CNN INSIDE POLITICS
Jim Jeffords Bolts GOP, Giving Democrats Control of the Senate
Aired May 24, 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.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JAMES JEFFORDS (I), VERMONT: I have changed my party label, but I have not changed my beliefs. Indeed, my decision is about affirming the principles that had shaped my career.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: James Jeffords says goodbye to the Republican Party, and takes with him the president's working majority in the Senate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I respect Senator Jeffords, but I respectfully -- but respectfully, I couldn't disagree more.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: The White House fails to prevent a Senate power shift: a look at the increasingly uphill battle for the president's top priorities.
Also, from majority to minority without an election: Republicans consider who's to blame as Democrats consider their new power to shape the president's agenda.
Plus: a straight-talking Democrat considers his political future, and has some advice for his colleagues as they prepare to assume power.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. ZELL MILLER (D), GEORGIA: I hope that the Democratic Party in the Senate will do better as the majority party than they did as the minority party.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: Now Judy Woodruff takes you INSIDE POLITICS.
JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you for joining us.
We are waiting for the Department of Justice, Attorney General John Ashcroft to hold a news conference to talk about more documents that have been found by the FBI -- documents being turned over to attorneys for Timothy McVeigh. When that gets under way, we will go there just as soon as it does.
In the meantime, barely 100 days into his presidency, George W. Bush faces a completely different legislative environment from the one he started with on January the 20th. Today's decision by Senator Jim Jeffords of Vermont to leave the Republicans to become an independent has shattered the GOP's working majority in the 50-50 Senate, and it overturns all the political assumptions in place about how the 107th Congress will operate.
Our coverage of the Jeffords decision and its impact begins in Vermont with CNN senior political correspondent Candy Crowley.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As political winds blow, this one is a Nor'easter.
JEFFORDS: In order to best represent my state of Vermont, my own conscience, and principles I have stood for my whole life, I will leave the Republican Party and become an independent. Control of the Senate will be changed by my decision.
CROWLEY: Party defections are not new, but a party defection that changes the congressional leadership is unheard of. Surely something powerful must have prompted a departure Jeffords knows will hand over Senate power to the Democrats. But as it turns out, it wasn't just one thing, it was almost...
WOODRUFF: We're breaking into the report; we'll be back to it in a moment.
Now to the Justice Department, Attorney General John Ashcroft.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)
JOHN ASHCROFT, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: The delay was until June the 11th. I took this step because it is my responsibility as attorney general to promote and to protect the integrity of our system of justice.
Timothy McVeigh was convicted by a jury of bombing the Alfred P. Murrah Building in Oklahoma City on April the 19th, 1995, and was sentenced to death. He has admitted to executing this savage crime, the largest terrorist attack within the United States in our history.
Even today, he shows no remorse for killing 168 innocent people, including 19 children, injuring hundreds more, and shattering the lives of thousands of Americans. His execution was not delayed because of any doubt that he is guilty of this heinous crime, but because we must have a system of justice that is above question. Our system of justice requires fidelity to the rule of law to protect every American's constitutional rights. We must protect and sustain public confidence in the administration of justice.
In this instance, protecting that system of justice required turning over approximately 3,100 pages of documents from the FBI that should have been produced to McVeigh's attorneys during the original discovery period.
Fair process dictated giving his attorneys a reasonable opportunity to review the documents and to consider their options. They have had those documents for almost two weeks, and there are still more than two weeks intervening between now and June the 11th.
On Friday, May 11, the same day I announced the one-month delay in the execution, I directed the Federal Bureau of Investigation to issue a worldwide alert to all their offices. This worldwide alert ordered every FBI office to identify and produce any and all documents required under the broad discovery agreement in the McVeigh case.
Even though 11 previous searches had been done, I wanted the FBI to make a final, thorough, conclusive search to identify and produce any other potentially relevant documents in this case.
Justice required that McVeigh's defense attorneys have an opportunity to review any documents that should have been produced, even though they do not affect the outcome of this case. Our system of justice demands nothing less.
Today, the Department of Justice completed a report that has been submitted to me documenting the FBI's comprehensive efforts over the last 13 days to identify any remaining documents. The report explains the content and the nature of newly produced documents, and outlines the efforts the department has made to allow McVeigh's attorneys a fair opportunity to review this material.
Today, I am releasing the complete report to the McVeigh attorneys and, consistent with the district court's protective orders, a redacted report to the American public. As this report explains, the American people can have confidence that all documents now have been identified and produced, and that nothing in any of these documents undermines McVeigh's admission of the murder of 168 of his fellow American citizens, or nothing in these documents undermines the justice of his sentence.
FBI Director Louis Freeh has certified to me that the FBI has completed its search and produced every relevant document in its possession. Further, also at my request, every special agent in charge of every FBI office has certified that all documents pertaining to the McVeigh case have been produced by that special agent's office.
Following the production of the new documents 13 days ago, and pursuant to Director Freeh's final worldwide alert, the FBI, working with federal prosecutors engaged in this methodical process designed to find and identify any documents that could have been, but were not, turned over during the extraordinarily broad discovery process. Each FBI office was searched exhaustively for any potentially relevant documents. When such documents were identified by an office, they were immediately sent to Oklahoma City for review.
There, an FBI team and attorneys conducted a two-step review process. First, the team determined whether any of the documents were covered by the unusually broad discovery agreement. Most of the documents were not.
Additionally, the smaller group of documents determined to be covered by the agreement were reviewed against the OKBomb computer databases. This review was undertaken to determine whether or not each document had already been produced or made available to the defense team during discovery.
Again, the overwhelming majority of documents reviewed had already been turned over during discovery.
Under this process, over the last nine days, we have identified and produced to the defense just under 898 additional pages of documents. These include 103 pages of Baltimore documents, produced on May 14, 327 pages of Denver documents produced on May 18, 405 pages of documents from various offices produced on May the 23rd and 63 pages of Oklahoma City documents produced today.
These items were sent to the Denver operation immediately upon discovery, where the prosecution team produced them to the defense counsel as they were processed. The defense team has had ample time to review these documents.
I would like to make two points. First, we're talking about a relatively small amount of information, particularly in comparison to the incredible volume of documents produced in this case.
This particular investigation produced millions of records, including millions of pages of hotel, motel or phone records, over 238,000 photographs, over 28,000 reports of interviews and more than 23,000 pieces of evidence. The new documents represent only a small fraction of 1 percent of the total number of produced documents in this case.
Second and more importantly, it is essential that people understand the substance of the material we are talking about. All of these newly produced documents have been reviewed by attorneys familiar with the case. This item-by-item review has revealed that none, none of these new documents raises any doubt about the proven and admitted guilt of Timothy McVeigh.
Indeed, the review reveals that most of the documents have little or no value and that much of the information was disclosed to the defense through other documents that were already produced in the discovery process.
While the court's protective order prevents us from publicly releasing the documents or describing them in detail, I thought it would be useful to share a few generalized descriptions of the types of documents that were belatedly produced.
For example, a lengthy collection of newspaper and magazine clippings, including photos from a swimsuit calendar received from a person under psychiatric care, received in one of our offices and not forwarded initially. Most of these clippings did not pertain to the bombing.
Another example is a long, handwritten letter offering unspecified information in return for an enormous cash reward in return for release of someone from prison and in return for a trip to Europe to meet with royalty.
Other documents include various letters involving information about non-physical beings and offers by psychics to contact the dead victims for information about the bombing.
Now, in addition to these kinds of documents, some of the new items involved nothing more than information about service of a subpoena or receipt of records, and are only discoverable because an agent happened to document the information in an FBI 302 interview report or insert, which by definition according to the trial agreement made it discoverable.
