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Trent Lott Prepares to Answer for Widely Criticized Remarks; Al Gore Goes on Late-Night Comedy Shows

Aired December 13, 2002 - 16:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: The apologies keep on coming. Trent Lott prepares to answer for his widely criticized remarks.


SEN. TRENT LOTT (R-MS), SENATE REPUBLICAN LEADER: I'm going to expand on that even more this afternoon at the press conference.


ANNOUNCER: The chronology of a controversy. How the Lott flap started slowly, and then exploded.


AL GORE, FMR. VICE PRESIDENT: I would like to demonstrate for you the the Al Gore version of the Macarena.


ANNOUNCER: From Mr. Stiff to stand-up comedian: Al Gore uses humor to try to get the last laugh.

Just in time for the holidays. A haunting tale, in the "Political Play of the Week."


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am the ghost of Christmas past, Ebenezer Scrooge.


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

WOODRUFF: Thank you for joining us. Trent Lott said today that he will not step down as Senate Republican leader, but in this news cycle, Lott holds a news conference in his home state of Mississippi. CNN will carry it live in the next hour.

Lott says he will expand on his apology for remarks which gave some the impression that he supports segregation. This comes a day after President Bush blasted Lott's comments as offensive and wrong.

Let's go right to Capitol Hill where our Jonathan Karl has been following the political fallout from Trent Lott's remarks.

Jonathan, what are you hearing that he is going to say?

JONATHAN KARL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Judy, Lott's advisers are saying emphatically what he will not do is he will not resign. They're saying that he will do is offer what they are calling a heartfelt mea culpa, speak from the heart and offer an emphatic and impassionate apology for what he has said and to try to explain himself as some body who is very committed to good race relations.

Also, Trent Lott himself, just a short while ago, earlier today, offered somewhat of a preview of what he'll be talking about.


LOTT: I did speak to the president, and -- yesterday -- and the president said, as he should, that I have apologized for what I had to say, which was the appropriate thing to do and I'm going to expand on that even more this afternoon at the press conference.


KARL: Now Senator Lott goes into this press conference with a bit of very good news from his perspective.

Jim Jeffords, the independent senator from Vermont, the former Republican who has clashed mightily with Trent Lott in the past, has just put out a statement supporting Lott -- condemning what he said last week, but accepting his apology saying that Jim Jeffords has known Trent Lott for more than 30 years and -- quote -- "I know Trent Lott to be a man of honor and of conscience."

And the statement goes on to say that he understands that many of us in public life come out and say things that we later regret and did not intend to say. So that one word of support coming from a very unlikely area, former Republican senator, current independent Senator Jim Jeffords -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Well, Jon, we know that a number of Republicans may have put out statements in the past. They're not saying a lot today. But what are Democrats saying right now about all this?

KARL: Democrats aren't saying a lot, either. It's interesting. Everybody's waiting to see what happens with Trent Lott.

But what I can tell you, Judy, is that CNN has learned that there are high-level discussions going on among top Democrats in the Senate about pursuing a censure resolution or a resolution condemning Senator Lott's statements last week about Strom Thurmond's 1948 presidential campaign.

This would be a resolution that would be introduced when the Congress comes back in January. They haven't made a decision on this, but very high-level discussions among senior staff and among senior Democratic members of the Senate about putting out a resolution condemning what Trent Lott said.

WOODRUFF: So Jon, if this news conference today that Senator Lott's holding, doesn't put this whole thing to rest what does happen next?

KARL: Well, what happens is, in January, all the members of the Senate will come back finally. They have not -- this all happened during recess, obviously.

Two critical dates. One, January 7, the new Congress convenes. They are sworn in.

But on January 8, the Republicans in the Senate come together for a two-day retreat, where they are supposed to be talking about the agenda -- about the president's agenda and about what they will do during the 108th Congress. But if this issue is still alive, that would be their first opportunity to do something, if there was to be a challenge to Trent Lott's leadership, it would happen probably at that January 8 retreat, Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right. Jon Karl. Significant Jim Jeffords is accepting the apology.

KARL: Yes, very significant.

WOODRUFF: Thanks very much.

WOODRUFF: Well, the White House is today confirming that Lott spoke by telephone with the president yesterday after Mr. Bush publicly denounced the senator's remarks.

If Mr. Bush urged Lott to expand on his apology, Press Secretary Ari Fleischer isn't saying.


ARI FLEISCHER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECY.: Those are judgments that others make. The president does not sit in judgment of whether or not people need to have news conferences or not. The president believes it's important to speak to the country about the issues of race relations and improving race relations and the important advancements that our country has made in civil rights. That's what the president focuses on.


