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Bush Visits Pennsylvania; Senate Politics and the Presidential Race

Aired June 23, 2004 - 15:30   ET


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: HIV-AIDS, you see, is a challenge. It's a direct challenge to the compassion of our country.

ANNOUNCER: President Bush plays the compassion card in Pennsylvania, with several political goals apparently in mind.

Has the Senate taken partisan sniping to a new level? We'll put the Kerry vote that Republicans prevented into perspective.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Once again, it's my way or the highway, shut the door, lock people out, don't let them take part in the democracy.

ANNOUNCER: Who will Kerry choose as his running mate? It's the 64 million dollar question that everyone and their brother seems to have an opinion about.

SEN. BILL NELSON (D), FLORIDA: Well, I think you're going to see it probably come down to between Congressman Gephardt and Senator Edwards.



JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you for joining us.

When President Bush went to Pennsylvania today to talk about the global battle against AIDS, you could say it was a three-fer for his re-election campaign. His message seemed designed to resonate with African-Americans, with showdown voters, and with moderates who may be questioning the compassion in Bush's brand of conservatism. Let's quickly bring in our White House correspondent, Dana Bash -- Dana.


And today was the president's 29th visit as president to the state of Pennsylvania. He's been there more than any other state, aside from his home state of Texas. And there's a pretty good reason why.

First of all, let's look at the 2000 vote. Al Gore beat President Bush 51 percent to 46 percent. Now, the polls show John Kerry slightly leading George W. Bush for Pennsylvania's very important 21 electoral votes.

The latest poll shows John Kerry at 45, President Bush at 42 percent. And, obviously, President Bush has proven that he can win the White House without Pennsylvania. But many experts looking at the electoral map say John Kerry simply can't. And so the Bush campaign strategy is to keep this state out of John Kerry's column.

So what the president talked about in that state today, and where he did it, was carefully calculated and targeted for the votes he needs to actually get in Pennsylvania. The subject matter was about what he calls his compassionate agenda. That is something he hopes will reach out to some of the moderates in that state. Today, the topic was promoting his $15 billion AIDS initiative.


BUSH: This disease leaves suffering and orphans in fear where ever it reaches. Every man and woman and child who suffers from this addiction from the streets of Philly to the villages of Africa is a child of god who deserves our love and our help.


BASH: Now, as I said, where the president spoke today was also very important. It was Philadelphia. It's a media market that reaches, we're told, some 40 percent of the state. And it's also a cities whose suburbs will very likely decide the election. And it's a suburb that has -- many suburbs that have registered Republicans who have voted for Democrats in recent elections, both in the presidential and in the gubernatorial races.

Mr. Bush needs to win those back in order to win that state. And political experts do think that perhaps his stance on stem cell research, maybe even gay marriage, is not helping with those voters. So he's hoping that perhaps his talk and discussion of reaching out and helping people with AIDS certainly will help with those moderate Republicans -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right. Dana Bash at the White House. We appreciate it. Thank you.

BASH: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: Well, health care is John Kerry's campaign theme of the day. He discussed his proposals to bring down costs and protect patients. Speaking to Service Employees Union members in San Francisco, Kerry took aim at a Supreme Court ruling this week limiting lawsuits against HMO's. And he called for passage of an enforceable patient's bill of rights.


KERRY: The first piece of legislation I will introduce as president of the United States, the first legislation that I will fight for and challenge the Congress to pass before it does anything else, is something that you have been demanding for a long time, something you've been setting the trend for in this country. I will introduce a bill that finally makes health care more affordable and accessible for all Americans.


WOODRUFF: John Kerry in San Francisco.

Meantime, Republican leaders on Capitol Hill say that Congress is not likely to pass patients' rights legislation this year.

At that SEIU event, and a fundraiser earlier today, Kerry essentially accused Republican leaders of denying his right to vote in the Senate. As a soon to be presidential nominee, and minority party senator, Kerry's candidacy has opened the door to some unusual partisan maneuvering.


WOODRUFF (voice-over): A story of senator...

KERRY: These people are so petty, so sad, so political, that all they could do is spend the whole day finding a way not to let John Kerry vote.

WOODRUFF: ... versus senator...

SEN. BILL FRIST (R), TEXAS: Senator Kerry, who hadn't been here all year, who's missed 80 percent of all votes this year, parachutes in for a day, and then will be taking off once again.

