CNN INSIDE POLITICS
Bush Becomes Campaign Road Warrior in Hopes of Reclaiming Senate for Republicans; Is Senator John McCain Ready for Prime Time?
Aired October 18, 2002 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JUDY WOODRUFF, HOST: The commander-in-chief turns campaign road warrior in hopes of reclaiming the Senate for Republicans, but is he still popular enough to pull it off?
JONATHAN KARL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Jonathan Karl on Capitol Hill. Is Senator John McCain ready for prime time? He prepares -- he has some tough acts to follow as he prepares to host "Saturday Night Live."
WOODRUFF: Also ahead, a debate free for all in Illinois.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you no shame? Are you talking about those Willis (ph) children? Have you no shame?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... "Jerry Springer Show?"
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: Live, from Washington, this is INSIDE POLITICS with Judy Woodruff.
WOODRUFF: Before we turn to -- thank you for joining us, and before we turn to INSIDE POLITICS, some breaking news from CNN's Jeanne Meserve on a witness police thought would be helpful in the sniper shootings -- Jeanne.
JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Judy, it is late breaking news. Fairfax County Commonwealth's Attorney Robert Horan has said that he does intend to press charges against this individual who will be charged with one count of making a false report to police officers in the course of an investigation. If this gentlemen is prosecuted and is convicted, there will be a sentence, perhaps of up to six months in prison.
You will recall that this individual gave police a very specific description of what went on in Falls Church. He described the shooter, bringing a gun to his shoulder and firing. He identified the gun as an AK-74, very specific about the distance the shooter was from the victim. He gave them a description of a cream-colored van with a damaged left tail light. Police say all of that has now been discredited, and now the decision to move ahead and bring charges against this gentlemen.
Now earlier today I talked to Robert Horan. He said that a prosecution was not a priority. What they wanted to do was continue with the sniper investigation, and he did not want to pull any detectives off that to worry about this witness. Now apparently a change of heart because this man, in the words of Horan, has indeed broken the law -- Judy, back to you.
WOODRUFF: Jeanne, what does this mean in terms of police receptiveness to hearing from other people who may have seen or heard something?
MESERVE: Well, you know, Chief Moose at his briefing today expressed the fact that he was a reluctant to even talk too much about this discredited witness because he was afraid it would look as though police were in a game with witnesses to either prove them right or wrong. He said that's definitely not the case and he reached out again to witnesses again today, trying to reassure them that there would be protections for them if they came forward, state and federal witness protection programs.
They are very keen on getting more public participation. They do believe that it is witnesses and public tips that will finally break this case for them.
WOODRUFF: All right. Jeanne Meserve with that news from our news room here in Washington.
Well, to INSIDE POLITICS now. No secret it is that many Republicans are hoping that President Bush's popularity will help their performance on election day. But even as Mr. Bush stumped for candidates today in Minnesota and Missouri, a new Gallup Poll shows his approval rating has dropped to 62 percent.
That is down eight points from a month ago, and the lowest since the September 11 attacks. In these trying economic times, Mr. Bush lost the most ground with Americans who earn less than $50,000 a year.
The numbers may not be the best send-off for the president as he presses ahead with a pre-election campaign marathon.
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GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I am proud to be here in southwest Missouri.
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WOODRUFF: In the 17 days between now and election day, the president is expected to stump for Republican candidates in more than a dozen states. He has already been all over the map this year, visiting a total of 40 states so far. Most of the president's road trips to date have been moneymakers. His record-setting cash haul for Republicans totals about $140 million. By our calculations, he has raised, on average, almost a half million dollars a day this year.
Our senior White House correspondent John King is traveling with the president. He is with us from Rochester, Minnesota. Hello there, John.
JOHN KING, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hello to you, Judy.
WOODRUFF: Is there -- is there some change in strategy on the part of the president in terms of what he's talking about out there?
KING: What he's talking about, yes, and also what he's doing, Judy.
President Bush, as you noted, has raised more than $140 million this year for Republican candidates, but between now and election day, two and a half weeks, only one more fund-raiser planned.
The president now is focusing on turning out the Republican vote. He was in, as you noted, Missouri earlier today, Springfield, Missouri, the conservative Bible belt, if you will, in Missouri, critical to Jim Talent's chances, the conservative Republican's turnout in that area.
Here in Rochester, Minnesota -- and it is chilly -- you can tell the election is getting closer -- The president trying to help the former mayor of St. Paul, Norm Coleman in his tough Senate race against Paul Wellstone. The president urging people to get out to vote.
As for what is different about what the president is saying, two key points today. Number one, the Democrats have been hammering the president on the economy in the past two weeks. Mr. Bush changing his speech a bit today, explicitly saying more than $30 billion at stake in both Missouri and here in Minnesota if the Senate does not vote to make the Bush tax cuts permanent.
The President saying it his tax cut that is bringing the economy back.