WOODRUFF: When asked why Mr. Bush waited until yesterday to speak out against Lott's remarks, Fleischer said the president thought his speech on his faith-based initiative was an appropriate forum to share his views.

Let's bring in Karen Tumulty of "TIME" Magazine, who's also covering the Lott controversy. Karen, you're the one broke the story late yesterday afternoon about Senator Lott, when he was college at the University of Mississippi, leading an effort to prevent his national fraternity from admitting black members.

I know you're following the story very closely today. What are you hearing? How much trouble is he in?

KAREN TUMULTY, "TIME" MAGAZINE: He's in a lot of trouble and the situation is looking very dire, with each turn of the news cycle.

And as Jonathan suggested, there's a near silence out there among the senators. That is a bad sign. Already, behind the scenes, you're hearing talk's potential successors for Lott, whether the names you're hearing are Mitch McConnell of Kentucky or maybe Don Nickles of Oklahoma, maybe Bill Frist of Tennessee.

He's got a very high bar to clear this afternoon. One prominent Republican told me this afternoon that it's going to have to be nothing short of a Checkers speech, of course hearkening back to the speech that Richard Nixon used to save his vice-presidential candidacy.

WOODRUFF: But right now, Karen, we're not just about that one remark at a birthday party. We're now talking about all these revelations, including yours; the stories that have come out.

We're now talking about a number of statements over the years, speeches and votes. Is it -- are people expecting them to apologize for every single one of these things?

TUMULTY: Well, that is the problem. What, you know, a week ago looked like one mistake has now become a pattern.

And as a result, Trent Lott has to go beyond what he has already said, which is that time were different back then, and really prove to people that, in fact, he, Trent Lott is different as well.

WOODRUFF: Well, and, Karen, what is going to turn the key for him? Is there -- I mean, are people saying, you know, if he seems to be in charge if he looks like he's gotten it, is that what's going to determine it? Or is there going have to about meeting of senators afterwards? I mean, how does something like this get decided?

TUMULTY: Well, the first thing that's going to have to happen is that there not be any more revelations that are damaging towards -- in this way.

But I think that a lot of people are going to be listening. They're probably not going to be making a lot of statements over the weekend. They're going to be using the time to sort of let Senator Lott's statements today settle in and then take a gauge of the public.

WOODRUFF: And how much of this is going to be the reaction in the news media? TUMULTY: That's -- Judy you know, I think -- I'm not the only newspaper -- or the only reporter out there who's been looking into Senator Lott's past. And that continues. This has really opened up a Pandora's Box for him.

WOODRUFF: All right. Karen Tumulty. "TIME" Magazine. Thank you very much. We appreciate your talking to us.

Some political controversies are red hot from Day One. Others take time to gain steam as the key players involved weigh in and public opinion evolves, as we've been talking here. The Trent Lott flap falls into the second category.

Here's how it's played out over the last eight days.


WOODRUFF (voice-over): Thursday, December 5: Strom Thurmond's 100th birthday. It's just 17 seconds from a light-hearted speech, but Lott sounds like he's praising segregation, a policy Strom Thurmond himself had long since abandoned.

LOTT: I want to say this about my state. When Strom Thurmond ran for president, we voted for him. We're proud of him.


LOTT: And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn't have had all these problems over all these years either.

WOODRUFF: Many in the audience appear puzzled. Does the soon to be majority leader of the United States really think the country should be segregated?

The question hangs in the air all weekend. Lott issues a defensive statement, but it's not an apology.

Monday, in an interview on this program, Al Gore demands that Lott apologize or be censured by the Senate.

GORE: To the say that a segregationist should have become president and that would have avoided a lot of problems that we have now, that is racist. That's racist.

WOODRUFF: Lott issue as new statement.

It was a poor choice of words, he says, and in no way meant to endorse segregation.

Tuesday, top Democrats say Lott might not be fit to lead.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: I don't know if any apology is adequate.

WOODRUFF: And now, some conservatives. The "Wall Street Journal" editorial page, The Family Research Council are saying the same.

Wednesday, Lott's record is under intense scrutiny. His support for Bob Jones University, opposition to major civil rights initiatives, and appearances before a racist group are all being dragged up.

Lott, again, apologizes in a telephone interview with CNN's Larry King.

LOTT: Those words were insensitive and I shouldn't have said them.

WOODRUFF: Thursday, before a multiracial audience in Philadelphia, President Bush makes an extraordinary public rebuke.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Recent comments by Senator Lott do not reflect the spirit of our country.

WOODRUFF: Lott's Republican colleagues are publicly supportive. But privately, they think their leader has badly mishandled the whole affair.

