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Inside Politics

Bush Marks Martin Luther King Holiday in Houston; Democratic Senators and John Ashcroft Prepare for Nomination Hearing

Aired January 15, 2001 - 5:00 p.m. ET



GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: I will remember the promise etched in this day honoring Dr. Martin Luther King.


BERNARD SHAW, CNN ANCHOR: Exploring the past, present and future of Dr. King's dream: a holiday look at race, politics and the presidency.

JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: With cameras poised, Attorney General nominee John Ashcroft prepares for his confirmation hearing tomorrow and questions about civil rights.

SHAW: Plus, the Clinton legacy: his relationship with the people, including his bond with many African-Americans.


WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If I could leave America with one wish as I depart office, it would be that we become more the one America that we know we ought to be.


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

WOODRUFF: Thank you for joining us.

For many political figures, it has become standard operating procedure to mark the Martin Luther King holiday with a speech about bridging the racial divide. President-elect Bush followed suit today under circumstances that were hardly routine, in the wake of the Florida election dispute and on the eve of John Ashcroft's confirmation hearing.

CNN's Kelly Wallace reports from Austin, Texas.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) KELLY WALLACE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): An effort to reach out, George W. Bush heads to a predominantly African-American elementary school in Houston to honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

BUSH: This faith in the value of every person inspired others to face police dogs and hoses and violence. It inspired millions of Americans to face their own conscience, and our nation is better for it.

WALLACE: Mr. Bush knows he faces an uphill struggle winning the support of African-Americans, that challenge demonstrated at this very school. Kelso Elementary was Houston's precinct No. 238 on election day. Al Gore got 1,057 votes here, George W. Bush just 19. Nationwide, in a 9-1 margin, African-Americans chose Gore over the president-elect.

No mention of those statistics on this day, but a promise to stand up for everyone when he gets to the White House.

BUSH: As president, my job will be to listen not only to the successful, but also to the suffering, to work toward a nation that respects the dignity of every single life.

WALLACE: The president-elect touted his choice for education secretary, Houston school superintendent Rod Paige, one of six minorities in Mr. Bush's Cabinet. The future president spoke of education reform and reading as the next civil right.

BUSH: The dream of equality is empty without excellent schools.

WALLACE: Only a few gave Mr. Bush a standing ovation. Many of the parents and teachers who came here say Mr. Bush needs to do more.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, he's got to get out and get in the black community more, and you know, just get out among the blacks.

WALLACE: African-American leaders plan protests on inauguration day, decrying Mr. Bush's choice of John Ashcroft as attorney general and charging their voting rights were violated in Florida.

JESSE JACKSON, CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST: Well, you have to know that we are very threatened by those who stopped the clock and now want to turn back the clock. There is no...


WALLACE: The Bush team acknowledges it has room to improve when it comes to winning the support of African-Americans, but cites the appointment of perhaps the most diverse Cabinet in history as a step in the right direction -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Kelly, what about George W. Bush's time as governor of the state of Texas? How is he perceived by African-Americans in his home state? WALLACE: Well, Judy, there are mixed signals for Mr. Bush here in Texas. He and his aides like to point to the fact that his support among African-Americans doubled or nearly doubled from his first to his second race as governor of Texas. But when it comes to the presidential election, it was a different story, because he scored worse with African-Americans here in Texas than he did nationwide. So again, mixed signals, and it remains an open question just whether his efforts to diversify his Cabinet and reach out will improve his support among black Americans -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right, CNN's Kelly Wallace, thanks very much -- Bernie.

SHAW: We have more now on the opposition to John Ashcroft as he prepares to be questioned by senators tomorrow. Here's CNN congressional correspondent Jonathan Karl.


JONATHAN KARL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The day before he takes the confirmation hot seat, John Ashcroft invited the cameras in for a prep session photo-op. For the benefit of the cameras, his team tossed him a question.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's your view on racial profiling?

JOHN ASHCROFT, ATTORNEY GENERAL NOMINEE: Well, first of all, I think racial profiling is wrong. It's not only wrong, I believe it's unconstitutional. I think it deprives people of the kind of equal standing in the law.

KARL: The cameras were quickly escorted out, and behind closed doors, Ashcroft is preparing for much tougher questions. Democrats on the Judiciary Committee are preparing to use the first two days of his hearings to wage a coordinated assault on his record and his views.

Chairman Patrick Leahy will probe Ashcroft's views on judicial nominees, especially his role in defeating federal court nominee Ronnie White. Ted Kennedy will go after his record on civil rights. And Charles Schumer plans to tackle gun control and abortion rights, posing specific hypothetical questions about how Ashcroft would enforce laws he disagrees with.

Interest groups on both sides continue to hit the airwaves, including a radio ad from the National Abortion Rights Action League they say is running in seven states.


NARRATOR: He tried to outlaw abortion, even in cases of rape or incest. In fact, he supports criminalizing abortion.


KARL: And in an ad only running in Washington, D.C., the Republican Jewish coalition uses friendly quotes from Democrats about Ashcroft.


NARRATOR: That's why Senator Torricelli says, "Ashcroft represents a very good choice for attorney general." Senator Feingold calls him "a respected public servant."


KARL: Republicans are prepared to offer a vigorous defense of Ashcroft's record, especially on the question of civil rights. Helping Ashcroft make the case is Charles Polk, an African-American lawyer who has known him for 15 years.

CHARLES POLK, ATTORNEY: The black justices that have come before him for confirmation, there were 27. He voted for 26, voted yes for 26.

I see a pattern there, but the pattern is what we're all proud of and how I know that he would vote, which is for diversity on the court.


KARL: As Democrats and their interest group allies step up their battle against Ashcroft, one thing hasn't changed, and that's the sense both among Ashcroft's friends and his enemies that he will ultimately win Senate confirmation -- Bernie.

SHAW: At the hearing, Jon Karl, what does Ashcroft feel he must do?

KARL: Well, Ashcroft has one very important thing he's got to accomplish, and it's what he's been doing with these visits to Capitol Hill, meeting with Democratic senators. He's been doing this now for several weeks, one-on-one meetings.

Basically, what the agenda is for John Ashcroft is to go in there and tell these senators that he can enforce laws even if he disagrees with the laws, that his job as attorney general of the United States will be to enforce the law, and he will do so even if it's a law that he vehemently disagrees with, such as laws on gun control or on abortion rights. And he will try to make the case that when he was attorney general for Missouri that he was able to do just that.

Interestingly, that's also exactly where the Democrats will be going after him. They'll be raising questions about whether or not he, in fact, was able to accomplish that in Missouri. They'll look at things like school desegregation, where he was critical of school desegregation plans in St. Louis. They will be saying that Ashcroft was not able to do that in Missouri as attorney general and he's unlikely to be able to do it as attorney general for the United States.

SHAW: Jonathan Karl -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: And we are joined now by David Broder of "The Washington Post."

David, why is Ashcroft getting this much attention from Democrats? Is it because he's the most controversial nominee or is it because he would be attorney general?

DAVID BRODER, "WASHINGTON POST": It's both. The attorney general is probably the most -- has the broadest reach of any single Cabinet officer, because almost every policy issue that comes up is also a legal issue, and the Democrats are very well aware, of course, that Ashcroft, if he becomes attorney general, will be in a position to recommend judges for appointment to President Bush.

