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JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS
Bin Laden Video Surfaces 4 Days Before U.S. Election
Aired October 29, 2004 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: After the many long months and miles of this campaign, in four days, this election will be in your hands, where it belongs.
ANNOUNCER: A final sales pitch in Florida. Can John Kerry seal the deal with help from a famous friend?
George Bush is set to get a strong helping hand from Arnold Schwarzenegger, after getting a startling start to his campaign day.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
ANNOUNCER: Party time on campus. Students and celebrities cram in campaigning to turn out the youth vote.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can Bush count on your vote this year, ma'am?
ANNOUNCER: The thrills, the crowds, the suspense. It's not Red Sox fever. It's the "Political Play of the Week."
ANNOUNCER: Live from New York, JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS.
JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you for joining us in New York City this Friday.
Heading into the final weekend before the election, George W. Bush and John Kerry face different challenges in their efforts to bring home a win November 2. One sign of that, Kerry came out the gate once again hammering the president, while Bush never mentioned his opponent.
We begin our coverage with the Kerry campaign and CNN's Frank Buckley in Florida.
FRANK BUCKLEY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Judy.
Senator Kerry doing his best right up to the end to (INAUDIBLE)
WOODRUFF: Our apologies. We're not able to hear Frank Buckley. You can tell he's there with a big crowd at the Kerry event. We're going to try to get Frank's microphone and the audio straightened out and get back to him in just a moment.
But, for the time being, let's turn to the Bush campaign. The president has two rallies in Ohio in the coming hours, including a much-touted appearance with Republican crowd-pleaser Arnold Schwarzenegger. Mr. Bush began his day in New Hampshire, where another celebrity supporter wound up being a no-show.
Our White House correspondent Dana Bash is traveling with the president.
DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The president began his final sprint toward Election Day without mentioning John Kerry.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There is hope beyond the ashes of September the 11th.
BASH: Instead, a solemn speech to remind Americans how he responded after the terror attacks that defined his presidency.
BUSH: They will test our will by their barbaric tactics. We must be resolved. So long as I am your president, we will not be held captive by fear.
BASH: The Bush campaign invited family members of September 11 victims, and, at a poignant moment, as the president introduced the woman who gave him her son's badge...
BUSH: I will never forget the fallen.
God bless you, Arlene.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
BASH: God bless was also the cue for the confetti guy. He jumped the gun, the president forced to finish his reflective speech with confetti falling. That's not the only thing that didn't go as planned. Here, the president hoped to avoid the controversy about 360 tons of missing explosives in Iraq.
But protesters with a slightly different number worked their way into the tightly vetted Bush venue to remind him.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am a Republican who's going to vote for John Kerry!
BASH: And several others were escorted out, all that after publicized plans for an in-your-face photo-op here with Red Sox player Curt Schilling fell through. The Boston pitcher hinted in a statement he did not want politics to tarnish his World Series glow.
Bush aides, who first said Schilling wasn't coming because of his hurt ankle, now quietly suggest he canceled under pressure from pro- Kerry Sox management. Team Bush had hoped Schilling could give the president a Granite State boost. A new poll shows Mr. Bush now trailing the senator by 4 percent, when just last month he was up by five. A second poll has the president down seven.
(on camera): And about that confetti mishap, Bush adviser Karen Hughes says if that's the worst mistake of this campaign, we'll take it.
Dana Bash, CNN, Manchester, New Hampshire.
WOODRUFF: Dana, thank you very much.
Now we want to try to get back to our Frank Buckley, who's following John Kerry in Florida today.
John -- Frank, where are you?
BUCKLEY: Well, we're in West Palm Beach. I hope you can hear me this time, Judy. Senator Kerry just getting on the stage here a few moments ago, running about an hour late.
Earlier today, he was in Orlando, Florida, to deliver a speech, Senator Kerry saying that if -- he was making a summary of his case,trying to make the case that he is going to be the champion of the middle-class if he's elected, trying to convince voters that the choice in this election is, as he put it, between four more years of the same and a fresh start.
Of course, Iraq never far from Senator Kerry's lips. Here's what Kerry said on Iraq today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KERRY: In Iraq every day, every headline has brought fresh evidence that our commander in chief doesn't see what's happening or he sees it and he won't level with the American people about why we went to war in Iraq, how the war is going, and he has no idea how to put this policy back on track.
His mistakes, his mistakes and misjudgments have hurt our troops, have put our troops at greater risk, have overextended the armed forces of the United States, have driven away our allies, have diverted our focus from Osama bin Laden and the real war on terror.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BUCKLEY: Now, what we didn't hear in that portion of the speech on Iraq was a new line of attack on the missing explosives in Iraq. After four days of that, the Kerry campaign saying that they believe they've won that argument. They're now trying to incorporate it into the broader argument about the wrong choices that the Bush administration has made in the Kerry campaign's view.
Now, we are here in Florida, the hotly contested state of Florida, and the latest indication of that, a new poll out today suggesting that it is a dead heat, 47-47, that poll tracking really with our most recent poll of polls, a snapshot of an average of three recent polls here in Florida showing President Bush with a two-point lead here in Florida. But, clearly, this is a very close race. And turnout will be key here in Florida.
Helping in that effort here in Florida this evening will be Bruce Springsteen, the Boss adding another appearance to the Kerry campaign after his appearance yesterday in Madison that drew some 80,000 people. We're told by the campaign that Bruce Springsteen said that he wanted to make sure he didn't wake up on Wednesday feeling like he hadn't done everything he could to help out.
Now, as Senator Kerry is appearing here in West Palm Beach to try to rally the faithful, Senator Edwards, his running mate, is picking up on an item in the news the last couple of days about the FBI launching an investigation into the Pentagon's no-bid contract to Halliburton on Iraq.
Here's what Senator Edwards had to say about that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Today, we've learned that the FBI is investigating the Pentagon's award of a no-bid contract to Halliburton. Remember, Dick Cheney's company?
Good people came forward because they knew, just like the American people know, just like all of you know, that the special treatment of Halliburton was wrong. Here's what it boils down to. At the end of the day, you cannot stand, as George Bush and Dick Cheney have, you cannot stand with Halliburton, big oil companies, and the Saudi royal family and still stand up for the American people. You deserve somebody who will stand up for you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BUCKLEY: A Bush campaign spokesman suggesting that this was -- or saying that this is a Bush administration Justice Department that is actually conducting this investigation, and that this was, the fact that the campaign is talking about this at this late hour is an indication of a campaign without a message -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: OK, Frank Buckley down in West Palm Beach with John Kerry, Frank, thank you very much.
You just heard Frank telling us how close those polls are in Florida, and just four days before the vote, Bush is enjoying a slight edge over Kerry in the national polls and in the CNN electoral map. Our latest analysis shows Bush with 227 out of the 270 electoral votes needed to win. Kerry has 207, eight states with a total of 104 electoral votes too close to call. And our average of all the latest national polls shows Bush leading Kerry 49 percent to 46 percent. That is statistically unchanged from the poll of polls over the last several days.
Well, turning to the Friday headlines in our "Campaign News Daily," Vice President Cheney is heading to Hawaii this weekend, a blue state that few Democrats expected to be in play this Election Day. Cheney is campaigning in three battleground states today. And, on Sunday, he's scheduled to make a 13-hour round-trip flight to Hawaii, where polls show the race is a dead heat.
