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President Bush Appeals for Restraint in the Middle Israel as Fighting Escalates Between Israelis and Palestinians

Aired August 14, 2001 - 17:00   ET


JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: This is INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King. President Bush appeals for restraint in the Middle East, but another escalation of the violence and tensions brings fresh calls for the United States to take a more prominent role.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I'm Bill Schneider in Washington. Are Americans clamoring for Mr. Bush to get more involved in the Middle East crisis?

KELLY WALLACE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I'm Kelly Wallace in Colorado where the president is emphasizing the working part of his working vacation.

KING: Also ahead, the Democrats and the values debate one year after Bill Clinton passed the torch in Los Angeles.

ANNOUNCER: Now, Judy Woodruff takes you INSIDE POLITICS.

KING: Thanks for joining us. Judy is off this week. We begin with the violence in the Middle East, and what, if anything, the Bush administration can do about it. Palestinian sources say Israeli troops are massing in an area between Jerusalem and Bethlehem where Palestinian gunmen reportedly had been firing for hours. This, just hours after Israel briefly sent tanks into the West Bank city of Jenin. A police station was flattened; government buildings surround it.

A Palestinian Cabinet member is accusing Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon of trying to end the peace process by, quote, "opening the gates of hell." But Israeli officials are defending the incursion. They say they're sending a message to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to stop a new wave of terror against Israel.

Here in the United States, an increasingly frustrated President Bush sent a message to both parties today.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The cycle of violence has got to end in order for the peace process, any peace process to begin. And therefore, Mr. Arafat must clamp down on the suicide bombers and on the violence, and the Israelis must show restraint. We've got to break the cycle. In order for there to be any discussions about world peace, it requires a willingness of both sides to come to the table.


KING: It is now after midnight Wednesday in the Middle East. I spoke earlier with CNN's Ben Wedeman in Jerusalem and asked him if behind the new violence and the tough public rhetoric there was any hope for private diplomacy between the Israelis and the Palestinians.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Not at the moment. In fact, there appears to be quite an impasse following the Israeli closure of Palestinian offices including the Orient House in Jerusalem and its outskirts. The Palestinians say that they're simply not ready or willing to talk to the Israelis until they leave those facilities. They feel that the Israelis have crossed a red line, and therefore, they're not willing to talk. In the meantime, we've had yet further escalation of violence with the Israeli incursion into Jenin and followed by very intense gun battle between the southern Jerusalem suburb of Gilo and the Palestinian village of Beit Jalla. So certainly, there doesn't seem to be much movement on the ground. The normal interlocutors here in this conflict, United States, don't seem to be particularly eager to get into this quagmire. So very much -- not much movement on the ground except in the military sphere.

KING: Well, let's discuss the U.S. role. President Bush saying just before this latest incursion into Jenin, quote, "There's nothing that an administration can do if there's no will for peace. How is that being received in the region, specifically by each of the parties: the Israelis and the Palestinians?

WEDEMAN: Well, certainly, we've seen over the last decades that without active involvement by the United States in the conflict, there tends to be a lack of movement forward. The Palestinians would like to see the United States become more involved. The Palestinians, for instance, are very frustrated with the fact that Mr. Bush has been unwilling to invite Chairman Arafat to the United States. At the same time, they've seen -- the Palestinians have seen that Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon has visited the United States not once but twice. So the Palestinians are feeling very much shunted aside by the U.S. administration. They're very cognizant of the fact that Mr. Bush has on more than one occasion said that the Palestinians and Mr. Arafat could do more to stop the violence.

On the Israeli side, they're rather hesitant to draw the United States into the process of negotiations or the possible process of negotiations. Prime Minister Sharon very mistrustful and hesitant to see the United States renew the kind of involvement that we saw under the Clinton administration.


KING: That was CNN's Ben Wedeman earlier in Jerusalem.

The extent of the Bush administration's role in the Middle East peace process certainly is a topic of debate on Capitol Hill, including among members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. I sat down earlier today with one key member of that committee: Republican senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska. He has publicly supported the administration policy but now says the situation has so deteriorated that the president must do more.


