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Shanley Chooses Not to Fight Extradition to MA; Bush Urges Senate Democrats to Act Quickly on Judicial Nominees; Interview With Orrin Hatch

Aired May 3, 2002 - 16:00   ET


JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Judy Woodruff in Washington. There are new developments in the priest abuse scandal. And we will have a closer look at a terrible failure in Florida's child welfare system.

JOHN KING, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I'm John King at the White House. President Bush says the Democrats in the Senate are doing the country an injustice by not acting more quickly and more positively on his nominees for the federal bench.

JONATHAN KARL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Jonathan Karl on the Capitol subway where I spoke with a conservative Republican who's picking a fight with his party on the issue of cloning.

WOODRUFF: Plus, "The Daily Show's" Jon Stewart on politics, the media and making people laugh.


WOODRUFF: We begin with two major stories that represent apparent failures on the part of both church and state to protect the most vulnerable among us. First to Massachusetts, where at this hour, a meeting of about 100 Boston area priests is just wrapping up. The gathering, called the priest forum, was billed as a day of reflection. The recent child sex abuse scandals were expected to be the focus of discussion.

Meanwhile in California, retired priest Paul Shanley waived his right today to fight extradition, clearing the way for his return to Massachusetts. Shanley has been accused of raping a young boy in the 1980s during his time as a priest near Boston.

Also today, acting Massachusetts Governor Jane Swift signed a bill into law requiring clergy to report any knowledge of past and present child sexual abuse. Nationwide, many Americans and Catholics believe the church has mishandled the abuse problem. A CNN-"USA Today"-Gallup poll finds 73 percent of Americans think the church has done a bad job responding to evidence of abuse. Seventy percent of Catholics have the same opinion. Meanwhile in Florida, public attention is focused on a little girl missing and feared dead. State officials say that 5-year-old Rilya Wilson was officially in state care. But she vanished more than a year ago. And allegedly, no one noticed until last week.

Officials plan to use DNA testing to determine if the remains of a girl found in Missouri last year may be those of Wilson. The case has created a storm of controversy. And Governor Jeb Bush has gotten involved. He says that he has faith the state agency involved can be reformed. But he says there is only so much government can do.


GOV. JEB BUSH (R), FLORIDA: To expect government to somehow miraculously deal with the issues of the abandonment of the most powerful instinct that exists, which is for a mom or dad to love their children with all their heart and all their soul and to expect a government bureaucracy to replace that most powerful instinct, I think we're fooling ourselves.


WOODRUFF: With me from Miami for more on this case is Tom Fiedler of the "Miami Herald." Tom, how are people across the state responding to this?

TOM FIEDLER, "MIAMI HERALD": I think this case has really shocked a lot of people. And the initial reaction has been to be very angry at the department of children and families, the government agency that Governor Bush is talking about.

I think his explanation that you just had the clip on there is a little bit simplistic. Because I think while people do recognize that there clearly is a dysfunctional family involved here, that the state's inability to protect that child over the parts 15 months, or for whatever period that child was actually in the state's custody alive, that's really what's at issue.

And what's coming out, what we're finding out now, is that there were several points, in fact as recently as just a couple of months ago, where the state caseworker in charge here was asserting to the court that -- implying that the caseworker had actually had a physical visit with the family and had seen the child.

So there clearly has been some malfeasance or misfeasance on the part of the state agency involved.

WOODRUFF: Tom, hadn't Governor Jeb Bush said earlier on in his term as governor that he would he work on improving the conditions in this child services department?

FIEDLER: Absolutely, he did. This was one of the major tenants of his campaign and of his administration, that he was going to reorganize the department that had had major problems under Governor Chiles before him, and in years before that. So his first effort at attempting to bring private solutions to government was -- he was going to demonstrate it through the reorganization of this particular department. It clearly provides some ammunition for Democrats.

WOODRUFF: And now he is up for reelection this year. Could this be an issue for the Democrats?

FIEDLER: Well, I think there's no question that the Democrats are at least looking at this as we speak, to see if it does hold some potential, to the extent that they can show that he made this a promise, that he would reorganize it and that his approach as a failure, this would present that.

But I think it's awfully early to tell -- and this could be dangerous for Democrats. Because a lot isn't known. And a lot of what this particular family's involvement is to this extent, remains to be told. And it very well just could turn out to be an awful tragedy, that Governor Bush won't be held accountable for.

WOODRUFF: All right. Tom Fiedler of the "Miami Herald." Thank you very much, Tom. We appreciate it.


WOODRUFF: Well, the terrible story of Rilya Wilson is unfortunately nothing new. She is part of a national pattern of abuse and reform that has repeatedly shocked state child welfare systems.


