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JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS

Bush Honors Key Figures in Iraq Mission; Ed Koch on Bernard Kerik's Nomination Withdrawal; Europeans Still Haven't Warmed Up to Bush

Aired December 14, 2004 - 15:30   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
ANNOUNCER: A glowing portrait tinged with politics. Key figures in the Iraq mission are honored as criticism of administration policy keeps coming.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think we're in a very very difficult situation.

ANNOUNCER: Wait until you hear what John McCain is saying now.

Behind the headlines about the man who might have been homeland security chief.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The things about his personal life he's going to have to answer himself.

ANNOUNCER: What did New Yorkers know about Bernard Kerik's background before his nomination went bust. We'll ask former New York mayor Ed Koch.

On thin ice overseas, new evidence that Europeans still haven't warmed up to President Bush.

Now, live from Washington, JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

JUDY WOODRUFF, HOST: Thank you for joining us. Award ceremonies at the White House can sometimes be routine events but many were struck by the scene in the East Room today. The president honored three men who played important roles in shaping his Iraq policy and who faced criticism for it at various times and to varying degrees.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The presidential medal of freedom is our nation's highest civil award given to men and women of exceptional merit, integrity, and achievement. Today this honor goes to three men who have played pivotal roles in great events and whose efforts have made our country more secure and advanced the cause of human liberty.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: Let's bring in our senior White House correspondent John King who watched it all. Hi, John.

JOHN KING, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Some, of course, questioning whether these three men are worthy recipients of the nation's highest civil honor. They are George Tenet, the former CIA director, Retired General Tommy Franks who led the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Ambassador Paul Jerry Bremer who was the civil administrator in Iraq after the war.

To Bush critics these are three men who hold significant responsibility for what they would consider to be significant failures in Bush administration policy. The president honoring them today saying they played critical roles in liberating 50 million people in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Critics of course would say it was George Tenet who told the president there was no doubt Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. Turns out he did not. Critics would say General Franks should have been less a Bush loyalist and more forceful in saying he needed more troops to hunt Osama bin Laden and then more troops on the ground to secure Iraq.

Ambassador Bremer is well liked by Democrats and Republicans. The biggest criticism of his tenure has been that he did want more troops. Critics say he should have been more forceful. It was his decision to completely disband the Iraqi army. As the insurgency continues now some wondering whether you can have elections a little more than a month from now.

Many would say that was a critical mistake completely disbanding the Iraqi army instead of just disbanding those units most loyal to Saddam Hussein.

A spokesman for John Kerry, the president's opponent, quoted today and saying the standard must have changed since the pope and Martin Luther King received these medals.

Here at the Bush White House they say they are not going to get into the political debate. They say they believe the president deserves firmly these are three deserving recipients.

WOODRUFF: At least a reminder that the president likes to reward those who are loyal to him. Talking about criticism, what about someone else who is now in the administration who still is getting a lot of criticism over Iraq, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld.

KING: Again to Mr. Bush he's a loyal member of the team. To Bush critics he's the personification of what they say has gone wrong in Iraq. The latest criticism coming from a Republican, Senator John McCain who says that he has no confidence in the defense secretary. That it is up to the president whether to keep or not but Senator McCain says Secretary Rumsfeld should have known long ago that more troops were needed in Iraq. Should have long ago sent more troops to Iraq and dealt with other problems. Senator McCain says he has no confidence in the defense secretary. Here at the White House the press secretary Scott McClellan said Senator McCain remains a trusted friend and adviser of this president, but on this issue the White House disagrees.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Secretary Rumsfeld has been doing a tremendous job during some very challenging times, during a time when we are in the middle of the war on terrorism. He has helped us make great progress to dismantle and disrupt the terrorist networks across the world. He has provided strong leadership in liberating Afghanistan and Iraq.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MCCLELLAN: So, Judy, a reminder today that the election is over but the president's Iraq policy remains a point of contention mostly with Democrats but with some Republicans as well. Those elections in Iraq again a little bit more than a month away. Some question whether they can be brought off. The president needs to ask for more money to continue the effort in Iraq until the election is over. Secretary Rumsfeld and others still in the hot seat.

WOODRUFF: The election hardly having put all this behind him. All right. Thank you very much.

