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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

America Votes 2004: Enlisting the General

Aired February 13, 2004 - 11:32   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: We are standing by for a live event we expect to take place -- take place in Madison, Wisconsin, a key endorsement, a potentially important endorsement for front-runner John Kerry.
Our Judy Woodruff standing by. Judy had a chance, I understand, to interview Wesley Clark yesterday.

And any tips about what might happen at today's event?

JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Daryn, as candidates like to do, they don't like to make the big announcement until the day it happens. But what General Clark did tell me yesterday is that he would be seeing John Kerry today and he was looking forward to seeing him. That was the most he would say publicly. But we do have it confirmed, Daryn, that we will see an endorsement in just a few minutes by General Clark of John Kerry, the front-runner in this race.

General Clark, of course, dropped out on Wednesday after probably the shortest campaign of all. He didn't get in this contest until last fall, but had a very tough time after he blazed across the top of the polls right after he got in, but then was ultimately unable to win a primary until he squeaked through and won Oklahoma. So he did decide to get out and he is going to be throwing his support to John Kerry.

SCHAFFLER: And let's talk about making this endorsement when we see candidates step out and then step back in to make this type of endorsement. Is this just because this is how you have to play nice in party politics or perhaps are we looking at a little positioning of perhaps a future ticket?

WOODRUFF: You know I think it certainly is the former. Wesley Clark knows that in order to, I guess you would say, stay in the good graces of the party, he needs to be part of a unified Democratic Party and part of supporting the front-runner. You know we saw Dick Gephardt after he dropped out, he endorsed John Kerry. Some of the others like Bob Graham, we haven't heard from him, the senator from Florida.

Does it mean that Wes Clark thinks he's going to be on the ticket? I'm not so sure. I'm not so sure that the Kerry campaign thinks that Clark would be the strongest running mate for him. But it very much is one more signal that this Democratic Party is starting to act like Republicans. They've decided they are going to be unified, they are going to get behind their front-runner and they're going to stay that way. Now, having said all that, Daryn, you still have a contest coming up on Tuesday in Wisconsin where this rally is being held, and John Edwards and Howard Dean are still in there fighting. They're running behind in the polls, but they are hoping for a miracle.

KAGAN: Well, and I want to get back to your point about acting like Republicans, taking a page from the Republican playbook. The Democrats, especially the Kerry campaign, has really been stressing the military angle of things. And the man up at the podium right now, a Vietnam vet. Part of John Kerry's success so far has been this band of brothers that has been on the road with him campaigning for him and stressing his military record.

WOODRUFF: That's right, Daryn, there is no question the fact that John Kerry has been able to tout his record in Vietnam as a war hero and to bring on board to his campaign veterans, like this man you see right here. I mean starting all the way back in Iowa, we remember well the veteran who not only showed up in Iowa but said that John Kerry had saved his life. He was the second of two Vietnam veterans who told a very moving story about what John Kerry had done. All of this, of course, has added to an image of a Democratic candidate who has strong national security credentials. This is what the Democrats believe they've got to have in order to have any sort of chance to defeat President Bush.

KAGAN: And I think I'm getting word that they're actually coming up on the stage. There you go. You see General Wesley Clark and John Kerry to his side. I imagine we'll hear General Clark speak first.

WOODRUFF: One would think. And -- but -- and the fact that General Clark being, you know, another war hero and a decorated Vietnam veteran himself, a four-star general retired, this is simply going to further burnish, I think, John Kerry's image as somebody who can stand toe to toe with the president when it comes to national security.

KAGAN: Let's go ahead and listen in to General Clark. Well, they're moving the podium. OK, he looks ready to go.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ladies and gentlemen, General Wesley Clark.

(APPLAUSE)

GENERAL WESLEY CLARK, FORMER DEM. PRES. CANDIDATE: Our leader and the next president of the United States.

(APPLAUSE)

CLARK: And I also want to recognize all the veterans here, the Draft Clark people who are here, and all the others who rallied to my campaign and to our cause to defeat George W. Bush.

(APPLAUSE)

CLARK: I want to thank you for your faith in me and for your devotion to our country. And I ask you now to join me in standing up for an American who has given truly outstanding service to his country in peace and in war, Senator Kerry. I want to tell you how much I admire your service with the United States Navy in Vietnam. And I want to say,...

(APPLAUSE)

CLARK: ... as I learned to do in my years of service, I want to say, as we come to the Navy we say, sir, request permission to come aboard, the Army is here.

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

CLARK: John, I'll do -- I'll work with you to do everything I can to help you take the White House back for its rightful owners, the American people. And I'll do everything I can to help you win back the future of opportunity and prosperity for all Americans, of jobs and health care and education for all Americans. And I'll do everything I can when the Republican mean machine (ph) cranks up their attack. And I'll do everything I can to help make sure that George W. Bush doesn't get away with playing politics with national security.

(APPLAUSE)

CLARK: George Bush has compromised America's leadership around the world. And the American people I'm sure know the truth that President Bush hasn't led America, he has misled America time and again and we have to put a stop to it.

(APPLAUSE)

CLARK: Senator, as you made clear, America simply can't afford three more years of George W. Bush. So I want to join with you in saying three words that George W. Bush will understand (INAUDIBLE).

(APPLAUSE)

CLARK: Working together, all Americans can make this country better. We want an America where we don't just talk about family values but where we actually value families.

(APPLAUSE)

CLARK: (INAUDIBLE), education and health care are not just luxuries for the chosen few. And we want America where we don't just preach our faith but we practice it and those with the most reach out to help those with the least.

(APPLAUSE)

CLARK: We want an America where everybody has a shot at the American dream no matter where they come from and where we include everyone, where we recognize that diversities are good and strengthened. We want an America where we understand the debate is a sin and questioning our leaders, and especially in time of war, is one of the highest forms of patriotism.

(APPLAUSE)

CLARK: And an America where being patriotic means using force as a last resort, not as a political tool.

(APPLAUSE)

CLARK: We want an America where we can look up to our leaders and we can trust our commander in chief, an America that the world listens to and admires once again.

(APPLAUSE)

CLARK: I'm here today because I believe that John Kerry has the right experience, the right values, the right leadership, the right character and the right message to bring this country forward effectively into the 21st century.

(APPLAUSE)

KAGAN: We have been listening in to retired General Wesley Clark. Just earlier this week, he himself dropped out of the race for president in the Democratic nomination. Today he comes out and endorses the front-runner John Kerry.

A bit of an audio problem there coming from the event in Madison, Wisconsin. We apologize -- well, see, they just gave him a new microphone. The basically the gist, the general using military jargon asking the senator for permission to come aboard his campaign, saying he will fight with him to win John Kerry the Democratic nomination for president.

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