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Former President Bill Clinton Embraces Worldwide Battle Against AIDS; Who Will Run in 2008?

Aired November 24, 2004 - 20:00   ET


RICK SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: And good evening and welcome to PRIME TIME POLITICS. I'm Rick Sanchez. Paula has the night off tonight.
It's the worldwide cause of a former president. Dr. Sanjay Gupta's exclusive interview with Bill Clinton.

Also, the election that puzzled the pundits. How did this Latina lesbian Democrat get elected sheriff in one of the country's most Republican cities?

Plus, there's a revolution in the air. A disputed election brings a warning from the U.S. and possible trouble with Russia.

We begin in Iraq, where this day before Thanksgiving has been a day of hunting down insurgents in yet another new offensive, this one south of Baghdad.

Our Karl Penhaul is joining us now with the latest on Operation Plymouth Rock.

Karl, I'm curious, what's the difference between the people we're fighting here in this area called Babil and the folks that we were fighting in Falluja?

KARL PENHAUL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The U.S. commanders say there is somewhat of a difference.

They do accept that possibly some insurgents have come south to this area after the offensive began in Falluja. But they're saying that the insurgents that are in this area have also struck up an alliance of convenience with criminal gangs that operate in that area. So it's a slightly different beast. It's probably neither as ideologically driven, nor as religion driven as the insurgents in Falluja were, and so that makes it possibly a little tougher enemy to fight, Rick.

SANCHEZ: And yet you know what's interesting, we're also hearing that they've imposed stringent Islamic law in this area, and one wonders how they were able to do that. Now, the people living in this area, this Babil town, are they going along with it?

PENHAUL: Well, certainly, this is what we've also heard. We haven't been down in that area for a long time because of the dangers it imposes. But we've heard as well that there has been in some areas there the imposition of some kind of Islamic law there. Typically, what does happen, though, is when the insurgents move into an area, they'll impose such laws as that women must cover their heads. They must wear long dresses not to show too much leg, that they'll close down liquor stores. They might even close down music stores. And then this message is then backed up often by the clerics at Friday prayers, giving that out, those orders out to the citizens as well.

Anybody who transgresses those laws then is facing the insurgent bullet.

SANCHEZ: Yes, so it's basically done by force. It's not something that we would perceive as being accepted by the people there.

Let me ask you this. This is the fourth major offensive since October. Is this an attempt to clear the field, so to speak, for the elections? And is there a fear that it could have another effect and create more hostility, which would make it, I imagine, more difficult to pull off the elections, then?

PENHAUL: Well, certainly, this is what the coalition commanders have been telling us, that all these offensives of late, the Falluja offensive, the ongoing offensive up and around the northern city of Mosul, and this offensive in the so-called Triangle of Death, is to create some kind of stability ahead of the January 30 elections.

But this is guerrilla war. This is a different kettle of fish from all-out offensive that we saw on Falluja, for instance. Military commanders here say that this is a much more softly-softly approach, that they need patience and precision here. And because it's a guerrilla war, the insurgents can quite easily melt away and come back some other day. And the insurgents, as we know, are vowing to try and derail those January 30 elections.

SANCHEZ: Karl Penhaul following things for us there in this latest offensive in what's being called as you heard, the Triangle of Death.

Karl, our thanks for bringing us that report.

PENHAUL: Thanks, Rick.

SANCHEZ: And while Iraq is where the war on terror is now focused, Osama bin Laden is who originally it was all about. Many ask where he could possibly be. Well, one place to start this search may be with the man who once was described as his best friend and remains to this day his brother-in-law.

CNN senior international correspondent Nic Robertson did just that and brings us this exclusive report.


JAMAL KHALIFA, SPENT YEARS WITH BIN LADEN: This is all local. NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As he shows off the day's catch at his seafood restaurant, there is little about Jamal Khalifa that gives away his ambiguous past. But this 47-year-old Saudi was once Osama bin Laden's best friend.

KHALIFA: Ten years, we are together. When we were in the university and after that, always we are together. We live in one house.

ROBERTSON: Together seeking out and finding a brand of Islam that propelled them to a holy war against the Soviet army in Afghanistan.

KHALIFA: He is the one who suggested that if I will marry his sister. I told him, Osama, we are going to die and you are talking about marriage. So let's go first, and if I come alive, we will do it. So I came alive.

ROBERTSON: He did marry bin Laden's sister, but today says he has nothing to do with his brother-in-law.

KHALIFA: I am the first one who stood up in front of Osama and told him, Osama, you are doing something wrong. You are going to the wrong direction.