That is a very different message than the Democrats are making across the country, but the president challenging them directly.
Also, it was just yesterday in the Senate that any hopes of creating that new department of homeland security before the elections, passing that legislation before the elections, collapsed yesterday in the Senate. The president today, the day after, quite aggressive while campaigning for Jim Talent earlier in the day in Missouri. He told voters they could have a voice in this matter, they could decide whether he gets his way in the homeland security debate when they go to the polls on November 5.
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BUSH: Jim Talent understands what I'm talking about. You put him in the Senate, we'll get us a good homeland security bill, which will make it easier for presidents to protect America.
I need to be able to put the right people at the right place at the right time, and that's what the Senate must hear loud and clear, and one way they can hear it is they can hear it from the people. You can express yourselves right in the ballot box.
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KING: And, Judy, you noted the president's busy travel schedule. Quite a different scene. This President Bush from President Clinton during either of the two midterm elections during the Clinton administration.
You will remember back in 1994, the year of the Republican rout, Clinton was very unpopular because of his health care plan, his stand on gays in the military, and other issues. Mr. Clinton was not welcome in many parts of the country as Democrats campaigned. President Bush, in this midterm election, will visit 30 states in total, perhaps over the final month. That is the target right now. Bill Clinton back in 1998, at the height of the Monica Lewinsky and impeachment saga visited five states in the final month -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: As you say, 30, 40 states altogether and $130, 40 million. John, are they looking for one particular slice of the electorate, are they looking to bring out the Republican base, or swing voters, or what?
KING: It depends where you are. In Missouri, a swing state, Jim Talent needs conservatives to come out, but he has also reached out to African-Americans, dating back to his record as a member of Congress. Here, we just had behind me just a few moments ago, a gentlemen carrying a sign "Democrats for Coleman." Norm Coleman was a mayor of city with many Democrats. St. Paul is not a Republican bastion by any means. He needs Democratic crossover votes, he needs to get labor union members to ignore the advice they are getting from their labor leaders.
So, as the president goes state to state, he is tailoring his message because the six or seven Senate races, if we focus just on the Senate, likely to decide Democrats or Republicans in charge on January are very different when you go from state to state in terms of the dynamics that the Republicans in the White House believe will decide who wins on election day.
WOODRUFF: All right. John, thank you very much, traveling with the president.
Well, President Bush's finger pointing at Democrats over the homeland security bill isn't sitting well with Senator Joe Lieberman. I asked Lieberman about Mr. Bush's comments, and some Republican claims that Democrats care more about helping unions than they do about the national security.
SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN (D), CONNECTICUT: I must say that I find these comments to be both irresponsible and infuriating to me. I introduced the homeland security bill in October with my Republican colleague Arlen Specter. The president didn't support it. It was only eight months later he supported it. We agree now on 95 percent of the bill. He's troubled and wants more ability to move federal employees around and curtail some of their current rights.
We've basically given him a compromise on that, and so normally, I'm a trusting person, but some of my colleagues have said that this administration would prefer to have an issue in the campaign about homeland security rather than get this department created. And I'm beginning -- when I hear comments like the ones you've just spoken, Judy, to think that they may be right.
WOODRUFF: Senator Lieberman also is taking aim at the administration's economic policy. We'll have a little more of our conversation later on INSIDE POLITICS.
Right now, let's bring in CNN Political Analyst Stu Rothenberg of the "Rothenberg Political Report" -- Stu, we wanted to talk to you about these two states the president was in today where you have got Republican -- Democratic incumbents, sorry, you have got Paul Wellstone in Minnesota, Jean Carnahan in Missouri, and also want to talk to you about another Republican, open seat.
Wellstone -- the Republicans thought that he was going to be vulnerable, especially after he voted against the president going to war with Iraq -- what is happening there?
STU ROTHENBERG, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think he is vulnerable. The question is whether they can defeat them. In fact, if you listen to Democrats and Republicans, they have widely diverged in polls. Each party says his candidate is ahead. Wellstone is running his great populist campaign. He is always able to run against big business, tax cuts for big business. Character and trust is a big issue here. The Democrats have made an issue of the fact that Norm Coleman has switched parties, once endorsed Paul
ROTHENBERG: Wellstone is running his great populist campaign. He's always to run against big business -- tax cuts for big business. Character and trust is the big issue here.
The Democrats have made an issue of the fact that Norm Coleman has switched parties, once endorsed Paul Wellstone. The Republicans are responding, Yes, character and trust counts and Paul Wellstone went back on self-term limit pledge, on a pledge not to take outside PAC money.
I think the race is quite close. The key here, I think, Judy, getting back to what's important the base or swing voters. Norm Coleman is not running as well in rural conservative Minnesota as most Republicans would like. Part of the reason is -- is he's a New Yorker and he looks and sounds like a New Yorker. He's kind of slick. He's doing real well in the suburbs, but if George W. Bush can motivate the base out in rural areas, that would help Norm Coleman. WOODRUFF: Quickly to Missouri. Democrat Jean Carnahan running against Congressman Jim Talent. That's another very close one. What are the dynamics?
