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Inside Politics

American Losses Mount After Suicide Bombing of USS Cole; Candidates Show Politics Still Stops at Water's Edge

Aired October 13, 2000 - 5:00 p.m. ET


JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: America's loss becomes more clear after the suspected terrorist attack on a U.S. Navy destroyer.



GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That young man with blood on his hands celebrating the death of an Israeli soldier. That kind of action must be condemned.

AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And we're going to stand together and do everything we can to promote peace with security and the right outcome.


WOODRUFF: Amid continued clashes between Israeli troops and Palestinians, the U.S. presidential candidates show their concern and exercise caution. We'll look at the politics of coping with a world crisis in the past and the present.

ANNOUNCER: From Washington, this is INSIDE POLITICS, with Bernard Shaw and Judy Woodruff.

WOODRUFF: Thank you for joining us. Bernie is on assignment.

We begin with latest acts of violence in the Middle East and efforts by political leaders worldwide to seek justice and peace. First, the attack that hit many Americans closest to home: The confirmed death toll from the apparent suicide bombing of a U.S. Navy destroyer rose to seven today. Another 10 missing sailors now are presumed dead after yesterday's explosion at a port in Yemen.


(voice-over): The bodies of five sailors killed in Thursday's presumed terrorist attack on the USS Cole arrived at Ramstein Air Force Base, as FBI agents arrived in Yemen to pursue the investigation. There are no official suspects yet. But officials said several Middle East groups will be investigated.

In Yemen's capital, an explosion blew out windows at the British Embassy. Britain says that a bomb may have been thrown into the embassy grounds. As a precaution, the State Department has closed U.S. embassies and consulates throughout the Middle East in Pakistan and several African nations.


WOODRUFF: CNN's military affairs correspondent Jamie McIntyre joins us now with an update from the Pentagon -- Jamie.

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN MILITARY AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Judy, Pentagon officials are admitting the death toll will be 17 in this incident, because those 10 presumed dead are -- at this point, there is really no hope for them -- so 17 dead as the investigation continues into what appears to be a terrorist attack.

Navy divers today took another close-up looked at the hull of the USS Cole. They discovered that the hole in the side is bigger than they first thought, because they couldn't see what was underneath. It now turns out the hole is 40-by-40 feet. And appears that it was caused by a blast of high explosives of somewhere between 400-500 pounds of high explosive.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon discounted any criticism that sending the U.S. ship into the port in Yemen was a dangerous move and pointed out that the U.S. is getting good cooperation from the government of Yemen.


KEN BACON, PENTAGON SPOKESMAN: We are getting very significant cooperation right now from the government of Yemen in several respects. First, they have helped us with the medical care. And second, they have -- they are providing a lot of security around the port in the city of Aden. And third, they have vowed to be cooperative in the investigation.


MCINTYRE: All of the injured from this incident -- injured sailors -- are now either in Germany in U.S. military hospitals in germany or en route to Germany. Some of the injuries were pretty serious. Three of them were very serious, but doctors ruled that they were stabile enough that they could still be moved to those U.S. facilities in Germany. And by tomorrow, all of the injured will be in Germany.

Plans are under way for later this week -- later next week, rather -- Wednesday of next week -- for a memorial service in Norfolk, Virginia to be attended by the president and top Pentagon officials -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Jamie, how much concern is there in the military that there could be more terrorist attacks. And to what extent are they prepared?

MCINTYRE: Well, there's a lot of concern. There's always been the assessment that it was a question of when such an attack would occur, not if it would occur. The U.S. troops in the region are on a very high state of alert. In fact, all of the U.S. military around the world is on a higher state of alert.

And the Pentagon is looking specifically at the security procedures that were employed in this kind of an operation that was supposed to be a routine refueling stop about whether there are better ways they can protect themselves against a ship that looks to be a friendly ship helping it, that turns out to have a bomb inside. So they are going to be reviewing those procecures.

And meanwhile, all U.S. forces are on a higher state of alert for possible terrorist attack.

WOODRUFF: All right, Jamie McIntrye at the Pentagon.

Well, it is just after midnight now in Yemen, where the attack on the USS Cole took place at the port of Aden.

CNN's Matthew Chance is there.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the FBI legal attache is now in Yemen to really start that process of finding out exactly what happened on Thursday at about 12:00 midday local time, when, according to eyewitnesses, a small craft, a small boat loaded with explosives appeared to ram into the side of the USS Cole -- that story according to eyewitnesses on the scene, as I say.

