The Web      Powered by
powered by Yahoo!


Return to Transcripts main page


Supreme Court and Election 2004; Kerry Hammers Bush Over Missing Iraqi Explosives

Aired October 26, 2004 - 20:00   ET


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening and welcome to PRIME TIME POLITICS. Glad to have you with us tonight.
The power of nine, the U.S. Supreme Court with the last word on the laws of the land. The court decided the last election. Now it is an issue in this one.

And with just a week to go, a bombshell hits the campaign trail. Tons of powerful explosives left unguarded at this site in Iraq are now missing, warnings apparently ignored, and the White House today mostly silent.

And that's where we begin tonight. The Kerry campaign is hammering President Bush about those missing explosives, which brings us to a second mystery. Why does the issue seem to have caught the White House flat-footed for a second day in a row?


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you very much. I appreciate it. Nice to see you.

ZAHN (voice-over): President Bush's campaign bus rolls through the battleground state of Wisconsin. The crowds are large, friendly and there are no questions about charges there are 380 tons of explosives missing in Iraq, nor did the president bring it up in his stump speech. Senator John Kerry senses an opening.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And what did the president have to say about the missing explosives? Not a word. Complete silence. Despite devastating evidence that his administration's failure here has put our troops and our citizens in greater danger, George Bush has not offered a single word of explanation.

ZAHN: What the president does offer are reassurances that he will stay the course in Iraq and the war on terror.

BUSH: I understand that we must not show weakness, we must be certain in our resolve. The terrorists must absolutely understand they can't intimidate us. They can't force us.

ZAHN: Former President Bill Clinton, who is still in Florida campaigning for Kerry, is getting laughs by tying the missing explosives to the president's campaign ad featuring wolves. WILLIAM J. CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I was wondering when I saw that whether the wolves were smelling all that -- those explosives out of that dump that disappeared in Iraq.

ZAHN: Back on the campaign trail, reporters directly asked the president about the missing explosives story.

QUESTION: Who's responsible for the weapons missing in Iraq, Mr. President?

ZAHN: Again, there is no comment. Finally, at a late-afternoon stop in Florida, Vice President Dick Cheney tells a rally it is not at all clear that the missing explosives were even at the facility near Baghdad when U.S. forces arrived in the area. Cheney points to an additional 400,000 tons of Iraqi weapons and explosives that U.S. forces have captured and are destroying and attacked Senator Kerry.

DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If our troops had not gone into Iraq, as John Kerry apparently thinks they should not have, that is 400,000 tons of explosives that would still be in the hands of Saddam Hussein, who would still be sitting in his palace, instead of jail.

ZAHN: But, again, the vice president offers no explanation of what happened to the 380 tons of missing explosives.


ZAHN: The Kerry campaign already has a new ad that highlights the explosive story.


KERRY: In Iraq, George Bush has overextended our troops and now failed to secure 380 tons of deadly explosives, the kind used for attacks in Iraq and for terrorist bombings. These Iraq misjudgments put our soldiers at risk and make our country less secure.


ZAHN: So the Pentagon has now ordered U.S. weapons inspectors to find out what happened.

And senior Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre has that part of the story.


JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SR. MILITARY AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): The Pentagon acknowledges there was a window of about six weeks after the invasion of Iraq when it's possible the stockpile of high explosives could have been stolen from the sprawling al Qa Qaa facility south of Baghdad.

But Pentagon officials argue it's more likely the explosives were moved as part of the prewar dispersal ordered by Saddam Hussein. That would come some time after March 3, 2003, the last time the International Atomic Energy Agency checked that security seals placed on the bunkers were intact and before the war actually began, March 20.

On April 10, 2003, the day after the fall of Baghdad, troops from the 2nd Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division reached the site.

(on camera): No weapons under IAEA seal were found, but the soldiers were advancing on Baghdad and the Pentagon acknowledges they weren't ordered to, nor did they conduct a thorough search.

(voice-over): Sometime in the next month, May 2003, the IAEA says it relayed concerns to the U.S. government about the stockpile falling into the wrong hands. Finally, on May 27, more than six weeks after the April visit, a special U.S. team looking for weapons of mass destruction searched all 32 bunkers and 87 buildings. Again, the stockpile was not found.


ZAHN: Jamie McIntyre reporting for us from the Pentagon.

And with just a week to go until the election, this is not what the president needs.

Joining me from Washington are former assistant Secretary of State Jamie Rubin, now a foreign policy adviser to the Kerry campaign, and Dan Senor, the former spokesman for the Coalition Provisional Authority now representing the Bush campaign.

Good to see both of you. Welcome.



ZAHN: Thank you.

So, Dan, I'd like to start with you this evening.

