CNN INSIDE POLITICS
Congress Debates Action on Iraq
Aired September 18, 2002 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN HOST: I'm Judy Woodruff in Atlanta today. The Bush administration leans hard on Congress to quickly authorize military action against Iraq. But are Democrats trying to change the subject?
KATE SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Kate Snow on Capitol Hill, where Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told lawmakers, warning them that waiting for the U.N. to act may be waiting too late.
BILL SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Bill Schneider in Washington. A brewing showdown with Iraq, a looming midterm election. Will President Bush play that hand differently than his father did?
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Candy Crowley in Miami. I caught up with Florida Governor Jeb Bush to ask him about his race in 2002 and whether he hears any echoes from 2000.
ANNOUNCER: Live from Washington, this is INSIDE POLITICS with Judy Woodruff.
WOODRUFF: Thank you for joining us. I'm at CNN Center in Atlanta today. Saddam Hussein may have thrown a surprise wrench into President Bush's campaign for a United Nations' crackdown on Iraq. But today, the administration is regrouping, focusing its lobbying effort on Congress, where more members support Mr. Bush's push for quick action and share his skepticism about the intentions of Baghdad.
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GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This just a ploy. This is a tactic. This is a way to try to say to the world oh, I'm a wonderful a peaceful fellow when in fact, he not only kills his own people, he's terrorized his neighborhood, and he's developing weapons of mass destruction. We must deal with him.
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WOODRUFF: A morning meeting with congressional leaders now firmly behind the White House desire for a quick vote. Details of what's in the resolution, the only obstacle. The vice president weighed in from a political fund-raiser in Connecticut, dismissing Iraq's offer to let inspectors back in.
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DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We've seen this kind of tactic before. In the letter, the regime says it has no weapons of mass destruction, but we know that is a lie.
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WOODRUFF: On Capitol Hill, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld brushed off a protest and pressed lawmakers for quick action. He warned of a nuclear 9/11, urging Congress to pass a resolution, supporting the president now.
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DONALD RUMSFELD, DEFENSE SECRETARY: It's important that Congress send that message, before the U.N. Security Council votes. Delaying a vote in Congress would send the wrong message.
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WOODRUFF: It was a strong case for action, but not all committee members were satisfied.
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REP. VIC SNYDER (D), ARKANSAS: Help me understand why it's necessary to have the Congress pass resolution when the commander in chief has not yet made that decision?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let me go through...
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WOODRUFF: On a day dominated by Iraq, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle tried to steer the political debate away from the war, and to the economy, where the Democrats believe they have the advantage.
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SEN. TOM DASCHLE (D-SD), MAJORITY LEADER: Would have to go up -- economic growth is going down. Would have to go up is business investment in the market and in retirement accounts, consumer confidence and the minimum wage, they ought to go up. But in this last 18 months, every single one of these factors has gone down.
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WOODRUFF: Prompting a quick rebuttal from Senate Republicans.
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SEN. TRENT LOTT (R-MS), MINORITY LEADER: You can't be accusing somebody else of not your doing job when you hadn't done your job.
WOODRUFF: Even with the war talk, the economy does remain the single most important issue in this campaign, beating Iraq by 23 percentage points in our latest poll.
Our senior White House correspondent, John King, and our congressional correspondent, Kate Snow, are with me now. Kate, to you first. What are you hearing in terms of language for a resolution that Congress would pass pretty quickly now?
SNOW: Well, Judy, Senator Daschle returned from that meeting this morning over at the White House. The big four leaders were over there this morning. He came back and met, I'm told, with top Democrats here on the Hill, talking to them about the language. He told them, first all, that he told the White House and President Bush not to expect unanimity from Democrats in voting for his resolution, recognizing that there are differences of opinion among Democrats.
But Daschle then said that he plans to hold another meeting tomorrow, where Democrats will be able to voice some of their concerns about the language. A couple key questions, Judy, that keep coming up. How should they define the role of the United Nations in this resolution? Should it be spelled out that the U.N. has to act first, and then and only then, the U.S. could take action against Iraq? That's one question.
Another question being raised by Democrats is how to make it clear that this Iraq effort won't detract or take away from the war on terrorism globally. Several senators worried about that. I'm told that some Democratic lawmakers want this to be a very simple resolution, and to lay out very simply that the U.S. specifically, is threatened by Saddam Hussein, that it's a threat against the United States. House Democrats also met today, Judy, just finally. And I'm told that meeting went very long, too. So they too, have some concerns about the language, but all trying to get their heads together, so that they can have a united front when they finally get language proposed from the White House.
