CNN Wolf Blitzer Reports Transcript

By:  Alfred Sharpton, Jr.
Date: Jan. 14, 2004
Location: Unknown


January 14, 2004 Wednesday

HEADLINE: Bush Sets Agenda on Mars, Moon, Marriage; U.S. Troops Close In on Saddam's Henchman

GUESTS: Al Sharpton, Ron Suskind, Jennifer Coggiola, J.D. Heyman

BYLINE: Wolf Blitzer, Miles O'Brien, Karl Penhaul, Sharon Meyer, Sean Hennessey, Todd Gutner, Matthew Chance, Jen Rogers

HIGHLIGHT:
Bold agenda. Setting his sights on the moon, Mars and marriage. Then, U.S. troops close in on Saddam Hussein's henchman

BODY:
BLITZER: Even though the Iowa caucuses aren't until Monday night, Howard Dean is enjoying the sweet taste of victory. At least of sorts. Dean beat fellow Democrat the Reverend Al Sharpton in yesterday's mostly symbolic nonbinding primary right here in the nation's capital.

Most of the major candidates skip this race or focused on other states. Not Al Sharpton, he campaigned heavily in recent days and he's calling his second place finish, and I'm quoting now, "a tremendous victory." The Reverend Sharpton is joining us to talk about the outcome, its impact on the campaign and other contests and more. Reverend Sharpton, welcome back to our program. Thank you very much for joining us.

REVEREND AL SHARPTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: You caused a stir by getting Governor Dean to acknowledge he had no African-Americans or minorities in his cabinet while he served as governor. What was the point you were trying to make, what, that he's a racist?

SHARPTON: No, I think that Governor Dean has continually said that he wanted to be the candidate that will discuss race to America and teach Americans about race. I think if you put yourself in that position, then you open up a fair examination of how you've dealt with race and diversity in your past.

Every debate he talks about what he's done in Vermont for health care, education or other matters. It was then fair for me to say tell us what you did in Vermont around diversity at the highest levels? We were in a state that had the exact percentage of blacks than he has in Vermont. 1.5 percent. Iowa. Those in that black and brown caucus had a right to know how he would govern a similar matter in their states as he was similarly situated.

To my surprise, he had to concede he had not put one in the cabinet. Doesn't make him a bad guy but it certainly doesn't make him in a position to lecture others about race when he's not had diversity at the level of government that he's been in charge.

BLITZER: The Reverend Jesse Jackson seems to suggest, though, that given the tiny percentage of African-Americans, minorities in Vermont, it's perhaps understandable.

SHARPTON: Again, I think that the black and brown caucus members there in America, on the ones that applauded, that didn't think it was understandable, I don't see how we can have inclusion as part of the civil rights agenda and qualify it when it may be someone we like.

Most cabinet members are not chosen from the indigenous population anyway. Are we saying Dean only chose his cabinet members from natives of Vermont? I don't think so. And clearly, if Mr. Dean did not have that kind of background, which is understandable given the population, then why is he running around lecturing others who have had diversity in their background about race? He made himself the object of a test on race. Then when someone questioned it, all of a sudden, he has surrogates go out and apologize and explain for him? I don't think that's fair.

BLITZER: Having said that, if he does get the Democratic presidential nomination in Boston, will you support him?

SHARPTON: I will support whoever gets the nomination. I hope that I'm the one that gets it and they will support me. I've said from the beginning that I will support the nominee, but I think at the same time, we're in a primary process.

Dean has ads out and everything questioning his opponents. Clearly one has a right to question him. You mentioned Reverend Jackson, I remember when he challenged Mondale in '84 on second primaries and runoffs.

This does not disunify the party, it clarifies the campaign. Yesterday in Washington, I got over a third of the vote, no one including me thought I would get that. There are a lot of concerns about a lot of people and I think we need to put them all on the table. Particularly if a candidate represents himself as just about as an expert in an area, we have the right to examine where the expertise comes from.

BLITZER: I think you will agree that you're almost certainly not going to do well in Iowa, not going to do well in New Hampshire but possibly could do well the week after February 3 in South Carolina. What do you expect will happen in South Carolina? Will you do really well or will you simply be a spoiler for one of the other Democrats?

SHARPTON: Well, I think they asked that going in D.C. and it ended up where Dean had to struggle in single points to even come ahead of me. Look at this this way, Wolf. If any race in D.C., I got 34 percent of the vote, and Dean did not have the other contenders on the ballot, if I was him, I'd be very concerned that if I can create the same solid support in South Carolina, and in other places, Missouri and Delaware and in Virginia where I'm the only minority on the ballot, and he has to compete with other major contenders, he has a problem.

Think of what happened in Washington if Gephardt and Kerry and Edwards and Clark were on the ballot. They certainly wouldn't have been taking away from me. I think we would do very well in South Carolina, I think we'll do very well in Missouri. I think we'll do very well in Michigan and Virginia which come a week later.

It is very possible I will go into super Tuesday with as many or more delegates than the so-called front-runner. We're running a delegate, strategic campaign, and I think that people that thought we had no infrastructure or ability to get out the vote were shocked when they saw the results that happened in D.C. yesterday.

BLITZER: All right. The Reverend Sharpton is in this race at least through Super Tuesday in March. We'll see what happens next. Reverend, thank you very much.

SHARPTON: Super Tuesday for me is November.

BLITZER: November? You're staying to November even after the Democratic convention.

SHARPTON: I hope to be the nominee, Wolf.

BLITZER: If you're the nominee you'll be in the race.

SHARPTON: All right. Thank you.

BLITZER: Thanks. See you on the campaign trail. Reverend Al Sharpton.

Deep freeze, a dangerously cold night on tap for people in the Northeast. We have reports from around the region.

The other fired aide, a second administration insider speaking out, this time in the president's defense. Hear what he has to say about Paul O'Neill.

And behind the controversy-the book that ignited it all. I'll speak live with the author Ron Suskind. Stay with us.

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