start being positive and think about what we are going to do.

ZAHN: Governor Richardson, thanks for your time.

RICHARDSON: Thank you, Paula.

ZAHN: You can come back before 2008 and tell us what you really will be up to in 2008, OK?

RICHARDSON: All right. OK, Paula.

ZAHN: All right. We'll dig what into what is store in Congress in the next four years from the GOP side with Republican Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas when we come back. Please stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) ZAHN: Well, President Bush has a new four-year lease on the White House. Down at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, a more Republican, more conservative Congress is headed to Washington in 2005. And that should make Republican Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas smile. He joins me from Topeka tonight.

Congratulations, sir.

SEN. SAM BROWNBACK (R), KANSAS: Thank you, Paula.

And there is a smile on my face. I'm glad the whole process is over, and I'm glad how the presidential races and how the House and the Senate races come out.

ZAHN: Let's talk about some of the important business you have ahead. We've had a number of Democrats on this evening who have suggested that contrary to what vice president said in introducing the president yesterday that this president does not have a mandate, that some 55-million-plus Americans voted against him.

BROWNBACK: Well, we count each vote and at the end of the day, it's the one that has the most that wins and that governs and that I believe does have a mandate.

If you go by that count, then I guess Bill Clinton never had a mandate. He didn't get over the 50 percent. But yet what you saw in this election was the president to gain on his numbers from the prior election, for the Senate to go from 51 to 55 Republicans, for the House to increase. And I think, really, you look at that and you got to weight that all and say the Republican message is scoring with the American public, not everybody, but most people.

And I think they returned us to govern and we hope to be able to get some things done.

ZAHN: Well, that's the burning question. And we had Representative Gephardt on a little bit earlier, that says, while he is hopeful this president might try to heal some of the very bitter wounds of this campaign, he's not all that optimistic that the president will be a uniter. Do you understand why so many Democrats are pessimistic about this next stage?

BROWNBACK: Well, I think that may be them setting up to be confrontational, rather than working with the president.

If you look at a lot of the major bills that the Democrats attack now, they voted for them in the first place. No Child Left Behind, the Patriot Act, these passed overwhelmingly. The authorization of the president to go to war in Iraq passed overwhelmingly with Republicans and Democrats.

And then it's afterwards, when something doesn't quite go right or they think there is a hole, that they then go at the policy, even though they voted for it in the first place.

(CROSSTALK) ZAHN: But, you know, when it comes to the issue of the war -- I just wanted to bring up the issue of the war, because a lot of Democrats said, although they believed in giving the president that authorization, they were doing it so -- under the belief that the intelligence was accurate, and, after the fact, they believe we were all misled.

BROWNBACK: I was at Fort Riley, Kansas, today with 1,000 soldiers that had just gotten back from Iraq about a month ago.

And I said to them that, once the policy decision is made, you have to stand in there. And part of that policy decision-making is the Congress voting up or down to give the president the authority to go to war. And we do that off the same intelligence that the president has.

I really don't think it's fair to Monday-morning quarterback a year and a half after you're in this and saying, well, it didn't quite move the way we wanted. Therefore, we're going to criticize it, and you've still got soldiers in the field. You've got to make those calls with what you have at that time. And we did. And many Democrats joined in, in authorizing war. And, hopefully, we can now move on forward to get Iraq stabilized, and start pulling our troops down there.

ZAHN: So Senator, it's pretty clear the challenges that lie ahead for the president when it comes to getting things through this new Congress.

But let's take a look at some of the attitudes of the American people. And the divisiveness that this election left behind. Twenty- three percent of the folks pretty enthusiastic about the president's second term. Thirty-three percent optimistic. Eighteen percent pessimistic. Twenty-four percent afraid.

What would you say to the 24 percent of the American public that is afraid of what might happen under this president's next term?

BROWNBACK: Well, I would say to them their fears should be calmed, that this is a great nation that it moves generally through majority consensus, that the rights of every minority are protected in this country, and they will remain such.