WOODRUFF: Just quickly, John, what are you hearing about the language in that resolution and about the timing of it?
JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The timing would be a vote by the first week of October. Perhaps even a little sooner than that Judy as to the language, White House officials beginning to share some drafts with key lawmakers. They wanted essentially to track the president's speech to the United Nations. They want it to say Saddam Hussein has repeatedly broken his promises to the United Nations and the world community. They want it to say he is a clear and present threat to the United States and its allies. They want it to say that the administration hopes to work through the United Nations and with the world community, but that the administration has the right to act alone if necessary to deal with that threat.
WOODRUFF: All right, I want to turn you both quickly to the economy. Senator Daschle, as we saw, went to the Senate floor today. Kate, laid out a bill of indictment, if you will, against the administration on its handling of the economy. Just how potent an issue do Democrats think they have there?
SNOW: Well, they think they have a very potent issue. And that's the key thing here, Judy, is you notice that now that they seem to have dealt with Iraq, there you had Senator Daschle getting on the floor 30 minutes this morning he spent talking about the economy. A concerted effort, I'm told, by Democrats to change the subject. They want to focus on domestic issues. They think that's what plays well with the voters. They've seen those same polling numbers that you just showed a few moments ago.
The senator, Senator Daschle talking about the number of jobs that have been lost, talking about economic indicators. And he went on and on about the number of foreclosures, the national debt, etcetera. But as you noted in your piece, Senator Lott came right back at them, saying look, the Democrats don't have a plan either. In fact, he said Senator Daschle hasn't even passed a budget yet through this Senate. That's something that we're hearing House Republicans pick up on, too. They are blaming Daschle for not getting enough done. Tomorrow, Judy, we're going to see the House take some action and try to push the Senate along to get more things passed through the Senate.
WOODRUFF: And John, what about the White House? How are they reacting to this effort by Daschle and other deputies to talk about the economy?
KING: Judy, they view the speech as purely partisan. They believe Senator Daschle is under pressure from liberals in his caucus to speak out, to lead the case against President Bush. The administration acknowledges the economy, as our poll shows, is the number one issue. That's why the president, in almost every speech, tries to remind voters he inherited a recession. And the president makes the case that his tax cuts have helped make it better and that the economy is beginning to recover, and will recover more in the months ahead. This is the bottom line here at the White House, though, Judy. They know this an issue. They are urging Republicans to fight back, but they say there is no evidence, absolutely none, of any big wave like we saw in the 1994 midterm elections when the Republicans surged to power.
WOODRUFF: All right, thank you. John at the White House, Kate at the Hill. Thank you both.
Well, just a short while ago with -- I spoke with the number two Democrat in the Senate, Majority Whip Harry Reid. And I started by asking him if it's true, as the White House claims, that Democrats are trying to reignite partisan politics with their counteroffensive on the economy?
SEN. HARRY REID (D), NEVADA: You know, we have a big country. We have lots of problems in this country. We need to focus on Iraq. And I think we're doing that very well. We're joining with the president in doing something about Saddam Hussein. But that does not take away from the fact that we have an economy that is staggering, faltering. We have so many problems in this economy that we must address them. And I think it's important that we do that. I think the American people, the people in Nevada when I go home, there are few questions about Iraq. There are lots of questions about why jobs are being lost, why employment benefits have not been extended, why we don't do something about prescription drugs, why the education system in the sixth largest school district in America is in trouble? We need do things to help that.
That's what the American people want. And we need to refocus this administration's domestic policies. They don't seem to have any. And we're going to do what we can to have them refocus on that.
WOODRUFF: Well, when Senator Trent Lott heard Senator Daschle's speech, he said where's the plan? He said it's one thing for Democrats to criticize, but there's no alternative there.
REID: Oh, I think that is so foolish. I mean, I just think that's unbelievable. We have problems in this economy that are directed toward the administration. This administration can no longer blame anyone else. They've been in office for over 18 months. They have to take control of the economy. It's their problem.
The reason we're not passing appropriation bills, it goes back to the administration. They won't let the Republican leadership of the House move any of those appropriation bills. Why have we done something about bankruptcy? Because they won't let us. Election reform, they won't let us. It's tied up in conference. Terrorism insurance, tied up in conference.