ROTHENBERG: It is. It appears that there may be actually a little -- little light between the candidates. There's a Republican poll showing 49, 41 for Talent (UNINTELLIGIBLE). There's a media poll showing the race too close to call. Democrats are hopeful about this race, but suddenly a little bit guarded.
I think Jean Carnahan has been a bit on the defensive. The Republicans are now attacking her. The National Republican Senatorial Committee has a TV add up about homeland security, that she's stopping the Bush plan.
WOODRUFF: All right. And finally, New Hampshire. Now this is a Republican -- it's open, but a Republican-held state. Bob Smith knocked off by another Republican, John Sununu. What's happened to the Republican plan there though?
ROTHENBERG: Well the Republicans are treading the water here. Everybody seems to agree that Sununu's lead right after the primary has dissipated. In fact, there are Democratic polls showing Shaheen's up a by a couple points.
Republicans say it in the margin of error -- that's a good indication that they realize that there's some significant trouble here. The problem is Sununu has not raised a lot of money. While the Republicans are spending money, the National Republican Senatorial Committee is spending on issue ads. Issue ads don't quite have the bite of candidate ads, and Shaheen has had the advantage.
The question is, will George Bush go in there and try to rally the Republican base? Can Sununu portray Shaheen as a liberal, or will Shaheen portray Sununu as either too conservative or ineffective?
WOODRUFF: And whatever they do, they've got 2 1/2 weeks to do it.
ROTHENBERG: Oh, yes. And the number of undecided voters is shrinking and shrinking and shrinking in most states -- except in Colorado, where nobody can figure out what to do.
WOODRUFF: Shrinking by the hour. We'll talk to you about Colorado next week. All right, Stu, thanks very much.
And now we want to turn to the headlines in our "Campaign News Daily." Illinois gubernatorial candidates Rod Blagojevich and Jim Ryan held one of the most heated debates of this election season last night. One of the biggest blowups happened after Democrat Blagojevich mentioned the death of six children in an accident related to a state bribery scandal.
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JIM RYAN (R), ILLINOIS GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: Have you no shame? Are you talking about those Willis (ph) children? Have you no shame?
ROD BLAGOJEVICH (D), ILLINOIS GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: Is this television or "The Jerry Springer Show?" Can I finish?
RYAN: No, no, you can't. No, you're not going to say that and I'm not going to let you get away with that. No, I'm not. Not with my family sitting there because that is an absolute, shameful thing to say.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOODRUFF: Recent polls have shown Blagojevich with a double- digit lead over Ryan.
In the South Carolina Senate race, a new poll finds Republican Lindsey Graham with a comfortable lead over Democrat Alex Sanders. The Mason Dixon poll gives Congressman Graham a 17-point lead in that race to succeed the retiring Strom Thurmond.
Texas Democrat Ron Kirk says his GOP Senate opponent John Cornyn is injecting racial politics into their campaign. Kirk, seen here with music mogul Russell Simmons, says he attended last weekend's Hip- Hop Summit to encourage young people to vote. Cornyn's campaign, however, has criticized some of the rappers who attended the summit because of their links to so-called "gangster rap recording," including one which features anti-police lyrics and some obscenities.
Senator Joe Lieberman talks dollars, cents and election year politics when we return.
Also ahead, something money can't buy Bill Simon. A fellow Republican suggests he has little respect for the Californian's gubernatorial campaign.
Live from New York, John McCain has some tough political acts to follow on Saturday night. Can he top this?
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JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SR. ANALYST: Do you think Franklin Roosevelt knew the cost of a loaf of bread? Do you suppose John F. Kennedy trolled the supermarket aisles looking for specials?
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WOODRUFF: Our Jeff Greenfield asks questions about prices and politics. This is INSIDE POLITICS, the place for campaign news.
WOODRUFF: Senator Joe Lieberman traveled to the Nasdaq headquarters today and took aim at White House leadership on the nation's economic challenges. I caught up with the Senator right after his speech and I started by asking his response to White House arguments that given the low inflation rate, low unemployment and low mortgage rate the economy isn't doing so poorly after all.
LIEBERMAN: You know, tell that to the couple of million people that have been put out of work in the last couple of years. Tell that to the people that have watched their 401(k)s drop trillions of dollars. Net investment rate has been down every quarter since President Bush came into office. And just tell that to the average American who knows that they are worried about their economic future.
Look, the president has given us good leadership in the war against terrorism and in the effort to disarm Iraq, and I've supported him in both of those. And now I'm saying, Mr. President, we need you to focus some of that leadership right back here at home on the economy and a lot of us in Democratic party will support you if you do.
