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Should Mentally Retarded Killers be Executed?; Bush Hears Stories about North Korea; Hot Governor's Races

Aired February 20, 2002 - 17:00   ET


JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Judy Woodruff in Washington. The U.S. Supreme Court revisits the question: should mentally retarded killers be executed?

JOHN KING, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I'm John King with the president at the DMZ, where Mr. Bush takes a look across into North Korea, and hears a story he says convinces him he was right when he labeled it evil.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: I'm Bill Schneider in Washington, with a look at big states, tough ads and hot governors' races.

WOODRUFF: Also ahead, I'll ask author Bernard Goldberg to square his charge that the media have a liberal bias with the great press President Bush has been getting.


: Thank you for joining us. Even among the majority of Americans who favor the death penalty, there are those who believe the execution of mentally retarded killers amounts to cruel and unusual punishment. Today the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court are confronting those concerns, as they review the death sentence of Darryl Atkins -- a Virginia man with an IQ, according to one test, of 59.

Here now, CNN's Jonathan Aiken.


JONATHAN AIKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Darryl Atkins case hinges on whether there is now a national consensus against executing the mentally retarded. President Bush has weighed in opposing such executions, although some critics say two mentally retarded prisoners were executed by the state of Texas while Bush was governor -- a claim the state denies.

In 1989, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that executions of the retarded were constitutional, because there was no national consensus that it was cruel and unusual punishment. On Wednesday, lawyers for Atkins argued both the federal government and 18 of the 38 states with the death penalty on the books won't execute the retarded.

Attorney James Ellis argued, people in all parts of the United States have reached a consensus. Justice Antonin Scalia was skeptical. "We have to be very careful," he said, "about finding a new consensus. We can't go back."

Pamela Rumps, Virginia's assistant attorney general, called the prohibitions against the execution of the retarded so recent, they're just blips on the radar screen. And she continued: "If Osama bin Laden came to the United States for trial and was deemed mentally retarded, that blip would disappear entirely.

The court's decision could affect up to 10 percent of the 3,700 people on death rows across America.

(on camera): The ruling, when it comes, could affect the cases of 370 of the nation's 3,700 death row inmates. It's thought that about 10 percent of the death row population in America is mentally retarded. A decision against executing the mentally retarded could also put courts in the interesting position of having to decide how to diagnose and define mental retardation. That is a position no court at any level would like it find itself in.

Jonathan Aiken for CNN, the Supreme Court.


WOODRUFF: Another issue before the High Court today drew protesters and stirred emotions. The justices are reviewing Cleveland's experimental voucher program to help pay tuition at private or religious schools. A lower court ruled the program violates the constitutional separation of church and state.

Today's arguments before the High Court were echoed outside the building.


KEN STARR, OUTSIDE COUNSEL, STATE OF OHIO: These are parents who care about their children. They are trying to save their children. They want their children to get a good education and a safe and loving environment. Is that too much to ask?



HOLLYN HOLLMAN, BAPTIST JOINT COMMITTEE: The question is not whether students in Cleveland or anywhere else deserve a quality education. Clearly they do. The question is whether the state can subsidize religious indoctrination in parochial schools. In our view, the Constitution forbids such funding. The First Amendment should not be sacrificed in the name of education reform.

(END VIDEO CLIP) WOODRUFF: The Supreme Court is expected to rule in June. And that ruling could have a considerable affect on the future of school voucher programs, which are supported by President Bush.

And now to the president's Asian tour. Security has been stepped up in the Chinese capital, before Mr. Bush's arrival there, about five hours from now. Right now the president is preparing to wrap up his visit to South Korea -- a visit colored, and some might say, clouded, by Mr. Bush's "axis of evil" comment.

Nonetheless, as our John King reports, the president himself brought up the "e" world while viewing a symbol of the tensions in Korea.


KING: The president's path reflecting the very delicate balance he faces as he travels here in South Korea. Here at the DMZ, Mr. Bush visited the outpost and looked across the 2-and-a-half-mile stretch into North Korea. While there, he was told the story -- told that two axes on display in a museum just over the northern side of the DMZ.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They have a peace museum there, and the axes that were used to slaughter two U.S. soldiers are in the peace museum. No wonder I think they're evil.