John McCain's advice?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I think he has to have a full- blown press conference.

WOODRUFF: Friday, Lott gets the message and announces he'll go before the cameras.

LOTT: And I'm going to expand on that even more this afternoon at the press conference.

WOODRUFF: Will that calm the furor? A tough task, but Lott's future depends on it.


WOODRUFF: Well, if Trent Lott feels as if his critics are piling on, consider this: Even the National Organization for Women is calling for his resignation. And not just because of the race-related comment. N.O.W. notes that Lott's remarks at Strom Thurmond birthday party also countained some sexual innuendo, which the group says was offensive to women.

Political events of the last week have focused the spotlight on one group of Americans perhaps more than any other. With me now for more on all that, CNN senior political analyst Bill Schneider -- Bill.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Judy, like Ebenezer Scrooge, white America had to confront a lot of ghosts this week. The ghosts of racial politics, past, present and future. In this drama, African-Americans occupy center stage as players in the "Political Play of the Week."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Last week, bitter and sorrowful ghosts emerged from the country's racial past.

LOTT: When Strom Thurmond ran for president, we voted for him. We're proud of him!

SCHNEIDER: African-American leaders go to Democrats and Republicans to respond.

REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D), MARYLAND: Statements like those made by Mr. Lott merely tear up the fabric of this country, and I think that the Republicans would do well to choose someone else to lead.

SCHNEIDER: Another terrible ghost of racism past appeared this week as the Supreme Court confronted the issue of cross burning as an expression of free speech. It was a rare occasion that moved Clarence Thomas, who grew up in Pinpoint, Georgia, to speak. "There is no other purpose to the cross. No communication, no particular message," Justice Thomas said. "It was intended to cause fear and to terrorize a population."

DONNA BRAZILE, FORMER GORE CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Those of us who know Justice Thomas and knows how strongly he feels about some of these issues, you know, welcome his remarks.

SCHNEIDER: And as for racial politics present, Donna Brazile's get out the vote effort in Louisiana's black community helped put Democrat Mary Landrieu over the top.

SEN. MARY LANDRIEU (D), LOUISIANA: The African-American community, which is the soul of the Democratic Party, railed. I just can't thank the community enough.

SCHNEIDER: Ms. Brazile also suggested a plan for racial politics future. She wants Democrats to run favorite son and daughter candidates in the 2004 presidential primaries to bring out African- American voters. The past, present and future of African-American politics came together this week, confirming the fact that blacks are key players, and this was their "Play of the Week."


SCHNEIDER: The ghosts brought redemption to Ebenezer Scrooge, and these ghosts offer redemption to America. As President Bush put it, quote, "every day our nation was segregated was a day that America was unfaithful to our founding ideals" -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right. Bill Schneider. Thanks very much.

Question: How is the Lott controversy playing late at night? That story and much more ahead on INSIDE POLITICS.

Also ahead, Republican and Democratic Party officials butt heads over Lott's apology and whether he should step aside.

And later -- explosive questions for the White House. Why crack down on one part of the president's axis of evil and not the other?



DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST: This just in. U.N. inspector Hans Blix has declared Trent Lott's mouth a biological weapon.



JAY LENO, HOST: The U.S. Supreme Court this week is going to decide once and for all whether to outlaw cross burning when it is used to intimidate and threaten people, you know, as opposed to the fun, family cross burnings. You know, we all went to as kids! Remember all the fun?

Oh, yeah!


They may outlaw cross burnings. More bad news for Trent Lott. This is not his week! This is not his week!


WOODRUFF: That's how the Trent Lott controversy has been playing on late-night television.

Next, we will get the view from the right and the left. INSIDE POLITICS, back in a minute.


WOODRUFF: And with us now, Mindy Tucker, communications director for the Republican National Committee, and Jennifer Palmieri, press secretary for the Democratic National Committee.

Mindy, to you first. Senator Trent Lott. We're going to hear from him very shortly, but what we're talking about now is not just one comment at a birthday party but a whole cascade of statements, speeches, votes, among other things, voting against renewing the Voting Rights Act in 1981, defending Bob Jones University and so on. Is he too damaged now to hang on to his leadership position?

MINDY TUCKER, COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, RNC: Well, I think we have to look at the bigger question than that. First of all, this has been, unfortunately, a very, very painful situation for a lot of people. It's very unfortunate. I think it's shown that both parties, frankly, have room to grow. I think the president was right yesterday to re-energize everybody, to learn from the past, and to move forward in the future and not trivialize this issue.