(voice-over): Here in Washington, D.C. there was the case of Brianna Blackmond, a 23-month old girl who was taken out of foster care and given back to her family, then beaten to death in 2000 because she wouldn't sit still to have her hair braided. The case infuriated House Republican whip Tom DeLay, himself a foster parent who pushed to reform the D.C. superior court's family division.

In New York, the terrible 1995 death of 6-year-old Alisa Isquierdo prompted a wholesale reform of the child welfare system. She was savagely beaten by her mother, despite the fact that teachers and neighbors had repeatedly called child protective services to report signs of abuse.

According to estimates from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1,100 children died as a result of abuse and neglect in 1999, the last year for which there are figures. Of those, 12.5 percent, or 138 children, had been previously seen by child protective workers.

The same study found that 3/5 of child abusers were women and of those, 40 percent were under age 30.


As for the front line case workers responsible for preventing such abuse, state statistics found a staggering turnover rate of 22 percent in the year 2000 alone. Many of these front line workers struggle under huge caseloads, some of them hundreds of families per worker.

With me now to talk more about the nation's child welfare agencies, Rob Geen of the Urban Institute. Rob, first of all, when you see some of these terrible stories like the ones we just reported, you would think that this is not such an unusual situation. Is the case of Rilya Wilson so unusual?

ROB GEEN, URBAN INSTITUTE: It is and it isn't. On the one hand, these horrific cases receive a lot of attention and they are things to be concerned about. But they are a very tiny proportion of what occurs in the child welfare agency.

At the same time, it is symptomatic of a much larger problem, that the system is overburdened, overwhelmed, and is failing to protect our nation's most vulnerable children.

WOODRUFF: I saw some numbers this afternoon that surprised me. In the state of Florida alone, in the last two years, 60 children have died from abuse and neglect. Now, are these the kinds of numbers you'd look at in most states around the nation?

GEEN: Florida is not atypical. And their rates of death in foster care don't seem to be any different than other major states with large urban populations. Again, it is a reason for concern.

But I think that the media portrays the child welfare system as being even worse than it is. We have reason to be concerned. But most people don't realize that most children who are abused and neglected don't wind up in foster care.

Most of the children who go into foster care are returned to their parents, usually within a year. Most kids in foster care don't have the multiple placements that we hear, in these horrific placements, of seven or eight times moving from one foster home to another. Most have only one or two.

So I think we don't need to exaggerate the problems to point to some of the weaknesses in the system.

WOODRUFF: And the weaknesses are?

GEEN: Well, some of the most severe, it is a severely underfunded system. Now, advocates will tell you that about every system. But in child welfare, it is even more underfunded than other systems we've looked at.

Also, the funding of the system is not very flexible, so states don't have much opportunity to be innovative.

WOODRUFF: They get federal dollars and they have to...

GEEN: They get federal dollars that are categorical, in the sense that they're to be used for a specific purpose. The large majority of our money goes to kids in out of home placement, or foster care. We don't have much resources to be inventive at the front end of the system, to try to prevent some of these kids from being abused or neglected.

WOODRUFF: So is money the main problem here?

GEEN: Money is part of the problem. The other part of the problem, which you noted in your statistics, are the staffing issues. When a worker has a hundred cases, how do you expect them to be successful? The turnover issues in some states are losing half of their staff in a year.

What that means is you're sending out a young, inexperienced social worker to get their feet wet in a crisis-oriented situation, trying to make life and death decisions. Why should we be surprised that not a hundred percent of their decisions are going to be accurate?

WOODRUFF: A lot of tragedy there and a lot of concern, and something we ought to continue to pay attention to. Rob Geen at the Urban Institute, thanks very much.

GEEN: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: We appreciate your coming in. Thank you.

And now we turn our attention to the debate over cloning. Ahead on INSIDE POLITICS, Senator Orrin Hatch tells our Jon Karl why his cloning decision does not contradict his views on abortion.

Where can you see the powerful and the reporters who cover them acting like dressed up teenagers? Howard Kurtz explains.

But first...


ANNOUNCER: From Comedy Central's world news headquarters in New York, this is "The Daily Show" with Jon Stewart.


WOODRUFF: From Ralph Nader to yours truly, we turn the tables on Jon Stuart of "The Daily Show," next.


WOODRUFF: Jon Stewart and his unique spin on politics are usually seen on Comedy Central's "The Daily Show."


JON STEWART, HOST, "THE DAILY SHOW": How come you're funnier than me?

(LAUGHTER) STEWART: That doesn't seem fair, does it? So you could do my job easily, I could never in a million years do yours.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Well, unless you have -- well, I won't mention the qualifications that are necessary.

