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JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS
Presidential Polls: Bush's Shaky Ground; Interview With Terry McAuliffe
Aired May 14, 2004 - 15:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: Bush, Kerry, and our new poll. The numbers sure seem to add up to trouble for one of them.
The language of attack. Why does this Bush ad in Spanish pack more of a punch than its English counterpart?
The biggest buzz in Washington.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The 17 year Cicada has a nice little emblem on the wing about this point. I'm not sure you can see it, but it's a form of a "W."
ANNOUNCER: Is it true the Cicada is only (UNINTELLIGIBLE) during tough political times?
ANNOUNCER: Now, live from Washington, JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS.
CANDY CROWLEY, HOST: Thanks for joining us. Judy is off today. I'm Candy Crowley.
We begin with more evidence that President Bush is on shaky political ground as events in Iraq get more troublesome, more complicated. But Iraq is only part of the story. Our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider, joins us with just-released poll numbers.
Bill, the President on the issues, how is he doing?
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALSYT: Well, he's in trouble, Candy. In the past, the President has gotten very high marks for his handling of terrorism. Low marks on the economy, with Iraq somewhere in between.
Now look. Despite continuing job gains, the number who think the President is doing a good job on the economy has dipped below 40 percent for the first time. Fifty-five percent say he's doing a poor job on the economy. And his rating on Iraq is just as bad. That's taken a real tumble.
The big shock has to be terrorism, always the president's strong suit. The public is now split over whether President Bush is doing a good job or a poor job on terrorism, and that is serious political trouble.
CROWLEY: So is Bush's loss Kerry's gain?
SCHNEIDER: He is gaining on President Bush. When asked who would do a better job on terrorism, Kerry is gaining on Bush. Kerry 42, Bush 49. And that's Bush's best issue.
Moral values, Bush is ahead, but by only four points. Another Bush strength nearly gone. Kerry is in the lead on health care, environment, jobs, taxes. That's right, voters prefer Kerry to Bush on taxes.
And when asked who would do a better job of handling the sensitive issue of gay marriage, the result is a tie: Bush 39, Kerry 39. Now, they both oppose gay marriage, but President Bush's endorsement of a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage does not seem to have given him any advantage.
CROWLEY: So when you take all those numbers and put them into a horse race, how does the horse race come out?
SCHNEIDER: Kerry 51, Bush 46 among likely voters. Now, that is within the margin of error statistically. But it's the first time we have ever seen a majority of voters saying they would vote for John Kerry.
Now, what happens if we include Ralph Nader as a third choice? Nothing. Still, Kerry over Bush by five, with Kerry just shy of a majority.
CROWLEY: So we'll see you again the next time there's another poll. Thanks a lot, Bill Schneider. Appreciate it. Actually, we'll see you later in this hour actually, won't we?
SCHNEIDER: Yes, you will, "Play of the Week."
CROWLEY: Didn't mean to give you the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) here.
President Bush lands this hour in Wisconsin, a state he lost by a hair four years ago. The graduation speech he'll give there caps a showdown state two-fer, which included a swing through Missouri earlier today. Bush used a Republican fundraising event to accuse Kerry of flip-flopping.
Meantime, his surrogates are offering a tougher line. At a Republican convention in Georgia, Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie charged Kerry's criticism of the President is driven by headlines not policy. And we're told senior White House adviser Karl Rove will accuse Kerry of playing politics in Iraq when he speaks at the Illinois convention tomorrow.
John Kerry is expected to answer reporters' questions here in Washington this hour. Today, the Democrat later reaped in honor of National Police Week, and he held a roundtable with the International Brotherhood of Police Officers, which endorsed him. Also on Kerry's agenda today, taping the Democratic response to President Bush's radio address tomorrow. He'll talk about the "sacred covenant" between America and men and women in the armed forces.
After returning to Washington yesterday, Senator Kerry took advantage of a final opportunity for lawmakers to view still classified photos of Iraqi prisoner abuse. At that time, he didn't comment on the pictures. Though he nodded his head when asked if he was outraged.
I talked about the state of the Kerry campaign earlier with Democratic National Committee Chairman, Terry McAuliffe. First, I asked him if he agreed with those who said Kerry is doing great or with those who say Kerry should be doing better given the president's political problems.
TERRY MCAULIFFE, DNC CHAIRMAN: He's doing great. I mean, you've got to understand, Candy, today the President, when you ask his approval rating, it's historically low for him. You have Two-thirds of Americans who think the country's headed in the wrong direction.
Right now, John Kerry is ahead in battleground States. John Kerry...
