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Inside Politics

Bush Checks off Health, Education, Interior and Veterans Affairs from Cabinet to do List; Top 10 Political Plays of 2000

Aired December 29, 2000 - 5:00 p.m. ET



GOV. TOMMY THOMPSON (R-WI), HHS SECRETARY NOMINEE: It is a humbling honor and an incredible challenge.



ROD PAIGE, EDUCATION SECRETARY NOMINEE: I'm humbled by your faith and confidence in me.



GALE NORTON, INTERIOR SECRETARY NOMINEE: The issues I will face, If I am confirmed, will be challenging.



ANTHONY PRINCIPI, VETERANS AFFAIRS SECRETARY NOMINEE: Thank you, President-elect Bush for this great honor.


JEANNE MESERVE, CNN ANCHOR: President-elect Bush checks off health, education, interior and veterans affairs from his Cabinet to do list.

We'll have a crash course on the newest nominees and why Bush wants them in his administration.



WILLIAM, SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: There's no dispute about the top 10 political plays of the year. And no recounts either. Not even in Florida!


MESERVE: Bill Schneider presents his top 10 list of 2000.

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

MESERVE: Thanks for joining us. I'm Jeanne Meserve, sitting in for Bernie and Judy.

George W. Bush is preparing to ring in the New Year with an almost complete Cabinet.

CNN's John King runs down the roster of nominees announced today, their strengths and their potential to create controversy.


JOHN KING, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Four more down, three to go as the president-elect fills the Cabinet: Houston school superintendent Rod Paige for the education secretary, a proponent of charter schools and vouchers credited with a turnaround in the nation's seventh largest school district.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT-ELECT: I wanted an educator who had proven the urban schools can be excellent schools, and Rod Paige is the right person.

KING: It was a choice made with the coming congressional debate in mind. Many Democrats say using tax dollars for school vouchers would destroy inner-city public education.

WILLIAM BENNETT, FORMER EDUCATION SECRETARY: He will throw it right back in their faces. He knows more about it than they do. He's spent more time dealing with the problem, and he's actually solved the problem rather than, you know, pontificating from Capitol Hill.

KING: Fourteen-year Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson for health and human services secretary.

BUSH: Real welfare reform began in Wisconsin and has been duplicated in other states. He's a leader and an innovator.

KING: At HHS, Thompson will be at the center of debates over prescription drug coverage for the elderly and other health care issues, and under immediate pressure from fellow antiabortion conservatives to reverse Clinton administration rules allowing fetal tissue research.

GOV. TOMMY THOMPSON (R-WI), HHS SECY. NOMINEE: And my views on these issues I will be more than happy to discuss when the Senate has my confirmation hearing.

KING: Former Colorado Attorney General Gale Norton for interior secretary, angering many environmental groups. Norton was a deputy to Reagan Interior Secretary James Watt, and back then, like the president-elect now, advocated oil exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

GALE NORTON, INTERIOR SECRETARY NOMINEE: The belief is that there are huge amounts of oil available in that area.

KING: Like New Jersey Gov. Christie Whitman, the choice to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, Norton supports abortion rights, but will lead an agency with no direct role in social policy.

Anthony Principi is a Vietnam combat veteran and the choice to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs. The California attorney was No. 2 at the VA when Mr. Bush's father was president. His top priority now: reforming the veterans health care system.


KING: Mr. Bush headed back to Texas today. Three more Cabinet vacancies, the Departments of Labor, Transportation, and Energy. Aides say he is on track to fill those by the end of next week. But first, Jeanne, a little holiday break at the ranch in Texas.

MESERVE: Where's the Democrat?

KING: We don't have one yet, do we? One possibility in a Cabinet level position, George Tenet, the current director of Central Intelligence. When Don Rumsfeld was taped yesterday to go to the Pentagon, not the CIA, it dramatically increased the chances that Mr. Tenet would be asked to stay on, at least for a year or two. The other possibility, the Alaska governor, Tony Knowles, he is under consideration for energy secretary, as is former Louisiana Democratic Senator Bennett Johnston. Mr. Johnston has sent mixed signals on whether he would actually want the job.

MESERVE: What are the prospects for a confirmation dust-up over one or more of these nominees?

KING: I think we will have dust-ups over several. Senator Ashcroft, already, for attorney general; two of the ones announced today, dust-ups you will have over Governor Thompson, pro-choice groups mobilizing because of his views, his opposition to abortion; environmental groups mobilizing, they say they are outraged at the choice of Gale Norton because of her views, not only on oil drilling in Alaska for oil, but she has been very critical of the EPA and the Interior Department in the past. A Westerner, we have a Texan as a president, a man from Wyoming is vice president; now a woman from Colorado leading the Interior Department. In the West, they think Washington should get out of the way, when it comes to land management. There will be a fight over that as well.