STEWART: To be a senator?

MCCAIN: Well, first of all, to run for president, if you're a United States senator, unless you're under indictment or detoxification, you automatically consider yourself a candidate for president of the United States.

STEWART: I didn't realize that. Which one of them is under indictment or detox? I'd be interested to hear about this.

MCCAIN: The 99 other jokers.


MCCAIN: You would qualify, without a doubt.

STEWART: I appreciate that.


WOODRUFF: Jon Stewart and his qualifications are all here to go "On the Record." Jon Stewart, thank you for being with us.

STEWART: What a wonderful program that looks like.

WOODRUFF: You need to watch that program sometime.

STEWART: I really should. How are you?

WOODRUFF: I am well. It's good to see you again. We thank you for stopping by.

STEWART: Thanks for having me. My pleasure.

WOODRUFF: Now, how much fun is it for to you talk to politicians? Or is it?

STEWART: It's a little nerve-racking, because they certainly know a lot more about the subjects than I do. So I get very -- and I get tripped up with actors. You know, I'm always saying, so, your movie opens up on Friday. No, actually it opened up the week previous to that. Right, right, I should read my notes.

But it's fun. Guys like McCain can really speak extemporaneously. A lot of politicians actually will never move off the script, I'm sure as you've seen. And that's not fun for anybody.

WOODRUFF: Well, there are news people who don't move off the script, too.


WOODRUFF: Now, you've had John McCain on. We know you've talked to Ralph Nader. Who are some others that you've had on that, you know, you've really felt...

STEWART: Senator Lieberman was on.


STEWART: Although his breath, quite frankly, a lot of Manischewitz. I could smell it.

We had on quite a few. Senator Dole was our political correspondent during the conventions. And he had a lot of insight. For instance, I would say, who's that guy in the brown jacket there?

He'd go, "Oh, that's George W. Bush. He's running." So he was the one who would clue me in on a lot of the information.

WOODRUFF: If you could pick anybody or any group of people you'd like to talk to, who is on your wish list? Who would you like to talk to that you haven't talked to already?

STEWART: Can I say Destiny's Child? I should probably say someone in the government, right? Someone important, like the secretary of -- I'd like to talk to Wolfowitz about this defense policy issue, or Destiny's Child, because they're hot.

You know, it's difficult for me because I find that when you don't live in Washington and you're sort of out of the zone, your passions move very quickly in and out.

You know, when the Enron story broke, that's what I wanted to talk about. You know, you want to go immediately after that. But we don't have access to those people. So we end up getting people, you know, a couple of weeks after the tide has broken.

WOODRUFF: How do you know when you go after a story, whether it's Enron or something like that, that it's going will be funny? I mean, can you just test it on your own staff and know for sure?

STEWART: I do the entire show into a mirror with a hair brush before the -- and whatever comes back to me. No, you don't know.

WOODRUFF: You'd like to get that on tape.

STEWART: Exactly. You never know. It's like music in some senses, that, you have a barometer, an internal barometer. And if it sounds right, if it doesn't sound like you're hitting the flat or the sharp notes. And that's why we write, we rehearse it. And we're really, like a machine. Every day it's geared towards 6:30, just getting on the air.

WOODRUFF: We hear more and more that your show and shows like your show are the places where young people are getting their news. They're not... STEWART: I apologize for that. Who do I apologize to?

WOODRUFF: Well, what do you think about that?

STEWART: I don't think that's the case. I honestly don't think that young people can avoid getting news. I mean, news and information surround you almost on a molecular level these days. I think that kids get it by osmosis more than anything else.

And if you don't inform yourself, or have some sense of what's going on, our show won't even make sense to you. Because we don't honestly give very good information. You were there. We're basically very reactive.

WOODRUFF: But you talked about what happened in the world that day. For example, you've talked about the Catholic Church situation.


WOODRUFF: You did talk about Enron.

STEWART: Which, by the way, I know that it's a tough situation for the Catholic Church and I do understand. What I'd like to propose to them is, just give up the molestation for Lent. Just try it for 40 days. See how that goes. A trial period, if you will.

WOODRUFF: I can hear in the control room.

STEWART: Is that the giggling? I can't even believe they're back there. I always assumed that the control room, that this was like some sort of green screen B roll. I didn't know those people were actually there.

WOODRUFF: You didn't know there were really people in there.

STEWART: Yes. You know what's weird? When I first walked in, they were all playing quarters, which I though was strange, for a news organization. But, yes, you don't know when it's going to be funny. But for us to make references to those issues, unless you have a larger understanding of those issues, it won't make sense.

