CNN INSIDE POLITICS
Reaction to State of Union Address; Congressional Investigators Move Forward With Lawsuit Against White House
Aired January 30, 2002 - 16:00 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.
JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Judy Woodruff in Washington. Homeland Security Chief Tom Ridge and House Democratic leader Dick Gephardt join us to put their spin on the president's State of the Union message.
JONATHAN KARL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Jonathan Karl on Capitol Hill, where Congressional investigators are moving ahead with an unprecedented lawsuit against the White House.
MAJOR GARRETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I'm Major Garrett with the president in North Carolina. Word of that lawsuit has proved to be a bit of a distraction from Mr. Bush's after-the-speech road show.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Candy Crowley in Washington with the inside buzz on Al Gore. Is he still in the game?
WOODRUFF: Thanks for joining us. A day after President Bush drew cheers under the Capitol dome, something quite different is heading his way from the Hill. The General Accounting Office announced today that it will file a lawsuit to get access to notes from the president's energy task force. The dispute has become more politically charged because of its Enron connection.
Here now, our Congressional correspondent, Jonathan Karl -- Jonathan.
KARL: Well, Judy, when the president was asked about this earlier in the week, knowing that this lawsuit was likely to be coming, he said, "Bring it on." So Congressional investigators, specifically the Government Accounting Office, is bringing it on.
(voice-over): The GAO announced its intent to sue in a sharply- worded statement: "All of our attempts to reach a reasoned and reasonable accommodation, including reducing the scope of our request, have been rebuffed... Failure to provide the information we are seeking serves to undercut the important principles of transparency and accountability in government. This will be the first time the GAO has filed suit to enforce our access rights against a federal official. We hope it is the last time that we will have to do so."
The decision to sue was immediately applauded by Democrats.
SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN (D), CONNECTICUT: I just assumed that the Bush administration would decide to release this information to avoid any suspicion. I have no idea what they're hiding, if they're hiding anything, and why. But until they get this information out, that's what the public is going to wonder.
KARL: The constitutional showdown comes as James Carville and two other leading Democratic strategists circulated a memo arguing that the Enron scandal will erode President Bush's popularity. "There is something about this scandal that puts Republicans first in line," the memo says. "They are already more closely associated with Enron and the corporate political nexus."
Now, Judy, you've heard the vice president talk about how the GAO is asking for intimate details of these discussions, including minutes and notes taken at the meetings of Vice President Cheney's energy task force. But in this letter to Congress, David Walker, the head of the GAO, writes: "Contrary to recent assertions, we are not seeking the minutes of these meetings, or related notes of the vice president's staff." They're saying that they simply want to know who went to the meetings, when they went to the meetings, and where the meetings were held -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: Jonathan, could this just simply be a giant misunderstanding? Because the White House is still saying that that's what the GAO is asking for -- the minutes and the details of the meetings.
KARL: Well, if it's a misunderstanding, they're certainly talking right past each other, because the GAO says they do have that information. Obviously, the White House has released some information specifically about Enron, what Enron executives met with the vice president and his staff and his task force on this, and when they met. But the GAO says they still don't have the information about who else was consulting the vice president on energy policy.
WOODRUFF: All right. Jon Karl, thanks. We'll see you a little later.
Well, now to the defendants in that coming lawsuit. President Bush stopped by Dick Cheney's office today to help the vice president celebrate his 61st birthday. They chatted about the cake, but not about the coming GAO lawsuit. Later, Mr. Bush left Washington to keep promoting his State of the Union message. Our White House correspondent Major Garrett traveled with the president to Winston- Salem. Hello, Major.
GARRETT: Hello, Judy. Well, as for the GAO threatened lawsuit, the reaction from many senior officials I've spoken to today is, well, we'll see you in court, whenever you decide to go to court. There is a bit of -- I want to say -- aggressiveness about the White House attitude, but there is a bit of impatience. What they say is, look, David Walker and the General Accounting Office have been threatening these many days now to go to court. The White House says if you're that confident in your case, we'll see you new court. Until that day, this is all we're going to say.
However, Ari Fleischer, while traveling aboard Air Force One, did give this statement to reporters. Let me quote it directly: "The president will stand strong on the principle that this president and future presidents have the right to unvarnished counsel without it being turned into a news a release. And the administration will fight for that principle in court, and the White House expects to prevail" -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: And, Major, at the White House, are they still saying what they were saying yesterday, and that is, that they believe the GAO is asking for details that, as we just heard from Jon Karl, the GAO says they're not asking for?
