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Interview With Democratic Senator John Edwards; President Bush Looks to Strengthen Economy

Aired January 2, 2003 - 16:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: Senator John Edwards out of the gate, trying to bring a common touch to the race for the White House.


SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D), NORTH CAROLINA: If the American people want somebody who's a lifelong politician to be their president, that's not me.


ANNOUNCER: President Bush sees the landscape and prepares to roll out his plan to quicken the pace of the economy.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Some would like to turn this into class warfare. That's now how I think.


ANNOUNCER: Frist to the rescue. At the scene of a deadly car wreck, the surgeon-turned-Senate-majority-leader stops to help.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was very heartwarming to see someone of his stature stop to render aid.



CANDY CROWLEY, HOST: Thanks for joining us. Judy is off this week. I'm Candy Crowley.

Even as another Democrat jumped in to the race for the White House, President Bush signaled his concern about a potent campaign issue.

In this "Newscycle": Mr. Bush says he'll unveil his economic stimulus package next week. During a nature hike on his Texas ranch, he rejected Democrats' charges that his tax breaks have benefited the wealthy -- more on that ahead.

And president hopeful John Edwards is accusing the Bush administration of being run by and for insiders. As expected, the North Carolina senator announced his campaign plans today, the third Democrat to make it clear he's a candidate, with more expected in the days ahead.

I spoke with Senator Edwards today and asked how he plans to stand out in a field teeming with fellow members of Congress who have bigger names and longer political resumes.


SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D), NORTH CAROLINA: Well, it's really very easy. What I have seen since I've gotten to Washington is that there is a distance between some leaders -- not all, but some leaders in Washington and regular Americans. And what I am about, my whole life has been spent growing up with, coming from and fighting for regular Americans. That's what I'm about. It's the reason I ran for the Senate. And those are the people I want to champion in the White House, Candy. And I believe that their perspective is that somebody like me, who's close to them and connected to them, actually has exactly the right kind of experience.

I think I'm different than some of the other Democrats, certainly different than the president in some respects. I mean, these other Democrats that I know of who are running are good people, I have a high opinion of them. I happen to believe that they would make a better president than President Bush, the president we have.

But if the American people want somebody who's a lifelong politician to be their president, that's not me. I present something very different. And what I believe I present is somebody who understands them, understands their lives, and has real ideas, substantive, specific ideas about how to make their lives better.

CROWLEY: It's long been said that you have talked to former President Bill Clinton, gotten advice from him on how to run a campaign, and are sort of modeling your campaign against that of a southern governor who obviously made good and came to Washington.

How frequently do you talk to the former president? Has he been instrumental in plotting out this first year?

EDWARDS: I've talked to the president with some regularity. He has lots of ideas, lots of very good ideas about what needs to be done on all the things that I've been talking about, including making America safer, getting the economy going again, growing the economy over a long period of time. And in that respect, talking about what needs to be done for the country and looking forward looking and a vision for the country, he has been helpful to me.

I am not basing or building my campaign on anybody else. I mean, I'm my own person. I come from my own place. There are lots of differences between President Clinton and myself. And I'm going to run as myself and the things that I offer the American people. But it is helpful to talk to President Clinton and others who have ideas about how to move the country forward.

CROWLEY: I want to ask you, lastly, about the political spectrum and where you are on it. You are often described as having a liberal voting record. The liberal groups tend to give you high ratings. The conservative groups give you low ratings. Are you a liberal Democrat?

EDWARDS: I'm a mainstream North Carolinian. I think my views and my values represent the values of most people in this country. I don't make ideological decisions about anything. I decide about what I think is in the best interest of the regular folks that I grew up with and have fought for all my life, and without regard to where it fits on some ideological spectrum.

I don't think that's the way normal people think. I think they think about: Is he responsible? Is he honest? Is he exercising good judgment? Is he doing the right things for the country? Which is exactly what they should be thinking.

CROWLEY: Since you brought up North Carolinians, you've said that you're going to make a decision later on whether to run for the U.S. Senate as you pursue this presidential campaign. Doesn't that look as though, "Well, if I don't make it too far in the presidential campaign, I've always got the Senate seat to fall back on"? And how will North Carolinians look at that?

EDWARDS: No, I don't think so. One of the things that I have done and I am going to do going forward is to go around North Carolina, tell people why I'm running for president, why I think it's important, why I think it's important for our perspective to be seen and heard by the rest of the country, and listen to their ideas about what they think needs to be done in America.

CROWLEY: When's the right time to make that decision, then?

EDWARDS: Oh, I don't have a timetable. I think it'll be obvious when the appropriate time comes. That's a judgment I'll make down the road.


CROWLEY: More of my interview with John Edwards ahead, including his ideas to beef up the war on terror.

Well, a new guy in the circle, so it's time to bring in our guy in Los Angeles, Bill Schneider.

Bill, look, the rap here is, he's got four years of political experience, zippo experience in international affairs. Is there any sign that really hurts him?