I don't imagine people are watching the show saying, hey, the Catholic Church is having some sort of a row? What's going on over there?

WOODRUFF: But you naturally are read in. I mean, you read newspapers, you watch a lot of television. When you and I talked in New York, you had seen this show a couple of times, anyway.

STEWART: Oh, I see this show all the time. I watch this show -- we keep CNN on 24 hours a day. This is, unfortunately, our show is purely reactive. We don't break stories. We have no infrastructure, as far as -- I mean, you saw, we don't have real reporters. We have a green screen.

And we put up -- "what are we doing today, Ramallah? OK, find a picture that looks like Ramallah and put that up there." So we have to wait for a situation to break and insinuate itself into the public consciousness before we can even deal with it. Because you can't make jokes about something nobody knows about.

WOODRUFF: It's quite extraordinary. Now, speaking of CNN, there was something you said when I was on your show a few weeks ago.

STEWART: Am I being fired?

WOODRUFF: Here's something I want to you watch, then we're going to have somebody comment on it.


STEWART: Is this Blitzer? Here's a present just for Blitzer, still with the soup in the mustache? Is he cleaning that at all?

WOODRUFF: You know, I'll have to ask him.


WOODRUFF: All right, now, you're obviously referring to my colleague, Wolf Blitzer.

STEWART: Hey, what's up?

WOODRUFF: We though we'd give Wolf a little equal time -- Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Jon, no food in the beard at all. It's clean. We made a complete check before I went on the air. I need you to help me, though. The turn -- the turn from one camera to the other. I have trouble with that. I need your help on it. Can you show us how you do it?

STEWART: Listen, I helped Rather out. He came to my fantasy camp.

BLITZER: Give us a little turn.

STEWART: You want me to go one to two?

BLITZER: Yes. From one camera to the other, I want our director to follow you.

STEWART: Now, are we changing from a serious story to one of those heroic dog type things, or -- what stories are we switching to?

BLITZER: We're exchanging from headlines to Lewis Black.

STEWART: All right. Here we go. Those were headlines.


STEWART: But it's -- you got to make...

BLITZER: Let me try. STEWART: You want me to tell you why, Wolf? It's all about the audience, baby. It's all right here.

BLITZER: Jon, I'm going to try it right now. OK, let me try it. Tell me how I'm doing.

STEWART: Loosen the eyes, baby.

BLITZER: Those were headlines. How was it?

STEWART: Yes, that was very nice.


WOODRUFF: Do you think, Jon, that he has a future in this business?

STEWART: Not really. Not that I can see. You got to realize...

BLITZER: You could have put a tie on for this show.

STEWART: I do, underneath. I wear all my stuff underneath. I drove down today from New York. I barely made it. I got caught in a whole cavalcade of stuff, as I was coming through town.

BLITZER: Well, all of Washington will want to see you tonight.

WOODRUFF: That's right. He's at the Warner Theater in Washington and he is at a theater in Philadelphia...

STEWART: It's a big Pen rally. Everybody come on down.


STEWART: Do have you any idea how so many French politicians are that conservative -- DeGaulle, Le Pen, DeLay? They're all terribly right wing anti-immigrant people.

WOODRUFF: We'd love to have you stay on for the whole show.

STEWART: Oh, I'm staying.

WOODRUFF: But you've got to go get ready for the Warner -- oh, he's staying? He's going to go get ready for his appearance at the Warner Theater tonight and in Philadelphia...

STEWART: Tower Theater tomorrow night, yes. Thank you for having me.

WOODRUFF: Jon Stewart, great to have you with us.

STEWART: The Wolf thing, you know, there's nothing you can do about that.

WOODRUFF: I think only if he shaves.

STEWART: Yes. Affirmative action is a wonderful thing and I'm glad he's got a job.


WOODRUFF: OK, Jon Stewart, thanks. Wolf, you get equal time the next time, too.

BLITZER: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: Still ahead, still ahead, President Bush says there are not enough federal judges on the job. Coming up on INSIDE POLITICS, who the president says is to blame for what he calls a vacancy crisis in many of the nation's courts.


WOODRUFF: Checking the stories in our INSIDE POLITICS "Newscycle," in advance of a summit meeting between Russia and the U.S., Russia's foreign minister says a nuclear arms reduction deal between the nations has a -- quote -- "very high probability." Igor Ivanov left the meeting a short time ago with Secretary of State Colin Powell. He met earlier today with President Bush.

Paul Shanley appeared in a San Diego courtroom today and waived his extradition rights. The retired Catholic priest faces charges in Massachusetts of raping a child. No word on when he'll leave California.