Well, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld may have the president's OK to stay on for a second term, but clearly that has not quieted his critics. As you just heard from John King including Senator John McCain and other Republicans.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(voice-over): Donald Rumsfeld, fighting battles on several fronts. In Afghanistan, in Iraq, even with his own troops who grilled him last week.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why don't we have the resources readily available to us?

WOODRUFF: At what was supposed to be a feel-good town meeting. Democrats have long called for his head.

SEN JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: I called for Secretary Rumsfeld's resignation months ago.

WOODRUFF: Some high profile Republicans are unwilling to play loyal soldier as far as Rumsfeld is concerned.

SEN. CHUCK HAGEL (R), NEBRASKA: I don't like the way he has done some things. I think they have been irresponsible.

WOODRUFF: Echoing that sentiment, Senator John McCain who yesterday declared he has no confidence in the defense secretary.

Rumsfeld has long been one of the most controversial members of the president's inner circle. Lauded for the Afghanistan campaign, the rapid response to the September 11 attacks, and for the military's swift overthrow of Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq. But for the secretary, it has been largely downhill since then. Pilloried for not heeding State Department warnings about a difficult post war. And for the prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib on his watch.

Despite it all, Bush is keeping Rumsfeld around. At least for a little while. Releasing the secretary could seem like an acknowledgement that Iraq is on the wrong course. So Rumsfeld gets a shot at redemption. An opportunity to refashion the military into the lean, mean, fighting force he's long envisioned. And to refashion his own legacy as well.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(on camera): We're told that the White House hopes to announce a new nominee for homeland security secretary before the end of the year filling the void left by Bernard Kerik's withdrawal. Some names that keep cropping up in the speculation buzz, homeland security undersecretary Asa Hutchinson, White House homeland security adviser Fran Townsend and Senator Joe Lieberman, the Democratic who authored the legislation creating the homeland security department.

Some have mentioned George Pataki who is now weighing whether to run for another term as New York governor. A senior Pataki aide tells CNN there is no way the governor would want the homeland security job.

Meantime, the second guessing continues about the vetting of Bernard Kerik in light of red flags that have surfaced about his political, professional and personal life.

Let's talk about the Kerik nomination, what went wrong and a little more on New York politics with former New York City mayor Ed Koch, a Democrat who supported President Bush for reelection. Mayor Koch, good to see you. Thank you very much for joining me. Did you expect Bernard Kerik's nomination to run into trouble when you heard he was chosen?

ED KOCH (D), FMR. NEW YORK MAYOR: No, I thought it was a pretty good appointment. It has turned out that he's a disgrace. The allegations and many of them verified by him, particularly using a nanny who was an illegal immigrant and not paying Social Security taxes and to say he just found out about it is ridiculous. Did he think that you don't pay taxes after all of the scandals we had on prior occasions? I think that what happened here with his having been approved as police commissioner, as corrections commissioner, during the Giuliani administration leave much to be desired. Where was Mayor Giuliani, a hands-on mayor. Didn't he know? Wasn't he told that his proposed police commissioner had a relationship with an organized crime figure? That he had apparently received cash gifts that were unreported? This is a disgrace.

WOODRUFF: What does it say about Rudy Giuliani?

KOCH: Well, it says that either his department investigation was incompetent, didn't tell him, or knew that if they did tell him, it wouldn't make any difference. Other than that, I can't understand why a mayor wouldn't know these things about a proposed appointment of a police commissioner. WOODRUFF: So, do you fault Bernard Kerik and the Giuliani recommendation? Or do you fault the White House for not doing a better job?

KOCH: I don't think the White House did anything bad. They found out. Normally speaking when you just as a simple mayor appointing commissioner, I would say at some point in the process to the person, now, listen, is there anything that would come out that will embarrass you or me, tell me now. And undoubtedly somebody said that to Kerik. How he thought he could get away with this is beyond me.

WOODRUFF: How does this affect Rudy Giuliani's political future?

KOCH: I think it does. I think people will say, well, how can you call yourself a hands-on mayor, or say you didn't know or have an administration that wouldn't tell you something as serious as this? But I think that's far less impacting than his social positions which I happen to agree with and which most of the Republican party members would disagree with. So between the two, his good social positions and his terrible management of this appointment as corrections commissioner, police commissioner, he, I think, will suffer tremendously.

WOODRUFF: Let me ask you about another New Yorker, the governor George Pataki letting it be known he's considering running for a fourth term, should he?

