The Web      Powered by
powered by Yahoo!


Return to Transcripts main page


Charley's Aftermath; New Jersey Politics

Aired August 15, 2004 - 10:00   ET


KELLY WALLACE, HOST: INSIDE POLITICS today, the aftermath of Hurricane Charley. President Bush tours the destruction in Florida. We'll have a live report.
Stormy weather. How could a natural disaster affect the race for the White House? We'll get some thoughts on that. And a New Jersey twister spins the Garden State's political landscape into chaos. That's all straight ahead.

ANNOUNCER: Live from Washington, this is INSIDE POLITICS SUNDAY.

WALLACE: Once ferocious Hurricane Charley, nowhere on the cloudless horizon, but prominent on the political agenda. The storm's southern rampage is dominating the attention of the federal government, the president, and the man who wants to replace him.

I am Kelly Wallace in Washington. Good Sunday morning to you. Politics doesn't take weekends off, and neither do we.

A very, very busy hour ahead. So let's get right to it.

We begin with the personal toll of Hurricane Charley and the government's role in moving beyond the devastation. President Bush is in Florida this hour to witness firsthand the state's most devastating storm in a dozen years. We'll hear from the president shortly. We'll also hear from U.S. Senator Bill Nelson about the billions of dollars in losses suffered by his state and its residents and the loss of life. He'll join us from Punta Gorda, Florida, one of the areas hardest hit by Hurricane Charley.

Now, though, to President Bush's trip to southwest Florida, the hurricane's primary point of impact. He's viewing the devastation, and at least symbolically hand delivering the federal aid included in his declaration of the state as a major disaster area. Elaine Quijano is standing by at the White House.

Elaine, what do we expect the president to do while he's on the ground in Florida?

ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, he's going to take a look at the damage, Kelly, both from the sky as well as on the ground. We're told that President Bush has now arrived in Florida to take a look at the destruction, but also to offer comfort to those affected.

Now, the president left the Washington, D.C. area here earlier this morning. His visit to Florida comes two days after he declared the state a disaster area. Mr. Bush made that declaration even as Hurricane Charley continued to move across the state of Florida. And yesterday at a campaign rally in Iowa, the president emphasized that help was being dispatched to hurricane victims, and he said it was being done in a timely way.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I just want them to know that our federal government is responding quickly. We have got aid stations in place. FEMA federal officials are on the ground working with state and local officials. Many lives have been affected by this hurricane, and I know you'll join me in sending our prayers to those people who look for solace and help.


QUIJANO: Now today, the president will join his brother, Florida Governor Jeb Bush, in surveying the scene. We're told that the president will first take an aerial tour of downtown Punta Gorda. He will then get a briefing at a local airport. And then finally, he will wrap up his visit with another aerial tour, this time of Port Charlotte, another area hit hard by the storm.

After that, he is scheduled to head back here to Washington -- Kelly.

WALLACE: Elaine, as you know, the president's father, former President Bush, was very much criticized back in August of 1992 for not responding more quickly with resources and troops after then Hurricane Andrew. Is this current president mindful of that criticism of his father?

QUIJANO: Well, certainly aides aren't letting on, but that would seem to be the case. The president very quickly on Friday came out with that disaster declaration. Something like less than an hour after Charley actually made landfall there in Florida.

But this is a president against the backdrop of an election year, where polls are showing a very tight race. This president has wanted to demonstrate that he's a strong leader on a number of levels -- on the war on terror, on the economy. Certainly, this being a crisis situation, President Bush, this President Bush anxious to show that the government is being proactive this time around and wanting to let the people of Florida know that the government is there to help -- Kelly.

WALLACE: Elaine Quijano, White House correspondent. Thanks so much, Elaine. And we want you to know, as soon as those pictures come in of President Bush on the ground in Florida, we will bring them to you.

Now, turning to Democratic challenger John Kerry. He is extending his heartfelt sympathy to Floridians who suffered losses in the storm. The senator also vowed his full support to President Bush and his brother, Florida Governor Jeb Bush, in their mission to help Floridians rebuild their lives and their communities. In fact, the Democratic nominee says he's asked campaign workers in the state to provide food, shelter and other assistance to storm victims.

Kerry says his campaign will bypass hurricane-ravaged areas in Florida, a key battleground state.


SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Our focus is on all of the police and response personnel necessary not being diverted from the visit or anything, but really focusing on the recovery itself, and I think that's where the attention ought to be for the time being.


WALLACE: And in an unrelated development, Kerry's daughter Vanessa has been awarded a Fulbright scholarship to study medicine in London. The 27-year-old is a medical student at Harvard and frequently travels with her father's campaign. Congratulations, Vanessa.

Back now, though, to Hurricane Charley. Several billion dollars in damage, the death toll at 13 and likely to climb. Thousands homeless. Numbers, though, tell only one dimension of the losses incurred by this devastating hurricane. CNN's Ed Lavandera is in Punta Gorda with the human side of the equation. Ed, what's the latest there?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Kelly. Well, here the streets of Punta Gorda are starting to fill up with relief workers and other community members that live here coming back to assess the damage and continue the process of cleaning up.