If -- we could go through a list of 10 more things that they won't let us do. We're not moving because the administration has a one track mind, and that's Iraq. And they've got to have more than one track mind because the economy is stumbling, staggering, faltering.
WOODRUFF: Senator, on the subject of Iraq, the president is wanting a quick vote in Congress. Secretary Rumsfeld today called for a quick vote. Are Democrats apparently all just jumping on this bandwagon? Or there is going to be a real debate, the kind that the American people deserve on this?
REID: As you know when his father went into Iraq, we had a very good debate. Some said one of the best debates in the last 40 years in Congress. We're going to have a debate. But I think we have to acknowledge what's gone on in Iraq. Saddam Hussein, in effect, has thumbed his nose at the world community. And I think that the president's approaching this in the right fashion. He's now trying to get the international community to join. Secretary Powell is basically living in New York, working with international community. And we have made progress.
WOODRUFF: But where are the Democratic, I guess, dissenters is my -- or are there any?
REID: Well, I think there are a few people that are going to raise some questions. But this is something that is important to the country, to the world. And we're not going to be dissenting just to dissent. If there's some issues that we need to talk about, we can certainly do that. I mean, there will be issues after we get the resolution. Right now, we're kind of speaking in a vacuum. The Democratic leadership and the Republican leadership, House, and Senate met with the president today. They talked in some generalities, but even today, I don't think the administration knows what they want to do. To get to -- to be very direct and specific, if we wanted to invade Iraq, it's going to take months to get that ready, not days, or weeks. So this isn't anything that's going to happen tomorrow. I think we should get this resolution out of the way. Maybe it would help the administration focus on the domestic policy if we did that.
WOODRUFF: And -- but in essence just quickly, Senator, Democrats are almost prepared to give the president a blank check here.
REID: Oh, I don't think you're going to see blank check. And I don't think the president will ask for a blank check.
WOODRUFF: That was Senator Harry Reid.
Well, considering all of this, a showdown with Iraq against the backdrops of a sour economy and a midterm election may be giving the Bush family a sense of deja vu. Here now, our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider.
SCHNEIDER: Hi, Judy. You know, the next time President Bush talks to his father about war, he might also ask him "What did do you in the midterm, daddy?" Because the son can learn from his father's political experiences.
SCHNEIDER (voice-over): The 1990 midterm: Iraq was still in Kuwait. President Bush 41 tried to make Iraq the central issue in the campaign.
GEORGE H.W. BUSH, 41st PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: His brutal aggression will not stand.
SCHNEIDER: Just as President Bush 43 is trying to do now.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We must deal with threats to our security today, before it can be too late.
SCHNEIDER: But something else was happening in 1990. It was a recession year, and President Bush had broken his "no new taxes" pledge. Which issue had more influence on the vote in 1990? Iraq or the economy? Here's a clue.
GEORGE H.W. BUSH: I'm not talking victory, because I am very disappointed the way some of the races turned out.
SCHNEIDER: The Republicans suffered a net loss of nine House seats and one Senate seat in 1990, not a very big loss in historical terms. But if the same thing happened this year, it would give Democrats control of both the House and the Senate. So Democrats are trying to push the economy to the top of the agenda.
DASCHLE: We have lost two million jobs in the last 18 months in this country.
SCHNEIDER: Actually, something unusual happened in 1990. Voters took out their frustration on both political parties. Look at what happened to Newt Gingrich's vote. He almost lost his House seat. And Bill Bradley, too, got the scare of his political life. The 1990 midterm was a warning: the voters were mad as hell. It was a warning of the revolt to come two years later in 1992.
SCHNEIDER: Now just like 12 years ago, both parties are struggling to control the agenda. Who won that struggle in 1990? The voters did. They sent the message they wanted to send.
WOODRUFF: All right, Bill Schneider. Thank you. Lots to think about.
Well, perhaps looking ahead to the 2004 election, CNN has learned that Al Gore will speak out Monday on Iraq and the war on terrorism. Gore's address to the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco is being billed as a "major speech." Those around him note that Gore has traditionally been a hawk on foreign policy matters and was one of only 10 Democrats to vote in favor of the Persian Gulf War in 1991. Monday's speech is another example of Gore's recent effort to step up his political profile, as he considers whether to run for the White House again.
