JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS
Clark, Lieberman Out of Iowa; Interview With Tom Vilsack
Aired October 20, 2003 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: Clark and Lieberman -- out of the picture in Iowa. Will skipping the caucuses help their campaigns win another day? Governor Tom Vilsack will give us the lay of the land.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It keeps getting worse -- scandals in the Bush White House.
ANNOUNCER: Democrats hammer away on the leak. Republicans fire back on Iraq. We're tracking the partisan potshots.
Janet Reno had her dance party. Can the DNC top that? Maybe so, with a little help from Bill Clinton.
Now, live from Washington, JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS.
JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCOR: Thank you for joining us.
Three months and counting to the Iowa caucuses. Wesley Clark and Joe Lieberman saw the handwriting on the wall, and it did not spell winner. Both Democratic presidential hopefuls are concentrating on greener pastures after deciding not to actively campaign in the lead- off caucus state. Aides to Iowa frontrunners Dick Gephardt and Howard Dean say that their campaigns will not be affected much.
Our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider, has his own thoughts about opting out of Iowa.
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): Does it make sense for Joe Lieberman and Wesley Clark to skip Iowa? Iowa leaders warn that Al Gore skipped Iowa in 1988 and John McCain skipped Iowa in 2000 and look what happened to them.
But in 1988, it was the candidate who came in third in Iowa, Michael Dukakis, who ultimately won the nomination. And in 2000, skipping Iowa didn't seem to do John McCain any harm. He went on to beat George W. Bush in New Hampshire a week later.
To do well in Iowa, you need at least one of three things:
Either local ties, like Iowa Senator Tom Harkin in 1992, or like Dick Gephardt and Paul Simon from neighboring states, who came in first and second in the 1988 Iowa Democratic caucuses.
Or, a strong organization. The Democratic Party helped deliver for vice presidents Walter Mondale in 1984 and Al Gore in 2000. Organized labor delivered for Dick Gephardt in 1988.
Or a passionate cause. Iowa put Jimmy Carter on the political map in 1976, because of his passionate commitment to morality and civil rights. A passionate critique of free trade helped Gephardt in 1988.
REP. RICHARD GEPHARDT (D-MO), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Stand up with me on March the 8th. It's your fight, too.
SCHNEIDER: This year, Howard Dean, John Kerry, and Dick Gephardt all have a major organizational presence in Iowa. But Wesley Clark entered the race too late to build a strong Iowa organization. And Howard Dean pre-empted his passionate cause.
HOWARD DEAN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And the president and his people will step forward and explain to us how they misled us on the way into Iraq and what the reason we really are there is.
SCHNEIDER: As a former vice presidential nominee, Joe Lieberman might have been the establishment favorite in Iowa. But Gephardt pre- empted labor support and the jobs issue.
GEPHARDT: The way you get this economy to grow is you help everybody.
SCHNEIDER: In the primaries, you run against expectations. Lieberman and Clark figure it's better to create no expectations in Iowa than to end up doing worse than expected.
SCHNEIDER: In the past, there's always been at least a month between the Iowa caucuses and the big state Democratic primaries. Next year, there's only going to be two weeks. Clark and Lieberman figure that their national name recognition will enable them to compete across the country with any big mo a candidate gets from Iowa.
You remember, Judy? That's what the first President George Bush called momentum when he won the Iowa caucuses in 1980.
WOODRUFF: We remember it well. All right. Bill, thank you much.
And, as Bill just said, the primary calendar more compressed than ever. After the Iowa caucuses on January 19, New Hampshire holds its presidential contest on January 27.
Clark and Lieberman are putting more of their resources into the Granite State. For instance, Lieberman is moving some Iowa staffers to four new campaign offices in New Hampshire. He's also adding staff in South Carolina, Arizona, and Oklahoma, three of the seven states holding Democratic presidential contests one week later, on February the 3rd.