This is a process that's going to take not just days, it's going to take weeks, perhaps months to get everything back to normal here. You know, the crews have been working essentially neighborhood by neighborhood. They have had to go through and make sure that in each individual home, that there was no one left inside or maybe trapped inside. That's been one of the concerns throughout this retirement community, is checking all the various neighborhoods throughout the area.

And they say that even though a lot of the power is off, one of the crew members that we talked to that worked -- one of the electrical crews was talking about, just because residents might think that they're in an area where the power is off, that they still have reason and need to be careful.


CAPTAIN JOHN ELWOOD, SARASOTA COUNTY FIRE CHIEF: One of the problems we have with downed power lines, people may assume that they're dead because they look at the breaker on the pole, and the breaker may be tripped. But the problem that we encounter is that people that use generators, and plugging it into the regular household service, the generator of power back-feeds through the panel and then actually reenergizes the downed power line. (END VIDEO CLIP)

LAVANDERA: While everyone here tries to gather their belongings and get their lives back together, the emergency crew workers continue to focus on what they call the basics. They still need to be able to provide shelter, food, water to people who live in this area, and we're talking about the very simplest things that they have to be worrying about, and that is what they're focused on right now, as many people still living out of shelters.

And that's what they're focused on, making sure these people can be as comfortable as possible.

We understand that 16 counties in the state of Florida will qualify for federal disaster relief money. With President Bush here touring the area, he's already begun his tour, that money has already started to flow in. One of the emergency management directors here in the city of Punta Gorda was saying yesterday that he was amazed at how quickly the relief started arriving yesterday -- right after the storm had arrived. In fact, throughout, if you walk around this city, you see officials from the Miami area who are here helping, and not only just from the Miami area, but from all over the state of Florida, to lend a helping hand here. But this is a process that's going to take a long, long time -- Kelly.

WALLACE: Ed, so much work ahead for workers and residents. Ed Lavandera, thanks so much.

And as Ed has shown us, there is devastation as far as the eye can see in Punta Gorda. Hurricane Charley passed directly over the town. And you have to be there to see just how much damage this storm left behind and how much clean-up lies ahead.

Senator Bill Nelson of Florida is getting a firsthand look at what happened in Punta Gorda. Senator, thanks for joining us today.

SEN. BILL NELSON (D), FLORIDA: Good morning.

WALLACE: Senator, I know you arrived in the area yesterday. Give us a sense of what you are seeing firsthand as you have traveled this area.

NELSON: When you contrast this hurricane with a hurricane like Andrew, it is still high velocity winds like Andrew, 145 miles an hour, but it was not nearly as wide, as wide in diameter. From the air, as I inspected it, it looks like it's a 10-mile wide tornado. And everything in its path is destroyed. There's a mobile home park just a quarter of a mile over here, that there is nothing left, and yet 15 miles from here, which is ground zero, there is a mobile home park that is relatively unscathed. So you can see the tight, high velocity nature of this hurricane.

The other difference is this started on one coast. It went all across the urbanized part of Florida, across Orlando, and exited near Daytona. WALLACE: Unbelievable. Senator, you're talking to state, local, and federal officials. What is the latest when it comes to loss of life that you know of?

NELSON: It's going to be in the teens. It may be as high as 18 or 19. And I'll tell you, that's miraculous. When you see these mobile home parks, if anybody stayed in there when that 145 mile an hour wind hit, they weren't going to be living, or they were going to be severely, severely injured. So they must have gotten some of those people out in time.

WALLACE: And the most immediate concern right now, Ed Lavandera was talking about it, just getting the essentials, water and power, to thousands and thousands of people in that area?

NELSON: And that's what's happening. Last night, when we were here late, the emergency operations center has coordinated this massive relief effort that was coming in. Big, huge semirefrigerated trucks with food coming in.

Ed also pointed out to you, let me tell you, they've got their act together now. Twelve years ago, we didn't have our act together in the recovery after Andrew. It took weeks before they could even get an insurance adjuster into the neighborhoods. Now the insurance companies are set up. The adjusters are ready to go in just as soon as they lift the quarantine.

WALLACE: Let me ask you about that, because, of course, former President Bush criticized for his response in 1992. Do you think the current president and his brother, Florida Governor Jeb Bush, are reacting quickly and appropriately to this hurricane?

NELSON: I think they are, and I think it's from the lessons learned of 12 years ago in Andrew. I had the privilege of being Florida's elected insurance commissioner in the aftermath of Andrew, and I'll tell you, you don't want to go through something like that. So, the preparation for when the disaster strikes -- and after all, Florida is a land called paradise, but it happens to be sticking down in the middle of hurricane highway. We're going to have hurricanes. This time, Florida was much better prepared than 12 years ago.

WALLACE: What about, Senator Nelson, the president deciding to come to Florida today, right after this hurricane hit? Do you support the president coming now?

NELSON: I do. In times of disaster, we are not Republicans, we are not Democrats. We are all Americans. And I think that's what is being said today.

WALLACE: And, of course, your state, though, so politically important in campaign '04. So you don't believe politics has anything to do with this visit by President Bush to your state?