They also said that in the moments before detonation, they saw two people on that small craft standing to attention. Well, despite those eyewitness reports, U.S. officials here on the ground say they are not prepared at this stage to say that this was deliberate act of terrorism. They say instead they're awaiting the outcome of an investigation to be headed by the FBI into exactly what was the cause, not just of the damage to the ship, but of this heavy loss of life.

And let's remember, a lot of people did die in this apparent attack. The figures from the Pentagon say 17 U.S. servicemen and women were killed in the attack: seven of them confirmed dead, 10 of them missing and presumed dead. So it is a very bloody attack indeed, and one which the authorities here say they are determined to get to the bottom of.

Matthew Chance, CNN, at the port of Aden in Yemen.


WOODRUFF: And now to the violence in the West Bank and Gaza -- and diplomatic efforts to stop the killing. There were new clashes between Israeli troops and Palestinian protestors, who declared an intifada of independence today; 19 Palestinians reportedly were wounded -- this after yesterday's Israeli air strikes on Palestinian targets in response to the mob killing of at least two Israeli reservists.

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said today that he expects an emergency summit aimed at stopping the bloodshed will be held in the next 48 hours.

With the very latest view from the White House, let's go to CNN's John King -- John.

JOHN KING, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Judy, White House officials not ready to say such a summit is a certainty yet, but we are getting indications from senior administration officials that they believe they are on the verge of a breakthrough for a summit early next week in Sharm-el-Sheikh, Egypt.

Now, the president very busy today working the telephones, not only on the Mideast crisis, but also on that apparent terrorist attack on the USS Cole. Mr. Clinton's phone calls included the commanding officer of that ship, as well as the president of Yemen, who we're told promised full cooperation with the U.S. investigation.

Now, on the issue of the Middle East violence between Israelis and Palestinians, U.S. officials want to doublecheck back, they say. The president wants to speak to Prime Minister Ehud Barak and the Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, but they are making plans here at the White House for Mr. Clinton to travel to Egypt on Sunday for meetings that would take place most likely on Monday.

Again, they have reached this point before, only to have disagreements between Mr. Arafat and Mr. Barak over what would be on the agenda for such a meeting -- so the White House not ready to give a firm yes yet. But they do say they -- it is increasingly likely there will be such a summit.

And they believe they will have a announcement of those plans sometime later tonight -- at this hour, the president here meeting with his national security team -- the defense secretary, William Cohen, expected to be on hand, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, National Security Adviser Sandy Berger -- and the vice president, who came back early from a campaign trip today for the second day in a row to take part in these discussions.

His aides say that he believed his place was here at the White House during these deliberations. The White House ssaid it had been keeping the vice president informed while he was out campaigning, but that the president views him as a more-than-welcome addition as these deliberation continues -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: John, what good do officials there really believe a summit can do, when emotions are still running so high in the Middle East?

KING: Relatively modest goals for a summit, if it takes place. And again, it appears most likely now that it will. They say the first thing -- and first and foremost, most important would be just to get Yasser Arafat and Ehud Barak into the same room together. These are two leaders who were on the verge of a peace agreement, in the White House view, back in July, who now have been saying very angry things about each other, pointing the fingers of blame at each other in recent days.

If there are ever to be serious peace negotiations again, the White House believes the first step is to try to calm things down, rebuild trust, and to get the president of the United States, the president of Egypt, perhaps the secretary-general of the United Nations, other key leaders from the Arab world, to make the case to these two men that the only path is peace, that this violence will get them nowhere -- so modest goals -- no one expecting any formal peace negotiations for sometime.

But they would like to get these men together, begin to rebuild some trust. And Mr. Barak wants a firm date for resuming the negotiations as part of any summit. U.S. officials say that would be a key item on the agenda, again, at a meeting that now looks increasingly likely on Monday in Sharm-el-Sheikh, Egypt.

WOODRUFF: All right, John King, reporting from the White House, thanks.

Well, the killing in the Middle East has made presidential campaigning a bit more complicated, both for Al Gore and George W. Bush.

Our senior political correspondent Candy Crowley reports on how global affairs are catching up with the candidates on the trail.


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Politics and bloodshed are an ugly, but often potent mix that requires careful handling. For the second day in a row, Al Gore and George Bush gave statements the other could have written.

BUSH: I continue to be concerned and troubled by the violence in the Middle East. The picture of that young man with blood on his hands celebrating the death of an Israeli soldier, that kind of action must be condemned.

