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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Interview With Senator Dianne Feinstein

Aired August 19, 2003 - 20:29   ET

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

PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: The Justice Department today gave its blessing to the scheduled October 7 recall balloting in California. In an opinion requested by a federal judge, the Justice Department dismissed claims that the early election date would hurt Spanish- speaking voters. Backers of the election hope to oust California Governor Gray Davis.
Just moments ago, the incumbent governor spoke at UCLA about the recall drive and admitted to making some mistakes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. GRAY DAVIS (D), CALIFORNIA: I'm not looking for praise. We made our share of mistakes. And like you, I wish I had known then all I know now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: Earlier, I spoke with Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, a supporter of Gray Davis'. I asked her whether she thinks tonight's speech is a make-or-break appeal.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: No, I don't think so. And I'll tell you why. I don't think this is about one speech. I think this is about governance. I think this is about interrupting a term nine months after an election because you don't like something that someone has done politically. And we're, you know, a government by term, as opposed to a parliamentary democracy, and I think this is a harbinger of some very bad days to come if it's successful. And so the process, in my view, is a flawed process. And so I am hopeful that people will vote no on recall. It's the wrong thing to do.

ZAHN: You are so conversant on the intricacies of what's going on in your home state. If a Republican ends up being a governor through this recall process, will you regret having made the decision you made?

FEINSTEIN: You mean not to run?

ZAHN: Yes.

FEINSTEIN: No. I don't regret having made it. You know, I've been in the Senate now for 10 years. I finally accomplished some seniority, I hope some credibility. I know my state. I've run statewide four times now. I love this state. I want to work for it. And I simply feel my talents can best be used in the United States Senate.

Plus I'd have a real interest in national security matters now, and intelligence related matters. So it's a little different. There is something about a five-week election for a state that's bigger than 21 states plus the District of Columbia, the sixth largest economic engine on Earth, that if you can have a governor elected who has never been to each of the 58 counties, who has never had to meet with, deal with the multitude of interests in California, it's hard to believe that you're going to have a positive solution out of this. And that's what really worries me.

ZAHN: There are a number of Americans who feel that Arnold Schwarzenegger would not have run if you had decided to put your name into the ring. Are you fearful if he becomes governor, you're going to be blamed for his being there?

FEINSTEIN: You mean because I didn't run I'd get blamed? I don't think so. I don't think people would do that. And I don't know that Mr. Schwarzenegger was not going to run if I did. I just don't know that.

ZAHN: So you don't think that's the case?

FEINSTEIN: You may say that -- that might have been true of Mr. Bustamante. He might not have run if I ran.

But it wasn't the right thing to do. You know, I couldn't go out there for myself and say, "vote no on recall, but Mr. and Mrs. California, in case you don't, vote for me." I just couldn't do that. And a lot of people wanted me to do it. A lot of people thought that was an insurance policy. But it wasn't the right thing to do, and I don't want to get anywhere the wrong way. I don't mind a tough, long campaign. If I'm going to run for governor, I'll run the regular way.

ZAHN: Do you see any scenario over the next month or so where Democratic officials will go to Gray Davis and say, this isn't going to happen for you, at least let the lieutenant governor have a chance here?

FEINSTEIN: This is a very fluid, very volatile situation. And volatility is not what we need to have an economy rebound. Volatility is not what we need to solve structural budget deficit. It's hard, pragmatic thinking, and then the ability to knock heads together, to get the solution through a legislature. That's what we need. And that's what I want to see this governor do. If he does it in the next couple of weeks, I think we'll see the polls change. If he doesn't, then what you're saying may be appropriate at some time.

ZAHN: Volatility was in abundance in the Middle East today as well.

FEINSTEIN: Oh, yes.

ZAHN: It became abundantly clear when we saw the loss of life in Iraq and in Jerusalem today. What is it that the United States is going to have to confront in the next month or so?

FEINSTEIN: It's a very sad, it's a very hard circumstance. I think this kind of terrorism, you either get them or they get you. And I think that's where we are right now. So intelligence, added security, other nations, and I think the condemnation of the world body. I think the United Nations Security Council really has to take action here, with a very hard-nosed resolution, and offer to the United States all the help they can give.

ZAHN: Senator Feinstein, good of you to spend some time with us this evening. Thank you very much for dropping by.

FEINSTEIN: Thank you, happy to do it, Paula.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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