Well, if anyone knows the political terrain in Iowa, it is the state's Democratic governor, Tom Vilsack, and he joins us now from Des Moines.
Governor Vilsack, does this mean Iowa is less important to the presidential selection process?
GOV. TOM VILSACK (D), IOWA: Not at all, Judy. I think we're continuing to do the job we've done for about a quarter of a century, and that is making candidates retail their politic, and I think we've had several successful examples in this most recent campaign. I think Howard Dean was obviously able to get his campaign started in Iowa, because of the very nature of the caucus process. So it's working exactly the way it's supposed to work.
WOODRUFF: In some comments you made over the weekend, you said that General Clark runs the risk of alienating, or having problems with average voters in Iowa. But let me read to you what General Clark's communications director, Matt Bennett, said. He said, "General Clark really appreciates the historic role that Iowa plays in this process. However," he says, "we recognize that our opponents have spent years working with caucusgoers."
VILSACK: Well, the difference between what Joe Lieberman did and what General Clark is is fairly significant. Both made the decision not to actively campaign in Iowa, but Senator Lieberman made the decision to maintain an office and have some presence in the state. And I think that that would serve him well if he becomes the nominee in November.
Iowa's going to be a very important state, in a tough, tough election. It went for Al Gore by 4,000 votes, and I don't think you can risk alienating Iowa voters, if you are interested in making sure you put Iowa in the win column for Democrats in November.
WOODRUFF: And you're saying that's General Clark may be doing?
VILSACK: Well, he runs the risk of that, because we don't have an opportunity to get an opportunity to know him as we have already gotten to know Joe Lieberman and as we're getting to know the other major candidates in this race. People who -- go ahead.
WOODRUFF: I was just going to say, let me cite to you what a Lieberman adviser said, based on -- and frankly, based on what you just said. He told "The New York Times," "I think it's pretty safe to say there's a recognition inside this campaign that Iowa is not now, and will never will be, Lieberman country."
So I guess my question is, is a centrist Democrat really never going to have much of a shot in your state?
VILSACK: Well, I think it will absolutely be Lieberman country if he's the nominee in November of 2004, which is at the time when he's going to need Iowa, just like Al Gore and Joe Lieberman needed it in November of 2000. We took this state by 4,000 votes. It required a heck of an effort. And it was because people got to know Al Gore and got to know Joe Lieberman very well during the campaign.
So I think folks will see Iowa as a very pivotal state in November. And I think if you have a presence here, if people get to know you, there's going to be an energy level and a commitment level, and I think General Clark runs a risk -- now, it's a calculated risk, and given the fact that he's just been in this campaign for about four or five weeks, maybe it's the only risk that he could take. But it probably, in my view, would have been just a little bit better if he had at least maintained some presence in the state, come back to Iowa from time to time, even if it was on the way to another one of these states.
WOODRUFF: Very quickly, did Joe Lieberman call you to tell you he was doing this?
VILSACK: He did. Senator Lieberman and I had a nice conversation last night.
WOODRUFF: And what about General Clark? Did he call you?
VILSACK: No, he did not.
WOODRUFF: OK. If -- let me ask you this. Of the four candidates that you describe who are still out there as the leading candidates in Iowa, who's got a leg up at this point?
VILSACK: Well, it depends on -- you know, polling, Judy, is really not very accurate when it comes to a caucus state because it's very difficult to poll the level of commitment, the energy, the organization which is so critical to success at a caucus.
I think Congressman Gephardt, Governor Dean certainly have had strong campaigns in the state. I think Senator Kerry has been to the state more frequently, and he's beginning to pick up a little momentum. And I think Senator Edwards, with his TV campaign, has perhaps gotten people a little bit more familiar and more comfortable with him.
I think all four of those individuals have a chance. And I think it's going to be very interesting in the next three months in the state of Iowa.
WOODRUFF: Dick Gephardt, does he have to win to stay in this contest?