You've heard Kerry blasting the president all day long, accusing him of trying to hide this story about these missing explosives. The president asked repeatedly on the campaign trail about this, refusing to answer questions. Isn't the American public entitled to hear from the president on this dangerous story?

SENOR: I think the American public is entitled to hear the facts.

And if the facts of this story are coming out and the story, the credibility of the story is actually falling apart by the minute. I mean, just consider a few things, Paula. One, in February of 2003, Mohamed ElBaradei from the IAEA, told the U.N. Security Council that many of these explosives were already gone. This is before the invasion. And, in fact, the IAEA official, which was buried in "The New York Times" article, said that it was the pattern of Saddam Hussein's regime to disperse these explosives from these sites in anticipation of war.

David Kay earlier today on your network on Lou Dobbs' show said the same thing. So there's a very high probably that those weapons weren't even there before the war. And as far as this facility being insecure, the U.S. forces that crossed the Euphrates, crossed the bridge over the Euphrates on April 4, engaged Iraqi forces at al Qa Qaa facility, at this facility. They engaged Iraqi forces there. Iraqi forces were inside of there.

So the facility was already nonsecure well before we had come to the country to begin stability operations.

ZAHN: All right.

I want to bring Jamie into the discussion. He's at a distinct disadvantage, because he hasn't been able to hear anything, Dan, you've said.

SENOR: Just as I planned it.

ZAHN: And I am not going to make you repeat it, but I took some pretty good notes here. And here are my Cliff Notes.

Basically, Jamie, Dan was saying that there is a high probability that these weapons weren't even there in the first place and that many of these explosives were moved before or dispersed before the war got under way. You've got the vice president out there accusing John Kerry of being an armchair general and getting the story wrong.


First of all, Dan doesn't know that. I don't think anybody knows that. What we know is that they were there in March and they weren't there in May. What happened in between is what we need to find out.

The reason John Kerry has made such a point about this is because it's part of a pattern. The president of the United States made the most solemn decision a president can make, to invade another country, and he didn't think through the consequences. He was warned that securing and stabilizing Iraq, securing and stabilizing sites like these, preventing looting, preventing chaos, was going to be very difficult.

The Army chief of staff said he needed more troops and this president ignore that advice. And when the looting and the chaos began in Iraq, what did the secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld, say? He said stuff happens. There was an attitude that it didn't matter, that chaos and looting was going to occur in Baghdad after the fall of Saddam Hussein. And this is one of the consequences. This isn't some just big bomb.

These are very highly useful explosives to terrorists, one pound of which could have taken down the Pan Am 103 Flight and we're talking about hundreds of tons. So this was a failure, a monumental misjudgment to invade a country before thinking through the consequences to secure and stabilize it; 18 months after the fall of Saddam Hussein, and we still have chaos and instability and pitched battles all over the country.

ZAHN: Dan, let's come back to the point Jamie was making. He doesn't buy into your theory that the credibility of this story is falling apart. he says it's premature to know that.

SENOR: Well, I think Jamie would acknowledge, at a minimum, that there's a possibility that those weapons weren't there, which is what -- the Kerry campaign seems to be backpedaling a little bit, because they recognized they may have jumped on this story prematurely.

Look, Paula, we've seven days out from the election, seven days before Kerry is asking the American people to go into the voting booths and make him their commander in chief. Every poll indicates, while the country is divided and the race is close, on the issue of national security, who do you expect, who do you trust to win the war on terror, President Bush still leads significantly.

And that's because Senator Kerry in part has failed to reconcile his multiple position on issues of war and issues of Iraq and issues of the war on terrorism. And so he's jumping on stories like this that are sort of half-baked to try and switch gears here in the final days.

Jamie, would you acknowledge that there's at least a possibility that those weapons were gone from the al Qa Qaa facility before U.S. forces arrived?

ZAHN: I guess I get to speak for Jamie now, because he can't hear a darn word you're saying, but you basically have been asked by Dan, even though he's not allow to ask questions, but a pretty good one, is whether you would even accept the possibility that these weapons might have been gone or might have been dispersed by the time this war got under way?

RUBIN: Sure, that's possible. But this isn't the only site where this happened.

The reason John Kerry brought this up is because there are dozens of sites across Iraq, nuclear weapons sites where the IAEA was concerned that material that might be able to be used for dirty bombs got looted and stolen. There are dozens of sites where these insurgents have loaded up with weapons to attack our troops.

The point is very simple. We didn't have enough forces. You don't engage in war, you don't launch a war unless you've thought through the consequences, and when the consequences come, when the difficulties arise, what does this president do? He either refuses to answer questions or he blames someone else. I heard yesterday the White House spokesman blamed the Iraqis for this, the new Iraqi government.