There are also photographs, fingerprint cards, criminal history reports involving persons who ultimately turned out to have no connection whatsoever to the case. Many documents concern investigations into whether other persons, in addition to or instead of McVeigh and Nichols, were involved in the bombing, a fact that McVeigh himself denies.
While thousands of leads were pursued in this endeavor, nothing in any of the documents links anyone else to this bombing.
Let me summarize this reports findings. No documents creates any doubt of McVeigh's guilt, let alone establishes his innocence, which is the legal standard an appeal must overcome. Most of the documents could not have qualified as evidence. Finally, the quantity of the documents is minuscule compared to the number of documents already provided to McVeigh's lawyers.
I delayed this execution by a month to give McVeigh's lawyers sufficient time to exercise his legal rights. I will not delay the sentence of a confessed, mass murderer. I will not delay his sentence further based on documents which cast no doubt about the surety of his guilt.
We reviewed these documents carefully.
We wrote a thorough report. And we are prepared to defend McVeigh's conviction and the sentence that has been imposed.
The lawyers in the Department of Justice have already had time to prepare to defend the interests of the United States in this case and have done so while reviewing large volumes of material that has been irrelevant.
We are prepared, we have had ample time to prepare, and we believe this demonstrates clearly that the defense team has had ample time to defend Mr. McVeigh.
The first delay in this case was necessary for this review by lawyers for the defense and the prosecution. A second delay in this case would ignore the evidence and the facts of the case.
We also need to be sensitive to the victims of this ruthless attack. Throughout this legal process, we have been keenly mindful of the pain that careful judicial proceedings sometimes cause victims to endure. I again extend my sympathy to the victims of this assault, an assault on America, and I will not add to their pain.
To have proceeded on the initial execution date would have discredited the fairness and completeness which due process demands and deserves. Failure to carry out the sentence after such thorough and careful compliance has been achieved would thwart justice and deny victims closure and would discredit our judicial system.
I'll be pleased to respond to you.
QUESTION: Attorney General, the latest filings by Terry Nichols' lawyers at the Supreme Court claims...
WOODRUFF: The attorney general of the United States, John Ashcroft, disclosing that almost 900 new pages of documents that are required to be disclosed under an agreement with the McVeigh attorneys have now been discovered. He said, they've now been shared with McVeigh's attorneys, but having said that, the attorney general is telling us that he will not propose a new execution date.
He said the McVeigh execution has already been delayed for one month, it's set at June 11. He said to do so any longer, in his words, "would add to the pain of the victims and their families."
Our legal analyst Greta Van Susteren is here with me in the Washington studio. Greta, what is the significance of this disclosure today?
GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, you know, it's sort of interesting. What he is talking about the is the documents that they discovered recently. Now the Justice Department has gone through them. In their wisdom, they say these documents are of no value. But I've got to tell you, Judy, it doesn't really matter.
It's what the judge decides and it's the defense viewpoint. Prosecutors always say when they hand over documents to the defense, and especially when they hand them over late, that they are of no value. So that is really no surprise. What is sort of extraordinary about what the attorney general just said is, he said that none of the document raises any doubt about proven and admitted guilt.
This is the mistake. Timothy McVeigh did not, in court, take the stand. He did not admit his guilt. Granted, he made some statements out of court to some authors. But what the attorney general is trying to do is sort of spin this. You know, these cases are supposed to be built on evidence that's fairly turned over. The FBI made a huge egregious mistake.
I think the attorney general was quite admirable in postponing the execution which was a politically unpopular move, but he has got to at least look at the facts. That they were late, they can't make the determination if they are of value are not. That's for the judge after the defense has gone through them. And secondly, he has got to be careful with the facts. McVeigh did not admit under oath that he committed this crime or he did not make a statement to anyone else that was brought into the courtroom, and that's where the attorney general is being a little bit loose with the facts.
WOODRUFF: All right. Well, again, with just a little more than two weeks to go before the scheduled execution date for Timothy McVeigh, Attorney General John Ashcroft announcing some 900 pages of new documents have been discovered. They're being turned over to McVeigh's attorneys, but the attorney general saying this execution will not be delayed again if he can help it, in so many words.
We're going to take a break. When we come back, INSIDE POLITICS.
WOODRUFF: Back now to our lead political story today. Today's announcement by Senator Jim Jeffords of Vermont. He is leaving the Republican party. He'll become an independent. This has shattered the Republican's working majority in the evenly-split Senate. And it overturns all the political assumptions that had been in place about how this Congress will operate.
Our coverage of the decision, it's effect, all begins in Vermont with our senior political correspondent Candy Crowley. Here she is again.
CROWLEY (voice-over): As political winds blow, this is a Nor'easter.
JEFFORDS: In order to best represent my state of Vermont, my own conscience and principles I have stood for my whole life, I will leave the Republican party and become an independent. Control of the Senate will changed by my decision.
CROWLEY: Party defections are not new, but a party defection that changes the congressional leadership is unheard of. Surely something powerful must have prompted a departure Jeffords knows will hand over Senate power to the Democrats. But as it turns out, it wasn't just one thing, it was almost everything.
JEFFORDS: Looking ahead, I can see more and more instances where I will disagree with the president on very fundamental issues. The issues of choice, the direction of the judiciary, tax and spending decisions, missile defense, energy and the environment, and a host of other issues, large and small.
CROWLEY: Performing against type, Jeffords, a back-bencher by nature and by choice, left under the Klieg lights, with a very public swipe at every major element of the Bush agenda. Sometimes it was a major body blow.
JEFFORDS: He gave us a promise to give us new direction in education. But new direction without funding is really no useful direction at all.
CROWLEY: Jeffords made his announcement back home in Vermont. State adjective: quirky. Here, urbanites fleeing New York and Boston for green mountains and blue water have brought their liberal politics with them. Here, they thrive on the idea of independence. Here, he knew, everyone would understand. Except maybe the Republicans who funded and worked for his campaign last fall.
SKIP VALLEE, VERMONT RNC MEMBER: There's a tremendous sense of betrayal. Now I have said publicly that he should follow Phil Gramm's, you know, lead, and if he wants to run as an independent, resign, run again.
CROWLEY: He is, after all, a lifelong Republican, 10 times elected to the U.S. Congress. So, he knew there would be some of this.
JEFFORDS: My colleagues, many of them my friends for years, may find it difficult in their hearts to befriend me any longer. Many of my supporters will be disappointed, and some of my staffers will see their lives upended. I regret this very much. Having made my decision, the weight has been lifted from my shoulders, now hangs heavy on my heart.
CROWLEY: Despite his personal regret, Jeffords has no political ones. "I have changed my party label," he says. "Not my beliefs. I am confident it's the right decision."
CROWLEY: And finally, there is this political speculation from Vermont that what Jim Jeffords really wants is to be governor here. And as a Republican he would likely lose. As a Democrat, he would face very stiff competition, but as an independent, he might be just the fit for "quirky" Vermont -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: All right, Candy Crowley. Governor, eh?
As Senator Jeffords announced his decision, President Bush was headed to Ohio. On the road to promote his legislative proposals on faith-based charities. Those proposals represent just one of many White House goals that, because of today's event, just got a lot harder to achieve.
Here's CNN senior White House correspondent John King.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) JOHN KING, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Jeffords event was piped over the speakers on Air Force One. Aides say the president didn't listen, but he landed in Cleveland with a simple message.
BUSH: I respect Senator Jeffords, but I respectfully -- but respectfully -- I couldn't disagree more.
KING: The Jeffords defection poses two big challenges for the president: selling his agenda in a Senate soon to be run by Democrats, and making sure that out here, where the voters are, he isn't blamed for driving a moderate out of the Republican Party.