VILSACK: Well, that was certainly the conventional wisdom at the beginning of this process. But I think Governor Dean's emergence as a frontrunner has perhaps made it not quite as vital as it would have been if Dick Gephardt had been the frontrunner from the get-go.
Clearly, I think it's important and very necessary for his campaign to do well in Iowa. First or second finish is probably absolutely essential. But I'm not sure it requires him actually winning the caucus.
WOODRUFF: Iowa's governor, Tom Vilsack, maintaining that that state's caucuses every bit as important as they were all along.
All right. Governor, good to see you.
VILSACK: Thanks Judy.
WOODRUFF: Great to see you. Thanks very much.
Well, Wesley Clark is leading the headlines in our "Campaign News Daily" today. A videotape made in January 2002 and obtained by "TIME" magazine shows Clark once again praising President Bush.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RET. GEN. WESLEY CLARK (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I tremendously admire, and I think we all should, the great work done by our commander in chief, our president George Bush and the men and women of the United States armed forces.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOODRUFF: A Clark spokeswoman says the comments about Mr.Bush are brief and calls the tape -- quote -- "something the right wing is putting out."
Hawaii's isolated location usually means the state rarely sees presidential candidates in person. But this week is a big exception. Democrat Dennis Kucinich spent time in the Aloha State over the weekend and held a fund-raiser on Maui. On Thursday, President Bush plans a fundraising stop in Hawaii on his return trip from Asia.
The Democratic Party is running a new TV ad criticizing President Bush over the alleged White House leak involving a CIA operative.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, AD)
NARRATOR: It keeps getting worse -- scandals in the Bush White House. Now they illegally leak the identity of an American CIA agent, all to hide Bush administration deceptions about the war in Iraq.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOODRUFF: The ad uses past comments by the president's father who once criticized government leaks related to intelligence matters. The ad buy is very small. It is running for a week in the Scranton, Pennsylvania market at the cost of about $20,000.
Well we'll be heading back to Iowa for more on the '04 field, now that Clark and Lieberman are skipping the Hawkeye State. We'll talk lost causes and late starts.
Plus, does a big name Republican candidate risk being seen as anti-semitic?
And the venom after the Iraq vote. Will some Democrats pay for their decision on the $87 billion?
WOODRUFF: Former first lady Barbara Bush is making clear what she thinks about the nine Democrats hoping to challenge her son, the current president next November. In an interview this morning on NBC Mrs. Bush said, quote, "So far they're a pretty sorry group, if you want to know my opinion." Mrs. Bush went on to say her comments represented her personal opinion and not that of her husband or her son.
INSIDE POLITICS returns in a moment.
WOODRUFF: With me now to talk more about the decisions by Wesley Clark and Joe Lieberman to abandon their Iowa campaigns are two veteran political writers, David Yepsen of "The Des Moines Register" and CNN political analyst Ron Brownstein of "The Los Angeles Times."
David, let's go to the scene of the crime first to you in Iowa. Does this change anything?
DAVID YEPSEN, "THE DES MOINES REGISTER": No, I don't think it does. Neither one of these two candidates spent much time here. I think it's a little like taking your hand out of a bucket of water. There's no evidence you were even there.
RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I agree. I mean Joe Lieberman, it's going to be hard to tell if he's left the state because he's drive down his support to 2 percent in the last poll that was released last week by Stan Greenberg.
Wesley Clark had potentially greater appeal but it was simply that, potential. Without an organization to bring it to the polls, he was unlikely to make much of an imprint.
WOODRUFF: What about, David Yepsen, what we just heard Tom Vilsack, your governor, say. He said that for General Clark to do this he may have been making a mistake, that he runs the risk of turning off voters who might have been prepared to look at him and support him in Iowa.
YEPSEN: Well, I think that's right, Judy. But General Clark's whole campaign has baffled me from the beginning. It's been a series of missteps and mistakes. Are you in or are you out? There are people here who wanted to support him.