CROWLEY: But shouldn't he be creaming him at this point? I mean, given what has happened over the -- look what's happened over the last three months, you know, beginning with Fallujah. Now we have the prison. You know, the war's not going well, we have the prison scandal.
A lot of Democrats have said he should be creaming him at this point. Why isn't he?
MCAULIFFE: First of all, I think our nation is pretty evenly split. I believe there's about 45 percent for George Bush, 45 percent for John Kerry today. And I think we're fighting over eight to 10 percent of the vote.
So this is going to be a close election no matter what happens. But three polls out in the last three days up five points, up six points, up seven points. But what is exciting for us is, with Independents now, as you can see, they're breaking for John Kerry. They don't like to see what's happening with George Bush recently. Right now, 49 to 44 Independents disapprove versus approve of George Bush.
George Bush is in a lot of trouble. And that's why last night he had to speak to the American Conservative Union. He went to a radical extreme group. He should not at this point be having to do that. He ought to be trying to reach out to Independents, but he's not doing that today.
CROWLEY: But it's May, and he's doing that now, right? I mean, we have awhile to go. So how much do you worry that so much of this is bound on outside events?
Wouldn't you have a very different picture if things were going well in Iraq? Isn't there time for things to go well in Iraq? Is this more about George Bush? Do you need to do more to put John Kerry out there?
MCAULIFFE: Well, John Kerry is going to me the voters in a variety of different ways. Obviously, he's traveling extensively. This week, he's talking about health care, last week he talked about education, and the week before he talked about job creation.
So he's going to get to know the voters obviously through television advertising, through his own campaign appearances. They're going to know John Kerry when they go vote November 2, and they're going to know that John Kerry's right for America and right for them.
They know George Bush, and they don't like what they see. They have two-thirds of Americans today saying that they don't like the track our country is on. That's astounding. Sixty-six percent of Americans think we're heading in the wrong direction.
These are frightening numbers for George Bush. He's not going to be able to turn them around. That's why you're seeing such support for John Kerry as he travels all over this country.
CROWLEY: Well, why -- I'm interested in why you don't think clearly George Bush is in trouble at this moment. Clearly, he has a while. Why do you think those numbers are permanent? A lot of people think October, and what goes on in October, and the economy and in Iraq, is what's going to determine this election.
MCAULIFFE: Because we know the issues as it relates to Iraq will not be solved between now and Election Day, which is, you know, 173 days away. The Iraq situation is in a horrible situation today, continues to get worse. We have to fix that situation.
But we don't believe it can be fixed, Candy, until we get rid of George Bush, until John Kerry is in the White House when other nations come in and say, yes, we want to work with the United States of America. So that's going to take a change in administrations.
And you see a middle class squeeze going on today all across America. People are getting less wages, they're seeing their property taxes go up, their sales taxes go up, their education, their health care costs going up. So they're getting squeezed.
CROWLEY: Do you think -- so what you're saying to me is you think that Iraq is going to stay an unstable bad situation so long as George Bush -- George Bush cannot fix it, as far as Democrats...
MCAULIFFE: George Bush cannot fix it. He got us into this mess. He misled us, he politicized the intelligence data, he misled us as it relates to African nations (UNINTELLIGIBLE) turned out to be false.
Vice President Dick Cheney misled us. Secretary of Defense Don Rumsfeld misled us. We went into the war under false pretenses. But the biggest complaint we have against George Bush as it relates to the war in Iraq, Candy, he sent these troops into battle without a plan of what to do with them after major combat operations were over. We have our troops on the ground, they don't have the adequate equipment, they don't have the Humvees to protect them, and that is the biggest fault of George Bush, the commander in chief.
He rushed us to war, he rushed our troops there. He didn't prepare them for what to do after major combat operations. And other nations won't help us until he's gone.
CROWLEY: You have a hard 15 seconds. People say they're not sure what the theme of the John Kerry campaign is. What he is for? What is the message from the John Kerry campaign.
MCAULIFFE: First and foremost, get the economy moving again, create jobs in this country, fully fund education so thousands of children...
CROWLEY: But isn't the economy moving?
MCAULIFFE: It's not. It's not creating the jobs in the sense that George Bush lost 2.8 million new jobs.
He's still going to be in a net job loss category. As you know, he's the first since Herbert Hoover to have lost jobs. But the other big issue: middle class squeeze.
People are being forced to do with less today. They see costs going up, but they see their wages being cut. They're getting squeezed. And under George Bush's economy, with his 1 percent top tax cut, it's not going to help people who need it the most in this country.
CROWLEY: As we mentioned earlier, Ed Gillespie, head of the Republican National Committee, is in Georgia campaigning today. We hope to have him on INSIDE POLITICS sometime next week.