GORE: This is a time of great tension in the Middle East. And it is a time when our country's leadership is needed. And we're going to -- as a nation, we're going to stand together.

CROWLEY: The Middle East is in agony, they are bringing home the bodies of American sailors, and U.S. markets have a case of the jitters. The unpredictable has come into play on the campaign trail.

DAVID GERGEN, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: There is a normal tendency in a campaign, during a crisis, for the country, for the population, to rally around the White House. That may help AL Gore in this campaign. But on the other hand, George W. Bush handled himself so well the other night on foreign policy that I think it fortified him just before this crisis broke.

CROWLEY: The question is: How do they play it? Inside the Gore camp, one staffer said the ongoing crisis would bring into focus Al Gore's qualifications.

GORE: On the way out here, on the airplane, I was visiting with Tom Harkin, and a telephone call came. I'll tell my traveling party that they have called a National Security Council meeting of the principles for 5:00 p.m. So I am going to be leaving from Cedar Rapids to go straight back for that.

CROWLEY: Interestingly, or ironically, Gore cancelled a Detroit meeting with Arab-Americans to make the Washington session. Though pleased to say their candidate established his credibility as an international leader in the last debate, Bush aides will not comment on the politics of the Middle East -- unseemly, according to one. Bush touches only the fringes of the issue, as in his repeated criticism of Al Gore for supporting the use of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to try to avoid a heating oil crunch.

BUSH: Every barrel released today is one less barrel available to protect us against threats to our security, threats that are becoming more vivid with this week's turmoil and violence in the Middle East.

CROWLEY: On the matter of Wall Street's stomach-churning performance, both camps are on more certain political ground. Bush aides says any sign of a weakening economy favors the Texas governor, because it undermines Gore's claim to the good times. But the Gore team insists a weakening economy, should it occur, would only make George Bush's tax cut look more reckless.

Candy Crowley, CNN, Pontiac, Michigan.


WOODRUFF: Still ahead on INSIDE POLITICS, more on the presidential race: the issues, the political attacks and the ad strategies.


WOODRUFF: As Candy Crowley just reported, the presidential candidates turned their attention to the international crisis today. But both Al Gore and George W. Bush also found time to campaign on domestic issues.

Patty Davis reports.


PATTY DAVIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With diplomatic efforts under way to calm the violence in the Middle East, Vice President Al Gore and Texas Governor George W. Bush tried to stick to business on the campaign trail in two key Midwest battleground states. Sticking to business meant attacking each other's records.

Gore, campaigning in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, continued his assault on Bush's Texas record on health care. GORE: He faced a terrible challenge with health care for children. He found the biggest budget surplus in the history of Texas and chose not to aggressively try to solve that problem, chose instead to turn to tax cuts, including tax cuts to oil companies.

DAVIS: Gore charged Bush has been negligent in helping to enroll Texans in Medicaid -- citing a new Kaiser Commission report showing enrollment dropped 7.6 percent from 1997 to 1999 in Texas, compared to a 2.3 percent rise nationally. The Bush campaign shot back, saying that Texas has made significant progress enrolling children in the last year.

Bush drove his point home in Gore territory -- Pontiac, Michigan -- chiding Gore for supporting in a book an end to the gas-guzzling internal combustion engine found in most every car produced in Michigan.

BUSH: I doubt he mentions this when he comes to Michigan. In speeches, he calls autoworkers his friends. But in his book, he declares that power -- the engines that power your cars are his enemy.

DAVIS: Bush was trying to score points with the union members, crucial for a Gore victory in Michigan, just a week after Gore had campaigned in the more Republican-leaning Grand Rapids. Friday, the Democratic National Committee released new ads attacking Bush's Texas record and said that theme will continue to Election Day.


NARRATOR: Did you hear George W. Bush claiming he's helping kids? Who's he kidding?


DAVIS: The verbal volleys set the stage, as both Gore and Bush prepare to head into their third and final debate next week in a town- hall-style meeting.

(on camera): It's a format both campaigns say their candidates are comfortable with. The Gore campaign, however, is planning a mock town-hall debate to prepare the vice president. The Bush campaign says Bush will review past debates and bone up on the issues.

Patty Davis, CNN, Cedar Rapids, Iowa.


WOODRUFF: Twenty-five days before the election, our daily tracking poll shows Bush and Gore are dead-even. But that does not fully reflect the effect, if any, of Wednesday's presidential debate. Both candidates have 45 percent support in the CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup survey. Only about one-third of the interviews with likely voters for this poll were conducted after the second Bush-Gore debate.

