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Bush Administration Endorses Mitchell Committee's Recommendations for Ending Mideast Violence

Aired May 21, 2001 - 17:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: Live from Washington, this is INSIDE POLITICS, with Judy Woodruff.

Amid growing bloodshed in the Middle East, the United States endorses recommendations aimed at ending the violence.


COLIN POWELL, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: It is now up to the leaders in the region to show that they have heard this clarion call from this committee in a loud and clear way.


ANNOUNCER: Also ahead: Is President Bush taking a hit in the polls in connection with the energy crunch?

And to what degree has a certain Yale graduate finally embraced his alma mater?


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Everything I know about the spoken word I learned right here at Yale.



ANNOUNCER: Now Judy Woodruff takes you INSIDE POLITICS.

JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you for joining us. We begin with the Bush administration responding to pressure to get more involved in promoting Middle East peace.

As an escalating cycle of violence between Israelis and Palestinians continued today, Secretary of State Colin Powell appointed a diplomat to help the two sides end the fighting and resume talks. And he urged the parties to use the report of a commission appointed by former President Clinton as a springboard to peace.

Let's get more now from CNN national security correspondent David Ensor -- David. DAVID ENSOR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Judy, Ambassador William Burns, the U.S. ambassador to Jordan, who is Mr. Powell's pick to be the next assistant secretary for the Middle East, has been asked to work with other recommendations for Mr. Powell and for President Bush on how the U.S. can best proceed from here, trying to use the recommendations of the Mitchell committee report to try to get the violence to de- escalate, to try to get the two sides talking instead of shooting at each other.

Here is how Mr. Powell put it today.


POWELL: It is now up to the leaders in the region to show that they have heard this clarion call from this committee in a loud-and- clear way, and take actions that are available to them on both sides to let's have a cessation of hostilities, then we can begin the confidence-building measures and move toward negotiations.


ENSOR: Now this report makes very specific recommendations and urges very specific actions by both sides: in both cases, quite difficult actions. First, it calls for the Palestinians and the Israelis to declare an immediate, unconditional cessation of violence. That's the first step, and that's the step that Secretary Powell repeatedly emphasized today must come first and must come right away or else nothing else will work.

But the report goes on to make specific recommendations. For example, it urges that Israel put -- freeze all settlement development, all development of Israeli settlements in the occupied territories. It recommends that Israel resume paying the money that's collected in taxes back to the Palestinian Authority. It recommends a whole range of action, many of them to be taken by Israel, which the reports says would help bring the tone back to where it needs to be, would help bring the two sides back to where they could once again be negotiating instead of shooting at each other and letting off bombs.

The -- the secretary, Secretary Powell, said that this is not the time, however, for him to get involved in shuttle diplomacy. He wants first to have Ambassador Burns and the others come up with recommendations over the next week, two weeks or three, and then he and the president will try to figure out where the U.S. can go from here.

But clearly, this is -- clearly, this is a first step by an administration that until now has tried to keep its -- keep its powder a bit dry in the Middle East. They are now engaging somewhat, because they're so concerned about the situation out there, Judy.

WOODRUFF: David, the report, the Mitchell report, suggesting that the Israelis more responsible here, or at least that they have more to do in order to get things back on the peace track than the Palestinians? ENSOR: The report is very even-handed. It doesn't blame either side for the situation. It, for example, does not blame Ariel Sharon's visit to the Temple Mount for the following Intifada, Intifada II it's been called. But it says that there needs to be a series of actions by both sides to bring down the tensions, and if you look at the list of what it's asking for, there are more steps that the Israelis would have to take than the Palestinians.

WOODRUFF: And David, why is it that the administration is saying at this point that it is not prepared to get back in -- in a -- in a day-to-day way, in an energetically involved way the way the Clinton administration was?

ENSOR: Well, I think the administration, this administration, feels that the Clinton people got -- got to the point where they were micromanaging the thing a little bit. It was too much presidential involvement and it was too much of a day-to-day hand-holding operation. They feel they need to hold back a little bit and try to get the parties to talk to each other.

However, the situation is deteriorating pretty rapidly, and so now they realize they have to have some greater involvement. And that's why Ambassador Burns has been asked to prepare these recommendation, Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right. David Ensor reporting for us from the State Department.

For more on the Middle East conflict, stay with us for a special half-hour report. That's beginning at 6:00 p.m. Eastern.

