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Newsroom/World View

NEWSROOM for December 13, 2000

Aired December 13, 2000 - 4:30 a.m. ET


ANNOUNCER: Seen in classrooms the world over, this is CNN NEWSROOM.

RUDI BAKHTIAR, CO-HOST: Hello and welcome to CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Rudi Bakhtiar.

SHELLEY WALCOTT, CO-HOST: And I'm Shelley Walcott. Here's a look at the rundown.

BAKHTIAR: First on our agenda, the latest in the race for the U.S. White House.

WALCOTT: Then, get ready to care of business in today's "Desk." Find out how the national debt affects you.

BAKHTIAR: Be sure to take notes in "Worldview" as we examine the history of a conflict.

WALCOTT: Finally, we shift our focus to the media to "Chronicle" their political predictions throughout election 2000.

BAKHTIAR: The United States Supreme Court has reversed the Florida high court decision to order a statewide recount of undervotes in the presidential election. The justices are sending the case back to the Florida Supreme Court asking it to develop a statewide standard to count the vote.

Charles Bierbauer translated the decision for CNN viewers shortly after it was made.


CHARLES BIERBAUER, CNN SR. WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: "The recount cannot be conducted in compliance with the requirements of equal protection and due process without substantial, additional work." Going on to say, "It would require not only the adoption" -- in parentheses -- "(after opportunity for argument) of adequate statewide standards for determining what is a legal vote and practicable procedures to implement them."

And then it says, "But there should also be orderly judicial review of any disputed matters that might arise," bearing in mind that there is within the Florida Constitution and within the election procedures room for some judicial review. That was a concern raised by the Gore attorneys here.

The two things seem to be -- have been given at least some balance here in that the Bush attorneys, the Bush argument was that equal protection should come before this court and should be required by this court in the Florida count, and by the Gore attorneys that there should be some allowance for judicial review, which is what the Florida state Supreme Court did. But the heavier hand here would certainly seem to lie on the side of making sure that there is a uniform standard. That says you've got to come up with another plan and you don't have a whole lot of time to do it down in Florida.

But we do know that, as we've been saying many times, that Dec. 12 was not the magic date, it was a date on the calendar when something should have happened but didn't have to happen.


WALCOTT: The United States Supreme Court ruling on whether to allow the ballot counts in Florida to resume not only will affect the outcome of election 2000, but it may affect how Americans perceive the court itself.

Garrick Utley has that story.


GARRICK UTLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): What is it that makes this third branch of government, the one we never see in action, special? The justices of the Supreme Court are not elected and can serve for life, and are therefore, in theory, above politics. But how Bush vs. Gore is settled may determine whether there will be true finality and closure.

PROF. SAMUEL ISSACHAROFF. COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: This will be a challenge to Chief Justice Rehnquist's stewardship. If the court has to decide this case, the worst thing that could happen is that it would split 5-4 along the predictable conservative-liberal lines.

PROTESTERS: Count all the votes!

UTLEY: And yet, as those who demonstrated outside the court as well as others who watch and wait know, that's the way the court is frequently split.

The American public seems ready to give the Supreme Court the benefit of any partisan doubts. In a survey conducted on the eve of the hearing, support for the Bush and Gore positions on a recount was nearly dead even. But 72 percent of the same people said they felt the ruling, whatever it would be, would be fair.

FRANK NEWPORT, GALLUP POLL EDITOR-IN-CHIEF: Despite their personal preferences which still split even, the public is telling us, let's get on with it, and if the Supreme Court says otherwise, even if its against my own position, I'm willing to live with it.

UTLEY: Throughout its history, the Supreme Court has gone through periods which were considered activist and politically liberal. Today, it is generally seen as more conservative and less activist. Seven of the nine justices were appointed by Republican presidents.

(on camera): Which raises a question: If the Supreme Court in effect decides this election, it means it will determine who the next president will be, who in turn will be able to name who the next Supreme Court justices will be, which gives a new definition to the constitutional concept of separation of powers.

(voice-over): The justices themselves know what is at stake.

ISSACHAROFF: They really have to preserve their institutional integrity. If they are perceived as acting in a partisan fashion, it will be a tremendous mark against the court for many, many years to come.

UTLEY: And perceptions could be crucial.




UTLEY: For on January 20, there will be the chief justice giving the oath of office to the man who will be the next president because of a Supreme Court ruling.

In the end, there will be two opinions in this case: one from the Supreme Court, the other the public's opinion on what the court has done. Neither can be appealed.

