CNN INSIDE POLITICS
Bush Takes Energy Proposals on the Road; Republicans, Democrats Strongly Disagree on Crisis Solutions; Gale Norton Outlines Bush Plan
Aired May 17, 2001 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: Live from Washington, this is INSIDE POLITICS with Judy Woodruff.
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GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The truth is, energy production and environmental protection are not competing priorities.
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ANNOUNCER: President Bush tries to put an eco-friendly spin on his newly unveiled energy plan. But, opponents still are piling on, with a load of coal, and a load of criticism.
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REP. RICHARD GEPHARDT (D-MO), MINORITY LEADER: This is an energy report that offers no short-term relief to these folks on the West coast who need relief now.
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ANNOUNCER: We'll tell you how the interests of two big states are colliding over power.
Plus: a nuclear surprise in the Bush energy plan, and the danger it may pose.
JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks for joining us.
President Bush began today to promote his new energy policy, in much the same way as he pitched his tax cut: with appeals to Americans outside the Washington beltway. But, this plan may prove to be a far tougher sell, in a climate where consumers and Democrats are saying, what can you do for us right now? So, as our senior White House correspondent John King explains, Mr. Bush's speech in Minnesota often seemed aimed at countering his critics.
JOHN KING, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was a glimpse, in the president's words, into the energy future and a look at careful politics of selling a controversial plan.
First, make the case short-term energy concerns or proof of a long-term crisis.
BUSH: If we fail to act, this great country could face a darker future. A future that is unfortunately being previewed in rising prices at the gas pump and rolling blackouts in the great state of California.
KING: Closed with an effort to disarm the many critics.
BUSH: The truth is: energy production and environmental protection are not competing priorities.
We've yelled at each other enough. Now it's time to listen to each other and to act.
KING: In the middle of the president's speech and 163-page report, proposal after controversial proposal.
An easing of government regulations to encourage new coal and nuclear power plants.
New government powers to clear the way for thousands for gas pipelines and electricity transmission lines.
New oil and gas exploration in Alaska and other federal lands, now off limits because of environmental concerns.
Outside the vice president's house, one of many protests as administration critics made their case that coal is dirty; nuclear power dangerous and drilling in pristine wild reserves, destructive.
DAN BECKER, SIERRA CLUB: The president is trying to misrepresent his plan; he's trying to spread a thin veil of energy efficiency to hide a cesspool of polluter giveaways.
KING: The president's backdrop was a model of energy efficiency. A combined heat and power plant in St. Paul, Minnesota that uses a mix of coal, natural gas, oil, and wood chips to provide low-cost heating, cooling, and hot water.
But such facilities are rare, and that fit with the president's message. He says the country has no choice but to rely on fossil fuels for now, while investing in technology like this to change the future. To that end, the administration proposes:
Four billion dollars in tax credits to purchase energy-efficient vehicles.
Expanded tax incentives for producing electricity from alternative sources like methane gas. Using royalties from Arctic drilling to finance tax credits for wind and solar power projects.
And more money to help low-income Americans insulate their homes and deal with high energy costs.
But the president noted that California is a leader in the conservation movement, and said its rolling blackouts are vivid proof that efficiency alone won't work.
KING: And the fight now moves to the Congress, where the president has to deal not only with critics who don't like what's in this long-term plan, but also with many Republican allies with are already grumbling the president hasn't done enough to deal with big country's immediate energy concerns -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: John, clearly more of an emphasis on conservation than we expected after listening to Vice President Cheney a couple of weeks ago. Why?
KING: Well, the administration says the proposals would have been in there all along, but the administration had hoped for was a bit more political coup, if you will. They had hoped that those proposals, and mostly the tax incentives -- about $6.3 billion over ten years -- would get more headlines today and be a bit of surprise.
Many of them, however, were leaked over the past week to 10 days to deal with the criticism of that speech, as you mentioned; that speech in Toronto when Vice President Cheney made clear in his view, conservation was only a very small part of a long-term energy policy.
WOODRUFF: All right, John King at the White House.
For every one of the 105 recommendations in the Bush-Cheney energy plan, there seemed to be a myriad of critics, ready to step up to the microphone today.
Our Jonathan Karl has more on the political reaction.
JONATHAN KARL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The environmental group Greenpeace protested the White House's energy plan by dumping a truckload of coal on the vice president's doorstep.
ANDREA DURBIN, GREENPEACE, USA: This plan is a dirty solution. It provides dirty answers and it takes us backwards.
KARL: Across town, a coalition of more moderate environmental groups, including the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council, also vowed to defeat the plan, launching a 12-city advertising campaign.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, TELEVISION AD) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bush's big supporters clean up, while we're cleaned out.
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KARL: The theme was echoed on Capitol Hill, where Democrats set up a war room and promised an all-out drive to defeat the central elements of Bush energy plan. Virtually every attack included a reminder of the administration's ties to the energy industry.
GEPHARDT: We think the president's plan makes the wrong choices for America and for the American people. It was crafted behind closed doors with a lot of input from energy executives.
REP. BRIAN BAIRD (D), WASHINGTON: George bush, Dick Cheney, and their merry band of oil CEO's are Robin Hoods in reverse.
SEN. PAUL WELLSTONE (D), MINNESOTA: I'm not a Senator for oil companies. He may be a president for oil companies. I'm a Senator from Minnesota.
KARL: Democratic strategists believe an energy crunch will hurt this president the way energy crisis in the 1970s hurt President Carter. But Republicans, who are by and large lining up in support of the Bush plan, say Democrats will suffer if they stand in the way.
SEN. FRANK MURKOWSKI (R), ALASKA: If they vote against it, and you've got $3 a gallon gasoline, and their constituents are saying, oh, you didn't vote for any relief, well, we're going to hold you accountable.
KARL: Democrats declared some aspects of the Bush plan, including drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, dead on arrival, an assessment Republican leaders privately agree with. Democrats also continued to slam the president for doing nothing in the short-term about high gasoline prices.
But they had little to offer in the way of immediate solutions besides investigating potential price gouging by oil companies.
SEN. TOM DASCHLE (D), MINORITY LEADER: I think there has to be an investigation as to why the prices are high. We can't possibly solve a problem we don't understand. Why are prices going up as high as they are? Why are the oil companies making the profits they are?