KOCH: I like George. I think he has a good record but I won't support him.

I will be supporting the Democratic candidate. Eliot Spitzer. And, you know, it's time to get off the stage. Generally speaking, three terms is enough. Take it from me, I didn't get off the stage in time and they threw me off the stage.

WOODRUFF: What should George Pataki do? You have speculation he should run for the Senate against Hillary Clinton? Should he run for president? Some people have put his name up.

KOCH: Well, he has a brilliant future in the private sector or if he wants in the public sector. I like him. He's a good friend. His wife Libby is a wonderful lady. They both came to my 80th birthday party last week at Gracey (ph) mansion. I wish them both well. I hope he doesn't run for a fourth term.

WOODRUFF: All right, we hear you loud and clear. Ed Koch, always good to talk to you.

KOCH: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: Thank you very much. We appreciate it.

We're going to look back at other presidential nominations that went awry ahead, plus an unofficial popularity contest overseas. Find out why Mr. Bush may wish his friend Tony Blair had a vote. And later, questions about John Kerry after election day. His brother Cam Kerry will try to give us the answers. And an important ruling today on the recount in the Washington governor's race.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: President Bush's victory on election day got a lot of attention in Europe. Now a new poll shows Mr. Bush and to a lesser extent Americans as a whole, have work to do to gain favor in some of those countries. Our senior political analyst Bill Schneider is with us today from London. Bill, hello? So what does this poll show?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Hi, Judy. Well, what the poll shows is even after his reelection, President Bush remains a very unpopular figure in the rest of the world. In every one of seven countries polled by the Associated Press and Ipsos, a majority of citizens hold an unfavorable opinion of President Bush. The least unfavorable the Italians but even there 53 percent of Italians say they don't like Mr. Bush. Among Australians 55 percent negative. 64 percent of the British and Canadians don't like Bush. Among the Spanish, French and Germans the numbers rise to 70 percent or more.

Clearly the president has a lot of repair work to do when in February after his inauguration he takes his first trip overseas to try to repair some of the damage. He's not coming here to Britain because the British press reports that if he were to visit Britain it might endanger Prime Minister Tony Blair's reelection prospects next year.

Now does the negative view of President Bush mean anti- Americanism? Not necessarily. The percentage with an unfavorable view of Americans is consistently smaller than the percentage who don't like Bush. For instance, right here in Britain 64 percent had a negative view of Bush. 34 percent say they don't like Americans. But notice that in Spain, France and Germany, majorities or near majorities don't like Americans either. You know, a majority of Americans voted to reelect President Bush. So it's getting harder to maintain a distinction between anti-Bush sentiment and anti-American sentiment.

WOODRUFF: So Bill, I think I can anticipate the answer to this. What was the reaction in Europe to the president's reelection?

SCHNEIDER: In a word, dismay. Because of the time difference, Europeans went to bed believing that John Kerry had been elected. Woke up the next morning to discover that Bush had been re-elected. Some sources in Paris told me the story of a French television correspondent who on Wednesday morning reported the news that Bush had won the election and promptly burst into tears. Not very professional, perhaps, but rather revealing.

WOODRUFF: And, Bill, how does Bush's reelection affect some of the European leaders like Jacques Chirac in France?

SCHNEIDER: I was just in France. People there say that President Chirac my not be entirely unhappy with the President Bush reelection. Because it could further his program to make Europe a more independent defense and foreign policy force. Because Bush is so deeply distrusted in Europe, it could be easier now to get Europeans to move toward a more independent and united entity. Bush could end up being a great stimulus to a united Europe. It could be more an anti-American Europe than a pro-American Europe. You got to keep in mind that the European Union has now expanded to 25 countries. A lot of those eastern European countries are pro-American. And they don't have any interest in participating in Chirac's anti-American programs. Especially now that Russian President Vladimir Putin looks more menacing. Europeans are keenly aware of the role he has tried to play in the Ukrainian election. So eastern Europeans in particular fear Putin a lot more than they fear Bush.

WOODRUFF: All right. Bill Schneider. And as the White House would point out, Bill, Mr. Bush ran in the United States and not in Europe. OK. Bill, thank you very much. We appreciate it, in London.

A so-called faithless elector leads off our Tuesday political bite. One of the ten people who gathered in Minnesota's Capitol yesterday to cast that state's votes for John Kerry voted instead for John Edwards. No one claimed responsibility for the switch, but the first time a presidential elector has not voted for the designated candidate since 1988.

