CNN Europe CNN Asia
On CNN TV Transcripts Headline News CNN International About Preferences
powered by Yahoo!
Return to Transcripts main page


Daschle on Iraq, New Jersey Senate Race; Republican Call on Supreme Court to End Lautenberg's Campaign

Aired October 3, 2002 - 16:00   ET


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Candy Crowley in Washington. In the Iraq debate, he's an odd man out. And in the New Jersey ballot battle, he's got a lot on the line. I'll talk with Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle.
JONATHAN KARL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Jonathan Karl on Capitol Hill where outraged Republicans have marched over to the Supreme Court to try and stop New Jersey from replacing Bob Torricelli's name on this year's election ballot.


SEN. BILL FRIST (R), TENNESSEE: We will not stand by while they break the law in an undisguised grab for power that they feel is slipping away.


CROWLEY: GOP Senator Bill Frist will join us with his views.

Plus, who believes this could be the way to avoid a war with Saddam Hussein?

ANNOUNCER: Live from Washington, this is INSIDE POLITICS with Judy Woodruff.

CROWLEY: Thanks for joining us. Judy is off today.

It has been less than 24 hours since the New Jersey Supreme Court gave its OK for Frank Lautenberg to replace Senator Bob Torricelli on the ballot. Now the legal wrangling has moved here to Washington and the U.S. Supreme Court. On Capitol Hill, charges and countercharges, also, are flying.

Let's bring in our Congressional correspondent Jonathan Karl. Jonathan, bring us up to date. A lot of politics up there.

KARL: Yes, and this has nothing to do with Florida, nothing to do with Al Gore. But the Republican Party has once again gone over to the supreme court of the United States to ask that court to overturn the decision of a state supreme court in a controversial election case.

This, of course, being the case of New Jersey. Earlier Bill Frist, who is the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, walked over to the Supreme Court -- accompanied there by Ben Ginsberg, who was -- you may remember, Candy, quite well -- the lead counsel for the Republican -- George W. Bush presidential campaign during that Florida recount case. They went over to the Supreme Court to file a motion to ask the court to stop the state of New Jersey from printing ballots that take Bob Torricelli's name off and replace it with Frank Lautenberg's.

In an echo of that case in 2000, they cite Article I, Section 4 of the U.S. constitution which says up to the state legislature of a state to determine the time, place and manner for selecting an United States Senator. Now, that state legislature in New Jersey set a deadline. It has already passed. So these Republicans are saying that the state supreme court of New Jersey has violated that motion in the Constitution. They say it's not only breaking the law, but it is also unfair.


SEN. PETER FITZGERALD (R), ILLINOIS: The Democratic Party insiders now are corrupting the entire process. And if we go down the road of losing candidates in Senate races and other races around the country when they get a bad poll back from their local newspaper -- they decide to drop out of the race and the party is allowed to substitute a stronger candidate -- that will be a sad day for our country.


KARL: Meanwhile, the new choice of Democrats, Frank Lautenberg, the former senator from New Jersey, met today there with Tom Daschle here on Capitol Hill. Tom Daschle promised Lautenberg that he would have all the resources needed to run a vigorous Senate campaign. At that meeting, at this photo op, Lautenberg was asked about the case, now being presented to the Supreme Court by the Republican Party. Here's what he said.


FRANK LAUTENBERG, (D), NJ SENATE CANDIDATE: I'm concerned about the notion that my opponent wants to take an action in court that would eliminate the choice that people of New Jersey have. He's really saying to them, Listen, I don't even want you to have the opponent. Just give it to me. It's outrageous.


KARL: Republicans say that they feel that they have a strong case on the law here, but they acknowledge an uphill battle trying to convince this Supreme Court to once again weigh in on a controversial election issue so close to that controversial campaign 2000 Florida recount issue. But they hope to hear from the court sometime in the next 24 to 48 hours. But as you know with the Supreme Court, Candy, no guarantee.

CROWLEY: Jonathan, I'm kind of curious about that meeting. As you know, Lautenberg and Torricelli are sort of the Hatfield and McCoy of Capitol Hill. Did Lautenberg mention his tense relationship with Bob Torricelli in that meeting?

KARL: Oh he sure did. He said, Don't worry about that. We're not exactly friends, that's for sure. But it's been interesting.

I also ran into Bob Torricelli today here right off the Senate floor. He was mobbed by reporters briefly and was asked some questions about that. We asked him if he would turned over the money he has in his campaign war trust, $5.5 million of it, to Frank Lautenberg. And he said, Well, he'd have to look at the legal issues and he's got some debts he has to worry about. Very noncommittal on that.