NELSON: Of course it does. I mean, we're in the middle of a dog-eat-dog political fight for ground zero, which is the state of Florida. And so politics is going to affect judgments. But when disaster comes, that's when we, at least on the outside, set aside politics.

WALLACE: Well, Senator Bill Nelson, we really appreciate you taking time to join us. Our thoughts are really with you and the fellow residents of Punta Gorda, Florida. Thanks again, Senator.

NELSON: Thank you so much.

WALLACE: And we again are expecting the first pictures of President Bush surveilling the damage caused by Hurricane Charley at any moment. We will bring those to you as soon as we get them.

Also ahead, campaign communicators for President Bush and Senator Kerry face off on Florida politics, the latest polls, and the war on Iraq.

And later, New Jersey had its own political twister this week as Governor James McGreevey resigned amid allegations of sexual harassment. We'll get the latest information in our "Morning Grind."

With just 79 days until the election, this is INSIDE POLITICS SUNDAY, the place for campaign news. Don't go away.


WALLACE: And welcome back. You are watching INSIDE POLITICS SUNDAY. A Gallup poll released this week shows the presidential candidates remain in a statistical tie, with President Bush pulling slightly ahead with likely voters, 50 percent, to Senator Kerry's 47 percent. Among registered voters, Mr. Bush holds a one-point lead, 48 to 47 percent.

Joining us now to talk polls and lots more, Stephanie Cutter, communications director for the Kerry-Edwards campaign, and Scott Stanzel, national press secretary for the Bush/Cheney campaign. Again, welcome to you both. Thanks for being here.



WALLACE: Scott, let me begin with you. You know that President Bush, he even says he's not someone who normally rushes to a disaster area because he thinks a presidential trip can get in the way. So why the change here?

STANZEL: Well, they've taken great pains to make sure that they are out of the way of the rescue efforts, and to make sure that they are delivering all the assistance they need through FEMA and through working with the local and state authorities. So it's important for the president to survey the damage and to get an assessment of how the recovery efforts are going. But they've taken great pains to make sure they're not getting in the way.

WALLACE: So politics playing any role whatsoever? Senator Nelson said, come on, politics plays a role in everything these days.

STANZEL: You know, this issue is really separate and apart from politics. And you know, I think Stephanie might even agree that, you know, the president has a job to do, and as president, this is one of his important functions.

WALLACE: What do you think? What does Senator Kerry think of the president going to Florida today?

CUTTER: I think, as Senator Kerry said yesterday, this is not a time for politics. And we join with the president in wanting to rebuild and partake in the recovery efforts as soon as possible. Those people experienced a severe disaster, and it's time to start the rebuilding.

WALLACE: You know, in this time, as voters are looking at both candidates and the race is so close, voters might look at each situation, how each candidate would handle it. Is there anything Senator Kerry would do differently in responding to a crisis than what the president is doing himself?

CUTTER: Well, Kelly, I think we have to see how this goes. I mean, we need to get the resources on the ground and start the rebuilding. Senator Kerry made it clear yesterday that he wants his own campaign staff to partake in that rebuilding. So it's a matter of acting immediately and swiftly. There are people on the ground who are looking for help.

WALLACE: OK. And again, we want our viewers to know, the minute we get those pictures in of President Bush on the ground in Florida, we will bring them to you.

We'll switch gears a little bit. Let's talk a little bit about Iraq, Stephanie. Some Democrats even somewhat questioning the way Senator Kerry handled what turned out to be a challenge from President Bush, answering yes or no, knowing what he knows now, would he still have backed the Iraqi war resolution? Some Democrats think that the senator mishandled that one. What do you say to that?

CUTTER: Well, I say, Kelly, two things. First, you know, the senator has been completely consistent since even before the war started, that, you know, he supported holding Saddam Hussein accountable, but he disagreed with the way the president went to war.

If we go back to his speech on the Senate floor before the invasion started, he predicted a number of different things if we went to war without a plan to win the peace, most of which has come true.

The second thing you have to look at is that there's a reason why President Bush is attacking us on this. One, because we're beating him two to one on the economy, and we've already surpassed him in terms of being capable to handle a crisis as commander in chief. There's a reason these attacks are coming, and we just have to see that.

WALLACE: Is President Bush losing ground, particularly when it comes to fit to be commander in chief?

STANZEL: The idea that John Kerry has been consistent on this issue is laughable, because he started -- voted for the war, had pressure in the Democratic primary, changed his tune and became an anti-war candidate during the Democratic primary. Now he's finally come back and said, yes, he would have taken the action that we took.

We're pleased that he's clarified his position. There are 79 days to go, so he could change yet again. But he's had various explanations for all of his machinations on the war in Iraq. And I think that's why he's having a credibility problem. Voters want a strong, steady leader, and that's what President Bush has delivered.

WALLACE: But even with the back and forth, with Senator Kerry over what he would do on Iraq or not, you know ultimately voters are going to hold the president accountable based on what's happening in Iraq in November, and the polls consistently show a majority of Americans thinking sending U.S. troops there a mistake. That's still got to be a problem for a president running for re-election.