And Lady Byrd Johnson, the former first lady, is in stable condition in a hospital in Austin, Texas. The 89-year-old widow of President Lyndon Johnson suffered what doctors call a mild stroke.

President Bush scolded Senate Democrats today. The president says the lawmakers have not done enough to confirm his judicial nominees. Our senior White House correspondent John King joins us now. John, what did the president say?

KING: Well, Judy the White House says this is a good policy argument. But it's also no secret, especially in an election year, the White House views this as a good political argument. The Republican conservative base up in arms, if you will, over what it considers the mistreatment of the president's judicial nominees in the Democratic-controlled Senate.

We had a very similar debate, the tables turned, during the Clinton administration, you'll remember. The president having an event here today. It has been almost one year since he made his first nominations to the federal bench. The president having an event here today to criticize the Senate.

And he says this isn't just a debate here in Washington. The president says what the Democrats in the Senate are doing is harming the country.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: All across America the wait for justice is growing longer. The burden on federal judges is growing heavier. And the frustration level of ordinary Americans seeking justice is growing greater.

KING (voice-over): The president calls it a vacancy crisis. More than 10 percent of federal judgeships are vacant. The vacancy rate is nearly 20 percent on the circuit court of appeals bench, the level just beneath the Supreme Court.

Mr. Bush has made 100 judicial nominations, 30 of those for the circuit court of appeals level. Fifty-two have been confirmed by the Democratic-controlled Senate. Nine of those were fur circuit court of appeals vacancies.

BUSH: The Senate has not acted. And by its inaction, the Senate is endangering the administration of justice in America.


KING: Senate Democrats, however, say the president simply does not have his facts straight. They say the vacancy crisis was created when the Republicans controlled the Senate and would not act on Democrat President Bill Clinton's nominees. The chairman of the judiciary committee, Patrick Leahy, saying under his stewardship the committee is acting much faster than it did under the Republicans. Says probably eight more Bush nominees will be confirmed by the end of the month -- Senator Leahy saying, of course, as well that this could all go quicker if the president would put more mainstream nominees. That is a debate that will continue throughout this election year -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right, John King reporting for us from the White House.

And now joining us: former Gore Campaign manager Donna Brazile and Bay Buchanan. She's president of American Cause.

Bay, is the American judicial system at risk, as the president suggests?

BAY BUCHANAN, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN CAUSE: There's no question about it.

You have the chief justice of the United States who has made a comment several times that there's real need for the president to nominate and the Senate to confirm these justices, that they are needed or else the justice itself is being held up in this country. This is about what is good for the country and not petty politics. But it seems the Democratic senators can't get over that point.


DONNA BRAZILE, CHAIRWOMAN, VOTING RIGHTS INSTITUTE: Well, Bay, if it was about what's good for America, then the president would consult with leaders of the Senate before he sent controversial nominees to the Senate Democrats. Look, I think the Senator Democrats have done a marvelous job in pulling all of these nominees forward, 52 out of 100. Eight to 12 more may be confirmed by the end of the month, according to Senator Leahy. And, look, Bay, the Democrats have held more hearings under the Democratic watch in 10 months than the Republicans did during the five years that they controlled the Senate.

BUCHANAN: You know, Donna, the secret here is that the Republicans did hold hearings. They might not have liked some of the nominees of Clinton, but they held the hearings.

The Democrats here are simply stalling. What the problem is, I believe, is that they don't like the fact that George Bush won and that George Bush has a right to send his justices up to the Senate. And Leahy is out there saying that he should confer with him, that they're too right-wing. They aren't even right-wing. In my opinion, they're too moderate. But it is Bush's decision who goes up there.

And if they don't like them, have the hearings. They're not having hearings, as you suggest, Donna. They are stalling. And they are allowing Democratic judges who are making decisions which are very liberal ones and not allowing Bush to put his more conservative judges in.

BRAZILE: Bay, I don't want to correct you on all your facts, but the one glaring one that I want to correct you on is that George Bush did not win the election. He won the presidency, but he did not win the election. I know there's a mild distinction or a difference there, but it's one that we should continue to point out.

BUCHANAN: You guys just can't get over it.

BRAZILE: And, look, there was no mandate to change the direction in the court. What Bill Clinton and Al Gore tried to do was to put forward moderate, fair-minded judges that were able to get hearings after a long stall in the Republican-controlled Senate.

And over 12 of Bill Clinton's nominees had to wait at least 500 days before they were able to get a hearing. And 50 did not get a hearing at all. And, after 1997, no nominee was able to get to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.


WOODRUFF: I need to interrupt you both. I want to ask about the jump in the unemployment rate: 5.7 percent to 6 percent today.