The Kerry team has also taken note of those polls. Al Gore and John Kerry's daughter, Alexandra, also attending a get-out-the-vote rally today in Honolulu. Dick Cheney's counterpart, John Edwards, we just saw him. He's heading home to North Carolina tonight after stops in Michigan and Wisconsin. Edwards plans to vote in Raleigh, where he is scheduled to join his family and singer Jon Bon Jovi for a rally at the state fairgrounds.
Two state polls show Edwards still has some work to do at home. One new poll shows George Bush leading John Kerry in North Carolina by nine points. Another finds Bush ahead by six points.
In Nevada, former President Bill Clinton making another campaign stop on John Kerry's behalf. Clinton is scheduled to attend an outdoor rally for the Kerry campaign a few hours from now in Las Vegas, a Democratic aide telling CNN that Clinton and his wife, Senator Hillary Clinton, have been asked to take part in interviews with local television stations in Hawaii on Sunday and on Monday.
Well, both the Democrats and Republicans are working to lock up states that they had hoped would be easy targets for them. Up next, I'll ask Bush campaign chairman Marc Racicot about the president's campaign weak spots and what they are doing about them. And later, I'll ask Kerry senior adviser Mike McCurry about the weak spots the senator is experiencing in some blue states.
Plus, the era of electronic voting. We will look at the pros and cons of computer ballots.
With just four days until the election, this is INSIDE POLITICS, the place for campaign news.
WOODRUFF: We're going to hear now from the two presidential campaigns. Kerry senior adviser Mike McCurry will be joining me in a few minutes, but, first, Republican perspective from the Bush/Cheney campaign chairman, Marc Racicot.
Very good to see you, Marc Racicot.
I know you're looking at all the same polls that we are, and I'm sure you've got some more private ones. But what I want to ask you about is that, even in those battleground states where -- and many of them very close -- but even in the states where George Bush is ahead, he's in, most of those states, under 50 percent, Ohio, Iowa, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin. Is this a sign for worry for your campaign?
MARC RACICOT, BUSH-CHENEY CAMPAIGN CHAIRMAN: I think it's a sign of exactly what we said at the beginning. It was going to be very close. And we feel, of course, that we're in a good position battling in the Gore states, as they used to call them, in the blue states, in so many different blue states. And, of course, they have to be there defending those states. So we're in a much better position in 2004 than what we were in 2000 in Iowa, in Wisconsin, in Pennsylvania, in Michigan, in New Jersey, in Hawaii.
But it's very, very close, Judy. That's the bottom line. That's the honest truth of the matter. And we know we're going to have to battle all the way until Tuesday.
WOODRUFF: But for an incumbent president to be below 50 percent, doesn't history work against you?
RACICOT: I don't think that is true at all.
The fact of the matter is that all of these polls have been waffling back and forth here and there. But if you take the average of the polls over the last three or four weeks, you'll find that we have been consistently above 50 percent. Still, it doesn't take away from the notion that we've said would be true from the very beginning, and that is this is very close and we won't know until Tuesday.
WOODRUFF: Marc Racicot, "The New York Times" is reporting today that -- and I'm quoting -- that the "assault" on John Kerry, referring to the president and the vice president, pretty much relentlessly criticizing John Kerry in recent days, reflects the Bush campaign's nervousness. How much nervousness is there?
RACICOT: Well, I don't think that that's a reflection of anything other than the comparisons that are typically made.
The flailing appears to me to be coming from the senator's campaign. I think just today he was yelling at the top of his lungs for America to wake up, flailing without a sense of direction, and I don't think with a sense of momentum either. But I think what we've been doing all along is in a civil fashion showing America the comparisons between a strong, steady leader on the one hand and one who can't make up his mind, doesn't know what he's about and doesn't know where he's going on the other.
I don't think it's been vitriolic, even remotely close to that. You and I have talked before about the acidic rhetoric that has been used by the opposition. You've never seen that from the president.
WOODRUFF: Well, pretty tough -- we've seen pretty tough language on both sides.
But let me turn quickly to Iraq. There, it seems like, daily bad news out of there. Today, we've learned another hostage has apparently been murdered. And now we learn from a top congressional Republican aide that the speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert, who's a Republican, confronted the president's national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, about the administration not adequately safeguarding ammunition depots in Iraq, and this took place four months before those explosives were discovered missing in Iraq at al Qa Qaa. Doesn't this signal that even the Republicans, leadership in the Congress, was looking to the administration to be responsible for protecting these weapon sites?
RACICOT: You know, the scandal of this whole discussion is the lack of factual information for people to rely upon, and that factual information that is available, that those that choose not to rely upon it.
The fact is that John Kerry took this headline out of "The New York Times" about four days ago that was supplied from rather questionable sources, and since that moment in time, Judy, we've been learning all kinds of things where he was inaccurate. First of all, there may not have been near what was alleged to be in that particular area...
RACICOT: ... those munitions.
WOODRUFF: But what about Speaker Hastert's point?
RACICOT: But the bottom -- here's the bottom line.
Our troops have been over there scouring the countryside, have found 10,000 different ammo dumps. They have destroyed or marked for destruction 400,000 tons of these munitions. And what we've been talking about over the course of these last three days is about one- one-thousandth of those weapons. And we find out just today that the munitions that John Kerry allege were missing, in fact, when the troops arrive there, they dealt with immediately.
And they, in fact, secured them, hauled them away and destroyed 250 tons, additional tons of those weapons, and then additional troops moved in there after. And so what this really is about is the raw opportunism. And the discussions between Condoleezza Rice and the speaker, I'm not privy to. I don't precisely how they moved. But I do know the facts that I just provided you are the facts that are available today.
WOODRUFF: Well, we don't have time to explore this further, unfortunately. But it's my understanding that there's some dispute about whether those were the same weapons. But, hopefully, we'll be able to get to the bottom of this.
RACICOT: But the point is, John Kerry has taken those and alleged to the American people they are fact. And he's wrong.
WOODRUFF: We're going to have to leave it there.
Marc Racicot, who is chairman of the Bush/Cheney campaign, thanks very much.
RACICOT: Thank you. WOODRUFF: And we'll be talking to you in the hours to come.
WOODRUFF: Thank you, Marc.
Coming up next, the other side of the story. Kerry campaign senior adviser Mike McCurry is my guest.
And later, more and more Americans are using touch-screen voting machines. But is there a downside to electronic voting? We'll take a closer look.
WOODRUFF: Moments ago, we heard the Republican perspective on the state of the presidential campaign. Now let's get the Democratic side from Kerry campaign senior adviser Mike McCurry, who is in West Palm Beach, Florida.
Mike McCurry, thanks very much for talking to me.
We just spoke with Marc Racicot. I asked him about the polls. And to look at the polls another way, our poll of polls shows it's close, but consistently, it's the president who's ahead. Why can't John Kerry break out and get out from under that lead of the president?
MIKE MCCURRY, SENIOR KERRY CAMPAIGN ADVISER: Well, Judy, the important thing is the president doesn't get above 50 percent in any of these polls. And we have got an opportunity now to close in on him.
Now, think about this for a second. Four years ago, many of the folks who were still undecided voted for George Bush. They've gotten to the point now where they understand we're moving in the wrong direction. We need a change. We need to move in a new direction. And they have to get over that psychological barrier to say, you know, I made a mistake four years ago and I'm ready now to change directions.
I think we can move them in our direction, and indeed we feel like the movement has been in our direction. So we feel very comfortable. We've got momentum, enthusiasm and excitement on our side. And that's what you want in the closing days of a campaign.