STANZEL: This issue is one where President Bush will continue to lead, to confront those threats that we face as a nation. John Kerry, in his convention speech, said he would respond swiftly. That's after an attack. That is a pre-9/11 viewpoint, and that is not something we can afford, when we need a president who's going to address those threats as they emerge. And the president is working with Prime Minister Allawi and the folks on the ground to make sure that we're securing the country and turning it over to 25 million newly free Iraqis.

WALLACE: I want to turn to a new advertisement, which your campaign will start releasing on Monday. I'm going to put some of the verbatim on the screen, since we don't have the ad yet. But it talks about Senator Kerry's record at the Intelligence Committee. It says, "as a member of the Intelligence Committee, Senator Kerry was absent for 76 percent of the committee's hearings. In the year after the first terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, Kerry was absent for every single one."

Stephanie, let me first get you to answer to the substance of it, because Senator Pat Roberts, the Republican chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, was asked about this earlier. And he said, to clear up anything here, Senator Kerry and Senator Edwards can ask for the public and private hearing attendance records to be released, and that would put any of these allegations to rest.

First, your response to that.

CUTTER: Well, there's nothing to clear up. By their own count, using the fuzzy math that they used, their own chairman, Pat Roberts, would have only showed up for two hearings pre-9/11. And if that's the type of accounting they want to partake in, they're going to -- it's going to be a tough pill to swallow for them.

Let me finish. John Kerry has had a consistent record of improving intelligence over the past 20 years. He joined with many Republicans, including one of the chairs of the Republican campaign, Arlen Specter, to improve intelligence in a post-Cold War era. So this is -- this is just another distorted attack by George Bush, because he can't defend his own record.

STANZEL: $6 billion in cuts in intelligence spending in 1993, after the first World Trade Center bombing, is not improving intelligence.


WALLACE: "The Boston Herald," though, want to ask you, talking about this attack and other comments coming from Vice President Cheney, saying that "the sharp volleys come amid reports that the president's own polls shows he's losing ground to Senator Kerry when it comes to handling terrorism." Is that true?

STANZEL: Actually, the president leads by a wide margin on being a strong leader and leading the war on terrorism. The most recent Gallup polls show the president's approval rating is over 50 percent. No president has ever lost re-election if he's been over 50 percent at this point in the Gallup poll. And with Senator Kerry's intelligence cuts of $6 billion in 1994, $1.5 billion in 1995, those are things that Democrats didn't support. Senator Kerry, his own colleague did not support those.

WALLACE: I want to end on a much lighter note.

CUTTER: If I could just add something to that.

WALLACE: Five seconds. Because I -- five seconds.

CUTTER: Let's talk about where we are today. This is the president who opposed the 9/11 Commission, stonewalled the investigation...

STANZEL: Not true.

CUTTER: ... and still won't adopt the recommendations they wanted to improve intelligence.

WALLACE: Light note after a difficult week. OK? The week before last, both candidates in Davenport, Iowa the same day. This week, nearly missing each other in Portland, Oregon, Los Angeles. OK, who's following whom here? You go first, Scott. Five seconds.

STANZEL: You know, the president's schedule is set weeks, sometimes months in advance. And it would take a pretty clever candidate to be able to follow each other around. They're some really hotly contested spots. It's not surprising they're going to the same places.

WALLACE: Counterpoint, Stephanie?

CUTTER: We both know where the battleground is. That's where we're both spending our time.

WALLACE: Well, we'll see this happen possibly more and more.

Stephanie Cutter, communications director, Kerry-Edwards campaign. Scott Stanzel, your first time on IP SUNDAY...

STANZEL: It's good to be with you.

WALLACE: ... national press secretary for Bush/Cheney. We hope you both will come back.

STANZEL: Thank you.

WALLACE: Thanks again so much.

And as Florida residents begin picking up the pieces from Hurricane Charley, there is another batch of stormy weather threatening the Caribbean. Details just ahead.

And even a hurricane can't stop those late night laughs. Here's a sample.


JAY LENO, HOST, TONIGHT SHOW: And Florida, of course, being hit by Hurricane Charley. Authorities are telling people to evacuate certain areas.

You know when Florida should be evacuated? On election day. OK? Just get the people...



WALLACE: And as we've been reporting, President Bush is touring areas of Florida ravaged by Hurricane Charley. We are expecting pictures in a bit later this hour. Stick with CNN for that.

Let's now, though, check with CNN meteorologist Rob Marciano for an update on Charley, which continues to lose steam. Rob, the question is what impact at all will Charley have as it moves across the Northeast?

ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, right now, it's affecting Boston, Kelly, and already beginning to see the weather improve in Boston.

The center of this eye is becoming kind of spread out and ill defined. Boston already beginning to clear out. The Cape, Cape Cod, from (UNINTELLIGIBLE) to Hyannis and Braverstown (ph) seeing heavy rains and gusty winds as was Martha's Vineyard.

So it's moving quickly, at about 30 miles an hour off to the northeast. So effects on New England and Portland, Maine, will be felt here in the next couple of hours, and then off to Nova Scotia and the Canadian Maritimes it goes, and it will weaken as it does so and become a tropical depression, or extra-tropical, just a run of the mill storm as it heads into the shipping lanes of the North Atlantic.