WOODRUFF: ... as presidential politics spills into congressional business to an unprecedented degree. The latest dust-up came yesterday when John Kerry rejiggered his campaign schedule in order to vote on veterans' benefits legislation. The Democrat flew across the country. The Republicans scrapped the vote.

KERRY: That's the way they play. That's what's at stake in this race.

WOODRUFF: Today, he attacked his GOP colleagues as obstructionists who...

KERRY: ... don't respect the institution, don't show the common courtesies that actually bring people together to find the common ground.

WOODRUFF: Capitol Hill gamesmanship is nothing new when sitting senators run for president.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The majority party in the Senate has the capacity to embarrass Senator Kerry by bringing amendments to the floor, of bringing votes to the floor on bills that he really needs to vote on. WOODRUFF: But the majority party doesn't have a monopoly on procedural political tools. In 1996, Senate Democrats tried to attach minimum wage legislation to every possible bill, forcing then Majority Leader Bob Dole to jump through procedural hoops to block a potentially politically damaging vote.

ROBERT DOLE, FMR. SENATOR: And I think my season in the Senate is about to come to an end.

WOODRUFF: Dole eventually resigned from Congress, finding himself spread too thin between his Senate leadership duties and his campaign commitments. Still, even in presidential years, the Senate has, by and large, been a civil place. Take 1964, the last time a sitting senator from the minority party in Congress staged a White House bid. The candidate was Barry Goldwater.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They treated him with great respect. They didn't bring issues to the floor as much to embarrass Goldwater.

WOODRUFF: This year is very different. Partisanship is stronger. The parties themselves are more ideologically divided. And the Senate majority leader has made it clear he is gunning to keep Congress and the White House in Republican hands.


WOODRUFF: And now, we turn to an update on the Ralph Nader factor. Democratic National Committee sources tell us that there is a lot of talk from chairman Terry McAuliffe on down about ways to counter Nader's Independent candidacy. In a move -- in a more high profile move, though, members of the Congressional Black Caucus followed through on plans to urge Nader to drop out of the race and avoid helping Bush win, as they believe Nader did in 2000. We are told that that meeting turned into a shouting match, but Nader still refused to call it quits.


RALPH NADER (I), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My Independent candidacy spillover vote will help the Democrats. Whatever happens to Bush or Kerry, whether Bush self-destructs or not -- and I think he will -- it's very important for the Congress to have a Democratic House or Democratic Senate because then they can block Bush.



REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D), CONGRESSIONAL BLACK CAUCUS CHAIRMAN: Mr. Nader, you have a right to run, but we have not heard a reason to run. It became abundantly clear to us that this is about Ralph Nader. And we were sorely disappointed.


WOODRUFF: Meantime, Nader is seeking the endorsement of the Green Party, an issue on the agenda at the party's national convention, which opened today in Milwaukee.

Well, while Nader is technically a Kerry rival, that's not stopping him from offering the Democrat unsolicited advice about who to pick as a running mate. Nader today sent Kerry a letter, urging him to put John Edwards on the ticket, citing Edwards' campaign experience and defense of Americans right to sue.

Kerry may also have gotten an earful about Edwards during his appearance before the Service Employees Union today. A survey of SEIU executive board members showed that they "overwhelmingly" favor Edwards as Kerry's VP. Kerry did meet privately with Edwards for about 20 minutes on Capitol Hill yesterday.

Another VP prospect, Florida Senator Bill Nelson, tells CNN that he believes Edwards and Dick Gephardt are the two top contenders. Nelson downplays his own discussions with officials in the Kerry camp.


NELSON: I don't think in my mind it is the serious vetting that you are -- are portraying. And my conclusion is that it's certainly an honor to be mentioned, but I think I'm a long shot.


WOODRUFF: Bill Nelson interviewed earlier today by CNN's Wolf Blitzer. Nelson says if Kerry wants a state-specific running mate, he will likely give a very strong look at the other Florida senator, Bob Graham.

Well, there's been plenty of fireworks and fallout in the presidential race in recent days. Up next, dueling campaign insiders go at it. I'll talk with Bush campaign chairman Marc Racicot and Kerry campaign senior strategist, Tad Devine.

Also ahead, an area of controversy before the Democratic convention. It's all about Boston's history of racial tension.