Garrick Utley, CNN, New York.



What should the new president do first?



ROB DANIELS, SOFTWARE SALES: convince the country that everything's back in order and he's ready to go about doing the job of being a president, put the election stuff behind him and just move forward.

DENNIS COGAN, BANKER: Try to get the country together and work together and not have partisan politics.

DARLENE CAVALIER, PUBLISHING: I think the first step he should take is to make sure he can sort of legitimize his presidency in some way by unifying the country. I don't know how he's going to do it, but there must be a way.

MARC FERRANTI, JOURNALISM: I think appointing a member of the opposite party to his cabinet might be a good for a first step.

ROBIN PATTERSON, TELEVISION PRODUCTION: I think whomever should win should really apologize to the people about the whole situation, because I'm sick and tired of it, actually.

RANDY ZISLER, INVESTMENT BANKER: Study ways of reforming the system, and that's the first thing he needs to do.

NORMAN LEVY, SALES MANAGER: Pray, pray, because he's going to have a very difficult time. The country's very evenly divided.


BAKHTIAR: In the headlines today, we follow U.S. President Bill Clinton to Ireland for what is expected to be his final presidential mission abroad before leaving office. There for his third official visit, the U.S. president is trying to keep the peace process alive in Northern Ireland.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): IRA guns like these shown in a training video a few years ago are at the center of a row that is threatening to undermine progress in Northern Ireland's 1998 peace agreement.

Since President Bill Clinton's last visit here soon after that agreement, the pro-British Ulster Unionist Party agreed to form a multiparty government including the political wing of the IRA, Sinn Fein, on the expectation the IRA would scrap its guns. That was more than a year ago.

Ulster Unionist Party support has been dwindling since they made the compromise. And last month, their leader and first minister of the Assembly, David Trimble, barred Sinn Fein ministers from meeting Irish counterparts. The so-called cross-border bodies are part of the 1998 peace agreement and are seen as vital by Sinn Fein, who are now taking David Trimble to court.

The IRA's only concession so far, to have its secret weapons dumps inspected twice, fall short of Unionist demands.

(on camera): Popular support is vital for all parties in Northern Ireland's complex political equation. The British government see their role as keeping the peace process on track. However, Sinn Fein say they are biased in favor of the Unionists and say the British government has failed to deliver on its commitments, like scaling back on military installations.

(voice-over): Sinn Fein also say the British government is failing on another plank of the 1998 peace agreement, that of reforms of the mostly Protestant police force, the Royal Ulster Constabulary. GERRY ADAMS, SINN FEIN PRESIDENT: People on the ground, ordinary people, are questioning what's in this for them in terms of their entitlements to a decent policing service, in terms of their right to be freed up from British military occupation.

ROBERTSON: Most people here hope President Clinton's visit will help them. And while their politicians have been dampening expectations of a quick-fix solution, many are hoping the good will he has generated on previous visits will be repeated, creating the space for more political compromise.

Nic Robertson, CNN, Belfast, Northern Ireland.


BAKHTIAR: OK, what happens when you spend more money than you make? Well, usually you wind up borrowing money. People often borrow money from a bank or someone they know. And usually it's understood the money will get paid back. But what happens when you can't pay back the money you borrow? Well, when you're the U.S. federal government, guess who comes to the rescue. That's right, you and me, the general public.

Every year since 1969, Congress has spent more money than it has taken in. And that means it's had to borrow money to make up the difference. The amount borrowed is referred to as the national debt. Just recently, the federal debt was calculated to be nearly $6 trillion.

Patty Davis reports on how the growing national debt impacts consumers and what should be done to pay it off.


PATTY DAVIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): If your credit debt is mounting and you suddenly come into a lot of money, would you pay off your debt?

With the federal government taking in much more in taxes than its spending, President Clinton announced the government has paid down it's debt.

WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Three- hundred and sixty billion dollars in debt reduction over the last three years.

DAVIS: There's still more than $3 trillion to go, but at this rate the president says the U.S. could be debt-free by 2012.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The national debt is much higher than it needs to be.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think if we have a debt and we have some extra money, we should pay off our debt.

DAVIS: Some economists say paying back the debt has a direct impact on consumers: lower interest rates for things like mortgages and car loans.

DIANE SWONK, CHIEF ECONOMIST, BANK ONE: As the government pays down the debt, that's one factor holding interest rates down, because they don't need to raise funds anymore, so the price of their funds goes down.

DAVIS: But not everyone is a believer.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A large part of it, in my judgment, ought to come back to the taxpayers, who have obviously overpaid for so many years.