KING (voice-over): But earlier in his talks with the South Korean president, Kim Dae Jung, Mr. Bush enthusiastically embraced the South's so-called sunshine policy, aimed eventually at reunification with the North.

To illustrate his support for President Kim, both presidents visited the Doresan (ph) train station. Part of President Kim's efforts to build increased economic and cultural ties, it is a railway that stops just short of the DMZ, because the north has refused to complete its part. Mr. Bush spoke then of the personal toll on both sides of the DMZ, nearly 50 years after the war ended.

BUSH: Korean children should never starve while a massive army is fed. No nation should be a prison for its own people.

KING: At his news conference with President Kim, Mr. Bush said the United States had no intention of invading the North. But he also called it a despotic regime, and said it must end its exports of missile technology and curve its chemical and biological weapons program.

BUSH: Therefore, I think the burden of proof is on the North Korean leader, to prove that he does truly care about people, and that he is not going to there our neighbor.

KING (on camera): The visit to the DMZ is a tradition for any U.S. president while here in South Korea. But this trip drew all the more attention because of Mr. Bush's labeling the North part of an axis of evil. So, as the president toured a place he calls one of the most dangerous places on earth, his host, the South Korean government, worried it is all the more dangerous now because of Mr. Bush's tough talk.

John King, CNN, at Camp Monifest (ph), South Korea, on the southern perimeter of the DMZ.


WOODRUFF: John referring to the delicate balance Mr. Bush has tried to strike in South Korea -- a balance underscored by dueling newspaper headlines in this country today. "The New York Times" headline: "Bush Says the U.S. Plans No Attack on North Korea." That story emphasized the president's attempt to be reassuring.

Meanwhile, "The Washington Post" headline: "President Has Tough Words for North Korea" drove home the pressure Mr. Bush is putting on members of what he calls the axis of evil.

Well, obviously there is some controversy surrounding Mr. Bush's trip to Asia. But as he prepares to leave for China, our Bruce Morton's thoughts turned to an unprecedented presidential trip 30 years ago. The trip, it has been said, only Richard Nixon could make.


BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Ping-pong came first, then the secret visit by Henry Kissinger, who faked illness during a stop in Pakistan and flew to Beijing.

HENRY KISSINGER, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: We didn't even know who to approach in China.

MORTON: And then it happened: no aides to clutter the picture, Richard Nixon, leader of the free world in that Cold War time, shaking hands with Chinese Prime Minister Chou En-lai. A meeting later with Chairman Mao Tse-Tung, in poor health. Some late moments touring the Great Wall -- and it is, Nixon assured his hosts, a great wall. Mrs. Nixon went to the zoo and the Chinese gave America two pandas.

But the point was power -- bringing China into the world as a way of limiting the Soviet Union's reach.

BATES GILL, BROOKINGS INSTITUTE: And the fact that he made this dramatic decision to try to reconfigure the balance of power in the international system, and draw China out of its cultural revolution isolation, was truly remarkable.

MORTON: It worked. Detente with the Soviet Union followed. Other U.S. presidents went to China, Deng Xiao Ping liberalized China's economic policies. Human rights, ups and downs. Tiananmen's Square in 1989, arrests of Falun Gong members. But the two countries have kept talking.

Secretary of State Colin Powell first visited in 1973, a few months after Nixon, as a young lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army. He talked about the relationship in Shanghai last fall.

COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: If there is a basis of trust, if there is a common understanding of each other's interests, we can pursue those areas where we have an agreement, and make good things happen. And when we disagree, we can disagree openly and candidly, face to face.

GILL: The past 30 years have witnessed a dramatic transformation, not only of U.S.-China relations, but even more significantly, inside China.

MORTON: Per capita income then, $130. Now $846. Chinese students in the U.S., hardly any then. Fifty-four thousand now. Probably only a conservative president could have made the trip without suffering politically at home. Nixon's people called it then the "week that changed the world." And it really did. Bruce Morton, CNN, Washington.


WOODRUFF: Here in the United States, the big D is under new management. Up next, the new mayor of Dallas, Laura Miller, goes on the record about her transition from journalist to politician.

What is the state of the national divisions that were so evident in the 2000 presidential race? We will revisit the reds versus the blues.

And, have the big media outlets failed to turn the cameras and scrutiny on themselves? This is INSIDE POLITICS.