Pennsylvania's Democratic Governor Ed Rendell wants his state's presidential primary to be more influential. He has formed a task force to consider a calendar move. The Pennsylvania primary currently is held in April The party nominees are often already decided. Rendell wants the primary moved up to late January or February.

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is considering a plan to make it easier to get his package of bureaucratic reforms through the state legislature. The "Los Angeles Times" reports that Schwarzenegger advisers are privately considering ways to require a two-thirds vote of both state houses to block government reform proposals. The governor is expected to make his plans known in early January.

Presidential nominees. Sometimes they have clear sailing. Sometimes not. Just ahead, Bruce Morton looks back to some past nominees who caused problems for the White House.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: As we have seen with the Bernard Kerik flap, unforeseen problems can sink presidential nominations. Our Bruce Morton takes a closer look now at some past presidential picks and the problems they faced.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Sometimes it's funny. President Eisenhower nominated Clare Booth Luce an accomplished playwright with ambassadorial experience to be ambassador to Brazil. A Democratic senator named Wayne Moss (ph) spoke for three-plus hours against her. She won confirmation. And said her trouble started when Moss was kicked in the head by a horse. He had been in the john (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and the line caused such a flap that she resigned.

Sometimes it is sad. The first President Bush named Senator John Tower secretary of defense in 1989.

The Senate rejected only eight cabinet nominees in its whole history before then. But opponents charged he was a drinker and womanizer citing FBI files which were classified and which contained gossip and rumors all mixed up. He lost without anything specific ever having been proved against him.

Bill Clinton's first two nominees for attorney general failed because of apparent legal violations involving employing illegal immigrants. A Clinton nominee for assistant attorney general in charge of civil rights failed because of some papers she'd written exploring quotas in voting. What if each voter had three votes and could give one to three candidates or all three to one candidate, for instance. Some corporations have tried similar ideas. But opponents thought she might rig the scales somehow to help minority voters and Clinton withdrew the nomination.

BILL CLINTON, FMR. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm sorry about this. I still think she's an extraordinary person.

MORTON: In 1995, then Senator Jesse Helms held up 19 ambassadorial nominations trying to force Clinton to reorganize foreign policy agencies. They eventually did get confirmed. Usually the Senate is inclined to give presidents the cabinet officers they want. It's tougher on Supreme Court nominees since they serve for life. Just ask Robert Bork who didn't get confirmed or Clarence Thomas who did. Those two bitter fights may be why Bill Clinton was careful to name relative moderates as his nominees to the court. The constitution gives the Senate the right to advise and consent to these appointments. Sometimes the process is pleasant, sometimes it is truly mean. Bruce Morton, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Thank you, Bruce.

Well, does John Kerry still dream of choosing a cabinet himself? Coming up, the inside story on Kerry's future plans and his hindsight, perhaps, about election '04.

We've heard a lot about Howard Dean's bid to be the new Democratic party chairman. Now another name has been added to the mix. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: As we do every day at 4:00 Eastern I'm joined by Lou Dobbs in New York with "The Dobbs Report." Hello, Lou.

LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, Judy. Every single day we do this and as expected today the Federal Reserve rose (UNINTELLIGIBLE) interest rates for a fifth time this year. Policy makers raising rates by a quarter point bringing the key short-term interest rate to 2.25 percent. The Fed indicated it will continue to gradually lift those interest rates trying to stave off inflation. The Fed also noted that inflation remains in check and that labor market conditions are improving but gradually.

On Wall Street stocks rose following the Fed rate hike extending yesterday's gains as the final trades are being counted on Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrials now up almost 43 points, the Nasdaq Composite adding 11. And the Standard & Poors 500 rising to the highest level since before the attacks of September 11.

In economic news today, the trade deficit worsened to a record $55.5 billion in October. Nearly 9 percent worse than the previous month. Exports rose but not nearly as fast as imports. A spike in oil prices accounted for just about half the increase. And there were positive signs about this holiday shopping season. Three private reports today released show sales picking up with just ten shopping days until Christmas.

Good news for movie-loving procrastinators. Beginning next year Blockbuster will stop charging fees for overdue rentals. But there is a catch of course. If you keep a movie for more than a week past the due date Blockbuster will automatically sell you the rental for full price.