KARL: The harsh rhetoric obscured significant areas of bipartisan agreement on issues ranging from the development of new electrical power lines and natural gas pipelines to tax credits for conservation,for the use of renewable energy -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: All right, Jonathan Karl reporting from the Capitol, thanks.
As Jonathan mentioned, former President Jimmy Carter knows a thing or two about paying a political price for energy problems. And today, he is joining other Democrats in criticizing the Bush energy strategy. In an op-ed piece in "The Washington Post, " Carter accuses Bush administration officials of distorting history to promote the oil industry.
Carter writes: "No energy crisis exists now that equates in any way with those we faced in 1973 and 1979. World supplies are adequate and reasonably stable. And, Carter writes, quoting again, "Some officials are using misinformation and scare tactics to justify such environmental atrocities as drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge," end quote.
Joining us now to answer questions about the Bush energy plan: the Secretary of the Interior, Gale Norton. Madame Secretary, thank you for being with us. And if you could first address what former President Carter said: drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, ANWAR, atrocity.
GALE NORTON, INTERIOR SECRETARY: That's one of the recommendations that we're putting forward at this time. It's something that, really, Congress has to decide whether to go forward with that. What the administration is doing is looking at the ways in which that might be done in an environmentally responsible way, so that we can allow Congress to determine if that's one of the ways in which they want to look.
I think the key point is that this is the most likely place for us to find a large supply of oil for our long-term future, and I think we at least need to, in the current situation, seriously think about a place that has the largest probable site of oil anywhere in this country.
WOODRUFF: What about President Carter's statement that the energy situation today in no way equates with what was going on back in the '70s when you had OPEC and you had a war between Iran and Iraq and a much greater global disruption than what you have today?
NORTON: There's certainly a high degree of concern today. We know that since 1998 the average U.S. family is spending 25 percent more on energy. We're seeing great concern about $3 a gallon gas in some parts of our country. We know that the prices for heating oil going up affect those who are at the lowest end of our economic ladder. And when we see the potential for the effect on jobs, even though we might have some dispute about how this ranks in comparison with 1973, I think our real concern is what we do today and what we do tomorrow.
WOODRUFF: And secretary, let me ask about another part of the plan. The energy report notes the value of drilling in the coastal regions off the shores of the United States. And what the president has done is, in effect, throw this to you and to the commerce secretary for a decision. Now, the governor of Florida, the president's brother has urged the administration, has urged your department not to renew drilling leases off the coast of Florida. Where is that headed? NORTON: Certainly, we see that off-shore production is a very important source of supply for us. And it's currently happening in the western gulf region, Gulf of Mexico, and the neighboring states there are generally very supportive of that and it's something that we do plan to continue because that's an important source for us.
As we look at environmental concerns that are coming up through our study process for an area that is about 100 miles off the Florida coast, for the most part -- and some parts further than that. That area is one that -- that will continue to consult with the state of Florida as we make a decision later this year on whether to go forward with that.
WOODRUFF: But it sounds like you're leaning for -- toward doing it.
NORTON: We're Looking at all options right now for energy. This is one that, frankly, was voted on by Congress to allow it to go forward. It was proposed by the prior administration, and so it's something that was already on the table and in progress when this administration came in.
WOODRUFF: Let me ask you about nuclear power. Now, among other things, this reports is proposing to double the number of nuclear reactors at power plants that are already licensed by the federal government. But, at this point, there is no place to store them. As you know, there's been a location at Yucca Mountain in Nevada for 15 years. The Democrats and Republicans have been arguing over that. How can you build more nuclear power plants if there is no agreement over where the waste goes?
NORTON: Nuclear power is something that currently supplies 20 percent of our electricity in this country. I think that's something that most people really don't understand is how large of a supply we have already been utilizing and how much that is become a routine part of our electricity industry.
WOODRUFF: But I'm asking about the waste.
NORTON: Yes, we do have waste as an issue that has to be tackled. It's something that we take seriously to tackle as a future issue and that's something that we will have to be a carefully thought out process over the coming years.
WOODRUFF: But,to say now this is something that should be done without resolving that is that -- I guess I'm asking is that somewhat misleading to suggest that it can be -- that building more nuclear plants can be a solution when know there is no place to put the waste?
NORTON: We can look, I think, at expansions to places that are our current nuclear plants. And to look at those places at those sites where we are currently storing the waste. Obviously, that's not the ideal solution. We really do need to have a long-term solution to it. And it is something that -- that we have to have. But it's something that we also should not put off for the next 20 or 25 years. It's something that we ought to begin tackling now. WOODRUFF: As secretary of the interior, you -- I know you were -- you heard what the vice president had to say a couple of weeks ago when he said conservation may be a good personal virtue, but it's not going to be a centerpiece of this plan. Today, the plan says, as I read it, it says the environment will be an important part -- I'm sorry, conservation will be an important part of our overall energy strategy. Which is it and was the vice president wrong or misleading when he said what he did?
NORTON: Conservation is an important part of our strategy. It's not the only solution. We have to have both sides of it. We have to increase supply and reduce demand. Both of those have to happen. And it cannot be just one or the other. And that's why this report has been a comprehensive report looking at both sides. We want to be environmentally responsible and see that we're putting in place conservation measurings.
We've already directed -- I've directed my department to conserve energy. The other agencies are following through on the president's directive to do that. We're looking at ways of using alternative technologies at using the real technological innovations that are available to us in this century. And to try to have that in service of both conservation and in service of finding sources of energy both of those are going to be areas that we will be expanding.
WOODRUFF: All right. well , Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton, we thank you very much joining us.
NORTON: Thank you.
WOODRUFF: Appreciate it.
And now we are joined by the by former Clinton administration Energy Secretary Bill Richardson. Bill Richardson, is the president moving in the right direction with this proposal?
BILL RICHARDSON, FORMER ENERGY SECRETARY: The president is moving in the right direction in the area of more supply and more production. We do need more power plants, more natural gas pipelines. He's not moving in the supply direction in an environmentally sensitive way, where I believe that he needs to do more is in the area of energy efficiency and conservation. Two big elements were missing from this conservation plan: an emphasis on more fuel-efficient vehicles and restoring some air conditioning standards that were left in play by our administration which would reduce electricity by 30 percent by the year 2010. That means about 130 less power plants; nonetheless, it's a start.