Now, we turn to questions about the Bush administration's political fund-raising tactics. Tonight, Vice President Dick Cheney is scheduled to host some 400 big GOP donors at his official residence in Washington. A spokeswoman for the Democrats says that that event smacks of, in her words, hypocrisy.

The Democrats say the reception at the vice president's home is comparable to Clinton-era events, such as White House coffees and Lincoln Bedroom sleepovers for big donors, which drew heavy criticism from Republicans. Among them: presidential candidate George W. Bush.


BUSH: I believe they've moved that sign, "The buck stops here," from the Oval Office desk to the buck stops here on the Lincoln Bedroom. And that's not good for the country, it's not right. We need to have a new look about how we conduct ourselves in office. There's a huge trust. I see it all the time when people come up to me and say, "I don't want you to let me down again."

And we can do better than the past administration has done.


WOODRUFF: Despite that sort of criticism then, the Republicans are defending their fund-raising tactics now. Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott had this to say about the reception for big donors at Vice President Cheney's home tonight.


SEN. TRENT LOTT (R-MS), MAJORITY LEADER: I'm sure it's being done in an inappropriate way, or Dick Cheney wouldn't -- wouldn't be doing it. So if there's any question, I'd suggest you address it to them. Unfortunately, I think that most of us will not be able to be there. We're going to be here voting, giving tax relief.


WOODRUFF: Virtually all of those GOP contributors, who will mingle with Vice President Cheney at his home tonight, have given at least $100,000 to the Republican National Committee. They will also attend a major RNC fund-raiser tomorrow night that features President Bush as the main speaker and is expected to net some $15 million in soft money.

Now let's bring in our White House correspondent, Major Garrett.

Major, tell us about what this event is about tomorrow night.

MAJOR GARRETT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's the first official Republican National Committee event to honor the president and the first lady, as you said. The targeted haul is $15 million. Republican National Committee officials tell CNN that it's about 70 percent of that 15 million will be soft money. About 30 percent will be hard dollars -- that is dollars that are regulated under the existing campaign finance scheme -- and that it is a big event, one that the Republican Party has held for years and years in Washington.

As for what's happening in the vice president's residence tonight, White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer told me this is a way of saying "Thank you," in his words, "to those Republicans who," as Ari Fleischer said, "did so much to help win the selection."

And he draws a distinction with the Clinton-era coffees and sleepovers, describing them as, quote, "organized schemes to bring people through the gates of the White House to get money or to persuade others to do so."

Mark Minor, who is the communications director for the Republican National Committee, also said that no one paid to go to the vice president's residence. No checks will pass between hands there. There is no quid pro quo, and that some people who will be at the vice president's residence tonight are not in fact RNC donors -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: So, Major, again, clarify the distinction between money events that are given as a thank you and events that are given as an encouragement to give more money.

GARRETT: Well, it's a distinction this White House wants to draw as clearly as it possibly can. In the words of Ari Fleischer, thanking someone, whether it's on government property or not on government property, is a completely legitimate activity for the president or the vice president to engage in. The distinction he is drawing is that during the Clinton era people were brought to the White House, to these coffees, and as was disclosed in the Thompson report that was conducted by the Senate investigating that, there was some evidence of actually targeted lists: that people who were brought in, money was described to bringing in for a coffee. A certain dollar amount was attached to donations to the Democratic National Committee, a larger amount if they, in fact, slept here at the White House in the Lincoln Bedroom. That is the key distinction, the Republicans say: that there is no targeting necessarily of these people to come to the vice president's residence.

They also point out that the original letters inviting these big donors to Washington did not in any way suggest there would be a reception at the vice president's residence: the point there being these people donated without any expectation of having dinner or reception with Lynne Cheney and Dick Cheney in the vice president's home.

WOODRUFF: And Major, just to clarify, the 400 people invited tonight to the vice president's, how many are they saying did not give money?

GARRETT: They're not disclosing any numbers. They're only saying that some have given. They clearly and readily acknowledge that. Some are lobbyists. Some represent large corporations. But others, they say, are just Republican National Committee officials. And others of an undisclosed nature -- not fund-raisers, not Republican Party officials -- who will be there tonight. Don't have any numbers for you on that, though.

WOODRUFF: All right, Major Garrett reporting at the White House. Thank you very much.