BUSH: I was elected to get things done on behalf of the American people and to work with both Republicans and Democrats, and we're doing just that.
KING: The president and his senior staff bristled at Jeffords' explanation, his comments that he felt more and more at odds with his party and the president on issues from abortion and the environment, to taxes and education.
Perception matters in politics. And while nearly 6 in 10 Americans approve of how Mr. Bush is handling his job as president, there are some early image issues: six in 10 Americans, for example, say energy companies and big business have too much influence over Mr. Bush; 75 percent say his tax cut will benefit the rich. A priority now is making sure the Jeffords defection doesn't hurt the president outside of Washington.
SCOTT REED, GOP STRATEGIST: Bush needs to very quickly change the channel, change the terms of the debate, get back on the offense with some of his policy initiatives and get back to the bully pulpit which he occupied so well for the first 125-30 days.
KING: Back at the office, Mr. Bush huddled with top aides to assess the new landscape. More outreach to Democrats is a must now, but there are risks.
PETER FENN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Obviously, if he does that, he makes the right wing mad, and the right wing, if you have anything -- you know, can say anything about the right wing, they are vocal.
KING: But top Bush advisers say changing the sales pitch doesn't mean changing the agenda, a line that cheers conservatives.
TERRY JEFFREY, EDITOR, "HUMAN EVENTS": I think he is actually in a stronger position in the long run politically if he sticks by the principles he championed as a candidate. So I think, no, I think Bush is going to push forward. I think there is going to be more of a fight.
KING: More a fight, and more of a test for a president who's party is now suddenly roiled by internal squabbling and who's agenda suddenly faces a much less-certain fate in the Congress.
And Judy, we should note this new relationship with Senator Daschle off, the White House says, to a positive start. A 10-minute phone conversation this afternoon between the president and the soon- to-be Senate majority leader. Officials here say the call was very cordial and that the president made clear he looks forward to working with Senator Daschle and Senate Democrats.
WOODRUFF: All right, John King at the White House.
Well, the news of Jeffords' decision, of course, dominated this day on Capitol Hill. Senate Democrats began making plans for their ascent to power, while Republican senators asked themselves what went wrong, and they tried to push ahead with some unfinished business.
Here's CNN's congressional correspondent Jonathan Karl.
JONATHAN KARL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He'll soon be the new boss, but Tom Daschle confronts an old problem: He leads a restive and often divided Democratic caucus. That will have a razor-thin majority.
SEN. TOM DASCHLE (D-SD), MINORITY LEADER: What does not change with this new balance of power is the need for principled compromise. This is still one of the most closely-divided Senates in all of our history. We still face the same challenges. Bipartisanship, or I guess I should now say "tripartisanship," is still a requirement.
KARL: In offices throughout Capitol Hill, Democrats like Senator Ted Kennedy eagerly watched Senator Jeffords announce a decision that will put them in charge.
SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: No single move by any individual, or any group, for that matter, ever made the difference in terms of the makeup of the Senate and I think of importantly for the direction of our country in terms of the Senate's involvement in shaping the debate.
KARL: Meanwhile, Republicans like Arlen Specter watched gloomily as Jeffords slipped away, taking their power with him.
SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (R), PENNSYLVANIA: Well, I'm very disappointed, but I can understand Senator Jeffords' reasoning. I had hoped that he would've made a different decision and that he would've given the Republican Party a shot across the bow, but instead, it's a shot in the bow.
KARL: Immediately following Jeffords' announcement, Republicans huddled in a closed-door meeting to assess the damage.
SEN. DON NICKLES (R-OK), ASSISTANT MAJORITY LEADER: I think we had a real vetting of emotions. A lot of people are very, kind of, shell-shocked at the change. This is a major change, and it has significant ramifications on a lot of individuals. KARL: According to sources at the meeting, a parade of G.O.P. Senators, including Arlen Specter, Olympia Snowe and Pete Domenici, stood up to demand a reassessment of the party's strategy. Several said the party leadership has neglected moderates like Jeffords. Others said the party's problem goes beyond Jeffords, pointing out that over the last few years, the party has watched it's once commanding Senate majority disappear.
SEN. KAY BAILEY HUTCHISON (R), TEXAS: There has been a steady erosion in our majority and we should be looking at the reasons why.
KARL: Senator John McCain was more blunt, releasing a statement saying of Jeffords, quote, "For his votes of conscience he was unfairly targeted for abuse, usually anonymously, by short sighted party operatives. Tolerance of dissent is the hallmark of a mature party and it is well past time for the Republican party to grow up.
KARL: Senator Jeffords has sent letters both to Republican leader Trent Lott and to Democratic leader Tom Daschle. Saying that his switch to the Democratic party will be effective on June 5, or when the president gets the tax cut at the White House, whichever comes first.
After that, when the Democrats take control, Tom Daschle has said, that the first order of business will be to finish up the education bill, the president's education initiative. After that, the Democrats have their own plans. They want to move ahead with the patients' bill of rights, their version of it, not the White House's version, although Tom Daschle says that he does want to work with this new president and that phone conversation you heard John King talk about, well Tom Daschle's spokeswoman said that it was also cordial and nice -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: Jonathan, as if the Jeffords situation weren't enough for the White House, there was also a wrinkle today with Senator McCain, whom you just mentioned.
KARL: Well, yes. Senator John McCain was actually supposed to have dinner at the White House, a one-on-one dinner with the president -- actually, Laura Bush was suppose to be attending as well.
Well, yesterday that was called off by mutual agreement because they didn't want that dinner to look like it was a direct reaction to this news about Jeffords, but I do have to tell you some news about John McCain. And that is that the Democrats, while they were working on Jeffords, were also very seriously working and negotiating with John McCain about McCain potentially switching as an independent.
There were three Democrats leading the charge on this: they were John Edwards of North Carolina, Ted Kennedy, and also Tom Daschle. The three of them were in negotiations with Senator McCain. Senator McCain, though, was not ready to make a shift at this time and to this day, his office still says he has absolutely no plans to leave the Republican Party. But those negotiations were ongoing in the very time that other Democrats were approaching Jim Jeffords.
WOODRUFF: And Jonathan, just quickly, we can't forget in all of this -- Ted Olson, the president's nominee to be the solicitor general. What happened to that? We know there has been a vote.
KARL: Well, believe it or not, Ted Olson has been confirmed after all the battles that have been going on in that judiciary committee which deadlocked on the Olsen nomination. Olsen now has been confirmed by a vote of 51 to 47. In the end, there were two Democrats, Zell Miller of Georgia, who you spoke to today, and also Ben Nelson of Nebraska, both moderate or conservative Democrats voted in favor of the Olson nomination. And by the way, Jim Jeffords was not up around for that vote. He was still up in Vermont.
WOODRUFF: All right, Jonathan Karl at the White House.
KARL: At the Capitol.
WOODRUFF: I'm sorry, at the Capitol.
WOODRUFF: We're going back and forth today. We're going to take a break. When we come back, we are going to be at the White House for counselor of the president, Karen Hughes. We'll be right back.
WOODRUFF: Today's announcement that Senator Jim Jeffords will leave the Republican Party means President Bush will have to deal with a Democratic majority in the Senate. Karen Hughes is counselor to the president, and she joins us now from the White House.
Karen Hughes, they're incoming, as you might say -- coming from all over the city toward the White House, toward Republicans in the Senate. Should the White House and others have seen this happening -- coming?
KAREN HUGHES, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT: Well, Judy, you are right about the incomings. And President Bush is really not interested in playing the "blame game," he's interested in getting results.