Judy, this is a very tough issue. I had to face it for two years. Hopefully, what will emerge after all the politics and the bickering and the priority debates will be a comprehensive plan that balances more production with conservation equally. Right now, the president's plan is too weighted toward production, not enough on environment and air quality and conservation.
WOODRUFF: Well, let me just ask you about a statement. The plan starts out -- flat out by saying America in the year 2001 faces the most serious energy shortage since the 1970s. Is that correct?
RICHARDSON: No, I disagree. We have a lot of serious energy challenges. We have production problems. We have transmission generation facilities. We've got gasoline prices at a $1.70. A year ago they were $1.49. There is no question we've got some energy challenges, but it's because, Judy, in the last eight years our economy grew by 35 percent. Our energy demand grew by 15 percent. Those are the challenges we have. But to attack those challenges, you've got to have a combination policy of production and energy- efficiency conservation, equally supply and demand.
WOODRUFF: Well, when you say production needs to be -- you agree even as a Democrat that production needs to be a significant part of this. When you hear the Interior Secretary Gale Norton saying, as she did a moment ago, that the U.S. has to look at building more nuclear power plants. Is that the waste issue needs to be addressed, what's your reaction?
RICHARDSON: I think nuclear power has to be debated and has to be part of the energy mix. But I would say that before we start talking about licensing new plants, we got to deal with the Yucca Mountain issue, which is: Where do we store the waste from the 50 states that has accumulated, that because of a number of reasons, has not been stored anywhere. I don't think the answer is interim storage.
I think the answer is based on science. That determination should be based on science at the end of this calendar year. Whether Yucca Mountain in Nevada is ready to take this nuclear waste. There is some water problems. There is other environmental problems. But first, let's deal with the nuclear waste which is a serious problem, high-level waste.
WOODRUFF: But I understand their talking -- them to be talking about doubling the number of reactors at already licensed, not newly licensed, but already licensed nuclear facilities.
RICHARDSON: Well, I would disagree with that. I think the first step has to be: deal with the existing nuclear waste, and then have a full debate on nuclear power. It does reduce greenhouse gas emissions more than other energy sources. Nonetheless, the public has to be comfortable with this. The nuclear energy industry has to convince the public of its safety, of its environment safeguards. That hasn't happened. But nuclear waste, dumping all the waste into a repository taking it from the 50 states is critical before we start talking about building new plants.
WOODRUFF: What about the question of, Bill Richardson -- of drilling offshore, whether it's Florida or other parts of the United States? You -- I believe you were here -- you heard me asking Secretary Norton about the president's recommendation that she, as the secretary of the interior and secretary of commerce, should take a hard look at this. Is this something that makes sense?
RICHARDSON: Well, we did approve in the past interior department some of that off-shore drilling off the coast of the Gulf of Mexico and Florida. I think that's environmentally safe. There is off-shore oil in California and off the coast of Florida that I've hoped that the Bush administration doesn't change. I think that would be a catastrophe. We do need to drill for more oil and gas and petroleum in the lower 48 and Rocky Mountain states.
But let's do in an environmentally sensitive way. I'm also a little concerned, Judy, about an imminent domain issue, building more power plants in the West for an administration that cares about property rights, I'm concerned that -- yes, we need to build more power plants, but we have got to bring local communities in the states as part of the debate.
WOODRUFF: When they point out that not a single oil refinery has been built in a generation, they talk about natural gas distribution hindered by an aging and inadequate network of pipelines, aren't they really pointing a finger at the administration you served in for the last eight years?
RICHARDSON: Well, yeah. They're blaming everybody else. That's not going to be helpful. There hasn't been a refinery built in this country since 1982, when Valero energy did it in Corpus Christie. So, this has been an endemic problem.
I think what has to happen now, Judy, is the energy companies that are doing well -- and I want them to do well -- should engage more of their research into exploration, into building more refineries. We need them.
But let's do this in an environmentally sensitive way. We made a lot of positive strides on air quality. Let's not banish all those good laws aside. But we do need to drill more. We do need more production, more supply, but let's have equally conservation. And let's engage OPEC too. The Bush administration is not playing this game. They should.
WOODRUFF: All right. Bill Richardson, Energy secretary under President Clinton. Thank you very much; appreciate it.
Well, does the president's energy plan go far enough? Will it help ease prices at the pump this summer? Representatives Billy Tauzin and Robert Wexler square off in the "CROSSFIRE" at 7:30 p.m. Eastern.
And later tonight, a CNN special on the energy crunch, including a report on whether grassroots conservation makes a significant difference. That's at 10:00 p.m. Eastern.
The president's energy plan was of special interest to people on the West Coast, and the details fell short in the eyes of some. Straight ahead...
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GOV. GRAY DAVIS (D), CALIFORNIA: I fault the president for not providing California with any immediate relief. California is the only state in America that faced blackouts and astronomical electricity prices.
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WOODRUFF: California's governor delivered his response to the White House plan and shared a few suggests for improvement.
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WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): California has two Democratic senators and a Democratic governor. Texas has two Republican senators and a Republican governor. What's driving the two great Sun Belt states apart?
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WOODRUFF: Bill Schneider on how two states that appear so similar can be so different.
And later: a second chance for nuclear power. The once-maligned energy source gets new respect from the White House.
WOODRUFF: As you might expect, President Bush's newly-unveiled energy plan is getting thumbs down from the leading Democrat in California. Governor Gray Davis today accused the White House of turning a blind eye to what he called his state's energy calamity. And he called on the president to issue temporary price controls on California's soaring energy costs, a move the administration opposes.
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DAVIS: Mr. President, you didn't create this problem, but you are the only one who can solve it. And with all due respect, Mr. President, Californians want to know whether you are going to be on their side.
I believe the appropriate response by the president ought to be, we are going to find a way to give California some relief over the next two years. We know California is building and conserving its way out of this problem, but the prices being charged for energy are literally dragging down our economy and will adversely affect America's economy without some relief soon.
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WOODRUFF: You can hear more of Governor Davis' views on the Bush energy plan tonight on CNN. He's a guest on "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS" at 8:00 Eastern.
California's power crunch has helped create friction between the Golden State and President Bush's home state. Our senior political analyst Bill Schneider has been following that clash of the titans.
SCHNEIDER: The war between the states is heating up again. But this time, it's not North versus South. It's California versus Texas. The nation's first and second largest states are at odds over energy, over the Bush presidency -- in fact, over just about everything these days.
