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CNN Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer Transcript

Location: Unknown

…I'm Judy Woodruff. Wolf is away…

WOODRUFF: …Right now, we want to turn to the guest that we have had scheduled on LATE EDITION, the Reverend Al Sharpton, one of the candidates for the Democratic nomination for president. He joins us right now from Los Angeles.

Reverend Sharpton, thank you for being with us.

And I want to ask you first about what we have just heard from Liberia. Does this sound like, with Charles Taylor's departure, that the United States now—that it makes sense for the U.S. now to send in peacekeeping troops?

REV. AL SHARPTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It will make sense if we do it in cooperation with the United Nations and with other nations, as well as respecting and working along with other African heads of state.

The president leaves tomorrow for Africa. He'll be meeting with heads of states in Africa, including the president of Nigeria, who was there with President Taylor of Liberia, offering him temporary asylum.

What I would be unequivocally opposed to is unilateral action by the United States. I thought it was wrong in Iraq, it would be wrong in Liberia, though I think both Hussein and Taylor are certainly not people that I would want to see in power. I do not think, however, that we can continue unilateral approaches around the world.

And clearly, there are other parts of the world that we ought to also cooperate in stabilizing, particularly in Africa. I've been to Sudan, I've been to Rwanda, I've been to many places that this president and other presidents have ignored.

And I think that we need to cooperate with people and not just come in when we have a particular business interest in mind.

WOODRUFF: Well, let me specifically, though, ask you about Charles Taylor. It sounds as if, as we heard, he is being granted asylum by the president of Nigeria.

Should Charles Taylor now not have to stand trial or be held accountable for these alleged war crimes in Sierra Leone and perhaps other neighboring countries?

SHARPTON: Well, I think that, clearly, the first line of duty is to stabilize Liberia.

I think, also, that Mr. Taylor, as well as others that have done human rights abuses, must be held accountable.

And I don't think that we should in any way, shape or form say that we do not want to see that happen.

But I think that in this particular case, where we have a delicate negotiation, I do not know what the president of Nigeria, or for that matter other members of the African Union, are trying to work out in regard to those charges.

I think that the immediate goal is to try to stop the bloodshed and to stabilize Liberia, and I think that's a worthy goal that we should cooperate. I think cooperate, though, not try to move get ahead of and not try to maneuver or manipulate or put in anyone that we may think, as Americans, should be there. That decision should come there in Liberia.

WOODRUFF: And very quickly, on the question of Liberia and the entire continent of Africa, as you point out, President Bush traveling there tomorrow, he'll be visiting five countries, including Nigeria.

Is this a president with a commitment to the people of the continent of Africa, Reverend Sharpton?

SHARPTON: That remains to be seen. The president is going. He should not just discuss the $15 billion in AIDS help and for research, which is a good step, but he should talk real, new-day kind of policy to Africa: forgiving some African debt that strangles many African nations; dealing with African exports. We have African farmers that need to sell their products here.

And he needs to really deal with the fact that he himself doesn't meet with African-American leaders here. He is doing in Africa what he doesn't do at home.

So it remains to be seen if this is a trip whether he's going to be a conqueror in a Tarzan-like sweep through Africa, or whether he's going to come in a new spirit of cooperation that will help develop and build Africa.

WOODRUFF: All right, Reverend Sharpton, I want to turn you now to some questions about this presidential campaign, the contest for the Democratic nomination.

We know that the fundraising reports for the first half of the year, these reports to the Federal Election Commission, are coming in. Howard Dean appears to be at least on top in the second quarter. $7.5 million he raised. And we're told that in one day alone, at the end of the quarter, he raised $800,000, one day alone.

Reverend Sharpton, in the entire quarter, so far it's been reported that you raised $80,000, about a tenth of that what he raised in one day. My question to you is, are you even serious about raising money in this campaign?

SHARPTON: Well, first of all, we've not made a report. So I don't know where you got that report from. We make our report on the 15th, when it is due.

But secondly, we have not even had a fundraiser in this quarter. I've been out people-raising. I think that we've reduced American politics too much to fundraising. Yes, I think money is important. But I think that you judge races based on who can bring people to the poll.

In your own CNN poll, I'm ahead of Dean and others that you have that have raised far more money. I remind you, John Connelly raised a lot of money and ended up with one delegate at that convention.