But then another reporter asked him if he'd be willing to step down if that would help Lautenberg's case , would he resign his seat. And an angry Torricelli responded with some expletives that I'd better not say here on INSIDE POLITICS.

CROWLEY: I thank you for that. Thanks a lot, Congressional Correspondent Jonathan Karl.

Before Lautenberg went to Washington this afternoon, he greeted morning commuters in Hoboken, New Jersey. What do the voters think of the 78-year-old former Senator's attempt at a come back?

Here's CNN's Deborah Feyerick.


DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Shaking hands and greeting voters, Frank Lautenberg stepped into a familiar role. As Senate candidate, this time, hand picked by party leaders choosing very carefully.

GOV. JIM MCGREEVEY (D), NEW JERSEY: He has a track record of excellence. People know who he is. They know where he stands on the issues, so that was critically important.

FEYERICK: At a train station in New Jersey's capital, Trenton, changing candidates from Robert Torricelli to Lautenberg has been a huge moral boost. For registered Democrats like Patricia Daly (ph).

(on camera): Were you prepared to vote for Torricelli if in fact he was on the ballot?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That was a massive ethical struggle for me, and I hadn't resolved it.

FEYERICK: Unlike Torricelli, Lautenberg is unscathed by ethics problems. That alone tipped the scales for Tom Laden (ph), who voted for Torricelli in the last race.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I hadn't make up my mind but Lautenberg is a man of stature, integrity and proven, you know, a proven leader, and I think he'd be great for New Jersey. FEYERICK: Though for Democrats like Elenore Coon (ph), the party's move to switch candidates past the deadline is troublesome.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have mixed emotions about whether or not they should pull somebody in at this late time.

FEYERICK: But Republican Steve Harring (ph) hopes voters can now focus on what really matters.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) domestic issues that need to be addressed. And I think they're being overlooked for international concerns.

FEYERICK (on camera): For now, Democrat strategy seems to have paid off. Unless another court steps in, voters will have a choice of a new Democratic candidate, this one, not overshadowed by so much controversy.

Deborah Feyerick, CNN, Trenton, New Jersey.


CROWLEY: Now the showdown with Iraq. The Iraqi vice president today suggested a novel approach to resolving the conflict. He says, President Bush and Saddam Hussein and he and Vice President Cheney should meet on neutral turf with the same weapon and duel.


TAHA YASSIN RAMADAN, IRAQI VICE PRESIDENT (through translator): A president against a president. A vice president against a vice president. And a duel takes place. If they're serious, in this way, we are saving the American and the Iraqi people.

ARI FLEISCHER< WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Yes, there can be no serious response to an irresponsible statement like that. I just want to point out that in the past when Iraq had disputes, it invaded its neighbors. There were no duels, there were invasions. There was use of weapons of mass destruction and military. That's how Iraq settles the disputes.


CROWLEY: And dueling is not one of the options being discussed in the Senate where some members remain divided over the wording of a resolution to authorize war against Iraq. Among the holdouts, Majority Leader Tom Daschle. I spoke with him a short while ago, and asked him if it looks as though the Senate will sign on to the compromise reached between the president and the House.


SEN. TOM DASCHLE (D-SD), MAJORITY LEADER: I think that there's a real likelihood that you're going to see a broad coalition in support of a resolution next week. I don't know that anyone can say at this early date what the wording of that resolution will be, but obviously, the president has moved quite a ways in our direction, and the question is whether we can do a couple of things to clarify what the resolution ought to say. We'll know that next week.

CROWLEY: But didn't the house getting a deal and Mr. Gephardt joining in that deal pretty much pull the rug out from under you?

DASCHLE: Oh, not all. When you have Senator Lugar, who is one of the most senior members of the Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Biden, the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Hagel and other senators -- Senator Specter -- who have a great deal of prominence and respect and credibility on these issues, when they are suggesting ways of which to clarify the resolution, that's a pretty powerful coalition.

So time will tell. And obviously, I think there is an opportunity. It's not where you start, but it's where you end up. And we're going to end up in a way that will show in a very strong way support for our country and support for the administration's efforts working through the United Nations.

CROWLEY: What are we to make of what we believe will be most of the '02 candidates from the Senate on the Democratic side -- are expected to or have already declared that they will support a resolution behind the president? I mean, is it -- what do we make of your caucus at this point?