DAVIS: What was also obvious for so many years was the rapidly rising debt on display in New York's Times Square. With good economic times, the debt clock has been taken down. Just in case, it hasn't been thrown away.

Patty Davis, CNN, Chicago.


WALCOTT: In "Worldview" today, we turn to the Middle East, where the mayor of Bethlehem is appealing to Christians to come celebrate Christmas in the city revered as the birthplace of Jesus Christ. Tourism has dropped off in the 11 weeks since the start of a Palestinian uprising. More than 300 people have been killed in the violence. Conflict, though, is nothing new in that area.

BAKHTIAR: The fighting in Israeli-occupied territories is part of a continuum, each episode leading to another. What follows is a look back over half a century of conflict by an Israeli military analyst and an Israeli leader. This is not a debate, playing one side against another, but an attempt at depth perception using two eyes instead of one.

Richard Blystone reports from Jerusalem on the anatomy of a conflict.



NARRATOR: In Palestine, an impasse that affects the whole world.


RICHARD BLYSTONE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): World War II over, memories of the Holocaust fresh, Jews from postwar Europe join Jewish natives of Palestine, fighting for their Zionist dream of security in a Jewish state in their ancestral homeland.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Soviet Union, yes. United Kingdom, abstain.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BLYSTONE: The United Nations' vote to partition Palestine, run by Britain under international mandate, is rejected by the indigenous Palestinian-Arab majority as a raw deal.

AZMI BISHARA, ARAB MEMBER, ISRAELI KNESSET: They understood Zionism as part of British colonialism. They could not see it differently. They saw it as a part of the project of Western imperialism in the region.

BLYSTONE: Joined by Arab brothers from around the region, they fought the split-up. It got them less than nowhere. The 1948 war ended with Israel holding part of the territory the U.N. had earmarked for the Arabs. And that hasn't changed half a century on, while the Jewish state has -- beyond recognition.

GERALD STEINBERG, ISRAELI MILITARY EXPERT: The Israeli population was very small. There were 600,000 Jews in this country at the time, and very little weaponry, very little military experience. This is a country now that's about 10 times larger, population of 6 million, with a lot of military experience, a lot more self- confidence.

BLYSTONE: A lot more of everything except durable peace.

What Israel calls its war for independence Palestinians call al Naqba, "the catastrophe." They were shoved wholesale into exile. Many others found their homes and lands absorbed by the kingdom across the river, now called Jordan. Millions are still abroad, the unaddressed human factor in the shattered peace process.

But it was neighboring Arab states that were the new country's first big adversaries.

STEINBERG: In 1948, first of all, Palestinians didn't have a clear identity, a national identity, and the Arab states were just coming out of colonialism, and a lot of it was contest. Who was going to take over this land that Israel proclaimed as its own first? Was it going to be the Egyptians? Was it going to be the Syrians? Maybe the Iraqis? Maybe it was the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. That's how those countries, those leaders viewed the conflict, and Palestinians were really basically ancillary to those armies.

BLYSTONE: Arab nationalism was growing. Gamal Abdel Nasser took power in Egypt; in Syria and Iraq, the Ba'ath Party, which still rules. Dreams of a vast, powerful and prosperous Arab state, like that of Islam's Golden Age centuries before.

There was no place in it for a Jewish state. Fiery speeches, military build-ups, border skirmishes, a blockade at the end of the Red Sea. Israel felt threatened. In 1967, it came to a head.

STEINBERG: The '67 war was a war that nobody really wanted, nobody planned. But the leaders, particularly the Egyptian president, Nasser, got carried away by his own rhetoric, by his own promises, by the -- what we call here the fantasies of the crowds that heard him and thought that this was an opportunity to get rid of Israel, did not take into account the balance of power. And the whole region got swept into a conflict which nobody really benefited from and nobody would want to do again.

BISHARA: I think they were dragged into this war in 1967, what Israel called then a preventive war. Israel went out to attack the Arab regimes, not letting them make the timing. Israel chose the timing. With the 1967 war, a new era in the Middle East started, because Israel not only occupied lands that are three times more than its own area, but it also occupied the Palestinians who remained in Palestine, in the West Bank and Gaza. Herewith, the Palestinian issue as we know it since 1967 emerges.

BLYSTONE: In six days, the new Mideast power had redrawn the map. From Syria, it took the Golan Heights; from Egypt, the Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza Strip. And when Jordan declared war and attacked from the West Bank, it took that and East Jerusalem.