GARRETT: The White House has said over and over again that in the original demand letter sent to them by the General Accounting Office, specific requests were made for notes and contents of the discussions between the vice president, his energy task force members and outside lobbyists -- be they from the energy industry or any other sector of the private U.S. economy. That, they say, they simply will not turn over, because the General Accounting Office does not have jurisdiction.
The General Accounting Office is now saying it has no interest in those particular notes, the content of those meetings, perhaps. I say "perhaps" guardedly, because in this legal matter, there's been a lot of misinterpretations of which each other's side is after and what the premise of each other's opposition is. But if that is the case, perhaps there is an exit ramp for both to pursue here. But there is no sign of it yet, at least from senior officials I've spoken to toady -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: Major, no sign yet that the White House would be willing to turn over what the GAO says it wants now?
GARRETT: Barring a clarification that makes it clear that there is no pursuit from the General Accounting Office for contents, actual discussions, where these opinions are being given to the administration about the energy policy, perhaps there could be a meeting of the minds, here. Perhaps.
As Jonathan Karl pointed out, the White House has listed the six meetings between the vice president's energy staff and Enron executives. They felt that that was worthy of releasing. I believe we have White House press secretary, Ari Fleischer, who's traveling with the president, who's just given a taped assessment, or reaction to the GAO lawsuit. Let's go to that now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ARI FLEISCHER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: ... is going to be available to answer on background, any questions you may have about the president's new initiative today. If anybody has one or two questions, I'll take one or two questions, and then we'll go on background.
FLEISCHER: The president is very pleases by the bipartisan reception that his remarks received from his speech last night. Many members of Congress, Democrats and Republicans alike, agreed with the president's message. The president could not have been more plainspoken himself, when he said that time is running out, that he will deliberative. And that's the president's words, and he is pleased with the reaction.
QUESTION: Do you have any news on the "Wall Street Journal" reporter?
FLEISCHER: I do not.
QUESTION: On Enron, task force GAO trying to get the records. They have presented their case saying they have a legal right. What is the administration's legal case? Do you have a court precedent?
FLEISCHER: The president will stand strong on principle, fighting for his right and the right of all future presidents to receive advice without it being turned into a virtual news release. The president will fight for this right in a court of law, and the White House expects to prevail because our case is strong, our policy is sound, and principle is on our side.
FLEISCHER: The GAO has never done this before. Last question.
QUESTION: Are you asserting executive privilege? Is that the legal basis here?
FLEISCHER: No, the administration's position, which we expect to be upheld in a court of law, is that the General Accounting Office is acting beyond their authority outside a statute, so there is no need to exert the privilege. The GAO is acting outside its authority. All right, let me introduce you to John...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOODRUFF: All right, that was Ari Fleischer, talking just a few moments ago. He's with the president in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Joining us now, the House minority leader, Dick Gephardt, who, as you know, gave the Democratic response to the president's address last night.
Representative Gephardt, thank you for joining us. Let me first ask you about Mr. Fleischer's comment, that in the White House view, the GAO is acting outside and beyond its authority.
REP. RICHARD GEPHARDT (D-MO), MINORITY LEADER: Well, Judy, as you know, the General accounting Office is an independent watchdog agency. In fact, the head of the GAO is a Republican, not that that makes a great deal of difference. It's an independent agency. They have asked for this information.
It now goes to court because the administration would not comply with their request ,which incidentally, was not for the substance of the conversations, but as I understand it, it was just the names of who was involved in giving advice in this task force, and the times that it took place, and a very sketchy outline of the advice that was given.
In the GAO's opinion, this is a public policy effort that was going on in the White House to set policy in the area of energy. And they are simply asking for this rudimentary information.
GEPHARDT: It's been done before, and now it becomes a legal question the courts will have to answer.
WOODRUFF: Well, I don't want to belabor this, but it appears the White House is holding firm to its view that they're asking for much more than that. But I guess...
GEPHARDT: It remains to be seen. My understanding is they're not asking for the substance of the conversations and a lot of notes that may have been taken. They're simply asking for rudimentary information.
WOODRUFF: While we're talking about energy policy, let me ask you about Enron and this memo circulating, we're told, on Capitol Hill today, written by three prominent Democratic consultants -- Stan Greenberg, Bob Shrum and James Carville -- which says, among other things, "Enron is an issue has the potential to shape the entire political environment in 2002, impact other issues and reduce confidence in the Bush administration and Republicans." Is this the tact that Democrats should take?