ROBERTSON: Khalifa shows photos to back up his claim his role in the Afghan jihad was logistics, setting up Islamic schools in neighboring Pakistan. He says he had a ringside seat to witness the creation of al Qaeda.

KHALIFA: So I saw him starting to group the Arab in one place and start to let them go and fight by themselves, become like a function. They are doing their own war.

ROBERTSON: As the Afghan war against the Soviet occupation raged, he says bin Laden's military commander and others were already selecting recruits for al Qaeda's global campaign. Bin Laden, he says, became a figurehead leader.

KHALIFA: He is a wealthy man. He has very good connections. Many people really love Osama.

ROBERTSON: Charismatic, but disorganized, says Khalifa, so much so that while Khalifa believes bin Laden is responsible for the 9/11 attacks, he doesn't think Osama actually organized them.

KHALIFA: He cannot organize anything. I am the one who is leading. I am the one who is leading him in the prayer. I am the one who is leading if we go for outing, for picnic, for riding horses.

ROBERTSON: Exactly when and where Khalifa chose a different path from Osama bin Laden is open to question. From the Afghan jihad, Khalifa moved to the Philippines, setting up another Islamic charity, opening more religious schools, eventually triggering an investigation by Philippine authorities, who believed he was on a mission for bin Laden. BOOGIE MENDOZA, PHILIPPINE INVESTIGATOR: In 1994 up to 1995, my unit, police Mohammed Jamal Khalifa on tight investigation and surveillance.

ROBERTSON: Mendoza believed Khalifa was running front companies whose real mission was to recruit and train fighters for the Islamic Abu Sayyaf insurgents. When Ramzi Yousef, the 1993 World Trade Center bomber, bungled a bomb-making session, setting fire to a Manila apartment, police retrieved Khalifa's business card from the ruins.

(on camera): Did you ever meet Ramzi Yousef or Khalid Shaikh Mohammed?

KHALIFA: Never. I don't know them. There is...

ROBERTSON (voice-over): Khalifa is passionate in his own defense.

KHALIFA: I have very, very full confidence that nobody can prove all these allegations.

ROBERTSON: Today, Khalifa is surprised to see how his brother- in-law has aged in his latest video. He has urged bin Laden to end anti-Western attacks in Saudi Arabia.

KHALIFA: Please come out, tell those people to stop. You are the one who can tell that, and you are the one who can stop it.

ROBERTSON (on camera): Did he listen to you?

KHALIFA: Of course not at all.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): A fisher of men, or fish salesman now. Whatever the truth, Khalifa has insights about bin Laden few others can claim.

(on camera): How has he managed to avoid being captured for so long?

KHALIFA: Who is going to capture him and where? Ten years, the Russian did not capture even one leader of the Afghan mujahedeen, with the full forces everywhere. So I think it's a little bit difficult.


SANCHEZ: That report there from our Nic Robertson in Jedda, Saudi Arabia.

And there is much more ahead, including the assault on a worldwide epidemic.


SANCHEZ (voice-over): AIDS and politics. A former president makes it his personal cause.

WILLIAM J. CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We had only scratched the surface. I wish we could have done more.

SANCHEZ: Bill Clinton in an exclusive interview with Dr. Sanjay Gupta separates the facts from the fears about AIDS. Tonight, a special preview: "Are You Positive"?

And she's Latina. She's a lesbian. And in very Republican Dallas, Texas, she's the law. There's a new sheriff in town breaking the Lone Star stereotype.

And on this eve before Thanksgiving, our voting booth question. Will you eat too much at Thanksgiving dinner? Vote at our Web site at The results and much more tonight on PAULA ZAHN NOW: PRIME TIME POLITICS.



SANCHEZ: And welcome back.

If you think the Bush/Kerry race was rough, imagine a presidential election where the challenger may have been poisoned during the campaign, where much of the world suspects that there may be vote fraud, where every day the streets are filled with crowds numbering in the hundreds of thousands, and when even now there's talk of a civil war. I think you'd agree we're not in Florida anymore.


SANCHEZ (voice-over): It is all happening right now in Ukraine, a former Soviet republic and budding democracy. This is what it looks like today. The Ukrainian government says the candidate who all these people support lost the election. His name is Viktor Yushchenko. Strangely enough, the candidate backed by the government, Viktor Yanukovych, was declared the winner today after an election run-off that international observers describe this way.

SEN. RICHARD LUGAR (R), INDIANA: It is now apparent that a concerted and forceful program of Election Day fraud and abuse was enacted with either the leadership or cooperation of governmental authorities.