But most Democrats contacted today think all of these people will be confirmed quite easily in the end.

MESERVE: John King, thank you.

Now a closer look at Bush's choice for education secretary. Rod Paige worked as a coach, an athletic director, and a dean at Texas Southern University before becoming superintendent of the Houston Independent School District, or HISD, in 1994. We have a profile of Paige from Dave Failing (ph) of our Houston affiliate KHOU.


ROD PAIGE, EDUCATION SECRETARY NOMINEE: I don't consider a lot of this work.

DAVE FAILING, KHOU REPORTER (voice-over): Rod Paige is off to lunch.

PAIGE: What's going on back there?

FAILING: But the chicken and beans and the speech he is to deliver will have to wait.

PAIGE: How many do you have in here?

FAILING: A day care at this YMCA has caught his eye. He finds a room full of pre-school kids, whose parents, Paige hopes, will some day choose to send them to HISD.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is the first, as you know, African- American superintendent that we've had.

FAILING: In his speech, Paige tells these businessmen that Houston schools are improving, that some are attracting kids away from private schools. Since leaving the school board to become superintendent five years ago, Paige has seen HISD's image take some major hits, like in the summer of '96 when the roof fell in on an unoccupied school cafeteria, the symbol of a system in decay was all too obvious when the collapse was combined with HISD's past reputation for lackluster student achievement scores.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right now I have got $655,000.

FAILING: Since then, voters approved over half a billion dollars for construction, test scores have risen, and while it's a stretch to pin it on just one man's management, there is growing acknowledgment that Paige is making a difference.

The Urban Educator of the Year Award being the latest. Allen Warner dean of U of H's Teacher's College.

ALLEN WARNER, UNIVERSITY OF HOUSTON: Clearly, he can also be very forceful when he is talking about something in which he deeply believes.

FAILING: And what does he believe?

PAIGE: All these relationships have to been managed.

FAILING (on camera): Like a business?

PAIGE: Like a business.

FAILING (voice-over): Welcome to Management 101.

PAIGE: I'm setting the skills that you have to have in order to get into this profession.

FAILING: Where the teacher is the superintendent, and the students are principals. Paige requires them to take this 10-day management course.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Others just took it for granted that we needed those things, and we don't, we're teachers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I feel like a cheerleader when I go into a place.

FAILING: In an interview of two prospective principals, Paige tells them he wants results, not whining.

PAIGE: This is the business we've chosen to be in, so we can't cry or complain about that.

FAILING: Paige told us, on his way to an appointment, that he lets consume him.

PAIGE: I have been divorced for some time and my son is an adult. There is not a clear distinction between me and my family and the Houston School District, we're all the same.

FAILING: He says it's a life he enjoys, and it is one that's now earning him national recognition.


MESERVE: Later on INSIDE POLITICS, we will have a profile of the nominee for HHS secretary, Governor Tommy Thompson.

And let's talk more about Bush Cabinet nominees and the presidential transition with Ari Fleischer, who has been tapped by the president-elect to be White House press secretary.

Congratulations and good luck, Ari.


MESERVE: We just heard John King speculating on possible controversies over some of the nominees named today, specifically Gale Norton and Tommy Thompson. Have you got any fears that one or the other may not be confirmed?

FLEISCHER: No, Jeanne, we don't. Of course, that is a determination that will be made by the United States Senate, and we're very respectful of that Senate prerogative.

But we do believe that President Bush -- President-elect Bush has named two very good people to those posts. And, frankly, he's named 12 now out of 15 Cabinet secretaries, and we look forward to all of them being confirmed.

MESERVE: We anticipated the Tommy Thompson pick, but so often the people he has chosen have been a surprise... FLEISCHER: Yes.

MESERVE: ... to the press covering the campaign. Have to ask you if that's an indication of how difficult it's going to be to get information out of the Bush administration.

FLEISCHER: Well, frankly, we look at that how easy it is to get information. But in the case of these announcements, it is something where President-elect Bush wanted to be the one to convey the news, not through leaks, not through others making the news known, but he had information to reveal and he himself revealed it.

I think it's the mark of a leader that he has his own news. He makes it.

MESERVE: Are there limits on how much you think the press should know?

FLEISCHER: No, there aren't, Jeanne. I can't say that. I think that in terms of personal privacy of the family -- for example, the daughters -- I think the press is going to work very closely with us to keep the daughters' lives off limits to the press.

But I think that the press is doing their jobs, by and large. And there are going to be issues where they're going to want to provide information to their readers or viewers before the government can do it.

There are going to be times when we want to be the ones to make that news known first.

That's the usual interplay that exists between government sources and reporters. I understand how that works. And we're going to be respectful of each other and work with each other. And we'll do our jobs.

MESERVE: I covered the Bush campaign, as you well know, and found that there were just a few of you that really had the information. When you're in an administration that's going to be vast, is it going to be possible for you to control the flow of information as you have during the campaign phase?

