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Norwood Gives Key Compromise on Patients' Rights; Hastert Discusses Politics Behind Bill; Bush Nominee Defeated by Senate

Aired August 2, 2001 - 17:00   ET


FRANK SESNO, GUEST HOST: I'm Frank Sesno in Washington, and this is INSIDE POLITICS. The president travels to Capitol Hill to savor victory in the House.

JONATHAN KARL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Jonathan Karl on Capitol Hill where the House takes up a patients' bill of rights and Republicans hope a White House deal means defeat for the opposition.

KATE SNOW, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Kate Snow just off the House floor as they get ready for a vote. I'll have an extended interview with House speaker Dennis Hastert.

KELLY WALLACE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And I'm Kelly Wallace at the White House. A Senate defeat for a presidential nominee, the first rejection since Mr. Bush took office.

ANNOUNCER: Now, Judy Woodruff takes you INSIDE POLITICS.

SESNO: And thanks for joining us. Judy is off today. At this hour, the U.S. House of Representatives is considering the much- discussed and long-awaited patients' bill of rights. You've heard a lot about it. Republican leaders say they have the votes to pass a bill with the terms agreed to yesterday by President Bush and one of the bill's key sponsors, Republican congressman Charlie Norwood.

Now, President Bush and Vice President Cheney began this day with a trip here to Capitol Hill. They met with the House and Senate Republican leaders. And then later, the vice president joined a rally on the Capitol steps. He praised the Republicans for their hard work implementing the president's agenda so far, and he said there's a lot of work ahead.

Now at the moment, the objective is the patients' rights bill. We have a lot more that we'll be taking a look at. Keeping a close on all of this but starting with the patients' bill of rights, congressional correspondent Jonathan Karl, White House correspondent Major Garrett.

Jonathan, let's start with you. First on patients' bill of rights and the very latest, because it's underway even as we speak.

KARL: The meeting is underway and Republicans are saying this is a debate with a much different dynamic than even what we saw yesterday. Just yesterday before this White House deal was struck, the conventional wisdom was that the Republicans were headed for defeat on this and that the House would follow the Senate and pass a kind of patients' bill of rights that the White House would object to. But now Republicans are saying that they are in the driver's seat.

The speaker remembers a patients' bill of rights should be about helping patients.


REP. J.D. HAYWORTH (R), ARIZONA: Now something has been crafted to find the hard one compromise to deal first with healthcare and to say both to insurance companies and to the trial lawyers: Neither group gets in the way. Quality health care is dependent on the sanctity of the physician-patient relationship.



REP. RICHARD GEPHARDT (D-MO), MINORITY LEADER: In the name of God and common sense, I hope members will vote against this rule and vote against the Norwood amendment if it passes, stand for the people that you represent in this country. You have a solemn obligation to fight for their interest and rights and not the profit and the money for the health insurance companies and HMOs.


KARL: And as you see, Frank, Gephardt, an impassioned Dick Gephardt speaking for most of the Democrats up here if not all of the Democrats saying this is really not a deal, that all the president did in their eyes was deal with one Republican co-sponsor, one of just -- putting out that six of the seven original co-sponsors of this patients' bill of rights are opposed to this deal. They are saying this is not a new era of bipartisanship but more partisanship, although they acknowledge that this is very tight right now, and clearly, the Republicans have momentum in the House.

SESNO: Passions running deep all around. Jonathan, stay where you are. Let's go over to the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue.

Major, how is all this being perceived at the White House?

MAJOR GARRETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Frank, this story is really a long time in the making. It started in February when the White House, through its political adviser, Karl Rove, persuaded Charlie Norwood, the central player in this entire legislative drama, not to align himself perpetually and permanently with Senator Ted Kennedy, Democrat in the Senate and others, but to stay open, to continue to negotiate with the White House all spring and up until now.

Even the changing of hands in the Senate did not deter the White House from its strategy of keeping Charlie Norwood in play. The ultimate calculation the White House made, even back in February, was that they could strike a deal with Charlie Norwood, they would find enough votes in the House to assemble a Majority for a bill the president supported, which would keep the whole issue alive because they knew whatever would come out of the Senate, the president would have to veto. And it was the promise, the iron-clad promise the president made over and over in the numerous number of meetings here at the White House with the House and Democratic Republicans rather, that they would veto the bill that made this happen with Charlie Norwood -- Frank.

SESNO: All right, now one of Charlie Norwood's co-sponsors, John Dingell, he also reacted strongly when he learned what his erstwhile colleague had done. And let's take a look at some of what he had to say.


REP CHARLES NORWOOD (R), GEORGIA: I've worked six years to try and get a meaningful, enforceable bipartisan bill of rights, much of that time with Mr. Norwood. Sadly to say, I think Mr. Norwood has left us last night before he knew really what was being done to him or what was involved in the legislation.