SANCHEZ: This is much more than a distant fight in a distant country. The Russians backed the candidate who apparently won. The U.S. and Europe backed the other guy. And it's starting to sound like the bad old days of the Cold War.

COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: We cannot accept this result as legitimate, because it does not meet international standards and because there has not been an investigation of the numerous and credible reports of fraud and abuse.

SANCHEZ: Russian President Vladimir Putin calls criticism of the election inadmissible. He and President Bush were together in Chile last weekend for the Asia Pacific Economic Summit. Now they are miles apart. Mr. Putin has already congratulated Yanukovych on his victory. On behalf of the Bush administration, Secretary of State Colin Powell is making threats.

POWELL: If the Ukrainian government does not act immediately and responsibly, there will be consequences for our relationship, for Ukraine's hopes for Euro-Atlantic integration, and for individuals responsible for perpetrating fraud.

SANCHEZ: Yushchenko today called for a national protest strike that would stop transportation and shut down factories. Ukraine's outgoing president warns that civil war could -- quote -- "become a reality."

And about the poison thing. The picture on the left is the candidate backed by the U.S., Yushchenko, earlier this year. This fall, he was hospitalized in Vienna twice, and his face is now splotchy, swollen, and partially paralyzed. Doctors say they can't rule out poison or even toxins found in chemical weapons. His political opponents, however, claim it's the result of eating bad sushi.


SANCHEZ: And for more on the growing political crisis in the Ukraine, I'm joined now by CNN's Jill Dougherty, who's in the capital city of Kiev.

You know, Jill, we heard from the current president that there could be, could be, a civil war. You've been with these people. They've been gathering for three days. What's their mood? What are you seeing in them?

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN MOSCOW BUREAU CHIEF: You know, it's a very strange thing, Rick, because it actually is a festive feeling on the streets, even though you already have now the final version. One man is going to be president and the man who wants to be president, the opposition candidate, is not going to be.

You'd think that his people would be extremely disappointed, maybe even angry. But I can tell you, we were just down there where they had the big demonstration, and it's a festive atmosphere. So the question now is, you know, what's going to happen when tomorrow starts off and the reality begins to dawn on them that the man they feel was cheated of the presidency has no hope at this point of becoming president?

SANCHEZ: Reality or is there still some type of perhaps wiggle room in the system for what we in this country would call certification? Or is this indeed a done deal?

DOUGHERTY: Well, you know, there might be some legal types of steps that they could take. After all, that's what they're talking about, maybe appealing to the courts, maybe having an investigation.

Don't forget that that was one thing that the United States was pushing for very strongly, and certainly the opposition candidate, Yushchenko. They wanted an investigation of all of those allegations of fraud. And they didn't get it. So they might push for that. They might try to annul parts. But it's hard to see where this is all going to end up. And Yushchenko is saying he doesn't want some fallback position. He doesn't want like a job of the prime minister or something like that, no deals.

SANCHEZ: Earlier in the day -- you mentioned Yushchenko. And this fellow earlier in the day had said something like this is either going to be decided by parliament or it will be decided in the street. It didn't sound at the time like a calming tone. What has been his reaction since this decision was announced that essentially he's a loser?

DOUGHERTY: He may be a loser, but he doesn't think he is.

I mean, he really believes that the election was stolen. So what he's doing is telling his people, let's keep going. Now, some of that is obviously going to be these demonstrations that have been going on every day since the election took place. There might be more civil disobedience. Where he wants to go is to keep up the pressure, keep up the pressure on the government by bringing these people into the streets, and then maybe you get some pressure coming from the Europeans and from the United States, and perhaps something happens.

But it's a big gamble. Nobody really knows where this is going.

SANCHEZ: Do the people in this country know that they are a part of two factions who are representing two different parts of the world, that is to say, the prime minister, seemingly backed by the Russians, and, as you mentioned, Yushchenko, backed by the Europeans and the United States? Do the people there, do they feel that? Do they know that? Or is it just their cause that we happen to be looking into?

DOUGHERTY: You know, I think that's definitely part of it. I think there are a lot of people -- I was talking to some young people who said, you know what? if the government-backed president -- or candidate -- becomes president, they're going to steal 10 years of our lives.

Now, that's their opinion. Maybe you agree. Maybe you don't. But I think they feel that their future really is with the rest of the world, with Europe, with the United States, with the West. And not to say that Russia is not part of this either, but I think they feel that they've got a stake in where they're going and that that stake has been taken from them.

SANCHEZ: And the world is watching.

Jill Dougherty has been following this seemingly tense situation throughout the day there in Kiev.

Jill, we thank you.

Next, Sanjay Gupta's exclusive interview with Bill Clinton. The former president talks about his role in the worldwide fight against AIDS.