DASCHLE: Well, I don't think this has ever been a question of not supporting the president. We've all been on the same page in that regard. The question is how best to articulate what we and the president want to do. And that's really the subject of all of this discussion. It isn't should we support our efforts. It isn't should we do what the administration has already taken upon itself to do through the UN.

That is all widely supported. They happen to be satisfied with the language. And as I said, I think with additional clarifications, whether or not we make them, I think simply to point to them and to address them in an amendment on the floor, or a series of amendments, I think, would accommodate a lot of the need and the hope of many of our senators who are still unwilling to today sign on to the resolution as it was agreed to.

CROWLEY: You know what the Hill is like. There are a lot of aides out there at this point saying that they thought that Gephardt's decision to so publicly stand by the president while you were still wrestling with language more about '04 than anything else. He has, obviously, denied that. I want to know if you've heard that and what you think about that?

DASCHLE: You hear it all the time, as you know, Candy, but I discount it completely. Dick Gephardt is one of my closest friends here on the Hill. We work together every day. I think he was doing what he saw fit, at what he thought was best, and I don't fault him for that. That's what I would do if I were in his position. So he respects my position on matters like this. It's so rare we find ourselves in disagreement. I have no problem with that. CROWLEY: Let me turn the corner here. You just came from a meeting with former and what you hope to be soon again Senator Lautenberg. What went on the meeting?

DASCHLE: We talked about how pleased we were with the Supreme Court vote last night: 7-0. I think that's as clear an indication that the people of New Jersey want this settled and they want to ensure that voters have a choice. We talked about how we might launch the campaign now in the coming days. And I think everything is going even better than expected. We didn't think we'd be in this good a position given, the way the week started.

CROWLEY: Let me ask you if you had any problem with the fact that Senator Lautenberg and Senator Torricelli have never been known to be particularly good friends. In fact, a lot of people sort of see Senator Lautenberg moving in as a little bit of an insult. Is that a matter of tension for you?

DASCHLE: It isn't. It isn't a matter of tension at all. As a matter of fact, we've talked about it. And I think that, obviously, Senator Torricelli has been very magnanimous in the way he has made his decision to retire. And I think that it's important that we recognize that there are a lot of things that we can all do together. Senator Torricelli said it very clearly: He wants to ensure that the seat stays Democratic and that we're staying the majority, and I fully expect that Senator Torricelli is going to be with us in this as well.


CROWLEY: Needles to say, Republican Senator Bill Frist has a very different view of the New Jersey ballot flap. We'll hear from him next.

Also ahead:


SNOW: Good to see you at the White House in the Rose Garden, standing there next to the president without Tom Daschle on your other side.


SNOW: I'm sure you would acknowledge that.

Did it feel uncomfortable?


CROWLEY: Stick around to find out how House Democratic Leader Dick Gephardt answers Kate Snow's question.

And we'll tell you about the juicy details Governor Jeb Bush has reportedly been revealing, and discuss whether it's appropriate.

And we're standing by for another briefing on that series of shootings in Montgomery County, Maryland. We'll carry it live.


CROWLEY: The man who personally delivered the Republican appeal of the New Jersey ballot decision to the U.S. Supreme Court is Republican Senator Bill Frist. Senator Frist is chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, and he joins me now from Capitol Hill.

Senator Frist, thanks so much.

SEN. BILL FRIST (R), TENNESSEE: Candy, good to be here.

CROWLEY: Let me ask you about this New Jersey thing.

You've heard the Democrats. They say this reminds them an awful lot about the year 2000. Do you think it's real political wisdom to rile up New Jersey Democrats, of which there are many, at this point in the game?

FRIST: Well, you know, our bottom line -- and first, there's real outrage all around the country at the fact that the Democrats in the New Jersey, but really the bosses here in Washington, D.C. are trying to gain the electoral or the election process itself.

But basically it's a constitutional issue, that we think it is very important to uphold. Article I section 4 of the Constitution basically says that it is state law, state legislatures, that determine the time, manner and place of elections.

Yesterday the New Jersey Supreme Court overrode that, in spite of what the Constitution says. So we think it is very important for the people of New Jersey, but also the way elections are run all across the country, that we uphold election law as intended in the Constitution of the United States of America.

CROWLEY: Well, are you worried it might be somewhat of a puric (ph) victory because, again, Democrats are framing this as, look, these people just don't want to have a real contest.

FRIST: Well, you know, we're ready for a real contest by the rule of law.

There's one thing that we need to teach our children, is that there is a rule of law; that there are rules of the road, rules of the election process that need to be upheld.