SESNO: Norwood is clearly in the crosshairs for his work with the president on this. Here's what "New York Times" today said in its editorial: "Mr. Norwood still deserves credit for his long fight for patients' rights, but legislators should no longer follow his lead. Real bipartisanship takes more than two men from the same party in a room."

Jonathan Karl, your assessment?

KARL: Well, clearly, Charlie Norwood is under fire up here. But, you know, there's also another very interesting dynamic, Frank, and that is that we don't exactly know where the votes are in the House on this. And the Republicans right now are scrambling to make sure that they keep all the moderate Republicans that had sided with Charlie Norwood in the past to make sure that they stay -- they're on with this deal. But they're also worried about the right flank.

At about 12:30, the Republicans called everybody together for a meeting of the whole Republican caucus in the conference, the whole Republican conference in the House. And John Boehner, a conservative, got up and he told other conservatives, "You may not like this bill. You may think the president went too far on this, but he needs a political victory on this issue. If you have to hold your nose," Boehner told the Republicans, to vote for this bill, hold your nose and vote for it. So you have an interesting dynamic. You've got a little bit of fire coming from the left and some coming from the right on this.

SESNO: And Norwood says what he wants first and foremost is some patients protections for Americans out there. He echoes the president who said yesterday after announcing this deal, politics is the yard of the possible. Here's what Congressman Norwood had to say today.


NORWOOD: I took the best deal I could get to get us there and accomplish the goals that we started out -- that I started out. And I think if you look back, I did start it out. I took the deal that I think accomplishes those goals.


SESNO: Jon Karl and Major Garrett.

Major, first to you. Accomplishing the goals is obviously getting something signed. What stands in the way of that and the president's desk?

GARRETT: What stands in the way of course is, first of all, House passage. And then what happens to the bill when it goes through a conference committee in the Senate? Tom Daschle, the Democratic leader, could work against that, could slow the appointment of conferees and slow walk this for months and months and months. And it would be up to the president then to force the Senate to appoint those conferees and get something he can sign. There's no guarantee that's going to happen at all.

SESNO: So, Jon...

KARL: As a matter of fact, Ted Kennedy just a short while ago, of course, the top Democrat on the issue in the Senate, said the president may have won a victory, but it's a temporary victory and they'll be back to fight this. So this is far from done even if the Republicans prevail in the House. Significant victory for the president, but he still has to fight this one out.

SESNO: All right, gentlemen, let's flip over to the other very big issue that's been working its way through the corridors and the chambers here, and that's energy, the president's energy plan, another priority that House Republicans wanted to pass before the August recess. And late last night, actually, early this morning after midnight, the got the job done. The legislation representatives a big victory for the president. Among other things, it would open up the huge Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska, the new oil and gas exploration. It includes tax breaks for conservation, nuclear energy and new energy technologies. Critics say the bill is a gift to the oil and gas industries. Vice President Cheney, however, called it a victory for the future.


DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Tremendous vote last night on the House floor on energy. A lot of the pundits said we'll never get an energy bill out of the Congress. And we had, I thought a surprisingly strong vote over here last night for a good, sound, solid, comprehensive long-term energy plan.



SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN D), CONNECTICUT: The Bush administration's policy is really yesterday's answer to tomorrow's energy needs. It is in tune exactly with the Bush, Bush administration, one-note song on energy policy, which is to drill, drill, drill, drill, produce, produce, produce.


SESNO: Jon Karl to you. Prospects?

KARL: Well, this was actually a stunning victory for the White House in the House very late last night, because not only did you have the question of ANWR drilling up in that arctic wildlife refuge, but also the question of fuel-efficiency standards for SUVs, a big priority for the environmentalists, for moderates Republicans and Democrats. An effort to bring those SUVs standards up to the car standards was defeated by more than a hundred votes. Then when it came to ANWR, the Republicans actually got 36 Democrats to come over and vote in favor of drilling up there in Alaska.

So this was a significant victory, not even a close call. And it was done largely because the unions were here fighting side by side for Republicans. As a matter of fact, the unions were fighting for Alaska drilling at a time when many Republicans thought that issue was already dead. It was largely Teamsters and others getting Democrats, 36 Democrats to come over that made it possible.

SESNO: Major, the White House did not expect such a sizable victory. What happened?

GARRETT: They did not expect it, Frank. And really what happened was a couple of things, as Jon mentioned. You had the strong grassroots support of the labor unions. But also, this bill includes $33.5 billion in tax credits for major American energy industries. Now that attracts a lot of attention on Capitol Hill. That energizes a lot of lobbyists. And as the White House currently knows, those tax credits are very attractive to a lot of members of Congress, Republicans and Democrat, alike. The president only proposed $10 billion in tax credits. So when you have that kind of money sloshing around the floor of the House of Representatives, people pay attention and votes sometimes move around -- Frank.