SANCHEZ: Hey. Welcome back.

This Sunday night, CNN is going to air a one-hour prime-time special on the growing AIDS crisis around the globe. The United Nations says that AIDS affects more than 37 million people worldwide and it's growing rapidly in poorer countries. Sunday's special is hosted by our own Dr. Sanjay Gupta, who joins me now with a little bit of a preview.

You know, you cover a lot of territory in this thing and you talk to some pretty interesting people, don't you?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Really interesting people, all the leaders in this field, for sure. The special is called "Are You Positive?"

Bill Clinton, former president, his biggest post-presidency initiative since he left office has been AIDS. He's done all sorts of work in all sorts of different countries. I sat down, talked with him for about 45 minutes about this issue. Some really interesting things, he said.


CLINTON: When I first became president, America had the biggest AIDS problem. So, in my first term, we were overwhelmingly preoccupied with it.

Then we got the death rate down by 70 percent. And we looked around, and overnight in the span of history, it had exploded in Southern Africa. And so, in my second term, we tripled overseas AIDS assistance and we began to really work hard on it. But I thought that we had only scratched the surface. I wish we could have done more. I got as much as I could out of the Congress.

So, after I became a private citizen, the thing that really drove me crazy was, we had all this medicine that would stop mother-to-child transmission or turn it from a death sentence into a chronic illness, but the medicine wasn't getting out in the poor countries. I just figured I'd go in there and see what I could do.

And a lot of private individuals gave us money. And we went in and started trying to put together health networks. Then the major generic drug manufacturers agreed to cut their price from $500 a year to about $139. So that changed the economics. And now, you know, we're working in 17 countries, including India and China, most of the Caribbean and five African countries. And we have another 12 countries that are buying drugs off our contract, soon to be many more.

So, I think, within two years, we'll be treating two million people. I don't think that most people in our country and around the world in the richer countries have absorbed what it might mean to a lot of these poor countries and fragile democracies if all of a sudden, you know, the death rates started running into the millions a year and how difficult it would be to maintain their freedom and how many more tribal wars or ethnic wars we might have, how many more 10- year-old kids we might have carrying submachine guns, instead of schoolbooks. This has enormous implications here.

I just -- I basically think any money the American people, through their government, spend helping to advance health, education, and economic development around the world is about the most cost- effective money you can spend to build a peaceful, more settled world. We know what works. We know how to do foreign assistance now. We know how to get real bang for the buck in fighting AIDS, in promoting economic opportunity, in educating people. This is not rocket science.

GUPTA: Do you think in some ways -- this is a difficult question, but in some ways, being in the post-presidency part of your life, it's easier to tackle a problem like this that has political implications while you're president?

CLINTON: It's easier because I don't have 50 things to do.

I mean, I know, for example, I was pretty good about having an agenda every year at the State of the Union and effecting it. But, still, there were things that came at me that I had to deal with. And President Bush finds the same thing. Any president finds that.

When you're a former president, you can say, these are the five things I'm going to do and then go do them, or the three things or the two things or the one thing. You can just do that. And that's what I feel is -- you know, is important about this. I think, you know, if we save a couple of million lives over the next two years, that's not all bad.

GUPTA: It seems that almost it's worked against people, in a way, as well. We've become the victim of our own success in the United States, and you've started to see apathy. High-risk behavior has returned. How do you -- do you have any thoughts on how to fix that?

CLINTON: I think what happens with a lot of chronic problems is that, when they tend to go down, they get off people's radar screen and people get careless again. And I think that, to me, the most important thing is to have a rejuvenated public relations and outreach effort directed at the affected populations, reminding them that, while the medicine may be able to keep them alive, their life will not be the same and they don't want to play games with this, because it does change your life forever.

You can stay alive, but it's not the same. You have to change your life.


SANCHEZ: He really seems to have a comprehension of this, but you know, I've got to ask you. Heaven knows he tries, as he did with the Middle East crisis.

GUPTA: Yes. Yes. SANCHEZ: But, as a former president, does he have the power? Can he really make a difference on something as vast as the AIDS epidemic has become?

GUPTA: In some ways, more so around the world than even at home. And the reason is, he is still regarded by so many foreign leaders and so many foreign powerful people in business, that what he's doing is, he's negotiating drug prices. He's chosen a very specific area.

SANCHEZ: Interesting.

GUPTA: Let's bring these drug prices down. Sometimes, $10,000 a year, they can cost. He's negotiated them down in some countries to $200 a year, making it accessible.