(voice-over): California consumers are hopping mad. Who do they blame for their state's energy crisis? The energy companies, for price gouging California utilities and driving them into bankruptcy.
DAVIS: We are literally in a war with energy companies who are price gouging us. Many of the companies are in Texas.
SCHNEIDER: Will the federal government take action? Don't hold your breath. Those are Texas energy companies, and guess who's in charge of the federal government? Two former Texas energy executives, whose response to California is: "It's your own fault."
RICHARD CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They've taken the route of saying, well, we can conserve our way out of the problem, all we have to do is conserve, we don't have to produce any more power. So, they haven't built any electric power plants in the last 10 years in California.
SCHNEIDER: President Bush appears to have no great love for California. He's traveled to 26 states since taking office, but not once to the nation's largest state.
Why should Bush care about California? Look at what California did to him. In 2000, the Al Gore campaign spent exactly zero dollars in California. The Bush campaign spent over 10 million. And what did it get Bush? A 12-point defeat. Big deal.
During the Nixon and Reagan eras, California and Texas were the buckle and clasp of the GOP's Sun Belt coalition. California voted Republican in every presidential election from 1968 through 1988. That was more Republican than Texas, which was loyal to LBJ's vice president in 1968 and to Jimmy Carter, a son of the South, in 1976.
In the 1990s, California and Texas went in opposite directions. California voted for Bill Clinton twice, then for Al Gore. Republicans got shut out. Texas voted for George Bush, then Bob Dole, then George W. Bush. Democrats were shut out. California has two Democratic senators and a Democratic governor. Texas has two Republican senators and a Republican governor.
(on camera): What's driving the two great Sun Belt states apart? Not demographics. California and Texas have about the same percentage of minority voters. It's white voters in the two states who are really different, and not in their economic attitudes. Both are heavily suburban states where fiscal conservatism is the rule. The big difference is values.
Polls show Texans are more religious and more conservative. Californians are more free-thinking and more liberal on social issues, like abortion. Those differences have always been there, but they suddenly got ignited politically in the 1990s. What drove the two states apart? Bill Clinton. Californians saw Clinton as one of them culturally and he made sure they saw a lot of him.
Texans saw Clinton as one of them, too, meaning not one of us. By Election Day 2000 Clinton's job rating was almost 20 points higher in California than in Texas.
Clinton's gone. Now, it's George W. Bush who's driving the two states apart. Bush's values -- pro-gun, weak on the environment and anti-abortion -- are a tough sell in California. That, plus his identification with energy producers.
(on camera): Ironically, it was California Republicans who first petitioned Bush to run for president. They thought Bush's appeal to Latino voters would save the GOP in California. It didn't happen, any more than Clinton the southerner saved the Democratic Party in Texas. In the end, Bush is as culturally alien to California as Clinton was to Texas.
Bill Schneider, CNN, Washington.
WOODRUFF: We will gauge reaction to the president's power plans with reporters from around the nation.
But first: could the nation's energy crunch mean new production of weapons-grade plutonium? We will take a closer look at White House proposals on nuclear power, after this break.
WOODRUFF: The president's energy proposal puts new emphasis on nuclear power, including a review of nuclear fuel reprocessing. Nuclear reprocessing is common in Europe and Japan. And while it creates energy without emitting greenhouse gases, it also creates its own set of problems. CNN White House correspondent Kelly Wallace has the story.
KELLY WALLACE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): One in five American homes gets its power from nuclear plants, like this one in Virginia. And the White House points to nuclear energy as an untapped resource.
BUSH: By renewing and expanding existing nuclear facilities, we can generate tens of thousands of megawatts of electricity at a reasonable cost without pumping a gram of greenhouse gas into the air.
WALLACE: Americans grew weary of nuclear power after the accident at Pennsylvania's Three Mile Island in 1979. But this White House is giving nuclear a second look, with the administration reevaluating a ban, loosely in place since the mid-1970s, on the reprocessing of nuclear fuels. Quite simply, reprocessing is the practice of extracting plutonium from used radioactive waste, to use again to run reactors. The process was stopped due to concerns plutonium would fall into the wrong hands.
ALDEN MEYER, UNION OF CONCERNED SCIENTISTS: If you reprocess it, you separate the plutonium, you make it much easier for a terrorist or a rogue nation to divert that material into bomb production.
WALLACE (on camera): But supporters of nuclear reprocessing say it would cut down on the amount of radioactive waste needing disposal; it is used by the French, the British, and the Japanese.
Nuclear experts say the process is expensive, but the energy benefits could be significant.
MARVIN FERTEL, NUCLEAR ENERGY INSTITUTE: From an engineering stand point, I think that if you poll the nuclear industry, they would say, it is a smart thing to do. There is so much energy left. We should figure out how to get it out.
WALLACE (voice-over): With nuclear plants in 31 states and lawmakers from both parties supporting nuclear as a source of energy, the White House appears to be giving what was once a fading industry, a new lease on life.
Kelly Wallace, CNN, the White House.
WOODRUFF: With pump prices and energy bills sky high, are the voters mad yet? We'll check in on California, New York, and Washington state, after the break.
WOODRUFF: Coast to coast reaction now to President Bush's energy speech, with David Postman of the "Seattle Times"; Michael Aronson of the "New York Daily News"; and Jennifer Waren of the "Los Angeles Times." Thank you all three for being with us.
And let me just start with you, David, and react -- what is the early reaction that you're hearing to the president's proposal with regard to energy?
DAVID POSTMAN, "SEATTLE TIMES": Well, the reaction even started before he made the proposal official. Our governor was out yesterday criticizing what details had come out. Governor Locke is a Democrat, who's been talking a lot of the energy shortage and rising energy prices most of this year, since January at least, and he was very critical from the start.
He's a guy who's fairly mild-mannered and yesterday was saying that based on what he had heard, you can't burn, drill and pollute your way to energy independence. I think that it's going to be an opportunity for him and some of the other Democratic governors in the west to increase their criticism if the administration. I think they have been somewhat careful about that in the preceding months and I think this now gives them the leeway to do a lot more and be harsher about it.
WOODRUFF: Michael Aronson of the "New York Daily News," what are you hearing this early?
