September 10, 2004, 09:02 PM
JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS
Ammunition for Kerry?; Interviews With Sarah Brady, Wayne LaPierre, Elijah Cummings, Ken Blackwell; Sensational Biography about Bush Family by Controversial Author Kitty Kelley Hits Stands Monday
Aired September 10, 2004 - 15:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: A new twist in the flap over the president's military service. Were documents critical of Bush forged?
SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That's "W." That's wrong, wrong choice...
ANNOUNCER: John Kerry takes a shot at Bush on an issue the Democrat had been pretty mum about until today.
The assault weapons ban on the verge of extinction. And gun control activist Sarah Brady is fighting mad.
SARAH BRADY, GUN CONTROL ACTIVIST: It's politics. Right now, they're playing right down to the wire with public safety.
ANNOUNCER: Now, live from Washington, JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS.
JUDY WOODRUFF, HOST: Thank you for joining us.
Some senior Democrats today continuing to pounce on questions about President Bush's military service almost three decades ago. DNC chairman Terry McAuliffe held a news conference to accuse Bush of lapses in credibility and character. McAuliffe rejected the president's assertions that he fulfilled his National Guard obligations and that he did not get preferential treatment to avoid going to Vietnam.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TERRY MCAULIFFE, DNC CHAIRMAN: The only way George Bush can put behind him these issues is for the president of the United States to address the American public straight on and answer the questions.
Mr. President, why did you lie to the American people? Why did you tell us that you received no special treatment? Why did you say that you had served honorably in the Air National Guard? Why did you lie to the American public?
(END VIDEO CLIP) WOODRUFF: The Bush camp fired back, while again trying to turn the tables on the Democrats. Aboard Air Force One, White House press secretary Scott McClellan told reporters, "The president met his obligations and was honorably discharged." He went on to say -- quoting again -- "There is an orchestrated effort by Democrats and the Kerry campaign to tear down the president because of the direction the polls are moving." The Kerry camp says that is not true."
Well, new information has come to light in recent days about Bush's military record from news media reports and from officials who have come forward to tell their stories. But today, there are serious questions about the authenticity of some newly-disclosed documents.
As first reported by CBS News, the memos appear to show that Bush ignored a direct order from a superior officer and lost his status as a Texas Air National Guard pilot in the early '70s. A report today by "The Washington Post" suggests the memos may have been forged based on analysis by document experts.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL DOBBS, "WASHINGTON POST" Experts are saying they appear to have been generated by a computer or a word processor, rather than the typewriters which were widely in use by President Bush's National Guard unit in Texas in 1972, 1973. And there are a number of reasons, including the use of proportionate spacing, on these documents that lead the experts to conclude that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOODRUFF: CBS News anchor Dan Rather says the network stands by its "60 Minutes" report.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAN RATHER, CBS NEWS: I believe -- I know that this story is true. I believe that the witnesses and the documents are authentic or we wouldn't have gone to air if they had not been.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOODRUFF: Both the Bush and the Kerry campaigns have so far stayed out of this dispute over the documents and their authenticity. And on the trail, both candidates are keeping quiet about the National Guard flap all together.
Well, the president is in Ohio this hour on a campaign bus trip that is taking him through Chillicothe, Portsmouth and nearby Huntington, West Virginia. Along the way, Bush again criticized John Kerry's stands in the war on Iraq. He also played up the prescription drug bill for seniors that he signed into law.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Beginning in 2005, there's going to be preventative screenings for the first time in Medicare. If you sign up for Medicare, you're going to get a free check-up. And the reason why that's important is you solve problems early before it's too late. Secondly, in 2006, you've got prescription drugs coming your way if you're a senior.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOODRUFF: We'll have a full report from the campaign trail on Bush's day later on INSIDE POLITICS.
Health care also was a major theme for John Kerry today, again, along with the timely and politically-charged topic of assault weapons. CNN's Ed Henry has more on what Kerry said and what he tried not to say.