I think his stock fell after September 11. If September 11 hadn't happened, I think John Edwards would be a very attractive Democratic candidate, because I believe the corporate scandals would have done enormous damage to the Bush administration. This is the most corporate administration in the American history.

But the miracle is, the Bush administration really wasn't damaged so much by those scandals. The result is that there's a new focus on national security, world affairs. And outsiders don't look as attractive as they might have.

Politics is timing, Candy. In 1976, Jimmy Carter came in and he was an outsider. People wanted someone to come in and clean up the mess after Watergate; 1980, Reagan, after Jimmy Carter. In 1992, Clinton, whom Edwards just said he consults with, he came in as an outsider because things were such a mess in Washington. Well, I'm not sure you can say that right now.

Problem: Two years from now, everything could be different and it could be John Edwards' moment. We don't know.

CROWLEY: I'm just reminded, Bill, that, after 9/11, we talked a lot about how experience was in, and, in the midterms, experience would play out. It didn't always play out. And I'm just wondering whether there's any poll numbers that indicate that maybe it's different on a presidential level, that people are looking for a little something more?

SCHNEIDER: Yes, on a presidential level, it is different, because that is the one office in the country where national security issues are front and center, more than senator, more than governor, more than anything else.

When people vote for president in this election, I believe they are going to be looking for someone who can make them feel safe. That's what the theme is likely to be, unless the economy tanks, and, in which case, George Bush may look a little bit more like his father. That's what he's got to be worried about. If he begins to look like his father, John Edwards will look like Bill Clinton. And that could be a big problem.

But, at the moment, people want someone with stature, gravitas, experience in the world. Remember, Bush was only a term-and-a-half governor of Texas, but he was surrounded by people like Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld and Colin Powell, who knew their way around the world. I'm not sure John Edwards can give people that assurance.

CROWLEY: Really quickly, Bill, be a political consultant for a minute. What can John Edwards do about that experience stature gap?

SCHNEIDER: Well, he took a trip around the world. He's issued statements on policy positions. I'm not sure he can do a great deal. You can't just snap your fingers and say, get me some experience.

What he has done is put a little bit of a personal spin on it by saying he wants to approach national security from a populist perspective by telling the American people what they can do to make themselves safer. It more or less sounds like a civil defense effort, because he says he wants to get ordinary people more involved in the homeland security process. And that may be very smart.

CROWLEY: CNN political analyst Bill Schneider out in Los Angeles -- Bill, come home some time.


CROWLEY: Thanks.

We have more buzz today on Tom Daschle's decision-making process as he mulls a presidential race. A source close to the Senate Democratic leader says he may sound out his colleagues at the Democrats' first caucus next week. If he runs, Daschle is said to be leaning towards staying on as minority leader for some time, noting that former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole didn't step down from that post until he won the Republican presidential nomination in 1996.

And as Democrats line up for his job, President Bush told reporters today he's got other things on his mind.


BUSH: I'm Not paying attention to the race yet. I've got a lot on my agenda and a lot on my platter. And I understand politics, and I know there's going to be a lot of verbiage and a lot of noise and a lot of posturing, a lot of elbowing, and to me, that's just going to be background noise. My job is to protect the American people and work to create confidence in our economy so that people can find work.


CROWLEY: Mr. Bush also says he wasn't paying much attention to the prospect of a rematch with Al Gore. Gore recently announced he would not run for president in 2004.

Republican Bill Frist has gotten a lot of publicity in recent weeks for his sudden rise to the top job in the Senate. Now the doctor-turned-lawmaker has made news in a very different way: at the scene of a terrible traffic accident in Florida.

CNN's Susan Candiotti is in Broward County -- Susan.


It was an especially violent scene on a very busy highway called Alligator Alley, I-75, that crisscrosses Florida's Everglades. Now, Senator Bill Frist did not see the accident. But, with about four other good samaritans, they did find themselves in the right place at the right time and decided to lend a helping hand.

An 11-year-old girl died at the scene. She was one of six people in an SUV. According to Florida Highway Patrol, the tire tread separated. The driver lost control of the car. And the car flipped over several times.

Now, the senator, according to rescue workers, called 911, advised them what kind of medical equipment to bring, helped to stabilize the patients, even triaged them. That means prioritizing the injured by the extent of their injuries. Rescue workers said they were impressed with everyone, including Senator Frist. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LT. ALLISON DEMARCO, BROWARD CO. FIRE & RESCUE: I was assisting Captain Andrews with the airway. And he was assisting us with suctioning. I was holding the patient's jaw. And he was assisting Captain Andrews with the suctioning and clearing out of the airway, so we could see to intubate the patient.

He was very helpful. He was very conscious of what we were doing. He was -- his medical training was obvious to us at that point. And Captain Andrews asked him if he was medically trained. And that's when he identified himself.


CANDIOTTI: Senator Frist has declined to speak on camera about what role he played. However, through a spokesman, he did offer this statement.