GEPHARDT: I haven't seen such a memo, Judy. I don't think that anyone should go into this inquiry with politics in mind. I really don't. This is a serious set of issues. We need to first find the facts. We don't know the facts yet. So we can't, at this point, in my view, draw conclusions. We have rudimentary facts, we have initial facts. But the inquiry has not nearly been completed.
I met today with Enron employees who came on a bus to Washington, and I talked to them about their concerns and their views. These people were middle-income employees. They were dismissed on December the 3rd. They've lost their jobs, they've lost their savings, they've lost their pensions. And they are devastated by what has happened.
We owe them, in my view, a real effort to try to help them, first of all. And most importantly, to make sure that this kind of thing doesn't happen again with other employees of other companies.
WOODRUFF: Well, as I watched those pictures, Representative Gephardt, let me ask you to listen just for a moment to what Mary Matalin said just a short time ago -- counselor to the president, adviser to the vice president -- about what the Democrats are doing with the Enron issue.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARY MATALIN, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT: Well, the first evidence would be Senator Daschle, the leader of the Democrats, going on TV and trying to make a verb out of Enron, which is exactly what a political memo that's being spread around town by top Democratic strategists is saying we have to do, support Bush on the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and "Enronize" him on that. That is a big mistake.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOODRUFF: So, in effect they're saying the Democrats are politicizing this.
GEPHARDT: Well, this, unfortunately, is a real human set of issues that we have to deal with. I met with these Enron employees with representatives who represent them in the Houston area. We have an obligation, as representatives, to try to listen to people to understand their real problems, to try to help them, if it's necessary and important and legal to do that.
WOODRUFF: But are Democrats prying to...
GEPHARDT: And try and set policy for the future so this doesn't happen again. I don't know about political memos, and I don't think people should be looking at this through a political prism. What we ought to look at it as, is a real devastating set of facts for real people in this country.
WOODRUFF: Let me ask you about the president's State of the Union. We took a poll, CNN-"USA Today"-Gallup. It showed 75 percent of the people watching thought the president -- they had a very positive reaction. How do you oppose a president when his ratings, public approval ratings, are in the stratosphere?
GEPHARDT: Well, Judy, we're not trying to oppose the president. In fact, a lot of what I said last night was that we stand shoulder- to-shoulder with this president on terrorism, and that we shouldn't be toe-to-toe with the president on the economy and the domestic issues. And my hope is, as I said in my talk last night, that we can get together with the president, Republicans and Democrats alike, and try to do as much unity and resolve on the domestic issues and the economy as we have on terrorism.
I think this is a very important time in our country for politics to be put aside, and for us to work together in a respectful, trusting way, to try to get compromises that are good for the American people.
WOODRUFF: Speaking of domestic issues, the president spoke last night about a patients' bill of rights. Today the White House is talking about health benefits for people who can't afford them. The president spoke about prescription drugs for senior citizens. he talked about the environment, he talked about home ownership for minorities. Is the president co-opting, in so many ways, a large part of the Democratic agenda? GEPHARDT: Well, I've always said that if Republicans are willing to meet us halfway -- and I mean in a sincere and genuine way -- on all of these domestic issues, we will meet them halfway and we'll get a lot of good things done for the American people and the future of this country and long term growth, and we'll all get political credit. And politic will take care of itself.
We have -- we are in a war against terrorism. This country was attacked in the most devastating way in our history on September the 11th. We have unified and fought together against terrorism. We need to do the same on the domestic issues and the economy. We will not defeat terrorism if our economy goes down. We need to get this done, and we need to do it together.
WOODRUFF: Numerous democratic activists in New Hampshire and Iowa, telling us your staff is contacting them to say you are running for president.
GEPHARDT: Not to my knowledge. I haven't talked to anybody on that score, and I've said many, many times, I have one goal and one goal only. I'm trying to win the House back, win six seats in the House. But in the meantime, I'm trying to do my job as minority leader, and help this president and help this country solve the very important problems that are in front of us right now, today, in January of 2002.
WOODRUFF: House Minority leader Dick Gephardt, thank you, sir. We appreciate it.
GEPHARDT: Thank you.
WOODRUFF: More views on the State of the Union are coming up next.