SEN. CHUCK HAGEL (R-NE), FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: I think we are at the lowest ebb in this conflict since 1973. And in many ways, it may be more severe. And I say that because the intensity of the violence as it ratchets up knows no boundaries. And we just keep escalating past any kind of responsible grammar here in a way that's without any accountability. And partly that's because we are without any kind of framework of responsibility, a connecting rod to bring everybody back to a compass or a common denominator central point like Oslo was.

But also, this is a time when you are seeing more of the outer rings of this conflict in play. Saddam Hussein and Iraq. The sophistication of weaponry today in the Middle East totally different from 1973. So it is not a good time. This is a time when we are going to have to soon get to some place to bring this as much as we can to a halt, because if we do not do that -- and I think the time is fast approaching when this thing will get out of control.

KING: Does the president have to take a more active, public, direct role? Some have suggested that's the only way. And certainly, people in the region got accustomed to that during the Clinton administration that when there was a problem, the president himself would step forward. In your view, does President Bush now have to step forward in a very public way?

HAGEL: He's probably going to have to be more public and more directed than he has been in the past realizing what he's been saying and what Powell's been saying and others that we can't impose peace, we can't force peace. However, America is in a unique position and I still believe resides in this unique position that it is the only country that has the credibility and the power and the reach to be able to bring these two sides closer, not together, but closer together. The president's going to have to be seen as doing more.

Now is some of this a bit show business? Of course, it is. Diplomacy is a bit show business. The business I am in is certainly show business. But what it does do, it gives our country -- it gives both sides -- some confidence and some belief that this president is more engaged than he has been. He still has room to do that, realizing that expectations are dangerous here that George Bush can't do it, Bill Clinton couldn't do it, George Bush Sr. couldn't do it. But until we get back to the connecting rod of an Oslo or something that brings some responsible conduct and accountability back into this relationship, then this will unravel to the point where it could far exceed where it was as far as the danger even in 1973.

KING: Is to say that he probably has to do more an acknowledgement in your view that perhaps he hasn't done enough, or is much of this out of his control, the president. HAGEL: Well, first, most of it is out of his control. But each administration that takes office, this administration no different from Clinton and Bush and Reagan and on down, must evaluate the policies of their predecessor. This administration's doing that everywhere -- EPA standards, national defense, agriculture, foreign policy -- and it should do that. It must understand what it is we're dealing with and then apply what this administration thinks is the wisest course of action diplomatically, militarily, economically in every way. So that review is appropriate in my opinion. But that can't go on forever. At some point, the administration is going to have to get their arms around this as best they can. And this is an imperfect business. This is a flawed business. You rarely set the timeframe on your own in this business of foreign policy and especially the Middle East. This is not a business or a dynamic that you can wait until the time is right for it to come to you. You must go to it and then fashion as best you can, as imperfect as it is, some course of action, some policy, and some dynamic of leadership to try to bring these sides back together.

KING: The president has been unwilling to meet with Mr. Arafat because he does not believe Mr. Arafat, in his view, has done enough. Does the president have to put that aside in your view because we are at this dramatic moment where the president, in your view, must do something? Does it rise to the level, do you think, of inviting Mr. Sharon and Mr. Arafat to come to Washington and say, you know, "I'm sorry we have to have this meet, but apparently we do?"

HAGEL: I don't know the tactics of it. I'm not versed enough on the inside as to all the factors, and I don't presume to know that. But it seems to me there is going to have to be some overt action taken. And by the way, this is not without risk. This is not without risk to the president, his standing in the world, his standing in the Middle East. But we must put ourselves always in a situation and understand that the risk is worth the failure. And unless -- unless we make that effort and we take that risk knowing full well we could fail at this, then the hope that this gets better is unrealistic. It won't get better.


KING: Now for more on the crisis in the Middle East and the political debate about that crisis here in the United States, we're joined by CNN senior political analyst Bill Schneider.

Pressure from the region for President Bush to get more involved, a suggestion there from Senator Chuck Hagel, a fellow Republican that the president should get more involved? Is there pressure from the American people?