He said -- quote -- "As a doctor, my first instincts are to help. And I was privileged to offer my assistance today at the scene of this horrible accident." He added: "My heart goes out to the family, which must face the start of a new year with this terrible tragedy. My thoughts and prayers are with them. I also want to commend the outstanding performance of the emergency medical personnel and law enforcement officers, who responded with tremendous professionalism and expertise."

This is something that rescue workers here are saying the same thing about not only Senator Frist, but others who stopped to help. And they said they wish they would see more of this kind of thing happen -- Candy.

CROWLEY: Thanks, Susan Candiotti, down there in Florida. Thanks a lot.

President Bush is hoping to perform some first aid of his own on the economy. Coming up: Mr. Bush's next steps, as new jobless claims climb.

Also ahead:


EDWARDS: I think this is a place where we haven't asked enough of the American people. They want to contribute. They want to feel like they're making their families and their own communities safer.


CROWLEY: How would John Edwards wage the war on terror? More of my interview with the presidential hopeful.

JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SR. ANALYST: I'm Jeff Greenfield in New York.

Liberals are fretting about the power of the conservative media. It's a new twist on an old story about alleged media bias and clout.


CROWLEY: It's a new year for political battles here in Washington. What will Democrats and Republicans butt heads about in the coming days and weeks? Still ahead, Donna Brazile and Bay Buchanan have a preview and some fireworks of their own.

Stay with us.


(voice-over): It's time to check your "I.P. I.Q." Who was the last North Carolina politician to run for president? Was it, A, outgoing Senator Jesse Helms, B, former Senator Sam Ervin, or C, former Governor Terry Sanford?

Stay with INSIDE POLITICS. We'll tell you the answer later on in the show.



CROWLEY: President Bush held another informal Q&A session with reporters today at his Texas ranch.

CNN's Dana Bash is keeping tabs on the walking, talking president in Crawford, Texas -- hey, Dana.


Well, that's right. The president took reporters on a four-mile nature hike at his ranch here in Crawford, Texas. He took them around and told them about all the sights and sounds of his 1,600-acre ranch.

But, you know, Candy, when you have reporters with you, you're going to get questions. And he sure did. He got questions on North Korea, where he said that he still seeks a diplomatic solution. He got questions on Iraq, where he says, once again, that Saddam Hussein must disarm or he will force the coalition militarily to force him to disarm.

And he also made some news on the economy. The president told us that he is going to make a speech next week where he's going to unveil a package that he hopes will stimulate the economy.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, what I'm worried about is job creation. And I'm worried about those who are unemployed. I am concerned about those who are looking for work and can't find work. And so, next week, when I talk about an economic stimulus package, I will talk about how to create job, how best to create job, as well as how to take care of those who don't have a job. I'm concerned about all people. And I don't view the politics of -- you know, I understand the politics of economic stimulus, that some would like to turn this into class warfare. That's not how I think. I think about the overall economy and how best to help those folks who are looking for work.


BASH: And, of course, that reference to class warfare is a prebuttal of sorts. You could expect Democrats to come out, as soon as he gives his speech next week, to say that he's simply trying to help the wealthy and not the needy and that his way is not the right way to help the economy -- Candy.

CROWLEY: Dana, listen, he's right, I'm sure, that the Democrats will indeed come out, because they have complained about the tax cuts before.

Is there anything that the president and his advisers are planning that might take some of the wind out of that complaint?

BASH: We're hearing that there is a chance that they will include some kind of tax break for lower-income Americans. That, of course, has been the argument the Democrats have been making, that the president wants to help the wealthiest Americans. There was talk that perhaps the president would accelerate the 2001 tax cut, across-the- board personal tax cut, that he would accelerate it for the top bracket.

We're hearing now that perhaps that won't happen. So, we're hearing that, in addition to those things, he might give some tax breaks to businesses and some tax breaks on personal dividends, help people with their stocks, to keep cash in their pockets for their stocks. So, he's certainly thinking about trying to blunt some of that criticism, no question about it.

CROWLEY: Let me just turn you to politics really quickly.

We heard the president say that he wasn't paying much attention to what's going on in the Democratic field for '04. John Edwards announced today. Maybe he's not paying attention, but something there has got to. Are they watching this field shape up?

BASH: Well, Candy, he was asked about that on his nature walk and he said: Oh, that's just background noise. I'm not thinking about politics now. I'm thinking about things that the president needs to think about.

Of course, we're in 2003 now. The election year is just next year. And, for any president, the next election is just around the corner. So, with Edwards' decision to come on board and others to follow, there's no question they're thinking about it here at the White House -- Candy.

CROWLEY: Thanks very much, Dana, White House correspondent, in Crawford. We appreciate it. Now, up next, Donna Brazile and Bay Buchanan on the big political battles in the year ahead.

Also, Senator John Edwards talks about the war on terror and national security in the second half of my one-on-one interview.