Vice President Cheney maybe taking some heat for fund-raising tactics, not to mention his role in creating the Bush energy plan. Look that this:

Our new poll shows Cheney's job approval rating is 4 points higher than the presidents. While Mr. Bush's approval rating has held pretty steady in the past couple of weeks, he has lost ground since late April. Cheney's approval rating has dipped as well.

For more on Mr. Bush's ratings and how they relate to his policies, we are joined now by our senior political analyst Bill Schneider.

Tell us, Bill, which of Mr. Bush's policies is the most popular?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, you might guess energy, given the high ratings for Dick Cheney that you just reported -- but you would be wrong.

Because, what Americans like best is the tax cut. Two thirds of the public now favors a substantial tax cut. That's up from 60 percent earlier this month. Well, why not? What's wrong with getting some money back from the government?

Actually, most people do not think the tax cut could benefit them much financially. They like it because they believe it will help the economy. And that is why so many Democrats find it very difficult to oppose.

WOODRUFF: What about the energy plan?

SCHNEIDER: Not such a success. Not like the tax cut. Americans are actually divided over the president's energy plan. Why? It's not because the public blames the Bush administration for the nation's energy problems. Most people blame the oil companies.

In fact, more people blame Congress and the Clinton administration and environmental laws and American consumers than blame the Bush administration. But most Americans still give President Bush low marks on energy. The core criticism of his energy plan is: it doesn't do enough. 55 percent of Americans say President Bush is not doing enough to solve the country's energy problems.

What doesn't the plan do? It doesn't do much right now. Only 8 percent of Americans believe the plan will help the nation's energy problem immediately. Most people think oh, it will help, but only after several years. It's a long-run solution. Americans want help now. Right now. With electricity in California. And with gas prices all over the country. Long-term solutions are important, but politics is a short-term business. If the problem is now, people want results now.

And they don't see what the Bush energy plan is going to do about $2-a-gallon gasoline now.

WOODRUFF: Why do people think the energy plan fails to do that?

SCHNEIDER: Because they think this administration is run by oilmen. Oilmen like $2-a-gallon gasoline. Maybe even 3.

By nearly two to one, the public believes energy companies have too much influence over the Bush administration's policies. In fact, Americans are split when you ask them whether the Bush energy plan is designed to further the country's interests or the energy companies' interests. That sounds like breathtaking cynicism. But any administration that's run by Texas oilmen is automatically suspect.

WOODRUFF: All right, Bill Schneider, thank you very much. You're not suspect.

SCHNEIDER: I am certainly not.

WOODRUFF: At least as far as we know.

Do Californians blame President Bush for their energy crisis? We've heard a little bit from Bill on that. That answer and more on the issue later this hour. Plus:

Just what kind of tax cut is the Senate considering? Jonathan Karl crunches the numbers. Also:


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have no ability to bring up the amendments. You don't set the agenda every day, and that is real power in the House.


WOODRUFF: The trials and tribulations of the minority leader, as he considers the present and the future. And later:

Rewarding a president's most controversial decision. A political "Profile In Courage." All ahead on INSIDE POLITICS.


WOODRUFF: President Bush today donned the traditional commencement robes, and gave the graduating class at Yale University a few bits of advice. The president also included a glimpse at his less-than-perfect college years. As CNN's Kelly Wallace reports, today's speech was a departure from how the President's dealt with his alma mater in the past.


KELLY WALLACE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A homecoming of sorts, George W. Bush who has only been back to his alma mater once since graduating in 1968, returns to address those at the top and the bottom of Yale's graduating class.

BUSH: And to the C students...


I say, you too, can be president of the United States.


WALLACE: The president offering a self-deprecating account of his days as the undergraduate, when, as a history major, he earned modest grades and was known more as a fraternity boy prankster than a rising political star.

The visit was not without controversy, with some students protesting and some professors boycotting, charging that Mr. Bush was not yet deserving of an honorary degree.

PETER BROOKS, YALE UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR: It doesn't seem at present to represent the intellectual ideals and the service to humanity in which we think that Yale stands for.

WALLACE: The president has kept his distance from this Ivy League institution for most of his political life, painting it as a symbol of elitism, even during his days at Yale. TERRY JOHNSON, BUSH'S YALE ROOMMATE: What George -- does not respond well to are people who are snobs, whether you are a social snob or an intellectual snob or any other kind of snob.