FLEISCHER: Well, obviously in the case of the Cabinet announcements, we were able to do that with several of them. With the announcement of Secretary Rumsfeld for defense, nobody knew that until President-elect Bush announced that. We're frankly very proud of that.

But we also recognize that it's a big government. And the press is doing it's job. The press is always going to want to figure out what the government is doing. It's our obligation to work with the press so that the public can find out what the government is doing.

Sometimes the news will be made by the president-elect. Other times it will just get out.

MESERVE: Compare your style and approach to other press secretaries we have known, loved and sometimes hated.

FLEISCHER: Well, I'm not sure I want to get into any comparatives. I'm sure other people will do that for me.

I view the role of the press secretary's job as really serving two masters. One is -- my boss is the president-elect of the United States; it's George W. Bush. My job -- I work at his pleasure. My job is to get his information and news out.

I also work for the press corps. My job is to help them to get their jobs done. And I just think you have to be the type that has a lot of respect for the press.

I enjoy waking up in the morning and reading the newspaper. I enjoy watching the TV news. And I can't enjoy it if I don't think what the press doing is valuable for our society. I want to know what the press is reporting. And I say that not as only somebody who's been in government, but when I'm on vacation I like to wake up and read the paper.

So I have a keen understanding, I think, of what the press does for a living, and my job is to help them get it done wherever possible.

MESERVE: Governor Bush is known for getting a bit prickly when he is asked a challenging question. Does he have to get over that now that he's coming to Washington?

FLEISCHER: Oh, I don't know. I'm not sure what you mean by prickly. He's been in this game for quite a long time. I think he's got a pretty good nature. He enjoys a little back and forth with the press.

The press enjoys a little back and forth with him.

I think it's all good-natured.

MESERVE: So you're already doing your job well, Ari?


Thanks so much for joining us.

FLEISCHER: Thank you, Jeanne.

MESERVE: Those who have been following the Bush nomination process may have experienced deja vu, particularly when Donald Rumsfeld was tapped yesterday to serve as defense secretary, again. But, as CNN's Bruce Morton explains, that feeling of having been there before isn't playing out exactly as some had expected.


BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): People wondered, would George W. Bush's administration look like his father's? No, it turns out. Instead, he's gone back to a different future. Bush's administration will look a whole lot like Gerald Ford's.

Colin Powell, Bush's choice for secretary of state, was a White House fellow in the Ford administration. Vice President-elect Dick Cheney was Gerald Ford's White House chief of staff. So was Defense Secretary-designate Donald Rumsfeld, before he became Ford's defense secretary.

Paul O'Neill, Bush's choice for Treasury, was in Ford's Office of Management and Budget.

Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, whom Bush has already praised, was on Ford's Council of Economic Advisors.

What's going on?

Ford's press secretary thinks Ford and Bush both faced a question.

RON NESSEN, FORMER W.H. PRESS SECRETARY: Are they smart enough to be president? And I think they're both smart enough to surround themselves with really good people. Interestingly enough, I think both have the kind of self-esteem, self-confidence, that allowed them to feel very comfortable surrounding themselves with smart and capable people.

MORTON: Wait, there's more. James Baker, who headed Bush's Florida ballot counting brigade, managed Ford's 1976 campaign. Bush has no plans, as far as we know, to bring back the most famous symbol of the Ford administration: the win button. It stood for "Whip Inflation Now." They didn't, as it happened.

NESSEN: Of course, within about 60 days, the economy had fallen off the edge and we were in the worst recession since the 1930s. But in the early days, inflation was the problem.

MORTON: Not much inflation now; no need for win buttons. Maybe a DAM button? Defense Against Missiles? That was a big campaign theme. Or a CAT button? Cut All Taxes? Bush campaigned hard on that.

And there's at least one more possible Ford-era appointment to head the CIA. How about the man Ford had? the president-elect's father? I mean, they've already named the building after him, and maybe he'd like to get back in the mix. Back to the future. Not a Ford in that future, but a whole Ford administration. Who'd ever have predicted that?

Bruce Morton, CNN, Washington.


MESERVE: And there's news today about the Clintons' hunt for a new Washington home. We'll tell you all about it, when INSIDE POLITICS continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) MESERVE: After weeks of hunting, President Clinton and Senator- elect Hillary Rodham Clinton have found a new Washington home. They're making plans to move into a red brick colonial house in Northwest part of the city.

CNN White House correspondent Major Garrett has details.


MAJOR GARRETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The search is over and the first lady will soon move into what's been described as an elegant, but understated, home at 3067 White Haven Street in Washington.

The Clintons have been combing the Washington real estate market ever since the first lady became senator-elect.


FIRST LADY HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), SENATOR-ELECT: If you have got any suggestions or anybody have any place that you'd like to talk to me about privately, I'd be glad to hear it.