Donna, are we in a recovery or not?

BRAZILE: Well, it is very hard to recover when people are being laid off every day and still having hard times out there in the country.

I'm in Detroit now. And the unemployment is high here as well. And I would hope that the president would sit down with the Democrats as well as Republicans and figure out a solution to bring this country back on its economic -- back to the economic table.

BUCHANAN: Oh, there's no question. I agree with Donna on one point, that this unemployment figure, this indicator has a real face. This is real people, Judy. They talk about these other indicators, but this one is real people.

And there's panic and fear spreading right through their families and their communities. This is one that I think suggests that the economy right now -- it is a lag indicator, so it is supposed to be one of the last ones to start improving in a downturn -- or in a recovery, rather. But this suggests that there is no recovery and that we really are a stalled economy right now. And something should be done about it.

WOODRUFF: You both mentioned former President Clinton. We know the discussion, the reports in the last few days: talking to NBC about a story. Today, "The New York Daily News" reports it's not going to happen.

What about a former president having his own talk show, Donna?

BRAZILE: Well, I would watch it, for one.

He's multitalented. He's charismatic. He would have widespread popular appeal. But I don't believe he should do it. I think the president, who is wildly popular and in demand across the country, as well as around the globe, should continue to find those national issues and international issues that he can speak out on and raise money for those global charities.

BUCHANAN: You know, Donna, this is a president who took the highest office in the land and turned it into a sleazy talk show. And I'm astounded TV executives would even think that the American people want to be reminded of that awful nightmare. The only good news about such a program would be that the taxpayers at least would haven't to pay for the rerun.

BRAZILE: Well, he's the comeback kid. And he can help some of these networks come back to life.


BUCHANAN: I doubt he would be successful. And you're right. It would be foolhardy for him to do so.

WOODRUFF: I almost asked Jon Stewart if he would watch President Clinton if he did a talk show. We didn't ask him. We'll have to ask him next time he's on.

Donna Brazile, Bay Buchanan, thanks very much. Good to see you both. And have a good weekend.

BUCHANAN: Thank you. Same to you.

WOODRUFF: "Inside Buzz" on Washington's night out -- up next: the annual event that honors not who you know, but who you're with. We'll look at this weekend's White House Correspondents Dinner.


WOODRUFF: One of Washington's social events of the year is coming up tomorrow night here in the nation's capital. It's an event that prompts a different kind of matchmaking than what you might see at a typical dinner.

Howard Kurtz of CNN's "RELIABLE SOURCES" has some "Inside Buzz."


HOWARD KURTZ, "RELIABLE SOURCES" (voice-over): It's springtime in Washington. The pandas are out playing and the annual mating dance between journalists and senior administration officials is under way.

The venue is Saturday's White House Correspondents Dinner, a black-tie affair, where the capital elite dress up, eat rubber chicken, and schmooze the night away. Presidents poke gentle fun at themselves.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Some people wondered -- and I'm sure there might have been a few out here -- how we would handle the recent incident in China. The truth is, I have long been a serious student of the Orient.

KURTZ (on camera): But first comes the courtship, with media types who are usually pounding on politicians suddenly trying to seduce them into accepting an invitation to the prestigious bash. At stake is nothing less than bragging rights, at least within the small Beltway circle that cares about such things.

(voice-over): Some of the more glamorous guests over the years haven't worked in Washington: Robert Redford, Bo Derek, Christie Brinkley, Regis Philbin, fake world leaders like Martin Sheen, and, at the height of the Clinton scandals, Paula Jones.

But inside the Beltway bubble, Karen Hughes is considered a better catch than Christie Brinkley. And when news organizations began elbowing each other for the likes of Hughes and Andrew Card and Karl Rove, they ran into the famously disciplined Bush style. White House spokesman Ari Fleischer told an aide to create a spreadsheet -- yes, a spreadsheet -- covering all invitations from news organizations so the administration could analyze and synthesize and prioritize.

The result? ABC is taking Chief of Staff Andrew card and Communications Director Dan Bartlett. "The Washington Post" is taking Karen Hughes, while the Associated Press bagged Karl Rove. And CNN? Transportation Secretary Norm Mineta and Rachel Sunbarger (ph), the 23-year-old press aide who prepared the grand spreadsheet. Why did some news outlets lose out? They sent in blanket requests and just weren't eager enough, says Sunbarger.

(on camera): If all this sounds a bit like the high school prom, well, journalists insist they're grown-ups and will remain just as tough on the White House. But when they're lusting after these dinner dates, it sure doesn't look that way.

This is Howard Kurtz of CNN's "RELIABLE SOURCES."


