FTN - 11/9/03

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BOB SCHIEFFER, Chief Washington Correspondent: Today on Face The Nation, Senators John Kerry and John McCain.

As the casualties mount in Iraq, 36 so far this month, the debate continues in Washington over how to deal with the insurgency. More troops? Withdrawal of U.S. forces? We'll get two views from two Vietnam vets, senators McCain and Kerry. And we'll talk with Senator Kerry about his presidential campaign.

Amy Walter of "The Cook Political Report" joins in the questioning. And I'll have a final word on how some politicians lose touch with the people they're supposed to represent.

But first, senators Kerry and McCain on Face The Nation.

ANNOUNCER: Face The Nation with CBS News Chief Washington Correspondent Bob Schieffer. And now from CBS News in Washington, Bob Schieffer.

SCHIEFFER: And as we continue our examination of the people seeking the Democratic nomination, today we talk to Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts. He's in Boston. Joining in the questioning, Amy Walter of "The Cook Political Report."

Well, Senator Kerry, let's get right with it. Howard Dean had a great week. He got the endorsement of the largest labor union, the Service Employees Union. He's raised more money in your home state than you have. I think the first question is can you stop him?

SEN. JOHN KERRY, D-MA, Democratic Presidential Candidate: Absolutely. Yeah, listen. The money -- we did not focus on small donors. We've raised more money than Howard Dean here, and I'm the only one in the campaign that's raised over $20 million. We're doing just great. We really are.

He had a good week. I won't deny that. But we're moving on the ground in Iowa.

We're doing very, very well in New Hampshire. There's not a vote cast yet. People are looking for who can be president of the United States. And I believe I bring the experience and the vision that we need in order to be able to make America safer and stronger.

Howard Dean has absolutely zero, no foreign policy, military or national security experience. I think I can make America safer and stronger. I know that I can hit the ground running with respect to Iraq, North Korea, AIDS in Africa, global warming, proliferation. And you can't be strong at home, Bob, unless you're strong abroad. We need a person who can stand up to George Bush on the national security issue, and I can do it.

SCHIEFFER: Well, his campaign says that you've taken the low road. For one thing, you called him a flimflam artist, I think. Are you taking the low road, Senator?

KERRY: Not at all. I'm pointing out differences on issues. For instance, Howard Dean wants to raise taxes on middle -class Americans. I don't. That's not a low road. That's just talking about differences between candidacies. Bill Clinton proved that -- that we know how to balance the budget, and we know how to grow our economy without making the middle class pay the price.

I don't want to get rid of child tax credit for middle-income families raising their children. Howard Dean wants to. I don't want to get rid of the 10 percent bracket because that means you'll start taxing people at 15 percent at the lower income level. I don't want to do that. Howard Dean does. I don't want to put the marriage penalty back in place, so that in America, when you get married, you're going to pay additional taxes. Howard Dean's plan will restore the marriage penalty.

SCHIEFFER: All right.

KERRY: I think that's a mistake.

SCHIEFFER: All right. Well, let's bring in Amy Walter of "The Cook Political Report." Amy.

AMY WALTER, "The Cook Political Report: Well, hello, Senator. I wanted to bring up the other political development from this week, and that was Dean's decision not to take public financing. What are you going to do in this case?

KERRY: Well, we're going to make our decision over the course of the next day or so. I'm disappointed that Governor Dean has taken a very different road than Democrats have stood for as a matter of principle. We've tried very hard to put campaign financing in place -- reform. I don't think that President Bush's money was as intimidating as Governor Dean wants to believe it was, because it's mostly special interest money. And I was perfectly prepared to run against that money, to point out to Americans why they don't have health care, why they don't have prescription drug coverage, why we can't get money for our schools. And I thought that the Bush money told a remarkable story about...

SCHIEFFER: Well, Senator, could I just interrupt...

KERRY: ...the politics of our nation. Now the governor...

SCHIEFFER: May I just interrupt you right there, because what you just said begs a question. You just said...

KERRY: Sure.

SCHIEFFER: ...'I'm very disappointed that Howard Dean did this,' but then you also said in the same sentence, 'I'm going to make a decision on whether I'm going to do that in the next couple of days.' What -- how do you square that?

KERRY: Well, because now -- well, that's the decision -- listen, I think that the governor clearly said two different things. I said all along only one thing. I said if Governor Dean is prepared to live by it, I'm prepared to live by it. This is his decision if he breaks it. But I always said consistently that if he does go out of it, I'm prepared to. Now whether I will or not, I'll make that decision. But I'm prepared to -- now that's a consistent statement from somebody in public life.

What the American people want is principle and consistency.