ZAHN: Jamie, let me throw out something that else Dan was also saying. He was in defense of the president saying, if the American public actually believed and took to heart everything you're saying about candidate Kerry, the numbers when it comes to trusting the president to lead in Iraq wouldn't be that far ahead of John Kerry's.

Why isn't John Kerry doing better with those numbers?

RUBIN: Well, first of all, we don't know what's going to happen on Election Day. We're doing much better over the last month on this very issue.

Look, the president has been commander in chief. He's led this country to war. There's a natural tendency for the American public to want to give him the benefit of the doubt. The reason his numbers are collapsing over the last couple of months is because the news from Iraq has shown that the failed policies, the failed judgments, the mistake after mistake, whether on this issue, whether on the chaos and instability that's still there, the facial to get allies, the whole kit and caboodle, moving CIA forces out of Afghanistan from their mission to trap Osama bin Laden to Iraq, all of this is starting to take its toll.

ZAHN: Of course, we still can't see in that one number about who Americans trust most to lead in Iraq.

Dan, you get 10 seconds for a closing thought. And then we've got to move on.

SENOR: Yes, seven days left.

Senator Kerry's asking the American people to make him commander in chief and he's thrashing around for some message that will be compelling, that will help reconcile all of these various positions he's taken on the issues of national security and the war on terrorism. This latest issue about the al Qa Qaa facility and the explosives is the latest development.

And Jamie here has even backed it out a little and even acknowledged that there's a possibility that those weapons weren't there when U.S. forces arrived, which is progress.

ZAHN: And, of course, you have to acknowledge the possibility that they might have been there, too, because we simply just don't know at this hour.

I've got to leave it there, gentlemen. Dan Senor, thank you for your time.

And, Jamie, I apologize that you were only able to hear me. I hope you weren't fibbing and you really could hear him and you didn't want to hear what he had to say tonight.


RUBIN: No. I finally heard his last thought, and I thank him for it.

(LAUGHTER) ZAHN: OK., Thank you, gentlemen. Appreciate your time.

SENOR: Thank you.

ZAHN: And here is the take on the missing explosives from talk radio's Rush Limbaugh.


RUSH LIMBAUGH, HOST: It seems that "The New York Times" is the daily talking points for the Kerry campaign. Anyway, whatever's on their front page ends up being what Kerry talks about on a given day. He called it one of the greatest blunders of Iraq. He trashed Bush for failing to guard a pile of explosives, and, by implication, he trashed our military that he so fondly supports. These are the people that support the troops, folks.


ZAHN: And just ahead on PRIME TIME POLITICS, the campaigns and national security.


ZAHN (voice-over): Tonight, in the war on terror, the candidates look beyond our borders.

KERRY: We will hunt down, capture and kill or destroy terrorists wherever they may be.

BUSH: We secure our country by defeating the enemy overseas.

ZAHN: But when it comes to security inside the homeland, does either one of them really have a plan?

And the court, the candidates, the coming battles, an ailing chief justice, an aging bench. Will a revamped Supreme Court tip the scales on gays, guns and the power of the federal government?

And tonight's voting booth question: Should the U.S. Supreme Court overturn Roe vs. Wade. Go to and click on your choice.

Results and much more as PRIME TIME POLITICS continues.



ZAHN: For all the talk out there on the campaign trail about finding terrorists, we haven't heard a lot about concrete measures to protect us here at home.

The 9/11 Commission's final report includes a list of recommendations for improving homeland defenses. It covers travel, transportation, borders and more. How would each presidential candidate improve our defense against a terrorist attack many experts believe is inevitable?

Here's our Jeanne Meserve.



NARRATOR: Weakness attracts those who are waiting to do America harm?


JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Though security is the overriding issue in the presidential contain, it is almost always framed by the candidates as something over there, not right here.

KERRY: We will hunt down, capture and kill or destroy terrorists wherever they may be.

BUSH: We're staying on the offensive. We're relentless. We are determined to protect the American people, and we're succeeding.

MESERVE: But if offense fails, homeland security experts say, there must be a defense to back it up and they say the candidates ignore that at their and our peril.

STEPHEN FLYNN, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: We need to have both an away and a home game and I want these candidates to start talking about what the home game is.

MESERVE: Tuesday, in a speech billed as a comprehensive strategy for securing our homeland, Kerry devoted only three minutes to his proposals, including more security at the borders, around transportation systems, at chemical and nuclear plants and more money for first-responders, many of whom have endorsed him.

KERRY: I will invest at least $60 billion more over the next 10 years to protect America.

MESERVE: In their debates, President Bush used Kerry's homeland security proposals to paint him as a tax-and-spend liberal.

BUSH: I don't think we want to get to how he's going to pay for all these promises.