WALLACE: Mr. Bush rarely mentions what he did on this day, that he was born in New Haven when his dad, the former president, was an undergraduate at Yale.

BUSH: My life began just a few blocks from here, but I was raised in West Texas. From there, Yale always seemed a world away.

WALLACE: The president, for years, had been miffed with Yale for not awarding an honorary degree to his dad until 1991, the third year of his presidency. But it appears now, all is forgiven.

BUSH: In my time they spoke of the Yale man, I was really never sure of what that was. But I do think that I am a better man because of Yale.

WALLACE: Mr. Bush, the son and grandson of Yalies and now father of a current student, seems very proud that Yale is a part of his past.

Kelly Wallace, CNN, New Haven, Connecticut.


WOODRUFF: And looking now ahead to 2004: the Reverend Al Sharpton says that he will explore seeking the Democratic presidential nomination. The civil rights activist said yesterday that the party did not protect the rights of disenfranchised voters in Florida in the last presidential race.

If he runs, Sharpton said that he would promote issues that concern blacks and progressives, and his effort would not be just symbolic. Sharpton ran unsuccessfully for the Senate in New York in 1994 and for mayor of New York City in 1997.

Reverend Sharpton and former Republican presidential candidate Gary Bauer will discuss President Bush's faith-based plan to help the poor tonight on "CROSSFIRE." That's at 7:30 p.m. Eastern.

Another note from New York: a state supreme court justice today barred Rudy Giuliani's girlfriend from the mayor's official residence, Gracie Mansion. The judge ruled in favor of Giuliani's estranged wife, Donna Hanover, who had requested a restraining order barring Judith Nathan from the residence. The ruling says that Nathan may not enter the residence as long as the Giuliani children continue to live there. The judge also denied Giuliani's second attempt for a gag order in the couple's divorce proceedings.

And we'll have the latest on President Bush's tax cut when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) WOODRUFF: This evening, the Senate is expected to vote on the latest version of the now $1.35 trillion tax cut plan. Republican leaders hope to give President Bush the tax cut for approval before Memorial Day. But as Jonathan Karl reports, taxpayers will have a longer wait before reaping any of the measure's benefits.


JONATHAN KARL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Senate's $1.35 trillion tax cut would be the biggest in a generation, but don't spend your tax windfall yet. Most of the cuts will not take effect for several years to come.

Relief from the so-called major penalty will not start until the year 2005. The estate tax won't be repealed until 2011. That means even if President Bush is re-elected, it wouldn't take effect until two years after he completed his second term. The IRA contribution limit would be raised from $2,000 to $5,000, but that also wouldn't happen until the year 2011.

The tax cut calls for doubling of the child tax credit, but that takes 10 years too. The credit would rise from $500 to $600 this year, slowly increasing in $100 increments over the next 10 years until it finally reaches $1,000 in the year 2011. The cuts in income tax rates would be phased in even more slowly.

SEN. CHARLES GRASSLEY (R-IA), FINANCE COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: You are right, some of them do not -- are phased in over a period of time. But there is real relief in this tax bill for every taxpayer starting January 1, 2001. They don't have to wait until next year.

KARL: That immediate tax relief amounts to $300 for individuals and $600 for couples filing jointly, but just how that money gets back to taxpayers is still to be worked out. The option favored by the president is a simple rebate check sent directly to taxpayers, an idea opposed by many Senate Republicans who call it impractical.

But the rebate would represent a fraction of the overall tax cut, which Democratic opponents say will explode in cost after it's fully phased in two years from now.

SEN. KENT CONRAD (D), NORTH DAKOTA: This plan is fully back- loaded. That means simply that it is disguised in terms of its full cost. This decade it cost $1.35 trillion. In the next decade, it will cost from 3.5 to $4 trillion.

KARL: But there's a little noticed provision of this tax cut that may make that point moot. The tax cut includes a sunset provision, that means all the tax cuts in the bill would expire in the year 2012. For the tax cuts to remain in place, Congress would have to pass them again.


KARL: Now, the Senate is expected to vote on a series of amendments to the tax cut later on today, paving the way for a final vote on the tax cut here in the Senate tonight. But it will not end there. This still needs to be reconciled with the tax cut that was passed in House, the House passing almost exactly the president's tax cut, including much deeper cuts in income tax rates preferred by Republicans.