GARRETT: The White House says this is only Mrs. Clinton's working residence and that the true family home is still in Chappaqua just outside New York city. Even the president made the new house sound like a dolled-up corporate apartment.

WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: She needs an address, and I'd like to have some place to come see her.

GARRETT: The list price was $3.5 million, but the Clintons only paid only $2.85 million, making a down payment of nearly $2 million. It's located near the vice president's home and embassy row. The brick colonial features: six bedrooms; 7 1/2 baths; a third of an acre lot; a swimming pool; built-in bookcases, a top priority for the Clintons, who are nothing, if not voracious readers; a garage for the new family car -- no more limousines and motorcades, after all; and, of course, cable television.

And where will the rest of the money come from? Well, there's the first lady's $8 million book advance. Typically, authors receive one-third up front. And she'll draw her $145,000 Senate salary. Ex- presidents make $157,000, but that will be far from all.

CLINTON: I expect to make a living, and I'll get out of your hair, and get out of the media spotlight, and go back to making a living. And I expect I'll do a -- well, I'll write a book and do a few other things.


GARRETT: And so the two endpoints of the coming Clinton commuter marriage are now set. The only remaining question is what exactly the ex-president will be doing, while the first lady toils in the Senate -- Jeanne.

MESERVE: Major Garrett, at the White House, thank you.

There is much more ahead on this edition of INSIDE POLITICS. Up next:


KING (voice-over): The pride of Elroy, Wisconsin occasionally rides a Harley and has never discouraged talk that maybe someday, somehow he would end up in Washington.


MESERVE: John King on the issues that drive HHS Secretary nominee Tommy Thompson.

Also ahead:


RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): On the dollar bill, it says e pluribus unum, out of many, one. But this past election showed that politically America is now many nations, not one.


MESERVE: Analyst Ron Brownstein on the political map as the year 2000 comes to a close.

And later, after 52 weeks and a bevy of candidates, our Bill Schneider ranks the top 10 political plays of the year.


MESERVE: We will have more of the day's political news coming up, but now a look at some other top stories.

The Northeast is hunkering down for a holiday weekend blizzard. A storm that's dumping snow on the upper Midwest is headed East this hour. Forecasters say an expected collision with another weather system could generate a blizzard over the nation's biggest cities.


MESERVE: Much of Arkansas is in the dark this evening. Hundreds of thousands remain without power in that storm-struck state. Many are making do without telephones and water. Crews from as far away as Delaware and Michigan are working around the clock to restore power, and the Missouri National Guard is handing out generators.

A man who seized control of a British Airways jumbo jet is under arrest. Officials say the man put the plane into a nose-dive twice. The crew called it an apparent suicide attempt. Several people were slightly injured. The plane was en route from London to Nairobi, Kenya. Violence in the Middle East has left a Palestinian policeman dead. The bloodshed came as Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak adopted a tougher stance on peace negotiations. Mr. Barak said will not surrender the area known to Jews as the Temple Mount and the Palestinians as the Noble Sanctuary. A new poll shows the Israeli leader trailing hard right candidate Ariel Sharon in the hastily- called election campaign.

When INSIDE POLITICS returns, the big picture of the Bush Cabinet so far. We'll talk to former Clinton Cabinet member Robert Reich and former Reagan Cabinet member Bill Bennett.


MESERVE: George W. Bush is back at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, where he will spend the New Year's holiday. The president-elect stopped at the governor's mansion in Austin and then headed to the ranch after returning from Washington this afternoon.

While in the nation's capital today, Bush announced four more Cabinet nominees: for Education secretary, Houston School Superintendent Rod Paige; for Health and Human Services, Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson; for Interior, former Colorado Attorney General Gale Norton; and former Deputy Secretary for Veteran Affairs Anthony Principi was chosen for that department's top job.

CNN's John King has a profile, now, of Governor Thompson, the most well-known name on that list and one of the more controversial.


JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The pride of Elroy, Wisconsin occasionally rides a Harley; is the nation's longest serving governor; a man whose name is synonymous with welfare reform. Tommy Thompson has flirted with running for president himself, and has never discouraged talk that maybe someday, somehow, he would end up in Washington.

He is chairman of the Amtrak board, and told friends he would have preferred transportation secretary. But he is President-Elect Bush's choice to be secretary of Health and Human Services, and if confirmed by the Senate will find himself in the middle of many of the most important, and controversial, issues on the Bush agenda.

MARSHALL WITTMANN, HUDSON INSTITUTE: Abortion, welfare, prescription drugs, HMO reform. So, you can see that HHS is really a hotbed of hot-button issues.

KING: Thompson likes to talk. Top Bush advisers were less than thrilled that he made no secret he was in the hunt for a Cabinet post. But Mr. Bush knows the upside. He picked Thompson for HHS and to chair this year's Republican Convention platform hearings for a reason.