SCHNEIDER: There really isn't any pressure from the American people, John. By two to one, the public says the United States should encourage the Israelis and the Palestinians to find a solution on their own but that the United States itself should not become actively involved. Is that isolationism? Well, I think it might involve something else: pessimism. Because also by two to one, Americans do not believe that the Arabs and the Israelis will ever be able to live in peace. So why get involved if no real solution is possible? There is a lot of pressure, however, coming from Democratic critics, who want the escalation of violence to be seen as a failure of the Bush administration.

KING: Now you've been speaking on the phone, working the phones speaking to Middle East experts in the region. What would they call the Bush administration policy?

SCHNEIDER: Well, I spoke to one in particular, David Makovsky, who's an experienced Israeli journalist and now a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, and he describes what I would call the spotlight policy, namely, the United States keeps the spotlight on Mr. Arafat to keep his commitments, arrest known terrorists and control the violence. And he says the spotlight policy actually has been effective in the past. After the tragic bombing in the Tel Aviv discotheque just a few months ago, the pressure was very powerful on Arafat and the violence did stop dramatically for a while. But then when international attention drifted, the violence started up again. The problem is how to keep the spotlight turned on when there are a lot of distractions?

KING: Now we know what Clinton wanted. He wanted the grand bargain: comprehensive peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians as a springboard to negotiations with the Syrians and beyond. What does President Bush want?

SCHNEIDER: He's looking for really crisis management not conflict resolution. No grand deals, just keep the violence under control. And one way to do that is to take names, publicize who is and who is not living up to their commitments and that includes the Israelis whom we have criticized from time to time. Most of all, his Middle East policy I think is motivated by the desire for tougher sanctions against Iraq.

I think one of his chief objectives in the Middle East is to finish the job his father started and get Saddam Hussein out of power. Now that's one of the main reasons Bush wants, needs to keep the Israeli/Palestinian crisis under control. The Bush administration is resisting any linkage between the Israeli Arab conflict and the Iraqi issue. Tensions with the Arabs over Israel could make it impossible to keep the gulf Arab states in line against Saddam Hussein.

KING: All right, Bill Schneider, thank you very much.

Stay with us. This is INSIDE POLITICS.


WILLIAM J. CLINTON, 42ND PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And don't stop thinking about tomorrow.


ANNOUNCER: The former president's party is thinking about tomorrow and thinking about a political trouble spot from the Clinton era: values. Also ahead: (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's always those magic moments when you capture lightning in a bottle.


ANNOUNCER: Insights into ad making and the 2000 presidential campaign from a former Bush media adviser turned author. Live from Washington, there's more of INSIDE POLITICS with Judy Woodruff straight ahead.


KING: A political flashback to one year ago today: President Bill Clinton staged a grand political exit with this Hollywood style arrival at the Democratic National Convention. The extended walkout including graphics across the bottom of the screen documenting with the Democrats viewed as his accomplishments. Delegates gave the president a thunderous ovation. But some critics later scolded Mr. Clinton for what they thought was an effort to steal the spotlight from then vice president Al Gore.

And one year later, nearly seven months into the Bush presidency, the debate continues over whether the so-called values gap is, for the Democrats, one painful Clinton legacy.

For more on how the Democrats are approaching the values issue, I'm joined here in Washington by Joe Lockhart, Bill Clinton's former White House press secretary, now a consultant in Washington.

Let's start with some numbers. Let's look at the latest CNN-"USA Today"-Gallup poll. We asked the question of Americans: Does President Bush share your values? Yes, 56 percent; no, 41 percent. We asked the same question just a little more than a year ago. Does President Clinton share your values? Yes, just 33 percent; no, 62 percent. Those numbers would suggest the Democrats have a problem. (A) do you agree; and (b) if so, what are you doing about it?

JOE LOCKHART, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Well, I think we have a perception problem with the public, but it's not about Bill Clinton. I think Democrats as a group, as a party, tend to focus on policy only in policy terms not as a reflection of our underlying values. So I think if you look at what we've done, say, take Patients' Bill of Rights, now, there's nothing more pro-family than protecting your family from an HMO and giving you some recourse. But we tend to do it in just the policy terms. I think the Republicans do a slightly better job of trying to do things in terms of how their values are. So I think if you move forward, clearly we're right on the issues if you look on the numbers on -- you know, as you go down on self-identified important issues of Americans. I think as a party, what we need to do is do a better job of speaking about issues as a reflection of the underlying values.