STEINBERG: And the Israeli position at that time was land for peace, real withdraw from most of the area -- not Jerusalem, not all the West Bank -- Sinai and Golan in exchange for a peace agreement. And the Israelis then thought that that was going to be it, that the military victory was so overwhelming the Arab states and the Arab people would finally say, the Israelis are here to stay, they're fighting for what they believe in, they're not going to be defeated, we've got to reach some sort of compromise with them. It didn't happen.

BISHARA: For the first time since the conflict begins, you have a mass of Palestinians facing directly Israeli occupation, not as refugees, but on their land. So Israel here is facing the Palestinian society on its land, not expelling it like in 1948. But it remained here in direct confrontation. This then modified the whole form of the conflict.

BLYSTONE: And a new player entered the wings: Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement, based in Jordan, muscle for the Palestine Liberation Organization.

In 1973, it was Israel's turn to be taken by surprise. Egyptian and Syrian troops clawed back part of their 1967 losses. But by the next year, stalemate -- and an opening.

STEINBERG: All the actors were exhausted; Israel; Egypt in particular was on the edge of collapse. No more infrastructure. They had used every single resource. Syria was also in bad shape. That started the dynamic that brought President Sadat to Jerusalem in 1977 and led to the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty of '79, and what we know as the peace process.

BISHARA: This war attained two things: first, Sinai was freed; second, the Camp David accord. After Egypt emerged from this war as a winner, it could engage in negotiations with Israel.

BLYSTONE: Into the arena, the first of a succession of U.S. presidents. At Camp David, Maryland, Jimmy Carter shepherded Israel's Menachem Begin and Egypt's Anwar Sadat into an agreement that has had a rough life, but survived. And among the Palestinians, an idea took shape.

BISHARA: What would the negotiations bring now? Would the lands be given back to Jordan and Egypt? Or why shouldn't the Palestinians take them back? And here for the first time the word "Palestinian state" emerges, Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza.

BLYSTONE: But talking with the "terrorist" PLO, blamed for the massacre of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics, was out of the question for Israel, let alone letting it administer Palestinian autonomy under Israeli sovereignty in the occupied territories.

Expelled from Jordan after a battle with King Hussein, the PLO had pushed into Lebanon. After a series of PLO attacks, Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982 and pushed it on again.

BISHARA: Here what you had is a very clear Israeli attempt actually to liquidate the PLO as an obstacle in the way of a Palestinian autonomy in the West Bank and Gaza, and the implementing of Camp David.

STEINBERG: Israel got stuck in a quagmire, because this was not a large-scale Arab-Israeli war where Israel could use its military superiority. It was a guerrilla war in very different circumstances, and it was also a political war and Israel didn't know how to fight those kind of wars. But it also showed very -- how difficult it is to go beyond the kinds of cease-fires that we had with the major Arab countries and how to deal with the Palestinian situation. In a lot of ways, we're still in the process of working that through.

BLYSTONE: The PLO leadership left Lebanon for Tunisia.

BISHARA: But the national liberation movement of the Palestinians has to have a place to face Israel, and this place was the West Bank and Gaza, where the mass of Palestinians exist in dire confrontation with Israel; not from the outside, under Israeli occupation. This brings the Intifada, 1987.

And what is the most important achievement of the Intifada? What it brings at the end is the Palestinian option: Israel, after its attempt to liquidate the PLO, after the Intifada, draws the conclusion that it has to talk to the PLO.

BLYSTONE: Finally, with the Palestinians alienated from their Arab allies by backing Iraq in its takeover of Kuwait, the Cold War dead, and its proxy conflicts sponsorless, in 1993 Israelis and Palestinians came together in the Oslo agreement. It was an unprecedented moment of mutual recognition by two sides that hitherto had denied each other's aspirations.

It opened the way for Palestinians in the occupied territories to govern themselves, but put off -- perhaps fatally -- the hardest questions: like the right of return for refugees from back in 1948; the Jewish settlements Israel had been planting in the occupied territories for a generation; and the future of Jerusalem, both sides still bent on having it as their capital, both sides now bitter, almost despairing. STEINBERG: We seem to be talking the same terminology and seeing the same scenes that we saw in 1947 and 1948, 1967, this very hostile, hate-filled rhetoric, not just against Israel, but against the Jews and against the West. So in some ways, there's an evolution. But on some basic issues, we really haven't learned anything nor changed that much.

BISHARA: Suddenly, the Palestinian people now sees itself in a situation very similar to 1948. It's sieged. What we see is circles going on. Always we go back to the same point, but after you paid a lot of victims.