Now next, we will get a rough translation of some presidential campaign ads ahead on INSIDE POLITICS. There's a surprise twist in the Bush versus Kerry spots aimed at Spanish-speaking voters.
Plus, we're just days away from gay marriage becoming legal in Massachusetts. We'll get a sense of how the public sees this landmark event.
And later, a breaking of the ranks in the "Political Play of the Week."
CROWLEY: A candidate's choice of words and how he says them can often mean the difference between victory and defeat. But we have a case where different words and a different language deliver a different tone.
Here's Howard Kurtz of CNN's "RELIABLE SOURCES."
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... because no child in America should somebody left behind.
HOWARD KURTZ, HOST, "RELIABLE SOURCES" (voice-over): After weeks of pounding John Kerry on the airwaves, President Bush went positive this week on his signature domestic issue, education.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: As president, he signed the most significant education reforms in 35 years.
KURTZ: It's all there in plain English. But if you add some salsa and some hot peppers, you come up with a much spicier ad in Spanish
"President Bush signed the most sweeping education reforms in 35 years. John Kerry praised the president's reforms, even voted for them. But now, under pressure from education unions, Kerry has changed his mind. Kerry's new plan? Less accountability to parents."
Why the attack in Espanol airing in the Hispanic-rich swing states of Florida, Arizona, New Mexico and Nevada? A Bush campaign official says they have to draw a sharper contrast with Kerry because two-thirds of Latinos usually vote Democratic.
Kerry aides say the president is taking credits for a positive ad, while attacking their men under linguistic radar. Kerry has hit Bush for spending billions less than Congress authorized on the No Child Left Behind Act. But the president's strategists say that education spending overall is up almost 50 percent during the Bush term.
The Bush campaign provides no evidence for the ad's charge that Kerry caved to union pressure in stepping up his criticism of the education law. But the Massachusetts senator, who is backed by the powerful National Education Association, is pushing changes that the union clearly likes.
Kerry would limit the use of test scores to penalize failing schools and count other factors such as attendance rates. Critics say that would weaken the law, although Kerry wants to step up spending on teachers and education.
(on camera): Political pros call it narrow casting, a way of tailoring different messages to different groups of viewers. Most of the country, especially in those 18 battleground states, gets the upbeat education president. But Hispanics get something mucho different, an attack on Senor Kerry.
Howard Kurtz, CNN's "RELIABLE SOURCES."
(END VIDEOTAPE) CROWLEY: And then there were two, at least in our cnn.com veepstakes contest. The field has been whittled down. Find out who's left when we return.
CROWLEY: Checking the Friday headlines in "Campaign News Daily."
President Bush has climbed over $200 million in the race for the big bucks. He now has raised at least $203 million since the campaign began, not quite double John Kerry's $110 million. Both candidates opted out of public financing, which means they are allowed to raise and spend as much money as they can.
Georgia Democratic Senator Zel Miller has said he's backing President Bush, not John Kerry come November. Tomorrow, Miller will cross the party line in a bigger way by speaking to the Georgia Republican Party Convention. The head of Georgia Democrats, a position Miller once held, tells the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that Miller has "marginalized himself."
The Federal Election Commission wants its money back from Democrat Al Sharpton. The FEC ordered Sharpton to repay $100,000 in federal matching funds that he received for his presidential campaign. The commission says Sharpton violated a rule related to how much candidates can spend on their own campaigns.
Sharpton plans to fight the ruling. His campaign manager accused the FEC of acting under pressure from "right wing hate groups."
We are down to the finals in our online veepstakes contest. Our online voters have narrowed the 32-candidate field down to just two potential running mates for John Kerry. John Edwards won the southern bracket. He then defeated Bill Richardson, who came from the showdown states' bracket. Wesley Clark won the gravitas bracket, and he handily defeated Hillary Clinton, who won the woman's bracket.
Now we want you to make the final choice. Will it be John Edwards or Wesley Clark? Log on to cnn.com and make your pick. We'll have the final results Tuesday.
Ahead on INSIDE POLITICS, same-sex weddings are slated to begin in Massachusetts Monday. How do many Americans feel about the issue? We'll tell you. Don't go away.
CROWLEY: Starting Monday, after a three-year battle in the courts, gay and lesbian couples in the state of Massachusetts will be allowed to marry. Earlier today, New York's attorney general said his state will recognize same-sex couple who get married in Massachusetts.
To some, gay marriage signifies tolerance and progress. But others say it represents a threat to values and traditions. CNN's Maria Hinojosa takes a look at how Americans are reacting to the arrival of same-sex marriage. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
MARIA HINOJOSA, CNN URBAN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Vickie Gounaris called this her big fat Greek wedding shower, traditional right down to the cookies and cake. Those boy meet girl family values are destined for a jolt next week when Massachusetts is scheduled to become the first state to recognize boy meets boy. America's first legal marriages of gay and lesbian couples begin Monday.