MICHAEL ARONSON, "NEW YORK DAILY NEWS": Well, one thing our paper picked up this morning is that the report does not say much about the Northeast, or New York City in particular. There's a big fight here locally on siting about 10 new plants. The report simply says that there's a fight over the siting of 10 new power plants.
I think the larger impact of the report is on a national level, as opposed to something locally at this point.
WOODRUFF: What do you mean by that?
ARONSON: That it's not really become an issue of what is Bush is doing for New York regarding energy. I mean, gas prices are going up here, but we haven't had the rolling blackouts, we haven't had the shortages. There's fear that this summer if it's hot, that there could be a blackout in the city, but at this point, it has not hit the crisis proportion that it is in California and other parts of the country.
WOODRUFF: So you're saying there's not much reaction there yet?
ARONSON: That's another way of putting it.
WOODRUFF: OK, Jenifer Warren to you now, with "The Los Angeles Times." We know California has had some strong words about all this. What is the early reaction out there? We've already heard from your governor today.
JENIFER WARREN, "THE LOS ANGELES TIMES": I think it's fair to say that deep disappointment would probably be the rule here. As you know, California is way ahead of other states in feeling this crisis. We've already had six days of rolling blackouts. Last week we had back-to-back blackouts, and it's only May.
So no one really knows where this is going to end. And we've been hoping for some short-term relief from the federal government. The governor has been calling for that. Congressional Democrats are calling for that and his proposal is really long-term measures, and many of them California's already put in place.
WOODRUFF: Well, David Postman with "The Seattle Times", is it that people in Washington state are thinking what's happening in California is clearly coming our way?
POSTMAN: Well, in some ways it already is. We've been feeling the effects in a different way since January. Energy prices are up. There're businesses, farmers who are being paid not to farm so their electricity can be used elsewhere. Aluminum plants have been shut down, people put out of work for this. So, we don't have the rolling blackouts yet, there's been a warning that there may be that by the fall, but when you have businesses shutting down because they just can't afford it. It's cheaper for them to resell their electricity, the impacts are going to be felt more and more every day and the pressure is going to build and build and build on our politicians here to do something.
Now, whether that needs to be short-term or long-term, it depends on what happens this fall and if there are going to be rolling blackouts. Clearly building new plants is not going to do anything in the next months.
WOODRUFF: In the short run, Michael Aronson, "New York Daily News" once again, do I hear you saying that people are just thinking this is not our problem right now?
ARONSON: Well, this is not our problem yet. I mean there have been strong increases in electrical prices in New York, in the city and surrounding areas. And there's a fear that this could be the first signs of a California-type situation coming down the road.
Because we have deregulation here it's not quite as advanced as California and the state and the electric companies responding, we will build more power plants. The problem in California was they haven't built a plant in a great many years. So now there is a crash program in New York City to build 10 new plants right away, get them up and running this summer. And there's still a fight in a lot of neighborhoods around the city and the region, we don't want the plants in our area.
And that's the old-age problem as Bush's plan talks about maybe starting new nuke plants. And if we think there's a big fight over conventional plants, wait until someone says we're going to put a nuclear power plant in your backyard.
WOODRUFF: Right, and as we mentioned what the Bush energy plan is talking about, is doubling the number of plants at sites where they are already licensed by the federal government.
We're going to take a short break. When I come back I want to ask all three of you about the public's perception of this plan in light of the fact that this president comes out of the oil industry, the vice president comes out of the oil industry. We'll be right back.
WOODRUFF: Back now to our energy with David Postman in Seattle, Michael Aronson in New York and Jenifer Warren in Sacramento.
Jenifer, to what extent do you think people's views, reaction to the president's plan are affected by the fact they know the president, the vice president, other top people in this administration come out of the energy industry?
WARREN: I think, Judy, that people want to give the president, and vice president the benefit of the doubt at this point. But we are getting increasingly suspicious here. And one reason is that the governor and legislators have asked repeatedly for some sort of federal intervention to control the prices that California has been paying to generating companies for power.
And many of those companies are located in Texas. Just to give you a number, in 1999 Californians paid about $7 billion for energy. This year it could be $50 to $60 billion dollars. And that kind of skyrocketing price is unreasonable according to the governor and he's like the federal regulators to do something about it. But so far Bush has said, let the market rein itself.
WOODRUFF: Michael Arsonson, what about in New York? The president's, the vice president's energy ties coloring people's views?
ARONSON: Oh, I think that's a major concern and probably not just in New York. George Bush is a former Texas oilman. Dick Cheney is a Texas oilman. The secretary of commerce is a former Texas energy man. And whatever happens in this plan, about 105 or so points, some of it's going to benefit energy companies, Texas and other energy companies, and there's going to be a perception out there as with Bush's tax cut that he's doing things to benefit his political backers in Texas and the energy field.
So they -- Bush and Cheney have to be very careful in presenting this plan saying, this is not a pro-oil company plan by any means, because the oil companies are seen by most people as the bad guys even though their close allies of Bush.
WOODRUFF: David Postman in Seattle, what about there? What's the view?
POSTMAN: Well, I think we saw what happened when the reports came out about how much money Governor Davis in California had gotten from energy interests in the early parts of this crisis and that seemed to stir things up. And so, if taking political contributions is enough to get some criticism from the other side, clearly, the administration's ties will.
But I think it also provides -- not that the administration is out front with great detail on this energy plan, we've already seen Republicans here issue statements from first thing this morning about what needs to be done locally. In a way it gives them cover, if you will, for some of the issues that they've had a hard time pushing. They haven't had much luck on increased generation, of production. There's been much more talk here about conservation. And I think that this gives them a boost now that the administration is out front on it, and taking the heat on it.
WOODRUFF: All right, we only have a couple of seconds left. Jennifer, finally to you. In California, we talk about Washington having written off California, are they writing off Washington?
WARREN: I don't know if we're there yet, but it's getting close. We're getting increasingly frustrated here with the lack of reaction from the administration on this one step that could help tremendously bring these prices under control. So these long-term fixes may help down the road three or four years, but California is in a crisis now and needs help now.
WOODRUFF: All right, we're going to leave it there. Jenifer Warren in Sacramento, to Michael Aronson in New York with the "New York Daily News" and David Postman in Seattle. Thank you to all three. Great to see you; we appreciate it.
As we head into summer, and even more demands on energy supplies, our Bruce Morton has been thinking about the chill of winter, and how power has changed lives, even at the White House.