WOODRUFF: Do his answers over the next three or four days really matter here? Or do Democrats already have their minds made up?

BRODER: No, I think this is -- these are hearings that are really critical in terms of the substance there, because the Democrats understand that John Ashcroft is at odds with existing law and judicial interpretations on many critical social issues. And the questions of the kind that Jonathan was talking about -- "Will you enforce laws even if they contradict your own preference?" -- are going to be critical questions, I think, for those swing senators there.

It's possible if he doesn't answer the questions to their satisfaction that he might even lose some moderate Republicans. But if he convinces the senators on the Judiciary Committee that he is prepared to enforce the laws as they stand and put the resources of the Justice Department at the disposal of groups and individuals who represent causes that he is personally uncomfortable with, then I think he would get a very substantial Democratic vote for the position.

WOODRUFF: Do you have a sense, David, that he is more vulnerable in one area or another, or is this just, you know, it could go in any direction?

BRODER: Well, because of the huge sensitivity of the issue, the civil rights area, symbolized by his opposition to Judge White's appointment to the federal bench, is clearly probably going to be the most critical. But there's been a kind of a second front opened now on the Ashcroft nomination with questions that have been aired in past campaigns in Missouri about the use of official staff, office space, even perhaps public funds...

WOODRUFF: A story in "The Washington Post"...

BRODER: ... for -- for political purposes. And I think this is going to be a second line of inquiry now in these hearings.

WOODRUFF: So he's vulnerable potentially there as well?

BRODER: He certainly has some questions to answer there.

WOODRUFF: Who is -- is it going to be one person who's a crucial witness other than John Ashcroft himself? We know Ronnie White, the Missouri State Supreme Court justice, is going to testify. Are there others?

BRODER: The White testimony will be dramatic. But I think the critical testimony is what John Ashcroft says himself. He is the one who is being judged by his peers in the Senate, and they're going to want to weigh his words very carefully.

WOODRUFF: David, just quickly, about two other Bush appointees, Gale Norton at Interior. Is she at serious risk here?

BRODER: Well, I think the environmental groups would certainly say that her record makes her a serious risk. I don't think that there is the momentum or the political energy behind that opposition at this point that there is challenging Senator Ashcroft. But they will want to try to pin her down on future policy decisions about the use of the public lands and the other issues that are under the domain of the Interior Department.

WOODRUFF: And Tommy Thompson at HHS, Health and Human Services, how do you explain to people why he has not been as controversial as John Ashcroft?

BRODER: Because I think his record in Wisconsin is much more of a mixed record. He is conservative, but he is very pragmatic and he has been a pioneer on some of the social policy issues, including welfare and health care, that will now come into his domain.

WOODRUFF: All right, David Broder, thanks very much. We appreciate it -- Bernie.

SHAW: Five days before President Clinton leaves office, he spent part of this Martin Luther King Day revisiting his quest for racial unity and the work that still needs to be done.

CNN's Major Garrett has more on that and Mr. Clinton's legacy in the area of race relations.


MAJOR GARRETT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In his last testimonial to Dr. King, the president left the nation not with a dream, but a wish.

CLINTON: If I could leave America with one wish as I depart office, it would be that we become more the one America that we know we ought to be.

GARRETT: Advisers say there's never been one Clinton approach to race. But there is one speech, given in 1993, that says all anyone need know. "What," he asked, "would Dr. King say if he were still alive?"

CLINTON: "I fought for freedom," he would say, "but not for the freedom of people to kill each other with reckless abandon, not for the freedom of children to have children and the fathers of the children walk away from them and abandon them as if they don't amount to anything." GARRETT: Advisers say Clinton's call for personal responsibility changed his party and the country. And they say spreading prosperity is more important than grand race-based programs. And black voters overwhelmingly agreed, supporting Clinton through the good times and bad, and supporting his hand-picked successor with equal fervor.

The president also honored heroes and heroic moments: Jackie Robinson, who broke Major League Baseball's color line; the Arkansas nine, who desegregated Central High School; and Selma, where clubs fell to stop a voting rights march.

Beyond prosperity and symbolism lie some unfinished business. Here's part of Clinton's own list: end racial profiling, reduce sentencing disparities between crack and powder cocaine, create a panel to ensure uniform voting standards.

But critics wonder why he's proposing these changes now, when he had time to fight for them as president.

LAURA MURPHY, ACLU: This is what makes people cynical about Bill Clinton. He's too smart a guy not to know what the nature of the problem is. Where was the political will on his White House staff to push for these proposals when they were pending in Congress?


GARRETT: The president leaves behind unparalleled minority prosperity and widespread political support. But critics wonder why he didn't spend some of that political capital to improve civil rights instead of leaving a to-do list to his Republican successor and a Republican Congress -- Bernie.

SHAW: Major, in these closing days, has the president added anything new regarding civil rights?

GARRETT: Two very important things, Bernie, both dealing with crime, an agenda that he tried to skirt when it came to racial matters while he was president. But as he leaves, he's asking Congress to change the disparity between the sentencing in federal courts for crack and powder cocaine. If you're convicted for having crack cocaine, your penalty is sometimes a 100 times more severe than if you had powder cocaine. He's also asking that all death penalty convicts have access to better defense counsel and DNA testing.

Both issues were brought to the president months and months ago, and many liberals in Congress begged him to push for it and worked quite hard for them. He decided not to, many White House advisers say for political reasons. But he leaves them now to President-elect Bush and this Republican Congress -- Bernie.

SHAW: Major Garrett, thank you.

For more on race and politics in America, we're turning now to CNN senior analyst Jeff Greenfield -- Jeff.

JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SENIOR ANALYST: Well, Bernie, the Martin Luther King holiday is rich in memory and sentiment, but you know, sometimes the noble sentiments can obscure a central truth: Race in America is not just a moral issue; it is an intensely political matter as well. In fact, while it has changed its shape and look many times, race has driven American political life more consistently and intensely than any other domestic issue.


GREENFIELD (voice-over): More than half a century ago, at the 1948 Democratic convention, race split the party. The strong civil rights plank drove the South out, and that year four Southern states voted for the third party states' rights candidate, then-Governor of South Carolina Strom Thurmond.

Sixteen years later, in 1964, the strong civil rights stand of President Lyndon Johnson triggered a white backlash. Republican nominee Barry Goldwater, an opponent of the proposed civil rights law, carried five Southern states that year as he lost to Johnson in a landslide.

But it was the spread of racial unrest in the North, with a series of summer riots, that began to churn racial politics in the North. Richard Nixon's "law and order" message in 1968 was successfully aimed at many white working-class Democrats. So was the message of Alabama Governor George Wallace, who won 13 percent of the vote in '68 as a third-party candidate, and was running strongly in the Democratic primaries in 1972 before he was shot in Maryland and paralyzed.

In fact, all through the 1970s and '80s, a series of issues split the traditional Democratic coalition: welfare, crime, school busing, affirmative action -- all containing a strong element of race at the core.

Those same issues that affected some white voters also drew black voters more and more into the Democratic camp, to the point that nearly 9 out of 10 African-Americans now regularly vote Democratic.