WOODRUFF: But if that's the case, why is John Kerry having to defend himself in so many so-called blue states, states that formerly went to Al Gore, all across the Upper Midwest, New Jersey, Hawaii?
MCCURRY: You mean -- you mean for example, like Ohio, where we think we're going to win, some of the states that we are fighting now where I think last time around George Bush won.
But, look, there's a lot of stories. New Jersey, you just mentioned. I don't think we're seriously concerned that we're going to lose New Jersey. We're working hard there and we think we're very well in the lead there. But, look, this is going to come down to a handful of states. We know that. It's going to be very close. We know that. But we feel like, going to this final weekend, the momentum, the excitement, and, most importantly, the message about who's going to do the best job of leading the country in the next four years in a new direction, that's all on our side. And that's the best way to close a campaign.
WOODRUFF: Marc Racicot, the chairman of the Bush/Cheney campaign, just said to me that it's John Kerry who is being the most negative in this campaign. He said today John Kerry is flailing out, he's been flailing out, today yelling about President Bush.
Why is John Kerry having to be negative so close to the election?
MCCURRY: Well, I think if you listened to the senator this morning, if you hear what he's talking about, he's the one that's really defining what this country will look like four years from now.
I would challenge the chairman to name a single thing about George Bush's program that he's been talking about on the campaign that has broken through during the course of this general election campaign. You know, during the Republican Convention, they said they were going to put forward a second-term agenda and fight for that.
But, Judy, can you even think of a single thing that George Bush has fought for during this general election that his second term would be about? You can't, because he has been the one that has consistently attacked John Kerry, taken his words out of context, and tried to make him the issue. We want to make the future the issue and lift people's hopes up. And that's how we're campaigning.
We're campaigning hard. And we're going to finish I think in a way that will actually lift people up. And I think that the country is now going to be able to move in a new direction.
WOODRUFF: Very quickly, Mike McCurry, you're not worried about Bush courting these traditionally Democratic voter groups, African- Americans, all over the country, in these battleground states, Jewish voters in Florida? He could tilt the scale by doing this.
MCCURRY: Oh, Judy, Judy, please. I mean, this president has consistently and only campaigned on behalf of his far conservative right. That's their strategy.
Now, at the end of the day, they're now quoting John F. Kennedy and trying to appeal to other people, because, frankly, that strategy doesn't work. The basic problem is this. President Bush said he would be a uniter, not a divider. And he didn't do it. He campaigned and worked only on behalf of the far right, the wealthy and the connected in this society. And he's paying the price for that now, because he can't get above 48 percent, 49 percent. And that's the -- obviously, the opportunity we have now is to overtake him in the final days of the campaign.
WOODRUFF: A vigorous advocate for his candidate, Mike McCurry, senior adviser to John Kerry -- Mike, thank you very much. We appreciate it.
MCCURRY: Good to be with you.
WOODRUFF: Coming up next, making a pitch for a group that traditionally doesn't vote in great numbers. We'll take a look at how both campaigns are trying to get young voters to the polls.
Plus, if the election were held today, who wins? Bob Novak unveils his final electoral map.
(STOCK MARKET REPORT)
WOODRUFF: President Bush recalls the September 11 attacks as he campaigns in New Hampshire and Ohio. Later today, Bush teams with Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Senator Kerry keeps his eye on Iraq as he swings through Florida. Tonight, Kerry takes the stage for a second straight day with Bruce Springsteen.
Welcome back to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm Judy Woodruff in New York this Friday.
The tight race for the White House has forced the parties to focus more than ever on voter turnout. Young people, especially those on college campuses, have been a popular target for supporters of both Bush and Kerry.
WOODRUFF (voice-over): On a cold and rainy Wisconsin night, three young Republicans set out to win some votes for the president.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can vote in Wisconsin, can't you?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I can.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Awesome. Are you undecided or do you...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm undecided.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Perfect.
WOODRUFF: They hit a frat house.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And here are the facts on George W. Bush's record.
WOODRUFF: They paper some mailboxes. They wanted to stump in the dorms, but couldn't. Marquette University rules don't allow how it.
Warm and dry on campus, about 300 girls and a handful of boys have been waiting for more than two hours to hear actor Jake Gyllenhaal pitch for John Kerry. It was nearly a Beatles moment. The picture-taking and pavement-pounding is all part of an effort to energize a group infamous for its lack of political energy: young Americans, ages 18 to 24, about 40 million people.
They love their MTV president. But since 1992, they've withdrawn again. About 40 percent turning out to vote in the last presidential election.
Will this year be different? It could. As political passions run high, a Harvard study shows students more fired up than ever, with more than 70 percent pledging to cast ballots.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Were you voting for president Bush? Oh, that's fantastic. That's what I like to hear.
WOODRUFF: Marquette's young Republicans call their campus Bush country. They've hosted the twins, Jenna and Barbara, and they are active on the debate scene. But on Tuesday night, Democratic star power triumphed. The focus of the frenzy was to encourage students to take part in early voting.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you're not on the voter roll when you arrive...
WOODRUFF: And sure enough, the next morning, a dozen showed up to be shuttled to the polls. If you're a typical frazzled freshman, Wisconsin's a great place to vote. You can do it early, and you can do it even if you haven't registered before.
RYAN ALEXANDER, CAMPUS COORDINATOR: What we tell them is that they can either bring down something that has their address on it, proof of residency, or if you have another student that is already registered to vote, that student can vouch for them.
WOODRUFF: But when the students traipsed into city hall, they found a very, very long line. Two hours long, in fact. They stuck it out.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know, the next two days is a pretty busy day for class. So this way it's easier and I know that I can get to it.
WOODRUFF: But campus organizers seemed concerned.
MEREDITH SALSBERY, MARQUETTE COLLEGE DEMOCRAT: They probably will miss classes if they go to vote. So we are warning them that it may not be their best option to vote early now.
WOODRUFF: Still, they kept shuttling students to the polls as they set their sights on Tuesday, when campus Democrats...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is our future you guys. This is our future.
WOODRUFF: ... and campus Republicans...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's going to be close this year. So bring out all your friends, too.
WOODRUFF: ... will square off on common ground.
WOODRUFF: Well, you saw early voting in that report. Early voting, in fact, appears to be catching on around the country, especially out West.
A new Annenberg Survey finds that 14 percent of registered voters say they have already cast their ballots. Another 11 percent say they plan to vote before Election Day. Early voting is most popular in the western states, where 23 percent of those surveyed say they have already voted.
Some voters who cast their ballots on Election Day will be using electronic voting machines. CNN's Ed Lavandera reports that not everyone is convinced that the machines are the answer to the problems at the polls.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is the ballot box.
ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: To hear election administrators tell it, electronic voting machines are the best way of ensuring a secure, accurate vote. Gail Fisher runs elections in Austin, Texas. She's used the e-slate voting machine in the last six elections here.
GAIL FISHER, TRAVIS CO-ELECTIONS DIVISION: I feel 100 percent confident in these results. Now it's because it's so direct.
LAVANDERA: On this machine, voters use a dial to highlight their choices. But before the ballot is cast, voters have to review their work. Most electronic machines have a similar feature.
FISHER: So this is the voters' protect. You review your summary screen. And as you can see, it tells me who I voted for.
LAVANDERA: The votes are then stored in an electronic ballot box.
FISHER: It's just like putting a piece of paper in a ballot box.