MAYOR LAURA MILLER (D), DALLAS: ... But I certainly can get to the bottom of things quickly, and I know what questions to ask. And that always helps in government.

WOODRUFF: You said during your campaign, among other things, you said that you would take care of the little things that make a big difference in people's lives. What's an example of some of the little things that you plan to tackle?

MILLER: You know, Dallas, which is a relatively new city, has an enormous problem with potholes, and just the aging infrastructure of a big city like Dallas. And people are just so tired of feeling like city hall is only focused down here on big projects, like a new sports arena or a new performing arts center, and that they don't take care of the little things like the potholes.

And so I feel like they do, and I did when I was a journalist, and I did as city council member for three and a half years. And I certainly feel like now that I'm mayor.

WOODRUFF: And now -- but that doesn't mean no big new project?

MILLER: No. In fact, I just left a meeting with a group that wants to do a large mix-use development, very expensive, $600 million effort. And they want some help from city hall. So, of course, you have to have a mixture of big and little projects. But you can't be so focused on big ticket items, and putting all your money in big ticket items, and have the residents and the other existing businesses feel that they're being left out, and that they're not getting any of city hall's resources.

And that's when you start to have a problem.

WOODRUFF: You, during the campaign and previously, you've been critical of the city council. At one point, you were quoted as saying the city council members were brain dead. Only 1 of 15 council members endorsed you. Are you going to be able to work with these people?

MILLER: Yeah. There were six council members who endorsed my opponent. And that was kind of the safe thing to do. You know, Tom Dunning is a very nice man. My opponent has been a civic leader in Dallas for many years, and change is hard. I think some of my colleagues realize that things are going to be different with me as mayor. I still use a reporter notebook when I sit at city hall meetings, which unnerves a couple of people.

But several of them, most of them I've talked to since the election, they all said: Laura, we worked with you on the city council when you were there. You're back now. Welcome back, and let's get to work. So I think it's going to be a very positive, good experience for all of us.

WOODRUFF: The Enron scandal obviously affects another big city in Texas, Houston. Has it had any effect on Dallas?

MILLER: It's had an effect only because it's just another example of our economy going into a tailspin. And it certainly has been in the news here every single day. And we've all been watching it with great interest, and some horror. It's a very, very tragic economic story.

WOODRUFF: You received campaign contribution, in fact, from Enron's law firm, Vinson & Elkins. I think it was $5,000. Is this money that you're going to keep?

MILLER: Yes. Vinson and Elkins does a lot of work here in Dallas. They do lot of projects with city bond money, and so they are a regular contributor to the Dallas city council and past mayors. I know them very well and I have no discomfort accepting a contribution from them at all.

WOODRUFF: Your opponents criticized you during this campaign as being too confrontational. I saw a quote from one supporter who said that you're like "a gunfighter at the Okay Coral." Where did all this come from?

MILLER: You know, I grew up the Northeast. And...

WOODRUFF: Where? MILLER: I grew up in Connecticut and Massachusetts. And I just remember as a kid, feeling very strongly about right and wrong, and about making sure that everybody is on the same level and gets the same opportunities. And when I see that that's not the case, if I see that someone is getting an advantage over someone else for no good reason, I get passionate about that.

And I want everyone to have a chance to prosper and be successful and have access to government, and feel like they're being taken care of by government. And when I don't see that, then I do something about it. And I'm very passionate and hard working about it.

WOODRUFF: Let me ask you, finally, about your family. At one point, I saw you say that your husband told you that if you ran, you'd have to run as a single mother. How hard was it to persuade him and the children to be behind you in this race?

MILLER: Well, it was very difficult, and it took several months. But in politics, you usually get one shot at something, and I felt like this was my time. I felt like citizens were ready for a change at city hall. And I wanted to do it. I wanted to see if I could make a difference. So it took some persuading, and we had meetings every night around my dinner table with a big chalkboard, and we wrote down the pros and cons of "Mommy running for mayor." And we did do it.

And it's been disruptive. It's not easy to do something like this, when you have three small children. But my husband has been incredibly supportive. And he is a wonderful partner for me. He's the smartest politician, has the most integrity of any politician I know. And so he has been the reason why I was allowed to run.

WOODRUFF: And what do the children think? They're what, 11, 9 and 6?