I think we were surprised, a lot of people were surprised that someone who was elected as a Republican would consider changing parties, but that was Senator Jeffords' decision to make, and I think he made it quite clear to the president on Tuesday that his mind was pretty well made up. What President Bush is interested in is getting results. And we're making great progress this week on that agenda.
At the same time Senator Jeffords said that he does not feel at home at home in the party, record numbers of Republicans and Democrats are joining together to pass President Bush's agenda.
Just yesterday in the Senate a huge vote, 62 to 38, for the president's tax-relief package. Just yesterday in the House, a huge vote -- more than 350 Republicans and Democrats voting for education reforms.
WOODRUFF: You're right, there are those votes taking place. At the same time, with regards to Jeffords, an administration adviser quoted today saying the White House didn't have an "adequate radar system to warn them of something like this." Is this something that needs to be put in play?
HUGHES: Well, Judy, I don't know that you can ever be warned that somebody will do something like this. I mean, if somebody makes up their mind to do something, sometimes they don't tell anybody. We learned about it late Monday night, early Tuesday morning. I presume at that point that Senator Jeffords had not told very many people. But we spend a lot of time -- as you know, President Bush has met with more members of Congress than any president in modern history -- with Republicans and Democrats. Vice President Cheney is on Capitol Hill all the time, as are members of our legislature staff.
So I think we are pretty well plugged into the workings of Capitol Hill. But if someone chooses not to tell us something, then we don't know it.
WOODRUFF: What about Senator Jeffords' main message today, Karen -- and this is, namely, that as a moderate he felt left out by the president's agenda, that he felt something was going to happen with this president back in November, but that has not happened, and he feels he has to leave the party.
HUGHES: Well, Judy, we respectfully disagree. And I think that if you look at the facts, the facts will prove that emphatically wrong. For example, we've been working with a liberal, Senator Kennedy, on the education bill. We've been working closely with him. We've been working even with Senator Jeffords on a patient's bill of rights. We've been working closely with him.
President Bush said a week-and-a-half ago that if Senator Jeffords' bill that he has on worked on with Senator Breaux and Senator Frist and others passed, that he will sign it and look forward to doing so. So President Bush has been working very closely with both Republicans and Democrats and the proof is in the results.
WOODRUFF: And what about the so-called "heavy-handed tactics" that many say, anonymously, that Senator Jeffords was the victim of. Your own colleague at the White House, Karl Rove -- his name has been brought in here as someone who was more interested in retribution against Senator Jeffords when he didn't go along with the president on the tax cut, than in trying to keep him included.
HUGHES: Well, Judy, I just don't think that's accurate, and frankly, I think it's a little insulting to Senator Jeffords to claim that he did something so major as change parties based on some perceived slight. And in fact, Senator Jeffords said today that he did not feel slighted, no member of Congress were invited to the event that some people had been talking about.
We are passionate about trying to enact President Bush's agenda. We've worked hard to try get votes, and President Bush believes it is the right thing to do for our country. And he's going to work hard to convince members to vote for it.
On the other hand, I heard him just two days ago tell a group of lawmakers that he understood, if on principle, they had to vote differently from him. So there is no retribution, there is certainly an understanding here that people have different feelings and different votes, and as a matter of conscience, people may not always vote for us. One of President Bush's favorite saying was from the Democratic Lieutenant Governor from Texas Bob Bullock, who use to say if we both agree all the time, there's no need for one of us.
WOODRUFF: But disagreement is one thing, but today Senator John McCain is saying, among other things, he said Senator Jeffords unfairly targeted for abuse. He said -- and he even talked about personal threats by Republicans. And again, crying out to the party to be more inclusive, to accept moderates and accept differences.
HUGHES: Well, again, Judy, I would suggest to you that President Bush has a record of doing just that, of reaching out and being inclusive. Record numbers of Hispanic-Americans know that President Bush has reached out to them. He's reached out to Republicans and Democrats. He's invited record numbers of members of Congress to the White House to meet with him, to talk with him, to listen to them. And so I would just submit that those vague, anonymous allegations, I don't think they bare much reflection on reality.
WOODRUFF: Senator McCain is not anonymous. I mean, his name is on there, and we also know...
HUGHES: And we agree with Senator McCain that the Republican Party does need to reach out and that's precisely the message that President Bush campaigned on and the message that he won on in the election last November.
HUGHES: And today in the Republican caucus in the Senate, we were told that Senator Olympia Snowe, whom we are going to talk to later, Senator Pete Domenici, among others, talked about the need for the party to be more inclusive and to include moderates in the way, they said, it has not done until now.
HUGHES: Well, I think clearly, again, that is a part of President Bush's whole compassionate conservative message: is to reach out and be inclusive, to reach out to those. And again, look at the votes. Look at the results: 62 to 38 yesterday in the Senate. That's a huge bipartisan show of support that included a lot of moderates for the president's tax relief package.
WOODRUFF: All right, Karen Hughes, counselor to the president. We appreciate you pointing that out a couple of times. That's a story, you're right, on under normal circumstances would have gotten a lot more coverage than it has received.
HUGHES: Thanks, Judy.
WOODRUFF: Thanks very much, good to see you again.
And this story just in to CNN. In Israel, three people were killed and hundreds injured today when a wedding hall collapsed. Local news reports say scores of others are believed to be trapped in the rubble as many as 700 people were inside at the time. Police say the collapse appears to an accident and not an act of terrorism. The collapse happened in southeast Jerusalem. We'll keep you updated on this story as more information becomes available.
We will be back with more INSIDE POLITICS in just a moment.
WOODRUFF: Back now to this breaking story in Jerusalem. Just outside of Jerusalem, a wedding hall collapsed. We've learned three people killed, hundreds injured. Joining us now on the telephone from just outside Jerusalem, CNN's Sheila MacVicar. Sheila, can you bring us up to date on what you're seeing?
SHEILA MACVICAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Judy, the wedding hall that has collapsed -- on one side, it looks like it's perfectly normal, when you try to go around the backside where, of course, the police won't let you go it's completely pancaked. It appears that the roof, the (AUDIO GAP) story has simply dropped onto the lower floors.
Now, the police are telling us here that they don't believe that this in any way related to any kind of terrorist act. They are saying to us bad building, that the structural work was bad. We don't know why it has collapsed now, but they are saying that they are not certain how many people were inside the building.
This is Thursday night in Jerusalem, this is a very popular night for weddings. There may be, they tell us, between 700 and 1,400 people inside the building. The Israelis have put out calls -- the Israelis have put out calls for ambulances from all over the country, and they're calling for blood. They are saying that they need people to go to the clinics to go to the clinics and donate blood.
We don't know how many people are injured. There -- the wire services and the Israeli police here on the scene say that there are three dead. Beyond that's, at the moment, we just don't know.
WOODRUFF: Sheila, we are looking at terrible pictures. As of now, we are showing a headline saying police say terrorism not suspected. Have you been able to talk to police about why they believe it was an accident?
MACVICAR: They think that simply the structural work in the building was bad. Now, this is section of Jerusalem, it's a relatively new section of Jerusalem, built very quickly over the last few years.
Now, I don't know why they so quickly have come to the conclusion that it's likely to be bad structural work, but that's their conclusion. I can hear now in the background heavy machinery working, trying to lift concrete pads off where they believe people are trapped.
So, we just do not know at this point in time precisely why police are so convinced, other than newer area of Jerusalem, a place where there may have been shoddy building parts in the past, and no here tonight that this is an act of terrorism. Still, a terrible tragedy.
