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The State of the Race to '04; Interview With Governor Janet Napolitano

Aired October 9, 2003 - 16:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: Arnold Schwarzenegger in transition. This hour, he's set to introduce members of the team prepping him to become governor.

GOV.-ELECT ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER (R), CALIFORNIA: I will work as much as I can, even if it is around the clock.

ANNOUNCER: Six months after Saddam Hussein's fall, President Bush launches another defense of the mission in Iraq.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: America cannot retreat from our responsibilities and hope for the best.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: Are we just supposed to honor our responsibilities there, not make a gold-plated country?

ANNOUNCER: Wesley Clark may won to don his battle armor as the '04 Democrats prepare to debate tonight. The retired general is likely to get more flack this time around.

ANNOUNCER: Now, live from the Democratic debate site in Phoenix, Arizona, JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS.


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks for joining us. Judy Woodruff is busy prepping for tonight's debate here in the Orpheum Theater in Phoenix. My colleague, Jeff Greenfield, and I, will also be a part of the debate you will see only here on CNN when it begins four hours from now.

Wesley Clark may be a tempting target for his eight rivals for a number of reasons, including this: our new poll of registered Democrats nationwide show Clark remains the leader with 21 percent support. His nearest rival, Howard Dean, gets 16 percent. But in the leadoff primary state of New Hampshire, Howard Dean is the undisputed leader. He is 10 points ahead of John Kerry in a new survey of likely primary voters, while Clark trails far behind.

Now, when it comes to the '04 race, even the biggest politicos may need a little catching up.


CROWLEY (voice-over): Wake up. The recall fun is over; back to reality. When we last saw the Democratic presidential candidates, they were struggling to be heard over the din of Arnold mania.

HOWARD DEAN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm all hemmed in here, aren't I?

CROWLEY: We are pretty much where we were. Howard Dean remains at the top of the heap, bolstered again by a record haul of campaign cash. Retired General Wesley Clark's mega wattage threatened to eclipse the Vermont governor for a while.

WESLEY CLARK (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I was going to be either a very, very lonely Republican, or I was going to be a very happy Democrat.

CROWLEY: But Clark's star has dimmed after a series of gaffes and stumbles. John Kerry still considered top tier, though there are continued rumbling of friction inside a campaign struggling to regain front-runner status. John Edwards has released an army of campaign ads in his struggle to emerge.

SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D-NH), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well I will not give this president a blank check.

CROWLEY: Dick Gephardt and Joe Lieberman, also fighting for traction, have been hammering away at Dean.

SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (D-CT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And he could well be a ticket to nowhere. He could take the Democratic Party out into the political wilderness.

CROWLEY: Lieberman and Gephardt are the two most familiar names in the race, old hands who could use a little of Dean's stardust. Dennis Kucinich, Carol Mosley Braun and Al Sharpton are all right where we left them, pretty much nowhere. And, oh, yes, where once there were 10, now there are nine.

SEN. BOB GRAHAM (D-FL), FMR. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We and our children are going to be spending a tremendous amount of time in Iowa.

CROWLEY: Instead, it's back to Florida for Bob Graham. He slipped out of the race quietly, when we were all still in the massive grasp of this year's biggest political star.


CROWLEY: Most of the democratic candidates have been lying low in advance of this evening's debate. Howard Dean held a rally for students at Arizona State University, even as he launched Spanish language ads here. John Kerry will meet with Arizona firefighters and local supporters before the debate, while Joe Lieberman has been raising campaign cash in Phoenix. John Edwards worked in a campaign swing in Iowa before traveling here to Arizona.

President Bush did some campaigning too, although he didn't really want to call it that. CNN's Dana Bash went along with the president to New Hampshire.


DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: The president's two stops in New Hampshire are part of what the White House is dubbing a new push to narrow their emphasis on two of the president's top priorities: economic growth and the war on terrorism. It just so happens those are the twin priorities for American voters as the president heads into his reelection campaign.

The president called Iraq the central front in the war on terrorism, and the White House says that they are trying to get the message out that they believe progress is being made in Iraq. And the president took a slight jab at the media, saying that there are more positive things going on than they are being told, and that the White House push now, critics say, is a tacit admission that things aren't going as well as they had planned. But the president did slightly step up his defense that going to war was the right thing to do.

BUSH: I acted because I was not about to leave the security of the American people in the hands of a madman. I was not about to stand by and wait and trust in the sanity and restraint of Saddam Hussein.

BASH: While public confidence in Mr. Bush's policies on Iraq and the economy have slipped, there has been one bright spot, and that is the perception that Mr. Bush is a strong leader, and that he is there to protect Americans. And the president tried to sustain that perception, saying that he did what he thought was right, and struck back at his critics, saying this is not a time to be timid.

This is the Granite State. And while he denied it was a campaign stop, the president did something he hasn't done in quite a long time, an unscheduled stop at a pizza parlor to shake hands with the local residents. Republicans chose John McCain here in New Hampshire over George W. Bush in 2000. And while the president doesn't have a primary opponent on the horizon, New Hampshire's four electoral votes are key, especially since the president beat Al Gore only by just more than 7,000 votes here.

Dana Bash, CNN, Manchester, New Hampshire.


CROWLEY: From New Hampshire back to Capitol Hill, where President Bush and his policy on Iraq had a success and a setback today. And fortunately for us we have Jonathan Karl who can explain both -- Jonathan.

JONATHAN KARL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, first, the success, Candy. The House Appropriations Committee passed a bill, $86.8 billion, by an overwhelming margin of 37 to 14 for Iraq and Afghanistan. This bill follows almost exactly the president's request. So in that sense, it was a success.

They beat back a number of Democratic attempts to change the bill and also to raise taxes to pay for it. All those Democratic efforts knocked down. But one amendment did pass which will not sit well with the White House. Republicans are dubbing it the "Condoleezza Rice Amendment." And what it does is that it says that this money for reconstruction in Iraq cannot be controlled by any official who is not confirmed by the Congress and accountable to Congress.

Now, one person who is not confirmed by Congress is Condoleezza Rice. She is the person that is under the set-up by the White House, the Iraq Stabilization Group; would be responsible for Iraq reconstruction ultimately. Congress is saying they do not like that. They do not want that to happen because they want whoever controls that money to have to come up here to testify. Condoleezza Rice would not have to as an advisor to the president, not a cabinet official.

Now, one other effort that was beaten back by the Republicans, that was supported by some Republicans, was an effort to turn the reconstruction money into a loan. The idea here, the White House said, was that Iraq already has too much debt, we can't give them more debt. One Republican said that argument doesn't make any sense.


REP. ZACH WAMP (R), TENNESSEE: I don't think Germany, France or Russia should be paid a dime if the United States taxpayers are not going to be paid a dime. And I think that's serious business and we ought to stand our ground on that.


KARL: Now, that's Republican Zach Wamp. He wanted to turn the money into loans, but the president brought him down to the White House yesterday, had a one-on-one meeting, and convinced him to, at the end, withdraw his amendment. So that amendment was withdrawn; it was not obviously passed as a result.

By the way, Candy, Wamp said of his meeting with the president, the president was very intense. He told reporters, "My god, if his eyes had been lasers, mine would have been burned out." The White House does not want that money to be a loan. They want very much for it to be a direct grant to Iraq -- Candy.

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