GEORGIA GOUNARIS, MOTHER OF THE BRIDE: Because of the way things have changed in regards to how people do get married, I don't know how to use that word tradition anymore.
HINOJOSA (on camera): Even as marriage undergoes one of its most substantial changes in history, polls show a majority of Americans are not comfortable inviting gays and lesbians to the wedding party.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I really feel that a man and woman should be married. And two people of the same sex, I don't think that's the way god created us.
HINOJOSA (voice-over): Thirty-eight states have banned gays from getting married with opposition strongest in the south and rural areas.
NIVETTA FREEMAN, GEORGIA RESIDENT: I think it's bad for kids to see that children to be raised as parents being gay is not -- that's not what society's always been about. It's about mother and father, not mother and mother.
HINOJOSA: But gay couples have continued to fight for the right to marry since 1993, when they won a temporary victory in Hawaii's supreme court.
EVAN WOLFSON, FREEDOM TO MARRY: We've seen a steady improvement in the number of people who support marriage equality for same-sex couples. In '95, '96, it was as low as 27 percent of the public supported marriage equality. Now we're in the high 30s, even in the 40s, depending on the poll and on the day.
HINOJOSA: And depending on the age, polls show that most younger people, like Nick and Vickie, think anyone should be able to hire a wedding planner as special as theirs.
FRANCINE DECICCO, WED WITH A RED HEAD: A girl being escorted by her father to the aisle to be given to the man of her dreams waiting for her, these are all things that we think about. These are all things we want for our children. Unfortunately, nowadays, there are such different situations, that what you want sometimes cannot be.
HINOJOSA: But with 800 weddings on her resume, this wedding planner says she's ready for whatever the future will bring.
Maria Hinojosa, CNN, New York.
CROWLEY: Still ahead on INSIDE POLITICS, John Kerry has just held a news conference. We'll have some of that for you.
We will also show you what Vice President Dick Cheney had to say about the Iraqi prisoner abuse scandal.
And some Democratic reaction on the same matter from Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld today dropped in on U.S. troops in Baghdad.
ANNOUNCER: Conflict in Iraq dominates the national news, but is it a different story on the local level?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Senator John Kerry tells a roomful of Arkansans tonight that the strength of the nation is at risk and he will restore it.
ANNOUNCER: Are the Bush and Kerry campaigns getting the message out where it may matter the most?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I give you the president of the United States.
ANNOUNCER: A standing ovation from the faithful. But are some conservatives unhappy with George W. Bush?
Like a Cicada, Senator Kerry would like to shed his Senate career and morph into fiscal conservative.
ANNOUNCER: Republicans get buggy over John Kerry.
ANNOUNCER: Now, live from Washington, JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS.
CROWLEY: Welcome back. I'm Candy Crowley, sitting in for Judy today.
President Bush gives a commencement address in the battleground state of Wisconsin this hour. The Bush camp hopes it will be a good vehicle for the president to get his message out in a week that has been consumed by developments in Iraq.
Rival John Kerry has had similar problems moving his message. The soon to be Democratic nominee is back in Washington, where Iraq remains the story.
But both the Kerry and Bush camps bank on the fact that media coverage tends to be very different outside the beltway. Here's our national correspondent, Kelly Wallace.
KELLY WALLACE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): John Kerry in Little Rock Thursday, talking about health care.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you for coming to Arkansas. We really appreciate your visit here.
WALLACE: But on the national news programs, no mention of his proposals, only whether his campaign was being overshadowed by events in Iraq.
TOM BROKAW, NBC NEWS: In this country, the prison abuse story has made it difficult for Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry to define his message.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president of the United States of America, George W. Bush.
WALLACE: Equal treatment for President Bush, no national network coverage of his Tuesday trip to Van Buren, Arkansas, to tout his education plan. Only this...
DAN RATHER, CBS NEWS: The prisoner abuse revelations and events in Iraq are beginning to take a toll on support for President Bush's war policies and for the war itself.
WALLACE: It is a different story when you go local. While Iraq is still front page news, so too is Kerry's Little Rock trip and President Bush's visit, his education plan in the headlines.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Air Force one touched down in the natural state again today. President Bush...
WALLACE: The same is true on television, the president's education push leading a local newscast. His Democratic rival topping the local news two days later.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And senator Kerry spent about an hour talking to Arkansans this morning push is his ideas about creating more affordable health care.
WALLACE: So does it matter that the candidates get local but not national press as they travel around the country talking about pocketbook issues?