BLYSTONE: By signing the Oslo agreement, the Palestinians effectively wrote off their losses before the 1967 war.

(on camera): But most Palestinians' idea of justice would be for Israel to give back all it took in return for peace. If the Oslo edifice collapses, the negotiating equation could slide back past 1967, all the way back to 1948.

Richard Blystone, CNN, Jerusalem.


BAKHTIAR: In today's "Chronicle," election 2000 in the United States. Tuesday's decision by the U.S. Supreme Court caught pundits by surprise, many predicting a ruling that would finally bring an end to the presidential case. But instead they were met with a turn of events that could support the old adage, it isn't over till it's over.

Now Howard Kurtz looks at how the media has been mispredicting judicial twists and turns throughout the presidential recount story.


HOWARD KURTZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When the Supreme Court dramatically stopped the Florida recount last weekend, it was the latest plot twist in a drama that keeps finding journalists eating their words. The sense of shock was acute last Friday when the Florida Supreme Court ruled in favor of Al Gore.


CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: He's had two strikes against him, but you can hit a homerun on the third strike, and it looks like he did it.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're heading to some very uncharted and very rough waters.


KURTZ: And CNN's Roger Cossack admitted he blew it in saying the Florida court would probably bury Gore's candidacy.


ROGER COSSACK, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Bob, you know what I'm doing here?


COSSACK: I'm wiping a little egg off my face.


KURTZ: Journalists had already started covering George W. Bush like the president-elect. His transition was news every day, whether he was meeting with congressional leaders or showcasing future cabinet members.

Gore only merited a journalistic death watch and predictions about when he would concede. That's because the legal prognosticators assured us that the Florida Supreme Court was highly unlikely to overturn trial court Judge Sanders Sauls and order a hand recount of the disputed ballots.


DAN ABRAMS, NBC LEGAL ANALYST: The reality is they're probably not going to win.



GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It is a huge standard to beat. He's going to have a very tough time in the Florida Supreme Court.


KURTZ: Wrong again. The dueling Supreme Court rulings were just the latest developments to take the media establishment by surprise. Throughout the 2000 campaign, in fact, the pundits have tried to predict the future with the absolute certainty of Johnny Carson playing Carnac The Magnificent.

Remember all the media speculation about Bush's likely running mate?


KATE O'BEIRNE, "NATIONAL REVIEW": We're hearing, of course, Frank Keating's name.



BILL KRISTOL, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": John McCain is the obvious pick for vice president.



AL HUNT, "CAPITAL GANG": Chuck Hagel, a -- who is John McCain's closest friend in the Senate.


KURTZ: Nary a mention of Dick Cheney. And how many pundits had all but written Gore's obituary before the Democratic Convention?


ROBERT NOVAK, "CHICAGO SUN-TIMES": I have a feeling that, for the first time, Democrats are really beginning to feel a little bit of panic.


KURTZ: And we all remember election night. The Florida phase of election 2000 has been a full employment program for prognosticators, but their record hasn't exactly been stellar.

Remember when Bush asked the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene for the first time after the Florida high court extended the vote certification deadline? The chattering class was nearly unanimous.


COSSACK: I probably would predict that -- I will predict that they won't hear the appeal.



VICTOR WILLIAMS, LAW PROFESSOR: About 1 out of 100 odds. Better odds in Vegas.


KURTZ: Oops. And when the high court took that case, there was a clear consensus in "Punditland": we were heading for an ideologically divided, 5-4 ruling.


TED KOPPEL, ABC ANCHOR: It looked like a divided court to me.



BOB SCHIEFFER, CBS REPORTER: I think you'll see maybe a 5-4 decision.


KURTZ: But the justices displayed no such division, using an unsigned order to send the case back to the Florida Supreme Court. The experts were wrong again. By now, that should have been no surprise.

(on camera): There's been plenty of other journalistic speculation, of course: The election will wind up in the hands of Congress; Al Gore will cast the tie-breaking vote for himself in the Senate; the next president will be so badly tarnished that he'll be unable to govern.

My prediction? Some of this will turn out to be wrong.

This is Howard Kurtz of CNN's "RELIABLE SOURCES."


BAKHTIAR: Thirty-six days and we still don't know.

WALCOTT: Unbelievable. Really an unprecedented time in American history.

BAKHTIAR: Absolutely.

Well, stay with us for more on this.

WALCOTT: And there will be more. We'll see you tomorrow.




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