LAVANDERA: But there is no paper, and that worries critics because there's no paper trail.
ADENA LEVINS, TEXAS SAFE VOTING: When they do a recount, there's no way of proving that what they're recounted -- recounting reflects the will of the voter. So until we have a way to do a recount that we know reflects the will of the voter, it's not a safe and reliable enough system.
LAVANDERA: Many voters say they trust the electronic machines. Like first-time voter Jeremy Steve, who doesn't even own a computer.
JEREMY STEVE, VOTER: It was really easy. The navigation through it, it was a breeze.
LAVANDERA: And Regina Hernandez.
REGINA HERNANDEZ, VOTER: I really like technology, so I feel pretty safe with it.
LAVANDERA: But electronic voting machines are not the norm. There are about 181,000 voting precincts nationwide. Electronic machines are used in some form in about 46,000 precincts, which means fewer than 30 percent of all voters are actually using these systems.
Dallas voters are using a touch screen voting machine in early voting. Elections administrator Bruce Sherbet concedes there are some kinks in the system that still must be worked out.
BRUCE SHERBET, ELECTIONS ADMINISTRATOR: I think that's why it's critical that the federal government is looking at these issues, addressing them, seeing what will be the best approach to make this a better system.
LAVANDERA (on camera): Electronic voting machines might not be perfect. But administrators say voters should get used to them as a likely fixture in elections to come.
Ed Lavandera, CNN, Dallas.
WOODRUFF: Ed, thank you very much.
Bob Novak joins us now from Washington with his "Reporter's Notebook."
Now Bob, I understand the final Evans-Novak electoral map is coming out. So what does it show?
ROBERT NOVAK, CO-HOST, "CROSSFIRE": It will show -- I put together with my associate, Tim Carney, and it will show Ohio switching from Republican to Democrat. But if the election were held today, Kerry still falling short 281 to 257 electoral votes. Very, very close.
WOODRUFF: Well, that is -- that is close. Not as close as it was the last time. But still close.
WOODRUFF: Bob, what about the three biggest electoral vote states, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, the one -- the battleground states? What led you to make the calls that you did there?
NOVAK: Well, we have always felt that Pennsylvania was -- was in Kerry's camp. We've never seen anything other than that.
On Florida, we think that Bush has a small lead there. Of course if he loses Florida, and Ohio, he has lost the election. Now the interesting thing, Judy, is how can a Republican lose Ohio? And the only way he can lose Ohio, as it looks like he's going to, is by picking up two of the blue states from 2000, which are Iowa and Wisconsin.
WOODRUFF: And we know they're working really hard to do that. Finally, Bob, what about the House and Senate? What are you predicting there?
NOVAK: We find a sweep of those five Democrat incumbent seats in the South by the Republicans, while losing in Illinois, and Alaska. That's a net gain of three Republican seats, making the 54-46 in the Senate.
We also have a very close race in South Dakota, with Tom Daschle, the Senate Democratic leader, barely coming through.
In the House of Representatives, Judy, we have the great coup there and the redistricting by Tom DeLay in Texas. It picks up six seats. Otherwise, there is a net loss of two seats to the Democrats, so that is a net gain, thanks to Texas, of four seats for the Republicans. The total margin in the House 233-201.
So everything is very close. We see a slight edge in all three by the -- by the Republicans, but that could change in the next few days.
WOODRUFF: So far you're predicting a red Senate, a red House and a red White House. All right.
NOVAK: By a little margin.
WOODRUFF: All right. Bob Novak, thanks very much. We'll be seeing a lot of you between now and Election Day.
Well, once they were overlooked, or even forgotten. But not anymore. Some say Ralph Nader's performance in 2000 made all the difference in that election. Could a third-party hopeful help decide Tuesday's vote? Bruce Morton takes a look when we come back.
WOODRUFF: It's fair to say that Ralph Nader gets most of the attention, but he is not the only Independent or third party candidate in this presidential race. Our Bruce Morton takes a look at some of the others and the effect that they might have.
RALPH NADER (I), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The Nader-Camejo Independent campaign for presidency...
BRUCE MORTON, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Ralph Nader's running. Many argue he took enough votes from Al Gore last time to make George Bush president. And he's on the ballot in about 35 states this time. But he's not alone. Michael Badnarik, the Libertarian, is on the ballot in 48 states and the District of Columbia. He's for a much smaller government, getting out of Iraq.
MICHAEL BADNARIK, LIBERTARIAN, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The only time that you are wasting your vote is if you vote for a candidate who is going to raise your taxes, who will continue the war, who will restore the draft, pass additional unconstitutional laws, like the Patriot Act, and continue to operate the government with a deficit budget.
Michael Paroutka of the Constitution Party is on the ballot in 36 states. He wants a government that believes in god and is much smaller than the one we have now. No federal money for old age pensions or education, for instance.
MICHAELL PAROUTKA, CONSTITUTION PARTY, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We need to honor god, defend the family and restore the constitutional republic.
MORTON: David Cobb is the Green Party candidate on the ballot in 27 states and D.C. For universal health care, for the environment.
DAVID COBB, GREEN PARTY, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And if we want to actually address the root causes of terrorism and move towards genuine global security, we've got to get a handle on U.S. foreign policy.
MORTON: Can these small parties make a difference? In 2000, Al Gore won New Mexico by 366 votes. Ralph Nader got 21,000-plus, enough to change the result, of course. The Libertarians got just over 2,000. Also enough to change it. And a poll there last August showed Libertarian Badnarik at 4 percent.
These candidates won't carry any states. But in a close election, they can decide who does.
Bruce Morton, CNN, Washington.
WOODRUFF: And we'll be watching how they do on Tuesday night, along with Bush and Kerry.
Ahead on INSIDE POLITICS, how might today's big-issue stories affect the outcome of the presidential race?
Plus, you don't want to miss the latest poll numbers from several battleground states. At least we hope you don't.
Also, voter registration challenges in Ohio, and how that could lead that state's election outcome in limbo.
INSIDE POLITICS will be right back.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) WOODRUFF: The Pentagon is speaking out today about missing explosives in Iraq, an issue that this week is dominating the presidential campaign. An Army major says that his former unit removed 250 tons of ammunition from a weapons depot in al Qa Qaa in April of 2003. And he adds the ammunition was later destroyed.
However, a Defense Department spokesman could not definitively say whether that ammunition was part of the tons of high-grade explosives missing from the same depot. He says that further study is need.
On April 18, by the way, of 2003, a Minnesota television crew traveling with the 101st Airborne taped video of troops as they first opened the bunkers at al Qa Qaa. To get in, they cut what appears to be an International Atomic Energy Agency seal. The question is, among others, will this story have any effect on the election?
Joining me in Washington are Liz Marlantes, of the "Christian Science Monitor"; Jonah Goldberg, of "The National Review"; and Joshua Green of "Atlantic Monthly."
Jonah Goldberg, to you first. Whether it's this story or anything else happening on the campaign trail, what is moving voters making up their minds in these late days?
JONAH GOLDBERG, "NATIONAL REVIEW": I think just the arrival, the impending arrival of Election Day is forcing voters more than anything else to make up their minds. I'm not sure this explosive story ever really had the legs that the Democrats wanted it to have. And I think today's story actually more than anything else probably undermines Kerry's position, because Kerry came off half-cocked and basically said he knew exactly what happened, and that's the one thing that we know he didn't know, because no one knows exactly what happened at this point.