WITTMANN: He must have a pro-lifer at HHS -- to do otherwise would truly inflame the conservative base of his party. KING: His 1995 welfare reform package was the first to require work and set time limits on benefits. Liberals didn't like it, but some say it could have been worse.

PETER EDELMAN, FRM. CLINTON HHS OFFICIAL: He is strong on getting good child care and investing in that. He's strong on public service jobs for people who can't find work. Those are good aspects of what he's done. But the basic thing is he has really been weak throughout on the question of a safety net for people who are not in a position to work.

KING: Thompson was among the leaders of the national education summits in 1996 and again in 1999, and this March's campaign appearance with Governor Bush was designed to turn the spotlight on the Milwaukee school choice program, viewed by now President-Elect Bush as a national model.

(on camera): The 59-year-old governor had begun dropping hints he might seek an unprecedented fifth term, but in the end he decided it was time for something new, and that he might not get another shot at a major Cabinet post.

John King, CNN, Washington.


MESERVE: A short while ago I talked about the Bush Cabinet with former Reagan Education Secretary Bill Bennett and former Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich. I began by asking Bill Bennett about the National Education Association's endorsement of Education nominee Rod Paige.


WILLIAM BENNETT, FORMER SECRETARY OF EDUCATION: No, it doesn't give me second thoughts. I know Rod Paige. I've known him for a long time. I've watched him in action, I've worked with him. He's a forward-looking school superintendent in a tough job, the Houston Independent School District -- has all the problems of urban school districts: a lot of immigrant kids, a lot of kids who are extremely poor coming into school, first-generation schoolers.

And he has done a remarkable job. Test scores have gone up. He's also shown a willingness to try new things. He does a lot of experimentation with programs, tests them, evaluates them. If they're good he puts them in. More charter schools there per capita than most other school districts. And he has contracted out a lot of services where he was unsatisfied or dissatisfied with what was given him inside the system. He went outside the system to help satisfy the needs of kids with learning disabilities and some of his gifted and talented students.

MESERVE: I found a bit of information today on the Web in an article written for the Heritage Foundation -- as you know, not a liberal group. And it said in 1997, the Houston school district used only the test scores of 39 percent from one elementary school: 40 percent of the school students were labeled special ed, calling into question how reliable testing is. Does it really show you how well students are doing? Do principals try and mask of some of their lower-achieving students, and do we want an education secretary and a president-elect who believe in it so strongly?

BENNETT: Well, you'd have to speak to superintendent Paige about the classification system. I'm not familiar with that particular controversy. But yes, you certainly want a secretary of education who believes in standards and achievement level. You don't want to be obsessive about tests, but without the tests, there's no way to demonstrate what children have learned.

I think with Rod Paige, I think his reputation is borne out by the facts. He has gone in as a reformer. I've heard him complain about some of the very things that you just mentioned, and I think he's almost universally regarded as being a very successful superintendent who works well with all groups on all sides of the issue.

MESERVE: Well, Secretary Reich, no labor secretary yet, but a number of other picks. My hunch would be that you might be upset about John Ashcroft. Do I have that right?

ROBERT REICH, FORMER SECRETARY OF LABOR: Well, John Ashcroft is the most extreme version of this Cabinet. Most of the others I think are quite respectable. They are not necessarily middle of the road. This is not a national unity Cabinet of the sort that we were talking, or somebody was talking about, during those awful days after the election. But it's a Cabinet so far of people whoa re fairly moderate. Some of them are innovators. Some of them are in the moderate wing of the Republican Party.

Ashcroft does stick out, though, as somebody with regard to both abortion and also on civil rights who really is quite far to the right.

MESERVE: Did Bush have much leeway with that position, however? Were conservatives just determined to have one of their own in that job?

REICH: Well, that's, of course, the question of political tactics. Is George W. obliged as the president-elect to give a sop to the right-wing Republicans? I don't think so, particularly inasmuch he lost the popular vote in this election, 90 percent of African- Americans voted for Al Gore, women overwhelmingly voted for Al Gore. And you've got a new president-elect who needs at least some of the support of blacks and women if he is going to claim genuine legitimacy in the eyes of most Americans.

So it's a peculiar appointment or nomination with regard to John Ashcroft.

MESERVE: Mr. Bennett, I see you shaking your head.

BENNETT: Well, it's remarkable. In the period of -- what? -- two weeks, three weeks, a distinguished United States senator, admittedly a conservative, as I am, has all of a sudden, having been nominated to be attorney general, become a disreputable character, not respectable, my friend Bob Reich says.

He's perfectly respectable. He's a conservative. He's not opposed to civil right. He is pro-life. But that's not an irrespectable or unrespectable position. That's a conservative position, a conservative pro-life position.