KING: But there seems to be still, there is still a debate within your party about how to deal with this, a divide between traditional liberals, if you will, and the so-called DLC, Democratic Leadership Council, new Democrats. Let's some words to illustrate that divide. This from the latest edition of the DLC magazine blueprint: "To put it simply, many voters fear that Democrats are either hostile or indifferent to people of faith, married people with kids, especially stay-at-home moms, those who serve proudly in the military, those who own guns for self-protection or hunting, and perhaps even white males as a group. This perception is often reinforced by the parallel belief that Democrats are excessively bound by allegiance to interest and advocacy groups that do not share mainstream values in one respect or another."

But as the new chairman, Terry McAullife, of the Democratic National Committee has tried to deal with this and he's asked for advice, this conflicting view from Anna Greenberg, a Democratic pollster. She puts the emphasis instead on the Democratic base and she writes, quote, "It seems clear that a concentration of institutional resources can dramatically impact the likelihood of our base voters actually registering and turning out. If we could begin the process of replicating or even approximating the factors that elevate turnout among African-Americans with unmarried women, we would ensure substantial majorities of Democrats in both branches of the Congress and recapture the White House as well."

Can the Democrats make progress if they can't agree among themselves?

LOCKHART: You know, I think we absolutely can. If you look at last election, Democrats across the board did pretty well. I mean, on the presidential level, we got more votes than the Republicans; won seats in the Senate, won seats in the House. But in order to go and do better, you have to look at the campaigns and see what you can do better. I think the area we can do better and his talking about reflection of values. Take the gun issue, for example. We -- I think most Americans, 85 percent or above, support doing things like closing the gun show loophole.

But the way we talk about it threatens gun owners. I think if we can talk about it in terms of you have a right to own a gun but a responsibility that comes with that, that that's a much more effective pitch to voters. It reflects our values and it reflects our policy. We're not talking about changing any fundamentals here, but it's how we talk to voters, how we appeal to voters, how we use government as a partner rather than government as a dictator to, you know, how we're going to work and how people are going to live. And I think if you can do those things that are subtle changes, we can appeal both to our base voters and to swing voters. We can appeal to voters that are motivated on economic issues which Democrats did very well with in 2000, but also to voters who are motivated by issues that are loosely termed as values.

KING: Many Democrats including many operatives didn't think Al Gore was up to the task, if you will, of navigating that difficulty, that he lost traditionally Democratic states like West Virginia, his own state of Tennessee, lost Bill Clinton's state of Arkansas, struggled in places like Iowa, other places in rural America because he could not avoid the collision, if you will, on the issue you just spoke: guns and other issues. Whereas, if you're targeting one group, say suburban women with a gun control message, you might be alienating another target group, white males, with a message they view as anti- guns. Did the vice president fail that test, and who, when you look around the spectrum, who right now among the Democrats, if anyone, has stepped up to that challenge in a way many thought Bill Clinton had?

LOCKHART: Well, I think, you know, if you look at the map, the country was polarized, you know, between the Democratic and the Republican states. You know, the vice president did get more votes. But sure, I think if you look back he could have done a better job of trying to bring those two extremes that you showed in your graphic among different views in the Democratic Party together and reflecting values. I think if we're going to learn something from 2000, it's just that. How do we take our policies, policies that the American public agree with by and large, much more than Republicans, and do it in way where it's non-threatening, non-Washington oriented and more based on what people think and reflect their basic values, because, really, if you look at the numbers, the Democratic Party and their policies reflect the basic values of America. We're much more in the mainstream.

KING: Joe Lockhart, former white House press secretary, thank you very much for joining us.

LOCKHART: Thanks, John.

KING: President Bush leaves Texas for a trip to the Rockies. We will have an update on his Colorado travels. Other parts of the West are burning. The latest on the battle to gain the upper hand ahead in our news update.