WOODRUFF: Of course journalists are grown-ups, Howard.

Well, checking now the headlines in our "Campaign News Daily": Harry and Louise are headed to court. The fictional couple featured in commercials during the 1993 health care debate are appearing in new ads backing human cloning for research. Well, now the health insurance industry, which created the couple, is suing to block the group CuresNow from using the characters for its ads.

A new poll finds almost half of California Democrats would prefer someone other than Al Gore in the next presidential election; 45 percent of state Democrats say they prefer an alternative; 40 percent say they favor another Gore campaign. Al Gore won California by about 12 points in the 2000 election.

In New Hampshire, a local Republican committee has asked Congressman John Sununu to drop his Senate challenge to fellow Republican Bob Smith. The committee in Mount Washington Valley says it is worried that Sununu's run could jeopardize Republican control of both the Senate seat and Sununu's House seat. A state party spokeswoman says it was -- quote -- "inappropriate for a local party to get involved in a primary race."

From campaigns present to campaigns past -- up next, Jeff Greenfield on political polls and what they did not tell us about elections now past.


WOODRUFF: Our latest poll shows President Bush maintaining extremely high favorable numbers. The question is, will it translate into good news for the president and his party down the road?

Our Jeff Greenfield has some thoughts in today's "Bite of the Apple."


JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SR. ANALYST: A few thousand years ago, when the Greeks wanted to know the future, they would consult the Oracle at Delphi. The Romans would sacrifice an animal. King Arthur would check with Merlin the wizard.

We are much more sophisticated, of course. We look at polls. This morning, the political world is digesting the latest CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup poll that shows the president with historically high job approval ratings. What does that tell us about the future? Well, let's look at the past and the present.

(voice-over): Here's the classic polling error. Back in 1948, the pollsters were so sure Harry Truman would lose to Tom Dewey that they stopped polling several weeks before the election. They missed something in the air. Less well-known...


ANNOUNCER: The experts predicted a close race.


GREENFIELD: ... a lot of the polls four years later predicted a tight race between Adlai Stevenson and Dwight Eisenhower. Nope.




GREENFIELD: But you don't have to go that far back. A few days before the 1980 New York primary, polls gave President Carter a double-digit lead over Senator Ted Kennedy. What happened? Kennedy beat Carter by double digits. And, that fall, late polls showed a virtual dead heat between Carter and Ronald Reagan. It turned out, of course, to be a Reagan landslide.

Another problem: Sometimes numbers don't tell you what they think they're telling you. In the fall of 1986, President Reagan had a job approval rating in the low-to-mid 60s, very high by normal standards. He went out and campaigned for GOP candidates in the midterm elections. What happened? The Republicans lost the Senate when all the close races broke for the Democrats.

(on camera): In fact, you don't even have to look that far ahead. Just look at the Congress right now. Bush's numbers have given him little if any clout in getting his nominees or his programs through the Congress.

So, why our fascination with polls? Well, the fact is, political journalists are a lot like kids in the backseat of a car yelling to their parents as they back out of the driveway, "Are we there yet?"

Jeff Greenfield, CNN, New York.


WOODRUFF: All right.

Two conservative Republican senators say they will back human cloning research. Ahead: One of those senators, Utah's Orrin Hatch, takes a ride on our "Subway Series" to tell us why he is one of them.


WOODRUFF: Republican Senator Strom Thurmond, who is an opponent of abortion rights, announced today that he is supporting a bill that would allow human cloning for research. Thurmond joins another conservative Republican taking that stand: Utah's Orrin Hatch. Senator Hatch rides along with our Jonathan Karl now in today's installment of the "Subway Series."


JONATHAN KARL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You've come out now and you've joined with a lot of Democrats on this issue of therapeutic human cloning. And this is not the first time I've seen you come out with Democrats on a key issue. You've become a good friend over the last few years with Senator Ted Kennedy.

And what I'm wondering is, has that all stalwart, conservative Orrin Hatch become a moderate?

SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R), UTAH: Well, some people think so.

But, in all honesty, I get along with all the Democrats, and I think all the Republicans as well. But, you know, when something is right, I don't think it makes any difference whether you're conservative or liberal. I think what's important is to do what's right.

KARL: Well, has this been a tough issue for you given that you have been so active in the pro-life movement?

HATCH: Let me put it this way.

I met with ethicists and attorneys and scientists and people from all aspects of this. And then I reflected upon what I saw. And then, I have to tell you, throughout the process, I prayed, too. And I have to tell you, when I finally got all the facts that I feel are essential to make a decision, it wasn't even a tough decision. It wasn't even close.