It was Bill Clinton who showed Democrats how to bridge the racial divide in 1992. He was tough on crime, pro-death penalty, pro-welfare reform -- he even publicly assailed a prominent rap artist, Sister Souljah, for her provocative lyrics. But he also demonstrated clear empathy with African-Americans in his style, his agenda, his appointments. And no group was more loyal during his times of trial than black Americans.


GREENFIELD: And Judy, as you've noticed, the prevailing dominance of race was and is very much with us in the most recent campaign and beyond. Black turnout in Florida helped make that state as close as it was. Complaints about voter disenfranchisement in African-American neighborhoods fueled much of the protest. And the current controversy over John Ashcroft as attorney general centers on his views on race. You know, years ago, in a classic work of sociology, Gunnar Myrdal called race "an American dilemma." Well, it's also a perennial political dilemma, and no one knew that better than Dr. Martin Luther King -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right, Jeff Greenfield, thanks very much.

Still ahead on INSIDE POLITICS...


BOB FRANKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: After so many years in office, John Ashcroft certainly has a full public record of action and words.


WOODRUFF: Bob Franken on the conservative positions of the attorney general nominee. We'll have more on John Ashcroft and the fight over his confirmation when we return.


SHAW: Tomorrow on the Hill, members of the Senate Judiciary Committee will open the confirmation hearing of John Ashcroft. Some Senate Democrats have already raised questions about how Ashcroft's conservative views would affect his performance as the nation's attorney general.

Our Bob Franken takes an inside look at those issues and the Ashcroft record.


FRANKEN (voice-over): After so many years in office, John Ashcroft certainly has a full public record of actions and words.

SEN. JOHN ASHCROFT (R), MISSOURI: I don't want anyone to think that I think the law is the most important thing in America. What happens in families and in churches and civic organizations, the values people believe in their hearts, are more important than the laws we write in the books.

FRANKEN: Ashcroft's adversaries charge his disagreement with U.S. laws on issues like abortion and gun control disqualify him.

KATE MICHELMAN, PRESIDENT, NARAL: His public record makes him the wrong choice to be attorney general of the United States.

FRANKEN: On abortion Ashcroft has called the Supreme Court's Roe versus Wade decision "a miserable failure."

Ashcroft has come under intense criticism for his leading role in defeating the nomination in the Senate of the Missouri State Supreme Court's first African-American justice, Ronnie White.

ASHCROFT: The Senate simply decided we don't need someone who's soft on crime, who won't stand with law enforcement officers, who doesn't have at the heart of his existence, a fundamental regime of fairness.

FRANKEN: His supporters say race had nothing to do with the opposition to Judge White. And, the Bush transition team points out, that while Ashcroft was in the Senate 28 African-Americans were nominated to be federal judges and he supported all but two of them. Judge White, and another nominee who was subsequently withdrawn by the White House.

Ashcroft has adamantly opposed almost all gun control. In 1998, he said in the Senate: "A citizenry armed with the right to both possess firearms and to speak freely is less likely to fall victim to a tyrannical central government than a citizenry that is disarmed from criticizing government or defending themselves."

Ashcroft's adversaries are also focusing on the honorary degree he received from Bob Jones University and a tape of his acceptance speech at the Christian school, which gained notoriety for its ban on interracial dating.

ASHCROFT: Unique among the nations, America recognized the source of our character as being godly and eternal, not being civic and temporal. And because we have understood that our source is eternal, America has been different; we have no king but Jesus.

FRANKEN: Ashcroft's supporters point out that, as Missouri attorney general, he opposed the use of public school facilities for religious purposes. That, they say, is evidence he will enforce the law, whatever his views.

(on camera): The fundamental question before the Senate, opponents say, is whether Ashcroft will be able to aggressively enforce laws he has spent a lifetime opposing.

Bob Franken, CNN, Capitol Hill.


WOODRUFF: Well, joining us now to talk about the nomination of John Ashcroft: Patricia Ireland of the National Organization for Women and David Keene of the group, Americans for the Bush Cabinet.

David Keene, how do you and other people who are backing John Ashcroft -- how do you know that he will enforce these laws that he has spent years arguing against?

DAVID KEENE, AMERICANS FOR THE BUSH CABINET: Well, you know, you have different functions. As a legislator, you take the position on whether a law ought to be passed, you have private views, you have public views. In the executive branch, you take an oath to enforce the laws. We -- in your earlier segment they were talking about his opposition to gun laws. In fact, in Missouri he enforced the gun laws more strictly than, let's say, the Clinton administration did and the Justice Department here. It depends on your job, and I don't think that there's anything in John Ashcroft's public record, and it's -- Lord knows -- an extensive public record, that would indicate that he would do anything other than take his public responsibility seriously, and that means enforcing the law.

WOODRUFF: Patricia Ireland, is that the case? There's nothing in his record to indicate otherwise?

PATRICIA IRELAND, NATIONAL ORGANIZATION FOR WOMEN: I know it will surprise you that we disagree.

I find his record very clear; that he has misused his power to advance his own political agenda and his own career. As attorney general of Missouri he sued NOW and tried to do away with our right to free speech and to say we had to stop calling for a boycott of the states that hadn't ratified the Equal Rights Amendment.

WOODRUFF: But isn't that different from upholding the laws of the land as they now exist?

IRELAND: Well, I think it may be; and at the same time I think it shows a lack of respect for the Constitution.

I think his stance against Ronnie White, for instance, was a politically expedient stance because he was in a fight with Mel Carnahan for the Senate seat; and he clearly distorted the man's record. Some would say, misled his colleagues.

WOODRUFF: What about that?

KEENE: There are two sides to the issue: John Ashcroft doesn't think he distorted the issue. The issue in that nomination was, in fact, crime and the death penalty and a very explosive case involving law enforcement officers and the wife of one who were killed by Ronnie White. And that's what John Ashcroft said.

Obviously, there were differences; the Senate was evenly divided on that issue. So the question, though, isn't whether Patricia and I disagree with John Ashcroft's politics. The question is, as she alleges, is does that disagreement get him, or motivate him to do things that are somehow not legitimate?

I say that's not the case, and I think his public record indicates that's not the case.

IRELAND: Well, I find that his disingenuous distortion of Ronnie White's record indicates to me that you can't rely on him to be straightforward. But even if we give him the best of intentions, any attorney general has to prioritize what is going to be the top part of law enforcement. Any attorney general, we don't have unlimited resources, is going to have to say, am I going to prioritize ending violence against women, hate crimes? Am I going to prioritize antitrust? What am I going to...

KEENE: Patricia, there's no question that his priorities would be different than yours. George Bush's priorities are probably different from yours...

IRELAND: His priorities are different from George Bush's as well.

KEENE: ... The point is that he is going to be George Bush's attorney general.

IRELAND: He's the attorney general for all of the citizens in this country.

KEENE: George Bush selected him and there is a presumption that, unless there's something egregiously wrong, which you allege there is, and I don't think there is, that he has the right to his own team.

IRELAND: There's something wrong when somebody opposes birth control pills...

KEENE: The policies that John Ashcroft follows -- the agenda that he sets, the priorities he pursues as attorney general will be the Bush administration's priorities.

WOODRUFF: Patricia Ireland, is there anything that John Ashcroft could say during these hearings this week that would persuade you that he should be confirmed, or is your mind made up?