And I would hope, as well, that they would look and say, you know, the president's helped stimulate the economy. The president has aggressively pursued the war on terrorism so that we're safer here. That his last four years, he's produced a number of tangible results. And that -- that there's nothing really to be afraid of.

I can understand people's disappointment. People support different candidates. But we're going to operate sensibly in this country. We're going to operate with compassion and for the people of this nation, and this place may end up being a better place at the end of it.

I really don't think the fear label is merited. ZAHN: A lot of talk about faith in this campaign. And I know when you won, you said to God be the glory. Do you think God works through elections?

BROWNBACK: Yes, I do. We've got a motto in this land. It says, "In God we trust," and that was put there by our Founding Fathers. You can look at faith throughout the history of this country in almost every great movement, civil rights movement, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is a pastor.

You can look at virtually everyone one of these movements, and it's faith and it's people stepping out and doing things that for themselves are probably not wise moves. But yet they're moved by something bigger than them.

And I think that motto for America continues to be true, "in God we trust." And that it's a good motto, and it apply today as it did in our founding.

ZAHN: Senator Sam Brownback, thanks so much for your time.

BROWNBACK: Thank you, Paula.

ZAHN: You're a busy man and you'd probably be relieved like the rest of us to finally get some sleep after many, many weeks of this.

If anyone has a feel for this president, it is the correspondents who cover White House. We'll get an insider's view from three of the best, coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: On the campaign trail, and at his news conference today, President Bush set out an ambitious political agenda to assess which items are getting priority and which ones might get ditched.

I'm joined by three members of the White House beat. Our senior White House correspondent, John King, who is still standing after many weeks without sleep. "TIME" magazine's Matt Cooper. And the "Christian Science Monitor's" Linda Feldmann.

Good to see all three of you.

LINDA FELDMANN, "CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR": Hi.

ZAHN: So Linda, what struck you about the president's news conference today?

FELDMANN: He was very relaxed. He was very funny. Obviously, you know, very happy about what happened. Not gloating.

It reminded me of his press conference two years ago after they did well in the midterm elections, and he seemed very low-key, but it's that kind of low-key victory dance that he does, I guess.

ZAHN: Man, as I watched him today, it sort of reminded me of the period of time after the midterm elections, when everybody in the Republican Party got the "no gloat" memo.

FELDMANN: Right. Right.

ZAHN: That was pretty clear in his performance today, wasn't it, Matt?

MATT COOPER, "TIME" MAGAZINE: Yes, I think so. You know, I mean, it was 51 percent, but it felt like a landslide compared to 2000. And I think he did a good job of, you know, reaching out and trying to, you know, showing some constraint. Not doing a full end zone dance.

ZAHN: But Matt, do you think this president is mistaken to believe he has a mandate here? We've heard Democrat after Democrat come on tonight and say, "Wait a minute. You have 55 million plus Americans who voted against him."

COOPER: Yes, well, you know what, you make your own weather in politics, and, you know, he didn't have a majority of the votes in 2000, and you know, he went out and acted like he did. And he governed like he did, and he seemed to get a lot of what he wanted through.

I think if you just, you know, you act like a winner, you act like you have a mandate, and you know, acting becomes reality.

ZAHN: So, John, what does this president do with his newly gained political capital?

JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He pushes it through the Congress as fast as he can, because he knows he has six months in the second term and then the environment will get much more political. People will start thinking about the next midterm election, the 2008 presidential election.

And this is signature George Bush. Be optimistic. Be confident. Say you want to be bipartisan. And then advance an agenda that will have so many collisions in it we will be back to partisanship pretty quick. On health care, taxes and Social Security, the Democrats are lined up to fight.

ZAHN: Realistically, Linda, what will he get through?