SANCHEZ: There's something about Bill Clinton I think you've recognized. I've recognized it as well, because I've had a chance to interview him once. No matter what his advisers tell him not to talk about, if you push the right button, you will get him to talk about that.

GUPTA: Absolutely.

SANCHEZ: He probably didn't plan to talk politics with Sanjay Gupta, but guess what he did, folks? He talked politics, including this last election.

Here's what former President Bill Clinton had to say.


CLINTON: Well, I would say, first of all, you have to understand that the American public is pretty evenly divided culturally and that, for the last 25 years, the conservatives in America who took over the Republican Party have basically tried to create a kind of an identity politics, where, from their point of view, you can't vote for a Democrat because we don't have good morals. We don't have all this. You know, we don't have good values.

And it's obscured the debate over the issues and the evidence, because there's so much identity politics. But there's been a reaction to it. There always is. So, now you've got about 45 percent of the people who are kind of locked into their cultural positions, throwing about 10 percent up for grabs.

And what happened was, you had -- most of those people were willing to entertain a new president. Most of those people were concerned about whether we should change leaders while we're fighting terror. And, in the end, by a narrow margin, the latter concern prevailed.

You just basically had, among the undecided voters, who made up their mind in the last couple weeks and even on the last day, it broke for the president because they thought, well, maybe we shouldn't change leaders while we're dealing with this terror issue and this problem in Iraq. Even if they disagreed with the Iraq policy, they were reluctant to change kind of the management of the whole national security apparatus of the country. And to me that's what moved it at the end. And whether you agree or disagree, that's a decision the American people made, we all have to support it and we all have to try to make the best of it now.


SANCHEZ: You do wonder if there's anything that he doesn't think through and break down.

GUPTA: Over and over again, I'm sure he's gone through this. But a very interesting answer. Very interesting.

SANCHEZ: Sanjay Gupta, as usual, thanks so much.

GUPTA: Thank you.

SANCHEZ: Good stuff. Again, it's called "Are You Positive." It's a CNN prime time special. It's hosted by Dr. Gupta. Airs this Sunday night at 10:00 Eastern, 7:00 Pacific.

Well, after the last election some Democrats are more determined than ever to try to find another Bill Clinton to lead them. So will he or she be a familiar face or a newcomer? The Democrats and the future of their party. We're breaking it down when we come back.


SANCHEZ: And welcome back on this Thanksgiving Eve. And this is what it looks like from up top as you're looking at mid-town Manhattan. I don't know if you're able to tell, but it is a rainy night. It's supposed to improve tomorrow. You know, we're only 1441 days away from the next presidential election. Believe it or not, some would-be presidents already have their antennas up and their fingers in the air to try and test the political winds.

Paula recently assembled a panel of political reporters to discuss not only who's interested, but who really has a chance.


PAULA ZAHN, HOST: And joining me now, "Time" columnist and regular CNN contributor Joe Klein.


ZAHN: Hi. Liz Marlantes of the "Christian Science Monitor."

And Ron Brownstein of the "Los Angeles times."

Good to have all three of you with us tonight.

RON BROWNSTEIN, "L.A. TIMES": Good to be here.


ZAHN: So Liz, let's start with Hillary Clinton, who finds herself at the top of most lists of 2008 presidential contenders.

Do you think she'll do it?

MARLANTES: Well, I don't know. I think she will look hard at it. I don't think she'll do it if she concludes she can't win. If, in other words, she looks at the landscape and it just looks too tough for a senator from the northeastern state, especially in the wake of this past election. Or just decides she's too polarizing, as a lot of people think she might be, then I don't think she'll do it. I don't think she'll actually jump in unless she thinks she has a good shot.

However, because she's such a heavyweight in the field, she has the luxury of waiting a very long time. And so I think we're going to see Hillary's shadow over this race well before, you know, other candidates are up and running. I think she can take her time to make that decision.

ZAHN: And if she sits and waits, Ron, is it your belief that she's too liberal to succeed?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, the question really is what can she do to expand beyond where they are now? I mean, John Kerry won 18 of the 20 states that Al Gore won, those states have 254 electoral college votes. They've now won them four straight times. So they have a base in the presidential race that's stronger than in the battle for Congress. The problem is they were unable to really contest President Bush in almost any of the other states, the red states. And as a northeastern senator she would face the question of whether she could put any of the south back in play. All 11 states of the old Confederacy, plus Kentucky and Oklahoma have now gone Republican twice in a row. Could she make better gains in the southwest than Kerry did? He put a lot of emphasis and money into trying to open up New Mexico, Nevada, Colorado, and Arizona and lost ground in most of them.