MILLER: Well, luckily there's one thing that's about to happen in Dallas. N'Sync is coming on March 20th to Dallas for a concert. And so, the thing that my children were most excited about is that perhaps, if Mommy was mayor, that they could meet N'Sync and give them a key to the city. So that's what's keeping my kids in check on this mayor election.


WOODRUFF: All right. Laura Miller, about to be mayor of the city of Dallas. Congratulations again, and thank you for joining us.

MILLER: Thank you very much for having me.

WOODRUFF: And we hope N'Sync doesn't let Mayor Miller's children down, of course.

Well, some New Yorkers are wondering where their new mayor has been. Michael Bloomberg spent a three-day weekend at an undisclosed location, as we see in this headline from "The New York Daily News." He got a little testy yesterday with the media over questions about his absence. Today, a more light-hearted response. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, NEW YORK CITY: I think it's a fair statement to say that if I won't discuss my personal life, I also won't discuss the coverage of the fact that I won't discuss my personal life.


WOODRUFF: A source at city hall says the mayor was in Bermuda, where he has a home. Maybe he'll get one vacation, but only one.

When we come back, we'll hear what the Carlsons -- Margaret Carlson and Tucker Carlson -- have to say about some of the top issues of the day.

Plus, the situation in the Middle East takes another violent turn. We'll have the latest.


WOODRUFF: Checking the stories of today's INSIDE POLITICS news cycle, Israel today launches deadly new attacks on Palestinian targets in Gaza and the West Bank, after a Palestinian attack killed six Israeli soldiers. Sources in the Israeli government say they believe Israel is now involved in a full-scale guerrilla war with the Palestinians.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld paid a visit today to the Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City. Rumsfeld thanked the U.S. troops who were providing security for the Games.

And President Bush is getting to meet with U.S. troops in South Korea. Earlier today, he made a stop in the demilitarized zone that divides the Korean peninsula. A little later today, Mr. Bush will wrap up his visit to South Korea and fly to China's capital, Beijing.

Joining us now to talk about some of the issues of the day, Margaret Carlson of "TIME" magazine and Tucker Carlson of CNN's "CROSSFIRE." Margaret, to you first. The Supreme Court today considered the case. And what they've got to decide is whether it is constitutional to use government vouchers to pay for private or religious school education. What should they do?

MARGARET CARLSON, "TIME": The case is turning on that issue, it seems, even though the voucher program was structured so that the vouchers could be used anywhere. It just turned out that the suburban schools wouldn't accept the vouchers. The private schools cost too much for the vouchers to cover it. And so the religious schools were the ones that got the students with the vouchers.

There should be something for poor students in bad schools to do while the public schools are being fixed. This was not a bad program, and the parents who in it were thrilled with it because they were getting a better education. The problem is, let's get the suburban schools to accept the vouchers, rather than bring it down to a church- state problem.

TUCKER CARLSON, "CROSSFIRE": And I agree with that. The vouchers are less than three grand a piece, and it's not even so much a matter of overcoming the snobbishness of suburban schools, as recognizing that $2,500, $3,000 is not enough to send your child to a private school. And parochial schools are really the only schools available at that level.

But I do think the church-state thing is a lit bit of cover, basically, for teachers unions that are upset about vouchers in general, because they obviously threaten the cartel that they maintain. So the idea that somehow the federal government -- or the state of Ohio is subsidizing religious institutions is completely beside the point, and I think, sort of phony for opponents of vouchers to argue.

WOODRUFF: While we're talking about church and state, Attorney General John Ashcroft, Margaret, yesterday described in a speech, the war on terrorism in religious terms. He talked about how it is grounded in a faith in God. Is this appropriate language for the attorney general? Some people are making a big issue out of this.

M. CARLSON: Well, the president has been at pains not to make it religious, and not to aim at any -- at Islam as religion, but at a narrow segment of a group of people using religion as an excuse for murdering people. The attorney general has a history now of using his bully pulpit, as attorney general, as a pulpit. He has prayer sessions every morning in his office.

He doesn't agree, apparently, with pluralism. He believes that there is one form of religion. It should be practiced and it should be practiced as an official matter of state. He is a Pentecostal person.

T. CARLSON: Wait a second, there.

M. CARLSON: He is the son of a Pentecostal minister. When he came -- this country was founded on religious freedom. John Ashcroft wouldn't be able to practice his religion if there...


M. CARLSON: If there had not been a revolutionary war, and the Church of England had not given way to a secular society, in which no religion was favored over another.