WOODRUFF: Joshua Green, what do you think?
JOSHUA GREEN, "ATLANTIC MONTHLY": Well, I think it does become an issue in the election simply for the fact that here we are five days after the story first came out and we're still talking about it. And if you're at home trying to make up your mind who to vote for, even if this turns out to be an overblown issue, the fact is, is that the president's supporters have come out on a daily basis for a different excuse for what happened.
First there were no weapons there. Then the idea was floated that maybe the Russians took it. And yesterday we heard Rudy Giuliani seem to blame the troops. And at this point they try to pin it on everybody but the tooth fairy.
And, you know, these aren't the kind of images you want if you're George Bush and you're out there running for re-election. This kind of negative news prevents you from getting your story out and really kind of sucks all the oxygen out of the room.
WOODRUFF: Liz Marlantes, how do you see it affecting either Kerry or Bush?
LIZ MARLANTES, "CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR": Well, I guess in some ways come down in the middle. I think if there are undecided voters out there, this could be an issue that moves some of them.
But for the most part, I have to say, for the past really two weeks you've sort of felt like the train has already started to leave the station. In many ways, it already has because people are already voting. We've had people voting for quite some time now.
And so in some ways it seems like this is an issue, if there are people out there who are still on the fence, maybe it will move some of them. And it's close enough that then maybe that could have a difference -- make a difference.
But for the most part, I think -- I think a lot of voters out there have already decided how they feel about Iraq. And even if they agree that this was something that got mismanaged, there are voters out there who will feel that way and still vote for President Bush for other reasons.
WOODRUFF: Well, Jonah Goldberg, are there any news stories right now that are -- that are moving the electorate? I mean, you have this word coming out about the FBI opening an investigation into Halliburton contracts. There have been other stories out there about how the economy is doing. Are any of these resonating?
GOLDBERG: I don't know if many are resonating. The one story that I am shocked, first of all, isn't getting more play and that should be resonating is the story of this new warning from al Qaeda saying that the streets of America are going to run -- run red with American blood. And that very clearly al Qaeda seems to think that the one they don't want to win is George Bush.
And you would think that that would be getting more play. You'd even think that some Democrats would be screaming October surprise about it somehow if they could get -- unwrap the tinfoil from their heads and explain how George Bush got al Qaeda to do this. But I think that's a big story, and I'm surprised it hasn't gotten the kind of play that I think it deserves.
WOODRUFF: Joshua Green, what about it?
GREEN: Well, you know, I agree with Jonah to a certain extent. The problem is, if you take a look at the picture of the guy who the FBI thinks might be the guy on that tape, he's a guy from southern California, an American named Adam Pearlman. And the problem is he's not a very threatening looking guy. He looks like a guy who delivers my pizza.
So this doesn't have the sort of Osama bin Laden, or Zarqawi. It's not one of these sort of, you know, A-level terrorists who everyone understands really do represent a threat.
It's sort of unclear how serious to take this. Most people in the intelligence community don't seem to be all that alarmed about it. And I think voters and the media, to some extent, have kind of reacted accordingly.
WOODRUFF: So Liz Marlantes, we're beyond news developments having much of an effect?
MARLANTES: Well, they have an effect if the campaigns try to insert them into the campaign at this point. I mean, I think one of the things we've seen is that reporters covering this campaign are bored a little bit of the same things that have been repeated throughout the entire campaign. And neither candidate has really changed their basic -- the basic thrust of their message at this point. And so if there is a news event that the campaigns decide to try to jump on, like the Kerry campaign jumping on the missing explosives this week, then that's going to get a lot of coverage because for the press it's something new.
WOODRUFF: All right.
MARLANTES: I think the al Qaeda tape, that hasn't happened yet. The two campaigns have stayed away from it. And that's one reason why it hasn't been more in the news.
WOODRUFF: All right. Moment of truth. A few minutes ago, Bob Novak called -- said what his electoral map looks like. He's saying 281 electoral votes for Bush to 257 for Kerry.
Jonah, your turn.
GOLDBERG: I did the math very quickly over here. I remember I gave Bush 290 on the electoral votes, so whatever is left goes to Kerry. But I think Bush is going to take it between 290 and 300.
GREEN: I've been saying Bush all along. And even though a lot of even my Republican friends are worried that Kerry's going to take this, I'm going to stick with Bush. I'm not going to get attacked as a flip-flopper by Jonah.
I'm going to say that Bush is going to pull it out with 276 in the surprise states. He's going to pull out Iowa and Wisconsin -- sorry, Minnesota. Minnesota.
WOODRUFF: Iowa and Minnesota.
All right, Liz, let's see where you land. You want to...
GOLDBERG: Say it.
MARLANTES: I'm going to -- no, I'm going to be really weak, and I'm not going to ---- I'm not going to give a prediction. Because, in part, it really feels like throwing darts on a board at this point. I don't know actually. I go back and forth every day.
I will say that I think whoever wins is going to end up with more than 300 electoral votes. I don't think we're going to have, you know, 276-262 type scenario.
WOODRUFF: Wow. OK. That's very -- that's very provocative. If we had more time we could talk about why. But Liz is on the record as saying whoever wins, it's over 300.
GOLDBERG: It was a provocative punt.
WOODRUFF: All right. We're going -- we're going to remember these predictions. Jonah Goldberg, Joshua Green, Liz Marlantes, thanks very much. And we'll be talking to you in the days to come up through election Day. Thank you, all.
GOLDBERG: Thanks, Judy.
MARLANTES: Thank you.
GREEN: Thank you.
WOODRUFF: Well, even before the votes are tallied, election issues are being decided by the courts. Coming up, the latest on lawsuits over voter registration in a crucial battleground.
Plus, a "Political Play of the Week" to get excited about when INSIDE POLITICS returns. Of course they all are making us excited.
WOODRUFF: It is just after 4:00 on the East Coast. And as the markets gets set to close on Wall Street, I'm joined by Kitty Pilgrim here in New York for another installment of "The Dobbs Report." Hi, Kitty.
KITTY PILGRIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Judy. Thanks. The last major economic report before the election gives both sides a chance to say I told you so. Now overall economic growth in the third quarter improved from the second quarter but fell well short of forecast. Gross domestic product grew at an annual rate...
WOODRUFF: Kitty, I'm going interrupt you. Kitty Pilgrim, I'm going to interrupt you because CNN has just obtained a videotape from al Jazeera supposedly from al Qaeda. Our experts are analyzing this tape. They are listening to it and watching it right now. We're going to show it to you. This is allegedly Osama bin Laden. New pictures. Let's listen.
Our experts I'm told it has just come in. We want to get a closer look and a closer listen before we share any more of it with you. So we're just giving you a glimpse of what we have gotten from al Jazeera. And as soon as we're able, we're told these are recent pictures including from Osama bin Laden so obviously we're looking at that very carefully. We'll get that -- we'll be showing and sharing it with you as soon as we're able to determine what it is. Kitty Pilgrim, sorry for the interruption.
PILGRIM: All right, Judy. We were talking about the economic report. The last one before the election. Here it is. Gross Domestic Product grew at an annual rate at 3.7 percent. It was expected to grow 4.3 percent. Last quarter it grew 3.3 percent. So a little bit in that report for just about everyone. Everyone can take credit for that. GDP was hampered by a slowdown in the growth of business inventories and the ever widening trade gap which of course has been a campaign issue.