And later, how will sensational twists in the Illinois Senate race affect the bigger battle for partisan control?

With 132 days until the election, this is INSIDE POLITICS, the place for campaign news.


WOODRUFF: As we've seen, the intense partisanship of this year's presidential election has spilled over into the United States Senate. Here to talk about that and about the campaign are Bush campaign chairman Marc Racicot and Kerry campaign senior strategist, Tad Devine.

Gentlemen, good to see both of you.


WOODRUFF: Thank you for being here.

Marc Racicot, let me begin with you. John Kerry is, in essence, accusing the Senate leadership of denying him the ability to vote. Meantime, you've got the Republican leader in the Senate, Bill Frist, saying, well, he just shows up and we're not going to let him vote anytime he wants to. Is this excessive partisanship from the campaign spilling over into the people's house?

RACICOT: Well, I certainly don't run the Senate. And I don't have every intuition about what takes place there. But my understanding is it's a bit more complicated than that, that there's a very, very long and substantial debate process association with the defense authorization and the defense appropriation bills yesterday, that there were huge number of amendments and that Senator Kerry was requiring that one specific amendment be advanced ahead of all of the others or isolated from all of the others. And as a consequence, was demanding the opportunity to be able to vote on that one specific amendment.

And the chairman of the committee, Senator Warner, just felt that they had to adhere to a protocol that all of the other members had agreed upon prior to that time. So I -- I don't know that there was any deliberate effort here on the part of people to deny the opportunity to participate.

WOODRUFF: Well, Tad Devine, you do have -- I mean, in fact, as Bill Frist pointed out, John Kerry has missed a lot of votes, as he said. And he didn't like the idea that he's just going to parachute in and out.

TAD DEVINE, KERRY CAMPAIGN SENIOR STRATEGIST: Well, he's running for the president of the United States. He's been away from the Senate the way Governor Bush was away from his state so often during the 2000 campaign.

I mean, obviously, John Kerry would not have flown all the way across the nation to vote on an issue like veterans' health benefits, something which is very dear to his heart, unless there was supposed to be a vote. They changed the vote. They changed it, I think, for an obvious political purpose. And I think the American people understand what's going on, and I don't think it will help the Republicans at all.

WOODRUFF: Let me turn to a different subject, and that is a new Washington Post-ABC poll, Marc Racicot, that shows maybe some danger signs for President Bush, primarily that dramatic drop, 11 points in the percentage of Americans who say they trust him to do a better job of handling terrorism. It went from 58 percent in April to 47 percent in -- in June. Is this something that worries you?

RACICOT: Well, there was a poll just a few days before that that revealed that the American people, by a strong majority, almost 60 percent of the American public, supporting the president's actions, supporting the efforts in Iraq, believing it was the right thing to do. I think that you're going to see these poll numbers, and I suspect Tad would agree, will be very, very close throughout the course of the election.

I think you're going to see a band within which the numbers will change in terms of approval ratings and support until after Labor Day. That will be four or five points. I think this is a contest between the 45 yard lines, quite frankly.

DEVINE: I think (UNINTELLIGIBLE) right. I mean, I would love to think we were eight points ahead or nine points ahead. But I do think -- and I think the race will be close, and that's where most of the polling is.

But I think if you look at poll after poll, I think it is undeniable that John Kerry has made real progress during the spring, that he's advanced his cause. People are getting to know him better. And I think, you know, we withstood an $83 million barrage of almost all negative advertising, and I think that's a big moment and step forward.

WOODRUFF: Well, speaking about advertising, Tad Devine, I want to pick up on that, because some people are saying it's problem for John Kerry that the economy is picking up, that jobs are being created. You now have the -- the Bush-Cheney campaign running ads, pointing out what they call John Kerry's unprecedented pessimism. They say here you've got the economy picking up, jobs being created, he's out there talking about the great depression.

DEVINE: Right. I don't think the president and his campaign can distinguish between pessimism and criticism. OK? We will plead guilty to being critical of the policies of the Bush administration.

But John Kerry is very optimistic about this country, if we have the right kind of leadership. I think, you know, as for John Kerry, jobs are not just statistics. They're the lifeline for American families. And we see the middle class right now being squeezed in this country: higher health care costs, education costs, cost of gasoline at the gas pump. And I think that's the reality of the economy.

