CNN INSIDE POLITICS
Lott Remains Adamant He Will Not Step Down; Chaffee Becomes First GOP Senator To Call For Lott's Ouster
Aired December 18, 2002 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
SEN. TRENT LOTT (R-MS), MAJORITY LEADER: I am hanging in there. We are going work through this in a positive way.
ANNOUNCER: Senator Trent Lott vows to keep fighting, but a fellow Republican senator breaks ranks and calls for Lott to step aside.
ARI FLEISCHER, WHITE PRESS SECRETARY: The president's concerned at the admissions and problems with this document.
ANNOUNCER: The White House comes down hard on Iraq. Next stop, the U.N. Security Council.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you saying that should this day the administration is refusing to spend on items that you believe literally will increase the security of the United States?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely.
ANNOUNCER: Criticizing the president on homeland security. Why one Democratic Congressman is speaking out.
The future is now for Democratic president's hopefuls. New poll number on the wide-open field, and why time is already running out for those still not in the race.
ANNOUNCER: This is INSIDE POLITICS with Judy Woodruff.
JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you for joining us.
Trent Lott's political troubles are mounting today with word for the first time a fellow Republican senator has called on Lott to resign as majority leader.
In this new cycle, major developments in hunt for Iraqi weapons. President Bush is prepared to declare that Iraq's weapons declaration does not comply with U.N. requirements. And a white house spokesman suggests Saddam Hussein may have missed his last chance to disarm.
We'll have more on the Iraqi weapons hunt in a few minutes. First, we turn to the latest development in Trent Lott's attempt to hold on to his post at Senate majority leader.
With me from Capitol Hill, our Congressional correspondent Jonathan Karl.
Jon, today like every day for the past few days, you've been counting who's with him and who's against him up there?
JONATHAN KARL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. But first, Judy, I have to tell you, we heard from Trent Lott again today. And he addressed consistent press reports the White House does not support him by saying he believes he has the president's full support.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LOTT: I talked to the president, and we had a very good conversation. There seems to be some things that are kind of seeping out that maybe have not been helpful and I understand how that happens, because you've got a lot of people that work there, have different points of view, but I believe that they do support what I'm trying to do here, and the president will continue to do so.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KARL: There have also been persistent questions whether or not Senator Lott would step down and resign entirely in the Senate if forced out of the leadership. He also addressed that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LOTT: You know, there are simple things in life that become quite complicated. Quite simply, I was elected by the people of Mississippi. To a six-year term. I've served two years of that contract. I have contracted and I'm going to fulfill it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KARL: You mentioned the one Republican senator who has broken ranks nap senator is Senator Lincoln Chaffee, the moderate to liberal Republican from the state of Rhode Island who said he became the first to officially say on the record he thinks Lott should go. He said it on an interview way local station in Rhode Island.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINCOLN CHAFFEE (R), RHODE ISLAND: The only way to have a change in my opinion, is for the White House to come in here and to say to the majority leader, Trent Lott, I this time for a change. I think that's the only vehicle that's going to work.
KARL: But Senator Chafee is, again, the only Republican who has publicly called on Senator Lott to leave, or at least said he would like him to leave. There are a number of Republicans who have come out in his defense, including some senior Republicans. I spoke with Mike DeWine of Ohio who said he's been doing unofficial vote counting and believes at the end of the day, Trent Lott will have the support to remain leader. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MIKE DEWINE (R), OHIO: I'll vote for him, because for the same reason that I voted for him a month ago. And that is, she a demonstrated leader. I voted for him on several occasions in the past. He made a mistake. He made a very bad mistake. He is trying to flatter a 100-year-old man. It's something he should not have said.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KARL: DeWine thinks when it comes down a vote if it comes down to a vote January 26, most colleagues will agree. Now, in terms of who's come out in favor the Lott? It's a small but influential list of senators.
On the list saying Trent Lott needs to stay; Mike DeWine, who you just heard from, John Ensign of Nevada, Orrin Hatch in coming judiciary chairman of Utah, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, Arlen Specter also of Pennsylvania and Ted Stevens, of course, the most senior Republican in the United States Senate, all saying on the record they will support Trent Lott for leader.
There's also one more name I can add to that list, Ben Campbell of Colorado, who Lott supporters point out is the only minority in the United States Senate. He also supports Lott. Eight Republicans saying they will support Lott. Only one officially on the record saying he needs to go.
WOODRUFF: John, interesting today, the White House making a strong point it is trying to stay out of this fight, that the president through Andy Card today told Lott, you know, we think it's unfair, all those stories out there that indicate we're trying to undermine you. They really want that out there. They're worried about it.
KARL: They really do, but those stories have been so persistent, people up here on Capitol Hill, including senators I have spoke to, believe the White House, despite what's being said publicly, is sending a message, they wouldn't mind seeing Lott go.
WOODRUFF: All right, Jon Karl, at the capitol. Thanks.
The thoughts of outgoing Congressman J.C. Watts carried extra weight in the controversy given his status as a friend of Lott and the only African-American Republican in Congress. Earlier today Watts called what happened to Lott a serious blow to his leadership.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. J.C. WATTS: I hope that Senator Lott will consider, and I say this as a friend. I say this as someone who has children, who has a family who has grandchildren, the political arena is a very poisoned arena. It is arena that lives attack and divide. And I hope that Senator Lott will weigh that. And I can tell you if it was me, I would not put my family nor my grandchildren nor my party through that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOODRUFF: Previously Watts had been supportive calling Lott's comments offensive but describing them as quote, "A sin of the head, not of the heart."