MESERVE: After 9/11, the president embraced the security issue and polls continue to show he dominates on it. Despite well publicized holes in on homeland security, Bush talks much less about what he will do than about what he has done.

BUSH: We're providing essential funding for Coast Guard patrols and port security, for the federal air marshal program.

MESERVE (on camera): Though many issues are dealt with in bumper-sticker simplicity in a campaign, experts say some aspects of homeland security deserve deeper discussion, like border security, bioterrorism and securing nuclear materials.

PAUL LIGHT, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: Oh, I think there's a terrible gap in the campaign, the constant conversation about the threat without a scintilla of conversation about what we're going to do about it inside our borders.

MESERVE: Some homeland security experts say the president benefits from continuing to stress risk and danger and puts his emphasis there and that Kerry believes the war in Iraq is a more potent political issue.

Lee Hamilton, co-chair of the 9/11 Commission, is resigned to the lack of debate.

LEE HAMILTON, VICE-CHAIRMAN, 9/11 COMMISSION: Any president has a right, or candidate for president has a right to identify the top items on his agenda, and, in this case, both of them apparently have not put it at the top.

MESERVE: Another factor, say experts, is that among voters, as 9/11 has faded, so has the urgency of homeland security.


ZAHN: And that was Jeanne Meserve reporting for us tonight.

Coming up next, a campaign issue that has suddenly moved from the background to the foreground. The health of Chief Justice Rehnquist has both the far left and the far right jockeying for position. How will it social issues like abortion, affirmative action and gay marriage? That story coming up next.


ZAHN: Welcome back.

The U.S. Supreme Court says Chief Justice Rehnquist will be back at work next week. He is being treated for thyroid cancer, but Rehnquist's condition and his age, 80, make the debate about a Supreme Court vacancy unavoidable. Only one of the nine justices is under the age of 65, and now three of them have had cancer. So if the next president has vacancies to fill, how would it change court and how would it affect social issues like abortion, gay marriage and how much government we have in our lives?

Here's our senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin.


JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SR. LEGAL ANALYST (voice-over): When it comes to the Supreme Court, the candidates have given only a few direct hints about the kinds of justices they would appoint.

BUSH: I wouldn't pick a judge who said that the Pledge of Allegiance couldn't be said in a school because it had the words "under God" in it. KERRY: I believe that the right of choice is a constitutional right, so I don't intend to see it undone.

TOOBIN (on camera): The biggest question about the affect of any new justice on the court is, which justice is being replaced? Traditionally, justices are strategic about their retirements. If President Bush wins, the moderate liberal, John Paul Stevens, who is 84 years old, might decide to stay on. But the swing vote, Sandra Day O'Connor, who is 74 years old, might let Bush pick her successor.

(voice-over): But the big question today is about the chief. How would a replacement for William Rehnquist affect the court?

First, if John Kerry did the choosing, no one knows for sure, but some things seem clear. Support for Roe v. Wade would go from 6-3 to 7-2. Support for affirmative action would move from 5-4 to 6-3. Gay rights, but probably not gay marriage, would have a solid majority. A Kerry justice would probably oppose organized prayer in schools and back a strong wall between church and state. A Bush-chosen president would probably reflect Chief Justice Rehnquist's views and maintain the current balance on the court.

BRAD BERENSON, FORMER SUPREME COURT CLERK: The court has steadily but slowly moved more in his direction. He's come to be regarded as, really, a terrific chief justice, someone who has held the court together and affected its overall direction over quite a long period of time.

TOOBIN: That direction includes pro-death penalty, less separation of church and state, for example, pro-religious expression in public places, including, perhaps, the posting of the Ten Commandments, pro-states' rights, limiting how much the federal government can impose its rules on local authorities. Either way, the symbolic importance of a new chief justice would be enormous and enduring.

After all, there have been 43 presidents and just 16 chief justices of the United States.


ZAHN: And that was Jeffrey Toobin reporting for us tonight.

Joining me now from Los Angeles, former Assistant Attorney General Doug Kmiec, who served in the Reagan and first Bush administrations. He is now a constitutional law professor at Pepperdine University Law School, and from New Haven, Connecticut tonight, Akhil Amar, who served as a clerk for Justice Stephen Breyer. He is now a professor at Yale Law School.

Welcome, Gentlemen. Glad to have both of you with us.


ZAHN: Thank you. So, Douglas, I'm going to start with you this evening. I'm not going to throw a lot of hypotheticals at you. Chief Rehnquist has said he will be back at work on Monday. But let's just say John Kerry is elected. What are your concerns if there is a vacancy on the court about what kind of imprint John Kerry will want to make in his choice?