Now investors really didn't react to the GDP report. Stocks, pretty much little change. Final trades are counted. The Dow Jones Industrials up about 20 points. The Nasdaq Composite slightly lower. Investors seem to be playing it safe and making cautious moves ahead of Tuesday's election.
Let's move on to oil prices. Very important here. Oil prices edged higher this session settling up 84 cents at $51.76 a barrel. Now that ends a two-day slide in which prices tumbled more than $4 a barrel.
For the month of October. Stocks mixed. The Dow lost 7 cents at 1 percent, the Nasdaq jumped 4 percent and S&P edged slightly higher.
Now let's go on to some other news. Headaches for the drugmaker Merck. says federal regulators will not approve its new arthritis drug, Arcoxia and that's the drug the company has in the pipeline to replace Vioxx. The FDA is asking for more information that shows Arcoxia is safe and effective. This of course comes in the wake of Merck's decision to withdraw Vioxx from the market after tests linked it to heart related problems. Merck is still defending its conduct related to Vioxx. It issued a statement today saying it, quote, "acted responsibly and appropriately in developing and marketing the drug."
Now at 6:00 Eastern on "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" we'll be joined by three of the nation's leading terrorism experts for a discussion of terror threats and how the candidates plan to deal with them.
Plus, we'll tell you a new way the media will handle reporting election results in an effort to avoid a repeat of 2000.
And Lou Dobbs will host a panel discussion on whether the outcome of Tuesday's election will be decided in court instead of the voting booth. That's it for us. Back to you, Judy.
WOODRUFF: Kitty, thank you very much. And we want to tell you our viewers that our staff of experts are listening to and analyzing that videotape that we showed you just a small portion of a few moments ago. This just aired on al Jazeera. It has been made available to CNN. As you can see it does appear to be Osama bin Laden. The folks here who follow this story are listening to it very carefully, analyzing it and talking to people who have knowledge of al Qaeda and of bin Laden trying to determine whether it is indeed he, when it was made and of course what he is saying.
Of course, when is very, very important because Osama bin Laden, it's not been determined that he's been seen anywhere for the last several years. A lot of speculation about whether he's dead or alive. So we're going to be looking at that very closely once we make some determination about it, we'll be putting that on the air and telling you as much as we know. That's it for now.
But INSIDE POLITICS continues.
ANNOUNCER: Four days until the November election and the hunt for votes gets even more intense. We'll look at new poll numbers from some crucial battlegrounds.
Ohio. It is an extremely important state in the race for the White House. Right now it appears the real fight is not on the campaign trail but in court.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your right to vote has been challenged by a qualified elector.
ANNOUNCER: Now live from New York, JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS.
WOODRUFF: Welcome back to INSIDE POLITICS in New York City this Friday with four days to go before the election and four years in the White House hanging in the balance. President Bush is trying to wrap up his reelection bid on a positive note by recalling America's strength after the 9/11 attacks and by not mentioning John Kerry this day. Bush is in Ohio this hour after campaigning in New Hampshire this morning.
Senator John Kerry is urging Americans to wake up and choose a new start on the economy and on Iraq instead of four more years of what he calls Bush's catastrophic management. Kerry is barnstorming through cities in Florida today.
Some snapshots now from the presidential battle grounds. First in Michigan where Kerry leading Bush by four points in one new poll of likely voters. And by six points in another in a state that Bush campaigned in just yesterday. Kerry also leads in a new Pennsylvania poll. 50 percent to Bush's 45 percent. Other recent surveys suggested a closer race in Pennsylvania.
A new poll shows Kerry still leading in Oregon. He's up six points in the survey of likely voters. But President Bush has a slim edge in two other showdown state polls out today. A three-point lead in Wisconsin and he's just one point ahead in Iowa. Polls suggest the race has narrowed in recent weeks.
We have an update on pre-election voting problems. Pennsylvania's Governor Ed Rendell has reached agreement we are told with the parents of two servicemen to extend the deadline for counting overseas ballots for president by eight additional days. The parents of the soldiers serving abroad filed a lawsuit seeking an extension arguing that the state failed to deliver overseas ballots on time. A federal judge has approved this settlement.
In the showdown state of Ohio, legal challenges to new voter registrations are before the courts. CNN's Joe Johns has the latest on that. He joins us live on the telephone from Lima, Ohio. Hi, Joe.
JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Judy. There's been a surprise development here. The Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell just said he'll ask the state attorney general of Ohio to bar so-called challengers from both parties from Ohio's polling places on Tuesday. Blackwell said essentially what he's concerned about is election day distractions.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KEN BLACKWELL, OHIO SECRETARY OF STATE: This action will allow Ohio's dedicated bipartisan election officials, present at each polling place, Republicans and Democrats, to concentrate for the next four days on preparation for this important election without the distraction and uncertainties this litigation brings.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JOHNS: Now there's a state law in place that has essentially been in place for decades that allows challengers but he said he, Blackwell, has no authority to bar them on his own so he's hoping the attorney general can do it. Now both parties as you know have been preparing to put challenges in place at the regular polling places around the state on election day.
Meanwhile, today there was new legal (ph) back and forth over the election judge Susan Delott (ph) in Cincinnati ruled that her temporary order stopping hearings on challenges that have already occurred applies to all 88 of Ohio's counties and not just six counties who were named in a very recent lawsuit. Notice of that order however failed to reach at least one county that is Allen County, Ohio, which is where I am right now. The county elections board went ahead with its own hearing over the objections of Democratic attorneys who were present at the hearing so about 100 voters who had been challenged were found to be legitimate. 35 others are still up in the air at this time. Judy, back to you.
WOODRUFF: All right. Joe Johns reporting from Lima, Ohio. I'll try to pronounce it right this time. Joe reporting that the arguments are already deeply under way and these arguments are in the courts well before Election Day. Joe, thank you very much.
Let's talk a little more about current and potential voting problems heading into Election Day. We're joined by Doug Chapin of electionline.org.
Doug, first of all, before I get to Ohio and the specifics, it's our understanding there's something like 143 million people registered to vote. That's 10 million or so more than the last election. Are election officials around the country able to handle this load or are there going to be problems just because of the sheer numbers?
DOUG CHAPIN, ELECTIONLINE.ORG: Well, I can tell you that in my conversations with state and local election officials, they are working feverishly to get all of those new registrants into the system. I spoke to one state election director who reported that at least one county in her state was running 16-hour shifts seven days a week to get those new names on the rolls. So it is a challenge.
WOODRUFF: Now what about the early turnout? We're already hearing, Doug Chapin, about a number of states, Florida, North Carolina, where you have got unusually high percentages of people taking advantage of the ability to vote early. It's my understanding something like 23 states allow this early voting. How is that going? What are you hearing about it? And is that overloading the system in any way?
CHAPIN: Well, it is certainly interesting, early voting is way up this election year. Don't know if that's because of the election being so close or because of concerns about the equipment that's in use in some places say in Florida. But regardless, the numbers are way up and in some cases it is straining local jurisdiction's abilities to cope in checking that the voters are actually registered to vote. So demand is up. And it is straining the system somewhat.
WOODRUFF: Are you able to say at this point whether this early voting, where you know it is happening, benefits either candidate?
CHAPIN: No. We really can't. Both sides really seem to like early voting because it makes it easier to turn out their committed supporters before Election Day, enabling them to keep their powder dry, as it were, to either persuade undecided or get people who are more difficult to get to the polls on Election Day. We do know that interest is up. What we don't yet know is whether or not that means we'll see a similar increase of voting overall or whether it's just existing voters who are voting early to beat the rush.