Now, we will get a better sense how -- or if -- the debate influenced voters in the coming days. And now we want to take a look at advertising spending and strategy in the presidential race with David Peeler of Competitive Media Reporting, who tracks political ads in the top 75 media markets.

David, hello there.


WOODRUFF: How has the candidates' spending changed over the last couple of weeks?

PEELER: Well, Judy, we have finally seen a rather dramatic shift in the last two weeks. We've seen the RNC and the Bush campaign combine to spend about $12 million over the last two weeks, as compared to the Gore's campaign of $7.1 million. Now, you will recall, in the two weeks leading up to these past two weeks, both campaigns had been sending about the same amount of money.

They had spent 8.7 and 8.8 respectively. So we've seen an increase in the Republican spending and a slight decrease in Al Gore's spending. I suspect that this is probably due to the fact that you'll recall that during the summer, the Gore campaign had to go on air during the convention in order to close the 10-point lead that Governor Bush had at the time. And it was very successful.

So now I think they're taking a little bit of a breather, becasue they are both going to have to spend at an accelerated rate, as we get to the two weeks leading up to the election.

WOODRUFF: Well, in which states are you seeing this change in spending patterns?

PEELER: Well, you know, that's the real story here. What you have to look at is that, in the 19 states that George Bush has been spending in, he's increased his spending in 15 of those states. Those are the key battleground states of Missouri, Pennsylvania, Washington, Michigan -- and even some spending in California, which we suspsect is in order to get Al Gore to spend some money, some of his resource there.

He has decreased his spending in Kentucky. I think he feels that he's pretty comfortable in his lead there. And he's pulled out of Illinois, which is new. That's in comparison to what we see in the Gore campaign. In the 17 states that Al Gore's been spending in, he has decreased in eight of those states. That's actually eight states that the governer has -- Governor Bush has increased his spending in.

Gore has increased in the states of New Hampshire and Oregon. He is also off in Illinois. I think he feels comfortable in Illinois. And he's off in Kentucky. Both candidates, interestingly enough, have added a couple of new states: both Tennessee and the state of Nevada. So that's a shift that we haven't seen up to now. As we look out over the next couple of weeks, I think, from a media tactics standpoint, obviously the events of the past two days will have some effect.

If you are a media strategist, you have an issue here in that you probably don't know how to play the events of the last two days from a media standpoint, so you are going to sit back, you're going to have to look at the polls and wait until next week, when perhaps there is some resolution to some of these issues, and you can start figuring out what to do in terms of the advertising.

WOODRUFF: I would say there's a lot of waiting going on right now.

All right, David Peeler, thanks very much.

PEELER: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: Well, Democratic -- excuse me -- Democratic vice presidential hopeful, Joe Lieberman, criticized the Bush record, as he continued his campaign swing through Texas. As we open the election 2000 "Family Album," Lieberman visited a colonia in South Texas today, saying the poverty in a time of budget surpluses raises questions about the priorities of the Texas governor.

Now, earlier this week, Lieberman's wife, Hadassah, was on the trail in Portland, Maine. Her focus: early childhood education and the efforts of the Democratic ticket to support Head Start programs. Meantime, Lynne Cheney, wife of the Republican vice presidential hopeful, made a swing through Florida this week. Among her stops: the Ft. Pierce Magnet School for the Arts. At the same time, her husband, Dick Cheney, greeted supporters in New Mexico, where he climbed on board one of the hot air balloons at an annual festival in Albuquerque.

INSIDE POLITICS will be right back.


WOODRUFF: Ralph Nader won a small victory in Ohio today when a federal judge ruled that his Green Party designation must be listed on the ballot. The Green Party presidential hopeful sued after the secretary of state ordered Nader listed as an independent with no party label. The secretary of state planned to ask for a stay and a Saturday hearing to appeal the ruling.

Meanwhile, Nader plans to meet with supporters and celebrities at a so-called "super rally" at Madison Square Garden in New York tonight. Susan Sarandon, Tim Robbins and Phil Donahue are among the rally's special guests.

And there is much more ahead on this edition of INSIDE POLITICS. Still to come: the latest on the situation in the Middle East, with CNN's Christiane Amanpour. Plus: the politics of global policy and the impact on the presidential race.

And later:


MARK POTTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: With its braided rivers, rugged mountains and coastal plain, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, known as ANWR, is one of America's most spectacluar and untamed places, still barely touched by man.


WOODRUFF: Mark Potter on the pristine land at the center of the oil debate.