WOODRUFF: Marc Racicot?

RACICOT: Well, I would say, the previous question about the changes in approval ratings, you know, we've seen John Kerry's approval ratings go down about 21 points since he got out of the primary. And, obviously, the American people are coming to know him exceptionally well.

And when Tad -- Tad talks about expenditures of moneys in the campaign from the Bush perspective, when you combine the 527 groups, which obviously support John Kerry, along with John Kerry's own advertising, we actually were outspent during this period of time.

When you talk about the economy, quite frankly, there's just no case to be made other than the case that the economy is pointed in the right direction. Every economic indicator reveals that. Even the Democrats' own Misery Index reveals that this president is doing exceptionally well in comparison to past times. WOODRUFF: He's got a point, doesn't he?

DEVINE: Well, it's a point the American people strongly disagree with. OK? And he's got a problem as a result, and the president has a problem.

Listen, people are living the reality of this economy in their daily lives. And you can point to job statistics, but the fact is that if we don't create 150,000 jobs a month in this country, we can't even keep up with the number of people who are coming into the work force. That's why unemployment, for example, has not gone down in recent months. So, you know, there's a real economy that people are feeling in their lives (ph), and there's the statistics of the economy that are at odds with the reality.

WOODRUFF: We're going to have to leave it there. I have much more to ask, but it's going to have to...

RACICOT: I have much more to say.


WOODRUFF: Well, it's going to have to wait until the next time we get the two of you together. It's very good to see you, Tad Devine, Marc Racicot.

DEVINE: Thanks, Judy.

RACICOT: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: Thank you very much for coming in. We appreciate it.

Apparently a new headache for Democratic convention planners in Boston. Up next, how the city's sometimes troubled past is reviving some old worries about politics and race.


WOODRUFF: Organizers of the upcoming Democratic convention in Boston have spent a lot of time trying to defuse public concerns over traffic, security and other issues. In recent days, however, they've also had to work to (ph) revive worries about the city's sometimes painful history of race relations. Boston bureau chief, Dan Lothian, has more.


DAN LOTHIAN, CNN BOSTON BUREAU CHIEF (voice-over): It's the face of Boston's past that keeps showing up in the mirror, despite claims that things have really changed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a new Boston. It's a different Boston than it was 10 years ago, 20 years ago. It's a much different -- much more diversity.

LOTHIAN: Apparently, needing some convincing, the head of New York's Democratic Party, Herman Farrell, Jr., paid a visit this week to South Boston, where 30 years ago racial tensions exploded during the bussing battles.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I think it's lovely. I think...

LOTHIAN (on camera): Farrell had been openly critical of South Boston and this bath house, the venue for New York's delegation convention party, saying it would be "very troubling to celebrate here given the area's history of racial turmoil." He had tried to get the party location changed.

(voice-over): Attempting to ease tensions with just weeks to go before the Democratic national convention, Farrell apologized.

HERMAN FARRELL, NEW YORK DEMOCRATIC PARTY: I learned that you shouldn't take your right foot and put it in your mouth.

LOTHIAN: But Boston's troubled past is still troubling for others, like San Francisco Giants slugger Barry Bonds. While admits he has no firsthand knowledge, Bonds was recently quoted as saying Boston is too racist for him and that he couldn't call the city home and doesn't want to play here. What is the truth about this city's racial progress?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think Boston is quite the nirvana that a lot of people are attempting to paint it now. And it's certainly a far cry different from, I think -- a legitimate description would be the racial hell that we had here 30 years ago accompanying bussing.

LOTHIAN: He says in many ways things have improved significantly, but adds the city's imagine will only change by doing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: By doing means to have some significant accomplishments for its communities of color, whether those be politicians, whether those be the social life.

LOTHIAN: Mayor Menino says a lot has been done. He points to this picture, a diverse gym in South Boston...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dominicans, Puerto Ricans, white guys, white guys.

LOTHIAN: ... as a sign that the city has moved beyond its past.

Dan Lothian, CNN, Boston.


WOODRUFF: Well, we are just one week away from a crucial event in Baghdad. Coming up, a look at how some Washington lawmakers are gearing up for that big event.

Also, an Illinois candidate tries to appear senatorial while his opponent endures a media firestorm over a messy divorce.



ANNOUNCER: A party line...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've made enormous progress...