I've got 34 races -- Senate races this year. Does this mean that right now all of those election laws don't apply? And just because someone is losing -- they didn't drop dead, nothing happened to them where their pulse stopped, but just because they're losing. And Senator Torricelli made it very clear that that's why he dropped out, all of a sudden new candidates can come in, candidates can drop out?

Think of the chaos that precedent sets for elections, federal elections all over the country. The Constitution is very clear: New Jersey law is very, very clear. And thus we hope that the Supreme Court will issue a stay of action for the decision yesterday and have a hearing and make a decision as we go forward.

CROWLEY: Senator, let me ask you, we've seen a number of reports lately, and the polling seems to suggest that Republicans may do fairly well in this midterm.

I want to put you to the test, and we're going to play this right after the elections: How many Senate seats will you pick up or lose?

FRIST: We will net one seat up, which will put us back in the majority.

America is very divided now, but looking at the elections, recognizing that of the 16 states that are in play now, all but one are either in neutral territory or strong Republican territory. When you look at the candidates, you look at the geography, you look at the issues of the day, and you look at the resources that we have in terms of cash on hand, I'm confident that we can get the message out and we will pick up, net, one seat.

If we happen to lose one seat, we'll pick up two in addition, which will put us, net, one up. And I don't think we'd even possibly lose more than one at this juncture.

CROWLEY: We'll hold you to it, Senator Frist.

Let me move on to Iraq. The Senate is, right now, voting to move to the debate on Iraq. There won't be any actual votes on the issues until next week.

I want to ask you your best guess about what's going to happen. One of the things Senator Daschle told us was that he thought there would be a majority behind some sort of resolution, but they clearly haven't signed on to the language from the House. What are we going to get in the end?

FRIST: We will see, I think, active discussion and debate. Even what America -- the American people don't see is all the discussion that is going on throughout the course of the day on this very issue.

I agree that we will see an overwhelming majority of people vote for a resolution that will give the president the ability, the power to conduct, as commander in chief, the business at hand. We all know we're up against a tyrant -- a tyrant who has weapons of mass destruction. Who is used them against his own people, who will use them again and the American people just beginning to realize, using them again may well be on the American people themselves.

CROWLEY: Senator Bill Frist of Tennessee, we thank you very much.

FRIST: Good to be with you, Candy.

CROWLEY: Letters, resumes, New York Democrat Carl McCall ahead in "Campaign News Daily."

Also, a tough new ad in the Michigan governor's race leads to claims of racism.

But first, let's turn to Rhonda Schaffler at the New York Stock Exchange for a market update.

RHONDA SCHAFFLER, CNN SENIOR MARKET CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Candy. It was a bit of a choppy session here. Worries over earnings still plaguing the market. The Dow losing 37 points even as chemical maker du Pont said it expects to beat earnings expectations for the third quarter, even that wasn't enough to send the Dow higher and stay there.

The Nasdaq down 21 points. Tech stocks under pressure following a profit warning from Advanced Microdevices, the second largest chip maker in the world behind Intel.

Martha Stewart has resigned from the Board of Directors at the New York Stock Exchange. Stewart resigned voluntarily according to the chairman of the NYSE, Richard Grosso. Stewart is embroiled in a stock scandal after selling ImClone shares a day before a negative FDA ruling on the biotech which sent the shares tumbling. She denies any wrongdoing. Yesterday the assistant to the Stewart's broker pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge in the case and is now cooperating with investigators. Shares of Martha Stewart's company, Martha Stewart Living-OmniMedia fell 59 cents today to close just above $6 a share. Before this scandal broke, those shares were trading around $20.

That is the latest from Wall Street. More INSIDE POLITICS after the break, including the "Taking Issues" segment with Bay Buchanan and Donna Brazile.


CROWLEY: Checking the headlines in "Campaign News Daily," a tough new political ad in the race for Michigan governor is raising accusations of racism by some state Democrats. The state GOP ad criticizes a leaked memo by Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, intended for Democratic candidate Jennifer Granholm. Republican nominee Dick Posthumus insists the ad is not about race, but political favors.


AD ANNOUNCER: Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick says his price for helping Granholm: all new state office buildings must be in Detroit and new contract quotas for Detroit businesses. Granholm, higher property taxes and a blank check for Detroit.


CROWLEY: In the New York governor's race, Carl McCall has apologized for writing dozens of letters on government stationary that reference other peoples' resumes and job searches. The McCall campaign released 61 of the letters yesterday, three were made public last week. McCall has said he never intended to influence or pressure anyone. The letters mention a number of McCall's friends and relatives as well as their resumes. McCall, who is the current the state comptroller, says he does not think forwarding resumes is unusual for a public office holder.