WOODRUFF: Yes, that is certainly is. Joining us on the telephone from just outside of Jerusalem, CNN's Sheila MacVicar. Once again, at least three people killed, hundreds injured today when that wedding hall collapsed, and you've just heard Sheila describing how the building literally pancaked and describing what some are saying as this being an area where construction has been shoddy.
We are going to make an abrupt turn now and go back to our lead political story today, and that is an announcement by Vermont Republican Senator Jim Jeffords that he is leaving the Republican Party to become an independent. He will vote with the Democrats, changing completely the political lineup in United States Senate.
For more now on how the people of Vermont and their political views and how they might react to what the senator has decided to do, we are joined from Boston by professor Garrison Nelson of the University of Vermont.
Professor, what is your sense of how people are reacting up there? I know you're in Boston, but I know you also stay in touch with your home state.
PROF. GARRISON NELSON, UNIVERSITY OF VERMONT: Judy, this is not a big surprise to many people in Vermont. Jim Jeffords has been elected seven times to the House of Representative, three times to the U.S. Senate, primarily on the votes of Democrats and independents. That's his primary constituency. Vermont's Republicans are unhappy with Jim Jeffords, but they've been unhappy with him for about 30 years. So, he is not losing any people that have been in his corner over the past generation.
WOODRUFF: So, politically, does anything change for him in the state of Vermont?
NELSON: Not at all. One of the things you have to understand is that Vermont has never voted out an elected United States senator in the 90 years since we have been electing U.S. Senators.
WOODRUFF: Now, what about in terms of internally, we've heard Candy Crowley earlier in the program talking about there's speculation he wants to run for governor, and he's much better off doing that as an independent? What can you can tell us about that?
NELSON: He has flirted with that. He was knocked out in 1972 gubernatorial primary when the Republican establishment sort of ganged up on him and knocked him out of that race. It was the only race he's ever lost.
He thought about running for governor in 1982, after he had voted against the Reagan tax cut in '81, and was ostracized, rather substantially, by the House Republicans, most notably by Trent Lott of all people, and but -- once again, the Vermont Republican establishment rallied behind Dick Snelling, who was a three-term governor, to run for a fourth term, and that blocked Jeffords' return to the state.
WOODRUFF: Is he at any risk now as a result of this? I mean, is he -- has he in any way taken a step that should be -- could be considered risky to his political future?
NELSON: Not at all. Vermont Republican Party has basically -- which was once the most successful political party in America -- has had trouble winning statewide contests. It lost eight of the last nine governor races. You have a Democratic senator, Pat Leahy, in the other seat and you have an independent socialist, Bernie Sanders, in the House seat. So, Vermont Republicans really don't have the kind of juice to get rid of Jim Jeffords.
WOODRUFF: And message, finally, professor, to President Bush from the Republicans in the state of Vermont?
NELSON: Basically, George, this is not the Republican Party of Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt and Calvin Coolidge. This is the party of Strom Thurmond and Trent Lott, not a party we want to be affiliated with.
WOODRUFF: All right. Professor Garrison Nelson of the University of Vermont, we thank you very much for joining us. We appreciation it.
And you can stay with me and then for the latest developments on this historical day on Capitol Hill. Tonight, a special edition of "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS," "Shakeup in the Senate." More analysis of what the new Democratic majority means for President Bush's legislative agenda. Wolf's guests will include senators John Edwards and Kay Bailey Hutchison and Mary Matalin, an assistant to President Bush. That's at 8:00 p.m. Eastern.
Then at 9:00 p.m. on "LARRY KING LIVE," Senator Joe Lieberman and House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt will be among Larry's guests.
We will have more on the Senate upheaval and the road ahead with our own senior analyst Jeff Greenfield; plus, his take on election 2000 in retrospect. INSIDE POLITICS continues in just a moment.
WOODRUFF: Joining us now, CNN senior analyst Jeff Greenfield, the author of a new book on the 2000 presidential race titled: "Oh, Waiter, One Order of Crow: Inside the Strangest Presidential Election Finish in American History." I wondered where that title came from, because you said it on the air on the night of November the 7th.
JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Talking to Mary Matalin who was assuring us that we have miscalled Florida, and I was dismissively saying: "Well, yes, sometimes we in the media have to eat crow."
And our one-time colleague Bernie Shaw, at that instant, hopped in and said: Hold it, hold it, Florida off the board." And that's all I could say. That's the first time anything I've said has ever made the front page of "The New York Times."
WOODRUFF: Well, it won't be the last.
GREENFIELD: Well, it might be. I hope it is, on something like that.
WOODRUFF: All right, speaking of political earthquakes and big, unexpected changes, Jeff, what about what's happened today, the announcement of Senator Jim Jeffords? How does this change the political landscape?
GREENFIELD: It puts all the mechanical, all the procedural power in the hands of the Senate. But you can trace it back to this election. I mean, there are so many things that fate has to say about politics. If Paul Coverdale hadn't died, and if Mel Carnahan hadn't died, that might have been two more Republican votes, and this would have been...
WOODRUFF: Georgia and Missouri.
GREENFIELD: Yes, given two Democrat senators -- and Jeffords' move would have been a footnote, not a headline. It shows you, once again, really what happen in November was that the coin that Americans always flip, this time landed on its edge. You know, this is the first time in history that a single senator's switch has ever changed the balance of power.
WOODRUFF: Before we got to your book, how much does this hurt the Bush agenda?
GREENFIELD: Well, it's the reverse of chicken soup. It doesn't help. What I mean by that is, in a 50-50 Senate they were counting on, and they had it, on a couple of key votes, like the Ashcroft nomination, that every Republican senator they had to hold, and then hope to get one, two Democrats to defect, which they were doing with guys like Nelson and occasionally, you know, Torricelli, Zell Miller.
Now what it means is that, in a way -- I always believe you have to look at where this might help. In a way, Bush now has reason, if he wants, not to reward the conservative base with very conservative judicial nominees. He has a way of saying, look, fellas, I'd like to help you out but I can't get them through the Senate.
WOODRUFF: All right. You start out in this book quoting that famous mathematician, John Allen Paulos.
GREENFIELD: John Allen Paulos. That's how I pronounce it.
WOODRUFF: All right, I wasn't sure how to...
GREENFIELD: We'll ask him. He wrote...
WOODRUFF: Whatever happens, the margin of error is... GREENFIELD: Yes. What he said, in the middle of all that post- election lunacy, when everybody was asserting the theological supremacy of one kind of count over another, he said: Look, the margin of error is going to be greater than the margin of victory or defeat.
The news consortium that tried to count these votes -- all right, it's now what? Late May? And what have they concluded? Well, it depending on how you look at these, either Gore or Bush had won. I think, once the Duval County and Palm Beach County ballots were spoiled -- not by a conspiracy, but by voter confusion and a badly designed ballot -- once it came down to 1,000 votes out of 6 million, either one of these guys could be declared the winner today.
WOODRUFF: I was sitting there with you on election night, Jeff, but you were the one who wrote the book. What was it like?
GREENFIELD: You know, when we called Florida back, and we then proceeded through about seven hours of who knows what's going to happen, there were two thoughts simultaneously in my mind. We didn't have a chance to chat about this. One, this is the most exciting election I've ever covered. And two, God, I wonder how badly we screwed up back there.
GREENFIELD: And when we screwed up a second time, and by "we," I mean all the news networks, it really was one of those nights that half of which you wish you could live through again, because it's what many of us in journalism live for. First time in 25 years we didn't know at 3:00 in the afternoon who's going to win. And yet, because of our overconfidence in the system, both of those miscalls could well have had a profound impact on the outcome.
WOODRUFF: What did the news organizations do wrong? I know there were all sorts of studies and reports that have been done. But basically, what was done wrong, and can it be prevented from happening again?