The Senate and the House will have to work out their differences. They're expected to do so this week, setting the stage to send this final tax cut down Pennsylvania Avenue and onto the president's desk by Memorial Day -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Jon, when you talk about the plan providing 300 or $300 a year per individual, divided by 12, that's $20-some a month. Is this the kind of money the president was talking about when he said the tax cut would help people with higher gasoline prices?

KARL: This was exactly what he had it mind. This was exactly what he was talking about, directing the money right into the hands of taxpayers, directly into the hands of those people paying higher gasoline prices at the pumps.

This is an idea that his Treasury secretary, Paul O'Neill, strongly favors, the idea of direct cash payments or check payments to taxpayers. But one big problem with this, Judy, is that taxpayers over the course of time move, they change addresses, some of them die. The question is, how do you make sure you get all the right checks to those people at current addresses? It's not an easy proposition.

WOODRUFF: And Jon, one other subject, we know the president's nominee to be solicitor general of the United States has run into a real problem in the Senate committee. Where does that stand right now? The last we heard, the Senate Judiciary had split 9-9 on the nomination of Ted Olson.

KARL: Well, the Senate leaders, Trent Lott and Tom Daschle, are now actively involved in this, trying to come to some kind of an agreement, an agreement that will allow the Democrats to get access to some information they want about Olson, especially information that was compiled by independent council Robert Ray, looking to just what Olson's involvement was in that Arkansas Project by the "American Spectator" magazine, the investigation into Bill Clinton's personal life.

They want information from the independent council to look at just how involved Olson was in that project, to see whether or not he was truthful in his testimony when he said he was not very involved at all. There's some movement to try to get the Democrats on the committee more of the information, also maybe to release more of it to the public.

If that's all done, it would set the stage for a vote on the Olson nomination before the full Senate, but probably not until after Memorial Day. The Senate goes on recess at the end of the week, they will be off all of next week, you probably won't see a vote on the Olson nomination until after they return.

WOODRUFF: All right, Jon Karl at the Capitol, thanks. In the House of Representatives, Democrats are finding themselves drowned out by the Republican majority. Add to that, critics who say the party is lacking leadership and strategy. And life in the House minority begins to look bleak. Our Kate Snow caught up with the House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt to talk about the balance of power and his political future.


REP. DICK GEPHARDT (D-MO), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: We need to say what are we for, and that's what...

KATE SNOW, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Dick Gephardt will tell you it's frustrating being a Democrat these days, stuck in the minority without the backing of the White House.

GEPHARDT: Well, you take what you -- what you are given. I mean, the people run this country. We don't. And so, you fight for what you believe in as hard as you can, and if you really believe in it, then you're frustrated if you're not able to those policies through.

SNOW: Gephardt says the Democrats are forced to play defense, responding to Republicans.

GEPHARDT: I think we slowed down a little bit the amount of the tax bill -- not enough, in my view -- but we lowered it some so that the potential deficits out there in the future won't be so large. I think we cooperated with the president on the educational bill, at least the substance of it, but we still haven't been able to convince him or the Republicans to put enough money into education to really make the program happen.

On energy, I think that we've got a very, very positive alternative that I hope people will listen to. People in California and Oregon and Washington need help now.

SNOW: That was last week's theme. First at a gas station, the lawn of the Capitol the next day, and then in a underground war room.

Gephardt is a master at staying on message, often spending hours talking to the press, his strategy: agree with Republicans when he thinks they're right and hammer at home when he disagrees.

GEPHARDT: If we do not learn from history, we are forced to repeat it. This is a mistake that we will pay for for years to come.

I try not to yell. I try to get ideas across as good a way as I can. But there are times when you need to show your emotion. You need to let people know that you really care about this. And you really want the country to go in a different direction. And I think you can't appear too tentative or too laid back or too uninterested.

SNOW: But is the strategy working?

I have talked to some Democrats who say that they are truly unhappy. Some of whom say that they are unhappy with your leadership. They don't feel that you're doing an effective job. Do you feel that there is trouble within the ranks?

GEPHARDT: I don't. I think that -- I think the ranks and the Democratic Party are largely unified. They are marching together and working together in ways that I've never seen them before. I always tell them that it's me and we. And we have to be a team.