IRELAND: I think his record is too extreme. I think opposing birth control pills, as well as abortion rights...

WOODRUFF: So even if he sits there and says, I will uphold the laws I disagree with?

IRELAND: I will hope that I'm wrong if he's confirmed. I don't think that he will be able to set aside such deeply held beliefs; and he believes that law should be used to enforce morality and he thinks morality comes because we have no other king but Jesus.

WOODRUFF: David Keene, what about this new information, the story today in "The Washington Post" and elsewhere that, when he was attorney general of the state of Missouri he used state employees, allegedly, in his campaign for governor? Does this concern you?

KEENE: No, because these kinds of charges, this digging around, coming up with something -- John Ashcroft has run for public office more times than anybody who's been attorney general of the United States. These things have been out, they've been argued about in various races.

Patricia knows, she's got the opposition research file on John Ashcroft. If there was anything in that file that was damaging, it would have been used a long time ago. I'm not concerned about any of those things.

I know John Ashcroft and I think that the reason he's going to be confirmed is not just that record, but that his colleagues and former colleagues know him. They know this to be a competent, bright, decent man, and I think they're going to confirm him. IRELAND: This is clearly relevant: He was in a lawsuit saying he had gone after a company to get political publicity, and he took the Fifth Amendment on whether he had misused public resources for his own private advantage.

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

Patricia Ireland, thank you very much for now; David Keene, thank you, we appreciate it. Thank you.

And there's much more ahead on this edition of INSIDE POLITICS.

Still to come:


JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Eight roller-coaster years, some of it impossible to forget; some of it still hard to comprehend.


WOODRUFF: John King on the Clinton years -- from public opinion to the historian's pen.

And our roundtable will discuss legacy and race relations.

Plus: What civil rights message does the choice of John Ashcroft send?

And later: taking the pulse of the African-American community; a look at one activist who says there is hope for George W. Bush.


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

Doctors for Ronald Reagan say the former president is making good progress from his hip surgery on Saturday. Mr. Reagan fell at his home in Los Angeles Friday. Yesterday, he was able to sit up in a chair and eat some ice cream. But doctors say Reagan, who suffers from Alzheimer's disease, faces a long and difficult recovery. Ronald Reagan turns 90 next month.

Israeli settlers attacked Palestinian homes in the Gaza Strip today after a settler was murdered. Palestinians say Israeli troops stood by without intervening, as homes were shot at and buildings and crops were burned. The Israelis say two settlers were detained. Also today, a Palestinian was reported killed in the West Bank during a clash between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian rock throwers. Israeli and Palestinian peace negotiators postponed a scheduled session today, but have agreed to meet tomorrow.

WOODRUFF: In El Salvador, rescue workers are trying to reach earthquake victims who were buried in a massive mud slide. The official death toll has topped 400 and is certain to climb. El Salvador's president is pleading for help from abroad and, among other items, wants 3,000 coffins.

Robert Moore has details from the Salvadorian capital.


ROBERT MOORE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He had come to life in an air pocket for 30 hours. The survivor was 22-year-old Sergio Moreno. He had used his mobile phone to call a friend and plead for help from beneath the rubble. Amid the chaotic scenes of the rescue efforts, it was a rare success: pulling someone alive from the ruins of this suburb of San Salvador.

It immediately gave added momentum to a search and rescue mission, that up until now, had simply been pulling the dead from the sea of mud. Two days after the earthquake and the death toll is still climbing rapidly. So far, over 400 are confirmed dead. It could easily reach several thousand.

It follows a tragic sequence of events: first, the earthquake, then the mud slide had triggered, bringing down much of the hillside and ripping the heart of this middle class suburb of San Salvador. Specialized dog teams from around the world are now on the ground, but their efforts are made more difficult because of the frequency of after shocks still rocking the area.

The military are trying to put in place a basic infrastructure. There are some villages only now being reached, but other soldiers are still frantically digging, looking for survivors, in reality mainly retrieving corpses. This was an earthquake that was felt right across Central America, but there was one suburb in El Salvador's capital that bore the brunt of the disaster. The mass burials are now underway, the appeal for coffin has gone out; leading behind the grief of a shafted community.

Robert Moore, ITN.


WOODRUFF: Still ahead on INSIDE POLITICS: a debate over President Clinton's legacy. Stay tuned.


WOODRUFF: Time is running out on the Clinton presidency. One big question mark is how William Jefferson Clinton will be judged once he leaves the Oval Office. The answer might depend on whom you ask: the people or the historians. Our senior White House correspondent John King will be examining the Clinton legacy this week. Today: President Clinton and the American people.


WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Hi, how are you? What's your name? KING (voice-over): He always seemed more at peace, more comfortable out here with the people.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I like what you're doing for education.

CLINTON: Thank you. Hi, hello.

KING: One legacy of any president is his place in public opinion. And Mr. Clinton leaves office with reason to smile. Two- thirds of Americans approve of his performance on the job. But like so much about this president and early efforts to assess his legacy, it is so much more complicated than that. Nearly six in 10 say Mr. Clinton is not honest or trustworthy. Nearly seven in 10 say he will be remembered more for scandal than any accomplishments.

KEN DUBERSTEIN, FORMER REAGAN CHIEF OF STAFF: I think Bill Clinton tried an awful lot. I think in some ways he succeeded. But I wouldn't put him anywhere near the top of the heap when it came to presidents. But he is a likable rogue.

KING: From the very beginning, a polarizing figure.


CLINTON: I, William Jefferson Clinton...


KING: Elected and reelected, but never with a majority of the vote; always with vocal opposition. Repudiated two years into office: the Republican rout of 1994.


CLINTON: I think that I have some responsibility for it. I am the president. I am the leader of the efforts that we have made in the last two years. And to whatever extent that we didn't do what the people wanted us to do or they were not aware of what we had done, I must certainly bear my share of responsibility. And I accept that.


KING: In 1995, one of many revivals, a president who found his voice in two very different crises. April: horror in Oklahoma City, and Mr. Clinton voices the grief of a nation.


CLINTON: Those who are lost now belong to God. Some day we will be with them. But until that happens, their legacy must be our lives.


KING: Then December: a nemesis and a showdown.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, DEC. 15, 1995) CLINTON: Now the Republicans in Congress are not only refusing to talk, once again they are threatening to shut the government down if I do not accept their deep cuts in health care, education, the environment, and their tax increases on working families. I would not give in to such a threat last month, and I will not give in today.


KING: Mr. Clinton would carry the day and public opinion about the government shutdown. One senior Republican involved in the talks back then put it this way: We have no one like him -- not even close.

JAMES CARVILLE, FORMER CAMPAIGN STRATEGIST: They didn't respect him, they didn't do this, they didn't do that, OK. But they were scared to death of him, and that's why he beat them every time.

KING: Welfare reform and a balanced budget: a Democratic president on traditionally Republican turf. One Clinton legacy is a fierce public debate over whether he led public opinion or shamelessly followed it.

DUBERSTEIN: Now we're talking about the eight years of Bill Clinton being overnight tracking results, polling virtually around the clock so that every little tick of public opinion could be registered.

JOHN PODESTA, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: He enjoys politics, he, you know, he looks at where the American people are. But I think he does that largely because he uses that as a way of helping him really explain what he's trying to do. He knows that having the support of the American people is enormously important.