But we do have a couple of other storms that we want to talk about, one of which is of concern. This is Hurricane Danielle. It's the stronger one of the two -- or Danielle, I should say. That looks like it's going to stay out to sea.

This is Tropical Storm Earl, which is heading into the Caribbean, and it's forecast to strengthen. The reason we're concerned about this one is because it started in the same place as Charley did about 10 days ago, and it looks like it's taking the same track that Charley did about 10 days ago, at least to begin with.

Here's the forecast track out of the National Hurricane Center across the Windward Islands into the central Caribbean, over the next couple of days, slowly strengthening as it quickly moves to the west at about 25 miles an hour.

Island of Hispaniola, here's Jamaica, Cuba, and there's Florida already on Tuesday, watching this thing. Some of the models now forecasting it to come into the Gulf of Mexico probably by Thursday night. So we're concerned about Earl, Kelly, as we watch Charley exit off to the north and east. Hopefully Earl won't have the same impact as Charley did. And hopefully, it won't even hit the U.S. But we'll have to wait and see.

WALLACE: Well, that is certainly the hope, Rob, of those Florida residents. You certainly have been keeping busy over the last few days. Yeah, thanks so much, Rob.

MARCIANO: You bet.

WALLACE: We appreciate it.

Up next, a fatal blast goes off near Baghdad's green zone this morning. We'll have those details, plus other stories making headlines this Sunday morning.

Also, taking sides on the war on Iraq, as U.S. troops try to maintain peace in the war-torn nation. We'll examine whose policy on Iraq Americans support.

Plus, our partisan panel debates the campaign controversies of the week. You don't want to miss that. Stay with us.


BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. I'm Betty Nguyen at the CNN Center here in Atlanta, Georgia. Now in the news:

In Baghdad, a mortar explodes near the Green Zone in Iraq's Ministry of Foreign Affairs. At least two people are dead and 17 wounded. Fifteen hundred Iraqi representatives are meeting in the Green Zone to pick an advisory group for the interim government.

In Lahore, Pakistan, independence day celebrations lead to state of emergency. Local police say 21 people are dead and 460 have been injured in traffic accidents. Most of the victims were traveling on bicycles during late-night parties.

And, oh, the memories for those who can still remember. Sex, drugs and rock `n' roll. Woodstock's 35 years ago this weekend. Get this: many of these folks are now eligible for an AARP card.

Keeping you informed, CNN, the most trusted name in news.

WALLACE: And as you know, during the campaign season, words, whether crafted or careless, are power. And every word, every turn of phrase uttered by the candidates can be used against them.

The flap over Senator Kerry saying he would wage a more sensitive war on terror is just one example. CNN national correspondent Bruce Morton has another.


BRUCE MORTON, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Campaigns are a lot more scripted than they used to be: memorized 20 second sound bytes your consultant has written for you and constant urging from said consultant to stay on message or just keep repeating that byte.

Still, every once in a while, some context does creep in. Just the other day, for instance when a reporter asked John Kerry, knowing what you know now, that there weren't weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, would you still have voted to go to war? Kerry said yes.

KERRY: Yes, I would have voted for the authority. I believe it was the right authority for a president to have. But I would have used that authority, as I have said throughout this campaign, effectively. I would have done this very differently from the way President Bush has.

MORTON: From the president, a self-congratulatory yelp.

BUSH: After months of questioning my motives and even my credibility, Senator Kerry now agrees with me that, even though we have not found the stockpile of weapons that we all believe were there, knowing everything we know today, he would have voted to go into Iraq and remove Saddam Hussein from power. I want to thank my opponent for clearing that up.

MORTON: OK, agreement, sort of. Kerry seems to agree with the president that the United States has the right to invade other countries, that it can start wars as well as finish them.

Does he also agree that Saddam Hussein was part of the war against terror? There's evidence that bush wanted to get Saddam and worried about how to do that months before 9/11. Polls show a lot of Americans think invading Iraq was a mistake, that it has radical radicalized more Muslims into hatred of America. The prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib for instance, may well sour a whole generation of Arabs on America.

Mr. Kerry says he would have done it differently, which seems to come down to he would have involved more countries in the invasion. But it's hard to find Europeans who think the French or the Germans would have joined in no matter who was in charge.

It's pretty clear that the occupation has not gone according to go plan. The Iraqis weren't grateful to be occupied and didn't all want American-style democracy. But could Kerry have managed that any better?

And what about all the Democrats who were once with Howard Dean in saying the U.S. had no business in Iraq? Who do they vote for? Bush? Or the guy who says he'd have done the same thing only better?

I'm Bruce Morton.


WALLACE: And we thank Bruce Morton for that story.

There is plenty more to say about the flap over Iraq, the question of sensitivity, as well as disaster politics.

And here to make their point, CNN political contributor and Democratic strategist Donna Brazile and Republican strategist, Cheri Jacobus.

Thank you both for being here.



WALLACE: Donna, let me begin with you, because you know how some Democrats have questioned how Senator Kerry handled this whole challenge over yes or no over Iraq. You think he might have mishandled this one.