PETER BEINART, "THE NEW REPUBLIC": It doesn't matter right now. It's being drowned out by the Iraq story which is a much bigger story. But I think as the campaign progresses, you will see more national attention to their speeches they make in various states.
WALLACE: Observers from both sides of the aisle believe the president is the one hurt more from all the national attention on Iraq and not domestic issues. JONAH GOLDBERG. "NATIONAL REVIEW" ONLINE: We're in one of those feeding frenzy moments where the press has decide that everything about Iraq has to be negative. And I think a little bit of it is unfair, but them's the breaks, he's the president.
WALLACE: Everywhere John Kerry goes, he talks not to the national press, but local reporters like Denise Whitaker in Little Rock. She asked him mainly about his health care plans.
Still, she said her newsroom debated how much coverage to give the presumptive Democratic nominee.
DENISE WHITAKER, KARK CORRESPONDENT: We kind of had a bit of a discussion, kind of argument as to whether or not he was the lead story yesterday. As it turns out he ended up being the lead story at 5:00 and 6:00 But with everything going on, we were afraid to make too much of a big deal of it.
WALLACE: Bush and Kerry advisers don't see eye to eye on much. But they both say that will take more local versus national coverage any day of the week, Candy. They believe the local press is a more effective way for them to get their message to the voters.
CROWLEY: Thanks a lot, Kelly. You and I will try not to be insulted.
WALLACE: We will try not to take offense to that, you're right.
CROWLEY: OK, thanks.
A short time ago, John Kerry answered questions from the national media and he spoke for the first time about the classified photos he saw last night of prisoner abuse in Iraq. Here's some of what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My reaction was that they're sickening, they're appalling. I don't believe they represent our country, they don't represent our values. And I know they don't represent the vast majority, the 99.9 percent of our courageous soldiers serving their nation with distinction.
What those pictures told me was that these were a group of people run amuck. Under what circumstances, we have yet to determine. But they do not represent soldiers. And they do not represent the armed forces of the United States.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: Vice president Cheney spoke about the prison abuse scandal during an appearance in Florida today. Speaking to a Jewish group in Boca Raton, Cheney added a reference to the scandal into his standard defense of the commander in chief, the military and the mission in Iraq.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The recent misconduct of a few does not diminish the honor and the decency that our servicemen and women have shown in Iraq.
They have seen hard duty, long deployments and fierce fighting. They've endured the loss of friends and comrades and they are unwavering in their mission. They are proving everyday that when we send them to defend our nation and our interests, we are sending the very best of the United States of America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: Let's get another check of how the situation in Iraq is helping to push down the president's poll numbers. As we reported earlier, John Kerry leads Bush by five points in our just released CNN/"TIME" magazine poll of likely voters. It's the first time a majority of voters have said they'd vote for Kerry.
The president's ratings on Iraq as Americans worry the U.S. is not doing all it can to complete the mission there. Our new poll shows 60 percent of Americans believe the U.S. can win the war in Iraq. Fewer, 52 percent, believe America will win eventually. And even fewer, 41 percent think the U.S. is winning the war now.
Iraq has been the main topic on Capitol Hill this week from the prisoner abuse scandal to the future price tag of the U.S. mission. I spoke earlier with Senator Evan Bayh, a Democrat of Indiana, a member of the armed services committee and an oft-named vice presidential prospect. I asked him if he worries that political debate over Iraq here at home will be used as fodder for anti-Americanism.
SEN. EVAN BAYH (D-IN), ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: It's a legitimate concern. Obviously with your network and others, information travels very quickly in that part of the world.
So I think we need to play the role of constructive critics understanding that things that shouldn't have happened happened. We need to get to the bottom, see if there were policy reasons for that.
But at the same time, say very clearly, Candy, there are fundamental moral differences between what we stand for as Americans and those that we are struggling against and for. And that was put into stark relief by that terrible beheading of Nicholas Berg.
CROWLEY: Where do you stand on releasing the pictures, putting out the rest of them?
BAYH: You know I initially thought that in a free society, we ought to err on the side of making information public. But having seen them and having had a chance to think about it, I don't think it would serve any good purpose. I think what you have is already mostly out there. And if it would jeopardize one more life, civilian or military, why do that?
CROWLEY: What are you getting -- what's your sense from home? You come from a fairly conservative state. How are people reacting to this?
BAYH: Well, people are disappointed in the conduct of these few people who were involved. And they're shocked at the pictures, obviously.
But at the same time, Candy, they intuitively understand that that does not represent America and most American military personnel. That we stand for something better than that. And one of the great strengths we have is that when that takes place, that's aberrant behavior, we punish people like that. Possibly put them in jail.