SESNO: Major Garrett, Jon Karl, a lot going on here on the Hill. Thanks to you both.

Well, the energy bill kept House members on the job late last night. As we said, the midnight oil is really burning. And it looks like the patients' bill of rights will make this a long day as well. For the latest on that and other legislative matters, we go to CNN congressional correspondent Kate Snow. She's joined by a very special guest today, House speaker Dennis Hastert -- Kate.

SNOW: That's right, Frank. And we're just off the House floor here just yards away from where you do your work every day.

House Speaker Dennis Hastert, thanks for joining us.

REP. DENNIS HASTERT (R-IL), HOUSE SPEAKER: Thanks, Kate. Nice to be with you.

SNOW: Just a little while from now, there's going to be a vote on this patients' bill of rights, specifically on the compromise that the president crafted last night with Charlie Norwood. How confident are you that you can pass what the president wants you to pass?

HASTERT: Well, I think it's the right thing to do and that's the case that we made to our members and the members on the other side of the aisle. We could have done one of three things. We could have moved a bill that we know that the president would have vetoed and we wouldn't have had the policy. We can get an agreement with Charlie Norwood, who I think has a sterling reputation as far as patients' rights. And we got that agreement between Charlie and the president. I think people feel comfortable on voting for that. I think we'll be able to move that piece. The last piece was to try to beat it and then come in with a bill that we didn't know if it could move out of the Senate.

SNOW: Enough votes and comfortable enough that you think you can get that piece of it through?

HASTERT: You know, this is like any other sport's game, I guess. You never know what the score is until it's over. But we think we're in pretty good shape.

SNOW: OK, let me ask about Charlie Norwood. His allies today coming out. Some of them rather angry and frustrated to be sure. They feel that they were sold out in a way. They feel that Charlie Norwood, in their words, freelanced on this one. And they say that the pressure came from the president and from you. How much pressure did you put on them?

HASTERT: Well, you know, Charlie has good credentials in patients' rights, and if we were going to get a bill and a bill to be signed, we needed to make an agreement with Charlie and the president. I think that's logical, that's the right thing to do. Charlie decided to do that. Tried to bring some of the Democrats from the other side of the aisle and from the other side of the rotunda with him. I think there's some folks who would just as soon have the politics and not the policy. I think those are the ones that are crying the loudest right now. We want to get a patients' bill of rights. We want to make a law, and we want to have this thing happen. And the best way to do it is pass it today.

SNOW: We've got to explain we're in a place where there area a lot of tourists. That baby crying has nothing to do with what you're saying. To go back to that, though, did you put pressure on Charlie Norwood or...

HASTERT: I simply said, "Charlie, let's get together with the president," and he did that. He did that on his own free will. And we were able to keep those negotiations going, and I think we got a good product.

SNOW: Let me tell you what the other side is saying today, those that are still on this Norwood-Dingell -- not Norwood anymore -- Dingell-Ganske bill. They're saying that this compromise with the president puts too much of a burden of proof on patients. It's going to be almost impossible, they say, for patients to win in court. They say it will trump state laws, and they say it might be unconstitutional ultimately.

HASTERT: Well, you know, that's the trial lawyers talking, quite frankly. What we're are trying to do is get people into court when they're harmed, but we really want to get people in the doctors' offices hospital rooms when they need care. And to have the leverage of bad actors knowing that they would have to go into state courts, which they do under this law, is I think good leverage to get people the health care they need. That's what the bottom line is, to get people the health care they need and give them the patient protections that they need. And if you have to go sue, you have that as a last alternative. But we want to get people into health care. People don't want to go to court. They don't want to go to a doctor's office -- a lawyer's office to get into a doctor's office. It just doesn't make sense.

HASTERT: Let me go back to energy. Last night, you just heard us talk about that. It was a big debate. The ANWR, the Alaska -- Arctic National Wildlife Refuge provision, which was quite controversial to drill and to explore for oil in that area passed. But a little bit more restricted than what the president wanted. It was going to be -- he had asked for 1.5 million acres of land and you brought it down to about 2,000 acres.

HASTERT: Basically, what we're saying, we can explore for oil. First of all, people don't want to be too much energy dependent outside of our shores. If we're going to be -- find the conservation and alternative fuels and then do what exploration and drilling that we can. But this is the 2,000 acres which is a little bit over the size of maybe a couple of golf courses and a landmass the size of the South Carolina. So it's really pretty infinitesimal with the protections that we need to have there. We need to do that exploration and find those resources that are American resources that we can and still protect the environment. And I think that's what this amendment did.

SNOW: Does the fact that you had to scale it back a bit show the power of the environmental lobby?