I would never tell you that anybody is ever going to be pleased every day with everything that happens, but largely, I think that we've achieved real unity and real effectiveness in being the loyal opposition here in Washington.

SNOW: How much of your days are spent thinking about 2002 in the next election?

GEPHARDT: Well, I want to win the majority back. I think it's really important, not for the party and not for me, but for the country.

SNOW: Is it more important to win back the majority than it is to win legislatively for the next couple of years?

GEPHARDT: I think it is in the House for sure, because the minority is really out of power totally in the House. You have no ability to bring up amendments, you don't set the agenda every day. And that is real power in the House.

SNOW: There is a lot of focus on 2004, a lot of talk about your ambitions, do you have plans to run for president?

GEPHARDT: I really think that if you don't stay totally focused on the goal that is ahead of you, then you lessen your chances of reaching that goal. And my goal is to win back the majority in the Congress in 2002. I think, as usual in our system, we all want to look ahead and start calling the next race after that for president, but that is not what I'm doing and not what I should be doing.

SNOW (voice-over): Gephardt insists he's not planning ahead, though he's scheduled to attend four events in New Hampshire in two weeks.

GEPHARDT: The future will take of itself. I have no idea what will happen, and I'm not worried about it, and I don't spend time worrying about it. Because, again, I've got to do this in 2002. This is what we're trying to do.

SNOW: So, are you committed to staying minority leader through 2002?

GEPHARDT: Absolutely. I'm totally committed to winning this House back, and I think we are going to do it.

SNOW: Speaker of the House, you said to me last fall that that had a nice ring to it? GEPHARDT: It works for me.


WOODRUFF: Kate Snow talking with House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt. They talked today. And later this week, Kate will sit down with House Speaker Dennis Hastert. You can look for that report on Friday.

On another term for the another high-profile Republican and two nationally known Democrats with apparent home state ambitions.

INSIDE POLITICS will be right back.


To no one's surprise, Charlton Heston was reelected today to an unprecedented fourth term as president of the National Rifle Association. The 77-year-old actor was chosen at the NRA's annual convention in Kansas City. The group changed its rules last year to allow Heston a third term, and a spokesman said there really wasn't much discussion by the board before deciding to elect him, once again.

Former Attorney General Janet Reno may be looking for a new line of work. Now back in her native Florida, Reno says she finds the idea of running for governor appealing.


JANET RENO, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL: I love Florida very much. I was born and raised there. I have lived there most of my life. And I want to make sure that I do everything I can, either as governor or otherwise, to serve the interest of the people of Florida.


WOODRUFF: Reno says she does not believe that her Parkinson's Disease would keep her from running, and she expects to make a decision before the end of the year.

Governor Jeb Bush says possible opponents do not factor into his decision on whether to run for reelection.

House Minority Whip David Bonior may trade in his Congressional seat for a run at the governor's mansion. The 13-term Congressman from Michigan filed his paperwork today to become a candidate in Michigan's 2002 governor's race. His aides say that a formal announcement will come later. With Michigan slated to lose one House district, Bonior's seat may be vulnerable to the state's Republican controlled redistricting efforts. Republican Governor John Engler cannot seek reelection because of term limits.

Californians and the energy crunch: are they pointing fingers at the president? We'll check new poll numbers from the Golden State, and discuss power politics in the state when we return.


WOODRUFF: At ground zero on the energy crunch: more than half of Californians say they disapprove of the way President Bush is handling that state's power woes, according to a new poll. But the survey shows more Californians are placing blame for the problem on utility companies, former Governor Pete Wilson and current Governor Gray Davis than on President Bush and the federal government. The Democrats are trying hard to convince Californians that Republicans should be held accountable for the power problem. Here is a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee ad that begins airing in Los Angeles today.


NARRATOR: California's energy crisis is deepening, with summer blackouts predicted and rate hikes of up to 80 percent. Yet President Bush has offered no relief to hard-pressed rate payers. His spokesman saying, "The president continues to believe that the issue is mostly a California matter" and our representative, Stephen Horn, has joined with Bush in opposing a temporary cap on electricity prices. Call Congressman Horn and tell him we need action now.

That is if you can find the phone.


WOODRUFF: The Democratic committee said that it has bought significant air time for that spot, part of a month-long radio and TV ad campaign targeting Republicans on energy. Let's talk more now about energy politics with the director of that Public Policy Institute of California poll we just told you about, Mark Baldassare joins us now from San Francisco.