And as I said, the beheading of Nicholas Berg put in stark relief what the other side stands for which is something far worse.
CROWLEY: Is George Bush responsible for anything that went on in the prison?
BAYH: Well, General Taguba found responsibility up to the brigade level. We're now investigating the intelligence side to see how far up that goes.
I would say in the policy side, Candy, this, not excusing in any way the behavior that took place there, but people farther up the command structure allowed that prison to get terribly overcrowded, create conditions that put a great deal of pressure on these guards and, at least in part, led to this aberrant behavior.
So I think somebody further up the chain needs to answer for that. I doubt if that goes to the Oval Office.
CROWLEY: Do you think Don Rumsfeld should resign?
BAYH: You know, I don't because he works for the president, he's implementing the president's policies.
I think the overall question here that has been obscured somewhat by this prison controversy is are the president's policies working? Are we on the road to a stable, freer Iraq or are we not? That very clearly lies at the president's doorstep. And throwing a subordinate over the side really doesn't get to that question.
CROWLEY: And what's the answer to the question you're asking? Is Iraq closer now than it was pre-Saddam Hussein to a democracy?
BAYH: We're closer now. But the question is whether we're on a path to being successful. And I think -- you know, I'm one of those who thinks it's a good thing Saddam is gone. I think it's a noble thing we're trying to provide democracy to the Iraqi people.
But there have been a series of mistakes that have led to us losing some momentum, to bogging down. I think we need to reseize the initiative with some bold policy initiatives. And clearly that is a debate in this presidential election. And I think the president needs to be held to account for mistakes made by the administration.
CROWLEY: You have one of the premier members of your party talking about how the prison has now been, you know, just as bad as it was under Saddam Hussein. And that, of course, is Senator Kennedy. Do you agree with that?
BAYH: I don't agree with that assessment. I think this aberrant behavior on the part of a few individuals doesn't compare to the hundreds of thousands of murders, rapes, those kinds of things. Saddam was a monster on a scale of historic proportions.
So while this is wrong, we need to get to the bottom of it. i don't think the two are moral little equivalent.
CROWLEY: Let me turn a quick corner here for you and ask you if you were on the ticket with John Kerry, could you deliver Indiana?
BAYH: You're going to ask me all these tough political questions.
You know, Candy, I don't know. We have a history in our state, of course, of voting more Republican than Democrat. But if you run a good middle of the road, centrist the way John Kerry is running his campaign, you can come close in Indiana. So I think it remains very much to be seen.
CROWLEY: The Bush White House expects criticism from Democrats, but second-guessing from conservatives? Up next, I'll talk to two prominent voices from the right about the president and what he is or is not doing for them.
Plus, a blow to the Bush White House from a former occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
And later how those pesky cicadas are helping the Republicans make their point.
CROWLEY: Since the beginning of his 2000 campaign, George W. Bush has been able to count on the backing of conservatives. That wall of support has shown some cracks of late on issues like Iraq and the rise in federal spending. Last night, Mr. Bush spoke to the American Conservative Union where he emphasized his commitment to conservative principles and a democratic Iraq.
Joining me to talk more about President Bush and his relations with the right, David Keene, the chairman of the American Conservative Union. And in Las Vegas, Stephen Moore of the anti-tax group, Club for Growth. Thank you both so much for joining us.
Let me ask you first, Stephen, what is it that George Bush is doing on the monetary side that is upsetting conservatives? STEPHEN MOORE, CLUB FOR GROWTH: Well, I think David Keene and I would agree, there's way too much spending going on in Washington. The government is growing too much under this Republican Congress and Republican president.
But, Candy, George Bush is still very popular with conservatives. I know our members feel that it's urgently important that George Bush be reelected. We're spending several million dollars on TV ads to support President Bush.
And I think the overriding economic factor supporting Bush in this election is the economy really is booming. And we've made the case that the Bush tax cut, which is just about a year old now, is really creating this employment boom, the increase in the stock market, the very rapid rate of GDP growth which has grown about 5 percent.
So for the most part, I think conservatives would like to see smaller government. But Bush also has one other thing going on his factor which is conservatives are terrified about the idea of a John Kerry presidency.
CROWLEY: David, let me turn to you. I know he spoke to your group last night. And one of the points that Terry McAuliffe, the head of the DNC, made when he was here earlier is that Bush wouldn't have to go to the ACU and make this speech if he wasn't trying to solidify his base, if there wasn't a problem there.
DAVID KEENE, CHAIRMAN, AMERICAN CONSERVATIVE UNION: Well, Terry can think whatever he wants. The fact of the matter is that George Bush came to speak to the American Conservative Union because he shares many of our political and philosophical views.