Search engine Google teaming up with some of the world's best libraries to put millions of books online. Among the libraries participating Harvard, Stanford, Oxford, the New York Public Library. But it will take years to complete the project. Each library has millions of volumes. And Google has to scan every single page.

Coming up tonight here on CNN at 6:00 p.m. Eastern on "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT," our special report, red star rising. We take a look at China's emergence as a global superpower. China is now the world's largest recipient of foreign investment and the country is working to create alliances with other powers around the world. We'll take a look at what this means for American foreign policy and international relations.

An alarming amount of fuel recently dumped into U.S. waters after two accidents with foreign cargo ships. Are we doing enough to protect our waters? And who owns all the shipping around the world. We'll have a special report.

Also, you might like Wal-Mart's low prices but labor groups say you may feel differently once you hear how the retailer keeps those prices low. We take a look at the business practices of the world's largest retailer tonight.

And your right to know is under attack. A dozen reporters around the country now facing prosecution for refusing to reveal their confidential sources. We'll be discussing media integrity with public editor of the "New York Times." Now back to Judy Woodruff -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: You mentioned the record trade deficit, this is an issue that didn't get a lot of attention during the campaign. How much should Americans worry about it? DOBBS: To worry about it, we should all be focused on it because we're simply shipping our wealth overseas, importing $2.6 billion in foreign capital every single day to support our imports. It is a very serious problem, as you know. The dollar has declined significantly of late. These represent serious challenges. We have to form a governmental policy to contend with those challenges. It has to happen relatively soon in my opinion.

WOODRUFF: All right. Lou, thanks very much. See you at 6:00.

DOBBS: Thank you, Judy.

WOODRUFF: INSIDE POLITICS continues right now.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: The case of the uncounted ballots, another plot twist to the election cliff-hanger in Washington state.

John Kerry, as only his brother knows him. Cam Kerry shares his insights about the senator's political future and his November 2 defeat.

Handicapping the race for DNC chairman. Who's got the inside track and who faces steep (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

Now, live from Washington, JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Welcome back. A ruling today in the recount of the Washington governor's race. The state supreme court decided against Democrats who wanted some 3,000 disqualified ballots to be counted. Republican Dino Rossi leads Democrat Christine Gregoire by fewer than 100 votes in the hand recount that is now under way. CNN's Kimberly Osias reports, the legal rambling may not be over yet.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KIMBERLY OSIAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's an election where just a few dozen votes could change the outcome. An outcome certified by the secretary of state, challenged by the Democratic party. A unanimous decision from eight Washington supreme court justices, an estimated 3,000 absentee and provisional ballots that were rejected the first go round won't be counted now. In arguments before the court Monday attorneys for Republican Dino Rossi said it was too late in the game to change the rules.

THOMAS AREARNE, DINO ROSSI'S ATTORNEY: The place to change the recount statue is the legislature, not this court. And the time to change the recount statue is before the election, not in the middle of the ongoing recount.

OSIAS: Democrats argue these ballots needed to be added in the final tally.

DAVID BURMAN, DEMOCRATIC PARTY ATTORNEY: Washington will show the nation its commitment to counting every vote.

OSIAS: With the supreme court's decision, all eyes turn to the Seattle area. King County long a Democratic stronghold and the state's largest county is scrutinizing more than 500 votes. They originally weren't allowed because of unmatched signatures.

DEAN LOGAN, KING COUNTY ELECTIONS: These weren't ballots that were found anywhere. They've been with us all along. They're ballots that were cast by valid registered voters and we have an opportunity to right a wrong here.

OSIAS: A month after the election it now boils down to the low tech, paperclips, rubber bands and hands. In counties across Washington, a staffing ramp-up, groups of three, each including at least one Republican and one Democrat sitting side by side, checking the count The process has taken some dramatic turns. Election results showed Republican Rossi winning by less than 300 of the nearly three million votes cast. The machine recount showed him squeaking by with 42. Now uncertainty continues as the state's highest office lies in the balance. Kimberly Osias, CNN, Seattle, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: In Ohio, officials have gone ahead and cast their electoral votes for President Bush, despite a recount of the vote in the state that put Mr. Bush over the top. Democrats and other challenges to the vote are paying for the recount even as they challenge the results in the Ohio supreme court. John Kerry has asked the counties to allow representatives of his campaign to visually inspect some uncounted ballots. Kerry supports the recount while acknowledging that it will not change the outcome of the presidential race.