So I think at this point, we, I think the senator's going to make his own mind up, and the other senators in the Senate can make their own minds up about how they want to handle this situation. But as far as the political side of things, I think the Democrats have to be careful. They've had similar problems in the past with senators on their side saying things or doing things that have been unfortunate as well. And I think we have to really be careful not to politicize, not to be opportunistic about this, not to trivialize the situation...

WOODRUFF: But it doesn't sound like you're saying he's going to hold on to this position?

TUCKER: I think that's for his Senate and him to decide. As a young person involved in politics, I'm really glad we have leaders like President Bush and Marc Racicot to help us through situations like this as we do grow and do make progress as a party.

WOODRUFF: But not Trent Lott. You left his name out of that?

TUCKER: Well, obviously -- I mean, he was right to apologize. The comments were damaging. And he was right to apologize. But I also think we have to not focus on the negative. The president was right to say to everybody, we've got a lot of work to do as a country. And we need to answer that call and move forward.

WOODRUFF: Jennifer Palmieri, can Trent Lott survive this?

JENNIFER PALMIERI, PRESS SECRETARY, DNC: I don't think he's going to survive this. And I think it was when -- you know, Karen Tumulty, your last guest, when she unearthed the stuff about his college career. I don't think he can survive this. And I think it's just going to be a question of when Bush comes forward and says that I think he needs to step down. Because it's part of the responsibility of the ...


WOODRUFF: In other words, you don't think he's going to go willingly?

PALMIERI: I don't think -- it doesn't appear. And I'm surprised, frankly, because Republicans are usually better at this than Democrat are. If they get themselves into a situation normally they're pretty good at going to this guy and saying, Trent, it's time for you to go.

WOODRUFF: Cutting their losses.

PALMIERI: Cutting their losses. They're much better at that than Democrats are. And it seems like they're not doing that here, but it's going to take Bush to do it. He is the leader of the party. And it's great what he said yesterday, but it took him a week to say it. And it should not have taken him a week to say it.


PALMIERI: George Bush is the leader of the Republican Party, as well as the nation, and it took him seven days...


PALMIERI: ... to say something, and as long as he says it's fine for -- as long as Trent Lott remains Senate majority leader, George Bush is saying, it's fine for this guy to be head of the Senate.

WOODRUFF: What about this point, Mindy, about the president not speaking out sooner?

TUCKER: I think everybody could argue timing. And Tom Daschle has put out three different statements over the last couple of days saying three different things. And frankly, there were Democrats and Republicans in the room when he said it. And if everybody felt like it was such a horrible thing, at that point in time, why didn't they say something?

PALMIERI: Democrats were saying things a week ago.

TUCKER: But if we focus on things like timing and what statement was put out when, you're missing the point, and that is we've got a bigger issue to asses to here.

PALMIERI: No. The point is that Bush...


PALMIERI: ... politically expedient. It happens that it was politically expedient to do yesterday. It was also the right thing to do, which is criticize Lott. But he hasn't done enough. He has said through his silence...


PALMIERI: They said it's fine for this guy to be head of the Senate, and until he says that he has to go, I think Trent Lott is going to stay there. And as a signal that George Bush thinks that for a man who has the views of Trent Lott, it's great for him to be the head of the Senate, and I just don't think that's where the Republican Party should be.

TUCKER: I think Bush has made his position clear yesterday no matter how it's manipulated through the Democrats talking about process.

WOODRUFF: Well, we're going to know a little more anyway at 5:30 when Trent Lott says something at a news conference down in Pascagoula.

PALMIERI: My hometown.

WOODRUFF: Your hometown? Well, you should be able to tell us what he is going to say!

PALMIERI: All right. My mother even worked for Trent Lott about 30 years ago.

(CROSSTALK) WOODRUFF: Six degrees of separation. All right. Jennifer Palmieri and Mindy Tucker, thank you both. We'll have much more to talk about on Monday of next week. Thank you.

Is his party squarely behind him? We've been talking about it. Coming up, I will speak with a Republican governor about the Trent Lott controversy, and more.

Plus -- live from New York, it's Al Gore! The former vice president cuts loose on the late-night comedy shows. Is politics behind the laughs?

But first -- the Christmas retail rush. Are store shelves running dry? Let's check in with Mary Snow, live on Wall Street.



WOODRUFF: Why is Tom Daschle in Iowa? Is the Senate Democratic leader serious about a 2004 presidential bid? We'll investigate. But first, this news alert.


WOODRUFF: President Bush announced today that he will receive a smallpox vaccination as part of his new plan to protect Americans from a possible bioterror attack.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This particular vaccine does involve a small risk of serious health considerations. As commander-in-chief, I do not believe I can ask others to accept this risk unless I am willing to do the same. Therefore, I will receive the vaccine along with our military.