REICH: Well, I think, Bill, that there is a distinction between character assassination, and I don't -- I'm certainly not indulging it, and I hope nobody else does. The man has a lot of integrity as far as I know. I had dealings with him as a senator. But with regard to his issues, his positions on these issues, very delicate issues, he has been opposed to school desegregation. He opposed a school desegregation plan in St. Louis. He got that degree from Bob Jones University.

He, on abortion, he has supported the constitutional amendment against abortion even under circumstances of rape and incest. I mean, this is to the right of the -- even the center of the Republican Party.

And look, I'm not saying he's not respectable. But given...

BENNETT: Well, you did say that, Bob.

REICH: ... the politics of the day...

BENNETT: Well, you did say he was not respectable.

REICH: Well, I take it back.


REICH: He's respectable in the views of many people, but he is not the kind of person who, if you want to bring people together, particularly showing the nation that you want to get rid of the wounds that occurred during the campaign and after the campaign, he's not the kind of person you would naturally turn to.

MESERVE: Secretary, I want to ask you also about Tommy Thompson. I mean, he's another one who's against abortion rights. Planned Parenthood is already issuing press releases denouncing his nomination. Are you concerned about him?

REICH: Well, Tommy Thompson has been a reformer on welfare. He's done some extraordinarily and innovative things in Wisconsin. Yes, there is the anti-abortion stand there. But at HHS, unlike the attorney general, who really does have enormous discretion over how the law is enforced, particularly with regard to civil rights and abortion rights and a whole host of things, at HHS you are implementing big programs. And you want an innovator. You want somebody who understands at the state and local level how these programs work, and Tommy Thompson is really quite good.

He did not do welfare to the street. He did welfare to work. He gave people support, health care and training. He did it in a way that I think he can be proud of, and many people in Wisconsin are proud of it.

MESERVE: Secretary Bennett, some people are saying, an awful lot of retreads from previous administrations?

BENNETT: Well, I'd call them experienced. I think this is an experienced group. A lot of fields now will have good, adult supervision, which is excellent. I think it's a terrific management team. When you added Rumsfeld to an already good group, I think it became an excellent group. And the appointments today I think are particularly good.

But I want to go back -- I want to go back to John Ashcroft. The notion that now seems to be abroad is that if we're going to compromise, if we're going to meet halfway, no conservatives should be nominated to be in the Cabinet. Bill Clinton won the election. He had some moderates, he had some liberals. I didn't hear people on our side say, well, you can't have liberals.

You know, conservatives are citizens. They have their point of view. As attorney general, is there some reason to think that because John Ashcroft is a conservative he will not enforce the law?

I happen to think he'll probably enforce the law and run a much better department than the current attorney general.

REICH: Bill, if I...

BENNETT: I mean, I knew her record, but no one -- no one was trying to suggest that she, because she was a liberal, would somehow be unsuitable for that job.

MESERVE: Secretary Bennett.

REICH: If I...

MESERVE: I have to insert myself here. I'm sorry, gentlemen. We're all out of time.



MESERVE: I'm sorry. Secretary Reich...

REICH: I had a great retort there.

MESERVE: I'm so sorry.

BENNETT: Let him have it. Let him have it.

MESERVE: Next time.

(END VIDEOTAPE) MESERVE: And you've seen the maps that show how the presidential election went state by state, but if you want to know more about who went for Bush and who went for Gore, we have another map you'll want to see. Stay tuned.


MESERVE: It's the year for close elections, and the race for the most-admired man of the year was no exception. President Clinton and Pope John Paul II tied for the top spot on the annual Gallup poll list, closely followed by Colin Powell, President-Elect Bush and Vice President Gore.

Among women, first lady and Senator-Elect Hillary Rodham Clinton lead the way, followed by Oprah Winfrey and Margaret Thatcher, Madeleine Albright and Elizabeth Dole.

After the presidential election, we saw a lot of color-coded national maps showing which states went for Bush and which went for Gore. Ron Brownstein of "The Los Angeles Times" has been looking at a map that breaks the votes down by counties, and he has drawn some interesting conclusions.


RON BROWNSTEIN, "THE LOS ANGELES TIMES": On the $1 bill, it says: e pluribus unum, out of many one. But this last election showed that politically, America is now many nations, not one. This map, from the congressional newspaper "Roll Call" tells the story. The counties that George W. Bush won are in shades of red; Al Gore's counties are in shades of purple.

There are many more red than purple counties, nearly four times as many, in fact, sprawling almost uninterrupted across the Heartland and the South. But the purple counties tend to be more populous, clustered around the big cities of the two coasts and the upper Midwest.

With the two parties now as evenly matched as at any time in the past century, this new geography will define the struggle for political advantage during the Bush presidency. Here's a quick atlas. Up and down the West Coast, through Washington, Oregon and California, just about everyplace where you can see and smell the ocean voted for Al Gore. Democrats now thrive in these coastal counties, all crowded with fiscally-moderate, socially-tolerant voters who support gun control and legalized abortion and worry that Republicans will favor the chain saw over the backpack.