Still ahead, our Candy Crowley's report on the Florida governor's race and how Al Gore is figuring into it. But up next, with the first anniversary of 9/11 behind us, Congress hears new revelations and anger about the clues that were missed.
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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Our intelligence agencies suffered an utter collapse in their duties and responsibilities, leading up to and on September 11th.
WOODRUFF: Plus, the field is set for the fall governor's contest in Massachusetts. I'll ask Democrat Shannon O'Brien and Republican Mitt Romney what they're doing right and wrong.
WOODRUFF: With me now for more is national security correspondent -- I'm sorry -- we do have our national security correspondent, David Ensor.
David, on those hearings today, that were emotional, of course, that was Stephen Push who lost his wife at the Pentagon. Among other things, he said she might not have died had it not been for intelligence failures. What new was learned today?
DAVID ENSOR, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, it was underscored at the opening of the hearing, and you just heard it, how important it is to fix anything that's wrong with U.S. intelligence before the next attack. There were no smoking guns identified in this hearing today, Judy, but there was some evidence that U.S. intelligence had that was now declassified that we heard about today, that suggests there were more dots that could have been connected if someone was really paying attention.
Now the U.S. intelligence people will tell you, there were a lot of other dots, too. And it's -- you know, they've been able to stop many attacks. You can't stop them all, but still, listen to these for example.
In August of 1998, the intelligence community obtained information that a group of unidentified Arabs planned to fly an explosive-laden plane from a foreign country into the World Trade Center. Another one, in they fall of 1998, the intelligence community received information concerning a bin Laden plot, involving aircraft in the New York and Washington, D.C. areas. And one more example, in April of 2001, the intelligence community obtained information from a source with terrorist connections who speculated that bin Laden would be interested in commercial pilots as potential terrorists.
So Judy, there are many more examples like that in this report by the staff that was prepared for the committee. And basically, what we have is a lot more declassified intelligence, showing that the intelligence community had a lot of evidence, if they had been able to put it together. But as they will point out, they had thousands of other pieces of evidence, too. And it's very, very difficult to get it right.
WOODRUFF: None of those new things you mentioned had we known about before. And David, I understand there was a dispute at some point between the committee and the White House over declassifying some of this information? What was that all about?
ENSOR: The committee wants to declassify information about what the president knew and when he knew it. The White House is deadset against that. They also want to declassify information about a particular al Qaeda senior operative. And we happen to know -- our sources tell us that that man is called Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who our audience has heard of, of course. He's a key al Qaeda leader.
There is apparently intelligence about him that goes back to 1995. And the point that the committee staff wanted to make is that U.S. intelligence knew about this man, and failed to understand how important he was becoming to the threat against the United States, and should have done more about it.
WOODRUFF: All right, David Ensor covering those intelligence, hearings, today at the Capitol.
Well elsewhere on Capitol Hill, the defense secretary was making the case for action against Iraq. Next in our "Newscycle," dissenting voices stage an interruption, as Secretary Rumsfeld warns against the dangers of delay.
WOODRUFF: And with us now, Margaret Carlson of "Time" magazine, and Tucker Carlson of CNN's "CROSSFIRE." We're not going to talk about Iraq right now. We're going to talk about a story in today's "New York Post," where they got hold of papers from a New York appeals court, which show that 27 people, including former President Clinton and Senator Hillary Clinton, are asking to be reimbursed for their legal fees, the Clintons asking for $3.5 million in Whitewater legal fees, but 25 other people, all the way from a White House usher to a policeman who found Vince Foster's body, all asking for their legal fees to be reimbursed by the government.
Tucker, is this something that taxpayers should pick up?
TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST, "CROSSFIRE": Well, you know, you ask yourself how can it get more appalling than it already is? And here's the answer. I mean, you know, one feels sorry for low-level staffers swept up in a scandal and required to hire lawyers out of their own pocket. And I think you could make a really good case that they deserve to be reimbursed. But the Clintons, who will make an estimated $40 million total by the end of next year, after leaving office, are certified rich people. And the idea that this money, which incidentally comes from the Department of Justice's budget, DOJ budget money, ought to go to them when they've had a legal defense fund and again they're rich is insulting at least.
WOODRUFF: Margaret, the Clintons, I think, would argue well, we had Whitewater independent counsel going after us for years. Nothing came of it.