T. CARLSON: Half of which is true, half of which is totally untrue. If you read what Ashcroft said, it's the most Ecumenical possible statement. IT's also totally non-controversial. He's basically saying God is against terrorism. Well, perhaps you could find fault with that. Most people wouldn't.

And he goes, really, to almost ludicrous lengths to say we're all in this together -- Christians, Jews, Muslims -- we're all united. Those of you know, of faith, not of one true faith, but of faith, against terrorism. WOODRUFF: But what about Margaret's point, that the president has taken pains not to do this, the president has?

T. CARLSON: Clearly, he has. But I must say, Ashcroft, who maybe, for political reasons, ought not to talk about God in general -- but if you read what he says strictly in these remarks, he is saying that all the faiths, not just one, ought to be against terrorism. And I think, if anybody but John Ashcroft had uttered it, you wouldn't hear a word. If Joe Lieberman had said it, nobody would say anything.

M. CARLSON: What I would suggest is that Tucker Carlson write John Ashcroft's speeches, because that is not what he said, not as clearly as you, Tucker.

WOODRUFF: We may have to get the transcript and dissect this the next time we are with you both. All right, Margaret Carlson, Tucker Carlson, thank you both.

M. CARLSON: Thanks, Judy.

WOODRUFF: Coming up next: The United States is more unified since the September terrorist attacks, but a number of issues still sharply divide American voters. And we will get the "Inside Buzz" on former Vice President Al Gore and his activities.


WOODRUFF: Some "Inside Buzz" from our Candy Crowley: A Democratic source tells her that Al Gore held a private fund-raiser last night at his home in Virginia to add cash to his leadership pact. The source says Gore exceeded his goal of raising $100,000 in hard money. Candy also has learned that Gore plans to hold an open fund- raiser at a Washington brewery on Friday in an effort to court young professionals.

While the United States has been more united since September 11, the old divides that help shape presidential politics are still strong.

Jill Lawrence of "USA Today" has been looking into the issues that still sharply divide Americans. She visited and focused on two cities where she says the divide plays out vividly: Montclair, New Jersey and Franklin, Tennessee.

Jill Lawrence talked more about her findings in an interview with me just a short time ago.

WOODRUFF: My first question, why Montclair and Franklin?


JILL LAWRENCE, "USA TODAY": Well, we were looking for towns that represented each side of the election cycle in 2000, where half the country vote for Al Gore, half the country voted for George Bush. And although the election didn't turn on religion or guns or abortion or these hot-button issues, that was what differentiated one side from the other, ultimately. And so Montclair, Al Gore's vote was mostly urban. Montclair is almost like a slice of New York City in the New Jersey suburbs. It's 12 miles west of New York.

Franklin is south of Nashville. And it's a real combination of religious conservatives and economic, business-oriented conservatives. So it had all kinds of George Bush's base there.

WOODRUFF: Any similarities between the towns?

LAWRENCE: The town are about the same size. They are both very will educated, a lot of professionals, both interested in good schools. And so we thought, well, holding all these things equal, let's see why three-quarters of Montclair voted for Al Gore and two- thirds of Franklin, Tennessee voted for George Bush.

WOODRUFF: And, in a nutshell, what did you find?

LAWRENCE: Well, religion and morality matter a lot in Franklin, and also tax policy. It's this combination of religious and economic.

In Montclair, they are really concerned, what is your resume? Are you smart? Do you agree with them on issues? You know, it's a much different set of values.

WOODRUFF: One of the things that was striking in the piece that ran today, Wednesday, in "USA Today," it is pretty clear that, after September 11 attacks, for all the high approval ratings the president is getting, these towns are just as divided as they were before. How do you explain that?

LAWRENCE: Well, I think what we found was that the mood in both places changed considerably. And patriotism really was on the rise in both places.

But their attitudes are even coming through in terms of the war and in terms of what actions the U.S. should take. And what is really striking is, Montclair is so close to ground zero that we were there and watched the towers burning from a point right above Montclair. And they had seven people killed in the towers. And yet, you know, they have more doubts about the war. They have more doubts about casualties. They have more doubts about the president, you know, all of the ambivalence about what we contribute to this hatred. Maybe it was some, partly, our fault.

WOODRUFF: Meaning the United States.