Not only did Al Gore win all three states, but Democrats picked up six new Congressional seats and one Senate seat along the West Coast, giving them a commanding advantage here. If you set out from the Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco and drove east through one more suburban California county, you could then drive east for the next three days all the way to Kansas City without crossing through another county that voted for Al Gore. This is the great Republican Heartland. Starting with the inland, agricultural regions of the Pacific states, through the mountain West, and the Plains; these are places where pick-up trucks outnumber convertibles, and the pick-ups are likely to be decorated with bumper stickers that read, "My idea of gun control is using both hands."

Not many people live here, but most of them who do voted for Bush and for the Republicans running for the House and Senate. The Republican Party was born as the party of union, in opposition to the secession of the South. But today, the Republican message of limited government and traditional moral values finds a more receptive audience here than anywhere else.

Outside of the South, Bush lost 71 percent of all the electoral votes at stake, but he's moving to the White House largely because he swept all 11 states of the old Confederacy, plus Oklahoma and Kentucky. The same is now true in Congress. Outside of the South, Democrats now hold a majority of seats in both the House and the Senate.

Why, then, do Republicans still hold the chairmen's gavels in both chambers? Because the South gives them a large enough majority of seats in the House and Senate to offset their losses elsewhere.

Once, Maine and Vermont were the only two states that held out against Franklin Roosevelt's landslide reelection in 1936. Today, the Northeast has become the most staunchly Democratic region of the country. Across New England, through New York and New Jersey, down through Pennsylvania and Maryland in the Mid-Atlantic, Gore dominated.

Again, running strongest in the coastal counties, where commuters are more likely to start their day with a cafe latte than a coffee black. Only one state in this region got away from Gore, New Hampshire, and its four electoral votes were enough to cost him the presidency.

The Midwest may be the last region truly up for grabs between the parties, but even here the lines are hardening. Bush swept the rural regions. Gore ran up huge margins in the cities. Most of the big suburbs tilted toward Gore, though not as decisively as their counterparts along the coasts.

From coast to coast, those suburbs outside of Detroit and Chicago and Columbus may offer Bush the best opportunity to expand his political base. If he can convince those skeptical Midwestern swing voters that he truly is a different kind of Republican, he could solve a riddle that stumped his father and figure out how to win a second term.

I'm Ron Brownstein in Washington.


MESERVE: Many folks like to make end-of-the-year lists, and our Bill Schneider is no exception. No one can deny this was quite a kiss, but was it the number one political play of the year? Stay tuned and find out.


MESERVE: Over the past 12 months, our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider, has watched the ebb and flow of campaigns and candidates through attacks, counterattacks, retreats and damage control. And now that it's time to put up a new calendar, he's ready to pick the political plays of the year.


WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): It's over. After all those rats and chads and butterfly ballots, we ended up with disputed results in the presidential election. But there is no dispute about the top 10 political plays of the year, and no recounts either -- not even in Florida.

Play number 10:


JON CORZINE (D), NEW JERSEY SENATOR-ELECT: From the bottom of my heart I love you and...


SCHNEIDER: Jon Corzine buys -- make that wins New Jersey. Remember how multimillionaires Michael Huffington and Al Checchi tried and failed to buy political victories in California? Now we know what their problem was: They just weren't spending enough.

This year, Jon Corzine spent over $60 million in New Jersey.

Play number nine: The late Mel Carnahan wins the Senate race in Missouri. Governor Carnahan is locked in a tight race against the incumbent Republican John Ashcroft, one of the most bitter and personal races in the country. Then tragedy strikes.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Loud explosion, big red sky, and that was it. It was Total silence.


SCHNEIDER: Carnahan, his son and an aide are killed in a plane crash. The new governor indicates that if Carnahan wins, he'll name his widow to the Senate seat. So, Jean Carnahan continues her husband's campaign.


JEAN CARNAHAN, WIFE OF LATE GOV. MEL CARNAHAN: Mel Carnahan's name will still be on the ballot and his vision for Missouri can still prevail if we want it to.


SCHNEIDER: On election night, irony strikes. Mel Carnahan wins -- a deceased Democrat beats an incumbent Republican senator in a state carried by George W. Bush.

Play number eight: Slobodan Milosevic is ousted, democratically, by his own people with a little help from the United States. Yugoslavs voted on September 24th, but Milosevic refused to step down. There was a little disagreement over how the ballots were counted. The sort of thing that could never happen in the U.S.

But the people took to the street, President Clinton got the Russians to put pressure on Milosevic. And on October 6th, he was out.