WOODRUFF: Rolling blackouts and high gas prices have reminded many Americans that energy is not necessarily something to take for granted. As President Bush was announcing his energy plan today, our Bruce Morton was thinking about our plugged in lives, and the powerful changes the nation has undergone since its early days.
BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): David McCullough, in his biography of John Adams, describes Adams in his plain New England house in wintertime, sitting before a roaring fire, wearing his overcoat. No insulation back then, no central heating.
Some changes since then, like central heating, happened on purpose. Others? It's hard to say. Take the interstate highway system, begun in the 1950s, when Dwight Eisenhower was president. The Cold War was on, the country needed good roads, people said, for national security.
What they didn't foresee was that people by the millions would use the good, new highways to leave the cities and move to brand-new suburbs, Levittowns, where houses cost less than $10,000. Those millions of people still had to go to work, of course, and they drove to work on those new highways, often, one person to a car.
Ever since, commuting has gotten harder, the roads more crowded, cars stuck, burning gasoline, filling the air with fumes. Take the air conditioner. Sure, it would keep your house cool in the summertime. But in fact it would do much more, trigger a massive shift of the population.
Cities like Phoenix, Dallas, Houston, and Atlanta would never have grown the way they did, as millions left the Northeast, the middle West, to live in the air-conditioned Sunbelt, where you could play golf all year round.
So now, we need energy to pay for all these changes, planned and unplanned, and the old debate will start again, save the environment, versus dig, drill, we need to explore. Alaska Senator Frank Murkowski recently showed his colleagues a picture of oil gear and caribou coexisting. And maybe, in some places, they can. .
MURKOWSKI: They are not disturbed or attacked. They are very comfortable. These are real, Mr. President. They are not stuffed.
MORTON: The best hope is probably high tech. Maybe the vice president was right when he told John King recently:
CHENEY: There are lots of ways we can use technology to get better, more efficient, conserve more, get more mileage, if you will, out of our energy resources, without saying to the American people, you've got to live in the dark, turn out all the lights, don't enjoy the things that our modern society brings you.
MORTON: Nobody wants to wreck the environment. But nobody wants to be John Adams either, sitting in front of a roaring fire, wearing your winter coat.
Bruce Morton, CNN, Washington.
WOODRUFF: And as we speak, President Bush has taken his energy campaign to the state of Iowa. We are told he just walked up to the lectern in the town of Nevada, Iowa, a suburb of Ames. Let's listen.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)
BUSH: Nice to see you again and thank you for introducing me. It's nice to be here in Nevada.
BUSH: Mr. Mayor, I bet you were a little nervous about how I was going to pronounce that. But thank you so much, Andy, for being here and thank you for being here as well, Mr. Murphy.
I'm pleased to be here with the governor. Mr. Governor, thank you for taking time. I'm impressed your state has the imagination and the foresight to be on the cutting edge of research and development necessary to help our nation become energy independent.
I'm so honored the two fabulous state senators are here. How are you all doing? I hope you are behaving. Better than you were the last time I saw you. Thanks for coming.
Finally, Congressman Ganski. Thank you for being here, friend, it's good to see you.
I'm thrilled to be traveling today with two members of my cabinet, who the senator just introduced. I'm going to ask them to say a few remarks about our vision for America. I want to thank Floyd for his hospitality. I want to thank the president of Iowa State for being here.
I told him I didn't appreciate how the Iowa State people treated the Texas basketball teams these year. He said, he didn't really care what I thought about how they treated them.
(APPLAUSE) BUSH: I'm really glad to be back in Iowa. This is not a time to talk politics, but I do want the tell the citizens of Iowa I appreciate very much the hospitality of this great state.
I told people that this is a unique state. Every time I came, people treated me with respect and were very kind. I think it may be one of the kindest states in the United States, which is a great tribute to the people of this state.
Frankly, we need a little more kindness in America and we definitely need a new tone in Washington, D.C. We need to be able to have a discussion of public policy that's important to the country without name-calling and finger-pointing, without the attitude of the zero-sum politics.
If the president proposes it, it has to automatically be bad, because he said so. If an opponent said it, it's automatically got to be bad, because he or she said it. That's not right for America. And it's particularly not right when it comes to addressing huge issues and important issues like energy security and energy independence.
Today, I have the honor of laying out a comprehensive energy plan for the country. I had asked the vice president and members of my cabinet to take a look at the situation, analyze the problem. And to come up with solutions. And today, I outlined over 100 solutions or proposals to the solution to the problems we face.
We face a shortage of energy. I was reading in the newspaper today, where there's a shortage of energy in one of the major cities in Iowa. It is real; it is not an imagination of anybody in my administration. It's not out of our imagination, it's a real problem.
And we believe that this administration was elected to address those problems. Forget politics. To put policies out for the nation to debate, and then to act on those policies. So today I laid out an initiative that said, first and foremost, we better be better conservationist in this country.
We need to conserve, we need to be wise about how we use energy. We need to figure out how the drive new kinds of cars that don't overconsume hydrocarbons. We need the figure out how to have smart technologies in our homes. Citizens need to figure out how to be more conservation-oriented. They need to be mindful of turning off lights, and we have got regulations that Christie Todd may talk about that talks about more fuel-efficient appliances. And we're making progress in America. We're better conservationists than we have been in the past, but there's still more work to do.
WOODRUFF: President Bush talking to a group of farmers in the town of Nevada, Iowa, a suburb of Ames. This is a group of farmers who grow corn for ethanol, which is, of course, an alternative source of energy. The gentlemen you see behind them in white coats, these are scientists who are working with the farmers on developing these alternative energy sources.
We'll be back in a moment with more INSIDE POLITICS. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
WOODRUFF: The president heads to the heartland to promote his energy policy. But back in Washington, White House critics turn up the political heat.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's not my fault (UNINTELLIGIBLE) during the election campaign.
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WOODRUFF: Striking a blow against another boring campaign, the British election takes a turn to the wild side.
Thank you for joining us. President Bush is in Iowa, as you just saw, at this hour, delivering his second speech of the day promoting the new White House energy policy.
Earlier, Mr. Bush officially unveiled the White House policy in a speech in Minnesota. His major points focused on new energy production. Among the highlights: opening public lands to new energy exploration, including the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge; easing the permit process for the construction of new refineries; providing tax breaks for the use of so-called clean coal technology; and considering the use of reprocessed nuclear fuel.