BRAZILE: Well, I thought he did the right thing this week. He said, first of all -- and he was very consistent -- that he voted to give the president the authority to go to war. And then he also said that this president did not handle the situation very well. So he's been very consistent in not only his vote, but also defending his vote in going to war.

WALLACE: But aren't you thinking he's consistent in following the president? That the president sort of gets a win here for sort of leading Senator Kerry into this?

BRAZILE: There's no question that this took the campaign off a well-crafted two-week post-convention tour. But at the same time, this also will force President Bush to talk about the decision to go to war, the misleading information, the faulty intelligence. And I think the Bush/Cheney campaign runs the risk of having to answer questions next week that perhaps they would not have wanted to talk about.

WALLACE: Make your point on that.

JACOBUS: I think...

WALLACE: New questions for the president and the vice president.

JACOBUS: No, I think that the Bush/Cheney campaign would love nothing more than to talk about his leadership during the Iraq war and the post-9/11 world.

The problem for John Kerry is that he has the appearance of flip- flopping and simply not being clear in where he stands. So this week he seems to agree with the president, and the president is certainly happy to have him agree with him. But they've got a problem in terms of explaining themselves.

WALLACE: But as I was talking to Scott Stanzel a little bit earlier, you know ultimately the voters are not going to blame John Kerry for what he did or didn't do on Iraq. They're going to hold President Bush accountable on Iraq in November. So -- and with the majority of Americans saying in polls that they think sending troops there is a mistake, that's got to be a problem.

JACOBUS: What Americans wants is a president that says what he means and means what he says and acts with resolve and has real leadership. And John Kerry hasn't shown that.

We have to parse his words. We have to have these discussions it seems like every other week trying to figure out just what he means and he has to backtrack. That's not leadership.

BRAZILE: They want a president who's honest and trustworthy when it comes to taking this country to war. They want a president to know the facts and to understand the consequences of making those types of decisions. So I think that John Kerry is right to talk about his record, his leadership, and what he would do differently in terms of the war on terror.

WALLACE: OK. We're going to move through a lot of other topics right now, starting: New Jersey Governor James McGreevey, what everyone called political bombshell.

Why, though, Donna, should he not step down now as opposed to November 15? Some say that's just putting politics ahead of what's the welfare of New Jersey residents.

BRAZILE: Well, first of all, it's not politics because his replacement is a Democrat. So whether it's two weeks from now or three months from now, the fact is a Democrat will replace and will serve out James McGreevey term.

What he's trying to do over the next couple of weeks is to have an orderly, smooth transition. He didn't have to step down. He chose to step down, and I think he should be allowed to...

WALLACE: And Cheri, if McGreevey were a Republican, would Republicans be calling for him to step down now or to say, You should stay through November 15? JACOBUS: Well, Republicans tend to want their guys to move out once they say that they can no longer serve. We wish you luck, and then we want a smooth transition. But we want leadership first.

Governor McGreevey has said in his resignation statement that he can no longer serve, that he can't focus. That's why he should go now, rather than trying to preserve the seat for the Democrats.

WALLACE: All right. Let's turn to another topic, shall we? Illinois, the Senate race.

Barack Obama -- his opponent now, Alan Keyes. A very simple question to you, Cheri: why? He is not a resident of the state of Illinois. Why do you have a candidate who's not even a resident of the state be running for the -- to be senator of that state.

JACOBUS: Well, there's a couple of things here.

On the carpetbagging issue -- had Hillary Clinton not carpetbagged her way to New York four years ago and instead waited for a seat to open up in her home state of Illinois, Barack Obama would not even be running right now because Hillary Clinton would be the Democratic nominee. So on that carpetbagging issue that we've heard a little bit about, I think it's a different situation in Illinois, and Barack Obama owes his entire career right now and his notoriety to Hillary's carpetbagging.

In terms of Alan Keyes, he's one of the most -- he's one of the best speakers in the Republican Party; we already know that he's a great debater. And I think what he's going to do is give Illinois voters a chance to really hear both sides of the issues.

BRAZILE: He's an extremist. He's lost two times in Maryland running for the United States Senate. He's lost two times running for president. He has an enormous debt. They looked around the country, after failing to find someone in Illinois, and they found someone who they though, because he is black, which I call the worst form of affirmative action, to come to the state of Illinois. He's an extremist, and even governor -- former Governors Edgar and Thompson are running away from this candidate because they don't believe he represents mainstream Illinois values.

JACOBUS: It ensures that the issue in this race won't be about race. So I think that's sort of a positive thing for Illinois voters.

BRAZILE: Which is why Alan -- why did Alan Keyes inject race this past week in the campaign when, in fact, they are two African American candidates? What -- what this will ensure is an African American United States senator, and that's a good things this fall.

WALLACE: Let me just ask you very quickly: disaster politics, hurricane politics. How much does President Bush have riding on how he handles Florida? And how much is it learning lessons that his father was roundly criticized for what he did or didn't do in 1992, and that's why the president is making an uncharacteristically quick trip to a disaster area today. JACOBUS: Well, I don't think it's at all unusual for any president to go to a disaster area and to respond to disasters. This is a particularly difficult time in Florida. It hit them a lot worse than they had expected.