LAWRENCE: Right. And so that's very ingrained in the politics up there.

WOODRUFF: So, again, for those who would look at the president's approval ratings and say, well, the country is coming together behind his policies, what would you say, having looked at these two very different locations? LAWRENCE: I would say it is a long time until 2004. And, you know, people want to be behind the president. And they want the country to look united and be strong.

That doesn't mean they are going to vote for him. That doesn't mean they approve of his tax cut in Montclair. It certainly does mean that in Franklin. They are very happy with their choice. They are very pleased with who they voted for. They think he is doing a great job. And so that's the difference with September 11.


WOODRUFF: And you can read more about Jill Lawrence's findings on the newspaper's Web site. You can log on to and click on "A Nation Divided."

Well, CNN senior political analyst Bill Schneider is here now with a look at what the polls are saying about some key state primary elections that are coming up.

All right, Bill, you have been looking.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: I have indeed. And mark your calender: big primaries for governor coming up next month in the two largest states. The ads are coming out. The polls are coming in. And let's take a look.


(voice-over): March 5, California, try to wrap your mind around this concept. A moderate Republican from New York City, pro abortion rights, pro gay rights, pro gun control, is trying to sell businessman Bill Simon to conservatives in California.


RUDOLPH GIULIANI (R), FORMER MAYOR OF NEW YORK: I wanted to tell you about one candidate for governor of California who stands out from the rest: conservative Republican Bill Simon.


SCHNEIDER: Meanwhile, Governor Gray Davis, unopposed in the Democratic primary, is running ads against former L.A. Mayor Dick Riordan, whom he would very much like to see not win the Republican primary. And whom does Davis cite in his ad? Why, a former Republican governor who says he won't support Riordan.


ANNOUNCER: Former Governor George Deukmejian said Riordan tries be all things to all people and questioned his commitment to principles.

(END VIDEO CLIP) SCHNEIDER: March 12, Texas: Polls show wealthy businessman Tony Sanchez has opened up a lead over former Attorney General Dan Morales. With two Hispanics running, it's no surprise they are running Spanish- language ads. Here Sanchez telling Hispanic voters, "I know firsthand the importance of getting a good education and finding a descent job."

Sanchez owes his lead to Hispanic voters, where he is running 20 points ahead of Morales. When he speaks English, however, Sanchez has a more conservative message. He may a Democrat, but this is Texas.


TONY SANCHEZ (D), TEXAS GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: As governor, I will protect Texas values, cut waste, keep taxes down, help businesses create jobs, and bring better accountability to education.


SCHNEIDER: Now that he is in the lead, Sanchez refuses to debate. And that's given Morales an issue.


SCHNEIDER: Notice that none of the ads mention September 11. The closest they get to the terrorist attacks is the use of Rudy Giuliani. The war on terrorism is a presidential issue. No candidate for governor wants to touch it -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: We are finding that out.

SCHNEIDER: Yes, indeed.

WOODRUFF: All right, Bill Schneider on the campaign trail.

And some headline, more headlines from the campaign trail: Former heavyweight boxing champion Evander Holyfield will enter the political ring Saturday night. He will host a fund-raiser in his Atlanta-area home for Georgia State Senator David Scott, who is seeking the Democratic congressional nomination in the state's new 13th District.

Democratic Senator Tim Johnson of South Dakota says he is -- quote -- "disappointed" by a new Republican ad attacking his record. And he denies the ad's charge that he voted against the president's tax cut. The spot begins airing today across South Dakota. The National Republican Senatorial Committee says the buy is substantial.

And, finally, Senator Joe Lieberman turning up the heat on President Bush's environmental record: In California today, the potential 2004 presidential hopeful said he will hold hearings on Mr. Bush's environmental record next month. Our Candy Crowley will have more on Lieberman's swing through the Golden State tomorrow on INSIDE POLITICS.

Question: Should giant media companies in the United States get any bigger? Our Jeff Greenfield weighs in on that issue when we return.


WOODRUFF: In the United States, media companies could soon be facing another round of merger mania. But how big is too big?

That's the issue our Jeff Greenfield is focussing on today.

JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SR. ANALYST: One of the sayings journalists love to quote is that it is our job to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. In other words, it is our job to ask tough questions about those who hold power: big government, big business, big labor.