Mark, first of all, this poll finds Californians pessimistic in general, did that surprise you?

MARK BALDASSARE, CALIFORNIA POLLSTER: It did. For the past three years, we've been in an incredible time of optimism in California. Two-thirds of Californians have said that the state is going in the right direction. Most Californians felt that economic times would continue to be good, and most Californians also were highly approving of the governor and the legislature. For the first time, we've seen a dramatic drop in optimism about the state, about the economy and ratings of the governor.

WOODRUFF: And why do you think that is?

BALDASSARE: Well, eight in ten Californians say they have been closely following the electricity situation in the state and most Californians are telling us in our survey that they consider it the top issue and 80 percent of Californians say it's a big problem and moreover, a problem that is going to effect the economy. So there's been a great deal of uncertainty that's been created by the electricity situation and because of that uncertainty, people are beginning to feel very nervous about our state.

WOODRUFF: So you're saying because of the electricity crisis, if you want to call it that in California, it's now driving people's views of everything: population, the economy, across-the-board.

BALDASSARE: We -- for the past few years people have been focused on improving the schools, for instance. Now only 6 percent in our most recent survey said that's the issue that concerns them most in the state. And we see that there is growing pessimism at the same time that there is growing concern that this electricity situation is not under control and could affect the state's economy.

WOODRUFF: Explain for us, Mark, who people are blaming. We were -- Bill Schneider reported earlier on the program that Americans, overall, are having mixed views about to what extent President Bush is responsible. Here we're learning in California, they hold President Bush far less responsible than they do local leaders.

BALDASSARE: Yeah, well, we are at time right now in California where people haven't experienced the rate hikes yet. They've certainly heard about them. They haven't experienced, for the most part, frequent rolling blackouts, but they hear that they're coming. And so when we talk about blame, people are focused on what happened five years ago to put us into this situation. And for that, of course, they don't blame either the current governor or the current president. Now, as we go forward over the next few months, people are going to be re-assigning blame as well as re-evaluating the solutions that are in place, and that's why I think both the Democrats and Republicans are very urgently trying to get their message out right now about who they think is to blame and who they think has the best solutions.

WOODRUFF: Well, Mark, what is your reading on this? Are ads, like the ones we just saw the Democrats running out there, are those likely to have an effect on people's views?

BALDASSARE: I don't think so. I think that what is will most going to have a effect on people's views over these next few months is how the crisis is actually resolved. And if people feel that these electricity hikes have really, you know, altered their lifestyle or they're going to impact the economy, if they feel blackouts are really going to, you know, put them in an uncomfortable situation going through the summer, then my guess is they are going to give blame both to Bush and to Davis.

WOODRUFF: All right, Mark Baldassare of the California Public Policy Institute. Thanks very much, good to see you again.

BALDASSARE: Thank you. Same here.

WOODRUFF: As California tries to ease its energy problems, there are concerns about the cost not only for consumers, but for the environment. CNN's Rusty Dornin takes a closer look at the issues being raised by one California plant's effort to expand.


RUSTY DORNIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): An aging giant known as the Mighty Moss. The 50-year-old Moss Landing Natural Gas plant along California's coast owned by Duke Energy. A face lift and an expansion will soon make this the largest power generator in the state, providing 2.3 million homes with light, heat and air conditioning. But all that power takes water to cool the turbines, water that's home to otters, fish, herons and other wildlife.

CAROLYN NIELSEN, PLANT OPPONENT: Every day, Duke will use 333 football-size fields -- pools of water that are 10 feet deep. That is just incomprehensible.

DORNIN: Water from the wetlands run through the plant, returning to the ocean 30 degrees warmer. Been that way for 50 years. Now environmentalists worry that increasing the intake will sterilize any creature sucked in.

PATRICIA MATEJCEK, SIERRA CLUB: Everything that lives in that volume of water: eggs from fish from clams, diatoms, young fish, everything in it will be killed.

DORNIN: Environmentalists say the Mighty Moss got a break on the approval process, as regulators here faced the state's energy crisis. It took 14 months. Permitting for smaller plants in the state is down to 21 days.

KAITILIN GAFFNEY, CENTER FOR MARINE CONSERVATION: It's so fast that my concern is that we wouldn't even catch really obvious problems because we are just are not taking a hard look at these plants at all.