Should Saddam Hussein be the next target of America's new war? Former secretary of state Lawrence Eagleburger goes on the record.
I'll talk about jobs and domestic issues with Teamsters President James Hoffa, an occasional strange bedfellow of President Bush.
And I'll ask Homeland Security Chief Tom Ridge if he can make good on the president's promises.
Plus, what do Al Gore's latest moves say about his political future? This is INSIDE POLITICS.
WOODRUFF: On the record this hour are two influential observers of U.S. government, politics and policies. Teamsters Union President James Hoffa will join me in a moment to share his views on last night's State of the Union speech, including the president's remarks on jobs and the economy.
First, the headlines in the speech related to international affairs. Among the highlights: the president's decision to single out Iran, Iraq and North Korea for trying to get weapons of mass destruction.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: States like these and their terrorist allies constitute an axis of evil arming to threaten the peace of the world, by seeking weapons of mass destruction. These regimes pose a grave and growing danger.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOODRUFF: For perspective on the world affairs part of last night's speech, I'm joined from Virginia by former U.S. Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger. Secretary Eagleburger, is president right to focus on these three countries as the next step?
LAWRENCE EAGLEBURGER, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: Yes, I think -- well, first of all, I was surprised. It was much more specific than I had expected it would be. I think he's right. And he also, remember, said something about preemption as well. He didn't necessarily say we would have to wait until something happened.
Now, having said that, my only concern is, do we have in place sufficient military power to carry out our demands, if and when we are told that they are not going to agree with us? That's my only concern.
WOODRUFF: Do you think we do at this point?
EAGLEBURGER: No, I don't -- well, not if what we have to mount, for example, in Iraq, is another ground war like the last time. It may be that the there are ways to solve this problem simply from the air or whatever. But I'm absolutely convinced that Saddam Hussein will not roll over and play dead easily. If what that means is we're going to faced again with going to a ground war, then I think we need to worry about whether we are prepared. And I'm not at all sure we are.
WOODRUFF: How long would it take, for example? I mean, take Iraq -- how long would it take?
EAGLEBURGER: Well, remember again how long it took the last time. And maybe I'm overdoing this, but if you think about it in terms of the last time we went through this, it took a fair amount of time to put the troops in place and then conduct our war. Now, if that's what's going to be called for again, the only point I can make is, if we're going to take these steps -- and I think the president is absolutely right to have laid it out the way he did -- but if he's going to do this, then let us make sure that we have the forces in place to accomplish it. Don't get ourselves into something, and then find out we're not sufficiently prepared. And I think what that means, Judy, frankly, is I think there will have to be substantial buildup in military forces.
WOODRUFF: And even -- you're in favor of doing this, even if it means the coalition that has supported the United States in Afghanistan were not there with us going forward? EAGLEBURGER: Yeah. I ready to do it, but mind you, that's too easy an answer. I think that the president has to try in every way he can to keep the alliance with us. And therefore, do what? I mean, it's going to depend to some degree on what the alliance is prepared to agree to with us. And the president then may have to go off and say, well, we're going to do it on our own, anyway. I would prefer, if we can, to keep the alliance with us. I'm not at all sure that's going to be possible, if we really get tough.
WOODRUFF: Former U.S. Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger. Thank you, sir. We appreciate you joining us.
EAGLEBURGER: My pleasure.
WOODRUFF: Teamsters Union President James P. Hoffa was a guest in the first lady's box for last night's speech. You no doubt saw him there as an advocate for workers and for a strong economy. He's been a political ally of leaders in both political parties. James Hoffa joins me here in Washington. Let me ask you about last -- first of all, you've been supporting the president's energy policy. You're out there in particular because of the Alaska Wildlife Refuge drilling in that area. Now, though, that the president is talking about -- that Enron has become the issue that it has, hasn't the president's energy policy lost some support because of the questions now about deregulation?
JAMES P. HOFFA, TEAMSTERS PRESIDENT: Well, I don't think so. I think, with regard to the president's energy program, if it was put to a vote in the Senate, we have the votes to do it. And the problem is, do we have 60 votes to overcome the maneuvering that's going on by the different Senators? The votes are there to get it done, especially on the issue of jobs, ANWAR. That's going to work.
And I think everybody agrees, we need to get away from all of our oil coming from the Middle East. Everybody agrees on that. The question is how we do it. And I do believe that there is support there. All we do for -- we're on the Senate now to get that vote. If we get the vote, we can carry it.