So the hard question for her would be not whether she could hold the blue parts of the map, but whether she could really help the Democrats expand beyond that. I think there are going to be a lot of Democrats who are skeptical and are going to be looking frankly, Paula, for governors from some of those red states.

ZAHN: Well, that would make sense. But do you think Hillary could make those kind of gains in the red states that Ron was just talking about?

KLEIN: Well, I think there's another consideration here. I have grave doubts about her ability to do that. I think that there's a real personal consideration for her. She was -- the experience of being first lady and being the prime target of the conservatives was extremely personally painful for her. And she's really happy in the Senate right now. She's doing a pretty good job. One way, by the way, that she might, you know, appeal to the red states more is to indulge in her new specialty, which is the Armed Services Committee. But I have real doubts about whether she's going to do this for purely personal reasons.

ZAHN: Liz, let's move on to John Edwards. He is once again at the top of most pundits lists for 2008.

MARLANTES: Right. Well, most people think what we're going to see on the Democratic side is basically Hillary and an anti-Hillary candidate. And right now Edwards could fit the bill as an anti- Hillary candidate. He's from the south. Obviously, he got some national exposure during this past race. Although interestingly I saw a poll not too long ago that said that 15 percent of Americans still have no idea who he is, which you could interpret in many ways. In some ways maybe that's a good thing since sometimes you don't want to be associated with a losing ticket. But obviously, Edwards is looking very hard at 2008 and certainly I think if Hillary doesn't decide to run he would probably become the new front-runner.

Ron, do you see John Kerry taking another run?

BROWNSTEIN: I guess I don't. I mean, he certainly wants to keep his options open. He -- you know, it's hard to see how he gets over the top, either. He did very well in very many ways. I mean, he got 56 million votes almost. He carried almost all the states that Gore did. He was really unable though, as I said, Paula, to reach beyond where Democrats have been. And I think this process has become so consuming, it goes on so long, people get chewed up by it so much, it's hard to imagine them having -- retaining the freshness to come back four years later in the way that Adlai Stevenson did or Nixon did eight years later. It's just so much more intensive and the exposure is just so much greater, I think people feel by the end they've been pretty well carved up.

ZAHN: Finally tonight, Joe, Ron was talking about tapping governorship perhaps for the 2008 run.

Who else is on the radar out there?

KLEIN: Well, there are people who aren't governors like Wes Clark who ran the first time and was inexperienced, but made a really strong family and faith pitch. He's from the south. He has a military background. Governors, Bill Richardson's from New Mexico, who has a fair amount of overseas experience as well. And I would also add southern governors like Mike Easily from North Carolina who gives a really funny speech. And it would be about time the Democrats had a candidate with a sense of humor. And Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania, who is all politician. This guy is just a pol.

ZAHN: Passionate guy.

KLEIN: Yes. And he's a big guy and comes from a hinge state.

ZAHN: All right, trio, if you don't mind standing by, we'll turn our attention to the Republicans when we come back.


SANCHEZ: And we'll continue with Paula's panel in just a moment.

Also, don't forget to weigh in on tonight's "Voting Booth" question. Here it is. Of course, we had to ask this on Thanksgiving eve. Are you going to eat too much this thanksgiving?

Let us know. Bypass the refrigerator, head straight to your computer and vote now at


SANCHEZ: All right. Now we go to the GOP and 2008. So far the list of possible candidates reads like a who's who of the party's heavy hitters, as you would expect.

Do they have, though, what it takes to capture the nomination? Back to Paula now and her panel.


ZAHN: And joining me once again, "TIME" columnist and regular CNN contributor, Joe Klein; Liz Marlantes of the "Christian Science Monitor"; and Ron Brownstein of the "Los Angeles Times."

Liz, this time let's talk Republicans. Who are the likely folks to run in 2008?

MARLANTES: Well, the Republican field is just going to be fascinating, I think, because it is completely wide open. It's worth pointing out this is the first time since 1928 that we're going to have a field where there's no incumbent president or vice president running. So it's just a wide-open race.

And you already have a number of Republican politicians showing interest in the race. You've got Bill Frist, who's made little secret of his interest. Other people in the Senate, John McCain was up in New Hampshire last week.

Polls show right now if there is such a thing as a favorite, it would be Rudy Giuliani, largely because of his name recognition after 9/11. He's the one who tops the field in most polls.

But at the same time, Giuliani's sort of an interesting fit with the Republican Party. He doesn't -- on social issues he's not in line with the conservative base. So it would be an interesting, interesting primary fight.