GREENFIELD: The basic thing that we did wrong was the same thing, in a much more grim way, that the folks who launched the Challenger did wrong. They assumed too much. We had never -- we, the news media, had never miscalled a state in a presidential election. All of these numbers, these exit polls and sample precincts and computer models, are based on probability. Our mistake was in assuming that the probabilities were certainties. I think some things, we will be able to do.
I don't think we'll ever call a state where some of the polls are open. The Bush people still argue that that might have cost them thousands of votes in Florida. It might have cost them popular votes. I think we will be much more careful about looking at alternate sources of information. Everybody was looking for same flawed data.
Here's the other news: This could happen again. Not on the stakes... WOODRUFF: But you could have another close election...
GREENFIELD: It comes down to a few hundred votes in one state, you bet. It's all a matter of chance, and this time we might know better what to do and not to do about it.
WOODRUFF: Last thing, Jeff, should anybody have seen this coming? I mean, you know, there were all the polls that showed it was close, but then people said, well, it's not going to be this close on election day. Should people have been smarter about it?
GREENFIELD: We knew it was going to be a close election. You remember, around 3:00 in the afternoon, Bill Schneider gathered us all around and said: Remember how close we thought it was going to be? It's close. We have no idea.
I think what we should have known, is in a race this close that came down to one state, restraint would have really been a good idea, but we had too much confidence in the system. And that produced 37 days of what a friend of mine called a mix of the Federalist Papers and "Celebrity Death Match."
WOODRUFF: The book is "Oh, Waiter, One Order of Crow," and on the front, "Inside the strangest presidential election finish in American history. And on the cover is a very handsome fellow.
GREENFIELD: Completely distorted...
WOODRUFF: Very good-looking fellow.
GREENFIELD: And the first person quoted in this book is Judy Woodruff, because you said to me, "Well, it's going to be an interesting night, isn't it?"
And I said, "Yeah, we might have to wait until the morning to know who wins."
WOODRUFF: No index. I had to go all the way through here, looking for...
GREENFIELD: That's what I love about Washington. Everybody with a book, going, "Where's my name? Where's my name?"
WOODRUFF: All right, Jeff Greenfield.
GREENFIELD: Thanks a lot.
WOODRUFF: Great to see you.
Well, even when the Democrats take over the U.S. Senate, the Republicans will still control the White House and the House of Representatives. Is control of the Senate all that important? We'll look at that when INSIDE POLITICS continues.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JAMES JEFFORDS (R), VERMONT: I will leave the Republican Party and become an independent.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOODRUFF: A Republican senator bolts his party. Why he did it, in his own words.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. ZELL MILLER (D), GEORGIA: Nobody is going to drive me out of this house.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOODRUFF: Why a Democratic senator is going to stay put.
And guess who's throwing a get-together? Is Al Gore looking back or looking ahead?
ANNOUNCER: From Washington, this is INSIDE POLITICS with Judy Woodruff.
WOODRUFF: Washington is adjusting to a new reality today. Democrats are getting ready to take control of the Senate for the first time since 1994, and Republicans are trying to figure out exactly what went wrong. At the center of this political sea change is a single senator from one of the smallest states in the union. Senator James Jeffords confirmed the reports that had consumed official Washington since yesterday: He will leave the GOP to become an independent, ending Republican control of the Senate.
At a news conference in his home state this morning, Jeffords offered his reasons for leaving the GOP.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEFFORDS: I understand that many people are more conservative than I am, and they form the Republican Party. Given the changing nature of the national party, it has become a struggle for our leaders to deal with me, and for me to deal with them. Indeed, the party's electoral success has underscored dilemma that I face within the party. In the past, without the presidency, the various wings of the Republican Party in Congress have had some freedom to argue and influence, and ultimately, to shape the party's agenda.
The election of President Bush changed that dramatically. We don't leave in a parliamentary system, but it is only natural to expect that people like myself, who have been honored with positions of leadership, will largely support the president's agenda. And yet, more and more, I find I cannot.
Those who don't know me may have thought I took pleasure in resisting the president's budget, or that I enjoy the limelight. Nothing could be further from the truth. I had serious, substantive reservations about that budget, as you all know, and the decisions set in place for the future. Looking ahead, I can see more and more instances where I will disagree with the president on very fundamental issues: the issues of choice, the direction of the judiciary, tax and spending decisions, missile defense, energy and the environment, and the host of other issues, large and small.
The largest for me is education. I come from the state of Justin Smith Morrill, a U.S. senator from Vermont who gave America its land- grant college system. His Republican Party stood for opportunity for all; for opening the doors of public school education to every American child. Now, for some, success seems to be measured by the number of students moved out of the public schools. In order to best represent my state of Vermont, my own conscience, and principles I have stood for my whole life, I will leave the Republican Party and become an independent.
Control of the Senate...
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
JEFFORDS: Sorry for that. Control of the Senate will be changed by my decision.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOODRUFF: Senator Jeffords speaking this morning in Vermont.
Even though Democrats are about to take over the Senate, their margin of control will be just one single vote. Will one vote make that much of a difference?
CNN congressional correspondent Kate Snow takes a look.
SEN. TOM DASCHLE (D-SD), MINORITY LEADER: The historic 50-50 Senate now becomes history itself.
KATE SNOW, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): And Democrats hope to shape the future with their own agenda.
SEN. JOHN BREAUX (D), LOUISIANA: It's going to be an opportunity for things like patients' bill of rights, like Medicare reform, I think, to come to the floor of the Senate, perhaps faster than it would have.
SNOW: The patient's bill of rights won't be the bill the White House supports. Instead, Democrats will push legislation sponsored by Senators Ted Kennedy, John Edwards, and Republican John McCain. It would give millions of Americans the ability to sue their HMOs for up to $5 million dollars.
SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: The votes are very much, probably, the same today as they were yesterday -- or on a prescription drug issue, or perhaps on a minimum wage. But the fact is, you can bring these issues up.
SNOW: And they can bring up President Bush's nominees for key judicial posts, or not. Democrats pledge to scrutinize Mr. Bush's choices, and hope their newfound power on the Senate Judiciary Committee will force a change in the course.
SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: We will not have nominations of right-wing after right-wing after right-wing judges. Judges will have to be moderate. The president will get some he wants, we will get some we want, and there will be a compromise that, overall, the bench will be a moderate bench.
SNOW: Compromise is likely on energy issues, too. The outgoing energy chairman says he'll work with his Democratic colleague to rewrite President Bush's plan.
SEN. FRANK MURKOWSKI (R), ALASKA: I don't think the priorities are any different. Obviously, we've got a job to do. There's an energy crisis in this country, and Senator Bingaman and I are going to work together to address it.
SNOW: Democrats say the proposal to drill in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge won't survive. And, unlike the administration, they'll push for federal involvement to help with California's power problems.
SEN. HARRY REID (D), NEVADA: I don't know how they got in the position they're in, whether its their fault -- that is, the state of California, but it doesn't matter, because what happens in California has an effect on the entire country, and we're going to work on that problem, too.
SNOW: But keeping all those promises won't be easy. Republicans warn the change in leadership isn't a magic wand.
SEN. TRENT LOTT (R-MS), MAJORITY LEADER: Some people say, well, it'll change what is considered on the floor of the Senate. Not actually. Under Senate rules, as we've learned from the Democrats when they are in the minority, you can offer amendments and issues that are important to you as an individual senator or as a party.
SNOW (on camera): And nothing the Democrats do from now on can change one fact: The president's top priority is set to pass Congress. Every taxpayer will get tax relief this year, despite the switch in the Senate.