(voice-over): It's time to check your "I.P. I.Q." Earlier, we asked: Who was the last North Carolina politician to run for president? Was it, A, outgoing Senator Jesse Helms, B, former Senator Sam Ervin, or C, former Governor Terry Sanford? The correct answer is C. Former Governor Terry Sanford ran for the 1972 Democratic nomination, but lost to Senator George McGovern.



CROWLEY: With us now: former Gore campaign manager Donna Brazile and Bay Buchanan, president of American Cause.

Welcome. Happy new year. Good to see you, all that. OK, welcome to the campaign of '04.

The president, being presidential, will have an economic plan very shortly. What has to be in it that will quiet the Democrats from the charge that all of his policies favor the rich?

DONNA BRAZILE, CHAIRWOMAN, VOTING RIGHTS INSTITUTE: Well, in the short term, he needs a plan to restart the economy, get it growing again.

He also needs to look at tax cuts that are fair and aimed at the right people, the middle class, perhaps a payroll tax cut that will help boost the economy and get people $765 a year first $10,000 of their payroll. I think that's what he needs to do. He's been president now for over two years. He doesn't have a plan or a strategy to bring us back to fiscal discipline.

And I think he needs to include in that package that he will put out a growth package that will really get small businesses back hiring people again.

CROWLEY: Do you agree 100 percent?

BAY BUCHANAN, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN CAUSE: Well, I agree, obviously, on some of the things that she's proposed, because that's part of the president's program anyhow.

But there is nothing that the president can say that will keep the Democrats from making the charge that it's class warfare, because their whole purpose right now is to distinguish themselves from the Republican Party. There were too me-too for too many years, the me- too party. And so people don't see a difference. They are writing their talking points now, even before they see the president's proposal.

And I think that the president should come out as a very bold, tax-cutting, tax stimulus, both for the middle class and for industry as well. And if he throws in that payroll tax cut, I'll be all for it as well.

BRAZILE: Well, that's good, because the tax cut has created such a huge deficit. And we need to figure out a way to get our economy growing in the short term, but also long term. Those tax cuts are just driving this economy down to you know what, the sink.

BUCHANAN: We've been in a recession. In addition to that, we had the ramifications of the terrorist attacks, all that, the corporate scandals, enormous impact on this economy. We cannot blame these difficulties we're having on the tax cut. That can be a stimulus. And that's in the president's proposal.

The thing that he could do that would really help keep him from being chastised, I believe, is to get some of those Democrats, like he did before, voting with him.


BRAZILE: I don't think so.

Look, here's the interesting thing. We had 12 Democrats who voted with him. And he went down in the South and in the Midwest and campaigned against them. So, two of them are gone. And I don't believe the other 10 will join him again.

CROWLEY: Do we agree that the economy, at the start of the year, is the big deal?

BRAZILE: Absolutely.

BUCHANAN: Absolutely.

CROWLEY: Yes. And do we agree that, regardless of what has caused this economy, it's on George Bush's watch now?

BUCHANAN: Oh, it is. But this is the thing to remember.

The election now is just a little bit under two years away. If the economy is strong, there's nothing they can say to him two years from now that is going to stick. Then people are going to be very content that the economy is strong. And so does it doesn't matter what he does now, unless what he does now does not help to stimulate the economy.

If he gives a very strong proposal and helps to stimulate the economy, things will be fine. If the economy is weak, they're going to hit us. They're going to hit us and hit us, and legitimately so, because he'll be on the line. BRAZILE: We all know the states are facing a huge deficit, over $50 billion. The president really needs to put forward a strategy that helps these states. We know, every time we take from the federal revenue, it hurts and impacts the states. So, it's time that the Bush team really gives economic


BUCHANAN: Why should we help the states? The state have been unwise in the way they spent the money, just like the federal government was unwise. They had a little extra money, so what did they do? They spent, they spent and they spent. Now, all of a sudden, they don't have the extra money.

This is for the states to solve and it's for the feds to solve their problem, not for the feds to solve the state's problem.

CROWLEY: I've got to interrupt, because I want to get you to give me your quick list of what other issues will be top news politically this year.

Go ahead.

BUCHANAN: Spending.

BRAZILE: Absolutely.

BUCHANAN: There's going to be enormous battles on the spending, again, the class warfare.

CROWLEY: Cuts in spending.

BUCHANAN: Cuts. You have to have some cuts. We've got to get some control. And that's both a Republican problem, as well as Democrats. They've been spending too much.

BRAZILE: But first we need appropriation. We need some appropriation bills. We didn't get them passed last year.

CROWLEY: Don't do Washington speak on me.


BRAZILE: No, no.

CROWLEY: It's going to be about spending cuts.


BUCHANAN: Exactly right. And everybody's going to be screaming. You're going to have -- I believe you could have a couple Supreme Court justices appointed, as well as judges.

BRAZILE: Health care. Health care is going to be a major issue. Patient's bill of rights is still on the table, prescription drugs. I also think the environment will be a top issue this coming year. And abortion. I'll tell you...

BUCHANAN: I hope so.