KING: One constant in eight years of tumult: overwhelming support from African Americans.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, these are your people. Give him a great big hand.


KING: Memphis, November 1993, in the church where Martin Luther King preached his last sermon 25 years before.


CLINTON: He would say, I did not live and die to see the American family destroyed.


I did not live and die to see 13-year-old boys get automatic weapons and gun down 9-year-olds just for the kick of it.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: No one questioned his intelligence or his skills as a communicator, but many questioned his sincerity and judgment. He was the president who shared our pain; shared some things we didn't need to know.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, the world's dying to know: Is it boxers or briefs.


CLINTON: Usually briefs.


KING: Eight roller coaster years, some of it impossible to forget, some of it still hard to comprehend. Through it all, he said most of all he wanted to be remembered as the president who fought for ordinary Americans.

DAVID GERGEN, FORMER CLINTON WHITE HOUSE ADVISER: I think he's going to be remembered in history, in a very odd way, just like his mentor or his favorite president, Jack Kennedy. And as Kennedy was always better remembered by the people than he was by the historians, Kennedy, to this day, remains a popular figure in the minds of the public. Kennedy, to this day, is not a high-ranking figure among historians. I think Bill Clinton is going to rank well among the populous. Many people at the lower end of the spectrum did well during the Clinton years, and they respect him for that and they like him for it. But the historians, I think, will be more unforgiving.

KING: He campaigned to the very end, eager to shake a few more hands; eager, if possible, to shape history's judgment.

John King, CNN, the White House.


SHAW: We may have to wait a few years for history's judgment. But we've assembled a group ready to discuss Mr. Clinton's legacy right now. We have Texas Democratic Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson, columnist and radio-television host Armstrong Williams, Tennessee Democratic Congressman Harold Ford Jr., and Robert George of the "New York Post."

Congresswoman, first to you, in the broadest sense -- briefly, please -- what is Bill Clinton's legacy as 42nd president?

REP. EDDIE BERNICE JOHNSON (D), TEXAS: His legacy will be that of inclusion: a person who did not show a preference for the upper income.

SHAW: Armstrong Williams.


I would say part of his legacy would be that, more than any other Democrat in recent history, he has just decimated and dismantled the Democratic Party. I mean, in the end, the only one who will really benefit from Clinton's legacy will be Clinton and his wife. I mean, when Clinton entered office in the early '90s, he had a Democrat controlled Senate, House, Democratic governors' control all over this country.

And look at -- let's fast forward to where we are now. The Republicans control the House. They control the Senate. They control the governorships. And guess what? We have a Republican president. That certainly will be part of his legacy.

SHAW: Congressman Harold Ford, how do you see it?

REP. HAROLD FORD JR. (D), TENNESSEE: He's a president who has led America in one of the greatest, most unprecedented economic expansions the nation has ever known. And at a time when there really was not a guidebook or a map, Bill Clinton will be remembered fondly. He's remembered fondly by a good portion of this nation.

I remind my good friend Armstrong Williams that he was reelected. And I would remind him that even the guy that lost this last presidential election got more votes than the other guy. As much as Armstrong may hate to say it, Bill Clinton has been a great president. I disagree slightly with something one of your other announcers might have said. People at the upper end of the income ladder did very well as well under this president.

America is richer, safer, and the world is a better place because of Bill Clinton's presidency.

SHAW: Robert George, are these judgments too soon?

ROBERT GEORGE, "NEW YORK POST": I mean, to some extent, but I think we can get a pretty good snapshot of what Bill Clinton has meant. I think part of his legacy is lot of the divisions, actually, that we see within the country. I mean, one of the reasons why we had such an incredibly split election is really something of a referendum on who Bill Clinton is and what he has meant to the country over the last eight years.

I think that it's very, very deeply conflicted. And I think he helped encourage and drive many of those divisions.

SHAW: Harold Ford, where do you rate him on improving American life and race relations?

FORD: Well, you know, I'm just 30 years old, so I would really have to really hark back to the history books. I think that, when you look at American presidents the last 50 years, I'm one who may surprise folks in saying that I think Richard Nixon actually did a great -- actually led the way in a lot ways in helping to improve race relations by introducing affirmative action and trying his hardest to empower people. Bill Clinton, I think, garnered considerable African-American support because we were able to empathize with him unlike any other president. He seemed to be as comfortable around African-Americans as anyone, if not more so. In addition, his policies -- as Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson said -- were ones that reflected inclusion. When he lowered interest rates, it made it easier for everyone to own homes: the highest black home-ownership rate in American history, more blacks in the middle class, and more African-Americans attending college. He's been a good president for all of America.

And African-Americans in particular can relate to somebody from the South who grew up in tough conditions.

WILLIAMS: Well, you know...

SHAW: Armstrong Williams.

WILLIAMS: Actually, I think Congressman Ford had it right in terms of substance. President Nixon certainly was the leader as it relates to African-Americans. But, you know, I must give President Clinton credit. I think he was a powerful symbol for African- Americans in this country. And I think, on many fronts, he did a lot substantively.

And I think one of the impacts that he has had is with the Republican Party. I do believe if you did not have President Clinton -- if you did not have him in the White House, you would not have had the kind of Republican National Convention that you had. You would not have had the Republicans realizing that they needed to reach out for the black vote, and they needed to change their policies and the image of its party. And I think it's very good. And I only hope that the Republican Party can only emulate half of what President Clinton had attempted to do.

And I really believe that he was sincere. And he should be congratulated for it.

SHAW: Congresswoman.

JOHNSON: You know, it's very interesting that there is even a question about what President Clinton brought to this country. He is the only president that talked about one America. He is the only one that put a task force together to talk about race relations. But, in addition to that, he did forge a very good economic package very early in his administration, where only the Democrats supported it.

And we even had some doubt about that. But it has brought about the 22 million jobs. And it has brought about more opportunity. It has eliminated lots of people from the welfare rolls. He vetoed, at least twice, the welfare-reform bill that the Republicans put on his desk, until they put something there that we could live with, that had some compassion, had a little bit of a safety net. He really has taken a lead in being inclusive, to make sure that policies -- no matter what they were -- were a bit more fair.

SHAW: Before we go break, Robert George, you had a quick point. GEORGE: Well, I was just saying, I think, though, it's been a lot -- a little bit too much symbolism and a little bit too much rhetoric. I don't disagree that there have been some significant accomplishments made. But, again, I mean, we saw in, like, in "The New York Times" piece that he wrote yesterday, it's lot more rhetoric, when he could have actually initiated some of the suggestions that he put in the newspaper. He could have actually initiated those within his last couple of years in office.

SHAW: OK. Coming up, our roundtable talks about the new president and the trouble he faces getting Cabinet approved.


SHAW: Joining us once again, our distinguished roundtable: Texas Democratic Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson, columnist and radio- television host Armstrong Williams, Tennessee Democratic Congressman Harold Ford Jr., and Robert George of the "New York Post."

Eight years ago, Janet Reno underwent the confirmation process. Now it's John Ashcroft's turn.

Mr. Williams, in your judgment, is John Ashcroft being treated appropriately, fairly? Or are his political views being held against him?