I think that when we start acting as if money alone determines democracy, that we're undermining the principles of a people's democracy.

WOODRUFF: I understand what you're saying about it shouldn't be based on money alone. But, Reverend Sharpton, at this early stage, money is clearly one serious indicator, measure of where these candidates stand.

And, you know, how can you be taken seriously when, as you, by your own acknowledgement, are not even trying to raise money? President Bush is bringing in...

SHARPTON: Well, I didn't say that. I said that we didn't have a fundraiser in that period. What I said—clearly we're raising money. People can go to my Web page right now,, and donate.

What I've said, though, is that the basis of being taken seriously in a democracy ought to be the response of the people. I'm not a poll believer, but your own poll is the exact opposite of the fundraising. I remember last quarter John Edwards was ahead, and it was all the hoopla about that. Now it's something else.

I think that it is dangerous to have a flavor or season based on fundraising...

WOODRUFF: I hear you.

SHARPTON: ... when the people's response doesn't indicate that at all.

During the same period that you raised about Governor Dean, who's done a good job raising money, raising money during that same period, your polls say he's underneath me in the polls. I think that, clearly, people's response ought to be the thing that determines first-tier candidates, unless we're now saying that money determines politics alone. And that's dangerous to me.

WOODRUFF: No, I understand what you're saying. I'm not sure which poll you're referring to, but I know that at this point...

SHARPTON: Your CNN-USA Today poll by Gallup that you released last week.

WOODRUFF: All right. And I'm aware that a lot of that is national name recognition, and you are certainly well known, Reverend Sharpton.

SHARPTON: But again, but, Judy, I'm not going to let you just slide past that. I'm known because I stood up for the issues and fought for situations. I wasn't born in the family of a well-known person. I didn't inherit a name, I earned one. So I think that that speaks to something. I wasn't born a Kennedy or Rockefeller.

WOODFUFF: Let me quickly cite to you something, and, granted, this is from a conservative source, but I want to cite to you something that columnist Ramish Panuro (ph) has written in the current issue of the "National Review."

He said, "The excitement of the Dean campaign"—Howard Dean—"has eclipsed Sharpton." He said, "There is another reason Sharpton's impact will be limited. Whatever the appeal Sharpton has among black voters, and that's debatable, he has close to zero appeal among whites." And he goes onto say, "There aren't many black voters in Iowa or New Hampshire."

What do you say to that line of thinking?

SHARPTON: Well, as you said, it's a conservative magazine and a conservative—I say very little of anything. Again, according to all data, including your own, we are leading overwhelmingly in the black community around the country, but we have support in other communities.

Secondly, I would say to that in Iowa and New Hampshire, we will do well. And then you've got to go into states that are not familiar with other candidates. The question is how they will do after Iowa and New Hampshire.

I think that this whole question of trying to marginalize and separate parts of the party is dangerous. And I think that when you look at the fact that unless we can bring out all voters of all quarters, that we're not going to be able to beat George Bush, we should not let those that are on the other side try to play divide and conquer.

We ought to have a unified strategy from New Hampshire all the way to the end, in large cities, small cities, rural and urban. And I think that that's the goal, of having a united party after you go through a process of primaries.

So in some states, some will do well, and in others, others will do well. The question will be who comes up with enough votes at the end.

WOODRUFF: Let me wrap up, Reverend Sharpton, with a picture of you in "Esquire" magazine. "Esquire" magazine having pictures of all nine Democratic candidates.

They asked each candidate to pick a place that you would consider your natural habitat. Now tell us where you are. This is with your wife Kathy (ph). Where is this?

SHARPTON: Well, I'm not looking at the picture. I don't know.

WOODRUFF: OK, sorry. I'm told it's a restaurant, a soul food restaurant in Harlem.

SHARPTON: OK, well, possibly, I'm not aware of what you're talking about, but clearly I do eat soul food. And I do...


... base my headquarters in Harlem.

WOODRUFF: And we assume that's the reason why that was your choice for the photo.

We appreciate you joining us, Reverend Al Sharpton. It's always good to have you on CNN, and we thank you for joining us today on LATE EDITION.

SHARPTON: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: Thanks very much. And we'll keep looking at those polls.

Content and programming Copyright 2003 Cable News Network Transcribed under license by FDCH e-Media, Inc.

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