Down south in Florida, Governor Jeb Bush yesterday added what he reportedly called -- quote -- "juicy details to the disappearance case of 6-year-old Rilya Wilson." The two women who were responsible for Wilson before she disappeared were arrested yesterday and charged with welfare fraud. During a meeting with lawmakers from the Panhandle, Governor Bush implied the two women are lesbians and not relatives as they have described themselves. According to the "Pensacola News Journal," Bush said one woman, as she was being arrested said -- quote -- "Tell my wife I've been arrested." Bush then explained, in his words, "The wife is the grandmother, and the aunt is the husband." A bush spokesman says the remarks were taken from a private meeting and the governor would have no further comment.

Time to discuss some of these stories in our "Taking Issues" segment. With me from New York is Al Gore's former campaign manager, Donna Brazile. And here in Washington, Bay Buchanan of the American Cause.

OK, let's start with Jeb Bush. What do you make of this, Donna?

DONNA BRAZILE, FORMER GORE CAMPAIGN MANAGER: It's salacious gossip, probably dripping from his mouth when he was telling those conservatives in Pensacola -- look, what Jeb Bush should focus on is trying to find Rilya Wilson and trying to shore up the agency to make sure that this never happens again.

To pass along that gossip to try to throw red meat at conservatives, 33 days before the election, it's beneath the office of the Governor and I would hope that he takes the high ground and goes to debate Bill McBride about the future of our children in Florida.

CROWLEY: Well, Bay let me just ask you -- I mean obviously he didn't say this in public. I think the question is, is there any political fallout here?

BAY BUCHANAN, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN CAUSE: No, I don't believe -- it was silly. Donna's correct. A silly, juvenile remark. And as you said, intended for private conversation.

But, at the same time, there's absolutely no political fallout whatsoever. In my opinion, he's running a strong campaign, he's very aggressive. He's coming against McBride. McBride seems to be somewhat hesitant at the stage, not running a strong or aggressively as he needs to to beat Jeb Bush.

BRAZILE: I think McBride has his sea legs, Bay. And after that little fiasco, which was very important, that the votes be counted in South Florida.

I think McBride is coming on strong. He has wonderful support among Independents and Democrats and I think McBride is going to surprise Jeb Bush and that's why he spent so much money during the primary trying to defeat McBride because he knew McBride had the juice.

BUCHANAN: Well, he's going to spend his money because that's what you do with all that money you have.

But, you know, there's one key point, Donna. A poll came out that shows Jeb Bush running -- tied with women, virtually, in the state against McBride which -- and he's always run very, very strong with men. So if McBride can only break even with the women, he's going to be in real trouble in 30 days.

CROWLEY: Let me move you on to New Jersey, Donna, just because you're getting ready to going there, and so you're going to become an expert here.

Listen, let's get past the Supreme Court and what they do or don't do. If Frank Lautenberg is on the ballot, is that just kind of it?

BRAZILE: I think Lautenberg is a great candidate. You know he's a remarkable leader and people are very excited about him being on the ticket.

Now, look, Bob Torricelli is a great public servant. And he did the right thing this past week in stepping down and now that the New Jersey Supreme Court has ruled in an unanimous decision that the people deserve a choice in this election cycle, I think the debate should begin. And it should not begin by trying to take Mr. Lautenberg off the ballot.

It should be talking about some of the most important issues in the election like the environment or women's right to choose. And whether or not we see a conservative Republican put in office to tip the balance that's in Washington, D.C. right now.

BUCHANAN: You know, Donna, your candidate up there in New York -- McCall's not doing too well -- down 15 points. Are you going to go up there and tell him he should drop out, too, until we can get somebody stronger on that race? What is it about Democrats that you can't just run your races -- you're now dropping out early. The law is very, very clear.

BRAZILL: Now, Bay, now, now, perhaps a when we get a White House, we can hand pick and choose our candidates the way our dear president picked many of the candidates across the country. We want the voters to decide this race in New Jersey.

And by the way, politicians always send out letters or recommendations or referrals or something on letterhead. Look, Carl McCall said it was inappropriate to send it out on official letterhead. He has apologized. Now it's time to talk about the economy, talk about Upstate New York, talk about who's going to bring jobs and health care to the great people here in this state.


CROWLEY: Let me just interrupt you. Bay Buchanan, Donna Brazile, thank you very much. This argument has a real familiar ring to you it. Thanks.

BRAZILE: Thank you.

CROWLEY: Senator Paul Wellstone talks about Iraq and his race for reelection just ahead.