WOODRUFF: You don't think because -- because of Enron...
WOODRUFF: That there are real questions about deregulation now?
HOFFA: I don't call -- the bill is not about deregulation so much. It's about drilling additional energy supplies. It could be changed a little bit. But that basic bill, I think, still has to be voted on. We weren't talking about Enron before.
And I just think that people -- in fact, I talked to some senators last night. And they said, let's get it to a vote. We can pass it. So I think it's still a very viable option, and I think it's something that should be voted on. But I think the maneuvering should get out of it, and we should put it to a straight vote in the Senate, and I think it will pass. WOODRUFF: Did you meet with Vice President Cheney and his energy task force, as they were working on formulating this energy policy?
HOFFA: No, I did not, but we met with him later on and we went through the different parts of it. We talked about how there should be a restriction on the fact that this oil should only be for the United States, that it should be put in -- if it goes by water, that it should be put in American ships. We talked about that, and we did have input to that extent. But that was at a later stage.
WOODRUFF: Do you think, based on what you know, that that information should be released to the public about those meetings?
HOFFA: Well, the meeting we had, I mean, there were 50 people there.
WOODRUFF: No, I mean the meeting ahead of time, as the energy policy was formulating.
HOFFA: Well, we'll have to wait and see what happens. I mean, I understand the executive branch is exerting some -- let the courts work that out.
WOODRUFF: All right. We are going to have to leave it there. James Hoffa, thanks for joining us. It's good to see you. Next time it will be a little bit longer.
HOFFA: OK, thank you very much.
WOODRUFF: We appreciate it.
And now we want to check with headlines in our campaign news daily. A new poll shows New Jersey Democratic Senator Robert Toricelli leading his relatively unknown potential opponent. Toricelli leads his closest potential Republican challenger by more than 20 points in a Quinnipiac University survey. The senator has a slightly larger lead over two other GOP candidates.
On the presidential front, Democratic Senator John Edwards will get some fund-raising help from a potential party rival. The North Carolina senator plans a reelection fund-raiser in Boston next week, hosted by Senators John Kerry and Ted Kennedy. Like Edwards, Senator Kerry is considering a run for the White House in 2004.
Well, we will discuss homeland defense with Director Tom Ridge after a quick break -- also an update on new threats against "The Wall Street Journal"'s reporter kidnapped on assignment in Pakistan.
WOODRUFF: A quick update now on some of the stories in our "Newscycle": The investigative arm of Congress announced that it will sue the Bush administration to force the turnover of records relating to meetings of the White House energy task force. Executives from the failed energy company Enron attended some of those task force meetings. In Pakistan, the kidnappers of "Wall Street Journal" reporter Daniel Pearl have threatened to kill their captive within 24 hours. In a new e-mail obtained by CNN, the captors released new photos of Pearl. They also accused him of working for the Israeli Mossad. The e-mail stated -- quote -- "We will execute him within 24 hours unless America fulfills our demands" -- end quote. The U.S. government and "The Wall Street Journal" have denied the captors' claims that Pearl worked for any government or agency.
In San Francisco today, dozens of flights have been delayed and thousands of passengers are being rescreened after a security breach at the city's International Airport. Authorities say screeners detected residue on a man's shoes that could have come from explosives. But he left the area before he could be questioned further. At last word, he still had not been found.
The incident raises more questions about homeland security, even as the president says it is a top priority.
CNN's Jeanne Meserve explores the question: Are we prepared?
JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): If any American doubted the risk of biological attack, anthrax gave them religion. At the Department of Health and Human Services, a new office has been established to deal with public health emergences. Some medicines have been purchased. And $3 million has been appropriated to buy other pharmaceuticals, fund research, and beef up the public health system.
But experts say we aren't ready yet and may never be.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We need to be constantly be looking at: Where are our vulnerabilities and what needs to be done to shore them up? It would be naive and wishful thinking that we will some day achieve a state of full preparedness.
MESERVE: With the sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system in 1995, preparations for a chemical attack were put in high gear. First responders were equipped and trained. And those preparations have intensified since September 11. Our readiness: a mixed picture.
MICHAEL MOODIE, CHEMICAL AND BIOLOGICAL CONTROL INSTITUTE: I don't think you can give a blanket statement to say: Is the nation ready? I think it very much depends on where, what kind of attack, with what particular agent and then how many casualties would be involved.