ED HENRY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At a town hall meeting in the battleground state of Missouri, John Kerry once again refused to comment on President Bush's National Guard service.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What right Bush has to attack a veteran, which I was in World War II, and he wasn't even in the service, that's a lot of bull.
KERRY: Well, there's an unbiased question.
HENRY: But Kerry expanded his attack onto the president's domestic agenda, slamming Mr. Bush for saying he supports the assault weapons ban but will let it expire Monday.
KERRY: Never pushed the Congress to pass it, never stood up, caves in to the NRA, gives in to the special interests, and America's streets will not be as safe because of the choice that George Bush is making.
HENRY: The senator charged that the Bush administration is scaring Americans about the war on terror but will now make it easier for terrorists to get their hands on weapons.
KERRY: In the al Qaeda manual on terror, they were telling people to go out and buy assault weapons, to come to America and buy assault weapons. And you can't fight a war on terror and you can't make our streets safe, which every enforcement officer in this nation knows.
HENRY: Some Democrats think it's a mistake for Kerry to get involved in a debate about guns since the issue hurt Al Gore in swing states. But Kerry was in West Virginia this week touting the fact he's a hunter. And Kerry aides say the assault weapons ban is popular, especially with suburban women.
At the town hall meeting with seniors, Kerry also charged that the president's new Medicare law has helped HMOs and insurance companies, but left seniors with a 17 percent hike in premiums. The Bush camp is firing back with an ad entitled "Medicare Hypocrisy," charging Kerry has voted to increase Medicare premiums five times.
HENRY: John Kerry will continue to hit the president over the assault weapons ban at a rally Monday with law enforcement officers. Despite the political risk, Kerry aides believe that this will help them in the suburbs of key states, like right here in Missouri. And they need help.
The latest CNN poll shows that in the Show-Me State, Kerry is trailing by 14 points. That has led Republicans to suggest that Kerry is going to wind up pulling resources out of this state. But I can tell you that Kerry aides insist to CNN they have no plans to drop out of Missouri, they're going to stay in this battleground state -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: All right. Ed Henry, thanks very much.
And now checking the Friday headlines in our "Campaign News Daily," Vice President Dick Cheney is explaining some controversial remarks he made earlier this week when he seemed to say the election of John Kerry would make a terror attack against the U.S. more likely. In an interview published in today's "Cincinnati Inquirer," Cheney says, "Whoever is elected president has to anticipate more attacks. My point was, the question before us is, will we have the most effective policy in place to deal with that threat?" "George Bush," he said, "will pursue a more effective policy than John Kerry."
The CNN political unit has released its latest electoral map. And at this point in the race, our analysis finds George W. Bush has added to his lead.
Based on state polls and interviews with campaign aides and analysts, CNN has added New Mexico to the Bush column, giving him 299 -- 289 electoral votes to John Kerry's 249 -- 270 are needed to win the White House. CNN political editor, John Mercurio, notes that, while the trends have moved in Bush's favor since the GOP convention, a slight shift in a few states could tilt the balance in Kerry's favor.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN MERCURIO, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: First of all, Bush is still enjoying something of a post-convention bounce. Even his own aides admit that.
The second thing is that the race remains extremely close. If John Kerry were to pick up support in a state like Florida, he would surge into the lead. And if he were to beat Bush -- or lead Bush in Ohio, the race would actually be tied in the electoral college.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOODRUFF: Of course we know a great deal can happen between now and November. We will be updating our electoral map each week until Election Day. The clock is ticking toward the expiration of the assault weapons ban, as you've heard. Up next, gun control advocate Sarah Brady points a finger squarely at President Bush. And the NRA's Wayne LaPierre will represent the other side of the debate.
And later, John Kerry's biblical appeal to African-Americans voters. We'll see how it played to two black officials, one Democrat and one Republican.
Plus, the growing buzz about a sensational new book about the Bush family.
With 53 days until the election, this is INSIDE POLITICS, the place for campaign news.