HASTERT: Well, I think that was a common sense thing to do. I mean, this amendment came together because we looked at it ourselves and said: What is the right thing do to? And we thought this was the right thing to do.

SNOW: It's taken one extra week to get to the patients' bill of rights tonight. Last week -- I just want to tick off some of these things the critics have pointed out. Last weekend, a surprise move. There was an arsenic in the water vote where Republicans -- 19 of them -- backed Democrats and changed the rules for arsenic in the drinking water. Also one-day delay in considering your faith, the president's faith-based initiative. And before that, of course, campaign finance reform, where another 19 Republicans -- you see where I'm going. They banned against the president. Do you feel like you're having trouble keeping everybody -- all of your Republicans onboard?

HASTERT: I think you need to step back and take this thing in perspective. You know, I've been here for 15 years, and the Democrats would try to move a health care bill for 10 of those years that they were in power. They didn't -- weren't able to do it. And we've been able to move that. We've been able to move an energy bill. We've been able to move a faith-based bill. Sometimes you need to take a step back to move three steps forward. We've done that from time to time. But last week, we were scheduled to do this bill. The fact is they were negotiating -- negotiations going on. And why stop negotiations...

SNOW: The patient bill?

HASTERT: ... when you can have success?

SNOW: Right. Do you have any sense why you're not always getting every one of your Republicans? People sort of speculate about these are moderates, these are pro-environmental Republicans.

HASTERT: Yes, we have a six-vote margin here in our Republican majority. Last time the Democrats were here, they had a 90-vote majority. And they weren't able to pass a lot of stuff. We've been able to pass an incredible amount of legislation with that six-vote majority. The only problem is with margin. The problem is, you know, running this Congress is like trying to take a wide wagon down a narrow road. You got too far to the right. You get into the ditch, you go too far to the left, you get in the ditch. You've got to keep the wagon in the middle of the road. And that's my job.

SNOW: One more subject. Embryonic stem cell research is something the president has said he's been very serious about considering whether federal funding should go for embryonic stem cell research. You said the other day that you are pro-life. You said, you thought federal funding -- you suggested that you didn't think that that was the right idea because it doesn't go along with -- consistent with the pro-life point of view.

You also suggested you want to look at the whole debate before you make a solid decision.

HASTERT: There's a lot of things. Ethicists will tell you one thing. Some of the doctors and the scientists who do this research tell you something else. You know, there's a blood that comes out of the placenta. And the placenta cells themselves that the researchers are doing wonderful things with. So there's some great potential to look at all of the alternatives before we start to go to the embryos.

SNOW: Do you -- are you trying to leave room for the president at all? Are you taking a step back so that you don't interfere with the president's decision? HASTERT: Well, the president has to make this decision himself. And you know, he has struggled with it. He's talked to a lot of people. And I think he's going to come to that decision.

SNOW: Some of your leadership colleagues have written very public -- private letters and then a public statement -- Mr. Armey Mr. DeLay and Mr. Watson -- a public statement encouraging the president not to support federal funding. Why didn't you join them?

HASTERT: I didn't sign that letter. I think the president -- we have had several conversations about it. The president is going to have to make up his own mind.

SNOW: OK, thank you so much.

HASTERT: My pleasure.

SNOW: House speaker Dennis Hastert, you have a lot of work to do tonight.

HASTERT: Thank you very much.

SNOW: We appreciate you taking time out to be with us.

HASTERT: Good, my pleasure.

SNOW: And Frank, we'll toss it back to you now in the studio.

SESNO: All right, thanks very much, Kate.

And there will be more of Kate Snow's conversation with Speaker Hastert tonight on "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS." That's at 8:00 p.m. Eastern time, of course, 5:00 Pacific time.

Tonight on "CROSSFIRE," by the way, while the White House savors its victories in the House on energy and patients' bill of rights at least pending, is all the high-fiving a bit premature? Well, Representatives Roy Blount and Nita Lowey will be in the "CROSSFIRE" at 7:30 p.m. Eastern time. Stay with us. This is INSIDE POLITICS.

ANNOUNCER: A party-line Senate committee vote means defeat for a presidential nominee. Also ahead, Secretary of State Colin Powell on the Middle East, China and other issues and his role in the Bush Cabinet.


COLIN POWELL, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: I get along just fine with my colleagues in the administration. We have disagreements, sure. We argue about things, sure. Do we have to debate issues from time to time? Yes.


ANNOUNCER: And later... BILL DELANEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Bill Delaney, rising property taxes are sparking talk of succession in one New England town.

ANNOUNCER: Live from Washington, Judy Woodruff brings you more of INSIDE POLITICS straight ahead.