WOODRUFF: We're sorry about that. We'll try to get those gremlins straightened out. Welcome back to the second half hour of INSIDE POLITICS.

Well, exactly one week before the handover of power in Iraq, preparations are intensifying not just in Baghdad, but right here in Washington. Our congressional correspondent, Ed Henry, reports on new partisan moves in the trenches.


ED HENRY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For the second straight day, top Bush officials were deployed to Capitol Hill to reassure lawmakers about next week's turnover of power in Iraq. This comes as Republicans urge the administration to start playing offense amid a Democratic onslaught. House Democrats on Wednesday compared President Bush's handling of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal to Watergate and demanded a congressional probe.

REP. HENRY WAXMAN (D), CALIFORNIA: I think we're looking at a classic case of abuse of power.

HENRY: Senate Democrats claimed Tuesday's White House release of memos fell short and pressed Republicans to approve a subpoena for more documents.

SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: The Senate itself is on trial. We have a constitutional and oath of office responsibility to prevent stonewalling and require accountability.

HENRY: Republicans are fighting back with the administration issuing talking points for lawmakers. They tout everything from the fact that the war on terror has overthrown two terrorist regimes to the contention that there are now 55,000 Internet subscribers in Baghdad.

The talking points also defend the use of interrogations noting they have thwarted enemy attacks and played a key role in the capture of Saddam Hussein.

The counterattack follows a "Washington Post" poll showing voters are split over who they trust now to fight terrorism. A dramatic shift from three months ago when the president led Senator John Kerry by 21 points.

Republicans say they're ignoring the polls. REP TOM DELAY (R-TX), MAJORITY WHIP: I don't care. What I care about is winning the war on terror. What I care about is securing and bringing security to the American people.


HENRY: Judy, Republicans though are privately saying that they've seen a bit of shift in the political ground up here. A few months ago it looked like if the economy became the dominant issue in the campaign, that would benefit Democrats and if national security became the top issue, that would help President Bush.

But Republicans are privately saying they think that political equation has been flipped. The big bottom line here though is that there's a lot of time between now and November. And that political equation could flip yet again -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: One more reminder of the danger of predictions. Ed Henry, thank you very much.

Well there are many unanswered questions, questions we can't answer about the Iraq handover and how it will play out in the presidential election here at home. Here now our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider.


WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): All this year, the Bush administration has been at the mercy of events in Iraq.

BUSH: They want us to cower in the face of their brutal killings. And the United States will not be intimidated by these people.

SCHNEIDER: The Bush administration needs some good news in Iraq. Next week, finally an event the Bush administration believes it can control, the handover of power. Good news at last.

SEN. GORDON SMITH (R), OREGON: If President Bush is successful in this handover and people begin to see that freedom's price is beginning to pay off, they will come around and they will support this president again.

SCHNEIDER: In fact, it's already beginning to pay off. The latest poll shows President Bush's ratings on Iraq getting a little lift from 40 percent approval in May to 44 percent approval now. But still, majority negative.

Of course, the enemies of the United States are fully aware of what's at stake in the handover.

SEN. JON MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: The terrorists know that this is a very critical time. If they can prevent a handover of the government from the United States military to this Iraqi government, they will have achieved great success. SCHNEIDER: Democrats also have a lot of stake in the handover. They're trying to downplay its significance.

GEN. WESLEY CLARK (RET.-D), FRM. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We may be feeding the emergence of forces that lead to civil war as we try to pull back, turn it over to the Iraqis, stay out of places like Fallujah.

SCHNEIDER: Every time there has been positive news on the economy it has been overwhelmed by news out of Iraq. Bush strategist Matthew Dowd told "The Wall Street Journal" the Bush campaign hope the hand over next week will get Iraq out of the news. Lots of luck, Democrats say.

KERRY: The Bush administration says would have you believe we are about to hand over the authority in Iraq to a new government. A handover that will signal the end of America's occupation.

But in reality we are no closer to a real Iraqi government capable of providing for its people, making laws and ensuring freedoms. This is still America's problem.


SCHNEIDER: If Senator Kerry is right, this election will not be about the economy, stupid, as the White House hopes, it will be about Iraq, stupid -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right, Bill Schneider, thank you very much.