WOODRUFF: More now on the fierce debate over the assault weapons ban, which is due to expire Monday. A gun control group is stepping up pressure on President Bush and Republican leaders on Capitol Hill to save the measure.
The group is running a full-page ad again today in "The New York Times" and "The Washington Post." This one shows Osama bin Laden holding a rifle under the banner "Terrorists of 9/11 can hardly wait for 9/13." The ad is sponsored by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. Republican leaders say there are no plans to vote on the ban before it expires on Monday, September 13.
Well, earlier, I spoke with Sarah Brady of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. She is the wife of Jim Brady, the former press secretary for President Ronald Reagan, who was wounded in the assassination attempt of Reagan in 1981. She said that she thinks that she does have -- that there are the votes to extend the ban. I began by asking her if that's the case, why is it so hard to get it done?
BRADY: Well, there are two big reasons. One is the president of the United States, George Bush.
He has said he'll sign it. But without his leadership, the leadership in the House and Senate have said they will not bring it up. They will bring it up only if he asks for it. And he says he will ask for it only if they tell him they want it.
WOODRUFF: So what's going on here?
BRADY: It's politics. It's -- and right now, they're playing right down to the wire with the public safety.
A few days from now, we're going to have assault weapons and large capacity magazines back on the street. When terrorism is everybody's greatest concern, we're going to be arming terrorists right here in the United States with large capacity magazines and -- and UZIs and military-style assault weapons.
WOODRUFF: There's a report in "The Washington Post" this week about the number of orders that are -- that are (UNINTELLIGIBLE) for these kinds of weapons. Sarah Brady, the White House says President Bush has made is position very clear. They say his position is well known. So why isn't that enough?
BRADY: It's not enough because, without his leadership, it's not going to be brought up. As my husband says, he knows the speaker's telephone number. When he wants something, he gets it. He can make the calls up there and say, "I want this passed, I want this on my desk."
The onus is on him. And if he doesn't take advantage of this situation in the next couple of days, talk about flip-flop, you can't just turn on one hand and say I'd sign it and I'm for it, and to do absolutely nothing, nothing to make sure it is passed.
WOODRUFF: The National Rifle Association, Wayne LaPierre, says there's no clear evidence that this assault weapons ban has had anything to do with a reduction in crime.
BRADY: Of course that's -- that's what they would say. And it's baloney.
In the first place, crime with assault weapons has gone down 66 percent since the assault weapon ban was passed. We no longer see gangland killings on the streets with UZIs and AK-47's, which were rampant. Kids were sleeping in bathtubs in the Bronx because they were afraid of the spray fire on the streets.
There are still assault weapons out there that were grandfathered in. But next week, hundreds of thousands of them could be sold to fugitives, felons, mentally unstable people, terrorists. And the really scary thing this is large capacity magazines. We're going to have terrorism right here in this country, and our own city streets if something isn't done about this.
WOODRUFF: Do you get frustrated about this? This is an issue you and your husband, Jim, have been working on for so long.
BRADY: Yes. It's especially frustrating to think everybody worked so hard, the law enforcement community, a wonderful bipartisan effort. Every president, except for George W. Bush, George Herbert Walker Bush, campaigned for it.
That went back to Gerald Ford, Carter, Clinton. Reagan worked for this. And to think we're going to take a step backwards and put our law enforcement people and our kids, everybody at risk again, it's unbelievable.
WOODRUFF: And one other point, Sarah Brady says that her group has made appeals to the White House but has received no response. Today, the White House officially refused to meet with law enforcement officials about the ban.
Coming up next, we will hear the other side of the assault weapons ban debate from Wayne LaPierre, the executive vice president of the National Rifles Association.
Stay with us.
WOODRUFF: Continuing now our discussion on the assault weapons ban which is set to expire on Monday, we just heard from a supporter of the ban, Sarah Brady, of the Brady Campaign to Stop Gun Violence. We did ask the White House to provide a guest to respond to Brady, but they declined to do so.