I said if he doesn't do it, I won't. I took a position. He took a position. He wrote to the Federal Election Commission saying, 'I will obey by the law. I won't go out.' He also said only a few months ago to all of us before he was raising money that he wouldn't go out and he thought it was a terrible thing if Democrats went out. Now he's changed his position. So the difference here is consistence vs. expediency and a change of position. Look, I'm going to make my decision in the next days, but my position has been consistent.

SCHIEFFER: All right.

WALTER: So OK -- so but the bottom line is you still are thinking about making this decision? You still may not...

KERRY: I always said...

WALTER: ...take public financing?

KERRY: ...if Howard Dean -- I've always said if any Democrat decides not to live by it, then I think within the universe of Democrats...


KERRY: ...we have to make our decisions.


KERRY: I would prefer the universe of Democrats to stand up against George Bush. That's not where we are today. It's too bad.


WALTER: OK. Well, let's talk a little bit then -- go into the president and talk a little bit about the economy here for a moment. We've had the second week now of positive news, this, on the jobs front. Does this undercut, then, your argument, Democratic, other Democratic candidates' arguments that Bush policies have been bad for the economy?

KERRY: Not in the least. Not in the least. The economy -- the growth that we have seen is not a jobs-creating growth. In fact, it's one of the worst months measured against Bill Clinton's months of economic recovery. Two hundred and fifty thousand people stopped looking for jobs last month. The month before that, 250,000 people stopped looking for jobs. So they're not even recorded in this so-called recovery.

I've been meeting people all over the country who've been out of work for a year, a year and a half. They send out a resume. They're among 200 resumes for one job and they might, if they're lucky, get, you know, a few interviews and there are always 200, 300 people looking for the same job. We have an enormous need to create jobs in this country and this president is simply not doing it.


KERRY: He also is running a bargain bazaar for special interests on the energy bill, on prescription drugs, in Iraq. It's one of the greatest plunderings of America that I've ever seen and we need to stand up against it.

SCHIEFFER: All right. Let me ask you -- let's shift now to another subject and that is Howard Dean saying he wanted to represent all the people in the South, including those who had Confederate flags in the windows of their pickup trucks. You and others have criticized him, criticized him severely for that.

I guess the question I would ask you, Senator Kerry, if somebody with a Confederate flag in the window of his pickup truck said, `I want to vote for John Kerry,' would you tell him not to?

KERRY: That's not the issue, Bob. The issue is the symbolism and the appeal and the lack of sensitivity to what it means. Why not say, 'I want to appeal to the poor people in the South, many of whom may drive a pickup truck or don't, who have American flags in the back of their trucks.'

The main thing is to appeal to people who have a specific problem, not a specific symbol.

Only a few months ago, Howard Dean said he thought the flying of the Confederate flag in the South was a state's rights issue. I've never believed it's a state's rights issue. I stood up and said, 'The Confederate flag belongs over no public building anywhere in our America. It should not be flown in a public place. It belongs in a museum.' That's the difference between us.

It's the same difference on guns, for instance. I don't believe assault weapons ought to be sold in the streets of America.

SCHIEFFER: OK. Let me just go back to the original...


SCHIEFFER: ...question: Would you turn down...

KERRY: Sure.

SCHIEFFER: ...the support of someone who had a Confederate flag...

KERRY: No, you don't turn down anybody's...

SCHIEFFER: ...that said, 'I want to vote for you'?

KERRY: Bob, the distinction is whether you turn it down or whether you are appealing specifically to a symbol of divisiveness. You don't have a choice as to who votes for you when they go in and decide to vote for you...

SCHIEFFER: Well, no. But on the other hand...

KERRY: ...but you don't go out and appeal.

SCHIEFFER: On the other hand, I would guess that if somebody from the Ku Klux Klan stood up and said, `I want to vote for you,' you'd tell them, `I don't want your vote.' Would you put...

KERRY: Bob...

SCHIEFFER: ...people who have Confederate flags in the same category?

KERRY: Bob, I don't appeal to their vote. I don't ask them for their vote based on the identifier of their negative presence. I don't ask a member of the Ku Klux Klan, 'I want your vote. I want to appeal to the Ku Klux Klaners.' I don't want to appeal to the Ku Klux Klaners. And that's -- you know, nobody's ever sought that, but you don't appeal to those who fly the Confederate flag because they're flying the Confederate flag. It's bad symbolism. Look, he's apologized. We've moved on from that. People can make their own judgments about that. But I think there's this...

SCHIEFFER: But you didn't accept his apology, did you?

KERRY: No, he didn't apologize at first. He apologized after he had supposedly apologized, and after he apologized, I accepted it. Sure.

SCHIEFFER: How are you doing out...

KERRY: But he didn't apologize...

SCHIEFFER: ...in Iowa?

KERRY: ...at first.

SCHIEFFER: How are you doing in Iowa?

KERRY: Beg your pardon?