WOODRUFF: But how is your package of tax rebates, tax incentives for business and other, and tax credits, any better than the president's package of tax cuts he passed last year?
LIEBERMAN: Well, two things. One is that some of the president's tax cuts last year were good. As far as I can tell, most of them have gone into effect. What still hasn't gone into effect it will a year from now, is more than a half billion dollars worth of tax cuts for people who make $300,000 or more. They don't need it.
The economy needs it, and so what I'm saying is take that -- those tax cuts and redirect them into tax cuts for businesses to create new jobs for consumers to go out and spend. And we need it now because I haven't talked to a business person anywhere in America in months who has any optimism about the future of our economy. The government needs to step in and really give it a charge.
WOODRUFF: Senator, if you -- if the economy matters to voters, as you suggested it does, why is virtually every political expert we talk to right now saying the Democrats are not benefiting politically from this issue?
LIEBERMAN: Well, I actually think when it comes down to election day, that the American people's unease about their economic future, and the failure of President Bush and the Republicans to offer anything resembling an economic recovery plan will lead a lot more people to vote Democratic. I think this election day is going to be a good one for Democrats, and right now people are focusing back on that.
Look, everybody is worried about terrorism and Iraq, but they are more worried about whether they can pay their bills, keep their jobs, send their kids to college. And that's what's going to be on their minds, I think, when they go to vote, and on that President Bush has offered no leadership and no help. Not even any ideas. Doesn't even seem to want to talk about the economy, but the American people are talking about it and they want help.
WOODRUFF: Senator, one other thing: North Korea, the disclosure this week that North Korea has a nuclear weapons program. They are even closer, apparently, to doing something about it than Iraq. You've got the United States now practically mobilizing to go to war with Iraq. Why shouldn't the response to North Korea be the same as it is to Iraq, which you have advocated?
LIEBERMAN: Yeah, because the North Koreans seem much more interested in engaging in diplomacy. The truth is, though, we know that they have been working on the so-called enriched uranium program. We don't know for a fact that they are very far along in developing nuclear weapons. There's some speculation that they may have made this declaration as a way to get some more economic aid and diplomatic recognition out of us.
I think in North Korea, you have got a regime that's trying to engage with the world and become part of the world community. In Iraq, you continue to have a dangerous dictator who is bent on expansion and aggression and supporting terrorism. So I think there -- one should be dealt with with great force. The other, North Korea, of course we don't want them to have nuclear weapons. They actually kept an agreement that was negotiated with them during the Clinton administration to stop developing plutonium-based nuclear weapons, and I think you have to deal with North Korea through tough diplomacy. And if we do, I think we can secure the situation.
It hasn't worked with Iraq. We've tried that for more than a decade now, and it hasn't work with Iraq.
WOODRUFF: All right, Senator Joe Lieberman, we're going to leave it there. We thank you so much for talking with us.
LIEBERMAN: Thank you, Judy. Have a good weekend.
WOODRUFF: Can either party make the case against a do-nothing Congress? One of the topics next in our "Taking Issue" segment.
Plus, tough criticism of California gubernatorial candidate Bill Simon from a fellow Republican.
But, first, let's turn to Mary Snow at the New York Stock Exchange for a market update. Mary, it was down, it was up, it was down, and then back up.
MARY SNOW, CNN FINANCIAL NEWS CORRESPONDENT: That's right. Hi there, Judy. Stocks taking a breather today after several days of sharp gains. Market watchers saying investors were torn between taking profits or buying more. By the closing bell, though, the Dow Industrials rose 47 points, and the Nasdaq composite gained 15. A mixed batch of earnings reports also kept investors on the sidelines.
Microsoft, the Dow member and Nasdaq heavyweight jumped two bucks. The software king trounced Wall Street earnings estimates, as revenues surged. Cosmetics giant Avon also beat expectations. But UAL, the parent of United Airlines, posted an $889 million loss, capping a week when most major airlines reported significant losses.
Overall, though, it was a winning week for Wall Street. The Dow, Nasdaq and S&P all rose about 6 percent, their second straight week of gains.
Meanwhile, Social Security recipients are getting the smallest cost of living increase in four years. More than 50 million Americans will get 1.4 percent more in their checks next year. That translates into an extra $13 a month for the typical retiree. A meager increase reflects the slowdown and inflation because of the weak economy.
Well, that's the latest from Wall Street. More INSIDE POLITICS ahead, including Colin Powell's tongue-in-cheek analysis of this week's election in Iraq.
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REP. TOM DAVIS (R-VA), CHAIRMAN, NATIONAL REPUBLICAN CONGRESSIONAL COMMITTEE: I just will say, I don't think there's a worse-run race in the governor than the governor's race in California on the part of the Republicans. I mean, this was a belt-high medium fastball, and we just seemed to have booted it.