MESERVE: Radiological attack was the fear during the Cold War. Then the U.S. was ready. Is it now?
DAVID ALBRIGHT, INSTITUTE FOR SCIENCE AND INTERNATIONAL SECURITY: I think we used to be more prepared. And I think, by the time September 11 came, that many of the federal capabilities to respond to a radiological emergency had decayed or degenerated. MESERVE: Since September, 11 nuclear response teams have been deployed around the country. Radiation detection gear is being used more and research into new detection and response technology is picking up.
MESERVE: Rome wasn't built in a day and a nation can't be secured in just a few months. But if the threat from weapons of mass destructions is as great as President Bush made it out to be in his speech last night, experts say we have reason to be concerned. We are not as prepared as we could be, not yet -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: A lot for people to think about.
Jeanne Meserve, thanks very much.
And INSIDE POLITICS will be right back.
WOODRUFF: And now we are joined now by Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge. He is traveling with President Bush in North Carolina.
Governor Ridge, I know you were not able to hear Jeanne Meserve's report just a moment ago, but the bottom line is that many people who spend all of their time, all their working time thinking about these issues of a bioterror threat, chemical threat, or whatever, say the United States is not ready.
What do you say to that?
TOM RIDGE, HOMELAND SECURITY DIRECTOR: I say to them that the United States is far better prepared today than we were on September 11, and that we'll be far better prepared six months from now, and that there are literally hundreds of thousands of Americans who go to work every single day -- some of them work in government -- some of them work in our academic community and our research institutions -- some of them work in corporate America -- who are trying, in their professional lives, to make America more secure, safer and stronger.
So I would say to those who question where we are today: We get stronger every day. We know we have much work to do. And I just wish that these people who doubt that capacity of America to respond to this would be able to sit in my office with me. And it would be very reassuring to talk to these people, talk to these entrepreneurs, talk to these companies, talk to these researchers. And they understand that America is up to the challenge of responding to terrorism.
WOODRUFF: But, you know, you listen to President Bush last night and he talked about tens of thousands of terrorists training in these camps in Afghanistan and elsewhere. And he said they are now spread throughout the world like ticking time bombs. Why shouldn't Americans be frightened? RIDGE: Well, I think America, after September 11, the horror and the tragedy and the destruction was the most graphic and personal reminder that a world that -- and a country that really had been immune to the kind of terrorism that we have witnessed around the rest of the world was now part of the terrorist equation, and that we, as an open and welcoming and trusting country, we embrace visitors from around the world, that we are going to have to be conscious of the fact that, as part of our 21st century world, the potential and the possibility of terrorism exists.
But as we have done in the past, as this country has done historically, when challenged, we meet the challenge. And every single day, we get better and stronger.
WOODRUFF: Well, let me ask you about a survey done by the National Association of Counties. I'm sure you're familiar with it.
RIDGE: I sure am.
WOODRUFF: Among other things, they asked how ready local governments are for a bioterrorist attack. The results showed 9.7 percent said they thought they were ready, fully prepared. Only 5 percent thought they were ready for a chemical attack.
Are those accurate percentages, do you think?
RIDGE: Well, I'm not sure how they got to the percentages.
But the bottom line is, is that, over the past several years, some communities have invested both resources and personnel in preparing for the possibility of a biological or a chemical occurrence. Unfortunately, not everybody has taken that challenge on. But we now know that, whether you are the League of Cities or the Mayors Association or the Counties Association, the National Governors Association, everyone is committed to working with each other, working with the federal government, working with the private sector to meet these challenges.
That's one of the reasons that the president has $3.5 billion in the budget for first responders. It's one of the reasons that we make a down payment in combating bioterrorism by upgrading our public health capacities. That's one of the reasons that we're trying to bring local coordination. Homeland security begins in your own hometown, in your own community. And that's one of the reasons that we are trying to give people the opportunity to participate in their homeland security with the Citizen Corps.
So I think we are well aware that we have got some gaps. We are well aware that we have some weaknesses. We also know that we are working hard every day, not just in government, and not just at the federal government, but around the country to deal with it in a positive way.
WOODRUFF: All right, Governor Tom Ridge, director of homeland security, traveling with the president in North Carolina, good to see you. Thanks very much. RIDGE: Good talking to you. Thank you very much. All right.
WOODRUFF: Thank you.
Meantime, after many months of keeping a low profile -- here's a name -- former Vice President Al Gore may be hoping to generate some buzz.