SCHIEFFER: How are you doing in Iowa? The polls -- some suggest that he's way ahead in Iowa. How are you doing out there?

KERRY: Actually, there's a Des Moines Register poll today that shows that Howard Dean has slipped in Iowa. I'm only 5 points away from Howard Dean at this point in time. My campaign is growing. I have more legislators who are supporting me in Iowa than Howard Dean and Dick Gephardt put together. And that's important when you organize for caucuses.

We have a terrific team on the ground. I had 400 people turn out at the Kennedy School in Cedar Rapids the other night, an enormous crowd of people with great energy. People are coming to my campaign because they know that I'm ready to be president of the United States. I can lead our country. I know how to deal with Iraq. I know how to make us safer in the world. I can stand up to President Bush and the security issue...


KERRY: ...and I have a vision, an agenda and 35 years of fighting consistently in order to help deal with the problems of health care, education, children, the environment. I'm the one who stood up, for instance...

SCHIEFFER: All right.

KERRY: ...Bob, and prevented us from drilling in the Arctic Wildlife Refuge...

SCHIEFFER: All right.

KERRY: ...and I think people care about those kinds of fights.

SCHIEFFER: All right. Very good. We have to leave it there. Thank you so much, Senator, and good luck down the trail.

KERRY: I appreciate it. Thank you.

SCHIEFFER: Back in a moment with Senator John McCain.


SCHIEFFER: And we're back now with Senator John McCain who joins us from Phoenix this morning. I want to apologize to our viewers. We got so wound up talking about other things that we never got to Iraq. But, Senator McCain, I'm certainly going to ask you about that.

More bad news seems to be coming from Iraq these days. Last week, I guess it was, you made a speech where you were highly critical of the administration. At one point I think you actually called the Secretary of Defense 'irresponsible.' After that, you were invited over to Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld's Pentagon headquarters for breakfast. What was that breakfast like?

SEN. JOHN McCAIN, R-AZ, Member, Senate Armed Services Committee: Well, first of all, I didn't call 'him' irresponsible. I called it...


McCain: ...it other -- irresponsible to continue to announce troop withdrawals while the numbers of attacks and killing of American soldiers continues up. But I always treat the secretary of Defense with respect, which is what he deserves. There was the chief of staff of the Army and the commandant of the Marine Corps and the deputy chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. I -- we have respectful conversations, and that's the way this issue should be treated. But we do have a very significant difference of opinion as to how the Iraqi situation be treated, and that's what the discussion is about.

SCHIEFFER: What the difference seems to be, I mean, just encapsulate, Senator McCain, you say it's going to take more American troops on the ground to bring this situation under control. And every time the secretary of Defense is asked about that, he says simply, 'Look, I've talked to the generals. They tell me they don't need troops.' So how do you respond if the generals say they don't need troops, why are you taking the position that we do?

McCAIN: Well, first of all, I'm -- and I think it's a good thing. Very rarely do commanders in the field say they need help. But more importantly the trends are in the wrong direction. The explosive devices -- use of explosive devices are up. The number of attacks are up. The number of American soldiers wounded are up. And the number of American soldiers killed -- General Sanchez -- is up. As General Sanchez has said, that the attacks are, quote, "more sophisticated." And at the same time, the Pentagon is announcing troop withdrawals for next spring.

That, in my view, is not the proper way to address at least in the Sunni triangle, remembering that in the north and in the south things are going very well in Iraq. But that's not the way to address a growing problem, which the facts on the ground indicate requires more attention in the Sunni triangle.

And when I say we need more troops, we need more Marines, we need more Special Forces, we need a greater capability in that area, in the area of counterintelligence, and other areas.

Bob, there's 130,000 troops in Iraq. At any one time about 30,000 of them, because of our tooth-to-tail situation, are on patrol and that's in a country the size of the state of Texas. So I'm saying we need more specialized -- we don't need more tanks, we don't need more Howitzers, but we need a greater capability in the Sunni triangle. And when -- we can differ as far as opinions are concerned, but facts on the ground indicate that the trends are in the wrong direction.

SCHIEFFER: Well, let me just ask you this, and I guess this is what I'm driving at. Obviously, we don't want the generals making foreign policy. We want that to be made by the civilians who control the military.

McCAIN: Yes.

SCHIEFFER: But do you think that one reason the generals are saying they don't want more troops is because the civilian leadership has told them, 'Don't ask for more troops'? Do you think politics is driving this, and the fact we're having an election coming next year might have something to do with the position that the civilian leaders have taken?

McCAIN: I think these are too fine a people, but I think it flies in the face of every instinct of a military commander to say 'Look, I need more help and I'm not able to do the job here.'