WILLIAMS: It's just politics, Bernie. It's unfair. I mean, just because Senator Ashcroft has a different view on affirmative action, on the issue of abortion, and other issues that are very dear to certain Americans in this country does not make him racist. It does not make him a bigot. John Ashcroft will enforce the law. He is someone who cares very deeply about civil rights. I have been on meetings with him and heard it firsthand.

And it's just unfair that politics has played into this. But it's like this in every administration. So I can't just blame the Democrats for this, because we as Republicans do it also.

SHAW: Congresswoman Johnson.

JOHNSON: You know, I have not had the privilege of speaking to him personally and knowing him over the years personally and what he believes personally. All I have to go on is his record. And his record indicates that he is very, very conservative and is against most of the laws that speak to fairness, that speak to inclusion that he will have the responsibility for enforcing.

I'm also very concerned about what he would clear as for nominees for the federal benches. That is extremely important. And he does not have a good history of choosing people that we feel will be fair to all people. I can only go on his record. I cannot go on a personal relationship.

SHAW: How do you see it, Congressman Ford?

FORD: Well, I think both of my colleague and Mr. Williams have raised interesting points. I think the point for me and I think for some of my colleagues that I have spoken with in the past few days is whether or not Senator Ashcroft, in the face of his strong personal feelings and opinions and convictions on issues dealing with privacy for women, to environmental laws, to civil rights issues, whether or not he will be able to enforce existing laws on the books.

As a chief law-enforcement officer, it's a different role than being a U.S. senator. The freedoms are somewhat different. As the nation's chief law-enforcement officer, you have to enforce laws even if there are ones you don't agree with. And, hopefully, Senator Ashcroft, for his own sake, will be able to assure or reassure members of the Judiciary Committee and the U.S. Senate that he will. If he is unable to do that, I think the Senate will have to take the responsible and mature step of asking this president-elect to choose another attorney general.

But we'll have to wait and see. And this week, beginning tomorrow, I think at 1:30, we'll have the opportunity to hear from Senator Ashcroft himself and learn firsthand whether or not he is fit to be the next attorney general.

SHAW: Robert George, how does this battle shaping up look outside Washington?

GEORGE: Well, in certain ways, it likes very typical -- I guess you could say -- of battles that are in Washington. I mean, we have seen this before with Justice Clarence Thomas, with Robert Bork. And so it's -- in a sense, it's kind of a same old, same old. But all you really have to do is really take a look at, in a sense, in contrast with -- say, with Janet Reno, who was approved by the U.S. Senate 98- 0, and even she, in fact, was personally against the death penalty, even though she realized that the death penalty was the law of the land.

Bill Clinton supported the federal death penalty. And they even had to prosecute the death penalty in the case of, say, Timothy McVeigh. So I think the accusations that Ashcroft wouldn't enforce laws that he disagrees with, I don't think it's


FORD: There's a slight difference, Mr. George. I hear your point. And I think that that point has some validity. But here is a United States senator who is a former governor and a state attorney general. You may be right. He may come before that committee and assure us and assure all of America that he is capable of doing that. But to suggest for one moment that these questions should not be raised...

GEORGE: Oh, I never...

FORD: And I can appreciate -- I can appreciate your point about how this may look typical for Washington. But

(CROSSTALK) SHAW: And all of you can appreciate that we've just run out of time. I'm sorry to interrupt you, Robert George of the "New York Post," Tennessee Democrat, Congressman Harold Ford Jr., Texas Democrat Eddie Bernice Johnson, and columnist and radio-TV host Armstrong Williams. Thank you very much.

And when we return: an African-American activist who says protests are not the way to influence the Bush administration. Plus: the numbers from one review of those uncounted Miami-Dade County ballots.


WOODRUFF: In Florida, a review of more than 10,000 previously uncounted votes in Miami-Dade County showed George W. Bush gaining six more votes than Al Gore. The "Palm Beach Post" says two of its reporters and two elections staffers reviewed the punch-card ballots. The "Post" said that only about 5 percent of the ballots could be counted, those with so-called hanging chads or dimples.

The others had no mark at all or multiple votes for president and could not be counted. Bush would have gained 251 votes and Gore 245 from those uncounted Miami-Dade ballots. Bush officially carried Florida by 537 votes, giving him the presidency. CNN is part of a separate media group that will conduct a review of the undervotes and overvotes throughout the state.

The vast majority of black voters in the state of Florida and across the country did not support George W. Bush during the election. There also have been strident post-election protests. But one long- time activist says it is too early for African-Americans to count the next president out.

Bill Delaney reports.


BILL DELANEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): By the time twilight's wrapping itself around Boston's inner city, long-time activist Reverend Eugene Rivers is no where near wrapping up another 18-hour day. His ear's still to the wintry street.

REV. EUGENE RIVERS, COMMUNITY LEADER: Most of my opinions come from black guys that I meet in a working-class barber shop every other week. The average black American, while not thrilled by George Bush, can be convinced that, in addition to moral outrage, we've got to do business with the man because he is a fait accompli.

DELANEY (on camera): Why don't we hear that more often?

RIVERS: There is an industry, called the civil rights industry, which trades on the rhetoric of grievance.

DELANEY (voice-over): Rivers wants to cut the rhetoric, and instead cut deals with the president-elect he met for the first time, with a group of clergy in late December. Predictable protest, River says, won't get it done now.

RIVERS: President-elect Bush was smart, in that he listened.

DELANEY: What could win over many blacks fast, River says, includes new assistance to fight AIDS in Africa, a degree of expanded Medicaid, a degree of help for women and children, hit hardest by welfare reform.

Dream on? Well, Rivers says, were Bush to win over even 10 percent more blacks, he could make himself politically invincible.

And Rivers isn't the only one weary of by-the-book protest from leaders like Reverend Jesse Jackson.

ANDRE NORMAN, YOUTH OUTREACH WORKER: I ain't feeling Jesse. I never felt Jesse, from day one. Want to pull for Colin Powell, want to pull for sister Rice, that's -- that's a good move. That's telling me at least he's trying to make the step. That's -- if that's the olive branch, hey, I am not going to grab it yet, but I see it.

DELANEY: For George W. Bush, Reverend Eugene Rivers says, opportunity which knocks once.

Bill Delaney, CNN, Boston.


SHAW: And still ahead, attorney general nominee John Ashcroft prepares for a tough political fight. We'll preview his confirmation hearing which opens tomorrow. Also ahead, Bill Schneider talks about how the black vote has played an increasing role in U.S. politics.


SHAW: Attorney General-nominee John Ashcroft, up close and controversial. We'll have a viewers guide for his confirmation hearing tomorrow.

WOODRUFF: On this Martin Luther King Day, an update on the Confederate flag protest in South Carolina. And:

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If Martin Luther King were here, what would he say to us?

SHAW: Reflections on "the dream" in 2001.

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


The political tremors have been building for weeks. Tomorrow, John Ashcroft will try to calm them and begin to seal his nomination for attorney general. On this day before his confirmation hearings begin, Ashcroft let cameras in as he prepared for the Senate session. Meantime, Democrats on the judiciary committee are preparing their questions for the conservative former senator. They are expected to take aim at his record on civil rights, gun control and abortion. CNN's Jonathan Karl is covering the Ashcroft nomination.

Jonathan, I understand Republicans are -- have some things in mind as these hearings get under way tomorrow.