DORNIN: But here's the twist as part of the permit process: local environmental groups signed off on the Mighty Moss renovation plan.

GAFFNEY: So at the eleventh hour, we were able to work out this deal with Duke to at least ensure that the scientific monitoring will go on.

DORNIN (on camera): Duke Energy will spend more than $8 million expanding the wetlands and in donations to local environmental groups. There will also be an independent monitor who will assess any damage to the environment.

TOM WILLIAMS, DUKE ENERGY: This will more than compensate any potential effects that the new power plant will have on the habitat. This state is in an energy crisis. The new plant we're bringing on is cleaner, more efficient than virtually any plant in the country today.

DORNIN: Environmentalists made a deal here, but many fear, in a power-hungry state, taking what they can get may be their only option.

Rusty Dornin, CNN, Moss Landing, California.


WOODRUFF: A very different kind of power politics, circa the 1970s, is being seen in a whole new light in some circles. Former President Ford is honored for granting a famous -- some would say infamous -- at pardon.

That's next on INSIDE POLITICS.


WOODRUFF: It is something that many Americans that lived through the Watergate era might never dream they would see. An award named for a Democratic icon presented to the man who angered many Democrats by pardoning Richard Nixon.

CNN's Bruce Morton has an inside view of this twist on political history.


CAROLINE KENNEDY SCHLOSSBERG, JOHN KENNEDY'S DAUGHTER: He placed his love of country ahead of his own political future. We are honored to present you, President Ford, with the John F. Kennedy Profile In Courage Award for 2001.


BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Gerald Ford, now 87, got the award because, as a new unelected president, he pardoned his predecessor, Richard Nixon, who had resigned in disgrace to avoid impeachment over the Watergate scandal.

RICHARD M. NIXON, 37TH PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I shall resign the presidency effective at noon tomorrow.

MORTON: "Our long national nightmare is over," the new man said of Watergate. But really, what would end it? Nixon could still face charges.

GERALD FORD, 38TH PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My conscience tells me that only I, as president, have the constitutional power to firmly shut and seal this book.

MORTON: And so he granted:

FORD: A full, free and absolute pardon unto Richard Nixon.

MORTON: Many Americans thought that was a mistake.

SEN. TED KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: I was one of those who spoke out against his actions then, but time has a way of clarifying past events. And now we see that President Ford was right.

MORTON: Not everyone agrees. Ford's press secretary at the time, Gerald Ter Horst, resigned to protest the Nixon pardon and still thinks it was wrong.

JERRY TER HORST, FORMER FORD PRESS SECRETARY: He was going to go off scot-free, whereas all of his minions -- the people who worked at the White House, from the chief of staff on down to Ehrlichman, Chuck Colson and others -- they were going to have to do prison time; they were not going to get pardons. MORTON: And it may have cost Ford the 1976 election. It was a close election. Many things could have swung it, but the pardon was surely one. Jimmy Carter, who beat Ford, thanked him Inauguration Day.

JAMES EARL CARTER, 39TH PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: For myself and for our nation, I want to thank my predecessor for all he has done to heal our land.

MORTON: Accepting the award, Ford talked about the need for courage today in a politics dominated by "partisan jockeying at the expense of public policy."

FORD: I sense a longing for community, a desire on the part of Americans to be part of something bigger, finer than themselves.

MORTON: Historians may still argue about the pardon. They agree he cared about his country and its politics, and did what he thought was right.

Bruce Morton, CNN, Washington.


WOODRUFF: Also cited for political courage today, Democratic Congressman John Lewis of Georgia who was beaten, as he and others challenged segregation during the freedom rides through the South in 1961.

Lewis was given a special Profile of Courage Award for Lifetime Achievement.

Former president Ford, Congressman Lewis and Caroline Kennedy will all be guests tonight on "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS." That's at 8:00 p.m. Eastern.

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

And our e-mail address is

This other programming note: Priscilla Sue Galey, the former stripper who claims that FBI spy Robert Hanssen showered her with gifts, will be the guest tonight on "LARRY KING LIVE." That's at 9:00 p.m. Eastern.

I'm Judy Woodruff. Stay tuned for a CNN special report: "Conflict in the Middle East" coming up.



4:30pm ET, 4/16

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