And aside from the election, for a moment, just days before the handover, the Bush administration does not seem to be building any bridges with American journalists in Baghdad. Listen to what Defense Secretary -- Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz had to say about reporters in Baghdad during some congressional testimony yesterday.


PAUL WOLFOWITZ, DEPUTY DEFENSE SECRETARY: Because, frankly part of our problem is a lot of the press are afraid to travel very much, so they sit in Baghdad and they publish rumors.


WOODRUFF: I'm joined now by Howard Kurtz of CNN's "RELIABLE SOURCES." Is Deputy Secretary Paul Wolfowitz right a lot of reporters are, as he put it, are afraid to travel very much, so they're just sitting right in there Baghdad.

HOWARD KURTZ, HOST "RELIABLE SOURCES": I think his comments are rather insulting to many journalists whom I've interviewed who are risking their lives by being in Iraq.

Few quick examples, Judy. When John Burns and Jeffrey Gettleman of "The New York Times" were both kidnapped at gunpoint and then later released in separate incidents. Dan Williams of "The Washington Post" had his car shot up and barely escaped death. CNN correspondent Michael Holmes also had his car shot up by AK-47's and two of CNN Iraqi employees were killed in that attack. And Fox' Geraldo Rivera, also his car shot at.

Are reporters being careful about when and where they travel in Iraq? Absolutely. But to suggest that they are somehow afraid -- I don't get it.

WOODRUFF: Well he went on to say not only are they, as he put it, "sitting in Baghdad," he said, "they are publishing rumors." Now what evidence is there of that?

KURTZ: If Secretary Wolfowitz has any evidence that news organizations are putting out rumors, I'd like to see it because I'd like to criticize anybody who puts out a rumor. I'm not aware of any stories that have based on rumors.

Now there's a legitimate debate, and Paul Wolfowitz has a legitimate point when it comes to are we getting a clear picture of the situation in Iraq. Particularly with the inability for safety reasons of many journalists who talk to ordinary Iraqis and get outside the Green Zone and do what they would like to do.

Are we emphasizing too much on the bombings and the attacks and the casualties and not enough on the more difficult to show progresses being made? That's a fair debate. But to say we're publishing rumors, I'd like to see the evidence.

WOODRUFF: Yes, I mean because he did go on to say the media is always gravitating to the sensational. I mean you're saying yes, and that may be happening again in Iraq.

KURTZ: Some of these attacks are pretty sensational as in when a hotel in Baghdad was bombed while Paul Wolfowitz was there some months ago. NBC's Jim Mikalszewski and others also -- lives at risks in those attacks.

Now I'm not saying that we should overplay single incident. But clearly the failure of U.S. and coalition Iraqi forces to get control of the security situation there is not only making life difficult for journalists, it's making life difficult for ordinary Iraqis and U.S. contractors. That's a big part of the story.

WOODRUFF: Any sense, Howard, of why Wolfowitz would be saying this?

KURTZ: I don't really know. I'm told that he understands the difficult conditions facing journalists by one person who recently traveled with him. I must only conclude that he's frustrated, that he feels like the situation in Iraq is not as bad as that portrayed by the press and they're not getting the story out.

But to turn that into a criticism of reporters not being brave, they're pretty brave, let me tell you, by being there. And to throw out this rumors charge I think is not a good strategy even from the administration's point of view. Doesn't add up. WOODRUFF: Certainly the reporters I talk to and their crews, their staffs tell me they are working hard. But it is clearly a dangerous place.

KURTZ: I've talked to bureau chiefs and news executives here who say they don't want their reporters to take any unnecessary risks because they don't want to add to the casualty lists in Iraq.

WOODRUFF: Thirty reporters. We checked to day with a committee to protect journalists. Already 30 reporters killed in Iraq since the war began.

Howard Kurtz, thank you very much.

KURTZ: Thank you,

WOODRUFF: See you.

The Illinois Senate race grows curiouser and curiouser. While the Republican's marital history forces him to defend his character, the Democratic candidate is apparently all smiles on Capitol Hill.

And later, Bill Clinton tell the full story about his life? We'll ask Clinton biographer David Maraniss how the former president's book compares to his.


WOODRUFF: Checking the Wednesday "Campaign News Daily," this story just in to CNN. We've learned that a lawsuit will be filed today challenging Ralph Nader's right to get on the ballot in the state of Arizona. We've learned that a citizen in Arizona supported by the state Democratic party and by the DNC are challenging the signatures that have been submitted to get Nader on the November ballot. We're attempting now to get more information but we're told that that lawsuit is being filed today.