MARGARET CARLSON, "TIME" MAGAZINE: They could argue that. And thank goodness the independent counsel law is gone, which gives an incentive to pursue things that may not bear any fruit. And indeed, they got off of it. But it's hard to just as a matter of common sense to think that people making $40 million should be taking money out of the Justice Department, which is now, among other things, fighting terrorism. And it doesn't set a precedent because there's no longer an independent counsel law out there to allow these things to go on.
As for the usher and policeman, let's find a way to handle their fees without doing the millionaire's fees.
WOODRUFF: All right, let's turn next to a story, and that is another Bush court nominee, federal court nominee. His name is Michael McConnell, running into trouble on the Hill. On the other hand, you've got some Democrats supporting him. Some academics saying he's a good man, let's go forward. Others saying no, he's too conservative.
T. CARLSON: Well, I mean, it's not just some academics. It's is literally scores of self-described liberal academics, including Cass Sunstein and others.
Well-known liberals have come out in support of Michael McConnell for the 10th Circuit. This is a guy who worked for J. Skelly Wright in Washington for Justice Brennan, not maybe your stereotypical right- winger. He diverges on abortion philosophy from some of the fringe groups like NARAL. And on that subject, they're trying to attack him.
But I think when you have literally scores of well-known liberals coming out and saying, "You're a reasonable guy," on what grounds are they going to prevent him from becoming an appeals judge? I can't see it.
M. CARLSON: I agree with Tucker in that the professoriate here is totally united. I think it is 300 now, including Professor Laurence Tribe, who was the professor that scuttled Robert Bork's nomination.
The difference between McConnell and the others that the Democrats have turned down is that he is an intellectual conservative, as opposed to a movement conservative. And he has not let his personal views interfere in a way that can be documented. Now, the interests groups have just started to go after him. However, I think it is going to be a little bit harder with all the professors and a little bit harder because his reasoning and his opinions is so couched in accepted legal theory.
T. CARLSON: Except this is a guy who hasn't just said, "I'm uncomfortable with abortion." This is a guy who has called abortion evil, who has written an op-ed attacking Roe vs. Wade in the way it was decided, who has basically taken on the major tenets of abortion theology, who is, by that measure, far more right-wing than any nominee, I think, that the president has put forward since he became president.
So it is interesting that a guy like this is going to be nominated. Amen, in my opinion.
M. CARLSON: Well, he objected to Roe vs. Wade on the grounds that there's no privacy right that protects abortion. And I think the others have said that -- for instance, Priscilla Owens actually went against the law in the books in not allowing a minor to go to a judge and have an abortion.
WOODRUFF: We're going to have to leave it there.
Margaret Carlson, Tucker Carlson, always great to see both of you.
M. CARLSON: Thanks.
T. CARLSON: Thanks, Judy.
WOODRUFF: We appreciate it.
Jeb Bush doesn't have Janet Reno to be concerned about anymore. But up next: Is the Florida governor feeling anxious about his Democratic opponent, the one he does have, or about outside influence from Al Gore?
WOODRUFF: A day after the Florida primary results finally became official, the fall campaign for governor is in full swing, with appearances today by Democratic nominee Bill McBride and Republican incumbent Jeb Bush.
Our Candy Crowley is covering That race in Florida and the way Al Gore is getting involved.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is the marquis governor's race of the election season. The state is Florida. The governor's name is Bush. And he is trying mightily to make this about 2002, not about 2000 and a president named Bush.
Campaign signs have dispensed with the last name altogether. And the governor is not inclined to sit down and talk to the national media, too much chat about his brother. Still, he's happy to stop for a moment or two.
GOV. JEB BUSH (R), FLORIDA: Floridians are common-sensible in their approach to things. They want to know what their governor is going to do to improve schools, to maintain the strength of the economy and those types of things. This 2000 discussion is real big for the talking shows up in Washington and New York. And it's important for a very small fraction of the Democratic left.
CROWLEY: The fall election got off to a bit of a late start because there were vote-counting problems in two Democrat-held counties during the primary election. So it took a week to straighten things out before Bill McBride officially became the Democratic nominee.
BILL MCBRIDE (D), FLORIDA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: Let me call upon the current governor. What we need now, I think, is to raise the level of our dialogue, raise the kind of discourse that we're going to have during this campaign.
CROWLEY: And that would be that, except for this.
AL GORE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It is so good to be back in Jacksonville.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) CROWLEY: A walking, talking memory of 2000 has been in Florida for the last two days. Al Gore has been having a field day with Florida's latest problems at the polls, blaming it on a governor named Bush.