Also there's a political element here. In the spring of 1968, the Tet offensive took place. It was a terrible military defeat for the North Vietnamese. It was a great victory psychologically. In '72, there was another offensive. They know what our electoral calendar is, and I don't want to send a message to the bad people in Iraq that we're going to withdraw. I want them to know that we're going to stay there and do whatever it takes, and we must win, and we have no other choice but to achieve victory.


McCAIN: But these generals are honest, straightforward, wonderful people, and I have the highest regard for them. But I think that people like Abraham Lincoln and Harry Truman and Franklin Delano Roosevelt and others made decisions in what they thought was the best interest of the country.

SCHIEFFER: Well, that leads me to another fairly controversial statement that you made last week. You said, 'I'd like to see the president fully engaged. The president needs to be on top of more details of what's going on.' Do you believe that the president is not fully engaged on this?

McCAIN: I think the president is fully engaged and I think the president's committed to victory in Iraq. And I was very pleased to see that the rhetoric changed from after the attack on the Al Rashid Hotel to saying that it was a sign we're winning to his very strong speech that we're in a very tough, long, difficult struggle here. And so I think that the president should be engaged. I assume that he is. But I believe that we must be confident that he is fully engaged in some of the details of what's going on.

SCHIEFFER: Do you think in any way that members of the administration are misleading the public on what the actual situation is in Iraq? Those of us who remember Vietnam remember a time when members of that administration saw what they wanted to see and sometimes that didn't seem to coincide with what was actually happening. Are we seeing some of that now?

McCAIN: I think some mistakes were made. The banner 'Mission accomplished' on the aircraft carrier, whoever who put it up, a lot of the very rosy scenarios that were predicted after the very rapid victory that we achieved last spring -- I think there's a number of areas that, if we had it to do over again, we would have done it differently.

But what disturbed me was the leaked memo, the famous leaked Rumsfeld memo -- there was a line in there where he said we had no indications or way of gauging whether we are winning or losing in Iraq. That is disturbing. And I understand the memo which -- a challenge to subordinates, but when the statement is made 'We don't know whether we have the indicators as to whether we're winning or losing in Iraq,' then it means to me we ought to do something differently.

The killings are up, and we announce at the same time that these attacks become more sophisticated and more frequent, that we're going to draw down. I think the message is, 'Look, we're going to do whatever's necessary. If they need more, we're going to send them. And you guys, it's just a matter of time before you're finished.'

SCHIEFFER: Do you think it will ever reach the point that we may have to go back to the draft in order to have the manpower to carry out this mission? Because there's a piece in "The Washington Post" today that I found very interesting, and that is in many communities in the country, there are not enough troops to take part and march in the Veterans Day parades around the country. There's no question that our forces are being stretched very thin right now.

McCAIN: Stretched very thin. We need to increase the size of the Army and the Marine Corps. And what we're doing to the Guard and Reserves can have very significant long-term Effects.

Look, these men and women in the Guard and Reserve are ready to fight, they're ready to serve. They'll do whatever's necessary, and we can be proud of them. But they're not necessarily going to stay in if they are constantly on active duty. Either join the regular forces or get out.

And so the strain on the Guard and Reserves, because of our lack of numbers in the Marine Corps and the Army, in my view, can have some significant impact, but have no doubt about their quality, but you can understand why their families would be reluctant to see them stay in on a semi-permanent basis, so we're going to have to address that.

SCHIEFFER: All right. Senator McCain, it's always a pleasure to have you.

McCAIN: Thank you.

SCHIEFFER: See you soon. We'll be back with a final word in just a second.


SCHIEFFER: Finally, today, New Yorkers found out something about their mayor, Michael Bloomberg, last week. He doesn't know them very well. He came up with a great idea, at least he thought it was a great idea: eliminate party primaries in all city elections. And he ponyed up $2 million of his own money to promote it. Now that's petty cash to a billionaire like Bloomberg, but still, it's a fair sum.

New Yorkers responded by handing him his head on a platter. Seventy percent of the people who voted on the idea last week rejected it, which raises the question: How could any politician be so out of touch that he'd propose something that nearly three-quarters of his constituents didn't want?

Actually, it's an easy one to answer.

In another day, politicians got elected by bringing people together who shared common problems and working with them to find solutions. They usually started by running for minor offices where the problems were smaller. Not much glamour there, but it's a way to get to know your community.

Bloomberg is part of a new fad, a rich man who just bought his way into politics, spent $75 million of his own money advertising himself and enough people believed the TV commercials to elect him.

The downside is when you win that way, you don't really get to know much about the people you're trying to lead. And in time, the people figure that out, which is why Bloomberg is in so much trouble that the New York papers say he is gearing up now to spend $100 million on his re-election, which raises the question: Wouldn't it be a lot cheaper to just get to know the people in New York a little better?

That's it for us. We'll see you next week right here on Face The Nation.