KARL: As you know, though, a lot of people in the anti-abortion movement, who have been your allies, your strong supporters over the years...

HATCH: I've been their ally.

KARL: ... aren't buying your argument. One group came out, the Concerned Women for America, and said -- and their headline for their press release was: "Senator Hatch Kisses Pro-Life Views Goodbye."

Now, how do you -- what do you feel when you see something like that? These are people that have been some of your strongest supporters.

HATCH: Well, it's easy to criticize from the outside, but I'm here on the front lines doing what I think is right.

And, look, I respect other people's viewpoints. I just don't agree with them in this case. And right-to-life people are very sincere. They really are tired of the carnage that's going on with the approximately million-and-a-half abortions a year. And it's a terrible thing, I have to admit. But, on the other hand, we've got to be concerned, from a humanitarian standpoint, with real, living people, especially children who are suffering from these great maladies that we might be able to bring treatments or cures to.

KARL: Are you getting phone calls? Are you getting people coming in? Are you getting mail? What's the reaction been?

HATCH: Well, to be honest with you, some of them have been pretty caustic. But, on the other hand, I've been getting calls from literally thousands of people who are saying: "Oh, thank you so much. This is our only hope."

To me, facilitation of life, alleviation of pain, treatments for those who are suffering, cures for those who never dreamed of a cure before, hey, that's pretty important. And I think I have an obligation to fight for that. And I'm going to, even if it means a lot of unpleasantness. And there's always unpleasantness when you disagree on some of these issues. But let me tell you, I think I'm known around here as a guy who stands up for what he believes and who will do what's right regardless of the consequences.

KARL: Well, Senator Hatch, I really appreciate you taking another ride on the subway with us. Thank you.

HATCH: Nice to see you. Take care.


WOODRUFF: Senator Orrin Hatch.

Bill Schneider's "Political Play of the Week" is just ahead, but first, let's go to see what's coming up at the top of the hour on "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS" -- Wolf, hi.

BLITZER: Hi, Judy, once again.

And there's a new quartet and they're not singing. We'll tell you what a new gang of four is up to in trying to end the Middle East crisis. And, should you let your little children sleep in your bed? A new study says that's a bad idea. I'll get insight from noted baby Doctor T. Berry Brazelton. And Pat O'Brien joins me to assess this summer's new movies. It's all coming up right at the top of the hour right after INSIDE POLITICS.


WOODRUFF: Farmers showed their clout on Capitol Hill this week by gaining House approval of the new farm bill.

Our Bill Schneider has been looking at that vote and the lessons that can be learned from it -- Bill.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, of course, in the farm vote, the House busted the budget to cater to the needs of a very powerful constituency. So what happened next? Another powerful constituency was heard from, loud enough to get the "Political Play of the Week." (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(voice-over): A lot of promises were made about prescription drugs in the 2000 campaign.

SEN. ZELL MILLER (D), GEORGIA: Among the folks who ran for president and for Congress in 2000, about one out of every five of our TV ads was about doing something about prescription drugs. And here we are. Two years later, we still haven't done anything about prescription drugs.

SCHNEIDER: Well, hold on. On Wednesday, House Republicans unveiled their proposal to give seniors prescription drug coverage under the Medicare program.

REP. DENNY HASTERT (R-IL), HOUSE SPEAKER: House Republicans believe firmly that no senior should be forced to choose between putting food on the table or paying their rent or buying the medicines that they need now.

SCHNEIDER: One hour later, Senate Democrats came up with their proposal. In a campaign video released this week, Democrats show every intention of making prescription drugs an issue.


BUSH: We'll help all people with prescription drugs.

ANNOUNCER: By his own estimate, Bush leaves out more than two- thirds of seniors in need of prescription drug coverage.


SCHNEIDER: According to a recent Republican campaign memo: "Republicans passing a prescription drug benefit would go a long way to leaving Democrats with very little on the table to try to use against us."

Seniors are turning this year's midterm election into a bidding war for their votes. It's the "Political Play of the Week," and the bidding is open.


SCHNEIDER: Seniors are becoming a swing vote. In 1992, seniors voted for Bill Clinton by 11 points. They voted for him by seven points in 1996. And, in 2000, they were virtually tied between Bush and Gore. In House elections, they have swung back and forth from one party to the other. Swing voters have power, just like the farm vote.

WOODRUFF: All right, Bill Schneider, thanks very much. Have a good weekend.


WOODRUFF: And that's it for our program. CNN's coverage continues now with "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS." Thanks for joining us. I'm Judy Woodruff.


Senate Democrats to Act Quickly on Judicial Nominees; Interview With Orrin Hatch>



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