KMIEC: Well, Paula, I think that's going to be a dramatic change on the court, because the chief has been responsible for the directions that Jeffrey outlined in the beginning piece. He's reoriented the balance between the federal and the state government to acknowledge state authority. He's accommodated religious belief.

He's struck the balance more evenly between criminal defendants and the criminal justice system. And on all of these questions, the court is narrowly divided. So a Kerry nominee has the ability to flip all of those questions and certainly to some degree slow them down immensely, almost from the beginning.

ZAHN: So, I would assume, Akhil, you would like to see some of those things flipped on the Supreme Court. What are your concerns if President Bush is reelected and what will happen to the court?

AKHIL AMAR, FORMER SUPREME COURT CLERK: Well, if he's elected, then he has the right of every president to try to shape the court in his image. Presidents, liberal and conservative, Democrat and Republican, have done that in the past.

I think it's useful for your audience to understand that right now, of the nine justices, seven were appointed by Republican presidents. Bill Clinton got two appointments, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer. I think they're two excellent appointments. I'm probably biased, since I clerked for Judge Breyer when he was in Boston and think the world of him.

ZAHN: Yes. You better say that, Akhil.

AMAR: But one point is that Jimmy Carter, for example, was president four years and didn't get a single appointment. And it looks as if that will happen to President Bush, that he will have gone four years without an appointment. That's very unusual. It's only happened once before in American history. That was with Franklin Roosevelt's first term. And, boy, he made up for it in the second and third terms and got a lot of people on the court.

And that really shaped the court for an entire generation, a kind of New Deal-Great Society coalition on the judiciary that was in place roughly from 1938 through 1970 or so, when Nixon began to shape it in a different direction.

ZAHN: Douglas, let's look ahead to some of the really important social issues that might be affected by a new justice on the Supreme Court.

On the issue of abortion, if the president is reelected, and he nominates another conservative justice, that is not a guarantee that Roe v. Wade would be overturned, is it? KMIEC: No.

I think the court has more or less positioned itself in the middle on that question, and they're trying to balance the right that the court created in Roe vs. Wade, a right of autonomy and decision- making, against what they described in a later case, the Casey v. Planned Parenthood case, of the right of states and governments to regulate that practice.

And so where the action has been in Congress, Paula, has been on trying to outlaw particularly extreme forms of abortion, like the partial-birth abortion act.

And Justice Kennedy, who was in the plurality in the Casey case, has dissented, suggesting there is -- there is concern on the court and there would be even more concern on the court if a Kerry chief justice existed on whether or not state and local governments would have the ability to reflect the will of the people to regulate these practices and not have abortion on demand.

ZAHN: Gentlemen, we're going to have to leave it there. Douglas Kmiec, Akhil Amar, thank you both for your time tonight. Appreciate it.

KMIEC: Good to be with you.

ZAHN: My pleasure.

And the battle of a Supreme Court nominee will be brutal. Just listen to Justice Clarence Thomas talk about his own nomination.


JUSTICE CLARENCE THOMAS, SUPREME COURT: As far as I'm concerned, it is a high-tech lynching.


ZAHN: And are we in for a long, bitter political war? That's next.

But before we get to that, stop by our "Voting Booth" and let us know if you think the high court should overturn Roe v. Wade. Cast your vote at The results, we'll share with you at the end of the hour.


ZAHN: And we're going to get back to the Supreme Court in a minute. But first, a small detour to Iowa, where President Bush was campaigning today to bring you up to date with the race.

Our latest poll of Iowa voters shows the president is four points ahead of Senator Kerry among likely voters. But among all registered voters in Iowa, Senator Kerry leads by a single point.

Senior White House correspondent John King now joins us from Dubuque.

Hi, John.


ZAHN: So how are the campaigns reacting to those numbers?

KING: Well, both campaigns say they will win Iowa. That's one of the things you learn in the last week of the campaign. It appears two candidates will win the election.

The Bush campaign is very confident here. The president has come here quite a bit as president, and they believe his base of social conservatives will ultimately turn out and get him to victory here.

But the Kerry campaign says look at early voting underway in Iowa, they're way ahead. So this will be a turnout operation state without a doubt.

ZAHN: Let's move back to the missing explosives story out of Iraq. We had campaign representatives from both campaigns earlier on this evening. The Republicans charging that the credibility of the story is falling apart, saying there is a possibility that these weapons were never even there at the start of the war. They had already been disbursed.

Jamie Ruben of the Kerry campaign saying that's ridiculous. The IAEA warned about securing these locations and that the administration was irresponsible.

What's the truth here?

KING: Well, we don't know the truth. And that is one of the big questions. What the Bush campaign is saying is that Senator Kerry immediately said that the weapons were there and the United States let them get away by not securing the site.

And that is one of the facts that the White House says is simply not answerable right now. That that is not -- that information is not known.