So the fact that this disaster hit during an election year -- certainly his detractors are going to try and say that this is about politics, but basically he's just being the president and doing his job.

WALLACE: Does this have any role in '04?

BRAZILE: Well, you know, as someone with a sister and a family in Florida, I hope this -- this is not about politics. This is about the real destruction. I mean, they had Hurricane Bonnie (sic) early this week, then Hurricane Charley. They are really trying to get themselves together, and I hope the president will immediately release federal aid and resources to help the families in Florida.

WALLACE: Donna Brazile, Cheri Jacobus, we have to leave it there. Thanks for being a part of this segment.


WALLACE: We hope to have you on again very soon.

And coming up next on INSIDE POLITICS SUNDAY, New Jersey's Governor James McGreevey, as we have been talking about -- he has resigned, but he's not leaving office soon enough for some local politicians.

We'll have the latest twists in this Garden State scandal. Stay with us.


WALLACE (voice-over): And now a campaign flashback to August 18, 1988. In his speech to the Republican National Convention, vice president and GOP nominee George Herbert Walker Bush made a memorable campaign promise.


WALLACE: Less than two years later as president, he concluded that tax increases were necessary.



WALLACE: Scandal in the Garden State. New Jersey Governor James McGreevey stunned the political world Thursday when he announced he was gay, that he had a consensual affair with a man and that he would resign from office. That political shocker is the focus today for CNN political editor John Mercurio. He's here with our Sunday cup of "The Morning Grind."

Hello, John. Great to see you.


WALLACE: So we know the New Jersey governor was sort of staying out of sight with his family. What's the latest on his situation?


I mean, I think we've moved pretty quickly past his speech on Thursday -- it was a well-received speech -- into something much darker and potentially much more troubling for Governor McGreevey. I mean, at this point it's sort of a case of he said, he said, between Governor McGreevey, a onetime rising star of the Democratic Party, and Golan Cipel, who is a former aide to the governor, with whom he claims he had a consensual affair. Today, there are charges of sexual harassment, of extortion, blackmail and of abuse.

Now, there's also a new wrinkle in the story this morning. In several published reports, Golan Cipel's attorney says that he's not even a homosexual, that any contact between McGreevey and Cipel was coerced, which I think is going to be the basis of this lawsuit that Cipel is threatening to file.

WALLACE: And what's the status of that lawsuit? Are we still expecting Cipel to file that lawsuit against McGreevey?

MERCURIO: Right. I mean, a lot was made last week about this so-called lawsuit. We were told it contained charges of sexual harassment. Much worse, that there was a lot of evidence, and that it could be filed as early as Friday, last Friday, in Trenton.

Well, that never happened, and now Golan Cipel's attorney is saying that he was -- felt very vindicated by Governor McGreevey's decision to resign and might not actually file the charges.

Now -- fortunately, we don't have to wait too long for a resolution on this. Golan Cipel has a deadline to decide on this. There's a two-year statute of limitations for workplace sexual harassment charges in the state of New Jersey. He left state payroll on August 30, 2002, so in order to file this claim, he would have to do so by the end of this month.

WALLACE: Bring it into politics, of course....


WALLACE: You have Republicans coming out on Friday saying that James McGreevey should resign and resign now to have a special election. Any chance at all of that happening?

MERCURIO: I think at this point it's unclear, but it's unlikely. The state constitution leaves wide discretion for the resigning governor in this situation.

Democrats control state government. The clock is ticking, time is working against the Republicans. I don't really see how they're getting much traction.

But Democrats say McGreevey is determined to stay in office until November 15. They say he don't want to -- he doesn't want to move his wife and his 2-year-old daughter out of the governor's mansion, and given the sort of busy political season that's upon us, he thinks he needs a full three months for a smooth transition for Richard Codey, the incoming governor.

WALLACE: But does that all change? I mean, we haven't seen any public polling in New Jersey at all. But does that change if New Jersey residents say that this is a distraction from the government's business and there becomes sort of this public criticism? Could that change that position?

MERCURIO: Absolutely. Absolutely. There are even some Democrats at this point who are saying that it would be a distraction, that he has a cloud over his head and that he does need to step down, especially if there is polling.

But one source I talked to said that Governor McGreevey actually views November 15 as a compromise, that as late as Thursday morning, before he made his sort of historic -- held his historic press conference, that he intended at that time just to announce that he wouldn't run for re-election, that he wouldn't resign.

WALLACE: Do you...

MERCURIO: So, you know, at this point, I think he's determined.

WALLACE: Do you see this having any impact at all in the presidential campaign? I mean, nationally, it seems both Republicans and Democrats have been relatively quiet about it.

MERCURIO: Right. I think that part of his decision to step down on the 15th had a lot to do with John Kerry and the presidential campaign. Kerry, of course, leading Bush by as much as 20 points in some recent polls.