SESNO: A picture of the Library of Congress here in Washington, D.C., where the town is talking about these many issues blasting here through the United States Capitol here on Capitol Hill, where the Congress is very much in session. Now, good days for the president these last few, but it's not all a bed of roses. The White House blasting Democrats in the Senate over the embattled nomination of Mary Sheila Gall. She was to be the head of the Consumer Product Safety Commission. By a party-line vote, a Senate panel today voted against that nomination. So we go to the White House now for the latest on that, what happened and the explanation from correspondent Kelly Wallace.

Hello, Kelly.

KELLY WALLACE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hello, there Frank. Well, this marks the first outright rejection of a Bush nominee, and it is turning into quite the war of words. The White House calls the vote purely partisan, charging that when former presidents Bush and Clinton nominated Gall to serve on the commission, she was unanimously confirmed. But Democrats say she is absolutely the wrong person to head an agency affecting families all around the country.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mary Sheila Gall, an exceptional nominee.

WALLACE: Mary Sheila Gall was hardly a household name until President Bush picked her to run the high-profile Consumer Product Safety Commission, where she served as a member since 1991. But Democrats joined forces with consumer groups to kill the nomination.

SEN. BARBARA BOXER (D), CALIFORNIA: She didn't fight for consumers. She didn't seem to care about the safety of children, whether it was with baby walkers or bunk beds or cribs or baby bath seats.

WALLACE: They highlighted Gall's opposition to new regulations for a variety of baby products and accused her of pointing the finger at parents, not manufacturers.

SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D), NORTH CAROLINA: She had a pretty consistent pattern of having blamed caregivers and parents in cases where it was clear not only in hindsight but in foresight that the products were causing some of these problems.

WALLACE: But the White House questions how Democrats could support Gall when President Clinton re-nominated her in 1999 and not support her now.

ARI FLEISCHER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Mary Gall did not lose today. Bipartisanship lost today.

WALLACE: On the Hill, Republicans were quick to lash out at the Democratic-led Senate.

SEN. TRENT LOTT (R), MINORITY LEADER: And it's the worst exhibition of, I think, character assassination and partisanship I've seen so far this year. It's not a good sign for being able to work together and get along.

WALLACE: The White House and Republicans are now reviewing options such as whether there is a way to bring the nomination to the Senate floor.


WALLACE: And according to Republican Hill aides, the White House's lawyers are now looking to see if the president has the legal authority to remove Ann Brown, the current chairwoman and someone whom Republicans say is too closely aligned with Democrats, and elevate the vice chair to the position of chairman. Well, as for the White House, it is being very tight-lipped Frank, refusing to say if this is something the president is looking into doing -- Frank.

SESNO: It's getting a little nasty. All right, back to the Gall nomination for just a moment, Kelly. Democrats who opposed her now, some of them, anyway, supported her in '99. What's their explanation?

WALLACE: Well, they have an answer to that. They say that the Gall nomination was really part of a package deal. Democrats say back in 1999, Republicans made it clear that the only way then President Clinton was going to get his choice to serve as chairwoman of the commission, Ann Brown, was if he nominated or renominated Mary Sheila Gall to serve on the commission. So that's why Democrats say they backed her nomination because they wanted Ann Brown to serve as chairwoman. They also say, Frank, it is an entirely different matter to serve, number one, as member of a three-person commission as opposed to leading the agency. And so they say they have stronger standards for someone who would serve as chairperson of this important agency -- Frank.

SESNO: Kelly Wallace at the White House. And still on business being done, Robert Mueller. He's a step closer to becoming head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the FBI. The Senate Judiciary Committee today unanimously recommended that the full Senate approve the nomination. No trouble, there no turbulence there. It's all expected to happen later today or tomorrow. Mueller is the U.S. attorney in San Francisco, former Justice Department official. And during two days of testimony earlier this week, he vowed to restore public confidence in the troubled FBI.

Well, one day after authorities started checking out a new tip in the Chandra Levy case, what is the FBI saying about that information? The very latest just ahead. Plus we'll have some of the day's other top stories, including just-released videotape of the April shoot-down of a U.S. missionary plane over Peru.


SESNO: Secretary of State Colin Powell has a lot on his plate these days. When we return: Powell sat down with Judy Woodruff to talk about his job and about some key international issues facing the Bush administration. We'll hear what he has to say.


SESNO: You recognize that, the Washington Monument not far from here on this beautiful day in Washington.

Secretary of State Colin Powell arrived back in Washington this week after a difficult mission to Asia, including meeting with Chinese leaders. Almost immediately after arriving home, Powell was confronted with another serious challenge, an Israeli helicopter gun ship attack on an office of the militant Palestinian group Hamas.

Judy Woodruff caught up with Powell and asked him about his new challenges and developments in the role, and his role within the Bush administration.


JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Mr. Secretary, thank you for joining us.