There will be more INSIDE POLITICS coming up. But first we go to the CNN center in Atlanta for a look at some of the day's other top stories.


KING: The vacationing president heads West to Colorado. Up next, Mr. Bush stays busy on his working vacation.


KING: President Bush not at the White House but in Colorado today, the first overnight trip since he began his Texas vacation. Our Kelly Wallace is traveling with him, and joins us now with more on the president's day. Kelly?

KELLY WALLACE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, as you know, the White House is billing this as the president's "home to the heartland" tour, a chance of Mr. Bush to meet with everyday Americans and listen to issues important to them. The message, though, along the way is that the president is working during his month-long getaway from Washington, D.C.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) WALLACE (voice-over): President Bush, highlighting the working part of his working vacation, helping clear a trail in the Rocky Mountains, outside Denver, and stressing to parents and to their kids at a summer camp the importance of character education.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We can teach our children right and wrong, and we can teach them good sound values so when they get older they will make the right choices in their life.

WALLACE: This four-week vacation is the longest time a president has been away from the White House since Richard Nixon. And while there's been plenty of golf and time to work on his ranch, the administration, sensitive to any perception that Mr. Bush is loafing, continues to stress how much he's working.

August 8th, the Bushes travel to nearby Waco to help build a home. The next day, he addresses the nation and reveals his much- awaited stem-cell decision. And Monday, he hosts a bill-signing ceremony at his ranch.

SCOTT MCCLELLAN, ASSISTANT WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: He is the president 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and he is spending, as you are finding out, a good portion of the time here at his home working.

WALLACE: Some Republican strategists believe the White House is too defensive, and say Mr. Bush might benefit by being outside Washington.

MARSHALL WITTMAN, HUDSON INSTITUTE: To be in America's heartland, where none of the wealthy elites would ever summer plays against type. He's able to portray himself as someone who's close to the people and close to the earth.

WALLACE: And in his remaining time away from the White House, the president will focus on issues he hopes will resonate with Americans: Improving schools, beefing up the military, and helping veterans, with stops in New Mexico, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

BUSH: I think it's important for me to get out amongst the people as best as a president can. (END VIDEOTAPE)

WALLACE: And Mr. Bush says that helps him keep his perspective. His aides also hope this vacation strategy helps him appeal to moderates and suburban women, two groups who have been turned off a bit by the president's environmental polices and energy -- John.

KING: Well, Kelly, the calendar says August 2001, but might this trip have at least a little bit to do with November 2002?

WALLACE: Oh, absolutely. Whenever you have the president of the United States and the Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle in the same state, during the same week, during the slow days of August, you have to wonder what is up. Tonight the president will turn into the fund- raiser-in- chief, helping to bring in a little more than $1 million for the Republican Governor Bill Owens and Republican Senator Wayne Allard. Both have not yet announced that they will seek reelection, but both are up next year. Allard, a senator Democrats believe could be quite vulnerable because of his conservative policies. And that's why Senator Daschle was in the state this week trying to raise money for his Democratic challenger if he does decide to run, and that is Tom Strickland. So some politicking going on here in August in Colorado. John?

KING: Kelly Wallace, thank you very much in Colorado.

Back here in Washington, the Bush legal team is trying to settle a federal lawsuit filed against the tobacco industry by the Clinton administration. CNN White House Correspondent Major Garrett joins us now, with new details on that front. Major?

MAJOR GARRETT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, this is a case the Bush White House inherited from the Clinton Justice Department. The case was filed in 1999, and by any stretch, it has not gone well in the courts. Federal courts have thrown out a good portion of the lawsuit. I talked to White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales about that today, and he said the White House and Bush legal team has little leverage dealing with the tobacco industry. But he tried to find a lever, rather, in his conversation with me. Let me read a very interesting quote that the tobacco industry will pay very close attention to. This is what Judge Gonzales said: "The White House drives a lot of policy on issues that affect the tobacco industry. The kind of positions we take on these policies may be affected by how agreeable the tobacco industry is in settling this case."

A clear indication from the Bush White House that the tobacco industry, which has shown no interest in settling, stays with that position. Maybe some regulatory and legislative actions may be taken against them. John?