This is a back and forth between the campaigns. Certainly the president's leadership in Iraq is open to questioning, and Senator Kerry has been hammering on that.

The intensity of this exchange is a reflection of how close this election is in this state. Both campaigns believe if you win one day's headlines, you might move the numbers.

ZAHN: So John, why isn't the president answering any questions on this?

KING: Twice today he was asked by reporters and he did not answer the question. Once we are certain he heard the question. He just ignored it and stared back at our producer, who asked it. In a speech here, he did answer it indirectly, saying Senator Kerry has no plan for Iraq, just a constant list of complaints. The vice president hit back pretty hard, but the president has not answered a direct question about it.

ZAHN: Do you expect him to answer it any time soon, John?

KING: I would assume that the White House, the answer would be not if the they can help it. They want the president to try to focus on the message he believe will get him to the finish line in these key battlegrounds states and not interact as much with reporters.

If he does any more interviews in the final days of the campaign, it will certainly come up. But I don't know of any scheduled as of right now.

ZAHN: OK. John King, enjoy the rest of your campaign trip there. The guy's going to be on the road 24/7 for the next week. Again, thanks.

No matter who wins next week, George Bush or John Kerry, he will be in for a bitter, bruising battle over any Supreme Court nominee.


ZAHN (voice-over): Supreme Court nominations have touched off some of the most partisan fights in Washington. Ronald Reagan's nomination of Robert Bork was rejected in 1987 after a bitter partisan fight.

RONALD REAGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have appointed a man who has been lied about, who has been treated with extortions that actually amount to a lynching.

ZAHN: Conservative Clarence Thomas was barely confirmed in 1991, after a bruising battle that often got personal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Judge Thomas lacks the experience and qualifications that a Supreme Court justice ought to have.

THOMAS: As a black American, as far as I'm concerned it is a high-tech lynching.

ZAHN: Nominees to the high court are supposed to be judged solely on their qualifications, but both sides also try to judge them on their beliefs, especially about hot button social issues like abortion.

THOMAS: Did I have this day an opinion, a personal opinion, on the outcome in Roe v. Wade? And my answer to you is that I do not.

ZAHN: There hasn't been an opening on the Supreme Court for ten years, but both presidents Clinton and Bush have faced intense fights over their picks for lower-level federal judges, with about 70 nominees blocked so far.

Interest groups even ran TV ads in the fight over some of President Bush's more conservative nominees.

C. BOYDEN GRAY, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: They can't believe that the president would nominate someone would be acceptable, so they're geared up to oppose whoever it is.

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: The only time we really oppose things is when the president nominates someone way out of the mainstream.

ZAHN: If President Bush or a President Kerry gets the chance to appoint a new Supreme Court justice, look for the White House to set up a war room, advocacy troops to pull out all the stops, and the Senate to hold high-profile hearings.

And the president faces an additional challenge in the Senate. It takes 60 senators to even bring it to a vote.


ZAHN: And joining me now, representatives from two groups that are likely to be on opposite sides of the next battle over a Supreme Court vacancy. From Washington, Elliot Mincberg. He is the vice president of People for the American Way. And from Colorado Springs tonight, Tom Minnery of the Focus on the Family.

Good to have both of you with us.


ZAHN: So Elliot, I want to turn with your concerns tonight, that a more conservative Supreme Court would mean not only rolling back Roe v. Wade, but potentially, as the director of one of your organizations has said, hundreds of other precedents. Like what?

ELLIOT MINCBERG, PEOPLE FOR THE AMERICAN WAY: Well, for example, there is a decision just a few years ago whereby a 5-4 vote, the court refused to overturn patient protection laws that give people the right to get a second opinion when an HMO denies them that opinion.

One more vote with Scalia and Thomas would have overturned that. One more vote would mean that even blatant partisan gerrymandering would be considered constitutional. One more vote would mean that a paraplegic man who had to crawl up a courthouse in Tennessee because there was no access would have no right whatsoever to sue the state government for that relief.

And folks like Tom have been saying for years they want more people just like Scalia and Thomas on the Supreme Court. And the danger is, with just one or two more, we could see huge amounts of our rights and liberties disappear.

ZAHN: Tom, let's talk about what your fears are. You basically said if John Kerry and at least people in this campaign have said if they vacancy filled they will look for a moderate candidate. What's the problem you have with that? MINNERY: Well, first of all, Paula, our prayers are with Chief Justice Rehnquist, and we wish him well in his recovery. But, in fact, the federal courts are by and large in an atrocious state, and in a John Kerry administration they will get a whole loss worse.