What's going on in John Kerry's mind after his election loss? If anybody knows the answer, it may well be his brother and adviser, Cam Kerry who joins us now in Washington. Good to see you again.

You look well rested and fine. How's your brother doing six weeks after the election?

CAM KERRY, SEN. JOHN KERRY'S BROTHER: He's in a good place. He spent a lot of time saying thank you to so many people who supported him and I think to take something from that, and really focus on looking ahead, looking at what he needs to do to be a voice for the 57 million people who voted for him.

WOODRUFF: So how disappointed?

C. KERRY: Well, of course, you come this close, you come this far, with so many people's hopes invested in it, it's very disappointing, no question about it. But, you know, you move on. The issues, the fights continue.

WOODRUFF: You know, just to look back for a minute, most of the post-election focus has been on fixing the Democratic party. But you are very well aware that there's been criticism of how your brother in effect let George Bush paint him as a flip-flopper, somebody who had an undistinguished record in the Senate. Are there things your brother could have done differently?

C. KERRY: Judy, of course you come this close, you're bound to do some second-guessing and there are some things he could have done differently as a candidate. I'm sure there are. There are things the campaign could have done differently, sure. But I'm proud of the job that he did. I think he can walk away from this, with his head held high. He went into those debates and he really carried for 90 minutes that first debate in Miami, he carried this campaign on his shoulders. I'm proud of him. All in all, sure, there are things we could have done better but I think it was a good campaign.

WOODRUFF: A lot of talk about the two factions in the campaign, especially at the end. One faction pushing for focus on the economy, the other faction you were part of saying he needed to talk more about Iraq. Did he listen too much to the other guys?

C. KERRY: Well, you know, you can get into second-guessing. I think the end of the day, presidential campaign is about character and is about -- is about leadership. I think it's more important to demonstrate that and get at that than what the issues are, whether it's the economy, stupid or national security stupid.

WOODRUFF: What about the future? Does your brother -- do you want your brother to run for president again?

C. KERRY: Judy, it's really too early to say.

WOODRUFF: Hey, it's only four years away.

C. KERRY: I mean, it's really -- it's just too early to think about. It's not unthinkable but right now the focus is on, you know, what you need to do in the next few months to be a voice for people. He goes back to the Senate in a unique position. Nobody's ever -- in recent memory, there hasn't been somebody who's gone back to the national office and goes back with, you know, I think a reservoir of respect and a lot of supporters out there who are looking for leadership, looking for a voice.

WOODRUFF: How much influence does he have among Democrats? He sort of tapped Tom Vilsack for party chair. Vilsack dropped out. How much influence does John Kerry have now?

C. KERRY: I think he is an important voice in the party. There's no question about that. But, you know, the -- the choice of a DNC chair is going to be made by the members of the Democratic National Convention. I think we've got to respect that process. I think whoever comes out of it, the important thing is that we've got a job of organizing to do. We learned in this election. You can't do in six months what the Republicans have been working on in -- for six years. No matter how good you are. No matter what your resources are.

WOODRUFF: Is there something wrong with the Democratic party, you think? C. KERRY: No. I don't think there's anything fundamentally wrong with the Democratic party. I think this is a party that stands for an America that's strong, you know, through the kind of security alliances that made us strong in the Cold War, that has stood by people. I think those are the kinds of principles that we carry forward in this campaign and those that will continue. I think we need to do a better job of some of the politics, better job of, you know, being out there and organizing and pushing, advocating those positions and those are the things that I think the Democratic National Committee and Democratic party needs to focus on. Those are the things that John Kerry and people around him are going to be focusing on.

WOODRUFF: Cam Kerry, very good to see you. Hope you stay in touch in the weeks and months to come.

C. KERRY: Good to see you.

WOODRUFF: Democrats are still smarting though, from their losses on election day, are looking for leadership. Who will they choose to head up party? Coming up, we'll tell you about a candidate who's being talked up on Capitol Hill.

And handicap the field, as it stands right now.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: You can add another name to the growing list of Democrats who might replace Terry McAuliffe of the chairman of the Democratic party. Joining me now from Capitol Hill with the story, our congressional correspondent Joe Johns. Joe, what's the latest?