FELDMANN: Well, I think he'll get through more -- more tax cuts. I think we can see the -- the estate tax will be permanently removed. We may get some kind of private accounts in Social Security. We may get some kind of a simplification of the tax code.

But I think what we may be getting very soon actually is a Supreme Court nomination, and the honeymoon could end instantly if -- the minute the name goes up to the Hill.

ZAHN: How bloody could that get, Matt Cooper?

COOPER: It's the most bloody thing in American politics right now, I think. More than the war. More than any of these tax cut issues.

FELDMANN: Yes.

COOPER: I mean, I think the Supreme Court nominations have been so contentious the last times out. And, you know, now that the court is really on the verge of tipping more decisively in the conservative direction, I think that's the one that'll be really all out.

KING: I think Paula, if I can jump in. This president knew that, and that's why he was so careful today. He would not take a question on the Supreme Court, would not take the question of how much the war in Iraq will cost, would not take a question about Fallujah and the coming offensive in Fallujah.

He wants to build his approval rating back up, build up the good will of the American people and then deal with the tough stuff. He's very smart today.

ZAHN: Well, then, John, will be should this very delicate act, or dancing act that he has with Democrats in these first six months that you're talking about that will be critical to his legacy?

KING: Well, it's tough to look at the legislative agenda and find something on which he has common ground with Democrats. He will bring Democrats into the discussion on tax reform, into the discussion on Social Security and hope to reach out to them and hope to find some common ground with them.

There's no other signature issue that is an obvious one; bring me some Democrats. So I think one of the things to look for is for a cabinet departure and look for him to bring somebody into the cabinet.

ZAHN: I was struck by how introspective the president was, particularly when asked a question by John King, about how his father, first President Bush reacted to his victory. Why don't we all listen to John's question right now and we'll talk about it coming out of there?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know, there's some uncertainty about that morning as to when the election would actually end, and it wasn't clear about that point in time. So I never got to see him face-to-face to watch his -- I guess pride in his tired eyes, as his son got a second term.

And you're right, '92 was a disappointment. But he taught me a very good lesson, that life moves on. And it's very important for us in the political arena, win or lose, to recognize that life is bigger than just politics.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: John, I was struck by the fact about how open he was about any discussion of his father. He's usually pretty protective of that. What struck you about what he told you? KING: He was more revealing than he has been in the past. Maybe that's one of the ways he's liberated now that he is in his second term.

To me, it's one of the most fascinating things about George W. Bush. He has a clear, obvious -- he was choking up there -- affection for his father. He holds him in incredibly high regard.

And yet his politics are built on the mistakes of his father. His father did not have great affinity with the conservative Republican base. It's said of his father that everybody liked him but nobody loved him in terms of the political arena.

Watch this president's politics and it's clear, he watched his father. He thought about what his father did wrong, and you see that in the trademark of the Bush campaign playing to the Republican base.

ZAHN: Linda, I wanted to share to our audience how the president's re-election is playing overseas in some newspapers. This headline from this morning's "Daily Mirror." The question is, basically, "How can a 59 million plus people be so dumb?"

What kind of the challenges does a president have as he tries to rebuild some important alliances that were eroded by this war in Iraq?

FELDMANN: He -- it's almost like the challenge he faces in reaching out to the 55 million Americans who voted against him.

He needs to explain himself. I mean, he's been talking a lot about being -- you know, reaching across the aisle and creating common ground and creating unity. It's almost like he needs to do this with the rest of the world as well.

And even though he -- he won a majority of the vote and, you know, really, really won this election, you know, as opposed to last time when there were these lingering questions about his legitimacy, he still -- I think he seems to know that he does need to do some building of bridges this time.

ZAHN: Quick final thought, Matt Cooper, on the fence mending that the president needs to do with some of our overseas allies?

COOPER: yes. Look I think he'll do it to a degree. He'll go to Europe, and he'll make nice. And he'll say we may have disagreed about the start of this war but now we all have a vested interest in making peace last in Iraq.