And I say that because in a John Kerry administration, only left- wing liberals need apply. And I mean that by his litmus test on abortion. Only left-wing liberal theories can find the right of privacy, Paula, which was used to underscore abortion as a fundamental right. You cannot find that in a plain reading of the Constitution.

You know, these are the kind of judges who have made it a federal crime for a kid to pray in school!

ZAHN: OK. Let's come back to the issue of Roe v. Wade with Elliot for a moment.

Elliot, you heard what Tom just had to say. What are the chances of a left-winger actually making it through the nomination stage unscathed? Will they get through the Senate?

MINCBERG: I think it's been very clear that a President Kerry would probably follow the kind of example that we saw from President Clinton, where he actually consulted with the other side and found people that were pretty moderate to be on the court...

ZAHN: But the people that he knew who could get through, right?


MINCBERG: I think that's right.

But listen to what Tom just said. He just said that in order to believe in a constitutional right to privacy at all, you have to be a far out left-winger. That tells you, unfortunately, what the right wing is looking for. To eliminate -- eliminate the right to privacy...


MINNERY: Paula, it's not a -- it's not a right-wing idea to protect a right to the life. All children ought to at least be welcomed into life and protected in law. If we can't do that for the least of these, our brethren, then we have failed as a human community, as a society.

MINCBERG: Paula, I don't want to argue the merits of...

MINNERY: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) protect the right to life of people.

MINCBERG: I don't want to argue here...


ZAHN: OK. Tom, finish your thought and then we'll let Elliot react. MINNERY: There's something more sinister here in a John Kerry administration, Paula, and that is religious discrimination, which will rear its ugly head.

It was Ray Flynn, the former mayor of Boston, a Democrat, who worked in many of John Kerry's early campaigns, who was astonished at this litmus test on abortion, because he now understands that practicing Catholics cannot apply in a John Kerry administration to be members of the federal court, because practicing Catholics are pro- life and John Kerry said, "Sorry. You cannot do that."

ZAHN: All right.

MINCBERG: That's simply...

ZAHN: I can only imagine what you might say about what Tom has just said about John Kerry's nominee would all but ensure religious discrimination in this country.

MINCBERG: It's simply not true. It's the same balderdash that's been tried in the Senate recently. And the facts simply refute it.

MINNERY: Ray Flynn worked for..


MINCBERG: But again, listen...

ZAHN: It's Elliot's turn now. Let's let Elliot finish.

MINCBERG: What Tom is saying, he's not just talking about the right of reproductive choice for women around the country. He's saying there's no basis in the Constitution for a right to privacy.

So the government presumably has the right under his view, and this is, in fact, the view of Scalia and Thomas, who he and President Bush so far want to replicate on the court. Their view is no right to privacy to what consenting adults do in their own bedrooms.

ZAHN: All right.

MINCBERG: No right to privacy whatsoever under the Constitution. And that is something we cannot allow if our country is to retain the kind of constitutional liberties we now have.

ZAHN: Well, gentlemen, you've given us both a lot -- or given all of us a lot to think about and learn more about. Elliot Mincberg, Tom Minnery, thank you for both of your perspectives.

MINNERY: Thank you, Paula.

MINCBERG: Thank you, Paula.

ZAHN: My pleasure. And we'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) ZAHN: With the polls so close just a week before the election, you may think the 2004 race is playing out just like 2000, but behind the percentages are shifting patterns and shifting allegiances.

Maria Hinojosa looks at the change in loyalty in one group of voters.


MARIA HINOJOSA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was always Juan Carlos Valdez' dream to raise his Colombian-Cuban family in a town like this: centrist, middle class, all-American Allentown.

So many other Latinos have followed the same dream that this part of Pennsylvania now has a Latino hardware store and signs for Goya beans. But this year there's something new. Latinos who traditionally vote in high numbers for Democrats are talking like this.

(on camera) You're saying you're undecided?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Undecided but most likely for Bush.

HINOJOSA (voice-over): In this political swing state, Republicans say they're cutting into the Democrats' traditional edge among Latino voters.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Hispanic population, by having members in the Republican Party and Democratic Party, calls attention to itself, and both parties have to fight for it.

HINOJOSA: And that means that Democrats have to fight harder than ever.


HINOJOSA: Hispanics make up just 11 percent of possible voters. But increasingly, they're moving to battleground states like Pennsylvania.

JULIO GURIDY (D), ALLENTOWN CITY COUNCIL: Many Latinos, they don't understand the difference between the Republicans and Democrats. And as a Democrat, not necessarily as a Latino, but as a Democrat, I feel that it is my responsibility to educate them.

HINOJOSA: Latinos voted Democratic in the last presidential election by 62 percent to 35 percent, a significant gain for the Republicans over previous totals. Yet Democratic sentiment still runs strong.