Kate Snow, CNN, Capitol Hill.
WOODRUFF: For a Republican perspective on the Jeffords decision, I'm joined by Senator Olympia Snowe of Maine. Like her friend and fellow New Englander Jim Jeffords, she is well-known as a Republican party moderate.
Senator Snowe, could this have been avoided? SEN. OLYMPIA SNOWE (R), MAINE: Well, I would like to think so, and I think it could have been -- obviously Senator Jeffords felt deeply about these issues and about how he had been treated, and obviously it culminated in this momentous decision that has wide- ranging impact, obviously, on us as Republicans, institution and the presidency.
So it's clear to me that it should have been readily understood that you can't have these -- the cumulative impact of all these actions, I think, between the White House and here in the U.S. Senate, without reverberating in some manner.
WOODRUFF: What actions are you talking about? Are you talking about the so-called retribution?
SNOWE: Yes. And you know -- well, I asked him directly. I think, you know, to find out when I realized that this was a serious decision on his part on Monday night, and then I met with him privately early Tuesday morning. And I asked him what exactly had transpired, and it was, obviously, the things that happened at the White House. You know, the teacher of the year, judgeships and so on. And then, of course, in the education bill, and not being included in the kinds of decisions that he thought he should have been included on when it came to being a chairman.
So it was all of that, you know, and probably more along the way. I just wish that we had realized the extent to which he felt alienated and isolated so that we could have helped, because I think it clearly could have made a difference at some point.
WOODRUFF: Is it, as Senator Jeffords described today, that this president, this White House has just not made moderates part of their embrace? That they've not made moderates feel welcome, if you will, in setting the agenda?
SNOWE: Well, obviously, we're going to have differences of opinion, Judy, about how to approach some of these issues. And the president fervently believes in providing tax relief. And actually, I share that; maybe not to the extent, or on some of the issues. But I do -- you know, I do concur with him on that issue.
Senator Jeffords did not. So there were, obviously, areas of discrepancy that I think finally led to a conflict of conscious for Senator Jeffords that culminated in the kind of decision that he made.
WOODRUFF: You know, when you talk about the steps the White House took to -- that led Senator Jeffords to make the decision -- we interviewed -- just interviewed a few minutes ago on this program Karen Hughes who, of course, is the president's counselor. And she insisted that this president has reached out to Democrats, to moderate Republicans. It's as if we're talking about two very different pictures of what really happened here.
SNOWE: Well, it's hard to explain the differences. I think it's important for all of us, finally to, you know, accept collective responsibility. Obviously something went terribly wrong, and I think that we have to learn from it and figure out what went wrong, why it went wrong, and then do something about it. And hopefully we can be a better party and -- for the future.
WOODRUFF: And in terms of the Senate, leadership in the Senate, some of your colleagues are questioning Senator Lott's role, Senator Lott's leadership, whether there was retribution from him and your colleagues there. What about that piece of the story?
SNOWE: Well, I think at this point -- you know, obviously, I think we have to share blame and I'm sure the leader, you know, would agree that there -- you know, obviously, you know, something was overlooked in the process that would have given us an indication that something was significantly wrong in the way in which Senator Jeffords, you know, felt. And that something was, you know, going awry. And that didn't happen.
And so obviously we're going to have to look at all of these issues for the future in understanding -- and I think the conference, frankly -- Republican conference is trying to do that and understanding that.
And I think, as I said to Senator Jeffords yesterday, I think he would have felt good about the fact that each and every person felt badly that it had reached to this point in the way in which he felt that he had been treated.
WOODRUFF: Lastly senator, do you think the White House has gotten the message?
SNOWE: I hope so, because it's a message that needs to be heard and it needs to be felt, and we have to address it. If we want to be a majority party and preserve the presidency and Republican majorities, then we clearly have to accommodate, respect the centrist views within the Republican Party, because those views are reflected among the American people.
WOODRUFF: All right; Senator Olympia Snowe of Maine, we thank you very much for joining us.
SNOWE: Thank you, Judy.
WOODRUFF: Appreciate it.
Senator Zell Miller of the state of Georgia is a lifelong Democrat. But since he arrived here in Washington, he has frequently been at odds with his own party, and many people have speculated that he might switch and become a Republican.
Earlier today I talked with Senator Miller, and I started by asking him what's gone through his mind as he learned of Jim Jeffords' decision to leave the Republican Party.
MILLER: Well, I kind of struggled with the same sort of feelings I guess he struggled with; maybe in a different kind of way. But I have respect for anyone to be able to choose what party they want to belong to or what baseball team they want to root for, or who to have as a spouse. And I guess you can change on all three; probably slow on that last one.
WOODRUFF: Do you feel empathy for him at this point, and what he's gone through?
MILLER: Well, I guess I do -- I didn't go through any of this. I didn't have anybody pulling and tugging at me. All of that talk about the Democrats trying to get -- angry at me for doing this, and the Republicans trying to pull me in this direction, all of that was exaggeration. Nobody did that to me. I was pretty much left alone to make this decision by myself. I don't know how it was with him.
WOODRUFF: Now that you know that he's leaving the Republican Party, going to become an independent, going to vote for Senator Daschle, in effect putting the Democrats in charge in the Senate. How do you think that that is going to change the way the Senate operates, before we get to your own situation?
MILLER: Well, I don't know. And -- see, I'm still pretty much of a new kid on the block around here. All I know is how it has been operating. I hope that -- I hope that the Democratic Party in the Senate will do better as the majority party than they did as the minority party.
WOODRUFF: What do you mean by that?
MILLER: Well, I thought, as minority party we were far too shrill, far too eager to get even with people instead of trying to find ways to go along. It seemed like every time that President Bush would make a proposal there would be some kind of press conference immediately saying, this is just a terrible idea.
I think by being in the majority now come certain responsibilities. And I hope that we're up to it. I think -- I think, for example, that the Democrats made a terrible mistake opposing the tax cut in the way that they did. The headlines yesterday in all the papers were, "Angry Democrats Try to Slow Down the Tax Bill," "Democrats Try to Block Tax Cut." That plays terrible out there in the Wal-Mart parking lot.
WOODRUFF: There are those, Senator who say, well, the Republicans were that way when the Democrats were in power and now the Democrats are doing it while the Republicans are in power. In other words, both sides are equally guilty of this sort of behavior.
MILLER: Well, this is not a ping-pong game, where it just goes back and forth. Somebody ought to be responsible enough to say, this is not how we're going to do it; we're going to act in a responsible way.
WOODRUFF: Do you think the Democrats are worse at this than the Republicans have been?
MILLER: Oh, I think both are equally to blame. But I think that we have some kind of responsibility, as the majority party, to now give the kind of leadership that we think ought to be in that Senate.
WOODRUFF: We heard Senator Jeffords this morning talk -- couch his decision in more substantive terms. He talked about the party, the president moving away from him. There are others, though, and we had a statement today from Senator John McCain, who point out that there were prominent Republicans, and Republicans in the Congress who said some very tough things about Senator Jeffords. He even referred to personal threats against him.
Have you experienced the same thing in the Democratic Party?
MILLER: None whatsoever. You've known me a long time, Judy; people pretty much leave me alone. And everybody has left me alone. I made the decision that I came to completely on my own, without anyone pulling me or trying to push me in a direction that I didn't want to go in, and I finally came to the conclusion that nobody is going to lure or drive me out of this old House I've lived in all of my life.
WOODRUFF: So you are staying in the Democratic Party forever?