ZAHN: Ron, who are you looking at for likely contenders?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, I think Liz is onto an important point. If you look at the early polling, and I bet some of the early organizational and especially fund-raising, you're going to see Rudy Giuliani and John McCain at the top of a lot of lists.

The problem is that both of them in different ways have problems with the social conservative base of the party, which really is the heart of the Republican coalition at this point. I mean, it really is the thing that holds together the party more than anything else.

Giuliani, pro choice, pro gun control, pro gay rights. That's a lot of baggage to carry into those southern states, even though he is perceived as a very strong leader. McCain had that big fight in 2000 with the religious conservatives, with Robertson, Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell.

So I think there's going to be search -- there's going to be a need, in effect, for the process to produce a conservative candidate. Exactly who that is is unclear. The governor of Colorado, Bill Owens, is a favorite of some of the Republicans.

But I think there's going to be an auditioning for that position as something that's key to 2008.

ZAHN: Joe, do you share that view? They'll be fielding a conservative candidate for 2008?

KLEIN: Oh, absolutely. And -- and I think it's Bill Frist's most -- most desperate hope that there's a real challenge from the right so that he can portray himself as the moderate in this race. You know, the Republicans...

ZAHN: How hard is he running right now?

KLEIN: Well, I mean, right now he's trying to control the Senate. But he will be running.

You know, the most important thing about the Republicans is their DNA. They are the party of primogeniture. They like to find a favorite, you know, the next oldest son, and put him -- and settle the thing very quickly.

Frist is in a good position to do that, even though, as Ron points out and Liz points out that, you know, McCain and Rudy have the name recognition at this point.

But I think that there's going to be a really significant move from cultural conservatives to find a champion, someone like John Ashcroft, although I suspect that Ashcroft isn't going to do this, but it will be someone of that ilk.

BROWNSTEIN: Well, Paula, just to jump in there real quick if I could, I mean, there are other names on that social conservative list: Sam Brownback of Kansas, maybe the governor of Minnesota, Tim Pawlenty, who made a very good impression on some of the conservatives at an audition this summer at the convention.

But with Frist I think the thing to keep in mind there is that John Kerry, I think, gave us a very good reminder of why it's hard to run for president from the Senate. There are so many votes and legislative actions that can be taken, you know, pulled out of the overall context of the bill and made very difficult to bear.

And I'm sure in the context of a Republican primary, there are going to be lots of things that have happened in the last few years that people from either side can use to go after John McCain or Bill Frist or Chuck Hagel, who's very clearly interested in -- in pursuing this.

KLEIN: That's true.

BROWNSTEIN: It's a tough -- it's a tough launching pad. And I think Kerry's experience, "I voted for the $87 billion before I voted against it," all the defense bill cuts that he was attacked on, shows why it can be very tough to run from the Senate.

KLEIN: The other thing is that Frist is a very reserved sort of guy. And you know, we saw with Howard Dean this -- this past cycle that doctors sometimes have bedside manner problems when dealing with the public.

ZAHN: Doesn't the senator also have some issues with his family's company?

KLEIN: Well, his family owns -- is a big HMO provider, and they aren't, you know, exactly the heroes of the American health care system in the minds of many people. But I think that those sort of things, you know, would get worked out pretty quickly.

ZAHN: Liz, we hear some rumblings about Jeb Bush someday running for president. Are you hearing the same thing?

MARLANTES: I was just going to say, that's another name that, you know, as long as we're in the fantasy stage of talking about the race we might as well throw out there.

He's said he's not interested in running in 2008, of course, but it's almost irresistible not to at least look at him as a possible contender, in part because then we could imagine the dynastic match-up between another Bush and a Clinton. And because his profile, actually, is in many ways what they might be looking for, a governor from a southern state.

KLEIN: Yes, I mean, this is the perfect profile. If the guy's last name weren't Bush, he would be the candidate. He has really terrific people to people skills as -- as a political performer, as well.

BROWNSTEIN: And I don't -- but I don't think he's quite as comfortable in that level of spotlight as his brother. He's always been in some ways a more cerebral, introverted politician. And I just -- you know, maybe things will change, but I believe him now when he says that he's not interested.

ZAHN: I have a feeling we have a long four years ahead together here. Trio, look forward to having you all back. Joe, quickly?

KLEIN: Yes, I mean, the most important factor in all -- in all this is how George W. Bush does during the next four years.

ZAHN: Good point for us to keep in mind as we put this through our sifter. Ron, Liz, and Joe Klein, thank you all for joining us tonight.

BROWNSTEIN: Thank you.

KLEIN: Thank you.

MARLANTES: Thank you.