BRAZILE: No. Leave it, leave Roe vs. Wade intact. That's the message.

BUCHANAN: Let's start putting some real restrictions...

BRAZILE: There have been enough restrictions.

BUCHANAN: Congress should start moving it back, moving it back, moving it back, restructuring abortion.

BRAZILE: A woman's right to choose, privacy, that will be a top issue as well. And I also think that civil rights issues will continue to percolate on the national agenda.

BUCHANAN: We haven't talked about it. I think the war -- both sides will support the war with Iraq, if we do end up at war.

But then there's going to be a period of time where the war's over and it's the occupation of Iraq the consequences thereof. And that's when the Democrats, I believe, will start separating themselves from the policies of the Bush administration.

BRAZILE: North Korea.

CROWLEY: And North Korea.

BRAZILE: North Korea.

CROWLEY: I'm assuming you all will come back often and we'll talk about all those things.

Donna Brazile, Bay Buchanan, thanks, as always.

BRAZILE: Thank you. Happy new year.


CROWLEY: Up next: Is it a case of mistaken identity? We'll have an update on an FBI wanted list in the war on terror.

And if John Edwards becomes president, how would he keep you safe? More our conversation coming up on INSIDE POLITICS.


CROWLEY: Are Republican bound for the Big Easy? Bob Novak has the "Inside Buzz" ahead on INSIDE POLITICS, but first, this "News Alert."

The FBI says it cannot yet confirm that it released an incorrect photograph as part of a manhunt for five men who apparently entered the U.S. illegally. To be sure, agents say they need to talk to the Pakistani jewelers who says one of the picture is of him. CNN's Jeanne Meserve has been following this story for us.

Jeanne, what is the latest chapter in this?

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Candy, FBI officials are now in Lahore, Pakistan, but the agency says it doesn't know when an interview Mohammed Asghar will take place.

Asghar is the Pakistani jeweler who bears an uncanny resemblance to a photo identified by the FBI as being of Mustafa Khan Owasi, one of five mention authorities believe may have tried to enter the U.S. illegally on Christmas Eve. A senior FBI official even acknowledges -- quote -- "It sure looks like him."


MOHAMMED ASGHAR (through translator): I was in this very market on December 24. The other shopkeepers will vouch for me that I was here.


MESERVE: Asghar says he's never been to the U.S. and doesn't have a clue how the FBI might have gotten his photo.

But Asghar once tried to enter Britain with forged travel documents. And sources tell CNN that the FBI photos did come from an individual involved in forgery and smuggling, a man named Michael John Hamdani, who was arrested in Canada two months ago on charges of running a passport and traveler checks scam.

President Bush said smuggling rings must be dealt with, particularly if there is a suggestion that they're linked with terrorism.


BUSH: And people have feeling like they got to travel here with false passports sends a pretty alarming signal to those of us who are involved with the security of the country.


MESERVE: An administration official says authorities do not know how the five men the FBI is looking for may have gotten into the country. But a law enforcement source tells CNN there is a -- quote -- "distinct possibility" that they were smuggled in through the St. Regis Mohawk Indian reservation, which straddles the New York-Ontario border. The law enforcement source says there is no concrete evidence that that is how the men entered, but international smuggling rings have used that route in the past -- Candy.

CROWLEY: Jeanne, even if they find out this man is, in fact, the same man as in the photo, it's possible, isn't there, that the passport was made using that photo to a man who looked similarly?

MESERVE: That's right. It could be a look-alike. It could be a twin, for all we know. We don't know at this point.

That's exactly why the FBI is on the ground in Lahore and why they, along with Pakistani officials, will be trying to get to the bottom of exactly whose picture this may be.

CROWLEY: Homeland security correspondent Jeanne Meserve, we will await the next chapter. Thanks, Jeanne.

Senator John Edwards has criticized the Bush administration's effort to protect the homeland. Now that he's in the running for Mr. Bush's job, I asked the North Carolina Democrat what he would do that the president is not doing.


EDWARDS: Well, what I actually said was, we're not doing enough. I think we have done some things that move us in the right direction, but there are things we clearly need to be doing that we have not done.

First, I think we need to have a specific intelligence agency that's responsible for fighting terrorists, rooting them out and stopping them within our borders instead of having...

CROWLEY: A separate -- I'm sorry. Let me just interrupt you one second. A separate intelligence agency beyond the CIA, beyond the FBI. You want a third one.

EDWARDS: I want one that does the job in our country and have the FBI do what it does best, which is law enforcement. We've seen the problems with the FBI. It's a mentality. They focus on law enforcement. It's very different than intelligence gathering.

I would give that responsibility to a separate domestic intelligence agency, make sure we've built in safeguards to protect our liberties and protect our freedoms. But I think it is clear that that would be a more effective way of going after terrorists offensively, aggressively within our shores.

The second thing I would do is, I think we have to do a better job protecting our borders, protecting them from dangerous people, dangerous things. The third thing is making sure our most vulnerable targets -- chemical plants, nuclear plants, stadiums -- that we a much better job of protecting them. Provide more and more experienced security at those facilities.