As for conservation measures, the president proposed a $4 billion tax credit for the purchase of hybrid gas and electric cars. More tax credits for wind, solar and other renewable fuels. And he left open a possible increase in fuel economy standards for automobiles.
Traveling now with the president today is CNN White House correspondent Major Garrett. He joins us from Nevada, Iowa, where the president is.
Major, given those critics who were saying that the president isn't doing the much in the way of short-term solutions, what is the White House saying about that, and how do they plan to deal with their critics in the Congress on that issue?
MAJOR GARRETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, the plan, Judy, is to tell Congress to sit down tight and wait. Now, that's certainly not going to work with Democrats. Democrats are going to pile on with this issue. They've already made clear they're going to criticize the president in Washington and also run campaign-style ads criticizing this energy policy on television and on radio.
And for the president's allies and the Republican Party, that message, "sit and wait," isn't sitting very well. I can tell you right now that in the House and in the Senate there's tremendous nervousness that while the president's policy is very long on long- range solutions -- and I can tell you many members of Congress on the Republican side are impressed with those long-term proposals, they have real short-term political problems now.
And there's an inherent conflict between where the president is and where his own party is. The party is worried about providing short-term solutions, while the president is focusing entirely on long-term solutions. You heard him say just a moment ago, let's put policies before the American public and have a genial debate. Let's not get down into politics.
Well, this is all going to be about politics, and Republicans would like a little bit more emphasis on short-term solutions from this White House. But the word today -- and I believe in the future will be -- there will be no short-term solutions, we are going to ride this out on the long-term policies alone -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: All right, Major Garrett, traveling with the president to Iowa; thanks.
Some details in the president's plan were known before today, so the president's critics on Capitol Hill were well-prepared when the White House finally made the plan public. Top Democrats have been quick to criticize what they see as a bias toward energy production. And they see political gain in critiquing the president's plan.
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GEPHARDT: I surely don't see any real effort on conservation, on renewables, on other sources of energy, really putting the kind of money for incentives or research that we need in our budget.
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(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DASCHLE: The Bush-Cheney energy plan is not a plan for America's future, it is a page from our past. It relies almost exclusively on the old way of doing things: drilling more oil wells, burning more coal and using more natural gas.
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WOODRUFF: Joining the criticism, Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe, who said that the White House plan was the product of an administration, quote, "filled top to bottom with people from the oil industry."
Joining us now with his reporters notebook -- and we're always glad to see him -- Bob Novak of the "Chicago Sun-Times." Bob, you've been talking to some Republicans, what are they saying about the president's energy plan?
ROBERT NOVAK, "CHICAGO SUN-TIMES": They're worried about the short-term affect of it. They want to see something done about the gas prices at the pump. They say this all very good for the year 2005, 2006, but they're a little worried that it makes them vulnerable in the short-term, and that means the 2002 campaign.
WOODRUFF: And in the short run, what would they like to see done?
NOVAK: I think they'd really like to see the suspension of the gasoline tax. That's about the only thing you can do to really reduce immediately the price at the pump.
WOODRUFF: All right, let's move from energy to the budget. Democratic Senator Max Baucus getting a hard time from this fellow Democrats.
NOVAK: That's the second straight week he was punched up in the Senate Democratic caucus meeting on Tuesday, and he's really getting hell for cooperating. Now, he may have a double...
WOODRUFF: With the Republicans.
NOVAK: With the Republicans on the tax bill. He may have a double whammy, because it's entirely possible, when this bill comes back from Congress, he can't vote for it. And so, he will then be attacked as voting against a tax cut. So, Senator Baucus is really in the crosshairs.
WOODRUFF: Now, meantime, Bob, over the in the House. you've got conservatives who are not Republicans not happy with the president's education plan.
NOVAK: What they were really unhappy was when they were told that they could not even offer an amendment on the floor to the education bill, which they don't like, unless it was approved by Congressman George Miller, the top House Democrat on education, who is in this bipartisan coalition with the president.
After that, the Whipcheck found there were over 80 Republican votes against the president's plan. Well, the White House has now backed off, and they are going to let them offer some amendments. How many are going to get passed, I don't know. There could still be close to 80 votes against this bill. We'll see.
WOODRUFF: But if they let them add amendments, then they risk losing Democrats on the other side.
NOVAK: Well, I don't think that these amendments will carry. But the question is, will the Republican conservatives be appeased if they just have a chance to offer the amendment that's kind of a phony concession, in the opinion of some conservatives.
WOODRUFF: All right, in the realm of raising money, lobbyists being hit with a lot of requests for money before McCain-Feingold -- it hasn't even -- it hasn't even passed the House yet. It's only been through the Senate. But they are already moving.
NOVAK: There is a land rush, and especially from Democrats who really do use a lot of this soft money. And they are just asking for big hunks of money -- $25,000, $50,000 for one thing that's called the Democratic Rural Initiative, and all of these soft-money proposals. One of the lobbyists said that he just didn't -- told me he just didn't have enough money in his kitty to satisfy all these gold rush proposals to try to get in before McCain-Feingold passes.
WOODRUFF: Well, we're covering a lot of ground here today, Bob.
Something else: Democrats second-guessing themselves after what happened in that Pennsylvania congressional seat race -- the Bud Shuster seat.
NOVAK: Bud Schuster's son Bill only won by 8,500 votes in a very strong Republican district. The -- triple seat -- Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee gave no money -- very little help to the Democrat in that race. Some Democrat operatives tell me if they had put some money in, they could have had a huge upset, beating Bud Shuster's son. Bud, as you know, had ethics problems and dropped out. The Shuster name isn't as magical in Pennsylvania as it used to be.
WOODRUFF: Last but not least: Down in the state of Georgia, you've got two democratic senators, one of them giving another one a hard time. What's that about?
NOVAK: Zell Miller, the new Democratic senator, is backing, in this very conservative state of Georgia, is backing Bush on everything. The other Senator, Max Cleland, is up for reelection. And so he -- he has sent out a fund-raising proposal to constituents in which he has a picture of him greeting George W. Bush. Senator Max Cleland became the first official to welcome President George W. Bush to Georgia when the new president flew to Fort Stewart on his first official visit to the state -- talking about Democrats getting on the Bush bandwagon. But Max Cleland will never vote as much for Bush as Zell Miller is.
