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CNN Wolf Blitzer Transcript

Location: Unknown

December 12, 2003 Friday

HEADLINE: Bush Suggests Halliburton Overcharged for Contracts in Iraq; Michael Jackson's Family Speaks Out; Interview With Al Sharpton

GUESTS: Chris Darden, Al Sharpton

BYLINE: Wolf Blitzer, Suzanne Malveaux, Kathleen Koch, Alphonso Van Marsh, Mike Brooks, Rusty Dornin, Sheila MacVicar, Elaine Quijano

President Bush suggests oil giant Halliburton has overcharged U.S. taxpayers for contracts in Iraq. Then, Michael Jackson's family speaks out. Finally, interview with Democratic presidential contender Al Sharpton.

BLITZER: A CNN-"USA Today" Gallup poll last weekend showed the Reverend Al Sharpton trailing all but one of the other Democratic presidential candidates, but that doesn't mean he's easy to overlook. Sharpton's zingers in the debates and his recent appearance on NBC's "Saturday Night Live" have kept him very much in the public eye. We'll be checking in with all the candidates from time to time as this campaign continues. Al Sharpton is joining us today from Cincinnati. Reverend Sharpton, thanks very much for joining us.

What do you make of the decision for Howard Dean and Al Gore to get together in Harlem, your neck of the woods, for this highly publicized endorsement?

REV. AL SHARPTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think what was interesting is they had more reporters than people. I think that if one is going to influence an election, he ought to involve the people that you are trying to influence.

I think endorsements are fine. What I took exception to, which I raised in the New Hampshire debate, is people saying that because of the endorsements that others should then pull out and rally around who they endorse. That's bossism. People ought to endorse and work for who they want, but they ought not tell other people that they ought to submit to their particular point of view. I don't think that that is a democratic process that this party can afford.

BLITZER: Is Howard Dean making any in roads in the African- American community?

SHARPTON: Well, I mean, I don't see any inroads. But again, I'm not trying to run Mr. Dean's campaign, or anyone else's campaign. I'm running my own.

And I think that clearly we have been able to set up an infrastructure nationally. We just made the ballot today in Virginia. The Quinnepiac (ph) poll yesterday has me tied with John Kerry. I'm number two in some polls in South Carolina.

I'm more focused on the Sharpton for president campaign and the issues of importance to us. I'm the only major candidate that's talking about a withdrawal in Iraq. I was surprised the other night that even Mr. Dean said that we must continue occupation for years. I think that's a fundamental wrong position.

I'm concentrating on domestic issues. I'm in Cincinnati, where we recently had another police killing. So I'm more focused on what I'm doing than trying to manage someone else's campaign.

BLITZER: Dennis Kucinich says the U.S. should withdraw immediately as well. Is he not a major candidate?

SHARPTON: Absolutely. And I think that he and I agree. But what I have not seen is some of the candidates that have said they are against the war, but yet they say we must maintain occupation. I don't see how you can be against going in but then say we must stay in when we had no basis and no real authority, moral authority, to be there in the first place. And I think that the war continues as long as there is occupation. There must be responsible withdrawal. But there must be immediate withdrawal.

BLITZER: You are doing very well in South Carolina, as you point out. The polls show you doing very well. There is expected to be a large African-American turnout in South Carolina. Are you making any inroads at all with white voters?

SHARPTON: Absolutely. You know, one of the things, Wolf, that has always been underestimated is our support in the white community. When I ran for mayor of New York, I got one out of every three Democratic votes. I got 33 percent of the vote. Blacks as a whole only make up 26 percent of the population. So to get that, that would mean I have had to get every black vote, and then some white votes. And clearly I got a lot more than just some white votes, and some blacks didn't vote for me.

We will surprise a lot of people with the cross-section of people that will vote for us based on the issues and based on the will of many people to pull this party back to the basic rules of defending working people, neighbor, and people of color, and gays and lesbians. I've run a campaign that has been unequivocal in saying that the parties run to the right has been a ruination of the party. And it has resonated in many communities. And I am seeing that.

I was last night-spoke at a rally in Oakland, California. Many whites came to the rally. Today I did a book signing in Cincinnati on my way to a rally now. And many whites are responding. So those that tried to-first they said I couldn't get blacks nationally. Now when polls indicate I'm leading among African- American voters, they are saying I can only get African-American voters. They keep limiting us. We will not live by those limitations.

BLITZER: Reverend Sharpton, you were great on "Saturday Night Live" the other night. A lot of viewers loved you. They were surprised by how talented you are. We'll show our viewers a little bit of your impersonation of James Brown, a man you know quite well. What does that performance, that appearance on "Saturday Night Live" do for you and your campaign?

SHARPTON: I think that my judgment was if Bill Clinton can go on "Arsenio Hall" and don dark shades and blow a sax in '92 to show himself more human and reaching out, then Al Sharpton can do "Saturday Night Live" and do the same thing. And I might add, every candidate just about in this race wanted to do it. Some called and tried to do a cameo on my night, because it just makes sense to show America that you can laugh at yourself, even though you may be firm and passionate about your views.

BLITZER: All right. Reverend Sharpton, let me just say one thing. If the political thing doesn't work out, you always got the show business you can fall back on.

SHARPTON: Well, I left show business to do politics. And you know, sometimes I find people more honest in show business. At least they know when the show is over. We can't convince President Bush when it's curtains.

BLITZER: All right, the Reverend Al Sharpton, we loved you on "Saturday Night Live." You were great.

SHARPTON: Thank you.

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

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