The hard reality is he did get in this thing late. When he sounded an uncertain trumpet over the war, about the tapes of him praising President Bush and President Reagan, I think it unsettled a lot of Democrats. I don't think he had much traction here.
WOODRUFF: Does it hurt Clark, Ron?
BROWNSTEIN: Well first of all, Judy, the reality is Iowa is an organizational test. And starting this late, it would be very difficult for the Clark campaign to realistically put together any kind of organization that a Dean or Kerry or Gephardt who've been working the state for a long time could.
So in that sense, I don't think it's going to hurt him. I think a lot of people can understand why he's doing this. But it does raise the stakes in New Hampshire as it does for Joe Lieberman. You simply have to put some evidence up on the board early that you are a competitive candidate, or even in states where you're theoretically attractive you're going to lose support and seem less viable after the first two contests.
WOODRUFF: And, Tom (sic), what about Lieberman? Here is somebody who had been in there. It wasn't a matter of getting in late for him, it was just that -- what was the problem for Joe Lieberman?
YEPSEN: Joe Lieberman should have started campaigning much earlier here. He's really got no excuse for his poor showing here. He didn't do anything here. He came here very little bit and didn't campaign here very often.
WOODRUFF: I'm sorry, I misspoke. It's obviously David Yepsen. I got carried away and called you Lieberman (sic).
BROWNSTEIN: ... in this poll that Stan Greenberg, the pollster for Clinton and gore, released last week for his Democracy Corp, Lieberman in Iowa was at zero with Democrats who consider themselves liberal.
So while he can pull out of Iowa, sooner or later he's going to have to compete across the broad spectrum of the electorate. There simply is not -- there are not enough Oklahomas, Arizonas and South Carolinas to get nominated.
So in that sense, Iowa may not be critical to his fortunes is indicative of a broader problem he's going to have to solve if he's going to seriously contest for this nomination.
WOODRUFF: What about going forward, David Yepsen? How do you see Iowa playing now, you know, pitching forward to New Hampshire (UNINTELLIGIBLE) on February 3?
YEPSEN: Here's the problem for Lieberman and Clark. By opting out of here, they take themselves out of the mix. Somebody's going to win Iowa, somebody's going to come in second, there's going to be momentum billed for another candidate. And with these rapid-fire sequence of events that follow Iowa, it becomes difficult for Clark and Lieberman to make a stand.
What you're having right now is a battle between Dean and Gephardt for first place. If Dean beats Gephardt, it hurts Gephardt, may knock him out of the race and gives Dean a huge boost going into New Hampshire over John Kerry. I mean so where in all that mix does Joe Lieberman and Wesley Clark fit into it? They don't. So it's going to be difficult for them to get in the game then.
BROWNSTEIN: Well there are two views on that. I think that's right. A lot of people subscribe to what David just said. On the other hand, John McCain did exactly that, he exited himself from Iowa, took himself out of that mix, focused on New Hampshire and still managed to win the state and become the principle alternative to President Bush.
I agree, the risk is that, especially if you have surprises in the results in Iowa, John Edwards finished ahead of John Kerry for third. That could be part of the story. Certainly the Dean-Gephardt story. Certainly there is that risk.
But the McCain example shows it may be possible to keep yourself in the mix, in the focus by campaigning in New Hampshire during that period.
WOODRUFF: Whether you go on to win the nomination or not.
WOODRUFF: OK. Ron Brownstein, David Yepsen, great to see you both. Thanks very much.
Well, tonight in the state of Mississippi, Democratic Governor Ronnie Musgrove will face off with Republican challenger Haley Barbour in their fourth and final debate before Election Day. Barbour is the former chairman of the National Republican Party and a friend of President Bush. Musgrove has criticized Barbour's years in Washington. Barbour has also faced criticism for not asking a group with racist and anti-semitic views to remove his photo from their Web site. Barbour says his image is in the public domain and that the group's believes are, quote, "indefensible."