JOE JOHNS, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The name of former Indiana congressman and 9/11 commissioner Tim Roemer is now being promoted on Capitol Hill as a choice for the DNC chair. CNN has been told the two most powerful congressional Democrats Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi, both apparently indicating behind the scenes they think he would be a good choice. Of course, some indication, a lot of Democrats think anybody would be a good choice at this stage.

Leadership aides in both the House and the Senate say Roemer is telegenic, a good talker from the Midwest, he has congressional experience. But it's not clear right now whether he wants to get into the race. We have a graphic of a statement he released earlier today saying in part, "I've been approached very recently by several prominent Democrats inquiring about my interest in seeking the post of DNC chair. While I'm flattered by their confidence in me I have made no formal decision to seek the post. I am however consulting with my family, friends, and Democrats around the country to assess this potential opportunity and expect to make a decision very soon."

There is a pretty healthy list already of a number of Democrats who are talking about getting into that race, or in fact, in the race, including Howard Dean, Harold Ickes, Martin Frost. The things some Democrats say Roemer has is the added value of having participated in the 9/11 commission. A lot of Democrats indicating in their view many, many people outside the beltway got to see Tim Roemer perform during those hearings and after that, in fact. Of course, the DNC expected to take the issue up February 12. Judy, back to you.

WOODRUFF: All right, Joe, thank you very much for bringing the latest from the Hill. We want to continue all of this right now. To talk more about the Democratic leadership race, Chuck Todd, editor-in- chief of the "Hotline" an insider's political briefing produced daily by the "National Journal." What do you know, Chuck, about Tim Roemer?

CHUCK TODD, "THE HOTLINE": It's interesting, I'd heard this Tim Roemer stuff, that it was being pushed by Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi but what's interesting is that I also heard there is interest in -- that Harry Reid is very supportive of Martin Frost's candidacy, the outgoing congressman from Texas and then Martin Frost might have another big-time Democrat behind him, Governor Bill Richardson, the leading Hispanic in the party and more importantly the head of the DGA. And of course the DGA is trying to be a king-maker of sorts. That's not a done deal.

WOODRUFF: Democratic Governor's Association.

TODD: Yes. It's not a done deal you but it also indicates as Joe Johns said Harry Reid is supportive of the idea of Roemer. That doesn't mean he was endorsing Roemer over other people. I do think that there's certainly -- just shows you how fluid the race is.

WOODRUFF: Well, just a few days ago in Orlando at the end of last week, the Democratic state party chairs from around the country, got together, they heard from some of these candidates. What do you hear about the reaction?

TODD: The guy who made the biggest splash was a candidate that nobody was even sure he was going to be a full-time candidate. That is Ron Kirk, former mayor of Dallas, former nominee for the U.S. Senate in Texas. He was the most charismatic of the group. He stole the show. He went last when he gave his statements. He was the one to acknowledge that -- the sadness that there was no woman candidate, that went over very well. It's not clear who his constituency is but he left a good feeling and got more people talking about the idea of a two-headed DNC where Kirk would be the messenger and he might team up with say Harold Ickes. That is a rumor that is as substantial as any rumors that you hear these days.

WOODRUFF: If those people are still in the running are there any who didn't go over so well?

TODD: One that didn't go over well was former Michigan governor Jim Blanchard. He was trying to be the DGA's unofficial candidate. He fell flat, from the folks I talked to. And Leo Hendri (ph), who was the big donor, he went down there and left after four hours. Nobody knew him and he left and didn't tell his staff. They were sort of surprised. So that was his way of sort of dropping out. But I think the big news was Kirk and Wellington Webb did himself well. Harold Ickes didn't do as well as some thought but he wasn't as popular with this crowd. The state chairs and ACT didn't always get along. ACT was the leading 527, and so there was some tough talk there.

WOODRUFF: Who is going to determine, obviously it's everybody in the party is going to vote, the Democratic National Committee will vote, but who has the most influence?

TODD: Well, it's not clear. I don't know how much influence the congressional leaders have.

WOODRUFF: I just talked to John Kerry's brother. He was originally for Tom Vilsack. Vilsack dropped out.

TODD: Right. I think the governors have some influence. Remember, governors appoint state chairs. State chairs are actual voters in this race. Governors also appoint these DNC members or have a say. Governors more than anybody could if they want to exert the influence could exert a lot of influence. The state chairs are trying to stay together as a group. The governors want the state chairs to go their way. That's basically where the potential power centers. But Harold Ickes has been a member of the DNC forever. He may have more influence than any of these folks and people might find that out as this race moves along.