WOODRUFF: All right. Let's talk quickly about two states everybody is watching. Number one, Ohio. All of these reports over the last few days about challenges, questions in Ohio. Where do you see all that coming down on Election Day?
CHAPIN: Well, until about an hour ago when Secretary Blackwell made his announcement that he was going ask the attorney general to consider barring challengers of all parties from the polls, it looked like that this would be an election that -- unlike 2000 where ballots were the focus, that voters were the focus, the challenges to individual voters' eligibility was going to be a key factor in the vote on Tuesday.
Now that Secretary Blackwell has decided to ask both parties to stand down on Election Day, we don't know to the extent that will change the dynamic in Ohio or in other states that are considering similar challenges.
WOODRUFF: And very quickly, Florida. What's your expectation there? Are we going to have problems after the election?
CHAPIN: Hard to tell. Florida has certainly had its share of problems. We don't know if the things that we've seen in the past years will be continued or whether Florida has finished its shakedown cruise and is more comfortable with the process it enacted after 2000.
WOODRUFF: All right. We're going to leave it there. Doug Chapin with electionline.org. He's keeping an eye on all of these voting problems, if you want to lump them under one name. And Doug, we're going to talk to you again on Monday and we hope on Election Day, as well. I know you have got your hands full. And we appreciate your time. Thank you very much.
CHAPIN: Thank you, Judy.
WOODRUFF: Well, these days politics has at least one thing in common with publishing. Everyone is looking for their niche. Up next we'll find out why and where President Bush is campaigning around the margins.
And later, could the presidential race be riding on a football game?
WOODRUFF: Some breaking news here on CNN. We showed you a short time ago new video of a man who appears to be Osama bin Laden. This tape has been shown on Al Jazeera. CNN has been listening to it, looking at it. Our senior editor for Arab affairs, Octavia Nasr, joins me now from Atlanta.
Octavia, you got a chance to hear some of it. Tell us what you make of it.
OCTAVIA NASR, CNN SR. EDITOR FOR ARAB AFFAIRS: Indeed, Judy, I did hear what Al Jazeera aired. Of course, they said the tape is 18 minutes long. But we heard only a few minutes in sound bites from that tape. I also did the translation for our network. So if we roll some of the sound you're going to hear my voice again.
But basically this is a speech that can be titled -- it's a message to the American people, first of all, this is the second time that Osama bin Laden sends a message directly to the American people. He says, through this message I want to explain to you why the 9/11 attacks took place and the repercussions from those attacks.
And basically a threat right there that if the policies of the United States do not change, that Americans should expect to see more. As a matter of fact, Judy, let's listen to some of the sound and maybe comment on that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OSAMA BIN LADEN (through translator): Your security is not in the hand of Kerry or Bush or al Qaeda. Your security is in your hands and every state that doesn't mess with our security, this way you secure your own security.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NASR: And Judy, you heard the man there -- that was my voice translating the speech simultaneously. Basically he is telling the American people he does understand that this country is going through an election year. And he's telling them that your security basically is not in the hands of Bush or Kerry or al Qaeda. The security is in your hands.
And he ends his speech saying that if a nation doesn't attack us, we won't attack them. And this has been the spirit of this whole speech, basically explaining -- trying to explain himself, saying that the reason -- he also said, I want to discuss with you when the idea of hitting the towers in the United States -- when it happened, when the idea came to my mind.
He describes the events of the Israeli invasion in Lebanon in 1982. And he said this is when the idea occurred to me that the U.S. has to pay because he says -- in his words he says the U.S. helped Israel in that invasion and he figured that the U.S. must pay. And this is when he started plotting for the attacks.
So he does say that -- and he swears to God -- he says, I swear to God that the idea was not to bring down the towers of the World Trade Center. He says, we had discussed that the operation shouldn't take more than 20 minutes in order to achieve it before the Bush administration even realizes what we had done.
But he said it was Mr. Bush who was sitting there listening to a child's story. He says he preferred to listen to a little girl telling a story about a goat rather than worry about 50,000 citizens of his who were facing some of the most daunting times of their short life.
Very chilling tape, Judy, of course, it has many, many significances here. This is the first time in over two years that we see and hear Osama bin Laden. Obviously he's talking about current issues. He talks about more than four years have passed after the attacks of 9/11 which puts this tape -- the taping of this tape around or after 9/11 of this year.
He talks about the elections. He talks about perhaps what the American people are going through when it comes to which one of the candidates is going to be able to bring them more security. And he says it very clearly that don't count on one or the other or al Qaeda to bring you security. Security is in your own hands he tells the American people -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: So Octavia, the message, among other things I heard you say, among other things, he said, if a nation doesn't attack us, we won't attack them. But again my question to you is how can you be certain that this represents Osama bin Laden recently. I know you said he mention Bush and Kerry. Is there any doubt in your mind that that's who it is and that it is recent?
NASR: There's no doubt in my mind that this is Osama bin Laden. And I think the challenge here that we face in the past is that we were dealing with audiotapes. This time around we're not dealing with an audiotape. Here is the man in his flesh speaking to a camera.
He talks about current affairs, like I said, the 9/11 anniversary, the elections. And there is no doubt that this is Osama bin Laden. The voice, the appearance, it looks like he has aged a bit but he looks like he's in a good condition. He's sitting there comfortably. I'm sure other experts are going to be weighing in on what he looks like, what he sounds like.
But definitely this is a challenging Osama bin Laden, releasing this tape at this time when the Bush administration has been saying that we haven't heard from the man in a long time, not even in an audiotape.
So this is going to be a big challenge for the Bush administration. Not to mention all of the criticism that the Bush administration got in there and the person of the U.S. president and his father.
He compared them to Arab leaders. He says, we didn't have any issues dealing with them because they looked exactly like Arab leaders. He talked about Arab leaders who are monarchs and sons take the rule from their fathers, and also talked about Arab leaders who take away the liberties of their people, claiming that Mr. Bush did just that.
A very challenging tape indeed. Lots of cues in there as to the man himself, where he has been, what he has done over the last period of time since we last heard from him.
But when you look at the tape itself, Judy, and I think this is going to be very, important. This is not just an audiotape like what we have seen lately. This is the man speaking to the camera. So Arab experts already are saying -- I didn't get the chance to hear much of it, but Al Jazeera did have a round table discussion around it, and Arab analysts and experts are already saying that this is a major victory for the al Qaeda to show that its leadership is still alive and well and able to challenge the security measures, to challenge the searches in Pakistan, Afghanistan, all over the world challenge, challenge all of this might of the United States and its allies and still release a tape with the man speaking to camera, discussing issues as if he's sitting right in your living room and delivering a message -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: Octavia Nasr is CNN's senior editor for Arab affairs, Octavia is saying that this very much looks like, sounds like Osama bin Laden. We haven't heard from him for two years. It's appearance -- the appearance of this videotape raising of course so many questions coming at a time -- at this time. And I want to quickly bring in our justice correspondent, Kelli Arena.
Kelli, I understand that of course FBI and Justice officials are going to be taking a very close look at this. Tell us what they're saying at this point.
KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, there's no official comment yet. Of course, this is all very new. The CIA will obviously analyze that tape. It usually takes the lead in these projects. FBI will be investigating what this all means and what possible repercussions could be.