Meantime, a new poll in New Jersey finds President Bush trailing among Garden State voters. The latest Quinnipiac survey gives John Kerry 49 percent to Bush's 41 percent in a head-to-head matchup. When Ralph Nader is included, Kerry has a 6-point lead. Bush lost New Jersey to Al Gore in 2000.

The liberal Voter Fund is targeting President Bush in the showdown state of Ohio. The group is spending half a million on a TV ad in the major state markets criticizing the quality of jobs being created to replace those that the group blames Bush for outsourcing.


ANNOUNCER: Now, Bush says we're in recovery. And after a year, you finally land another job and you wonder, is this what you worked your life for?

(END VIDEO CLIP) WOODRUFF: Meantime, the matchup is set in the race for the South Carolina Senate seat held by the retiring Ernest Hollings. Congressman Jim DeMint handily defeated former Governor David Beasley in the Republican primary yesterday getting 59 percent of the vote. DeMint will face Democratic State Education Superintendent Inez Tenenbaum in November.

A new Senate poll next door in North Carolina gives the Democrats reason for optimism. Democrat Erskine Bowles leads Republican Congressman Richard Burr 47 percent to 39 percent in the Research 2000 survey. That is a three-point improvement for Bowles since a poll that was taken back in January.

The recent revelation surrounding Illinois GOP candidate Jack Ryan has added a new twist, you might say, to put it mildly in his race against Democratic Barack Obama. CNN congressional correspondent Joe Johns is with me now for more on this. Hello, Joe.

JOE JOHNS, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Judy. Barack Obama is one of the Democrats' highest hopes to win a Republican Senate seat this November. He was already well ahead in the polls and now Democrat are expressing even more optimism about the race since Obama's gotten into this race and now there's been a lot of negative attention about the allegations involving Jack Ryan and these court papers that he took his wife to explicit sex clubs. Obama is in Washington today getting the star treatment. He met this afternoon with the Congressional Black Caucus, he has got fund raisers here also including ones with Senators Hillary Clinton and Edward Kennedy. Obama is trying to appear above the Ryan controversies.


BARACK OBAMA (D), ILLINOIS SENATE CANDIDATE: It's something obviously that is going generate attention, I think. It's difficult to control these kinds of things. All I can do is control my campaign and my focus. I think that what's most important given what's at stake nationally and in Illinois, that we spend more time talking about domestic and national security issues as opposed to personal revelations.


JOHNS: Meanwhile some Republicans are a little steamed how the Ryan divorce allegations are playing out. Some top Republicans privately say they were led to believe there was nothing embarrassing in those court papers involving Ryan that were recently unsealed. CNN has been told that the speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert, who is, of course, the most powerful congressional Republican from Illinois was surprised by the allegations and as of midday today was still waiting to hear from Ryan.


REP. DENNIS HASTERT (R-IL), HOUSE SPEAKER: I haven't had a personal discussion with Mr. Ryan in the last day or so. I intend to do that and then I will make a further statement. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think he should get out?

HASTERT: I'm reserving my comments until I have a personal discussion with him.


JOHNS: Now privately, CNN has been told that Hastert is waiting to see how all this plays out and he is also interested in learning how serious Ryan is about staying in the race. Hastert did skip a fundraiser for Ryan yesterday but said it was because he had to go over to the White House. Ryan will be in town tomorrow for another fundraiser. Meanwhile Congressman Ray LaHood of Illinois, another congressional Republican, who is very influential has called for Ryan to get out of the race -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Yes, I did see that Congressman LaHood weighed in shortly after all this came out yesterday. Joe, thank you very much. We appreciate it.

Well, Bill Clinton can add another line to his resume. He is now a record-breaking author. Journalist and biographer David Maraniss joins me next to talk about Clinton's new book.


WOODRUFF: Bill Clinton's memoir already a record setter. His publisher says first day sales of "My Life" was a record-breaking number for a work of non-fiction. "My Life" sold more than 400,000 copies yesterday, its first on sale. The abridged audio version read by the former president himself sold 35,000 copies. That's nearly ten times the typical audio bestseller.