KING: Major, another major challenge for Judge Gonzales is getting the president's judicial nominees through the United States Senate. The now controlled by the Democrats, and I understand from your conversation with Judge Gonzales today that his frustrations are not limited to the opposition party.

GARRETT: No, they are not. I was expecting him to take a bit of a partisan jab at Senate Democrats. But the jabs were partisan, yes, indeed, but not directed at Democrats, directed at Republicans who he says has poisoned the atmosphere on Capitol Hill. How? By slow- walking and delaying -- for years, in some cases -- Clinton judicial nominees. He said in some cases holding judges that President Clinton appointed out of the hearings and having no confirmation votes for as long as three and four years was plain wrong. And he said there's a lot of bitterness from Democrats. He said he understands that, he's trying to work against that, but finding that it's not so easy. John?


KING: Major Garrett at the White House. Thank you very much.

There are new developments now in the investigation into a medal awarded to former President Lyndon Johnson. Did Johnson deserve his Silver Star?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It didn't mean a darn thing to us that Lyndon Johnson was with us. Didn't mean anything that he got a silver star. It was just looked on as kind of phony.


KING: New evidence about Lyndon Johnson's combat experience, from the men who were there.


KING: New evidence now in our investigation of former President Lyndon Johnson's military record. Last month, CNN military affairs correspondent Jamie McIntyre reported on questions surrounding the Silver Star awarded Johnson during World War II. Since that report, new witnesses have come forward casting more doubt on Johnson's reported combat experience.


JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As a congressional observer, Lieutenant Commander Lyndon Baines Johnson flew on a single mission during World War II: A bombing run against Japanese positions in Lae, New Guinea, on June 9, 1942. For his role, he was awarded and accepted a Silver Star, the Army's third-highest combat award.

Last month, in a CNN report, two witnesses raised questions about whether Johnson's plane ever came under attack, as described in a 1964 book "The Mission." The book quotes three crew members describing Johnson's bravery as the B-26 was purportedly attacked by Japanese zeros. Now the son of the plane's navigator says his father's handwritten diary supports the contention the bomber never came under fire.

BILLY BOOTHE JR., SON OF PLANE'S NAVIGATOR: This is his ledger or log that he kept, and under June 9, the date in question, he has down there that -- "all up bright and early to take out on today at 8:56 in the morning. Our ships turned up with magneto trouble in the generator and had to return after being out for only 45 minutes. To go on this mission with us was a congressman from Texas, Johnson. I think he was glad to turn about and come in." There was no "we came under attack," or "we saw 19 zeros flying out of the mist," and that sort of thing.

MCINTYRE: In several newspaper interviews before his death in 1996, Boothe disputed Johnson's war record, insisting the flight never saw combat.

Patrick Norton was on the same mission, but in a different plane, the lead bomber.

PATRICK NORTON, CHAIRMAN, LA-Z-BOY: I was just 20 at the time, and I was a radio operator, engineer-gunner on the airplane. I manned the waist guns.

MCINTYRE: Now 80, he's chairman of the board of La-Z-Boy, Incorporated. When he saw CNN's report last month, he was bothered by the way it left open the possibility Johnson's B-26 might have come under fire.

NORTON: In truth, there's only -- there should only be one version. That airplane was not in combat that day.

MCINTYRE Norton flew 33 missions in the Pacific, but he remembers this one in particular.

NORTON: They had left our formation long before we were attacked by Zeros. And I think any talk that their airplane was shot up, that is -- that is -- that's fiction, that did not happen to them that day.

MCINTYRE: Norton's B-26 Marauder was attacked that day, by Saburo Sakai, Japan's fabled flying ace, an encounter immortalized in a lithograph which hangs in his office. The lithograph was one of a series done in the 1980s, based on the research of Richard Lawless, who at the time worked at the U.S. embassy in Tokyo. Lawless located the retired pilot of Norton's plane, Walter Krell.

RICHARD LAWLESS, U.S. ASIA COMMERCIAL DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION: Walter prided himself in leading the mission this day, this particular four-aircraft element, and was both proud of what happened that day and slightly embittered about the way that Johnson's role that day, then Congressman Johnson's role that day, had been portrayed.