WOODRUFF: At the White House today, the flag flies at half-staff in memory of the 17 sailors confirmed or presumed dead after the apparent terrorist attack on their ship, the USS Cole.

In Germany today, the bodies of five of those dead sailors arrived at the U.S. Air Base in Ramstein en route to the United States. The Pentagon says President Clinton is expected to attend a memorial to the sailors at their home base in Virginia this coming Wednesday.

U.S. investigators now are in Yemen to inspect the USS Cole to try to determine who may have been behind the attack that blew a large hole in the ship's hull.

At the White House today, senior officials say they believe an agreement is near for an emergency summit aimed at stopping the latest clashes between Israeli troops and Palestinians. And the United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan say that such a summit could be held in the next 48 hours.


KOPPEL (voice-over): A day of intense diplomacy as world leaders try to convene an emergency Arab-Israeli summit this weekend. And simmering violence, as Yasser Arafat's Fatah Party declared an "intifada of independence." and Israeli troops went on maximum alert and sealed off the West Bank and Gaza.

In Ramallah, Palestinian police and Israeli soldiers exchanged gunfire at a checkpoint. And Israeli tanks fired at a building. In Gaza, Palestinian protesters burned a hotel and several bars. And in Jerusalem security forces barred men under 45 from the mosques to try to prevent any flare-ups.

Today's violence follows yesterday's eruption when a Palestinian mob killed at least two Israeli reservists, and Israel responded with rocket attacks. The troubles echoed in this country as well: in New York an estimated 10,000 pro-Palestinian demonstrators marched on the United Nations.


WOODRUFF: And now for the latest from the Middle East we go live to CNN's Christiane Amanpour in Jerusalem -- Christiane.

AMANPOUR: Well, Judy, as you mentioned a day of intense diplomacy and a reduced level of confrontation. On the diplomatic side, the Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who's been in the region for days now, told us a short while ago after he had yet another meeting with the Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat, that Yasser Arafat said that he is accepting in principle the idea of a summit, but that he needs to further consult with his own leadership.

And we were told by the secretary-general's spokesman that Arafat would get back to the secretary-general on the issue of whether he would attend a summit tonight. In the meantime, the secretary-general also holding yet more meetings with the Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak.

As we said, the level of confronting between Palestinian demonstrators and Israeli troops much reduced today. Certainly much less than yesterday and in fact any day over the past two weeks. There were incidents after Friday prayers, for instance, in Jerusalem when Palestinian demonstrators starting throwing stones as they often do at Israeli forces.

There was a running battle that was captured by Israeli television and some dramatic photos showing Israeli undercover agents in plain clothes grabbing some of the Palestinian youths and beating them before letting them go.

This after a day, as I said, low-level confrontations between Palestinians and the Israeli forces. But the emphasis tonight here is on diplomacy. All eyes and ears are waiting for news as to whether or not there will be a summit scheduled in the next day or so -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Christiane, very disturbing pictures we were looking at there while you were talking. I want to ask you the same thing I asked John King earlier in the program. And that is: Do people there believe that there is much good can come out of a summit when emotions are still running so high there? So many people are still so angry about what's happened.

AMANPOUR: Well, really, the views that are divided on this issue. Some people who desperately want to hope, want to hang onto the notion that the peace process is still alive and there is still kind of a negotiated way out of this confrontation and this crisis believe that good can come when both sides sit down and talk together.

On the other hand, there are those who believe that the peace process does not have much life left in it. Some on the Israeli side are very disappointed and on the Palestinian side as well. So there's conflicting views amongst the peoples and at the same time a great amount of pressure being put on the leaders of both sides.

WOODRUFF: All right, CNN's Christiane Amanpour reporting from Jerusalem. Thanks.

Amid the crisis in the Middle East, many Americans also have been keeping an eye on Wall Street. Stock prices rebounded today with the Dow Jones Industrial average closing up more than 157 points after a more than 300 point sell-off the day before. CNN's Bruce Morton looks at the possible political implications of economic and global volatility.


BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Middle East crackles with gunfire. The stock market plunges. How will they affect an election now less than four weeks off? Hard to tell, if history is a guide.

Americans re-elected Franklin Roosevelt to lead the country in World War II, elected Dwight Eisenhower to end an unpopular war in Korea. But American troops fought in those wars; that's not likely to happen in the Middle East.

SCOWCRAFT: The Middle East has been -- has played a role in a couple of elections. In 1980 there was the issue of the Iranian hostages, the U.S. hostages held by Iran, which definitely affected the campaign and the election.

