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CNN Judy Woodruff's Inside Politics Transcript

Location: Unknown

December 31, 2003 Wednesday

HEADLINE: Congressman Questions Times Square Safety; Interview With Tom DeLay

GUESTS: Tom DeLay, Jeffrey Strauss, Al Sharpton, Nancy Pelosi

BYLINE: Candy Crowley, William Schneider, Suzanne Malveaux, Bruce Morton, Judy Woodruff, John King, Maria Hinojosa

House leaders Tom DeLay and Nancy Pelosi reflect on the year. Congressman Christopher Shays questions Times Square security.

CROWLEY: I'm Candy Crowley sitting in for Judy Woodruff. As the nation prepares to celebrate the arrival of 2004 under an orange, or high terror threat alert, security precautions are near unprecedented levels.

New York's Times Square is, as usual, the center of New Year's Eve revelry, and the focal point of massive security efforts. Sealed manholes, magnetometers, rooftop cameras and sharp shooters are just the beginning.

With me to talk more about the nation's response to the terror threat, the race for the White House and the year ahead, Democratic presidential hopeful, The Reverend Al Sharpton. Reverend, thank you so much for joining us on New Year's Eve no less. We appreciate it.


CROWLEY: I want to talk about your home turf first off. I don't know if you know, but Congressman Christopher Shays, a Republican from Connecticut, has said he wouldn't go to Times Square on New Year's Eve. He thinks it's a crazy idea, you'd have to be a fool to do it.

Are you going to be in Times Square on New Year's Eve?

SHARPTON: Well, I'll be around town. We're doing petitioning and churches and things. But I would not tell people not to go to Times Square.

I think people ought to be cautious. But I think that people ought to try and operate in a normal way. In fact, my family and I just drove through Times Square coming to the studios here in midtown, and there are people already gathered there.

And I think that government has a responsibility to secure people and warn people. But at the same time, I don't think we ought to try to scare people because then the terrorists really succeed when we have people in a constant state of panic.

CROWLEY: Reverend, it's a fine line here, particularly for you Democrats, although, as we mentioned, Christopher Shays is a Republican. But one of the things that so many of you have criticized the president for is, in fact, that you feel that the homeland is no more secure than it used to be, and yet you don't want to scare people.

So do you feel that tonight that New York City is as safe as it's ever been or safer? And the country, at large, do you feel that way?

SHARPTON: I think that there are many things that could be done, both with our foreign policy, both with our intelligence gathering, as well as other measures that could better secure the country. But I do not think a responsible thing to do is to tell people to just sit inside and hide.

I was in New York September 11 when the attack happened, so I'm not speaking as one that has not lived under the threat of what happened, the memory of what happened. And many of us still suffer some of the trauma.

But at the same time, I think we must move to a point where we let the world know we are determined to conduct our lives in a normal fashion, but by being more cautious and more prudent. And I think the president has not shown the prudence that any one of us would show. But I do not think the responsible to do, as this congressman is doing, is to try and put out a mass panic.

CROWLEY: Reverend, I want to show our viewers a recent poll out of South Carolina, because it does show you, in fact, in second place, along with Wesley Clark, with Dean just about 4 points-which I believe is within the margin of error of that poll.

What's going on in South Carolina? What do they know about you down there that is not reflected in the polls in some other states?

SHARPTON: I used to live in South Carolina. I've worked diligently there; I've worked diligently around many parts of the country.

I think part of the difference in South Carolina, it's a much more diverse population. I think that they are aware of my leadership and my working with their leaders and their communities, white and black, for many years.

And I think, unlike many other states, they're not impressed with the insiders or with people with money. They listen to message.

So I'm, within the margin of error, tied for first, not only, literally, tied for second.

I might add, though, in the national polls I'm ahead of Edwards, ahead in some polls of Kerry or tied with Kerry.

So when you look at the millions that have been raised compared to the fact that we have not raised the millions but that we are beating many of them both national and clearly in South Carolina, I think message still has a lot more importance than money.

And I might add-and I'm saying this the first time-we're filing today. We have now been able to reach matching funds. I will be qualified for matching funds where we are getting money. And I hope people go to our new Web site, <

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