WOODRUFF: But you're saying that's a direct result of Zell Miller having sided with the administration?
NOVAK: Absolutely. It makes life very uncomfortable for Senator Cleland.
WOODRUFF: All right, Bob Novak letting us peek once again into his notebook. Thanks very much.
NOVAK: You're welcome.
WOODRUFF: Good to see you, Bob.
And this programming reminder tonight, CNN will present a one- hour special, "THE ENERGY CRUNCH," which will examine the Bush administration's energy plan in detail. That's at 10:00 p.m. Eastern.
From one deadlock to another: George W. Bush's top lawyer in Florida runs into a deadlock on Capitol Hill. Plus: the story of a mayor and a murder 32 years ago. Those stories when INSIDE POLITICS continues.
WOODRUFF: The Senate Judiciary Committee today deadlocked along party lines over President Bush's nominee to be solicitor general. With the 9-9 vote, the committee failed to approve attorney Theodore Olson's nomination. However, under Senate rules, Majority Leader Trent Lott may still bring his nomination to the Senate floor. The committee's ranking Democrat, Senator Patrick Leahy, called for an investigation into Olson's connections to the "American Spectator" magazine's long-running investigation of President Clinton. Leahy said that Olson's responses on that issue were unpersuasive.
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SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D), VERMONT: I have become increasingly concerned that he's not shown a willingness or an ability to be sufficiently candid and forthcoming with the Senate. Without that candor, without being so forthcoming, I would have difficulty in having confidence in his ability to carry out the responsibilities of the solicitor general and to be the voice of the United States.
SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R) UTAH: I am convinced that these responses show no inconsistencies or evidence that Mr. Olson misled or was less than truthful to the committee in any way. Rather, they show him to be forthright and honest.
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WOODRUFF: Republicans privately called the democratic "no" votes payback for Olson's lead role in the Florida recount battle on behalf of President Bush. That's a charge the Democrats denied.
An emotional court appearance in York, Pennsylvania today where Mayor Charlie Robertson faces charges of criminal homicide in the death of a woman during race riots 32 years ago.
CNN's Patty Davis reports that Robertson denies the charges and is refusing to step down.
PATTY DAVIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The mayor of York, Pennsylvania in handcuffs as he turned himself in. The charge: criminal homicide. At question: Charlie Robertson's role, if any, in the murder more than 30 years ago of Lillie Belle Allen, a black woman who was visiting York.
MAYOR CHARLIE ROBERTSON, YORK, PENNSYLVANIA: A grand jury can indict a ham and egg sandwich or a ham and cheese sandwich, and when you open it up, it's nothing but bologna.
DAVIS (on-camera): According to the court affidavit, Allen was riding in a car here on Newbury Street in July 1969. The car stalled, and she got out to take over driving. That's was when she was fatally shot in the chest.
(voice-over): The criminal complaint, prompted by new evidence, alleges Mayor Robertson, then a York police officer, incited violence among white gangs one day before the murder. Saying quote, "If I weren't a cop, I would be leading commando raids against blacks." One of five other men charged in the slaying claims Robertson gave him the ammunition he used to fire on Allen's car. Robertson denies that, but he admits he was a racist in 1969, a time when racial hatred was rampant in New York.
ROBERTSON: I think back in those days of '69 while York was going through riots and also Detroit was being burnt down just like our city was burnt down, it had a factor.
DAVIS: Robertson says racial sensitivity training changed him. Some in York aren't so sure.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Once a racist, always a racist.
DAVIS: His supporters, though, stand behind him.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm going on Charlie's word that he is not guilty. But what more can you do but to believe in someone's word?
DAVIS: After 30 years many just want answers.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's just good, I think, for the community to see that people, if they were involved in these crimes, will be brought to justice.
DAVIS: Despite the specter of looming charges, Robertson won the Democratic nomination for his third term just days ago, narrowly defeating a black city councilman. Robertson says he won't give up his job as mayor of York while he faces the charges, and he says he'll keep on campaigning.
Patty Davis, CNN, York, Pennsylvania.
WOODRUFF: We'll check in with Lou Dobbs for all the day's news from Wall Street after the break.
And then: It's been a day of egg-throwing across the Atlantic as we see here with Britain's deputy prime minister mixing it up on the campaign trail.
ROBIN OAKLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): ...but when John Prescott arrived in Rhyl, North Wales, that certainly changed for one of them.
A protester on countryside issues threw an egg at the deputy prime minister, who immediately hit out at him.
The pair scuffled, and Mr. Prescott was wrestled back over a low wall before aides rescued him. The minister explained later how he had come to give a new meaning to the hard left.
JOHN PRESCOTT, DEPUTY BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: I got off my bus into clearly a hostile crowd. I walked through all the jostling, and I was attacked by an individual. In the melee that followed, I clearly defended myself.
OAKLEY: Police have questioned the man. And Mr. Prescott is unlikely to be charged. But for his party, his loss of cool was a disaster was a disaster. The Prescott punch grabbed the headlines they'd hoped would be devoted to the manifesto launching their policies.
It had been a bad day all round for Labour. The party leader Tony Blair was harangued by a woman about poor cancer care, and Law and Order Minister Jack Straw was given a hard time by the police federation.
Today, the prime minister sought to make light of the incident.
TONY BLAIR, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: Over the last seven years, you get to know somebody pretty well, when they are as close to you as he has been to me as my deputy. And he has got very, very great strengths, at least in this is left arm.
OAKLEY: But opponents say it showed Labour was rattled.
WILLIAM HAGUE, CONSERVATIVE PARTY LEADER: We have to stay cool. That would be my advice to him. It's not my policy to hit the voters during the election campaign.
Politicians insist the election show will go on. The Prescott incident may even increase public interest, but it has certainly showed the dangers which lurk for both sides when politicians take their message to the people in the streets.
Robin Oakley, CNN, London.
WOODRUFF: Thank goodness our politicians here in the United States are all polite and very well mannered.
That's all for this edition of INSIDE POLITICS. But of course you can go online all the time at CNN's allpolitics.com. AOL key word, CNN.
Our e-mail address is INSIDEPOLITICS@cnn.com.
I'm Judy Woodruff. "LOU DOBBS MONEYLINE" is next.
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