He knows -- Governor McGreevey knows, as well as anyone, that the governor's race in New Jersey, whether it's a special or in 2005, begins the second that he steps down. And so by putting it off until November 15, I think he -- you know, if it were -- if it were to take place on October 1, for example, then he knows that that could throw a wrench into John Kerry's presidential campaign.

WALLACE: And very quickly, five second: who's the name being touted as the likely successor for McGreevey?

MERCURIO: John Corzine on the Democratic side. Bret Schundler is a Republican. Lots of other names: Tom Kean Jr., the son of the chairman of the 9/11 commission, is also a name out there people are mentioning. WALLACE: John Mercurio, a stunning story, and we haven't heard the last of it, that's for sure.

MERCURIO: Absolutely.

WALLACE: Thanks so much for joining us. And as we always remind you, for the best daily briefing on politics, you don't want to miss "The Morning Grind." Go to for all the latest political news.

The stories of devastation in Florida, as we've been telling you, are countless, including a little ice cream shop in Punta Gorda. We'll have the story of one of several family businesses ruined by Charley.

That after a short break. Stay with us.


WALLACE: This morning, many Floridians are cleaning up, and as Anderson Cooper reports, for one man in Punta Gorda, taking care of business has a very special meaning.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When David Drake stepped through the broken window of his ice cream parlor, it was worse than he'd imagined.

JOHN DAVID DRAKE, OWNER, DRAKE' S DAIRY KING: It's just devastating. You know, it's just -- you know, you never expected this at all. And then all of a sudden, you know, it wipes out everything all at once.

COOPER: The ceiling was destroyed, the sitting area a mess. Almost nothing was salvageable.

DRAKE: It's scary because, you know -- you know, this was obviously our livelihood. I mean, this is where we made our living.

COOPER: David and his family survived the storm hiding in a closet in their home.

DRAKE: You see these things on TV, and you think, you know, this is something that, you know -- that you don't realize what the people, you know, that are in those -- that this has happened to really go through.

COOPER: His house remains intact. His business is ruined.

DRAKE: You know, we laugh about it because, you know, you're tired of crying. You got to do something different.

COOPER: With the toll of destruction in Punta Gorda still being calculated...

DRAKE: Good deal. COOPER: ...David knows for him and his family, Hurricane Charley could have been much worse.

DRAKE: You know, there hasn't been any major injuries or anything like that. So we're -- we're happy about that.

It's -- it's going to be tough for the next -- you know, for the next few months.

COOPER (on camera): So do you think you'll make it?

DRAKE: Oh, we'll make it.

COOPER (voice-over): Anderson Cooper, CNN, Punta Gorda, Florida.


WALLACE: Just one of the countless personal stories in the aftermath of Hurricane Charley.

Don't go away. We will have much more when INSIDE POLITICS SUNDAY returns.


WALLACE: On a weekend focused on losses, maybe it's appropriate to end this hour with the political gains and gaffes and laughs on the campaign trail.

Here's our weekly round-up of late-night laughs:


JAY LENO, HOST, "THE TONIGHT SHOW": President Bush -- President Bush said yesterday -- this is what he told a group. He said, "It doesn't make any sense to raise taxes on the rich because rich people can figure out how to dodge taxes." And then Dick Cheney said, "Shut up. You're ruining everything. Idiot."

G.W. BUSH: My opponent hadn't answered the question of whether knowing what we know now, he would have supported going into Iraq. That's an important question. And the American people deserve a clear yes or no answer.

JON STEWART, HOST, "THE DAILY SHOW": A powerful demand for honesty from a man stand on a set decorated with fake hay bales.

LENO: President Bush was in Florida, where he asked voters once again to send him to the White House. And the voters in Florida said, once again, we didn't send you there in the first place.

STEWART: But this gives John Kerry an opportunity -- an easy opportunity to set himself apart, to make a clear, forceful, unambiguous statement: No, I would not have voted for the authority knowing there were no WMDs or just don't take the bait.

Mr. Kerry, it's a softball. Hit it out of the park.

KERRY: I would have voted for the authority.

STEWART: You're trying to lose!

LENO: John Kerry went to the Grand Canyon yesterday. He said he wanted to go someplace that made his head look a little smaller.


WALLACE: On a week like this one, thank goodness for those late- night comedians.

For all of us here at INSIDE POLITICS SUNDAY, thanks so much for joining us.

Stay with CNN for updates on the aftermath and cleanup of Hurricane Charley.

Coming up in 30 minutes, "RELIABLE SOURCES" takes a critical look at journalists and jail. Should reporters we imprisoned for refusing to testify about confidential sources?

And at noon Eastern, on "LATE EDITION," Wolf Blitzer talks to the former head of the Central Command, Retired General Tommy Franks, about the war in Iraq and his new book, "An American Soldier."

Thanks again for watching. I'm Kelly Wallace in Washington. Have a terrific and safe Sunday.

"CNN LIVE SUNDAY" continues right now.


International Edition
CNN TV CNN International Headline News Transcripts Advertise With Us About Us
   The Web     
Powered by
© 2005 Cable News Network LP, LLLP.
A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us.
external link
All external sites will open in a new browser. does not endorse external sites.
 Premium content icon Denotes premium content.
Add RSS headlines.