And fourth, to do something to address the problem of domestic readiness. You know, most people in America today, Candy, don't know what they're supposed to do today different than what they were supposed to do on 9/11 if a terrorist attack occurs.

And what if an attack occurs in the middle of the night when most people don't have their televisions on and don't have their radios on?

We need a systematic way to reach people, to warn them. One way to do it is via a special telephone warning system. But to make sure we can reach everybody, get people in the communities more engaged in their own safety.

CROWLEY: Let me move you to another part of the world, and that is North Korea. Prior to what they felt was an agreement with North Korea, the Clinton administration decided that if they did rev up their nuclear reactors that they would bomb the nuclear reactors. The Bush administration has pretty much revoked that idea. Where do you stand on this, with the former Clinton administration or George Bush?

EDWARDS: Well, I have my own idea about what we ought to do with respect to North Korea. I think it's a three-piece approach.

First, I think we have to rebuild our relationship with South Korea. I mean, you read today and yesterday's newspapers, there's an enormous wave of anti-Americanism in South Korea, and they're critical to us being able to deal with the issue of North Korea. So we need to rebuild that relationship.

Second, and this is something I think the administration is doing, we need to build an international coalition. The North Korean problem is not just a problem for America. It's a problem for Russia, it's a problem for Japan, it's a problem for the entire international community. And we need to bring the world together to address this problem and this threat.

I do think it's a crisis, by the way. I think it's a very serious problem.

And third, once that's done, once that coalition is in place and ready to exert pressure, we need to sit down with the North Koreans and be tough, but be willing to negotiate with them.

CROWLEY: Moving you back to another corner of the world, Iraq. As far as you're concerned, are they in compliance? Does the U.S. need to go in now?

EDWARDS: Well, I'm very suspicious about Saddam Hussein, very suspicious in general, very suspicious about this declaration. We're still in the process of evaluating it. I think we ought to finish that. And I do hope that military intervention will not be necessary. We cannot allow Saddam...

CROWLEY: But if this paper that you're looking at does, indeed, prove riddled with omissions and falsities, then we need to go in?

EDWARDS: We have to disarm Saddam Hussein. We cannot allow him to get nuclear weapons.

I'm not going to make a prejudgment about this document. We're not finished with it yet, and about the level of the seriousness of the breach, if there is a breach. There's a process that we're involved in with the U.N. right now. But at the end of the day, I've made very clear from the beginning that if it is necessary, we should be willing to use military force to make sure that this man does not get nuclear weapons.

(END VIDEOTAPE) CROWLEY: Edwards says he believes the U.S. has a responsibility to the people of Iraq to help stabilize the country, if Saddam Hussein is toppled in a war against Iraq.

When we return: other Democrats considering a run for the White House -- assessing the pluses and minuses of the leading party contenders.


CROWLEY: Beyond John Edwards, other leading Democrats, including some senators, are considering their own campaigns for the Democratic nomination.

Our Bruce Morton takes a look at some of the others considering making the race.


BRUCE MORTON, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Who else? John Kerry, the Vietnam veteran who came to Washington to protest that war in 1971. In the Senate, he's worked for better relations with Vietnam, has spoken out on foreign policy.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: I think it would be very dangerous for the United States to go it alone in Iraq under any circumstances, except if there were a clear, imminent threat to our nation.

MORTON: Money? His wife, Teresa Heinz, is rich. But they've said they only use that money to respond to negative attacks. On the downside, he has a reputation as cold and being concerned with his image.

Dick Gephardt, so long the House Democratic leader, he ran in 1988, won the Iowa caucuses and then disappeared. Strengths: friends and money and organized labor. He joined them in opposing NAFTA, for instance. Weaknesses: Has his time come and gone?

Joe Lieberman has name recognition because he was Al Gore's running mate. And that matters, because the 2004 primaries are so early. There's no time to get discovered, spring an upset, and build recognition. And he can count on support and money from Jewish groups. And Al Gore's not running. So:

SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (D), CONNECTICUT: I am going to very seriously consider the awesome opportunity that I now have to become a candidate for president of the United States.

MORTON: Drawbacks: He's very political. Do voters think he's presidential?

Tom Daschle: Republicans have tried hard to label him a hopeless ultraliberal. He's from South Dakota, not a state with a lot of electoral votes. But Robert Byrd said Daschle as majority leader had steel in his spine. And voters might like that. Howard Dean of Vermont: the only governor in the field, though four of the last five presidents have been governors, a maverick who gets high marks from the NRA and who signed a bill legalizing civil unions between gays.

GOV. HOWARD DEAN (D), VERMONT: If we have people dying in Afghanistan that are gays, then they ought to be treated equally when they get back home.

MORTON: Weakness: low name recognition.

Senator Bob Graham of Florida: outgoing chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, who expressed interest just a few days ago. Again, low name recognition, but he's Southern. And no Northern Democrat has won since John Kennedy.