SANCHEZ: And next right here, one of the most unlikely political winners of the year. First female, first Hispanic, first lesbian sheriff, and a favorite of Republican voters. Who is this woman? The answer next.


SANCHEZ: And welcome back. I'm Rick Sanchez, filling in for Paula.

Talk about a cliffhanger election. Today they recounted the votes again in Washington state's governor's race. Going in, the Republican, Dino Rossi, was ahead by 261 votes out of nearly three million cast. Well, after the machine recount, Rossi was still ahead, but now he's only ahead, get this, by 42 votes.

A Democrat, Christine Gregoire, will not concede and has until next week to formally request a recount by hand, which could, we understand, take awhile.

Well, there is no doubt about who's been elected the new sheriff in Dallas. Think of the term, sheriff. That's a title that gives a lot of people an image of maybe Gary Cooper in "High Noon" or maybe even Andy Griffith in Mayberry. But Guadalupe Valdez?

Here now with her story, CNN's Ed Lavandera.



ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): She's almost 5'3". She's the daughter of migrant farm workers. She's a lesbian. She doesn't look or sound like the image you probably have of a western gun-slinging law officer. But she is the new sheriff of Dallas County, Lupe Valdez.

VALDEZ: It says that Dallas County is open for a change, no matter what the person looks like, as long as they can do the job.

LAVANDERA: Valdez is a true-blue Democrat living in the reddest of states in the reddest of cities. Dallas sheriffs tend to wear Republican hats.

But she spent 28 years in law enforcement, working in a prison and as a federal customs officer. She also retired as a captain from the Army Reserves.

But she's a political novice. In fact, only one of her campaign workers had political experience. So when the votes were counted on election night, they all looked at that worker for guidance.

VALDEZ: After the excitement of winning, that night we turned around and said, "OK, Amy, what happens next?"

And she said, "I don't know. I've never been on a winning campaign."

Lupe Valdez.

LAVANDERA: if you think Valdez is going to be welcomed with open arms by everyone at the sheriff's department, think again. Just listen to the advice from the outgoing sheriff.

JIM BOWLES, DALLAS COUNTY SHERIFF: Stay open-minded and watch your back.

LAVANDERA: Valdez is walking into a politically splintered sheriff's office.

Michael Ramirez is a 24-year veteran of the department. He's offered Valdez his support but has also warned her that many in the department are leery of outsiders.

MICHAEL RAMIREZ, DALLAS LATINO PEACE OFFICERS ASSOCIATION: I think that certain people are going to be waiting for her to stumble and they're going to be right there, jumping on that stumble, trying to make her look bad. There's no doubt in my mind.

LAVANDERA (on camera): Is that fair, do you think?

RAMIREZ: No. It's not fair to her. No, it's not fair. It's not fair to anybody.

LAVANDERA (on camera): Before Valdez announced she was running for sheriff, she met with her older brothers to tell them about her plans.

Well, that meeting didn't go very well. Her brothers tried to discourage the idea. They were worried about little sister getting roughed up in a political campaign. Valdez says her brothers left her in tears.

(voice-over) But she decided to run anyway and won by more than 17,000 votes. Candidate Valdez campaigned vigorously, even lost 30 pounds walking the neighborhoods.

Sheriff Lupe, as a lot of people call her now, knew it would be hard to get voters to look past the labels. After all, Hispanic female lesbian sheriffs just aren't that common.

VALDEZ: I didn't think it was an easy message to sell from the very beginning. I knew it was a challenge. From the very beginning, I knew it was going to be a challenge. But look at my life. My whole life has been a challenge.

LAVANDERA: Valdez spent the first eight years of her life driving from Texas to Michigan, working the fields. Her parents and older brothers picked vegetables and fruit. Oftentimes there wasn't enough money for hotel rooms. The family would sleep in the car.

They eventually left that life behind, but her parents didn't live long enough to enjoy this moment, and this is where the tough new sheriff gets emotional, imagining how her mother would feel.

VALDEZ: On election night her tears were of joy as she saw the media and the fuss that was being made over a little migrant child being elected sheriff. So I'm sure the salty tears had become flavorful to her.


SANCHEZ: Ed Lavandera in Dallas.

The results of our "Voting Booth" question when we come back.


SANCHEZ: Here's the result of tonight's "Voting Booth" question. Just a sample from our web site. Obviously, this is not a scientific poll. We have fun with it.

Well, that's it for us. Tomorrow, a special PAULA ZAHN NOW encore presentation: Bill Cosby on his controversial crusade, why it's inspired and infuriated so many. I'm Rick Sanchez. Thanks so much for being with us.

Larry King is up next with Donald Trump. Good night and have a great Thanksgiving.


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