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WOODRUFF: With us now Mindy Tucker, communications director for the Republican National Committee, and Jennifer Palmieri, press secretary for the Democratic National Committee. Surprisingly strong statement we just heard from the chief of the House Republican campaign, Tom Davis.
Mindy, is he right, and is this hurting any other campaigns?
MINDY TUCKER, COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, RNC: Well, Bill Simon is a good man, he is a good candidate. There certainly have been some missteps by some of the people making decisions inside his campaign, but they pale in comparison to Gray Davis' ethical problems and his leadership failures. We have got problems in California schools, they've had terrible energy problems. He's taken a surplus and turned it into a huge deficit in that state, and every day you hear about another pay-to-play scheme that he's been involved in where somebody's paid him off to do something in the government. I think he's been a horrible, horrible governor for the state of California, and no matter...
TUCKER: Well, see, that's the point. What's going to be really ironic is after having run the campaign the way they have, he still may beat Gray Davis. That's how bad off Gray Davis is.
WOODRUFF: Jennifer. JENNIFER PALMIERI, PRESS SECRETARY, DNC: Well, I think that Tom Davis is a very frank and honest official, and he spoke what even Republicans will admit is a big and open secret, which is that there's no way they're going to win California, and Bill Simon has run a terrible campaign. But moreover, Gray Davis has dealt with a lot of really tough economic problems, courtesy of the Bush administration, and he's done it well and he's going to win, and we're excited about -- we're excited to be holding on to California.
WOODRUFF: Let's talk about Congress. They announced this week they are going to take a recess, they're going to go away for a few weeks and come back now. Both sides are accusing the other party of holding things up. Mindy, the Democrats are saying -- the Republicans are saying it's the Democrats' fault, but the Democrats are saying the Republicans came up with extreme measures and they held up progress.
TUCKER: Well, there's a common trail for legislation in Washington. The president proposes something. The House passes it, and then the Senate doesn't do anything with it. All you have to do is look at the facts.
TUCKER: Look at the facts. And even they want to blame the Republicans and the president, they still on their own, Democrat-run Senate, don't even have to agree with the House or the president, couldn't pass a budget on their own. So there really is no room for these kinds of accusations. Just lay the facts out there and let the people decide. They'll realize that the Democrats did not act on important issues. They went home without passing a homeland security bill.
PALMIERI: OK, I have to cut her off, because this -- nothing gets Democrats more whipped up than this most indefensible, hypocritical, ludicrous argument that Tom Daschle is somehow an obstructionist. If you look at the accomplishments of the 107th Congress, just go back and look at the record. Any accomplishment that happened happened because Democrats led and Bush followed. Aviation security, corporate responsibility, campaign finance reform, election reform. The tax rebates that the president is so fond of saying helped to stimulate the economy, those were a Democrat idea...
PALMIERI: ... Tom Daschle, by the way, that the Republicans originally opposed, that they got enacted over the Republicans' objections, because the Democrats led. And the...
TUCKER: So why doesn't Tom Daschle lead and pass homeland security? If he can't get it done, he's not a leader.
PALMIERI: I'm so glad you brought up homeland security, because homeland security was a Democratic -- the idea of having a Department of Homeland Security was introduced by Joe Lieberman...
TUCKER: So, why can't he get it passed? PALMIERI: ... eight months before the White House supported it. The White House actively opposed that bill for eight months.
TUCKER: Why can't he get it passed, then?
PALMIERI: And if George Bush would take a couple minutes out of his busy fund-raising schedule and pick up the phone and call a couple Senate Republicans, we could get that bill passed today.
WOODRUFF: We may not have heard the last of this, but we're going to have to call it quits. It's Friday and we hope you both have a wonderful weekend.
TUCKER: Thank you.
WOODRUFF: Mindy, Jennifer, thank you both. Good to see you.
Ahead here on INSIDE POLITICS: pop quizzes and political candidates. Jeff Greenfield asks the question: Does it really matter if our candidates are up to speed on grocery store scanners and the price of milk?
WOODRUFF: The first game of the all-California World Series will be played tomorrow night. The San Francisco vs. Anaheim matchup may prove to be a classic battle between north and south.
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JESSE GARY, KRON REPORTER: It's one state, but two separate worlds. And the differences play out on the field and off. Pac Bell's crowd generates excitement with rally rags. In Anaheim, they have a rally monkey, a primate that probably should be in a cage. And fans down there love this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOODRUFF: Still ahead, the mayors of San Francisco and Anaheim each root for their cities and place their bets.
WOODRUFF: In our "News Alert": France reports progress on negotiations about a new compromise Iraq resolution proposed by the United States. The new draft drops explicit U.N. authorization for an attack on Saddam Hussein.
Meantime, actor Sean Penn is joining the Iraq debate. He paid $56,000 for a full-page ad in "The Washington Post" today, urging President Bush to stop the cycle where, quote, "Bombing is answered by bombing, mutilation by mutilation, killing by killing."