WOODRUFF: Very, very interesting. Stay with us. It's not over until February, the end of February. Chuck Todd, thanks very much.

"The Hotline" is an insider's political briefing produced daily by the "National Journal." You can go online to Nationaljournal.com for information about a subscription.

Up next, we continue our look at the politics inside the party as the various candidates try to build support. I'll talk with Simon Rosenberg, president of the New Democrat Network. He's also a candidate for party chair.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: As we continue our look at the race for Democratic party chairman I am joined by Simon Rosenberg. He was among those who addressed the state Democratic party chairs in Florida over the weekend. He also is the president of the New Democrat Network. Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS.

So you're definitely running?

SIMON ROSENBERG, NEW DEMOCRAT NETWORK: I'm definitely taking a serious look at it.

WOODRUFF: Definitely taking a serious look. We just heard Chuck Todd talking about the people who went over well and wowed the crowd. He didn't mention your name. I don't know how that happened. How do you think you did and does it matter?

ROSENBERG: Yes, it does matter. I think I did well. We've gotten a great response from the people who were there. I think I laid out the most comprehensive agenda of where we need to go as Democrats. It was really predicated on three things we need to do. First is we need a new vision and a better argument for where we want to take the country and the world. Second is that we need to invest in a modern infrastructure for Democrats. It feels oftentimes that the Republicans have more than we do when we go to fight with them every day and I think that they do. Third is we need a new vision for our community. Millions of people want to work for Democrats every day the last couple years. We need to make sure they stay engaged in our politics, that their passion is with us every day and they're partners in our fight and not just donors to our cause.

WOODRUFF: With all due respect, all of that sounds very good but it also sounds like what a lot of candidates are saying, the party needs to reorganize itself, it needs new passions, changing focus. What's different about what you have to offer?

ROSENBERG: Well, it's my record. I've been running one of the largest Democratic organizations in the country for the last eight years. I've shown that I can raise money...

WOODRUFF: By the way, how is the New Democratic Network different from all the other Democratic organizations we know about?

ROSENBERG: We help elect a new generation of political leaders. I think what we've been involved in is that we've raised tens of millions of dollars for Democrats, we've produced some of the most cutting-edge media campaigns in the country, leading in conversation by creating more modern media and intellectual infrastructure for the Democrats. I think the things we've been doing have been about building a 21st century winning formula for Democrats. I know how to win. I've got a track record that is very much like what a party chair does. I raise money, I work with candidates. I can work all parts of people in the party, all factions in the party. I think the critical thing is, we've been a winning organization that's been about helping people win. That's what the Democrats need right now.

WOODRUFF: But you don't have a public face like a Howard Dean or Tim Roemer or some of these other candidates, former mayors and governors. Is that a negative or are you envisioning a two-person leadership of the Democratic party, one public face, one manager?

ROSENBERG: I think what Democrats have to decide is what they want. If they want more of the same, there are a lot of candidates who are representing the current path of the Democratic party. What I really represent is a new and better direction for where we want to go. I really see this as looking ahead to '08, we're going do have presidential candidates whose job it is to the take on the next George Bush. My job is to take on Karl Rove and Ken Mehlman every day. They know how to run a party. One of the things we need is somebody who can go in there and manage the place, build a modern strategy and help us win elections. There are plenty of people who are going to be good spokespeople who aren't going to do a good job running the party. That's what I think I know how to do.

WOODRUFF: So you do envision a two-person?

ROSENBERG: No, I think there needs to be one chairman and I think if the powers that be decide there needs to be some other arrangement, all of us would be open to that. The Democrats are getting along right now in ways that I don't think any of us can remember. Because we united around the idea that we have to do a better job in making our case and steering the country in a different direction than George Bush is taking it right now.

WOODRUFF: Simon Rosenberg with the New Democrat Network, seriously thinking about running for chair of the Democratic National Committee. Thank you for being with us.

ROSENBERG: Judy, thank you so much.

WOODRUFF: We'll be following this in the weeks to come.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: With a beautiful sunset behind us we're out of time for INSIDE POLITICS. I'm Judy Woodruff. Thanks for joining us. "CROSSFIRE" starts right now.

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