COLIN POWELL, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: You're quite welcome, Judy. Good to see you again.

WOODRUFF: You've just returned just hours ago from a trip to Asia, and I do want to ask you about that. But as so often happens, there are headlines from the Middle East. Yesterday, the Israelis used anti-tank missiles to assassinate two senior political leaders of a radical Islamic group, in the process they killed six others including two children. Does this represent a significant escalation on the part of the Israelis?

POWELL: Well, it's hard to say what an escalation is anymore. The level of violence instead of going down has been going up. And we continue to encourage both sides to exercise restraint. In this particular case, we felt that this was a targeted killing of the kind that we have spoken out and condemned in the past and we did so yesterday, both at the White House and in the State Department. We had a consistent view of it.

This kind of response is too aggressive. And it just serves to increase the level of tension and violence in the region.

WOODRUFF: When you say the two comments were consistent, Mr. Secretary, but it was noticeable. The State Department very strong language...

POWELL: I -- I'm sorry, the paper -- the newspaper reported of that as wrong. The guidance that was used at the State Department was clear guidance and it reflected the White House view and the State Department view. So even though people may have found something to find that there is a difference, the statement put out by the State Department reflected White House concurrence.

WOODRUFF: Even if you set aside the news coverage, those Middle East analysts/experts who were interviewed about this said -- one of them who was a former Near East assistant secretary here at the State Department -- said, as long as there is any difference between the White House and the State Department, than the Israelis are not going to feel constrained to change their behavior?

POWELL: That may be his opinion. But the view expressed here at State Department reflected the administration's position.

WOODRUFF: What should the Israelis do at this point?

POWELL: I think the Israelis and the Palestinians at this time should try to do everything possible to bring the passion down, the incitement down, and to bring the violence levels down, and we are trying to give this message to both sides, because I'm deeply troubled that the violence level, rather than going down toward the start of the Mitchell Committee report where we want to go, and looking for these days of quiet, it's going in the other direction.

And there's no moral equivalence to the two of them -- I'm not suggesting that, but we've got to encourage both sides at this time to do everything they can to bring the violence level down and to be very, very careful of the kind of counteraction that you take when something else happens, because if you just are in the cycle of violence that each day is an escalation on the one side or the other, then we're just going to keep seeing the violence go up rather than down.

WOODRUFF: Well, was this excessive on the part of the Israelis?

POWELL: We have spoken to that and said that we did not think that this kind of targeted killing helps the situation. And I think we've spoken rather clearly on that.

WOODRUFF: All right. Mr. Secretary, on your trip to Asia, while you were there, you spoke of China as a friend of the United States. There are others in the administration, the president, the secretary of defense, who have referred to it as a strategic competitor. After this visit, which is it?

POWELL: I think it's -- it is not helpful to try to characterize the whole relationship by a single word or a single phrase. It is a complex relationship across a broad agenda, and that's the real message that I delivered in China, and I come back with.

There is a trading aspect to it, there's a security aspect to it, there's a human rights aspect to it, there's the Taiwan aspect to it. And rather than try to capture it all in one phrase, either friend as opposed to -- what -- enemy; or strategic competitor, as opposed to -- what -- strategic partner, which the previous administration used. I think you will see all of us try to refer to the complex relationship. And with respect to trading activities, they are coming into the World Trade Organization. We've granted them trading regulations, we're working hard, our businesses are investing, 40 percent of their exports are coming to the United States. That is not an unfriendly relationship with respect to trade.

On their military activities, we want to see greater transparency in what they are doing, so we can sense whether or not their investment in their military is just modernization of a type one would expect, or is it something that is threatening and provocative. On human rights, we speak out strongly, and where they have moved in a positive direction, no reason not to compliment them.

But where they have not gone far enough, then we should speak out against their actions, and we have done that. And I did it repeatedly in my trip to China.

WOODRUFF: While you were calling them a friend at certain points, the Chinese censored an interview that you gave to Chinese television; they did not air your comments on human rights, some very personal comments you made about your own background. How did you feel about that?

POWELL: I felt that they made a mistake, because they said they would air the whole interview, and it shows they are not as -- at a point where we think they ought to be with respect to this kind of openness in their society.

They did air the other 23 and a half minutes of the interview, so why take out this 30-second section where I essentially complemented them for what they've done, but told them you have got to do a lot more. You should have be -- have be more tolerant of religious differences and freedom of expression.

So, you can speak that way to the Chinese leaders and let them know it, and they ought to let me speak that way to the Chinese people when I was given the opportunity. So, they have done a lot in the last 25 years, there's a long way to go. And we should encourage them to keep moving in that direction.

WOODRUFF: U.N.-related matter, this upcoming international conference on racism in Durbin, South Africa. At this point, as you know, the administration is threatening to boycott that conference unless certain language with regard to Zionism and reparation for slavery are included. We know the U.S. is working now with other nations to change the language. Are you confident that the language will be removed?