The "Washington Post's" David Maraniss is no stranger to the reading public's fascination with Bill Clinton. He wrote a Clinton biography titled "First In His Class" and he wrote a follow-up called "The Clinton Enigma." David joins us from Madison, Wisconsin. David, you probably know this man as well as anybody other than Bill Clinton himself. You told me you've read the book. You managed to get it read. Is this the real Bill Clinton coming through on these pages that you know from your reporting?

DAVID MARANISS, CLINTON BIOGRAPHER: Well, on page 58, he talks about the fact that there is no real Bill Clinton. Perhaps the key to the whole book is an essay he wrote when he was in 11th grade, talking about himself as a paradox, who wanted to be honest, but found himself having difficulty with it, who wanted to be responsible, but often shirked responsibility. All of these contradictions he understood from a very early age. So in that sense, I think the book does present an honest Bill Clinton. But when you get beyond what he was thinking toward his actions, the first half of the book is fascinating. The second half is pretty bland and doesn't reveal much about his presidency honestly.

WOODRUFF: Your newspaper was pretty tough on him in an editorial today. They warned readers -- they said to beware of the version of history he's selling. Is it that far off the mark?

MARANISS: Well, it's a memoir. I think it's important to remember that. He's not an historian. He's writing events, putting them in the best possible perspective for himself, particularly his presidential years. So I think you could pick on it 100 different ways in terms of that but you should only take it as his best explanation or rationalization for his actions as president and not as pure history.

WOODRUFF: Did you learn anything new from the autobiography?

MARANISS: I learned more about his internal thinking on various things but I didn't learn anything new about his actions. There are a couple of minor points that I'm still trying to sort out. One that's of interest to me is he talks in the book about a phone call he got from a Republican named Roger Porter warning him if he ran for president in 1992, the Republicans would ruin him. Many years ago, Bob Woodward and I looked into that explanation, which he used to explain to Hillary why he was being picked on for his sex life. And Roger Porter told both of us, at different times, very explicitly that that conversation never took place. And here it is. I find it again in the book. So I'd like to resolve that one.

WOODRUFF: That's fascinating. Makes you want to go and straighten it out one way or another.

David, you wrote in your book in '98, that Clinton seemed, I'm quoting you, "incapable of learning and changing." Do you still believe that is true about him?

MARANISS: I would rather put it another way, which is that he's capable of learning and changing, and then forgetting and repeating. I think that is the cycle of Bill Clinton's life. Loss and recovery, finding his way out of trouble, getting himself back into trouble, learning from his past mistakes then creating another mistake.

So I think his life is a process of learning but it's also a process of forgetting. Perhaps that's true of all of us.

WOODRUFF: Well, for sure. It's obviously way too early to know how history's is going to read him and remember him but what is your very early sense of that?

MARANISS: I think that Bill Clinton will be a controversial figure in history, not one of the great presidents and he knows that, and that's sort of a wistful ironic fact that his eight years really didn't have that much action and that's perhaps one of the reasons why there's so much focus on his personal life. Who knows how Bill Clinton would have responded if there had been a 9/11 in his presidency. It could have made him a great president. We'll never know that. Because he didn't have that sort of crisis, he won't be in that rank. But I think that the focus on his personal life was fading pretty dramatically until he re-inserted it with the help of his book and Dan Rather in this last week.

WOODRUFF: We all wonder whether he intended to do that but I guess maybe we'll find out the answer to that in one of these interviews that he's doing. David Maraniss, it's very good to see you. Thank you very much for being with us. We appreciate it. Thanks.

One quick programming note, the former president will do his first live primetime interview with Larry King tomorrow night. And he will be taking your phone calls. Tune in to CNN at 9:00 p.m. Eastern.

A controversial film arrives in Washington. Up next, a private screening for the Michael Moore movie that takes on the White House response to terrorism.


WOODRUFF: A private screening is scheduled here in Washington tonight for "Fahrenheit 9/11." That's the award-winning but highly controversial film about the Bush White House response to the 2001 terror attacks. Filmmaker Michael Moore uses the movie to question and criticize everything from the Patriot Act to U.S. connections to the Saudi government.

The movie opens in limited release today in New York and it opens nationwide on Friday. And that's it for this INSIDE POLITICS edition. I'm Judy Woodruff. Thank you for joining us. "CROSSFIRE" starts right now.


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