MORTON: True. Iran freed the hostages as Ronald Reagan was being sworn in as president. But the economy went sour under Carter, too, and that had as much to do with electing Reagan as anything else. He ordered a victorious U.S. invasion of tiny Grenada in 1983, but his re-election campaign in 1984 was all about prosperity. "It's morning in America," the ads announced.


NARRATOR: More people are buying new homes and our new families can have confidence in the future.



GEORGE BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This aggression will not stand.


MORTON: And talk about international policy successes. Reagan's successor, George Bush, announced he'd roll back Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait and he did. If that weren't enough, the Berlin Wall came down, the Cold War ended.

SCOWCRAFT: Almost any time a president uses force, at least initially, there is a burst of support.

MORTON: True. Bush's popularity soared off the charts as the Gulf War ended. But then it came down again, and in 1992 the voters chose Bill Clinton, whose adviser James Carville had proclaimed, "It's the economy, stupid."

And this time they've talked international policy, using a word Ronald Reagan never did. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE, OCTOBER 11, 2000)

GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If we're an arrogant nation, they'll view us that way. But if we're a humble nation they'll respect us.



AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There is some resentment of U.S. power, so I think that the idea of humility is an important one.


MORTON: The deployment of U.S. troops in the Middle East would change everything. But no one expects that, not in Israel, not in response to the seeming terrorist attack on a U.S. destroyer.

(on camera): Instability in the Middle East could lead to a shortage of oil, gas lines, high prices and so on, but the election will be over before the voters felt serious economic effects. The events in the Middle East are shocking, but education and health care are closer to home.

Bruce Morton, CNN, Washington.


WOODRUFF: Up next, in any event, international events shape the political "Play of the Week."


WOODRUFF: International events have not only dominated the news over the last two days, they have overshadowed politics here at home.

With more on that, we turn to our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider -- Bill.

SCHNEIDER: Judy, the rule used to be, politics stops at the water's edge, especially during the Cold War, when the international situation was too serious for political maneuvering.

Well this week, the world situation again turned deadly serious. And guess what? Politics stopped. The political "Play of the Week" was played by the old rules.


(voice-over): World affairs took up the first half of Wednesday night's debate. Notice how the tone became kinder...

BUSH: And if we're an arrogant nation, they'll view us that way, but if we're a humble nation they'll respect us. JIM LEHRER, MODERATOR: A humble nation?

GORE: I agree with that. I agree with that.

SCHNEIDER: ... and gentler.

BUSH: I want to be judicious as to how we use the military. It needs to be in our vital interests, the mission needs to be clear and the extra strategy obvious.

GORE: Well, I don't disagree with that.

SCHNEIDER: Well, sure. It was all part of both men's political strategy. Bush wanted to look weightier, Gore wanted to lighten up. But the very next morning, what was hypothetical in the debate turned into brutal reality: terrible images and terrible words, lynching, war, terrorism.

The political war was suspended while a real battle was going on.

BUSH: It's time for our nation to speak with one voice. I appreciate the administration's efforts to bring calm to that troubled part of the world.

SCHNEIDER: Political strategists immediately started asking, who's helped, who's hurt by the international crisis. It steps on the pro-Bush spin coming out of a strong debate performance, but it makes it harder for the Democrats to unleash Al Gore.

On the other hand, the crisis enables the vice president to rise above the image that he's totally driven by politics.

GORE: I'm going to get back to politics in just a moment, but I would like to ask all of you to hear me for a few moments now on a serious subject about which there is no political division anywhere in our country. I want to ask you to join with me in a moment silence and prayer.

SCHNEIDER: OK, gamester's said, but if the stock market volatility and the deteriorating international situation make people feel less confident, that would hurt Gore's chances.

The answer is: Nobody knows what these events mean for the campaign.

World events are serious, tragic and beyond the candidates' control. We do know who's helped by all this: the voters.

For the time being, the candidates have stopped squabbling. The tone of the campaign has been elevated. Crisis has brought the candidates and the country together. Once again, politics has stopped at the water's edge. That's no small achievement. In fact, it's the political "Play of the Week."

(END VIDEOTAPE) SCHNEIDER: In effect, world crisis freezes the campaign at a dead heat in the polls. Now is that a bad thing? It gives the voters a chance to consider their choices seriously without a lot of distracting campaign noise -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right, Bill Schneider, thanks very much.

And joining us now, David Brooks of "The Weekly Standard" and E.J. Dionne of "The Washington Post."