And sure, he was there this year because he wants to energize his base. Not because his base is falling away, but because he's there to say, we've got a battle to fight this fall, and we need to fight it together.
Steve is exactly right on two scores. First of all, is the Bush presidency perfect from a conservative standpoint? No, nothing's perfect. But we live in the real world. And we are convinced that the threat that we face this fall, in terms of the political contest, is great.
You know, you get some people out there saying, well, gee, what about the spending under George Bush? It's been too high. What's the alternative? John Kerry would triple it or quadruple it. In every instance where the Democratic candidate talks about the problems that Bush has, he would make them worse.
So both from a comparative standpoint and, frankly, from an absolute standpoint, George Bush is somebody who came in with conservative support, who really does, we think, embody and incorporate conservative values in everything that he does.
And we think he's a president who's trying to do a good job and by and large is doing a good job. It isn't going to be completed in four years but we're willing to keep him around for another four to see how he does there.
CROWLEY: Stephen, back to you. I know you can't see this, but I want our audience to see. You know, the Democratic National Committee is sending out four pages worth of conservative criticisms of George Bush.
So if everybody's so happy, why is it that this criticism is out there? And is there any realization this can be detrimental to what you both say you want which is the reelection of Bush?
MOORE: David Keene and I have been very tough on President Bush on the overspending. We didn't like the Medicare Expansion Bill that we passed last year. We didn't like the education bill too much.
But the one thing that George understands from the mistake of his father is that if you want to run for reelection and have conservative support, you have to cut taxes and you can't raise them.
And the one thing that really energizes our members is that George W. Bush is a tax cutter, those tax cuts have helped energize the economy. I'm calling it the Bush boom, Candy. I mean the employment is way up, 500,000 new jobs over the last couple months. The stock market's up 20 percent.
So you look at those fundamentals in the economy, they're very strong. And I think it's going to come down to "It's the economy, stupid," again in this election. And that's going to get Bush reelected.
MOORE: Steve's right about that. We are in a period of economic growth and economic recovery. And it is attributable to the Bush policies and particularly to the Bush tax cut.
I was watching you when you had Terry McAuliffe on. And he's talking about the terrible economy. We're out of the terrible economy, Terry. It's growing.
MOORE: Things are looking good.
Look, let me go back to your original question. You know, for years and years and years, during the period of Democratic dominance, we Republicans would sit around and say, you know, these Democrats disagree with each other on so many things. Surely they can't possibly win elections if they disagree.
You know, political people do disagree. We disagree within the Republican family, we disagree within the conservative family. But at the end of the day, we're there. And we're going to be there this fall. And I've been around the country. Steve's in Las Vegas right now -- not that Las Vegas is the home of all conservatives. But the fact of the matter is that when you go out there and when you talk to them, there are lots of things they like, some things they don't like. And then if you ask a conservative what are you going to do this fall, the answer is very simple. He or she is going to get out there and campaign for the reelection of George Bush.
CROWLEY: Stephen, come back and I'll let you finish that thought. Thank you so much, Stephen Moore, Club for Growth, and again David Keene. Thanks so much.
Ahead on INSIDE POLITICS, Nancy Reagan goes up against President Bush on a key issue earning her a spot in our "Play of the Week." Stay with us.
CROWLEY: Have a new poll in from an important state, out of Oregon, considered a battleground. This coming saying that Kerry now leading there in Oregon, 50 percent to George Bush's 46.
Now, Ralph Nader, who has been a factor in Oregon, put him into that, and what you find is still Kerry leading, 45, George Bush 43, Ralph Nader at 39 percent. Those are all favorables for those gentlemen.
Time now for our "Political Play of the Week." Who would have thought in one corner we'd find George Bush and in the other former first lady Nancy Reagan? Our senior political correspondent Bill Schneider explains what happened in our "Political Play of the Week."
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: In August 2001, after lengthy deliberation at his Crawford, Texas ranch, President Bush issued an executive order banning the use of federal funds to harvest new lines of stem cells for medical research.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Extracting the stem cell destroys the embryo, and thus, destroys its potential for life.
SCHNEIDER: Scientists complained that the president's policy, backed by the anti-abortion movement, chokes off research that shows promise of one day finding cures for diabetes, Parkinson's disease, spinal cord injuries and Alzheimer's disease, the terrible malady that afflicts former President Ronald Reagan.
NANCY REAGAN, FRM. FIRST LADY: Ronnie's long journey has finally taken him to a distant place, where I can no longer reach him.