GORE: His comment that I read in the newspaper was, "I don't know what it is with these Democrats not being able to vote right." I know what it is.
GORE: We need a new governor in the state of Florida.
J. BUSH: You can try to politicize anything. And that's what he's trying to do. This is all a charade to try to scare people and increase turnout. At the end of the day, as almost every editorial has said and every article that's been written on this, two counties got it wrong; 65 counties got it right. Maybe Mr. Gore didn't know that.
CROWLEY: Three footnotes now, Judy.
First, the Bush campaign says in their pre-primary polling all the election problems of 2000 didn't even register in voter concerns. There is, No. 2, also talk in the McBride and Gore camps about a joint Gore-McBride appearance somewhere down the line. And, thirdly, we are told the secretary of state of Florida has asked the Justice Department to send observers to this fall's general election -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: It is going to be wild down there, right up until Election Day.
WOODRUFF: Candy, thank you.
WOODRUFF: Well, we focus on governor's races in this edition of our "Campaign News Daily."
The name Arnold Schwarzenegger keeps popping up in the race for California governor. This time, Slate.com quotes an upcoming report in "The L.A. Weekly" which says the actor is considering a write-in campaign this fall. Polls have found many people are dissatisfied with both Governor Gray Davis and challenger Bill Simon. Schwarzenegger has reportedly commissioned his own polls to gauge voter response to a write-in campaign. We've asked the Schwarzenegger office for a comment. We're waiting.
Ohio Governor Bob Taft is leading his Democratic challenger, Tim Hagan, in a new Ohio poll. A survey by the University of Cincinnati gives Governor Taft an 18-point lead over Hagan among likely voters. As we have reported, Republican Bob Ehrlich has made steady gains on Democrat Kathleen Kennedy Townsend in the race for Maryland governor. Now Townsend is taking the offensive with a tough new ad targeting Ehrlich's voting record in Congress.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, AD)
ANNOUNCER: In Congress, Bob Ehrlich voted to cut the school lunch program and college loans. He voted against smaller class sizes and for the largest education cut in history, and even voted to eliminate the Department of Education.
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WOODRUFF: And coming up, more on Iraq and the power of the bully pulpit after this short break: our Jeff Greenfield with some second thoughts on a president's power to shape public opinion.
WOODRUFF: Jeff Greenfield joins with me now with some thoughts on the powers of the presidency and the ability of America's leader to shape public opinion -- hi, Jeff.
JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SR. ANALYST: Hi there
Yes. You know, as the administration makes its case on Iraq, one of its most powerful tools, we all assume, will be the president's command of the dialogue through the power of what we call the bully pulpit, the power to chart the course of the national conversation, to persuade the public to see things the president's way.
Well, now one scholar is telling us maybe that's not so. Maybe the whole idea of the bully pulpit more bull than bully.
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THEODORE ROOSEVELT, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We the people cannot turn back.
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GREENFIELD (voice-over): Teddy Roosevelt coined that phrase, the bully pulpit, 100 years ago as he called the nation to his vision: conservation; America as a world power; government regulation to stop abuses of big business.
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FRANKLIN ROOSEVELT, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Forty percent of those seeking work have found it.
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GREENFIELD: A generation later, his distant cousin Franklin Roosevelt used the radio to sell his New Deal and other programs.
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RONALD REAGAN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I recommend increases in defense spending over the coming years.
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GREENFIELD: Closer to our time, Ronald Reagan, "The Great Communicator," they called him, pushed for more defense spending and a leaner government at home.
But in a new article in "Public Perspectives" magazine, political science Professor George C. Edward says the whole notion of the bully pulpit may be more like baloney. Look, Edward says, at the average job approval rating of the last six presidents. The only one to do better than 55 percent was the first George Bush. Three of them couldn't hit an average of 50 percent during their terms, despite the fact that they controlled that famous bully pulpit.
Or look at how President Reagan did convincing Americans we needed to spend more on defense. America was in a big pro-defense- spending mood the year Reagan was inaugurated, but, within a year or so, that feeling had changed. Of course, that could be because there was a big jump in defense spending in Reagan's first year.
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WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Put the American people back to work.
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GREENFIELD: And look at how President Clinton did in convincing the country about two of his big ideas. While Americans started out favoring Clinton's economic plan in 1993, the numbers were no better than even by the summer. That may explain why the plan passed by only one-vote margins in both the House and the Senate.