Possible war with Iraq is, of course, no laughing matter. But Secretary of State Colin Powell did find some humor in Saddam Hussein's reelection as president.
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COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: They even had an election in Iraq earlier this week. Saddam Hussein won with 99. 999 percent of the vote. Saddam Hussein asked his prime minister, What about the rest? The prime minister said, supreme leader, what more could you want?
In Baghdad, they don't have hanging chads. They just have hangings.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOODRUFF: Powell spoke last night in New York at a fund-raiser for Catholic Hospitals.
Well, when it comes to telling a joke, some politicians have it and some don't.
As our Jonathan Karl reports, Senator John McCain's sense of humor is being put to some new very high-profile tests.
KARL (voice-over): John McCain is hitting the comedy circuit. His style? Humor with an edge, on display last night on "Late Night with Conan O'Brien."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "LATE NIGHT WITH CONAN O'BRIEN")
CONAN O'BRIEN, HOST: What if Dick Cheney decided not to go another term as...
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Or...
O'BRIEN: Right. Exactly. Right.
O'BRIEN: Why am I the one that's trying to be so polite about everything and you're like, "Yes, his old ticker might go out the window"?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KARL: That's just a warm-up act. McCain will have heavier lifting tomorrow night as the guest host of "Saturday Night Live." He has got a tough act to follow. Politicians have provided some of "SNL"'s most memorable moments.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JANET RENO (D), ATTORNEY GENERAL: It's Reno time!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KARL: And politicians take this humor stuff seriously. Both Gore and Bush took time to do "SNL" less than three weeks before the election in 2000.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: I'm governor of our nation's second largest state, which is bigger than every other state, except one. Also, my father was president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KARL: Jesse Jackson put in a memorable performance. And, believe it or not, so did Steve Forbes. Rudy Giuliani wanted laughs so bad, he wore a dress. All this may explain why McCain, who says he refuses to wear a dress, is more than a little nervous, as he admitted on "Regis & Kelly."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KELLY RIPA, CO-HOST: Are you very, very nervous?
MCCAIN: Very, very nervous. Very, very, very nervous. Yes, yes.
KARL: No, seriously, he is nervous. With the exception of pre- "SNL" media appearances, like this one on "The Today Show," McCain has been rehearsing full-time since Wednesday, putting in the kind of time and energy presidential candidates dedicate to debate prep.
McCain's skits will include at least one featuring someone playing his Republican nemesis, George W. Bush, which should be entertaining given what McCain had to say about Bush on Conan O'Brien.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: Because he has nicknames for everybody. Does President Bush have a nickname for you?
MCCAIN: I've been told it's four letters, but I have not heard it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KARL: Now, ever since the pulled out of the presidential race more than 2 1/2 years ago, John McCain has been very careful not to criticize the president. But now apparently, tomorrow night, the president will be the target of his humor.
But, of course, Judy, this is about laughs, not about politics.
WOODRUFF: But he's been practicing since Wednesday, Jon.
WOODRUFF: It sounds like maybe something's up.
Jon, one other thing, a serious story you have uncovered, and that has to do with the leadership in the Senate.
KARL: Yes, this is very interesting.
There had been a lot of speculation that Senator Don Nickles, the No. 2 Republican in the Senate, would challenge Trent Lott for the Republican leadership here. But now we've learned that Senator Nickles has told Senator Lott that he will not challenge him for that leadership post.
And Senator Nickels has put out a statement through his spokesperson saying, very simply, Judy: "Senator Nickles and Senator Lott have talked. And it's Senator Nickels' expectation he will be budget chairman next year," which is code word for saying he is not going to be challenging Lott for the leadership.
WOODRUFF: Does that mean he didn't get the votes in an informal tally?
KARL: Informal tally, it didn't look good. And there had been a lot of tension behind the scenes between those two, as there was a question of whether or not this race would actually happen. Of course, Nickels all along has denied he's actually running. But now he has made it clear he will not run.
WOODRUFF: All right, Jon Karl, thanks for that. Appreciate it.
Portraying a political opponent as out of step with the average voter is one sure way to ensure an election victory.
Our Jeff Greenfield is with me now to talk about an increasingly popular tactic for testing candidates' common touch -- Jeff.
GREENFIELD: That's right, Judy.
Today, I rise to speak in defense of the clueless politician. You may remember that this show ran a clip yesterday from a Colorado Senate debate where both candidates were stumped about matters of everyday life. For those of you inexcusably absent, it went like this.
QUESTION: Do you know approximately how much a gallon of basic unleaded gas costs?
TOM STRICKLAND (D), COLORADO SENATE CANDIDATE: It costs about right now, I would say about $1.30.
QUESTION: $1.45 to $1.50.
Senator Allard, do you know how much a basic postage stamp costs?
SEN. WAYNE ALLARD (R), COLORADO: About 34 cents, 35 cents.
QUESTION: 37 cents.