I want to ask you both, we just heard Bill say there's no way to know how these developments in the Middle East will affect this presidential campaign. But, E.J., to start with you, what would it take for there -- and I'm assuming you agree with that -- what would it take for events over there to affect the outcome of this race?

E.J. DIONNE, "THE WASHINGTON POST": I was thinking during Bill's piece, there are three ways in which this will affect the campaign, and none of us knows what they are. And so I agree with the premise.

I think you did have a couple of effects that Bill alluded to. I think that if you looked at the last debate, the real action and the effect in the polls came after the debate, when the Bush campaign very successfully spun the story about Gore telling small, doing small embellishments, and I think that the Gore people were raring to go about Texas and about some other elements of Gore -- of Bush's debate performance and some of the issues. And they were kind of stopped from doing that.

I think that, obviously, if you -- we suddenly committed troops, which no one anticipates, if there were a full-scale war. But even then, I don't think we know what the effect is because it's the rallying-around-the-flag affect on the one side, which would help Gore, versus the if Gore is the candidate of peace and process prosperity, what happened to peace and prosperity.


DAVID BROOKS, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": Yes, I really think that it could affect the election in quite a vital way. Usually, we're in the descent of the election. All of the arguments have been made, all the ads have been cut and we sort of repeat it over and over again.

But here we've got this event, this huge event, two events really. What happens -- you know, now the two campaigns are agreement, sort of a vague agreement, but what happens -- why is that necessary? Why is that inevitable? In fact, it's not. We could have a retaliation against the terrorists, assuming there are terrorists, and that could open up real policy differences.

In the Middle East, somebody could say, you know, we're honest brokers between Arafat and the Israelis. But why are we honest brokers? One of them is interested in peace, one of them isn't. There are real policy differences here, and one of the campaigns could decide, hey, we're behind. We've got to come out, and we're going to break this logjam. This -- we're going to come out and make point, and then the other campaign is going to have to respond.

DIONNE: Although I think that becomes more difficult after this week's debate. George Bush made a strategic decision, which is probably wise, to hug the Clinton administration foreign policy so as to not make foreign policy an issue. I think it would be very hard for him to break out of that. And Al Gore said I agree with Bush too many times to break out of it easily himself.

But I'm not sure voters would reward that. That is to say, I don't think the issues here cut the electorate in a way that would leave somebody with a clear advantage.

BROOKS: But if you're behind, and especially if you're Al Gore, and you don't see any way to get in front, then this opens the door for you. You could say, hey, I'm breaking with the administration. I'm going to be more pro-Israeli than they are. This is my play. You know, foreign policy is not out of politics. We always have debates about foreign policy. It's a legitimate way to debate.

WOODRUFF: E.J., you mentioned that after the first debate, the Bush campaign was able to capitalize on some of Gore's mistakes. Was anyone prevented from doing what they would have liked to have done after the second debate?

DIONNE: Well, I think -- I mean, the Gore people are clearly trying with the Texas record. They've also tried to push very hard on the point saying, well, Gore may have embellished on this or that, but Bush embellished on how many people were executed in Texas for the crime down there. And, you know, they're trying to get that point out, and I suspect it might have an affect. At least the Gore embellishment stories have stopped this week.

But I think the news -- there is less news to get into because so much of the news is dominated by these other very large stories.

BROOKS: Yes, it's really bad for us pundits because you get the debate and then you get the punditizing. But the pundits is overshadowed by these large events. So what people saw on the night is the permanent judgment.

DIONNE: And very few people watched that debate. I think that's a really striking...

WOODRUFF: Thirty-seven million-plus, with PBS and C-SPAN.

DIONNE: Right, which is, you know, which is a huge amount of people, but is about a third of the electorate we're likely to have, which means an awful lot of people were going to react to that debate from the news, and there wasn't that much news about it.

WOODRUFF: Is either candidate -- I mean, David, assuming things don't get resolved in the Middle East -- we have uncertainties, and granted we don't know what's going to happen, clearly, so we're only speculating -- is either candidate just automatically helped by the fact that there is an international crisis? BROOKS: No, traditionally Republicans have been benefited from international crises, but I don't think that's quite true here because Al Gore has more experience. What we do see is a contrasting set of styles. Al Gore is his own foreign policy adviser. George W. Bush gets these gravitas implants from Colin Powell and Norman Schwarzkopf. the whole Henry Kissinger crew. So you do get a legitimate choice in how people run foreign policy, but it's hard to see any clear advantage one way or the other.