WOODRUFF: Mr. Bush is ordering about a half million members of the U.S. military in high-risk areas to take the smallpox vaccine. Civilian emergency workers also will be inoculated on a voluntary basis.

The first time a potentially dangerous vaccine are being made available in more than two decades. Smallpox was wiped out. Mr. Bush says the move is precautionary and not a response to any imminent threat. He says the vaccines are not necessary for the general public at this time. He says his own family and staff will not be inoculated.

Fears of a bioterror attack have grown because of the possibility of war with Iraq. Today, though, the White House is facing more questions about the effort to disarm Saddam Hussein, and how it relates to threats from other countries in the so-called axis of evil, the president's words. CNN's Suzanne Malveaux has more on that from the White House. Hi, Suzanne.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Judy. You may recall when the president gave his State of the Union address, he raised more than a few eyebrows when he called Iraq, Iran and North Korea "an axis of evil." But now the Bush administration finds that it's dealing with threats from all three countries. The president making it very clear when it comes to Iraq, that Iraq's declaration saying that it has no weapons of mass destruction, that it has failed the test, that it has not proved that. That message given to chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix earlier today.

But the administration also making it very clear that the military action is not imminent, that they'll wait for a couple of weeks to give a detailed report and analysis of this declaration.

Now, when it comes to North Korea -- North Korea today announced its plan to reactivate several of its nuclear facilities and its plan to turn away international monitors.

Now, the White House really engaged in a great deal of diplomacy with its allies, with Japan, as well as South Korea, the president calling the leader of South Korea, Kim Dae-jung, earlier today, both of those leaders agreeing that it is unacceptable, North Korea's stance, that it is going to stress again the U.S. does not pose any type of threat to North Korea, that it wants to seek a peaceful solution.

Now, of course, the big question: Why is it that Iraq and North Korea are being treated differently in this case? Well, White House officials say that North Korea has no history of using weapons of mass destruction against neighboring countries, and, also, that it depends on humanitarian as well as economic aid.


ARI FLEISCHER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The world is not -- cannot just be treated as a photocopy machine, where policies in one part of the world need to be identically copied through another. It's a much more complicated endeavor than that.

And so, the president will continue to work in concert with our allies. And the fact of the matter is diplomacy -- often the best diplomacy takes time. And that is something the president will continue to pursue.


MALVEAUX: And, Judy, also some developments when it comes to Iran: Commercial satellite photos taken in September actually show that Iran has secretly been building large nuclear facilities at least as two locations.

Now, Iran says it's for generating electricity, but U.S. intelligence officials, as well as State Department officials, today saying that they do not believe that that's the case, that they believe it's used to build a nuclear weapons program. The United States is consulting, again, with the weapons inspectors, with those international monitors.

And, as you know, President Bush has been trying to pressure Russian President Vladimir Putin to really distance himself, to scale back the cooperation that that country has when it comes to Iran and its nuclear program -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Suzanne, between Iraq, North Korea and now Iran, the Bush administration has its hands full.

MALVEAUX: Absolutely.

WOODRUFF: All right, thanks very much.

A leading Republican governor and a Democratic counterpart when we return: inside the state level budget crunch and reaction to the Trent Lott situation from beyond the Beltway.


WOODRUFF: Well, as you see, Senator Trent Lott will go before cameras in Pascagoula, Mississippi next hour.

Our national correspondent Gary Tuchman is there. And he joins us live from Pascagoula.

Gary, who's gathering there?

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Judy, this will likely be a very uncomfortable event for the Senate majority leader, but he's doing it in a most comfortable place. This is his hometown of Pascagoula, Mississippi.

Right now, we are in a ballroom in the Lafont hotel. You can see the podium, people getting ready for the news conference. This is one of the only motels in the city of Pascagoula: population 26,200; major industries ship building, the oil business. And this is where Trent Lott grew up. This is where his parents grew up. This is where his mother still lives. And this is where he met his wife and where his wife's parents also live.

So, this is a place, obviously, when he goes through a moment like this, that perhaps he would want to be where he'd get the most support. Now, he said earlier today in Key West, when he was leaving to come here, that he will be giving a more thorough explanation and apology. But he made it very clear that, at this point, he has no intention of resigning his leadership post.

You go around Pascagoula here in the Mississippi Gulf Coast and you talk to people and they're split like people are all over the United States. There are many people here who strongly support their senator, the senator majority leader. And there are others who don't. But there's a sign on the outside of the hotel on the marquee that says, "We love you, Trent."