GREENFIELD (voice-over): Pretty devastating tough, eh? Well, the fact is, clever journalists do this pretty much every election cycle, trying to show that the candidates are hopelessly out of touch with real ordinary life. Remember back in 1992 when President Bush appeared to puzzle over a supermarket checkout scanner?
Actually, it was a high-tech bells-and-whistles model. And that was supposed to prove that he was some high-living elitist?
GREENFIELD: Well, here's a madcap notion. Why in heaven's name would we want political leaders obsessed with that kind of information?
GREENFIELD (voice-over): Do you think Franklin Roosevelt, a wealthy aristocrat who was raised to a life of privilege, knew the cost of a loaf of bread? No. What he knew was that Americans were on their backs during the Depression and that strong federal action was needed to help them.
Do you suppose John F. Kennedy, son of a multi-millionaire, trolled the supermarket aisles looking for specials? No. He knew that, here and around the world, people were in desperate straits. And that's why his picture still hangs in the hovels of the poor all around the world.
Do you think Ronald Reagan, a one-time Hollywood movie star who didn't even know all the members of his Cabinet, pumped his own gas? No. But he knew that Americans felt the government had grown too big and too expensive. And that is why he remains a hero to millions.
GREENFIELD: Now, oh, yes, we have had leaders who knew every detail. Jimmy Carter, famously, was said to read the federal budget line by line. He even was said to know who was using the White House tennis court. But you know what? That may explain why he's far more celebrated as an ex-president than he was as chief executive.
Oh, one more thing. How many TV correspondents, anchors and analysts do you think could have answered those questions? -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: Jeff, this could get really ugly. I was going to ask you the price of a half-a-gallon of milk, but I'm just going to withdraw the question.
GREENFIELD: No, I would have ducked and said that we live in a milk-free environment. Try soy. But I'll tell you something, Judy. Any president who spends his time figuring out how much the mailroom is spending, I don't want that person as president.
WOODRUFF: OK, all right, at least we know where you stand, Jeff.
GREENFIELD: Yes, ma'am.
WOODRUFF: OK. Thanks very much. We'll see you next week. We appreciate it.
Just ahead: the unlikely pairing in this year's fall classic. I will talk with the mayors of Anaheim and San Francisco about what's riding on the outcome of the all-California World Series.
WOODRUFF: An all-California World Series may sound like a boon for the Golden State, but some people who care about politics wonder if the series will distract voters from the upcoming election. Well, that hasn't stopped the mayors of San Francisco and Anaheim from cheering on the teams from their respective cities.
On the eve of game one, I spoke with Anaheim Mayor Tom Daly and San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown.
Since the Angels have never been in the series, I started by asking Mayor Daly for his prediction.
TOM DALY, MAYOR OF ANAHEIM: This is a huge moment for us, Judy. This is a big celebration for us in Anaheim. We're very proud of our Anaheim Angels. And we expect victory.
WOODRUFF: Mayor Brown?
WILLIE BROWN, MAYOR OF SAN FRANCISCO: Well, we have obviously been to the big show before. The last time was 1989. And we got wiped out in four games by the Oakland Athletics. And that was the "Quake Series," just across the bay. We're due for redemption. And we absolutely hope we can clip the Angels' wings and keep the trophy in San Francisco.
WOODRUFF: Mayor Daly, what else is at stake here other than just the teams? Are we talking about two different parts of the state?
DALY: Yes. And, as is well known, Northern California and Southern California do have their differences. It's fun to have the series as the California clash. And these teams are exciting. They are both wild card teams, as you know. And the Angels are actually slightly favored, which is a different position for us. The Yankees were favored to beat us and we overcame them. And we're looking forward to taking on those big Giants from San Francisco. WOODRUFF: Mayor Brown, you want to say anything nice about Southern California and Anaheim right now?
BROWN: Well, I don't know Southern California well enough.
BROWN: I have no passport, nor can I get a visa to get down there, except for these two games. And so this is going to be a new experience for me, going to Southern California. I don't even know what you wear.
BROWN: I don't know what they eat down there or anything of that nature. But I'm going to test it.
WOODRUFF: Mayor Daly, some people are asking whether this is going to take a lot of attention away from that governor's race and some other elections you've got going on in the state. You have got a big vote coming up on November 5, like the rest of the country. Is this going to hurt turnout, do you think?
DALY: I think it will help turnout.
The governor came by last weekend for one of the playoff games. And Anaheim is the place to be right now. A lot of the Hollywood celebrities are driving over from Los Angeles. And with Willie Brown coming to Anaheim, we're looking forward to just a marvelous party this weekend in Anaheim.
WOODRUFF: Mayor Brown, how is this going to affect voter interest in your political contest out there? This is a political show. I have to ask you.
BROWN: Well, I think it will, as Mayor Daly said, cause people to focus some attention, because every politician in the state is going to want to get a little bit of camera time. And when we get camera time, we usually say something that hopefully turns the voters on and not off.