(on camera) How many of you in this election are going to vote Republican? So just three of you. How many of you are going to vote for John Kerry? And how many of you are still undecided?



(voice-over) Lifelong Democrat and local newspaper columnist David Vaida founded a Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in Lehigh Valley. He wanted to empower the region's fast growing Latino population. What he didn't expect was that half of his ward would be Republican.

DAVID VAIDA, ALLENTOWN HISPANIC CHAMBER OF COMMERCE: I can see erosion taking place. And the reason that erosion is taking place is because the message that is being given by the Republican Party is resonating with the Latino community.

HINOJOSA: That message includes an appeal to some Latinos' religious opposition to abortion and gay marriage and to immigrants like Juan Carlos, who feel safer with President Bush.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think they're shifting towards Republican, and towards George Bush more than Republican, just because of the fact that national security is an issue, in my opinion, for Hispanic, the Hispanic community. They come from Latin America, because they want to have a safe and prosperous life.

HINOJOSA: Vincent Thompson says Latinos crossing parties are a misinformed minority. He says there are many reasons why Latinos should stick with the Democrats.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They tend to go to George Bush because of tax purposes or otherwise, but they don't see the overall picture, like I said before. They're not sensitive to see what the people that are basically working for a living have to go through and how they're losing their job, how they're losing their insurance, how they're losing, you know, their 401ks.

HINOJOSA: Who Latinos believe will address all those issues most effectively could determine which party gets the edge among these unpredictable voters.


ZAHN: So I'm just curious, how much you saw in Allentown you think is reflected in Latino communities across the country?

HINOJOSA: Well, I was very surprised what I saw in Allentown. And I think that you can't right now -- people are watching to see will this be the election where you can finally say this is not a Latino monolithic vote.

A lot of people are watching Florida, though, because the Democrats are going after the Cuban vote. They can get one to two percent of that, this could really shift the entire election. That's what these analysts are saying. Very surprising, very much up in the air.

ZAHN: What thing that comes through loud and clear in your piece, though. It doesn't appear as though the Kerry campaign has been as aggressive overall in targeting the Latino vote? HINOJOSA: Depends on who you talk to. There were some who will say they're very aggressive. The one thing to watch, Paula, "Sabo y Ygante (ph)" this Sunday -- Saturday night, the most watched television show across the hemisphere. There will be both Bush and Kerry, this Sunday night, Saturday night.

ZAHN: I will be there. Maria Hinojosa. Thank you.

Well, some people complain that the campaign is going to the dogs. This one is definitely going to the wolves. The politics of the pack, right after this.


ZAHN: The Bush campaign's wolf pack ad has stirred up a flock of political junkies, and now we're hearing from the wolves, too. Here's our own Jeanne Moos.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The down side to using wolves in a political campaign, wolves fight back.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... treating the American people like they're 8-year-olds.

MOOS: The guy on the other end of the phone is Peter Shaddocks (ph), an outdoorsy computer engineer from Cincinnati. He got upset over this Bush commercial showing wolves ready to pounce. John Kerry supposedly dithers over defense.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And weakness attracts those who are waiting to do America harm.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I flipped on that TV the other night, and I see that ad with the wolves. Have you seen that? Oh, my God! The wolves. You know, they smell weakness.

MOOS: While Bill Clinton mocked with his tone, Peter Shaddocks (ph) mocked with his very own web site, Wolf Packs for Truth, a parody of the swift boat veterans.

The wolves from the Bush ad fight back, saying, "They told us they were shooting a Greenpeace commercial."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If any animal had a voice, they'd be pretty sure that they wouldn't be supporting President Bush.

MOOS: "We are not terrorists," say the wolves.

Come to add insult to injury...

(on camera) Is it really National Wolf Awareness Week?

(voice-over) It was last week when the Bush commercial released. Some compare the wolf pack ad to the bear in the wood spot run by Ronald Reagan's campaign.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's a bear in the woods. Some people say the bear is tame. Others say it's vicious. Since no one can really be sure who's right, isn't it smart to be as strong as the bear? If there is a bear.

MOOS: And now the Democrats are calling themselves eagles.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The eagle knows when it's time to change course. The ostrich stands in one place.

MOOS: Ostriches, eagles, bears, wolf packs. What's next? Access of evil alligators, killer otters? Lassie run amok?

If you thought politicians howl, wait until you hear a falsely accused big, bad wolf!


ZAHN: We should feed them. Jeanne Moos, thank you.

And we'll be back with tonight's "Voting Booth" questions and answers right after this.


ZAHN: So should the Supreme Court overturn Roe V. Wade? Eighty- eight percent of you say no. Thanks for logging onto our question site tonight.

"LARRY KING LIVE" is next. Hope to see you again tomorrow night.


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.