KARL: Yes, they wanted to get started on the right foot here, clearly with John Ashcroft. And one of the things they'll be doing, an unusual move, we just learned about is that Susan Collins, the moderate pro-abortion rights Senator from Maine, will be there at the start of the hearing. She's not a member of the Judiciary Committee, but she'll be there with Ashcroft offering part of the introduction of Ashcroft.

The message of having Susan Collins there at the table with Ashcroft is that moderate Republicans are solidly behind this nominee, despite the criticism he's come under, and despite the fact that he disagrees with them on a great many number of issues, of course, abortion rights and also things like gun control. So, Susan Collins will be there. The message sent that if the moderate Republicans are unified behind Ashcroft, then this nomination, even before it gets under way, is essentially a done deal, because the Republicans, if they are unified, of course, have 50 votes -- 51 votes when you include Vice President Dick Cheney. So, that's the message there, but also:

Collins is somebody who is viewed as a moderate and somebody has worked with many Democrats in the Senate, and they believe she could help bring along many Democrats by saying -- or at least a few Democrats -- by saying, hey, look, I'm a moderate, I agree with you on a lot of these issues, but I still think Ashcroft is going to be OK.

WOODRUFF: So, John, are you saying that Republicans and people around George W. Bush are confident that this is a slam dunk?

KARL: Well, I certainly wouldn't go that far. They know they have a tough fight here, they know that these hearings are going to drag on. Look, Judy, this is going to be four days, at least four days of confirmation hearings. Who knows what could come out? There could be something unpredictable. They have got a very close, tight margin, they want to bring on board several Democrats, they believe they have at least 10 Democrats who will ultimately vote for Ashcroft. But they were perhaps caught by surprise at the vehemence of the opposition of Ashcroft and now, having Susan Collins go out there, right at the beginning, they are trying to be aggressive in fighting this stuff off.

WOODRUFF: All right, Jonathan Karl, here in Washington. Thanks -- Bernie.

SHAW: As we, and the rest of the nation, watch Ashcroft's confirmation hearing unfold, it may be useful to keep in mind some recent political history. For some context on the issues and the stakes, here is Ron Brownstein of the "Los Angeles Times."


RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST/"LOS ANGELES TIMES": Sometimes history moves so fast you don't notice the bend points, the moment when one pattern changes into another. But the next few days, as the confirmation hearings get under way for John Ashcroft as attorney general, and Gale Norton as interior secretary, we're going to see a fundamental change in the way a president's nominees are received and resisted. First, opponents inside and outside of Congress are more willing than ever before to fight a president's nominations.

Since the Civil War, the Senate has rejected only four Cabinet appointments. Since then, the pace has accelerated dramatically. Four of Clinton's Cabinet appointments, including Zoe Baird and Kimba Wood, who he wanted to name as attorney general, and Anthony Lake, who he wanted to appoint as CIA director, were forced to withdraw without a vote. And, of course, last week, Linda Chavez had to throw it in.

Second, the grounds for opposing a nominee are broadening. Through most of the century, because of the tradition to deference to the President, opponents have almost never felt they could oppose a nominee solely because of his political views. Even if the real reason was ideological, opponents have felt they needed to center their resistance on grounds of ethics or competence.

That's been the pattern for Supreme Court nominations, too. Richard Nixon thought that ideology may have been the real reason the Senate rejected two Southern conservatives he tried to put on the Supreme Court, Clement Haynsworth and Harrold Carswell. But opponents publicly focused on conflict of interest charges against Haynsworth and allegations that Carswell simply wasn't up to the job.

RICHARD NIXON, 37TH PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have reluctantly concluded that it is not possible to get confirmation for any man who believes in the strict construction of the constitution as I do, if he happens to come from the South.

BROWNSTEIN: But as we get into the 1980s, we see more appointments fought simply because their opponents consider their views too extreme. That was the case in 1987, when Ronald Reagan appointed Robert Bork to the Supreme Court and Senate Democrats issued dire warnings.

SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: In Robert Bork's America, there is no room at the inn for blacks, and no place in the constitution for women. And in our America there should be no seat on the Supreme Court for Robert Bork.

BROWNSTEIN: The pattern accelerates through the Clinton years, with nominations like Guinier and Bill Lann Lee, and Bill Weld and Henry Foster, and David Satcher, who Clinton later picked as surgeon general; all resisted by Republicans, simply because they opposed their views. Interestingly, Ashcroft, as a senator, was at the forefront of that change. Ashcroft voted against Bill Lann Lee on grounds of ideology, not competence. Ashcroft also tried to filibuster Satcher's nomination, again because he said Satcher's support for keeping partial birth abortions illegal put him out of America's mainstream.

Third, the tactics used against nominees are growing more and more brutal. Opposition to presidential appointments are becoming evermore like a political campaign. A turning point may have been the television ads that the liberal group, People for the American Way, ran against Bork.


GREGORY PECK: This is Gregory Peck; Robert Bork wants to be a Supreme Court Justice, but the record shows that he has a strange idea of what justice is.


BROWNSTEIN: Now, of course, we have opponents and supporters of Ashcroft and Norton running television and radio ads, organizing phone banks, and trying to bombard Congress with e-mail.

The second change in tactics is inside the Senate itself. Under Clinton, we saw opponents of his choices, including Ashcroft, use the filibuster to stop them. Now, though, you're already seeing Democratic and liberal interest groups urging Democratic senators to filibuster the Ashcroft nomination. With a filibuster, of course, opponents would need only 41 votes to derail Ashcroft, not 51, and that may be an easier target to hit. But even compared to all the changes we've seen over the past 30 years, filibustering one of a president's initial Cabinet appointees would be an enormous escalation in hostilities, and a precedent that Senate Democrats may think long and hard before setting.

This is Ron Brownstein for INSIDE POLITICS.


WOODRUFF: Beyond some of the questions raised by the Ashcroft nomination, civil rights and race are very much on many politicians' minds on this Martin Luther King Day.


WOODRUFF (voice-over): Dr. King's dream of racial equality was remembered at the Atlanta church where he preached, and all around the nation.

In Austin, Texas, President-elect Bush honored King's legacy, along with one of the African-Americans that he has chosen for his Cabinet: Education Secretary-nominee Rod Paige.

BUSH: Intelligence plus character, Dr. King said, that's the true goal of education. That's what Dr. Rod Paige has stood for here in Houston. He believes every child can learn, if given a chance. He believes that if you set high standards of learning and behavior, our young people will rise to meet those standards.


WOODRUFF: Mr. Bush is mindful of the need to reach out to African-Americans, who overwhelmingly favored Al Gore in the presidential election.

Well, our Bill Schneider joins us now with more on race and politics.

Bill, how dependent are Democrats in this country on the African- American vote?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well Judy, as you know, Dr. King's civil rights movement really married African- Americans and the Democratic Party. And it also caused a lot of whites to leave the party.

Today, without African-Americans, Democrats would be lost. In last year's election, African-Americans accounted for 10 percent of the vote nationwide, and nine out of 10 blacks voted democratic. Now that the two parties are evenly matched at almost every level, Democrats are more dependent than ever on the black vote.