MCINTYRE: Lawless says Krell explained that the combat zone over New Guinea at the time was just over the Owen-Stanley mountain range, which runs the length of Southern New Guinea.

LAWLESS: What he said was on that day, all the air combat took place either over the air base, which they were attacking, or on the north side, or the northwest side, I guess, of the Owen-Stanley mountains. Krell was very specific. Prior to, or at the time they were beginning to cross the Owen-Stanley mountains, the peak of the Owen-Stanley mountains, the plane with Johnson on it turned back.

MCINTYRE: There are now five separate accounts, that along with official records, contradict the version given by the three crewmembers in the book "The Mission." Why didn't anyone correct the record earlier? Billy Boothe says his father was still on active duty at the time the book was written, and he was muzzled by the Air Force, which is also what his father told a local newspaper in 1989.

BOOTHE: So the U.S. Air Force kind of squashed what he might have said concerning the flight, because they didn't want him to make any waves.

MCINTYRE: Patrick Norton says at reunions of the 22nd bomb group, the subject would come up, but nobody thought it was a big deal.

NORTON: It didn't mean a darn thing to us that Lyndon Johnson was with us. It didn't mean anything that he got a Silver Star. It was just looked on as kind of phony.

MCINTYRE: Richard Lawless says mission leader Walter Krell said pretty much the same thing.

LAWLESS: Walter Krell's attitude basically was, let sleeping dogs lie. The man is no longer president of the United States, he wore the decoration prominently and he wore it incorrectly, but let it go. And I think it was probably the consensus of his fellow officers and crew to just let it go.

MCINTYRE (on camera): There is now mounting evidence that Johnson accepted and wore a combat award for a mission that never encountered the enemy. But there's also a single book quoting three crewmembers, none of whom are alive to defend themselves against the charge they created a myth.

Jamie McIntyre, CNN, the Pentagon.


KING: An update now on the developing situation in the Middle East. We reported just a short time ago that five Israeli tanks had moved into three villages east of Bethlehem. We are now told by Palestinian security sources that after about a half-an-hour, those five Israeli tanks withdraw from those three villages. We will keep our eyes on that situation as it develops.

And up next on INSIDE POLITICS: An insider's view of the Bush campaign and the president's political hurdles now. We'll talk with Republican media consultant Stuart Stevens about his new book on the 2000 presidential race.


KING: One of the major goals of the Bush presidential campaign was to present the then Texas governor as a, quote, "different kind of Republican." Our latest CNN polling shows 34 percent of Americans view Mr. Bush that way. But nearly twice that many, 61 percent, view him as "basically the same" as Republicans of the past.

This morning I spoke with Bush campaign media consultant Stuart Stevens, who has a new book out on campaign 2000.

And I began the discussion by asking him why, in his view, the president has had difficulty selling himself as a new breed of Republican.


STUART STEVENS, FORMER BUSH MEDIA CONSULTANT: Because President Bush wants to get things done, and is more concerned, I think, with getting thing done than his image, it's a slow process. I don't think that he's gotten credit that he should have for the education reforms, yet. hopefully that will come.

I think the fact that the first push was on taxes, very successful. But that's something that you do expect the Republican to do. It's not outside the box. It's a slow process. I think that this fall they're going to refocus on some issues that'll help him get that back.

KING: Take us inside of the campaign a bit. You talked frequently about the idea that this man, Governor Bush was an optimist, and wanted to have a positive, forward-looking campaign, but obviously as a consultant you want to take advantage of the dynamic that you are presented with. And one of the dynamics was the Clinton exhaustion. We'll leave it there.

So you are talking one day about filling a whole bunch of ads and you are going through the gamut: Taxes, Social Security, Medicare. You talked specifically about an ad that became your favorite, called "Pictures" when the governor was talking about changing the tone or the climate in Washington, dignity in the White House.

Tell us about that and why you were struck by it.

STEVENS: We sit around and try to script these things, John. And always come up with stuff that is never as good as what someone comes up with in their own words. It always those magic moments you kept your lightning in a bottle.