The news conference will be less than an hour from now -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right, Gary. And CNN will be coming back to you when that does get under way.

"On the Record" this Friday: the budget crunch facing governors nationwide and an outside-of-the-Beltway view of the Trent Lott situation.

In a moment, I'll talk with Democrat Ed Rendell, the incoming governor of Pennsylvania.

But, first, I'm joined from Denver by Colorado's governor, Bill Owens. He's the new head of the Republican Governors Association.

Governor Owens, thank you for talking with us.


WOODRUFF: I have to ask you first about Senator Lott.

This is your party. You've obviously talked to others in the Republican Party. Is there a belief that the senator can put this behind him by whatever he says today?

OWENS: You know, Judy, I think the best approach is that taken by President Bush last night when he said that what Trent Lott said was not in keeping with the spirit of our country. I certainly hope that, in a time of potential war in Iraq and with the budget challenges we face, we can put it behind us. But I think we'll just have to wait and see how this plays out over the next few days.

WOODRUFF: That does not sound like a ringing endorsement of his ability to hang in there as the leader in the Senate.

OWENS: Well, I'm not in Washington D.C. and I'm not a senator. And so, I'm not in a position to offer him any advice.

But I am following the lead of our president. And President Bush was certainly right when he said that what Trent Lott said is certainly not in keeping with the spirit of these great United States.

WOODRUFF: All right, we're going to move on.

Governor Owens, many states, including yours, are facing a money crunch right now. Colorado, we're told, has something like a $560 million gap. You've already been taking some steps. What more are you going to have to do to get your budget in order?

OWENS: Judy, we announced yesterday a series of 6 percent budget cuts.

We're having, after 10 great years, 10 years of large increases, me and my colleagues all across the country, I think, are finding that, for the next year or two, we're going to have to scale back, in some cases actually reduce. In Colorado's case, we're going to have one year of reduction. And then next year, we'll be back up to growing our budget. No different than America's families have had to do over the last few months. We're going to have to tighten our belts as well. WOODRUFF: So, while Washington is talking about giving money back to people, in effect losing revenue, a state like Colorado is looking for ways to increase revenue. How do you square that circle?

OWENS: Well, Judy, I don't.

I'm not trying to raise taxes either. We're trying to cut budgets within an overall budget, just like our families do. And I think that Washington really isn't giving back money. What Washington wants to do is let taxpayers keep more of their own. At least that's certainly what the administration wants to do. And that's something I applaud.

The best thing that Washington could do for us out here in the states is get this economy going again. That would take care of our Medicaid and Medicare and unemployment challenge. And a rising economy really lifts all of our state boats, as it were.

WOODRUFF: So, that would solve all your problems?

OWENS: Well, Judy, it would go a long way towards solving our problems.

If we were able to get the national economy going, it would lead to more revenue. I don't know of anyone that wants to raise taxes. We're certainly not going to do so here in Colorado. And I hope the federal government, I hope they reduce taxes, which will help stimulate our economy and help all of these states get back into growth in terms of our state budgets.

WOODRUFF: All right, Governor Bill Owens of Colorado, whose state just cut your state spending by 6 percent.

OWENS: Right. Sure did.

WOODRUFF: That's just announced.

All right, thank you very much, Governor.

OWENS: Thanks, Judy.

WOODRUFF: Good to see you.

OWENS: Good to be with you.

WOODRUFF: We appreciate it. Thank you.

A little earlier, I spoke with the incoming governor of the state of Pennsylvania, Ed Rendell. And I started by asking him how he plans to handle the huge budget deficit facing his state, which Rendell has said eventually could approach $2 billion.


ED RENDELL (D), PENNSYLVANIA GOVERNOR-ELECT: First and foremost, we have to step up and manage state government better, make it more efficient, cut costs, the way we did in Philadelphia, actually, reduce spending dramatically.

Then we've got to look at ways to enhance revenue. And those can come from things like slot machines, other sin taxes. And then we might have to -- in Pennsylvania, we're going to have to cut our property taxes. And in return for cutting our property taxes, we may have to look at increasing some taxes. But we want to make government work for the people. And we want to make sure every dime of waste is cut out of the Pennsylvania state government. That's a tall order, but I think we can do it.

WOODRUFF: So, how do you feel when you watch the Bush administration talking about more tax cuts?

RENDELL: Well, it doesn't make any sense to me.

I just came this past week from a governors meeting. And stimulating our economy is the No. 1 issue on all of our minds. We've got to grow our economy, because, as we do that, we grow our revenues. But cutting taxes hasn't worked. I mean, the Bush administration ought to understand that from the last two years.