Joining me now with his take on the ban, Wayne LaPierre, who is the executive vice president and CEO of the National Rifle Association.
Thank you for being here.
WAYNE LAPIERRE, EXECUTIVE VP, CEO, NRA: Good to be with you, Judy.
WOODRUFF: We appreciate it.
It's not just Jim and Sarah Brady, Wayne LaPierre. It is law enforcement officials who are arguing -- and I'm going to read this quote -- "Fugitives, felons, mentally unstable people, even terrorists who they say are now going to be able to buy these large capacity guns."
LAPIERRE: Well, all those people are prohibited from buying any gun at all. But here's what the American public that doesn't understand guns needs to understand.
When this thing sunsets on Monday, which it will sunset, on Tuesday, there will not be one gun available that is a machinegun, that is readily or easily convertible to a machinegun, that has characteristics like more powerful, rapid firepower, sprays bullets. All these terminologies being used to confuse people are simply not true.
The only difference between the guns that will be available after Tuesday and not available before under this bill which will sunset, is you'll be able to put more than two cosmetic accessories on a gun. And cosmetic accessories have absolutely nothing to do with how a gun shoots.
WOODRUFF: Well, let me ask you about a report today. I read, "Gun manufacturers," the newspaper says, "are gearing up for this change in the law. The Berretta USA Corporation offering two free large-volume magazines with the purchase of certain guns, the Taurus Corporation making plans to begin manufacturing ammunition magazines that hold up to 17 rounds. What are these guns used for? They're not for... LAPIERRE: Well, the magazine ban will expire. But, you know, when I hear magazine bans, it's just nonsense.
There are hundreds of thousands of magazines out there that were grandfathered. All it is a piece of sheet metal.
Anybody who knows guns knows that you can change a 10-round magazine in that fast. So I know it's an issue that kind of confuses people, but I don't think it means anything in the real world. But, yes, the magazine ban will expire.
WOODRUFF: So the University of Pennsylvania has done a study. I'm sure you're familiar with it. Among other things, they concluded there may be a flood, what they call a flood of these assault weapons being sold in undocumented second-hand markets. In other words, markets where they say people who want to, you know, break the law, criminals and others, can use them.
LAPIERRE: It's nonsense. In fact, CNN has absolutely the best story that I've seen on it. It was run last May, on a Monday, where CNN took reporters -- well, reporters were at the range with police officers from Florida, and police officers looked at the guns under this '94 ban, as opposed to guns that are still available, and showed on CNN's story that there is zero difference in the performance capability, that none of them are machineguns, they're not convertibleable to machineguns, they don't fire rapid.
We have 7,800 law enforcement instructors at the NRA. I challenge anybody to prove at the range these ridiculous descriptions, like rapid fire, mow (ph) down people. Machineguns are all under the 1934 machinegun laws.
WOODRUFF: Then what are these large-capacity guns used for?
LAPIERRE: Large-capacity magazines are just large-capacity magazines. But they don't affect the shooting power of the gun.
The fact is, all the guns that are on this '94 ban are no different than guns that are available now. Rifles, shotguns, handguns that are available now, none of these guns under the '94 ban are any more powerful than rifles, shotguns and handguns that exist right now.
In fact, when John Kerry held up that Remington 1187 in West Virginia, he probably doesn't realize it, but his bill, the Lautenberg bill, that he is a co-sponsor of, would ban the very gun he proudly held up and said he was a hunter.
I mean, so much of this is cosmetic nonsense. All you're talking about are bayonet logs and handles on a gun. You're not talking about the way the gun shoots.
WOODRUFF: And these magazines that we mentioned.
LAPIERRE: And the magazine ban would expire, that's correct. WOODRUFF: We're going to leave it there. Wayne LaPierre, a forceful advocate for the National Rifle Association. We appreciate you coming. Thanks for coming by.
LAPIERRE: Thanks, Judy. Good to be with you. Thank you.
WOODRUFF: Thank you.
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