This is a case where Mark MacKinnon was interviewing then- Governor Bush, and probing -- and Mark has a very nice elliptical style where he doesn't really nail him but opens up doors for him to walk through. And he started talking about this and this was something that happened on the campaign, where people would come up and hold pictures of their kids and say, when I -- when my child grows up I want him to be proud of the White House.

And as we were talking, he sort of choked up when he talked about it. And it was just one of these incredibly powerful unscripted moments that became, I think, one of our best ads.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I believe it's important for America to have confidence in their leadership. I think it's really important for moms and dads to be able to point to the White House and say, that person has brought honor and dignity to the office. (END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: And yet for that positive ad, there are several times in the book when you talk about where things were changing for the worse.


KING: And you walk into a meeting thinking that it's time to hammer somebody.

STEVENS: Right. KING: And do something negative. One of those moments is in South Carolina, when Senator McCain compared George Bush to President Clinton.


KING: And there is outrage among Republicans, of course, how can you compare one of us to him, at the time. Tell us about responding to that ad and why you decided that that was so necessary.

STEVENS: I think that for the most part McCain ran a brilliant campaign, particularly in New Hampshire. He made a critical mistake when he went too far and compared Governor Bush to Bill Clinton. Even if you didn't like Governor Bush and weren't supporting him, you didn't believe that he was Bill Clinton.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do we really want another politician in the White House America can't trust?


STEVENS: The impetus to respond to that really came from the governor. He called Karl and said, look, I have seen this. This is outrageous. We need to respond. And he really wrote the spot. It was -- for someone who has a deep sense of personal honor like he does, he couldn't let something like that go unchallenged.


BUSH: Politics is tough. But when John McCain compared me to Bill Clinton and said that I was untrustworthy, that's over the line. .


STEVENS: And that spot turned the campaign around because it very quickly put McCain on the defensive.

KING: You talk quite a bit about Al Gore in this book obviously because he was the opponent and we have seen him beginning to re- emerge this past week. You're not a fan. You write many things in here that are not terribly kind about the former vice president, including after one of the debates, quote, "The Al Gore of St. Louis was a hectoring, sanctimonious pompous ass."


KING: Is that your view of Al Gore?

STEVENS: That's my charitable view of Al Gore. That's Al Gore in a good mood. Look, I think one of the difficulties we had in the Bush campaign was capturing who we saw as the real George W. Bush -- the guy we saw. I think equally, they had a problem in the Gore campaign. Because I think in truth, if you know Al Gore well, which I think few people do, Carter Eskew does and I am a great fan of Carter's, I think that you see a different side of him. But he always had trouble projecting a persona that seemed like it wasn't manufactured in a lab.

They should have won this race easily. You had record prosperity. You had peace. And yet, somehow, they couldn't put it altogether.

KING: How do you see things now, though, after being in seclusion, invisible for six months, if you run a poll we still have a dead heat. Why is that?

STEVENS: I think he'll be the nominee. I think you'll have a rematch. I think that there's really nobody out there that'll beat him that's on the field. I welcome that rematch.


KING: That was former Bush media adviser Stuart Stevens. The book is "The Big Enchilada," subtitled, "Campaign Adventures With the Cockeyed Optimists from Texas Who Won the Biggest Prize in Politics."

More evidence today of Al Gore's reentry into the political spotlight. Aides to the former vice president tell CNN he has accepted an invitation to speak to the Iowa Democratic Party's annual Jefferson-Jackson day fund-raising dinner on September 29. Today Gore's continuing to run a workshop for Democratic activists in Nashville where he began raising his profile again over the weekend.

INSIDE POLITICS will be right back.


KING: Every Friday, our Bill Schneider awards a political play of the week, and we want your nominations. E-mail your ideas to:, and tune in this Fridays and every Friday to see if you picked the play of the week.

That's all for this edition of INSIDE POLITICS. But, of course, you can go online all the time at CNN's AOL keyword, AOL keyword: CNN. Our e-mail address is I'm John King. Thanks for watching.



4:30pm ET, 4/16

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