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CLINTON: Paying higher hospital bills or higher insurance premiums.
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GREENFIELD: And the same thing happened a year later with Clinton's health care plan. Big numbers supported it at first, until the opposition began to attack. By the summer, the numbers were tanking. Eventually, so did the plan.
GREENFIELD: OK, but what about the fundamental issue of war and peace? Isn't this an arena where the bully pulpit applies? Sure, unless the war drags on. During America's last two extended conflicts, Korea and Vietnam, the longer those wars went on, the lower the poll numbers went, both for the war and for the presidents. To put it bluntly, the power of presidential words are no match for the reality of body bags coming home and a war where victory is not in sight.
So, Judy, maybe we better pause before we talk a little too glibly about that bully pulpit.
WOODRUFF: All right, Jeff Greenfield, thanks for the reminders.
Coming up next: the Massachusetts governor's race. I will ask GOP nominee Mitt Romney and Democratic nominee Shannon O'Brien about their strategy and obstacles in the battle ahead.
WOODRUFF: In Massachusetts, the new Democratic nominee for governor, Shannon O'Brien, is challenging Republican Mitt Romney to weekly debates instead of the three that Romney has agreed to. O'Brien became the first woman nominated for governor in that state when she won yesterday's Democratic primary, defeating three opponents, including former Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich.
I spoke with both O'Brien and Mitt Romney today. First, I asked O'Brien about Romney's effort to portray her as a political insider and whether he's right.
SHANNON O'BRIEN (D), MASSACHUSETTS GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: The fact is, Mitt Romney is the new face of the Republican establishment that has brought us gridlock on Beacon Hill, that had cost overruns on our huge Big Dig project here in Massachusetts. There are many problems within the administration. And Mitt Romney is the new face of that group of people that has brought us those problems.
WOODRUFF: So when he says that he's the only one who can clean up what he calls the web of political favors and IOUs, you say?
O'BRIEN: I say he's already promising jobs to Republican activists who are helping his campaign. And I say that I'm the only candidate who can clean up the mess on Beacon Hill.
I already came in after one Republican treasurer. They were stealing $10 million out of the state treasury. I had to help clean up that mess, restore the public's confidence. I went down to our state lottery, a now $4-billion-a-year business. There were thefts down there as well after my Republican predecessor left. So we've been working very hard to clean up the mess that these administrations have left to us. And I'm ready to do it again as governor.
WOODRUFF: It is not only Mitt Romney, but also your Democratic opponents in the primary who were criticizing you for what they described as a fiscal mismanagement of Massachusetts' $26 billion pension fund, losing over $6 billion over the past number of -- or past two years. Are you vulnerable on this issue?
O'BRIEN: You know, so many people now, Judy, are invested in the stock market, that they're pretty savvy, which is why those attacks, those distortions didn't work.
The fact is, the stock market is down. But even within the stock market being down so significantly, the Massachusetts' pension fund, since I have been treasurer, has performed in the top third of all pension funds in the country. We've earned $1.8 billion since I've been treasurer. So I think that the voters have seen through that and that's why I was able to win the nomination last night.
WOODRUFF: Well, even setting that aside, as you know, Shannon O'Brien, Democrats haven't won the governor's seat in Massachusetts since 1986, 16 years ago. Mitt Romney has a lot of money. He has plenty of money to spend. How do you plan to make up all this ground in just seven weeks?
O'BRIEN: Because I'm the person who can fix the mess on Beacon Hill. I will come in with the strong support of Democratic activists. I won with the support of tens of thousands of independent voters. And Massachusetts, frankly, many people think of this as a very Democratic state. It is actually a very independent state.
And what independents want is a balance. They want someone who is going to be a strong fiscal manager. And that's what I've done as the CFO of the commonwealth. I've saved a half-billion dollars by managing our state's debt smarter. I've worked to trim the costs of operations across the treasury and the lottery. But I also have the right values. And that's what independents and Democrats want, and Republicans, too.
They want someone who is going to invest in good schools for kids, provide more affordable health care for people. And Mitt Romney is out of touch. He's already calling for poor senior citizens to have to pay more money for their health care. That's not a plan. That's just an excuse. We need to be putting real plans in place to help seniors get more affordable prescription drugs and help kids get the education they need.
WOODRUFF: Shannon O'Brien, the Democratic nominee for governor in Massachusetts, we appreciate it.