Finally, can any of these beat Bush? This president's father seemed invincible after the Gulf War and then lost. So the answer is, you never know.

Bruce Morton, CNN, Washington.


CROWLEY: With me now to talk more about Senator John Edwards and the rest of the Democratic field: Stu Rothenberg of "The Rothenberg Political Report."

Stu, politically, we know he's charming. He's glib. He's smart, all those things. What does he bring politically to the field?

STUART ROTHENBERG, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, he may electability. At least, I expect that's the argument that he will make, as a Southerner from North Carolina, a Republican state.

The Democrats are going to need to get some of those red states. And aside from his charm and personality and style -- and I wouldn't minimize that. To get a Democratic nomination, you need some quirkiness, some freshness. The geography is an asset that he has that other Democrats won't have.

CROWLEY: So, let's talk about geography.

You have got a pretty good chance that Gephardt -- he looks good in Iowa. You've got a pretty good chance that John Kerry or maybe even the former Vermont governor would maybe take New Hampshire. And then you've got Kerry, who's pretty strong in the South. South Carolina is the third one. How does that make this race? Where does it stand right now, if you look at the geography of it?

ROTHENBERG: Well, I think the geography is the reason the race is wide open.

You haven't even mentioned Tom Daschle. If he were to enter the race, he might eat into Gephardt's advantage in Iowa, creating more of an open situation there. I think what is clear is, there's going to be, obviously, the focus on the two early states of Iowa and New Hampshire. But let's not forget South Carolina. Let's not forget Michigan.

Nobody has an overwhelming advantage here, Candy, as I think of the case. But Edwards can at least make the case: If you nominate me, I have a better chance to win. This is the Bill Clinton argument. Was Bill Clinton the most liberal Democrat? Did he appeal to the Democratic constituencies around the country the most? Well, maybe not ideally.

But he was good enough and he made the argument that he could win. Edwards is going to try to make that case, I'm sure.

CROWLEY: Electability.

Let me just throw a wild card in. And that's Al Sharpton, an African-American politician from New York, who we know is going to make a run of it. How is this going to impact primaries? Or is it?

ROTHENBERG: Well, certainly, in the states with significant African-American populations -- and we're talking about the South as well as areas of the North -- it means that there is a different mix in the candidates and in the electorate.

And Sharpton has the potential of getting a significant African- American vote. These other Democrats have to decide how much they can compete for those voters vs. how much they are going to compete for suburban white voters and liberal voters. I think it just adds more confusion. The more you cut this field, the more the uncertainty is, the more the possibility someone will catch fire.

CROWLEY: Now, quickly, who does Al Sharpton hurt the most among the Democrats, do you think?

ROTHENBERG: Well, it depends on what kind of campaign he runs.

Does he raise money? Does he run a full-scale campaign? And does the minority community decide that Al Sharpton is their candidate or that they need to support a more electable candidate? If that's the case, if they decide it's his electability, then they may regard Al Sharpton as an interesting person to carry their racial banner, but not somebody who can help them politically, in which case, they would look for one of the front-runners.

CROWLEY: Happy new year, Stu. Thanks very much, Stu Rothenberg of "The Rothenberg Political Report."


CROWLEY: A quick look now at politics and the media.

The continued popularity of conservative voices like Rush Limbaugh has Democrats wondering how to create a media megaphone of their own.

Senior analyst Jeff Greenfield has some thoughts. He is with me now from New York -- Jeff.

GREENFIELD: Well, Candy, you're right.

Al Gore talked about it. Senator Democratic leader Tom Daschle complained about it. And now Democrats and liberals want to do something about it. It is a conservative media network that is getting the Republican message out these days.

Now, it may seem that liberal complaints about the media are a new twist on a familiar conservative theme. Well, new, yes, but also very old.


(voice-over): All through the 1930s, '40s and '50s, Democrats complained about a one-party press.

One reason President Truman delighted in this famous wrong-headed "Chicago Tribune" headline was that "The Trib" was staunchly Republican, along with a great majority of newspapers. "TIME" magazine, perhaps the most powerful media outlet in those pre-TV days, also put a regular Republican spin on political news.

But when network television news became king, and when controversial issues such as civil rights and the Vietnam War emerged, conservative began to complain about media bias, a complaint aired most famously by Vice President Spiro Agnew in 1969, when he attacked a liberal media elite.

Over the years, that charge has become an article of faith among many conservative press critics. They cite surveys showing that the overwhelming majority of journalists vote Democratic and hold liberal beliefs, especially on social issues such as abortion. Former CBS News man Bernard Goldberg had a huge best-seller last year with the book alleging and titled "Bias."

But now, the argument goes, a powerful conservative media machine has sprung up, with Web sites, most notably The Drudge Report, feeding into the dominantly conservative talk radio world: Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and company, and, some say, to Fox News, which has grown into the most watched cable news outlet.