I think this will be the case. And I believe that, November 5, we'll see people still enthusiastic and experiencing euphoria, having in fact won the World Series, i.e., for California.
WOODRUFF: All right, I know you two have already made a wager. You have talked about sending a family from your respective cities to the other city. I guess that means you think the families would want to visit the other city, right?
BROWN: Well, the problem that I told Tom about yesterday was that he may never get his family back.
BROWN: They will enjoy San Francisco so much that they may never want to return to Anaheim.
WOODRUFF: And you are going to swap, let's see, caps, is that right? Mayor Daly, you are prepared to wear the Willie Brown fedora if the Angels lose?
DALY: As long as he'll wear a Gene Autry cowboy hat when the Angels beat the Giants.
And let me say that, when we send a family from Anaheim to San Francisco, they will be free to return at any time. That will be my instructions to them.
WOODRUFF: All right, we're going to leave it there.
Mayor Brown, Mayor Daly, thank you both. Appreciate it.
BROWN: All right, thank you.
WOODRUFF: We'll be watching the series.
DALY: Thank you.
WOODRUFF: The series gets under way tomorrow night, game one.
Putting aside past history in favor of potential future gains: When we return, Bill Schneider joins me to hand out the "Political Play of the Week."
WOODRUFF: We have an exclusive announcement for our "Political Play of the Week." Bill Schneider is with me now to deliver the news and present the award.
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, this just in, Judy: The Teamsters have announced that, next week, the union will endorse Kathleen Kennedy Townsend for governor of Maryland. She's a Democrat. They're a union.
So what makes that the "Political Play of the Week"?
LT. GOV. KATHLEEN KENNEDY TOWNSEND (D-MD), MARYLAND GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: I declare my candidacy for governor.
SCHNEIDER (voice-over): She's the late Robert Kennedy's daughter. Who's the president of the Teamsters? The late Jimmy Hoffa's son. The Teamsters endorsement brings back memories of one of the great blood feuds of American history. Robert Kennedy was chief counsel to the Senate Labor Rackets Committee in the late 1950s, the committee that hauled in Jimmy Hoffa to testify about union corruption. The two men became bitter enemies.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT KENNEDY: Did you say, "That SOB, I'll break his back"?
JIMMY HOFFA, TEAMSTERS PRESIDENT: Who?
R. KENNEDY: You.
HOFFA: To who?
R. KENNEDY: To anyone.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHNEIDER: For a decade, Kennedy and Hoffa fought a personal duel. How personal?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
R. KENNEDY: There was testimony developed eventually in connection with threats against me and against my family.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHNEIDER: As attorney general in the 1960s, RFK poured resources into his campaign to get Hoffa. One journalist called it perhaps the most sustained legal assault against one person our government has ever waged. Kennedy lived to see Hoffa go to jail in 1967.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HOFFA: They will find this is another propaganda scene of Mr. Robert Kennedy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHNEIDER: But Hoffa remained a hero to the Teamsters, to the day he got out of jail in 1971, pardoned by Richard Nixon. To the Teamsters in those days, Kennedy and the federal government were the enemy.
See the young man in this picture? He's Jim Hoffa, Jimmy's son, now president of the Teamsters, the union that's endorsing Robert Kennedy's daughter for governor and giving her $50,000, plus 30,000 potential union supporters in Maryland. What kind of statement are the Teamsters making?
BRETT CALDWELL, TEAMSTERS SPOKESMAN: We're the new generation. Jimmy Hoffa and her father, Robert Kennedy, had a significant amount of animosity. And this generation of leaders, in both the Kennedy family and from the Hoffa family, have moved beyond that.
SCHNEIDER: The Kennedys and Hoffas, allies, a coup for Kathleen Kennedy Townsend and the "Political Play of the Week." (END VIDEOTAPE)
SCHNEIDER: The personal battle between RFK and Jimmy Hoffa turned into a prolonged siege between the Teamsters and the federal government. It's still going on. The Teamsters have been subject to government oversight since 1989. But it's not personal anymore -- Judy
WOODRUFF: All right, that exclusive bit of reporting. Thank you very much. We appreciate it.
And we have this information just in to CNN: And that is that the witness who gave police a lot of information in that last sniper shooting here in Washington on Monday night has now been charged by police with one count of making a false report to police officers in the course of an investigation. He is 37-year-old Matthew Dowdy, a resident of Falls Church, Virginia.
Police originally had said they wouldn't pursue this. Now Matthew Dowdy, 37 years old, has been charged with giving the police false information about what he saw, what he said was a man with a cream-colored van. He described the weapon -- all of it now made up. And the investigation continues.
INSIDE POLITICS will be right back.
WOODRUFF: That's it for INSIDE POLITICS this Friday. Have a great weekend.
I'm Judy Woodruff.
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