O'BRIEN: Thank you.
WOODRUFF: Good to see you.
O'BRIEN: Thank you. Nice to see you, too.
WOODRUFF: With me now: Mitt Romney, the Republican nominee for governor of Massachusetts. Mr. Romney, you were targeting Shannon O'Brien with ads before she beat out a crowded field of Democrats. Did that strategy backfire?
MITT ROMNEY (R), MASSACHUSETTS GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: Oh, not at all. Actually, I was targeted by the Democrats first. And our Republican Party responded also on radio, with the same spending levels. So, I learned from my '94 campaign against Senator Kennedy that, when fired upon, you've got to return fire or you end up being a dead duck. So we're going to be ready to make sure our campaign goes forward.
WOODRUFF: You've accused her of being an insider. And yet it is Republicans who have held the governorship in Massachusetts for the last, what, 16 years. She makes the point -- Shannon O'Brien makes the point that you are the new face of the Republican establishment in Massachusetts.
ROMNEY: Well, actually, I don't define things in terms of parties so much as in terms of people. And I've lived my life in the private sector. And over the last almost four years, I've been outside that sector to be working with the Olympics, helped stage some great Games.
And I want to bring the experience of someone outside of government, outside of Beacon Hill, outside the establishment that can make some changes at Beacon Hill in the way we run our state. I think people are ready for a change.
WOODRUFF: But aren't you connected to the Republican Party in the state of Massachusetts?
ROMNEY: Well, the only connection is, I'm registered as a Republican. But I actually indicated that I was willing to run in a primary against the incumbent Republican governor. She decided not to run in that primary. And I stepped in. So I'm hardly a continuation of the previous administrations.
I'm looking at this race as a chance for me to bring a new vision and a new focus to Massachusetts, to make sure that, instead of taking care of the old political favors and IOUs and lobbyists that clog our system, that we have somebody who is really going to work for the citizens.
WOODRUFF: When I raised that point with Shannon O'Brien, she said, on the other hand, you've already been promising jobs in your administration to Republican activists.
ROMNEY: Well, I'm amazed she has that information, because I certainly haven't done that.
My campaign is going to be one about cleaning out patronage. And she has a bit of a problem because she's been there on Beacon Hill for a long time and she's given out patronage jobs. That's the sort of stuff I'm going to sweep out. I'm going to make sure that the people I appoint are individuals who are chosen on the basis of their capability and their track record. But I've promised no jobs at this point. So her information is quite inaccurate.
WOODRUFF: One other point she makes, Mitt Romney, is, she says, among other things, you're calling for poor senior citizens to pay more for their health care. She says that's one more sign that you're out of touch with ordinary voters in Massachusetts.
ROMNEY: Well, she's got to get the facts right on that.
What happened this year is, the legislature, to balance the budget, knocked 50,000 people off our health care rolls. And that's just unacceptable. And what I want to do is to make sure that those people get back on our health care rolls. And I want to have a token payment made by those people at the higher end of our Medicaid system for drugs and hospital visits, so we can get those 50,000 people back on our health rolls.
I don't want to have people losing benefits. I want to put people back into the benefit situation that they've come to expect.
WOODRUFF: All right, Mitt Romney, the Republican nominee for governor in Massachusetts, thanks very much. Good to see you.
ROMNEY: Thank you, Judy. Good to see you.
WOODRUFF: And I will be back in just a moment, but now let's take a look at what's coming up on "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS" -- hi, Wolf.
WOLF BLITZER, "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS": Hi, Judy.
Showdown Iraq: One of the president's men puts pressure on Congress, but he got an earful, too: a disruption in front of the cameras. Congress gets critical: Should the U.S. should have seen the September 11 clues years before the attacks? I'll speak to the chairman and vice chairman of the Intelligence Committee; and the day that brought President George Herbert Walker Bush to tears.
Those stories, much more at the top of the hour, right after INSIDE POLITICS.
WOODRUFF: Looking ahead now to what's in the work for tomorrow's INSIDE POLITICS: Brooks Jackson takes us inside the Club for Growth, one of the largest donors to Republican candidates nationwide. Plus, I'll be joined by the two congressional campaign chairs: Republican Tom Davis; Democrat Nita Lowey.
That is it for today's INSIDE POLITICS. "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS" is next.
We thank you for joining us. I'm Judy Woodruff.