Our senior political correspondent Candy Crowley here.
All right, Candy, what is going on with Mr. Gore?
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, a couple of things.
Tomorrow, he is going to announce the newly refurbished Political Action Committee 2002, which basically is something that he has packed with 20- and 30-somethings, Gore loyalists. And he is going to help raise some money and hopefully turn the House back over to the Democrats come this fall.
Then, Saturday, he is giving a speech to the Tennessee State Democrats. Those around him, those who know him, say: Boy, this is an important speech. This is where he launched his candidacy, at least one of the times. It's his home state. And it's personal this time, they say. So he is going to be giving a speech to the state party.
WOODRUFF: But some of the people working for Gore act like this is no big deal. What is really going on here? I talked to one of them today and they said: Well, he just doing his due diligence for the people of Tennessee.
CROWLEY: Well, call this conflicting signals.
I think there's a couple things going on here. The first is, I talked to someone fairly close to what is going on who said: Look, you don't do these kind of things unless you are seriously weighing your options. So this Is a way, I think, to push back a little. You know that what you hear in this town, what you hear in Iowa, what you hear in New Hampshire, is: Where is he?
It's getting time, believe it or not. So you have had a couple of people that have been out there. Congressman Gephardt, who would love to be speaker and then love to be the Democratic nominee, he has been in New Hampshire. John Kerry has been in New Hampshire. More importantly, they have been involved in local races, which is what you do in these areas.
John Edwards is going up there this weekend for three days, just to sort of do some sounding up there. This is a way for the Gore people to say: Hey, don't commit too early. Don't commit too early. He is still out there, maybe.
WOODRUFF: Fascinating, isn't it? Candy Crowley, thanks much. And now returning to the State of the Union politics, our Jeff Greenfield is already back in New York with his take of what may be ahead.
JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SR. ANALYST: The big headlines today, of course, are about the not-so-veiled warning that the president issued to Iran and North Korea and especially Iran. But the key political question in the air is the one that has been hanging around for months: Can Mr. Bush translate these extraordinary approval ratings, triggered by the war, into a tool to shape the domestic agenda?
And that leads to a bigger political question: Exactly when and why do presidents get the whip hand politically? And the answer is: not very often and almost always after a landslide election.
(voice-over): Franklin Roosevelt was swept into the White House at the depths of the Great Depression. The country clearly was hungry for an infusion of energy, for a strong executive, for a radically more active federal government.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president of the United States.
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GREENFIELD: Lyndon Johnson won a historic landslide in 1964, swept Democrats into both houses of Congress and briefly had the political wind at his back to get his Great Society vision enacted into law.
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RONALD REAGAN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I, Ronald Reagan...
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GREENFIELD: And Ronald Reagan Reagan's landslide win in 1980, which brought in a Republican Senate, gave him a clear mandate for a conservative economic policy.
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REAGAN: Isn't it time that we tried something new?
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GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: ... so help me God.
GREENFIELD: But George W. Bush came into office under the opposite circumstances, after the most uncertain election outcome possible. It was the attack on America, the sense of national unity and the administration's response that won him his new stature.
That's why both the president and House Democratic leader Gephardt used the same word, security, to make the case for their respective economic views.
BUSH: Once we have funded our national security and our homeland security, the final great priority of my budget is economic security.
REP. RICHARD GEPHARDT (D-MO), MINORITY LEADER: Real security depends not just on justice abroad, but creating good jobs at home.
GREENFIELD: So if President Bush can take the strong support for the war campaign and move it into the domestic political arena, it will be something almost unprecedented in modern American political history. Of course, this whole situation is utterly without precedent -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: Indeed. And he is already on the road trying to do that today.
GREENFIELD: Yes, ma'am.
WOODRUFF: Jeff Greenfield, thanks very much. We will see you later.
Coming up next here, the "Back Page": political analysis of the State of the Union and other top stories from Margaret Carlson and Tucker Carlson.
WOODRUFF: Time now for political analysis from two of our regulars: Margaret Carlson of "TIME" magazine -- she is in New York -- and Tucker Carlson of CNN's "CROSSFIRE" joins me here in Washington.
Tucker, to you first.
New, better-than-expected economic growth figures out today, the Fed announcing that it's not going to cut interest rate any more right now. The fact that the recession may be over sooner than people thought, what are the political implications?
TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST, "CROSSFIRE": Well, boy, you hate to say it out loud, but it's bad news for the Democrats. It just takes one more issue that they would run on in the midterms and makes it disappear.
First, there was the tax cuts are radical are scary. That didn't work. Then there's Enron, which I bet won't work in the end. It will just dissolve into what it is, a business story. And if the economy improves, well, then, the president has won a war and he is presiding over an improving economy. It's hard to run against that.
WOODRUFF: Margaret, bad news for the Democrats? MARGARET CARLSON, "TIME": Well, it's such a big "if," but Democrats should be seen to be rooting for the economy to succeed anyway. And, in fact, it was Bush that used the recession to justify tax cuts that don't really make very much sense.
And, in listening to the speech last night, you cannot figure out a way for all this spending, including spending we were unprepared for on the military and to fight the war, and the deficits that we are now facing. The surplus is gone, deficit spending. And so, even if the recession is over -- and I think it is a huge "if" -- there is still going to be a spending crunch that is not going to justify the tax cuts that the president wants to stick with.
WOODRUFF: Tucker, the State of the Union, domestic and international, was it a win-win for the president?
T. CARLSON: Well, State of the Union addresses are little bit like the Winter Olympics. They are more fun maybe to talk about than they are to watch.
But I think it was a win. Look, the headline out of this speech is obviously this pretty dramatic turn in American foreign policy, naming three countries that we may engage militarily. That's a big deal. Very striking I thought that, in the analysis of it, Democrats the next day are still talking about Enron, which still, in comparison anyway to going after Iraq, Iran and North Korea, seems like a pretty minor topic.
WOODRUFF: But isn't that because of this lawsuit that was announced today by the GAO?
T. CARLSON: Well, absolutely. And that's newsworthy. But, again, in comparison to what I think is the headline from the speech, which is we are turning in the way we look at the world, it's not a big deal.
M. CARLSON: It turns out no one is better than our current commander in chief in saying: We are going to come and get you. Watch out.
And that part of speech was just magnificent. And, in fact, he described the danger again and put me in a state of highest alert by saying there's still all these 10,000 terrorists that have been trained that are still out there and have plans of our nuclear plants. That was quite dramatic. So he kept us on this war footing.
But when he changed to the second half of the speech at about 9:40, it got vaguer. There was a list of things he wants to do, but no specifics about how to do it. And it looks as if he is not spending this huge popularity he has to do anything that is not in keeping with the conservative dreams of his party: tax cuts; privatizing Social Security.
The biggest contradiction in the speech was to say that Enron -- in fact, without mentioning Enron -- as a result of that, we needed to look at 401(k)s and reform them, and then saying, "But, at the same time, we should privatize Social Security," in which we will simply make an Enron for everybody in the country.
WOODRUFF: Quickly, who is going to win the Enron-White House standoff? You each get a one-word answer.
T. CARLSON: Oh, I'm naive enough to think they are taking a stand on principle and that there's nothing there. And they will ultimately lose and the documents will come out and there will be no headline in them.
WOODRUFF: Margaret, one word.
M. CARLSON: Well, they are making it sound like a priest confession situation, which is not a principle I know about in the White House. And they will lose. They should gracefully concede now.
WOODRUFF: All right, Margaret Carlson, Tucker Carlson, we are writing this down.
M. CARLSON: Thanks, Judy.
WOODRUFF: We'll see you again next week.
T. CARLSON: Thanks, Judy.
WOODRUFF: Thank you both.
A preview of what is ahead on tomorrow's INSIDE POLITICS when we return, including a subway ride with Senator John McCain.
WOODRUFF: Here now a preview of some of the stories in the works for tomorrow's INSIDE POLITICS: Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle will join me to discuss the Washington political agenda. And our Jonathan Karl hops the capital subway with Senator John McCain: the senator's views on campaign finance reform after Enron and why he thinks the White House should go public with its energy task force records.
And we want to tell you, coming up shortly on CNN, we are expecting from Karachi, Pakistan our Bed Wedeman to interview the wife of Daniel Pearl. He is the "Wall Street Journal" reporter kidnapped over a week ago by extremist terrorists in Pakistan. A new threat on his life today, saying unless their demands are met, they will kill him within 24 hours. Again, coming up shortly, an interview with Daniel Pearl's wife.
CNN's coverage continues now with "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS: AMERICA STRIKES BACK". Thank you for joining us. I'm Judy Woodruff.
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