POWELL: Not confident yet. I want to go to that conference, the United States wants to be represented at that conference. It's an important conference, it should be a forward-looking conference. But we should not allow the conference to be side-tracked to deal with the contemporary political issue that is of concern to some members of the conference, and really isn't directly related to the purpose of the conference. And therefore, we are hoping to find language that will deal with the problem of slavery and deal with the other problem with respect to Israel, because we do want to go to the conference. We are not threatening to boycott, the answer is let's fix this so that the conference will serve its intended purpose. The United States wants to be there.

WOODRUFF: There are African-American members of Congress who are saying just the fact that the administration is threatening to boycott says -- and I'm quoting Congressman Cynthia McKinney, "perhaps indicative that the Bush White House is full of latent racists," she adds.

POWELL: This kind of -- this kind of absurd language is not helpful for public dialogue. It has nothing to do with the administration being racist. That is an unfortunate statement on Congressman McKinney's part.

We are trying to create an environment where the conference can be successful. It is an important conference, and therefore it should stick to the purpose of the conference and not go off into political issues that one particular segment of attendees feels particularly strong about, because it will detract from the work of the conference.

And so, what we're trying to do is to create a solid atmosphere to make it a successful conference, and so I have to categorically disagree with Congresswoman McKinney's characterization.

WOODRUFF: To another issue: at the United Nations and elsewhere, the administration under heavy criticism these days for rejecting a number of international treaties, from ABM to global warming, to germ warfare.

POWELL: We have not rejected the ABM treaty.

WOODRUFF: Taking strong...

POWELL: No, we have not rejected it or violated it. The ABM treaty has existed for 30 years, we think it is not the kind of treaty that would serve the interest of strategic stability in the 21st century. So, we're talking to the other signatory of the ABM treaty to see if there is not a way to go forward. That is neither violating it, nor throwing it aside yet.

WOODRUFF: But there are observers -- there are friends of this administration who are looking at what's going on, and they're saying, there is a move across the board to step back from international treaties. The question is: is this sort of pick and choose the treaty as you go along, unilateral approach? Is that an approach you are comfortable with?

POWELL: I don't think that's a correct characterization of the approach. The approach is that -- it starts this way: the United States is a participant in international organizations, a participant in a number of alliance that we were a part of. We are active participants in those alliances. I just traveled throughout Asia, I've been in Africa, the president has been to Europe twice in the last couple of months -- we are not becoming isolationists, we are not becoming unilateralists.

We are participants in many multilateral organizations and multilateral treaties. But several treaties and agreements have come along recently where we have fundamental problems, and when we have those fundamental problems, we ought to be honest and speak directly to our partners about the problems we are having. Just because they are multilateral does not make them necessarily good for the purposes they tried to achieve or good for our interests.

WOODRUFF: I hear everything you're saying, and I have finally a sort of a personal question, Mr. Secretary. There has been a lot written, a lot of ink spilled over the last several months, a lot of commentary on television about your own role in this administration, about supposedly appointments being forced on you in your own department, about disagreements with others that have been out in the open in the administration over Korea, over Iraq, over the Balkans, and so on. The question being asked is: are you really happy?

POWELL: Very happy. I have not had a single appointment forced on me. I have had people presented to me for my consideration who are active in the campaign. That is to be expected. But I have not had a single appointment foisted upon me that I did not wish to have in the administration of the State Department. So, it just isn't true. It's not true.

With respect to the other issues, I get along just fine with my colleagues in the administration. Do we have disagreements? Sure. Do we argue about things? Sure. Do we have to debate issues from time to time? Yes. But I'm pleased to be a part of this administration, and I can assure you that Mr. Rumsfeld, Dr. Rice, the president, Mr. Cheney, we're all getting along just fine.

WOODRUFF: And you plan to serve the full term?

POWELL: I plan to serve as long as the president wishes me to serve, and he has indicated in no way that he is not willing and wanting me to serve.

WOODRUFF: Where do these ideas come from?

POWELL: There is always this noise level within Washington. I've been in the number of administrations, and I've seen it. And whenever somebody has a disagreement, or when there is a slight difference in context or two different statements are made that don't seem to be exactly the same, people take it to a level of a capital crime.

And usually, it's just the friction that exists within any organization as you try to find the right answer. It would be an awfully boring, boring city, if there was nothing that gave a source of tension or conflict that you all could write and comment upon. But when you look several weeks or a couple of months later on these supposedly cataclysmic crises, you find, well, you know, it all sort of worked out. WOODRUFF: Mr. Secretary, we thank you very much for joining us.

POWELL: Thank you, Judy.

WOODRUFF: It's good to see you.