Plus: an update on the search for the gunman in those Maryland shootings.


CROWLEY: Five people gunned down in a normally quiet Maryland suburb -- we'll have an update next. We also hope to talk to FEMA Director Joe Allbaugh about Tropical Storm Lili. Plus: a Democrat fighting for his political life speaks out about war with Iraq.


SEN. PAUL WELLSTONE (D), MINNESOTA: We should act forcefully, resolutely, sensibly with our allies and not alone to disarm Saddam.


CROWLEY: We'll have the latest on Saddam Hussein as a U.S. election issue when we return.


CROWLEY: In our "News Alert": a deadly series of shootings in Maryland. Police believe they are connected. And they are hunting for, in their words, a very calculating killer or killers.

CNN's Bob Franken is following the story in Montgomery County.

Bob, what can you tell us?

BOB FRANKEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, no pattern as far as the victims are concerned, nor have there been any shootings since this morning about 10:00.

But, starting at 5:20 last night and lasting until 10:00 a.m., there were six shootings, a single shot each time. The first one missed. Each time after that, tragically, a person was killed. It began last night at 5:20 at a craft shop. Not far from where I am right now, a bullet went through the window, barely missing the person inside.

About a half-hour after that: another shooting, this time at a supermarket not far away. A 55-year-old man was shot dead in the parking lot. A little bit after that, there was nothing overnight. But then, this morning, starting at 7:41, another shooting. This was a man who was cutting his grass on a major thoroughfare not far away. He was shot dead. About a half-hour after that, there was still another shooting, this time at a Mobil station. In fact, we're at that Mobil station. This time, it was a taxicab driver who was putting gas into his car, shot dead, single shot. About a half-hour after that, a woman was at a post office, outside of a post office, near a retirement center. She was shot and killed. About an hour that followed that, the last shooting, that was at another service station where another person was shot dead. This was a woman who was merely vacuuming her van.

It has been like that. Schools were shut down before for the day. That is to say, the students were kept in the class or they were left home. And officials say they hope to open tomorrow -- Candy.

CROWLEY: Bob Franken, watching the Maryland shootings for us -- thanks very much, Bob.

Another story we want to move on to now that we've been watching all day now, now Tropical Storm Lili. And we have on the phone with us FEMA Director Joe Allbaugh, who is in Beaumont, Texas.

Joe, thanks for joining us.

JOE ALLBAUGH, FEMA DIRECTOR: Candy, how are you?

CROWLEY: I'm good.

Listen, she didn't turn out to be the beast we thought she would be, but I've got to guess that you're hearing reports of damages.

ALLBAUGH: We're hearing a lot of reports of damage.

The fact is, we're at the Jefferson County Airport here in Beaumont, outside of Beaumont, just being rebuffed by the storm, trying to get into Lake Charles and Lafayette. Roads are closed, a lot of power lines down. I need to caution everyone to stay away from downed power lines. We have got high water.

Terrebonne Parish, which is one of the coastal parishes, has 25,000 people who were displaced right now, probably in excess of 150,000 people in a variety of parishes along the coast that are out of their homes. And the president, as you know, at 12:15 today, I spoke with him. And he authorized a declaration, which means federal assets are on the job. Federal money is flowing right now and we are trying to help those people who have been affected by this storm.

CROWLEY: What do you assess to be the greatest need right now?

ALLBAUGH: Well, I think making sure everyone has a warm place to stay tonight and something that's dry, in addition to just getting our teams out to make those damage assessments so we can start the debris cleanup.

High winds are buffeting all over the coast, a lot of high water. Fortunately, there has been no serious injury or loss of life. And that's the good news here. I'll remind everybody, this was a Category 4 middle of the night last night. And we prepared to take on whatever this storm was going to deliver. And we have in excess of over 1,000 federal personnel on the ground. I know the state has plenty of people here.

We're prepared to help the citizens of Louisiana respond and recover from the storm.

CROWLEY: Is the worst of it over now, Joe?

ALLBAUGH: Well, I don't know that you can say that, because, as the storm moves north through the state and then starts bending back to the east toward the Atlantic Coast, it's going to be dumping a lot of water.

So those states that are in the path in counties and parishes, they're going to receive a lot of water. There will be less wind damage, so this storm is far from over. We don't want to take anything for granted.

CROWLEY: FEMA Director Joe Allbaugh, I can't tell you how much we appreciate it, from Beaumont, Texas.

Senator Paul Wellstone discusses elections politics when we return, his reelection bid, and his role in the debate over Iraq -- next on INSIDE POLITICS.