MILLER: Well, nobody's going to drive me out of this House. I am going to continue to support President Bush when I think his proposals are good for Georgia and good for this nation; and nobody's going to change me on that. When I think the Democrats are right, I'll vote with them. When I think the Republicans are right, I'll vote with them. But as far as where I'm going to operate, I'm going to live in this same old House I've always live in. Somebody else can leave; I've been in it too long.
WOODRUFF: Senator, it was told to me by somebody who I have -- pretty much -- confidence in this week, that you were very, very close; you were seriously considering leaving the Democratic Party this week because you were so angry at the Republicans over -- I'm sorry, at the Democrats over the tax cut.
MILLER: No, anger is not the right word. I think that my Democratic colleagues make a serious mistake in having the image of being against tax cuts. I think tax cuts are good policy and good politics. And the main problem that the Democrats have is that the people don't trust us with their money. That's the biggest problem that Democrats have nationwide. And they don't trust us with their money because they think we're going to take it all and spend it and not ever send them any back. That is different from the way it used to be.
WOODRUFF: So are you saying you didn't even entertain the idea of leaving the Democratic Party?
MILLER: Oh, I thought some about it. I thought some about it, but there's a lot of things that I have to take into consideration, and I used that analogy of I was here first. I think the direction that I want to take the Democratic Party is the direction that our founding fathers -- and even a few years Democrats were taking it.
This business of being against tax cuts is something that's just come along in the last few years. This class warfare stuff is just something that's comes along in the last few years in the Democratic Party, and I hope it's not going to be permanent.
WOODRUFF: Did you have conversations with Senator Daschle as you were thinking through this?
MILLER: Well, not in the way that that question probably is asked. We have conversations all the time on the floor.
WOODRUFF: But I mean about your frustration, anguish over the party?
MILLER: Well, I think it's pretty obvious that I differed with -- differed with him drastically on this tax cut business.
WOODRUFF: But did -- I guess what I'm asking is, did you have the kind of conversation where you got down to, look, if you all don't start doing X -- and did he respond to that?
MILLER: No, I didn't put it that way, but I think surely to goodness they can look at the map of how the people voted in the last presidential election, and they see all those red states that you see on CNN, and the Republicans carried them; and right now that's the fastest growing area of this country. There are more electoral votes in that part of the United States in the next election than there will be in this last election. And they better pay some attention to those conservative voters in the South and elsewhere.
WOODRUFF: Just to get it straight, once again, senator, are you ruling out leaving the Democratic Party?
MILLER: I am not going to switch to the Republican Party, and I don't have any need to proclaim my independence.
WOODRUFF: So, to leave the party to become an independent, as Senator Jeffords has done...
MILLER: No; no.
WOODRUFF: So the Democrats can count on you for the foreseeable future?
MILLER: They can count on me being there and telling them when I think they're wrong, and voting against what, maybe, some of the leadership wants if I think that what the leadership wants is not in the best interest of Georgia or this nation.
WOODRUFF: Senator Zell Miller earlier today.
And true to recent form, Senator Miller defied his party just this afternoon. As our Jon Karl reported, Miller joined Republicans to confirm Ted Olson as solicitor general. That was a vote of 51 to 47.
A new challenge for the Bush presidency as the chief executive faces a Senate not controlled by the GOP. Our Bill Schneider on the political tradition of president and divided government.
WOODRUFF: With a Senate power shift just days away, the rest of the Bush agenda faces a tougher battle. But this is certainly not the first time a president has been forced to lead a divided government. Our Bill Schneider joins us now to explain all that -- Bill.
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, divided government is now the new reality. But what does it mean? Does it mean deals or does it mean deadlock?
SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Divided government used to mean deals. But more recently, it's come to mean deadlock. The U.S., has had a lot of experience with a divided government. All Republican presidents for the past 50 years, Eisenhower, Nixon, Ford, Reagan, George Bush and now George W. Bush, have had to deal with at least one House of Congress controlled by the Democrats. It used to work pretty well. Even a staunch conservative like Ronald Reagan was able to establish a good working relationship with Democratic House Speaker Tip O'Neill. The two old Irish pals knew how to make a deal. But by the time George Bush the father became president, relations between the parties had deteriorated. President Bush's relationship with Senate Democratic leader George Mitchell was tense and difficult to the point where the Democratic Congress forced the Republican president to raise taxes.
Things got a whole lot worse when Bill Clinton was president and Newt Gingrich became house speaker. That showdown led to a shutdown. What changed? The answer is: the parties. They became more ideological. Back when Franklin Roosevelt was president, the Democratic party included urban political machines, and reform-minded liberals, and southern white racists, and labor organizers, and left- wing socialists. When Eisenhower was president, the Republican party included Wall Street industrialists, and main street shopkeepers, and farm belt isolationists, and Yankee liberals, and sun belt conservatives. President John Kennedy had to deal with staunch segregationists like Georgia Senator Richard Russell in his own party.
President Reagan had to deal with doves like Illinois Senator Charles Percy in his own party. When the parties were big tents, you had to make deals within your party in order to govern. Now the Democrats are more uniformly liberal and the Republicans are more uniformly conservative. What does that mean? Ask Senator Jeffords.
SEN. JAMES JEFFORDS (R), VERMONT: In the past, without the presidency, the various wings of the Republican party in Congress have had some freedom to argue and influence and ultimately to shape the party's agenda. The election of President Bush changed that dramatically.
SCHNEIDER: It also means there's only one way to get compromise: divided government. Ask the new Senate majority leader. SEN. TOM DASCHLE (D-SD), MINORITY LEADER: Well, I think it's important that we all recognize the value of compromise, the urgency of compromise, and the real practicality of compromise. We can't dictate to them, nor can they dictate to us.
SCHNEIDER: Most Americans don't want to be governed from the left or from the right. The only way the country can get real compromise today is with divided government. But it's harder than it used to be because both parties have come to see compromise as a bad thing.
When Bill Clinton became president, Democrats controlled everything for the first two years and tried to govern from the left. It didn't work. When George W. Bush became president, Republicans controlled everything for the first time in almost 50 years. And they, too, were overcome by "irrational exuberance." So is compromise now in order? It depends. There's a congressional election next year and each party has to decide whether the voters wants stark choices or substantial accomplishments -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: Irrational exuberance, where have we heard that before?
SCHNEIDER: We have heard it.
WOODRUFF: OK, Bill Schneider, thanks.
WOODRUFF: And coming up, we'll bring you up-to-date on former Vice President Al Gore.
WOODRUFF: More INSIDE POLITICS is coming up, but first, let's go to Lou Dobbs for a preview of what's ahead at the bottom of the hour on MONEYLINE -- hi, Lou.
LOU DOBBS, HOST: Hi, Judy, thank you. Coming up on "MONEYLINE," we'll be going to Capitol Hill where we'll hear from the next chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, Democrat Senator Kent Conrad. Also, we'll go live to the White House for President's Bush's reaction to the first major political setback of his young administration, and we'll have the view from Wall Street. Why this shift in political power maybe will be good for investors. All of that coming right up on MONEYLINE, please join us.
WOODRUFF: With all the focus today on the Republicans, we thought it was time for an update on Al Gore. There are some pundits who think that after five months that after giving up his presidential bid, the former Democratic candidate may be coming out of political hibernation. The former vice president is said to be talking with associates about another possible presidential race. And this evening, he is hosting "A Thank You" party for former campaign workers at a Capitol Hill microbrewery. One former aide is quoted as saying the party is a way for Gore to "stay in touch with the troops."
Well, that's all for this edition of INSIDE POLITICS, but, of course, you can go on-line all the time at CNN's allpolitics.com. AOL keyword: CNN. Our e-mail address is inside email@example.com. I'm Judy Woodruff. "LOU DOBBS MONEYLINE" is next.
TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com