Well, today, there is a tough question to ask about another powerful institution, one the media don't always cover all that carefully: big media.


(voice-over): The question: Just how big should big media be? Until now, the government, in the form of the Federal Communications Commission, has set some clear limits. For instance, AOL Time Warner, the parent company of CNN, also owns cable systems in New York City and others.

The rules say AOL Time Warner cannot own a broadcast TV station in any of those cities. Similarly, Comcast, the Philadelphia-based cable giant that is about to grow even bigger with its takeover of AT&T Broadband, cannot own broadcast stations in any of the cities it serves. And because broadcast networks, ABC, CBS, NBC, own stations, that rule has effectively barred cable giants from owning broadcast networks.

But, yesterday, a federal appeals court in Washington, D.C. threw out that rule. It was, they said, arbitrary, capricious. That's lawyer talk for: The rule makes no sense. So what? Well, unless the U.S. Supreme Court steps in -- and that's highly unlikely -- it means that a new wave of media mega-mergers are coming.

Would AOL Time Warner want to buy NBC? Would Bill Gates, whose Microsoft company partners with Comcast, want to buy Disney's ABC? And that same federal court, not so incidentally, also hinted strongly that another rule ought to be scrapped: the rule that keeps an owner from buying TV stations that reach more than one-third or so of U.S. households.


GREENFIELD: Now, all of this raises the same kind of question that the press often asks about other big businesses. For instance, should the government step in and tell, say, General Motors or Microsoft or any other company that, at some point, its size and power need to be checked?

Well, if so, is the new competitive media world protection enough for the consumer? Or is it a cause for concern that the biggest media companies may now grow ever bigger? It will be fascinating to see how we journalists deal or do not deal with this question -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Hmm, yes, it will. You have certainly raised it here.

Jeff Greenfield, thanks very much. We'll see you tomorrow.

GREENFIELD: OK, I think my phone is ringing from the headquarters. I will be right back.



Well, from the size of the media to its ideology. You've heard the charge before: The news media are liberal. Up next, we will examine that claim with the author of the new book "Bias" and ask if he still believes it is true.


WOODRUFF: "Blame the media." It has been a popular slogan for decades among some conservatives, many whom see the news media as a liberal bastion.

Well, former CBS reporter Bernard Goldberg makes that case in his new book, which the President Bush has apparently read.


(voice-over): President Bush heading off to Camp David last month, and what is that tucked under his arm? A copy of Bernard Goldberg's new book, "Bias," which describes the news media as a kind of liberal mafia. So, has the 43rd president been a victim of media bias?

The Project for Excellence in Journalism has been studying that question since the 2000 campaign. In the final days of campaign 2000, the group found the media was strikingly negative in its coverage of both candidates. But Bush fared better than his rival. The study found 56 percent of the stories about Al Gore were negative in tone. For George Bush, it was 49 percent.

Fast forward to the first 100 days. Despite the controversy over the way the election was decided, just 28 percent of stories about President Bush were negative, identical to the coverage of Bill Clinton in his first 100 days.

Later, in the aftermath of September 11, media criticism of the administration's policies virtually disappeared, with fewer than 10 percent of all stories falling into the critical category.


And "Bias" author Bernard Goldberg joins me now.

And we're delighted to have you with us.

BERNARD GOLDBERG, AUTHOR, "BIAS": Hi, Judy. My pleasure.

WOODRUFF: Thanks for being here.

Does that thesis still hold up when you look at how the press has covered George Bush in the campaign and as president?

GOLDBERG: I make this point very clear in the book. And I think it is an important point: that I'm not talking about how the media covers politics. I'm not talking about going easy on Democrats and tough on Republicans.

The media elites, especially in this town, would run over their liberal grandmas if they thought it would help their careers. I'm talking about how they cover the big social issues of our time, from feminism and gay rights and civil rights and things like that. But I'm not surprised by this, by what we just saw. It is not, in my view, about how they cover politics.

WOODRUFF: But aren't some of those issues, as you saw, the great social issues of our time, part of a presidential campaign?

GOLDBERG: Well, yes. And sometimes they do overlap.

For instance, in a homeless story, not only did we get it all wrong in terms of the numbers, which we exaggerated wildly.

WOODRUFF: And when you say we, you mean?

GOLDBERG: We in the media.

WOODRUFF: Everybody?