But at the end of the day, I actually think he kind of likes it when people underestimate him and call him dumb. I think in a way it makes him feel like he's getting the better of him.

ZAHN: Served him well. His father admitted that to me in the interview, that he really does derive great satisfaction from people underestimating him. Matt Cooper, John King, Linda Feldmann, thank you all.

FELDMANN: All right. Thank you.

ZAHN: And in some ways four more years is just the beginning. Supreme Court justices and other judges chosen by the president could have an impact on our everyday lives for decades to come. When we come bark the changing courts and how they could change the country.

And don't forget to weigh in on tonight's "Voting Booth" question: "What is responsible for the failure of the Kerry/Edwards ticket?" Click onto CNN.com/Paula and have your say.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: In the next four years as President Bush tries to implement his vision of America, one of his most powerful tools will be the nation's court system.

In his second term, the president could have three chances to nominate Supreme Court justices. Chief Justice Rehnquist is battling cancer, and there has been speculation that two other justices may retire.

The president's judicial choices will shape the courts for decades to come as they decide cases that so often focus on issues of moral values.

Here's Tom Foreman.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To be my spouse.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The wave of gay marriages in this election year grew from a single legal opinion written by a Massachusetts state court justice. Now, some political analysts say Margaret Marshall helped trigger a backlash that will let George Bush put more conservatives on federal courts.

BUSH: If people are interested in knowing the kind of judges I'll pick, look at the record. I've sent up a lot of judges, well- qualified people who know the law, who represent a judicial temperament that I agree with and who are qualified to hold the bench.

FOREMAN: In the Supreme Court, where at least one vacancy is expected, a staunchly conservative nominee would be vehemently opposed by Democrats. Even the Republican Senator who will likely head the judiciary committee and supports abortion rights is raising doubts about the ability of hard-core conservatives to be confirmed.

SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (R), PENNSYLVANIA: Well, when you talk about judges who would change the right of the woman to choose and overturn Roe v. Wade, I think that is unlikely, and I have said that bluntly during the course of the campaign and before.

FOREMAN: But George Bush put 200 federal judges onto district and appeals courts in his first term. And he will likely name another 200 or so during his next one. TOM GOLDSTEIN, APPELLATE ATTORNEY: That means he's going to appoint one-third to 1/2 of all of the federal judges in the country and he's doing it with a goal in mind. And that is to make the courts more conservative and accomplish that goal.

FOREMAN: These are the judges who would consider thousands of cases on school vouchers, affirmative action, and separation of church and state. Democrats have blocked conservative Bush nominees ten times, just a small fraction of the total.

STU ROTHENBERG, ROTHENBERG POLITICAL REPORT: He had a blank check on most appointments, most lower judicial appointments, but if somebody is particularly ideological, particularly partisan, particularly conservative, I think the Democrats will try to try to stand their ground and fight.

FOREMAN (on camera): Presidential judicial choices draw enormous scrutiny because they are for life. The right judge on the right bench can carry on a president's philosophy for decades.

(voice-over) After all, William Rehnquist was put onto the Supreme Court by Richard Nixon. And while he soon could be forced to retire because of serious health problems, he is still presiding.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: And that was our Tom Foreman reporting for us tonight.

And Democratic leaders may be in a funk and feeling bushed. Coming up, how the party faithful are taking the defeat.

But first, after months of relentless campaigning, a plea for unity from talk radio.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Can we return to normal now? Normal's the place where not all Republicans are right- wing nuts and not every Democrat is a liberal weenie, where you can find Republicans for choice and some Democrats against stem cell research. Where all of us hate outsourcing and agree Saddam Hussein was an evil SOB, even if we disagree of what should have been done with him.

It's where Americans of every stripe would wrestle one another for the honor of being the person to slit bin Laden's throat.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: While the red states carry the day, those blue states, according to Jeanne Moos, are feeling, in a word, blue.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's a sentence that makes voters in the blue states feel sentenced to...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Four more years of President Bush.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Don't mention the election to me. Because I'm emotionally disturbed about the election.