SCHNEIDER: Nancy Reagan wrote to President Bush in 2001 saying she hoped sparing other families the pain she had suffered would be part of her husband's legacy. She allowed that fact to become public. Since then, she has discreetly lobbied White House officials and members of Congress and allowed her views to be known.
President Bush has shown no intention of changing his position.
BUSH: I oppose the use of federal funds for the destruction of human embryos for stem cell research.
SCHNEIDER: Meanwhile a brush fire has been spreading across the country. Last month, 206 members of Congress signed a letter calling on President Bush to relax the restrictions on stem cell research. Among the signers from both parties were conservative abortion opponents like Duke Cunningham and Don Young.
In California, over a million voters have signed petitions to put an initiative on the November ballot that would use state funds to underwrite stem cell research. In New Jersey this week, Governor Jim McGreevy inaugurated a stem cell research institute.
GOV. JIM MCGREEVY (D), NEW JERSEY: This appropriation proudly makes New Jersey the first state in the nation to devote public funds to stem cell research.
SCHNEIDER: And in Los Angeles, for the first time, Nancy Reagan spoke out in public on this issue.
REAGAN: Now science has presented us with a hope called stem cell research which may provide our scientists with many answers that he have for so long been beyond our grasp. I just don't see how we can turn our backs on this.
SCHNEIDER: Mrs. Reagan staked out a compassionate position. President Bush's position sits well with conservatives. The compassionate conservative president must choose one or the other, while Mrs. Reagan gets the "Political Play of the Week."
SCHNEIDER: In the conservative pantheon of heroes, there may it be only one name that can trump President Bush's -- and that's Ronald Reagan's -- Candy.
CROWLEY: Interesting. The king and the queen. Thanks very much. Appreciate it, Bill.
Some Republicans look at cicadas and see a comparison to John Kerry. Up next, the Internet is the place for edgy political ads you won't see on TV. The latest example when we return.
CROWLEY: You have likely heard about the on going invasion of millions, even billions of cicadas. They're the thumb-sized bugs emerging across the Eastern U.S. after 17 years underground. The Republican National Committee seized on this phenomenon to put an ad on their Web site to talk about what's bugging them. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AD ANNOUNCER: Seventeen years later, he is for raising taxes, voted against funding our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, and wants to take the prescription drug card away from seniors.
When the cicadas emerge, they make a lot of noise. But they always revert to form before disappearing again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: Beyond Internet political ads cicadas may be a political guidepost. It seems they often appear just as Washington becomes embroiled in a major news event. Here's CNN's Sean Callebs.
SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Get used to this sound if you live on the East Coast. A swarm of cicadas with the sci- fi name, Brood Ten. By the time they die, about five weeks from now, leaving their young to burrow into the earth for the next 17 years, Washington will likely still be buzzing about the U.S.-led involvement in Iraq.
The last time Washington was crawling with cicadas in 1987, a young Fawn Hall was testifying on the Iran-Contra scandal.
Gary Hevel, a Smithsonian scientist, studies bugs for a living.
GARY HEVEL, SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTION: It's a fun prospect to contemplate and think about how each 17 years for Brood Ten, as this is, that you can really find some connection somehow.
CALLEBS: OK, let's go back to 1970. In early to mid-May, Washington was digesting the National Guard showdown with students at Kent State University.
And before that, in 1953...
ANNOUNCER: In Washington, the press rushes the meeting room of the Senate Investigating Subcommittee.
SEN. JOSEPH MCCARTHY (R), WISCONSIN: Another Fifth Amendment communist was finally dug out of the dark recesses and exposed to public view.
CALLEBS: Senator Joseph McCarthy launched his effort to root out communists.
Go back much further to 1868. Brood Ten was waking up and Washington was consumed with impeachment proceedings of Abraham Lincoln's successor, Andrew Johnson. Johnson survived by one vote. By then the crop of cicadas had died.
Back to the buzz. Hevel offers this insight, look in the matrix of the wing. HEVEL: The 17-year cicada has a nice little emblem on the wing about this point. I'm not sure you can see it.
CALLEBS (on camera): Like a lightning bolt.
HEVEL: It's a form of a "W."
CALLEBS: A statement, an endorsement, perhaps some form of pesty protest? Or just some ironic, curious coincidence that in a city that prides itself on noticing every political nuance?
And, Candy, you said billions? The guy tells me actually trillions. And here's one floating around right here. The "W" right back there on his tail end.
CROWLEY: He's lovely, Sean.
CALLEBS: I'll let you take this one home.
CROWLEY: Yes, well, you can't scare me. I've raised teenage sons, OK? Nothing scares me. Thank you, Sean.
That's it for INSIDE POLITICS. I'm Candy Crowley. Have a great weekend. "CROSSFIRE" starts right now.
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