GOLDBERG: No, I'm talking about the big media, the big TV media, basically.

We got the numbers all wrong, intentionally, I think. We said that the homeless looked just like you and me, which they didn't. But here is an example where politics may be an issue. There were far, far more stories about homelessness when Ronald Reagan was president than when Bill Clinton was president. And I have a feeling we are going to start to see more homeless stories now that George Bush is president.

But I'm not a conspiratorialist. I don't think there are any conspiracies. I think it is mainly about how the media sees the big issues. But it's not a political thing, mainly.

WOODRUFF: The surveys that I have seen over the years, Bernie Goldberg, over the years, including one that was done by the Freedom Forum a few years ago, do show that more people going into the media -- or people going into the media, more of them consider themselves Democrats than something else, than moderate or conservative.

If you accept that premise, isn't the real issue here whether reporters, journalists, are able to put that in the background and do their jobs?

GOLDBERG: Absolutely. That's absolutely the question.

I don't care. There is nothing in this book that attacks liberal values. Frankly, I wouldn't care if 99 percent of the reporters in this town and in New York were liberals. I don't care -- except, in the real world, that's how we see things based on how we grew up and what our views are on a whole bunch of issues.

That's presumably why we think diversity is so important. We don't want stories simply from the perspective of white men. That's why we have women, white men, black men, black women, Hispanics, Asians, gays, straights. But I don't think -- I don't think there is as much diversity of opinion as there is diversity of appearance.

WOODRUFF: What do you think should be done about what you see as a huge problem? And your book has been the No. 1 bestseller on "The New York Times"' list for, you just told me five weeks. A lot of people are reading this. What's the solution?

GOLDBERG: This could be fixed by tonight. They just have to start to expand how they look at the issues.

For instance, if it is a women's issue, go to NOW. I don't have a problem with that. But why not also go to a conservative women's group? And, by the way, if you are going to go to a conservative women's group, and you will always identify that group as conservative women's group, then let's identify NOW as a liberal group.

It is very fixable, but only, only as, the psychiatrists and psychologists say, first you have to acknowledge there is a problem. And they won't acknowledge there is a problem. They won't acknowledge that this book exists.

WOODRUFF: They meaning -- now you're talking about...

GOLDBERG: The three networks...

WOODRUFF: The three networks.

GOLDBERG: ... will not acknowledge that this book exists. And I mean that literally.

WOODRUFF: But my impression is that, more and more, if not all the time now, news media are going to both sides. When you do something as hot, as volatile a subject as abortion, as feminism, you do hear from both sides.

GOLDBERG: Well, on abortion, I think you do, because you sort of have to.

But, if you go back and look at how many times we go to NOW vs. how many times we go to a group like the Concerned Women of America, which has probably more members than NOW, it isn't even close. And, again, no conspiracy. I'm not talking about bad people who come in in the morning and say, "How am I going to stick it to conservatives?" It is just their frame of reference. It's how they see the world. And if they see it through a liberal prism, going to NOW makes more sense than going to the Concerned Women of America.

WOODRUFF: All right, the book is "Bias." The author is Bernard Goldberg.

And we thank you very much for being with us.

GOLDBERG: Thanks, Judy.

WOODRUFF: We will be watching you out on the talk circuit. We have seen you interviewed in a lot of places.

GOLDBERG: Don't be too close. In case the sniper misses me, I don't want him to get you by accident.


WOODRUFF: OK. Thanks very much.

Well, out of the shadows and into the spotlight: Up next, Vice President Cheney's late-night excursion at a well-disclosed location.


WOODRUFF: Finally, Vice President Dick Cheney's post-September 11 stealthiness has become a running joke, sort of. But last night, the vice president had the chance to get the last laugh when he appeared on "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno."


JAY LENO, HOST: I've been fascinated in the last few months watching your reputation as you go from, like, this one undisclosed location to the other. Like, Saturday's "New York Times," it says "Mr. Cheney has taken on a James Bond-like aura."


LENO: Do you see yourself as that role?

CHENEY: There are certain elements of the Bond lifestyle I have yet to experience.


CHENEY: But I'm hopeful.

LENO: Could you say your name like he does?

CHENEY: Dick, Dick Cheney.


WOODRUFF: I wonder what elements he's talking about?

CNN's coverage continues now with "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS." Thank you for joining us. I'm Judy Woodruff.




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