Ahead here, the political price of rebuilding Iraq. Details on how the Republican Party plans to remind voters how some Democrats voted. Next on INSIDE POLITICS.
WOODRUFF: The high costs of the war in Iraq are among the reasons being cited for a new record high federal budget deficit. The White House today announced that the 2003 deficit has hit a record $374 billion, exceeding the old record of $290 billion set more than a decade ago.
With me now to talk more about the costs of rebuilding Iraq, and the political debate over loans versus grants, our Congressional correspondent, Jonathan Karl.
Jon, what would you say the prospects are right now for getting some sort of agreement between the House and the Senate on this $87 billion? JONATHAN KARL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There will certainly be an agreement eventually, probably by next week. But Judy, the interesting thing here is, despite all the sound and fury you heard last week when the Senate defied the president and put in that provision making half of the reconstruction money a loan, it looks almost certain that when the two sides get together -- the House did not have a loan provision -- that the White House will prevail. People on both sides of the Congress, of the Capitol here, are saying that the White House is almost certain to prevail in this matter.
As a matter of fact, Republican sources on the Hill tell us that the chairman of the appropriations Committees in the House and the Senate are preparing a letter that will say just that -- that will say it is their intention to keep the loans provision out of this final deal.
So that's where it stands here. Now, Judy, the interesting here also is that this deal probably won't happen until next week. As a matter of fact, the Conference Committee -- they will hammer it out -- is not to meet until next week, because the House is only in for a day-and-a-half this week.
WOODRUFF: Jon, any sense of what the political fallout is going to be for the Democrats who voted against the president on this? And if you know, what about the Republicans?
KARL: Well, Judy, the Republicans are preparing to, in a very sustained way, go after the Democrats that voted against this.
As you know, the bill passed overwhelmingly in both the House and the Senate. But in the Senate, two presidential candidates, John Kerry and John Edwards, voted against the aid for Iraq, and Afghanistan.
And over in the House of Representatives, the leader of the House, Nancy Pelosi, led the battle against it and the majority of Democrats in the House voted against the $87 billion.
So Republicans are saying that this was a mistake for them. They will make an issue out of this -- say this was a vote not just to rebuild Iraq, but a vote to support the troops on the ground there. They are looking to make this new serious issue.
But Judy, as you know, polls showed going into the vote that most Americans -- a majority of Americans -- 57 percent in our poll -- did not want to spend this kind of money in Iraq. So we'll see who gets the political victory there.
WOODRUFF: It may be a battle of ads at some point.
KARL: Yes. Almost certainly.
WOODRUFF: OK. Jon Karl, thanks very much.
Well, many politicians have wondered, What is the secret to drawing a crowd for a fundraiser? A little star power never hurts. And we'll find out how the Democrats hope to shake it up next week.
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WOODRUFF: Some breaking news out of the Middle East. There has been yet another, a fifth Israeli air assault on Gaza. This would come on this day of intense air assaults. Already five people have been killed, even before this fifth air attack, including two militants. Fifty-eight others have been wounded. One of the missiles, the Israeli missiles, exploded on a street crowded with school children, the Associated Press is reporting. All of these air strikes coming a day after Palestinian militants fired eight homemade rockets from Gaza into Israel and Palestinian gunmen ambushed an Israeli patrol in the West Bank.
Much more on this as CNN gets the latest, the very latest from the Middle East and from Gaza.
INSIDE POLITICS back in a moment.
WOODRUFF: It used to be that a glimpse of Bill Clinton alone was enough to attract Democratic donors. But the DNC is promising much more at Washington's Dream nightclub next week. In addition to seeing Mr. Clinton up close, the DNC says donors will get to mingle with more than 20 Washington Redskins and two hot music industry acts, rumored to be Beyonce or P. Diddy. If that doesn't draw a crowd, we don't know what will. The open bar and the full dinner buffet might help.
That's it for INSIDE POLITICS. I'm Judy Woodruff. Thanks for joining us.
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