Play number seven: Al Gore picks Joe Lieberman as his running mate. By naming Lieberman, the first Jewish candidate on a national ticket. Gore makes a statement, several in fact, about inclusiveness, about traditional value, about himself, and about Bill Clinton.


SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN (D), CONNECTICUT: Such behavior is not just inappropriate, it is immoral, and it is harmful.


SCHNEIDER: Lieberman hedged his bets, however, and stayed in the race for reelection to the Senate. Now Gore is out of a job, but Lieberman's not.

Play number six: John McCain wins New Hampshire. He doesn't just win, he crushes George W. Bush by 19 points and changes the political landscape.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My friends, a wonderful New Hampshire campaign has come to an end, but a great national crusade has just begun.


SCHNEIDER: Sure enough, Bush and Gore begin to preempt McCain's theme, a "reformer with results," a crusader against the special interests, and oh, yes, the idea that won the New Hampshire primary, the message that defined McCain as the un-Clinton, the Straight-Talk Express.

Play number five: George W. Bush goes to Bob Jones University. Wait a minute, that was a play? Wasn't that a blooper. For Bush to link himself to an institution with a history of racial and religious intolerance, drew a firestorm of criticism.


MCCAIN: We are the party of Abraham Lincoln, not Bob Jones.


SCHNEIDER: Bush was thrown on the defensive.


BUSH: But don't you judge my heart based upon giving a speech at a university.


SCHNEIDER: It worked. Nothing like an attack from the establishment to get conservative juices flowing. Conservatives rallied to Bush's cause and brought McCain's crusade to a screeching halt in South Carolina.

Play number four: Gore turns it around at the Democratic convention. The Democratic convention was Gore's last chance. What did he have to offer, a little romance? Ooh! Here's an idea.


GORE: I'm here to talk seriously about the issues. I believe people deserve to know specifically what a candidate proposes to do. I intend to tell you tonight.


SCHNEIDER: Click. Gore sold himself as what he was, a policy wonk, and look at what happened. He turned a 16-point deficit into a neck and neck race.

Play number three: Republicans win everything, sort of. For the first time in almost 50 years, the 2000 election gives the GOP control of the White House and both houses of Congress. George W. Bush won a narrow and disputed victory for president. Republicans control the House of Representatives by the slimmest margin since 1954. And as for the Senate?


SEN. TRENT LOTT (R-MS), MAJORITY LEADER: The Senate is going to be 50/50 plus one, the vice president 51-50.


SCHNEIDER: Can't get any closer than that. Give the Republicans their due, they have the majority. But holding it is going to take some work.


BUSH: There's going to be a lot of discussions, a lot of head- knocking, a lot of kind of gentle arm-twisting, I'm sure they'll be twisting my arm. (END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHNEIDER: Play number two: Hillary takes New York. It is an unprecedented historical feat. A first lady runs for office in a state she's never lived or worked in before and wins! She opens her campaign in February and faces widespread doubt. Who does she think she is?


HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), N.Y. SENATE CANDIDATE: Here's my answer, and why I hope you will put me to work for you. I may be new to the neighborhood, but I'm not new to your concerns.


SCHNEIDER: It becomes the most expensive Senate campaign in history, over $68 million, nearly $40 million spent by her opponent. In the end, she makes it.


CLINTON: And I just want to say from the bottom of my heart, thank you, New York.


SCHNEIDER: It's a Republican nightmare, President Clinton leaves office, Al Gore loses, and the Clinton era goes on.

(on camera): And now for the moment we've all been waiting for, the number one political play of the year: It's carried out by an institution that isn't supposed to be political, elected by nobody, answerable to no one. But a decisive player nonetheless.

(voice-over): On November 7th, 100 million Americans vote for president. On December 12th, nine men and women decide the outcome. The court's ruling says: "Seven justices of the court agree that there are constitutional problems with the recount ordered by the Florida Supreme Court that demand a remedy."

Was the majority simply imposing its partisan preference or did it see its ruling as the only way to stop an unconstitutional procedure? That debate will go on for years. Most Americans accept the decision for the same reason the court felt compelled to make it: political necessity.


GORE: While I strongly disagree with the court's decision, I accept it.


SCHNEIDER: The Supreme Court is the only institution in a position to bring the situation to a close. If that means the court picks the president, so be it.


BUSH: I'm thankful to the American people for the great privilege of being able to serve as your next president.


SCHNEIDER: Nice gesture, but it wasn't the American people who did it. It was the Supreme Court. And it was the political play of the year.

Bill Schneider, CNN, Washington.


MESERVE: And that is all for this edition of INSIDE POLITICS. But, of course, you can go on-line all the time at CNN's AOL keyword: cnn.

This weekend programming note: Republican Party Chairman Jim Nicholson and Democratic General Chairman Ed Rendell will be among Wolf Blitzer's guests Sunday on "LATE EDITION." That is at noon Eastern.

I'm Jeanne Meserve.



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