MOOS: What's the state of mind in the blue states?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (singing): Am I blue?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm so, so blue. I'm depressed. I really was hoping.

MOOS (on camera): Clinically?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, not clinically.

MOOS (voice-over): New Yorkers are sounding inconsolable, even on voice mail.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hey you, it's me. I still can't believe this. Oh, my God.

MOOS: A listing purportedly from the online marketplace Craig's List reads: "Straight male seeks Bush supporter for fair physical fight to vent my anger."

Democracy Plaza is more like Depression Plaza, and that clever idea of turning the skating rink into an electoral map.

(on camera) You see those maps with a little red all across America and then on the edges the blue states.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It makes you feel like you don't want it travel across the country, that it's, you know, that it's a different territory.

MOOS: You can always fly over it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can fly over it but you don't want to go through there. And that you're completely different, and you don't know who these people are.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I feel angry at Americans. I don't understand the mentality of a country -- so much red indicates to me so little tolerance.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want to move to, like, a different country.

MOOS: But don't pack your bags for Canada yet. Canadian officials made it clear, fed-up Americans would have to wait like other immigrants. "You just can't come into Canada and say, 'I'm going to stay here'."

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm not moving. But I'm cursing a lot. MOOS: Jokesters on the web have been adding new provinces to Canada, the United States of Canada.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Maybe in the next four years I'll move but not to a red state, I assure you that.

MOOS: As for the president...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I really think he did a wonderful job of scaring the hell out of people in this country.

MOOS: It figures that a New York-based comedy show would pick up on the red/blue divide.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We in New York are too close to the terrorism and the gay people. Only the red states with the advantage of a safe distance can take in the whole picture.

MOOS: But not every blue state voter is seeing red over the president's re-election.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: God told me he brought Bush, and you're going to see what is going to happen.

MOOS (on camera): Wait a minute, God told you he brought Bush?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I've seen Jesus Christ. He told me he put Bush in power, OK?

MOOS: That's better than an exit poll.

(voice-over) Despite Senator Kerry's concession, there's no talk of secession, just the blue state blues.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (singing): And I'm blue.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: Jeanne Moos doing what she does best, taking to the streets.

And the results of our "Voting Booth" question straight out of this break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: And before we leave you tonight, we wanted to give why you a sample what passes for post-election analysis on late-night TV these days.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVE LETTERMAN, HOST, "LATE NIGHT WITH DAVID LETTERMAN": No. 5, should have campaigned more on New Mexico, less in regular Mexico. Regular?

PAUL SCHAFFER, MUSICIAN: Regular Mexico.

LETTERMAN: You look at any map.

No. 4, turns out voters think it's hot that Cheney has a lesbian daughter.

No. 3, thought America was ready for a lunatic first lady.

No. 2, voters seem to really like a weak economy and a badly-run war.

And the No. 1, John Kerry excuse, he was distracted by late night erotic phone calls from Bill O'Reilly.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: Go Dave, go!

And now on to tonight's "Voting Booth" results. We asked the question, "What is to blame for the failure of the Kerry/Edwards ticket?" Fifty-six percent of you that logged on said a strong Bush campaign. Forty-four percent said a weak Kerry campaign.

Of course, this is not a scientific poll. It's just a sampling of opinion from those of you who took the time to log onto our web site. We always appreciate your response.

And one last note for all of us here to consider tonight. Elizabeth Edwards, wife of Senator John Edwards, revealed today that she has breast cancer. It was diagnosed the day John Kerry conceded the race for the White House.

All of us here wish Ms. Edwards the best.

And we want to thank you all for joining us tonight. We'll be back same time same place tomorrow night with a look at the best and worst moments of the campaign. Have a good night. "LARRY KING LIVE" is next.

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.