POWELL: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: Thank you.


SESNO: And one footnote here in that conversation with Judy Woodruff. The secretary of state was also asked about the U.N.'s (sic) back dues to the United Nations and all the controversy surrounding that. The secretary of state said that he and the administration are working very hard to come up with that money and to get everything in line before the president goes to the United Nations General Assembly September 24. Hopes he can overcome the congressional hurtles between now and that end result, and get things in line so the president can go with a clean financial slate.

Still to come on INSIDE POLITICS, election day in Florida's governor's race is more than a year away, but Jeb Bush might be wishing his bid for re-election could be decided right now. We'll tell you what the latest poll numbers show. And we'll tell you why some folks in New Hampshire are talking about, yes, secession.


SESNO: Former Vice President Al Gore showing signs he may soon raise his political profile. Gore has agreed to campaign on behalf of a gentleman by the name of James McGreevey, the New Jersey Democrat who is running for governor. McGreevey will face Republican Jersey City Mayor Bret Schundler later this year.

Mr. Gore also plans to co-host a bipartisan one-day political workshop in Tennessee, this month with former Republican presidential candidate Lamar Alexander, also from Tennessee. The event will be followed by a week-long political seminar for about two dozen young Democratic activists. The activists will then fan out to key states to help Democratic candidates. So the week-long training session paid for by Gore's political action committee. Plenty of activity on the Gore front.

In Florida, a new poll shows Governor Jeb Bush defeating his likely challengers in possible matchups for next year's governor's race. The Mason-Dixon Poll of Registered Voters showed Bush beating former Attorney General Janet Reno 54 percent to 39 percent. Reno is the only likely Democratic contender who matches Bush in name recognition. But 37 percent of those polled said they had an unfavorable impression of her, compared to 32 percent favorable. The numbers for Bush, 49 percent favorable, 29 percent unfavorable. Reno hasn't decided whether she'll enter the race. But the poll shows she would be heavily favored among Democrats in the party primary. In Missouri, former Republican Congressman Jim Talent confirmed today that he will challenge Democratic Senator Jean Carnahan next year. Talent says he's forming a fund-raising committee and his formal announcement for the race will come later. He narrowly lost the Missouri governor's race last year. As you recall, Carnahan was appointed to the Senate after her husband, former Governor Mel Carnahan, was killed in a plane crash shortly before his election to the Senate.

Radical plans for tax relief, under discussion in New Hampshire.

Up next on INSIDE POLITICS: a New England town up in arms, and its proposed solution for high property taxes. You'll be surprised.


SESNO: A political issue as old as the republic itself has sparked an angry response in New Hampshire. It's known for not having an income tax, but high property taxes have prompted one group of taxpayers to start talking about secession.

CNN's Bill Delaney has the story.


BILL DELANEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A softly-scented summer eve, Newington, New Hampshire, rolling along lackadaisical. It's up two points where houses tend to be huge. Safe harbors in a town, in fact, that even has a Safe Harbor, but Town Hall Tuesday night, about 200 of 800 or so total Newingtonians mad as hell over property taxes gathered to seriously consider seceding from the great state of New Hampshire.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think drastic times take drastic actions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What should be a Democratic state has been immediately thrown into a markedly socialistic state, that will only destroy us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Secession doesn't worry me so much.

DELANEY: Not as much, anyway, in a state with no income tax as 1999's eruption of state property taxes, meant to pay for education, as much as tripling taxes in places like Newington where many with lots of land are also seniors on fixed incomes. And most of the tax money's leaving Newington to fund schools in places less property-rich but with more schoolchildren.

Why town chief selectman Christopher Cross read names of 55 who signed a petition invoking venerable Article 10 of the New Hampshire Constitution which enshrines the right of citizens to revolt when, "the ends of government are perverted."

QUESTION: Would you be willing to secede from the state?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Certainly. It might be worth it, except that the state owns the only two ways in and out of the town of Newington.

DELANEY: Well, yes, there is that. There are those against secession.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I certainly, personally, am not envisioning Newington seceding from anything, and going on, off on its own, but to throw out another wild idea -- let's look into joining Maine.

DELANEY (on camera): As for what the powers that be here in New Hampshire think about all this, well, Democratic Governor Jeanne Shaheen, who many here thought should have been here, is on vacation.

She did issue a statement...

(voice-over): ...suggesting that officials in quiet little Newington come up with a better idea how to fund education. Trouble is, most in Newington seem to like this secession over taxes thing just fine. After all, it's worked before.

Bill Delaney, CNN, Newington, New Hampshire.


SESNO: INSIDE POLITICS will be right back.


SESNO: That's all for this edition of INSIDE POLITICS.

I'm Frank Sesno. "FIRST EVENING NEWS" is next.



4:30pm ET, 4/16

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