Just cutting taxes, unrelated to specific investment or job growth, doesn't work. If the Bush administration wants to talk about tax cuts, let's say rolling back the capital gains tax for people who invest money in job-producing enterprises, those are the type of tax cuts that might work, that might spur investment into the economy. But general, across-the-board tax cuts haven't worked up to now. And there's no reason to suspect they're going to work again.

WOODRUFF: You're the former chairman of the National Democratic Committee. I have to ask you about Senator Trent Lott.

He's going to hold a news conference late this afternoon. We expect that he's going to apologize further for those remarks that he made. If he does apologize more, does that put this matter behind him?

RENDELL: No, I really don't think so.

I think that it's become a much wider problem than just the remarks, although he made the remarks two different times, I guess, almost 15, 20 years apart. We're finding out a lot about Senator Lott's background and a lot about what he believes. And I don't know that those beliefs are appropriate for someone in leadership.

Now, having said that, this is an issue for the Republican Party and the Republican caucus. We Democrats have our hands full dealing with our own problems. But I don't think someone who has that pattern of activity and behavior is appropriate for leadership. I think that many Americans find it offensive, not just African-Americans.

And I think Senator Lott is a pretty decent man, but I think this record rules him out as someone who is appropriate for leadership.


WOODRUFF: Pennsylvania's incoming Democratic senator -- governor, Ed Rendell.

Here's a question for you: Is Tom Daschle funny? Well, he apparently thinks so. We'll explain next. And we'll talk about Daschle's testing of the presidential waters in the kickoff caucus state of Iowa.


WOODRUFF: Checking the headlines in our "Campaign News Daily": High-profile White House aide Mary Matalin plans to leave her post as a top strategist to Vice President Dick Cheney at the end of the month, and the president. She advises him as well. Matalin says she wants a more flexible job in the private sector so she can spend more time with her two young daughters.

Well, you might not think that Tom Daschle would be in a joking mood these days after the Democrats' midterm election debacle. But Daschle is taking a break from serious Senate speeches to take part in the Funniest Celebrity in Washington contest this month. Now, we can't wait to hear his routine. This evening, though, Daschle is on more familiar political terrain, talking to union members in Iowa.

A little while ago, I asked David Yepsen of "The Des Moines Register" if Iowa is fertile territory for Daschle as he thinks about whether to run for president.


DAVID YEPSEN, "THE DES MOINES REGISTER": Well, I think Iowa could be very fertile territory for Tom Daschle. He comes from a neighboring state.

And if you look at the history of these caucuses, there is something of a Midwest regional advantage for candidates who come out of this part of the state -- out of the world: Dick Gephardt, Bob Dole, George McGovern, Paul Simon. Candidates who come from the Midwest can do well in the Midwest. So, yes, this could be very fertile ground for Tom Daschle.

Campaigning in Iowa is no different than campaigning in South Dakota. It's done in small groups and one on one and retail kind of politics. And if Tom Daschle can do it in South Dakota, he can do it in Iowa.

WOODRUFF: Is there any evidence right now, though, that he has an advantage? In talking to activists around the state, what are you picking up?

YEPSEN: No, I don't think he has an advantage. I don't think anybody really has an advantage. We're at the stage in the game where people are just sort of sizing up the field. A lot of activists want to know what Al Gore is going to do. And so I think a lot of people are on hold pending the outcome of that.

But they're looking him over. I think activist Democrats in Iowa know Tom Daschle. He's certainly been here a number of times in the past. So, they have some sense of who he is. And so, I think this visit today is one where he's signaling to Iowa Democrats: Keep me in mind. And I think he's also listening to what they have to say to him about the race for president in '04. So, I don't expect him to make any big announcements or anything here today or send any big signals. I think it's more of a listening trip.

WOODRUFF: But you're not saying that, automatically, because he's from the neighboring state of South Dakota, that he automatically has a leg up, are you?

YEPSEN: No, I wouldn't go that far.

I think he has some advantages, obviously, because he knows how to campaign. He can bring people in here to work. He knows how to speak the lingo in Iowa. But he has got some real disadvantages. He is a little bit late. He's got a job as minority leader. And one of the things I've noticed over the years is, this is a process that tends to favor the unemployed, who can come out here and camp out and spend a lot of time in places like Iowa and New Hampshire.

And it's very difficult for incumbent senators and governors and minority leaders to have the time to come out and spend in a state like Iowa. So, I think that will be a real disadvantage for him. And this could become a great Midwestern shoot-out, too. You could have Tom Daschle running up against Dick Gephardt in this state. So, I don't think you can say that Daschle a huge advantage in Iowa.