And attempts by liberals, such as former New York Governor Mario Cuomo and Texas commentator Jim Hightower, to crack the talk radio format have failed.


GREENFIELD: Now, you can already hear conservatives laughing at this whole notion. The whole of mainstream media, they argue, from "The New York Times" and "The Washington Post" to the big networks and, yes, to CNN, they charge, are all liberal.

Now, it would sound, obviously, like special pleading to argue about this, but what is undeniable is that the conservative belief that their views are not given a fair shake has led to a significant form of advocacy on the right, a kind of modern-day pamphleteering, that does not have any real equivalent on the left.

What conservatives like Rush Limbaugh have done is to figure out to make their views entertaining and compelling to large audiences. And that is the essential challenge facing liberals today -- Candy.

CROWLEY: Jeff Greenfield out in New York -- thanks, Jeff.

Two more candidates take the oath of office. Up next: A big city mayor begins his second term and a governor begins his first -- ahead in "Campaign News Daily."


CROWLEY: We've got Bob Novak with you now. He is joining us for some "Inside Buzz."

What's the first item in your notebook, Bob?

ROBERT NOVAK, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It hasn't been decided, Candy, definitely. But it looks now like New Orleans is the front- runner for the 2004 Republican National Convention. It will be announced soon. That's the choice of the delegates and certainly of the media.

But some people at the White House had not wanted to do a copycat for the president on his dad's choice of New Orleans for his first nomination in 1988. But it's largely a process of elimination. New York is just too complicated. And some Republicans are really upset with the Republican mayor's attitude. And I am told that the Republican governor of Florida, Jeb Bush, does not really want the convention in Tampa.

CROWLEY: If only we could vote, Bob.

Bill Frist, some buyer's remorse there among Republicans?

NOVAK: No, I don't believe so. They are looking the best.

We're learning new things about Bill Frist all the time, however. He's a lot different in his work habits than Trent Lott. Some nights, he only gets four hours sleep. He likes to call staffers and get details.

One thing he doesn't know much about is the budget. And he has hired one of the best budget men on Capitol Hill, Bill Hoagland, who was Pete Domenici's budget man for years, was going to go to work for Trent Lott, until he got bounced. Already, Bill Hoagland is getting late-night calls from Bill Frist. He's a detail man. I guess that's what a heart surgeon has to be.

CROWLEY: Well, that, and all those nights in the E.R., you get on without much sleep.

Listen, there's a D.C. reception next week that somehow ties in with South Dakota?

NOVAK: This is one of my favorite kinds of stories.

At the restaurant on Capitol Hill Thursday night, lobbyists are putting on a reception for two new Republican senators: Coleman of Minnesota and Talent of Missouri. But the real story is the special guest: John Thune, who was defeated in South Dakota, and Ken Mehlman, the White House political aide, and the deputy national chairman of the Republican Party, Jack Oliver.

Now, Oliver and Mehlman are going to run the president's campaign. So this is a message, if you read the tea leaves. They are giving a little boost to John Thune for a campaign in 2004 for the Tom Daschle seat. Why that is important is, the newly elected Republican congressman to South Dakota, Bill Janklow, he's indicated he's going for that seat. The president talked Thune into running for that seat instead of for governor. And I think he thinks he owes him for 2004.

CROWLEY: Good heavens, a tangled web there.

Bob, listen, topic du jour, John Edwards. Can you add something to us?


He is already getting people set to run his campaign. He is looking for a top campaign consultant in California, a lot of votes there, a lot of money. He's already made one offer, I am told. So, he is really out and running and ahead of the game.

CROWLEY: Bob Novak, we will see you on "CROSSFIRE" later on. Thanks, Bob.

NOVAK: Thank you, Candy.

CROWLEY: Checking the headlines in "Campaign News Daily": day two of the new year and two more noontime inaugurations. Washington, D.C. Mayor Tony Williams has been sworn in to a second term. And, in Boston, new Massachusetts Republican Governor Mitt Romney has taken office, beginning his first term as Bay State leader.

And, in Minnesota, incoming Lieutenant Governor Carol Molnau will be wearing two hats in the new administration. Governor-elect Tim Pawlenty has appointed Molnau commissioner of the state Transportation Department. Molnau will hold both job titles, but receive only one salary. The governor said the double duty should not be a problem. In his words, -- quote -- "It's time for the lieutenant governor to get to work."

Coming up next: how you can get a piece of political history and it won't cost you anything. Well, OK, maybe an airline ticket.


CROWLEY: When Al Gore nixed another presidential bid, he suggested it would not be wise to cling to memories of Florida in 2000. But you may want to take advantage of this offer anyway. The elections office in Tampa, Florida, is giving away 140,000 unused punch card ballots in pads of 50. They don't need them anymore, since the punch cards were retired after the 2000 election debacle. All you have to do is show up at one of two county offices today or tomorrow, which means the plane ticket won't be cheap, but the ballots are free, attached chads and all.

All right, that is it for INSIDE POLITICS. I'm Candy Crowley.


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