DIONNE: I think it was very important to Bush that he looked better on foreign policy in the second debate than he did on the first debate. I think if he had looked as he did in the first debate, a little unsteady, then this war -- not the -- threat of war, the violence in the Middle East, would have put him at a real disadvantage. Gore doesn't have the option of going after him as easily as he might have.

WOODRUFF: You commented, E.J., that the number of people watching the second debate was down. David, what about the third debate? I mean, we've said each one of these debates is important. This one's a town hall format. Does it raise the stakes for the third? Is it about the same, or because of the smaller audience is it less of a factor?

BROOKS: It's going to be kind of weird, because town hall formats, where the candidates are dealing with "real people," as we now call them, usually they try to be like the Easter Bunny. You want to be kind and nice to the people. You don't want to be vicious. So we've...

WOODRUFF: But we've already had a nice debate.

BROOKS: Right, so we're sick of that. So in the last...

BATTISTA: Back to the vicious.

BROOKS: In the last 20 minutes or 30 minutes of the last debate, we saw Gore getting more aggressive, looking a little worse, I thought, but Bush also looking worse because he reacts badly. So there's going to be a tendency, if Gore thinks he's behind, to sort of upset the normal format of a town hall debate and be much more aggressive.

DIONNE: I think what you're seeing is Gore trying to find the right balance. In the first debate, he was too aggressive. In the second debate, he was so concerned about being too aggressive that he, I think, stopped himself in the first 45 minutes of that debate, and he only discovered his rhythm well into it.

BATTISTA: All right, we're going to leave it there.

E.J. Dionne, David Brooks, thank you both. We'll see you next week.

All right, and when we return, a closer look at a debate issue. Mark Potter on the politics of oil in Alaska. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: During both presidential debate, Al Gore and George W. Bush sparred over the issue of drilling for oil in Alaska. At the center of the debate, a protracted -- protected, that is, parcel of land in the Alaskan wilderness.

CNN's Mark Potter takes a closer look.


MARK POTTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Fenton Rexford, an Inupiat Eskimo, prepares for the autumn whale hunt in the Arctic Ocean.

Like many villagers in Kaktovik, Alaska, he still clings to the age-old tradition of hunting for food. But in other ways, Kaktovik is very different now than it was just a few decades ago, when it was a collection of unheated shacks with no electricity or running water.

There are new homes, a police department, a modern school, health care and other services. The reason: oil.

(on camera): So how do you look at oil?

FENTON REXFORD, INUPIAT ESKIMO: Keeps me warm. Keeps me warm and keeps my outboard running to go after our food from the sea, from the ocean.

POTTER: In fact, Fenton Rexford is not only a whale hunter, he's chairman of Kaktovik's village corporation, an Eskimo company that owns 92,000 acres of coastal tundra, which Rexford wants to develop.

REXFORD: I want the oil, I want the gas, natural gas. If I had the power to do it, I'd go out and drill right now.

POTTER: And that has put Rexford and his fellow Eskimo at odds with another native Alaskan culture, the Gwich'in Indians, who live 100 miles away on the south edge of the refuge. They, too, are hunters and fear oil development will threaten their way of life and ruin the land they hold sacred.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In our language, we call it the sacred place where life begins.

POTTER: With its braided rivers, rugged mountains and coastal plain, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, known as ANWR, is one of America's most spectacular and untamed places, still barely touched by man.

Its narrow coastal plain is also the calving ground for a 130,000-strong migratory caribou herd.

JAMIE RAPPAPORT CLARK, DIR., U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE: The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is just an incredible jewel. It is the wildest place left in America. SEN. FRANK MURKOWSKI (R), ALASKA: They don't accept the responsibility of where our oil is going to come from. Well, is it going to come from Colombia or is it going to come from Saddam Hussein? That's not in their ballpark. It happens to be in mine.


WOODRUFF: For Mark Potter's full report on the future of the wildlife refuge, watch "CNN & TIME" this Sunday on 9:00 p.m. Eastern.

And that's all for this edition of INSIDE POLITICS.

But, of course, you can go online all the time at CNN's

And later on CNN, an unconventional look at election 2000, a CNN "NEWSSTAND" special, with CNN senior analyst Jeff Greenfield. That's tonight at 10:00 Eastern.

And be sure to tune in Sunday at noon Eastern for a special two- hour "LATE EDITION," focusing on the extraordinary events of the past couple days. Defense Secretary William Cohen is among the guests.

I'm Judy Woodruff. "WORLDVIEW" is next.



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