WOODRUFF: Well, one of the things we know Daschle is considering is whether to step down as minority leader. Would that give him enough additional time to get into the state and do the kind of campaigning that you're talking about?

YEPSEN: Yes, I think it would, Judy. I think it would give him more time.

If look at the compression of this '04 calendar, the states like Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, it's very packed together. Candidates have to be in a lot of places at one time. There's a lot of work to get done in '03. And so I think, if Senator Daschle wants to really make a serious run for the presidency, he has got to think seriously about giving up his leadership position.

WOODRUFF: And we should say that we don't have any hard evidence that he's going to do that, just that that's one of the things that he's been considering.

YEPSEN: That's right.

WOODRUFF: OK, David Yepsen with "The Des Moines Register," good to see you again.

YEPSEN: Good to see you, Judy.


WOODRUFF: Up next: Did you hear the one about the presidential hopeful whose comeback was filled with punchlines?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have a presentation. It is a book called "How to Talk Yankee."




WOODRUFF: Al Gore goes for laughs, from the campaign trail to "Saturday Night Live."


WOODRUFF: On this date two years ago, Al Gore threw in the towel, conceding the White House to George W. Bush after the Supreme Court decision that ended the 2000 election standoff.

Well, that was two years ago. And, as Al Gore decides whether to make another run for the White House, he's been making the rounds on television, from the morning news programs to late-night talk shows to INSIDE POLITICS this week. Well, tomorrow night, Gore hosts "Saturday Night Live."

And our Bruce Morton looks at Gore's repeated attempt to show his lighter side.


BRUCE MORTON, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He's back. He's been on everything. Is it a new Gore? He's funny sometimes.


KATIE COURIC, HOST: If you are considering it...



DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST: You must feel different about it now than two you did years ago.


MORTON: He's been funny before. Remember 1996 and the "Macarena"?


GORE: And if I could have your silence, I would like to demonstrate for you the Al Gore version of the Macarena. Would you like to see it again?


MORTON: Funny in New Hampshire during the last campaign.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have a presentation. It is a book called "How to Talk Yankee."

GORE: Ah, yeah.

MORTON: That was about the time he started wearing earth tones on the advice of a political consultant.

Remakes can work. Richard Nixon lost the presidency in 1960, left politics in 1963. "This is my last press conference," he said, after losing a race for governor of California and then won it all in 1968, even did a turn on "Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In."


RICHARD NIXON: Sock it to me?


MORTON: And Gore? He's doing "Saturday Night Live."

E.J. DIONNE, "WASHINGTON POST": I don't think you're going to see a total remake, precisely because, during the last campaign, one of the problems Gore had was that people thought he kept remaking himself.

MORTON: There was the kiss.

DIONNE: There was a different Gore that appeared in each of the three presidential debates. So, I think he has to be more careful in the sense that Nixon was.

MORTON: Will he do it again? He looks like a candidate. He has an economic plan. It is a challenge, an ordeal, sometimes a triumph unlike anything else in American life. It is very hard work.

GORE: I benefit from low expectations.

MORTON: That was then. This is now. Is there a new Gore? If he starts winning primaries, that might tell us.

DIONNE: The system itself will create the opportunity for him either to prove that he's now a winning candidate or to prove that he still has the problems that we all described when he ran against President Bush.

MORTON: Meanwhile: "Saturday Night Live," a different challenge.


NIXON: Sock it to me? (END VIDEO CLIP)

MORTON: Bruce Morton, CNN, Washington.


WOODRUFF: Gore may not like those comparisons, but if you watch Gore on "Saturday Night Live," there's one backdrop that may seem oddly familiar.

The magazine "Variety" is reporting that the show borrowed a set from the TV drama "West Wing" for a skit in which Gore is reluctant to leave the Oval Office. We'll see if that's what the show is all about.

INSIDE POLITICS will be right back.


WOODRUFF: And, finally, as we know, Democrats have had plenty of harsh words about Trent Lott's remarks at Strom Thurmond's birthday party. But Bill Clinton got in a more light-hearted dig.

Our Jonathan Karl reports that the former president offered this line at a benefit last night at the Robert Kennedy Memorial -- quote. Mr. Clinton, he said: "When Robert Kennedy ran for president, we supported him. We're proud of it. And if he had lived and been elected, we wouldn't have had all these problems over all these years."

Well, that's it for INSIDE POLITICS. I'm Judy Woodruff.

Trent Lott's news conference is now just about half-an-hour away. CNN, of course, will be there.


Remarks; Al Gore Goes on Late-Night Comedy Shows>

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