Take last year's presidential election, which ended up as a tie between Bush and Gore. If you look at all the voters who were not African-American, the race wasn't even close. Bush led Gore by eight points among non-black voters. The same holds true for the House of Representatives vote nationwide. Among everybody except blacks, Republicans had an eight-point advantage. The overwhelmingly democratic black vote is what makes Democrats competitive.

WOODRUFF: Now what about over in the U.S. Senate?

SCHNEIDER: Well, as you know, there are now 50 Democrats in the Senate; 13 of those Democrats would not have won without the black vote. Southern Democrats are especially dependent on black voters. Democrats like Zell Miller in Georgia, Bill Nelson in Florida and John Edwards in North Carolina all lost the white vote; the black vote put them over the top.

But Southern Democrats aren't the only ones dependent on black support. In last year's election, neither Debbie Stabenow in Michigan nor Maria Cantwell in Washington State would have won without black votes. And for all his money, Jon Corzine would have lost the New Jersey Senate race without black support.

When those senators have to vote on John Ashcroft's confirmation as attorney general, they're going to be paying a lot of attention to the views of those African-American voters who put them over the top.

WOODRUFF: So is it fair to say, Bill, that these members of Congress owe their election to African-Americans? SCNEIDER: Well, not exactly, and here's why: Black voters are reliably democratic. Their support really doesn't vary. When Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton won the White House, they got over 80 percent of the black vote; but when Carter lost in 1980, and when Walter Mondale lost and when Michael Dukakis lost and when Al Gore lost, they still got over 80 percent of the black vote.

What made the difference was how much support the Democrats got from white voters. The losers averaged 38 percent of the white vote, the winners averaged 43 percent. What makes the difference between winning and losing for Democrats is not usually the black vote, but how well those Democrats do outside the black community.

WOODRUFF: All right; Bill Schneider. A lot to think about there; appreciate it.

Welcome back to the United States.

SCHNEIDER: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: It's good to see you.

Coming up: the fight over the Confederate flag on the grounds of the South Carolina statehouse. Stay tuned.



MARK LEFF, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Abraham Lincoln brought two new things to his first inaugural in March 1861: a beard, which he grew after an 11-year-old girl suggested it, and an expensive hat. Lincoln wasn't sure where to put the hat before beginning to speak; Illinois Senator Steven Douglas, whom Lincoln had just defeated, came to the rescue and held the hat while Lincoln launched into a speech focusing on slavery, secession and avoiding the Civil War that would begin within five week.

By his second inaugural, in March 1865, the Confederacy was looking for a way to make peace and Lincoln spoke eloquently of a just and lasting peace. Within weeks, the Civil War was over and Lincoln was dead.

A century later, the U.N. Security Council used Lincoln's words in a different context and conflict. Now the phrase, "just and lasting peace" has become the mantra of the Middle East.

Mark Leff, CNN.


SHAW: Something from the days of Lincoln was at the center of a protest this day in Columbia, South Carolina. A crowd of about 3,000 gathered on Martin Luther King Day to call for the removal of a Confederate flag from the statehouse grounds.

CNN's Brian Cabell has details.


BRIAN CABELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On the first officially declared Martin Luther King holiday in South Carolina, only a few thousand marchers took to the streets of Columbia. Last year almost 50,000 people turned out, but that was when the flag still few atop the capitol dome and when the NAACP was demanding that it come down. The legislature voted to take the flag down, to a pole in front of the capitol, but activists aren't happy.

They say it should be removed from the capitol grounds altogether.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: South Carolina needs somebody to pray for her; South Carolina needs somebody to walk with her; South Carolina needs somebody to lead her. We have come to redeem the soul of our native state.

CABELL: The NAACP has staged a tourism boycott against South Carolina for over a year now in hopes of bringing the flag down. Tourism officials say, since the flag was moved last July, the boycott has weakened considerably.

Still activists are hopeful the legislature will act again, and now move the flag to a museum.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It may not have seemed realistic last session, to get any movement. I think we have to focus on our goal and the principle upon which we stand and continue to do the work that we know is right.

CABELL: The Confederate flag battle is also being fought in Mississippi, where voters will decide in April whether to change state flags. In Georgia, the legislature is trying to decide whether to change its state flag.

Flag supporters are know they're under siege.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They have taken it down off the statehouse, but thousands more have sprung up; as you drive through the countryside, you see it springing up all over.

CABELL: That's fine, say flag opponents, just keep the flag off of public property.

Brian Cabell, CNN, Columbia, South Carolina.


WOODRUFF: When we return: Has America moved forward since the death of Martin Luther King Jr.? Our Bruce Morton considers how far we have come.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) WOODRUFF: As the nation honors Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., many today are considering his dream of an America free of racial turmoil and racial barriers.

Now our Bruce Morton considers how far America has come in the efforts to make Dr. King's dream a reality.


BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In Martin Luther King's old church, they sang the old songs and wondered what he'd be saying, doing, if he'd lived.

ANDREW YOUNG: If Martin Luther King were here, what would he say to us? We never know, but we always try. I never forget that the only time he was angry with me was when I agreed with what everybody else was saying.

MORTON: Andrew Young marched with King, then was Congressman, diplomat, mayor of Atlanta. By the time King was murdered in 1968, he had seen legal segregation come tumbling down through the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

He had moved to opposition to the Vietnam War and to economic issues, the plight of the poor.

YOUNG: People cannot survive on lowly islands of poverty in this midst of this ocean of material wealth. And when I speak out on behalf of the white poor, it's only because I'm sure that that's what Martin Luther King would be doing, and nobody else is doing it. The black poor have hundreds of representatives who are very, very articulate spokespersons, but there's nobody speaking out for the white poor

MORTON: The promise of America is that every child has a chance, something close to an equal chance. Hard to have that chance in a slum school; hard to have that chance in a project without a father, where the job choices are hamburger flipping or drug sales.

The problem may be part race, but it's economics, too.

YOUNG: And we can't win, whether it's the Braves or the United States of America, unless we realize we're on the same team; and if we're not on the same team, we're in the same boat. And so dealing with poverty is a challenge, I think, for us in this 21st century.

MORTON: King, before he died, said God had shown him the promised land. It is still just a vision to the poor, the trapped kids who wonder what their future is.

King believed, Young believes, that you really can get to freedom land.

YOUNG: But I think we can come together and be made strong. That those things which have divided us will make us stronger at those places, as we are stronger here today. We in the South are stronger, black and white together. And so I say to you, just as Martin Luther King might say to you, though not nearly as poetically and eloquently, "we shall overcome."

MORTON: The old dream never dies. Poet Langston Hughes wrote of "America, the land that never has been yet, and yet must be."

Bruce Morton, CNN, Washington.


WOODRUFF: And this final note of news from the White House, spokesman Jake Siewert tells us that, on Thursday evening at 8:00 Eastern, President Clinton will make what they're calling a thank you and farewell address from the White House. Again, that's 8:00 Eastern; it will be short, we're told -- perhaps five to seven minutes long. Of course, CNN will carry that live.

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

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

SHAW: And this programming note: DNC General Chairman Ed Rendell and GOP strategist Ralph Reed will discuss the Bush Cabinet choices tonight on "CROSSFIRE"; that's at 7:30 p.m. Eastern.

I'm Bernard Shaw.

And I'm Judy Woodruff. The "MONEYLINE NEWS HOUR" is next.



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