CROWLEY: On the Senate floor today, Minnesota Democrat Paul Wellstone spoke out against a resolution authorizing military action against Iraq. Wellstone, meantime, is fighting his own difficult battle for reelection.

Jonathan Karl sat down with Wellstone to talk about war and politics.


KARL: Senator, you have come out and you have said that you will vote against this resolution authorizing the president to use force in Iraq.

How difficult a decision was that and are you going to pay a political price back in Minnesota?

WELLSTONE: Well, a difficult decision, because it's a question of life and death. Minnesota's sons and daughters could be in harm's way. What will be the impact of the world we live in? So that kind of decision, you talk to a lot of people that you respect, you think deeply about it, and then you make an intellectually honest and personally honest decision.

So it was difficult for that reason. And on the consequences, you were saying, the political consequences?

KARL: Yes.

WELLSTONE: I don't really know. I don't know. I don't honestly and truthfully know.

I think, if I had made the decision -- if I had come to the floor and had uttered words I didn't believe in or voted for something that I was really against, that would -- I couldn't do that. So I think it's always better to make the decision you honestly believe in. And I'll leave it up to the people in Minnesota what they think.

KARL: Tell me, now, back in '98, when President Clinton asked for authorization to use force against Iraq, you stood there and you voted to give that Democratic president the authority. What's different?

WELLSTONE: Well, actually, it was a voice vote. I mean, it was one of those voice votes on the floor of the Senate. And I don't know exactly what had happened, to be honest. But it wasn't actually for military force. They did talk about the importance of getting a regime change. But I don't think it was on military force at all.

KARL: One of the things that your opponent has tried to say about you is that you are weak on defense; you are not a strong supporter of the military in a time when we're fighting a war on terrorism. Doesn't this play right into his argument, one of his central arguments against you?


Well, there's two points, actually. See I think, Jon, that -- and I said it on the floor -- I actually have great concerns about going at it alone and unilaterally, authorizing that, because I think it could undercut the kind of support we need in South Asia and the Near East for the battle against terrorism, for al Qaeda, which I take very, very seriously. I give no ground on that issue.

As to the rest of it, my opponent, Republican Party attacks, and whatnot, which I've heard were going on today, you know, "He'll lose the election because of this" or whatever they're saying, I don't think people in Minnesota are in the mood to hear it.

KARL: I remember being in the Senate chamber as a young reporter when you gave your first speech of your Senate career.

WELLSTONE: Right, on Iraq.

KARL: And it was against the last Gulf War.


KARL: Is this a similar situation, a similarly difficult situation?

WELLSTONE: You know what? There is a similarity and a dissimilarity. What's similar is that, even then, I said, "I'm not opposed to military action, but I think the military option is the last option." That's always been my framework.

And I feel the same way right now. What's changed is, I just got here, and then, boom, that's the question. This time, because of the people of Minnesota, I've had a chance to be a United States senator for almost 12 years. I've had a chance to be at all the Senate Foreign Relation Committee hearings, to have all the intelligence briefings, to call the best people in the country, to think more deeply about it.

And I've approached it, I think, this time more -- I'll say it proudly -- with the methodology of being a United States senator. That's what really different this time.

KARL: AS you know, many of your colleagues here in the Senate are certainly on board.


KARL: Are they too eager to give the president the authority?

WELLSTONE: Well, I can't speak for -- I don't really believe this is a party strategy question. For me, I never dreamed I'd be a United States senator from Minnesota. I owe everything to people in the state.

And you just have -- I think you have got to make the best decision you can make. And I very honestly and truthfully believe it would be a mistake to go at it alone. And I think that's what this resolution -- the bottom line is, that's what it authorizes. So I think there should be opposition to this. And I think we should go to the international community.

Other senators obviously have taken different positions, for whatever reasons. I have to only do what my head and heart and soul tell me is the right thing to do. That's all I can do.


CROWLEY: The Iraq debate has created some strange political bedfellows. Up next: House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt talks about siding with President Bush over his Democratic colleague Tom Daschle.


CROWLEY: As you heard earlier on INSIDE POLITICS, Senator Majority Leader Tom Daschle still calls Dick Gephardt one of his closest friends on the Hill. That's despite the fact the House Democratic leader joined forces with President Bush yesterday in the Iraq debate.

Our congressional correspondent Kate Snow talked to Gephardt about his decision and the fallout.


REP. RICHARD GEPHARDT (D-MO), MINORITY LEADER: Well, it's been a wild week here. I can tell you that.