Of course, you know every time a tape is released by al Qaeda, there is some concern that that is a signal perhaps for an attack. So that will be agenda number one, is to find out whether or not there is anything that is set in motion as a result of this release.
The thing that was most immediately shocking about this tape was that it was a very blatant direct message from bin Laden. And in the past, Judy, these messages are often very difficult to decipher. They're loaded with religious metaphors and flowery language. And there was none of that on this tape.
This was a clear, concise direct message to the American people. Of course, the timing very interesting, right before the election. Some very direct jabs at President Bush. But from a domestic counter- terrorism standpoint, what investigators will be trying to figure out is A, are there any signals in here; B, does this set anything in motion?
And Judy, as you know, we have heard for months now that there remains a great deal of concern about a possible attack. It has somewhat dissipated because some of the sources that were talking about a terror attack and tying it precisely to the November election, some of those sources were deemed not to be credible.
But still overall there is general concern that al Qaeda was planning something spectacular to take place on U.S. soil. That general concern has not dissipated. This, of course, will set the ball in motion once again.
WOODRUFF: And no doubt about it. And Kelli, I'm looking at my notes from what Octavia was -- Octavia Nasr was telling us just a moment ago. She is our senior editor for Arab affairs. She was saying, among other things, bin Laden appears to be saying, your security, talking to the American people, is not in the hands of Kerry or Bush or al Qaeda. It is in your hands. So there is a lot to analyze here.
Kelli, you said that the CIA will be taking the lead in the analysis of this. What about the -- frankly, the question of how this tape got to Al Jazeera?
ARENA: Well, this is how al Qaeda typically sends its communications, it is through Al Jazeera or over the Internet, Judy, as you know. So this is a traditional venue for this group. That is a relationship that has been murky for investigators.
But most of the time when Al Jazeera does broadcast a tape, we eventually hear from officials that they believe that it is legitimate. Many times, Judy, as you know, these tapes are audiotapes which is why there is a lot less certainty. This one, as Octavia pointed out, has the video to go along with it.
This is the first time that we have seen Osama bin Laden since September of 2003. That is quite a long time. So it is hard to doctor something like this. Not impossible but more difficult.
And the recent -- the things that he talks about are more recent, the fact that he brings up that -- which we heard a lot about in this campaign from Michael Moore and others, about how the president continued reading a story to young children, Osama bin Laden suggests that that gave al Qaeda a little bit more time to carry out an attack. That is something, as you know, that has been popular in the debate now.
So lots of more recent references -- very direct recent references to, of course, candidate John Kerry for the presidency. All of that making this a little easier, I think, to say pretty quickly whether or not they believe that this is authentic or not.
Of course, we have not gotten that official word from either the CIA or the FBI. But I think that in this case you might get that a little bit more quickly than we have in the past.
WOODRUFF: I think so, just given the appearance and the surroundings and so forth. Kelli Arena...
And it is interesting, Judy, to look at him. To look at him and to look at...
ARENA: ... and his arms are moving, which there was some discussion about whether or not he was wounded. So there's a lot that we can see from this tape. A lot more than the message itself.
WOODRUFF: And in fact, our Octavia Nasr, who, of course, has studied this man, as so many others have since 9/11, said there is no doubt in her mind that this is Osama bin Laden and that these are recent references.
Let's listen to just a portion of this 18-minute long videotape that aired on Al Jazeera. CNN still analyzing it. But here is a portion of what we have. We want you to hear it again.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIN LADEN (through translator): Your security is not in the hands of Kerry or Bush or al Qaeda. Your security is in your hands. And every state that doesn't mess with our security, this way you secure your own security.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOODRUFF: That translation from CNN's own Octavia Nasr.
I want to bring in quickly now our own Jeanne Meserve, who has been talking -- oh, I'm sorry.
I want to bring in Ken Robinson, who is CNN's military analysis.
But I'm told, Ken, as I come to you, that our Jeanne Meserve has been talking to officials at Homeland Security. And they say, based on what they heard so far in this tape, they don't believe that there's any reason to raise the threat level -- threat alert level in this country.
Ken, what do you make of this? KEN ROBINSON, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, Bin Laden clearly is saying, he is tan, he is rested, he is alive and well and trying to present a public affairs image to the world that says al Qaeda is relevant.
WOODRUFF: It's that simple? Because some very interesting language coming, at least what Octavia translated. Your security is not in the hands of Kerry or Bush or al Qaeda. It is in your hands, and going on to say, if a nation doesn't attack us, we won't attack them.
ROBINSON: But, in many times, these messages that come from al Qaeda and come from these foreign terrorists organizations are not necessarily for U.S. consumption or are not necessarily intended for us to be able to take an action that can deter anything.
We're in a lose-lose here. He wins because we're giving him airtime right now. What action can the United States take at this point, other than continue to jack up its color-code system, which doesn't make a lot of sense to a lot of people anyway.
WOODRUFF: What do you make of Octavia Nasr's -- she said, among other things, bin Laden talks about the Israeli move into Lebanon several years ago and how that was a trigger for the planning that went into 9/11.
ROBINSON: If you -- Octavia's analysis and the things that Kelly just a moment ago are spot on.
Octavia talks about the 1982 incident where Israel invaded Lebanon and the incident where the United States military, with its battleship off the coast, at a certain point in that engagement took sides. And when it did, that's what led to the attack on the Marine Corps barracks bombing in Beirut, where we lost so many Marines, because, at one point, we were there as peacekeepers.
Then, at a certain point, we took sides and started shelling into the mountains. That's the point that bin Laden is making here. And he has made that point many times before in other statements that he has made throughout the years and in the fatwa that he issued when he declared war on the West. He's fed up with the West. And, typically, when they issue these types of tapes, typically, some action tends to follow.
WOODRUFF: What do you mean?
ROBINSON: Well, historically, in the past, we have seen attacks occur after bin Laden or after Ayman al-Zawahiri has issued a tape. Within a week, a couple of weeks later, historically, there has been some type of activist that has occurred somewhere in the world where there's been an attack.
There's a correlation between him being visible, taking the risk to issue a statement, and then someone taking action and doing something soon thereafter.
WOODRUFF: But, Ken, quickly, you're also suggesting there's a P.R. element to this.
I listened carefully to Octavia's translation as it was being fed. It is always hard with bin Laden to try to sort out what he's really saying, because he does tend to be very verbose. But this time, he was pretty clear. He basically was dissing Bush the elder, Bush the junior and then clearly saying that there's no hope for America in either the president or the presidential candidate John Kerry.
And so what is America to take from that message? What actions are we to take now in terms of what do we do next? It is not clear. I'm more interested in seeing the nonverb things and doing the -- seeing what the CIA does in terms of voice stress analyzer and the forensics that they'll do over the tape.
WOODRUFF: You mean to determine more about where it came from and when.
ROBINSON: The nuances of that to try to determine where he possibly is.
WOODRUFF: Yes. Well, that's one thing we're all interested in.
All right, Ken Robinson is CNN's military analyst.
Ken, thank you very much. We appreciate it.
ROBINSON: Thank you, Judy.
WOODRUFF: Well, with that breaking news, this fresh videotape of Osama bin Laden that first aired on Al-Jazeera, CNN still taking a look at it. Much more to report on.
We're going to wrap up INSIDE POLITICS for this Friday, four days before the American presidential election, and turn it over to CROSSFIRE. They're going to continue to examine the bin Laden story.
I'm Judy Woodruff. Thanks for joining us.
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