KATE SNOW, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was nearing midnight Tuesday when Democratic leader Dick Gephardt was finally ready to sign off on a resolution authorizing President Bush to use force in Iraq.

Thirteen hours, later he was in the Rose Garden shoulder to shoulder with the president, without his counterpart, Senate leader Tom Daschle. Gephardt says he wasn't leaving Daschle out in the cold. He told him Tuesday afternoon what he was planning.

GEPHARDT: We worked together to try to get the best resolution we could get. In the end, they have a different process than we do. And Tom faced a different kind of legislative situation than we do. And he understood and I understood where we were. And it's just the way it turned out.

SNOW (on camera): And he knew you were going over to the White House?


SNOW: You would stand there shoulder to shoulder with the president?


But what he said yesterday morning I thought was right. It doesn't matter where we start. What matters is where we wind up.

SNOW: (voice-over): Gephardt admits what he's now supporting is a compromise, not necessarily everything he wanted.

GEPHARDT: I wanted, first of all, to define the military force as well as we could. And I wanted to make sure that we had given him the admonition that he should exhaust the effort at the United Nations, so we can try to get the United Nations to do the right thing. And I'm hopeful that they will.

SNOW (on camera): It doesn't say that he must exhaust diplomatic efforts, though. It suggests that you would support diplomatic efforts, but it doesn't say he has to, which is something that Senators Lugar an Biden really wanted more explicitly in there.

GEPHARDT: Well, it does have language in it that says that he should go to the U.N. It encourages him to use his best efforts to try to get this done.

There was language in the Biden-Lugar resolution which came during the last weekend that we were negotiating that I would have liked to have gotten. And we negotiated over some of that language. In the end, you have to reach a compromise. You have to reach something that both sides can live with.

SNOW (voice-over): But some Democrats are upset with what Gephardt did.

REP. JOHN CONYERS (D), MICHIGAN: I am completely at a loss to explain to you why the minority leader of the House, the Democratic leader, would join with President Bush in this kind of activity.

SNOW: Publicly, few Democrats are voicing the criticism. But, privately, some House Democrats say they're frustrated that Gephardt, in their view, caved in. They simply don't want to say it out loud, because that would shift the media's focus to internal party squabbling.

(on camera): There definitely are some members of your caucus who were shocked to see you there and who felt like you were selling them out. I'm going to give you a chance to respond to that.

GEPHARDT: Well, I've said many times, this is not an issue on which you can have a party position. This is an issue that everybody has to decide on the basis of their conscience. And we all have to make a decision. That's why we're here.

But it's the most important decision and difficult decision that any of us have to make. This is about life and death. It's about war and peace. And we've got to keep it out of politics.

SNOW: You've said that quite a bit lately: "We've got to keep this out of politics." But there are Democrats privately saying that this all about politics for you; this all about positioning yourself for 2004.

GEPHARDT: Everybody can use whatever motives that they want to assign to people. I don't think it's appropriate. I think it's demeaning of what each of us is here for. I think, and I've said to my caucus many times, you've got to keep this out of politics and you have to do what you think is right.


CROWLEY: House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt and CNN's Kate Snow.

By the way, Mr. Gephardt tells us he still hasn't figured out if he will run in 2004. But he says, if he does, standing side by side with the president on Iraq wouldn't necessarily help him. As he put it, you could argue the politics of it either way.

Still to come: Want to bet? With the Major League Baseball playoffs under way, we'll have the classic mayors-have-unusual-wager story.


CROWLEY: Looking ahead to the top of the hour and "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS": Wolf will have an exclusive CNN report by CNN's Mike Boettcher on the secret files of the John Walker Lindh interrogation.

That's straight ahead at 5:00 p.m. Eastern on "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) CROWLEY: Here's something new: an attack ad via e-mail. It's a Democratic cartoon on Social Security that has President Bush pushing an elderly woman down the steps. Republicans are outraged. We will talk about it tomorrow.

We've reached another baseball playoff season, which means we have another of those political bets on the outcome of a big series: the American League Division Series between the New York Yankees and the Anaheim Angels. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is wagering Nathan's hot dogs and H&H bagels. Anaheim Mayor Tom Daly is putting up chilies and a crate of oranges. The Angels staged a late comeback last night to even the best-of-five series at a game apiece. So stay tuned.

That's it for INSIDE POLITICS. I'm Candy Crowley.


on Supreme Court to End Lautenberg's Campaign>

© 2004 Cable News Network LP, LLLP.
A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us.
external link
All external sites will open in a new browser. does not endorse external sites.