If Lott steps down, as senator majority leader, three names come up as a possible replacement. Mitch McConnell's Kentucky, Don Nickels of Oklahoma and Bill Frist of Tennessee. Lott's voting record on affirmative action is now very well-known, but where do these possible successors stand? Well, all three senators voted to ban affirmative action hiring with federal funds. And all three also voted to end special funding for minority and women-owned businesses.
Until today, one person who had not addressed the Trent Lott issue was Secretary of State Colin Powell. Perhaps the most high- profile African-American in the Republican party. A little while ago, however, Powell said he is quoted "Disappointed" by what Lott said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: I am disappointed in the senator's statement. I deplore the sentiments behind the statement. There was nothing about the 1948 election or the Dixiecrat agenda that should have been acceptable to any American at that time or any American now. I will let the senator and members of the Senate deal with this issue.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOODRUFF: And, again, Colin Powell's first comments on the Lott matter.
Well, the question is -- we've been hearing what people in Washington think about Trent Lott and some from Mississippi. What about the American people?
Our senior political analyst Bill Schneider with me now. He has the results of a new CNN "Usa Today"/Gallup poll.
Bill, what is the public saying about Lott?
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: They're saying he should not remain as majority leader. Forty-seven percent of Americans think that senator majority leader -- the Senate Republicans should replace Trent Lott as their majority leader. Only 30 percent think they should keep him. How do Republicans feel? He's their leader.
Rank and file Republicans are split whether they want Lott. More or less like Republican senators. A number of prominent conservatives have come out against Lott. They don't want racism tainting their cause. How do conservatives fell out there in the country? Conservatives say replace Lott. Only southern whites say keep him.
WOODRUFF: Bill what about leaving the Senate altogether? What are people saying about whether Lott should do that?
SCHNEIDER: They say no.
By 45 percent to 36 percent, the public believes Lott should stay. In fact, people take Senator Lott at his word that when he made remarks about Strom Thurmond, he did not intend to endorse segregationist policies. By Two to one they believe Lott made a poor choice of words. People don't want Lott drummed out of public life, but as Senate majority leader, he is hurting the Republican party, and here's the evidence.
By 45 percent to 30 percent, the public believes Trent Lott is prejudice against black people. Do people think most Republicans in Congress are racially prejudiced? No, they don't, by a wide margin. And President Bush, certainly not. Ever since Richard Nixon embraced the so-called southern strategy in the 1970s, Republicans have fought hard and successfully to make clear conservatism does not mean bigotry. Lott threatens all they have achieved.
WOODRUFF: All right, Bill, now on a completely different subject: now that Al Gore is out of the contest, what does the poll say, because people were asked what do they think about the Democratic lineup now that Mr. Gore is not running?
SCHNEIDER: Judy, start with this: most Democrats say they agree with Al Gore's decision not to run.
So, now what? Democrats have two front-runners. Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut is one. That's not surprising. He was Gore's running mate and has national name recognition. In fact, Lieberman is the first choice of Democrats who say they wish Gore had run.
But Massachusetts Senator John Kerry is a close second. Kerry has been openly critical of President Bush on international policy as well as on economic issues, and Democrats seem to be responding to that.
Now our poll shows that liberal Democrats are inclined to favor Kerry, while moderate Democrats favor Lieberman. The second tier of candidates include the two Democratic Congressional leaders, Dick Gephardt and Tom Daschle. Both fairly well-known, but both tarnished by what many Democrats believe is a failure to stand up to President Bush.
And the third tier of candidates, John Edwards, Al Sharpton, Howard Dean. Those are all still in single digits.
WOODRUFF: Well, Bill, it's early, but Lieberman and Kerry have to be at least smiling about these numbers.
SCHNEIDER: I think so.
WOODRUFF: OK. Bill Schneider, thanks very much.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) WILLIAM J. CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think he's great. You know, I said before he's the best vice president this country ever had.
QUESTION: Are you surprised?
CLINTON: He did more good -- I didn't know what he would do, but I think it's an intensely personal decision, and I support him whatever he decided to do for himself and his family and his future.
I think he's got a lot contributions to make. I wouldn't be surprised to see him in the future maybe being a candidate again. But whether he is or not, he'll always be an important voice in the country.
QUESTION: What do you make of the huge lot of potential candidates?
CLINTON: That's good.
QUESTION: Anybody that interests you?
CLINTON: All of them do. I like them. I know them all. I like them. And I think it's a healthy thing for democracy, and it would be a good thing for a party and for the country.
QUESTION: One last question: Would you care to comment on Senator Lott's comments?
CLINTON: No, except to say that I think that, obviously, I don't agree with him, but I think there's something a little hypocritical the way some of the Republicans are jumping on him. I mean I think what they really are upset about is that he made public their strategy. I mean, the whole Republican apparatus supported campaigns in Georgia and South Carolina on the Confederate flag. There's no action coming out of the Justice Department against all those people, Republicans, who suppressed black voters in the South -- Arkansas, Louisiana, lots of other places -- telephone operations telling people in Florida they didn't have to vote on Election Day; they could vote this Saturday, but they couldn't go (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
This is their policy. So I think that the way the Republicans have treated Senator Lott is pretty hypocritical since right now their policy is, in my view, inimical to everything this country stands for. They've tried to suppress black voting, they've ran on the Confederate flag in Georgia and South Carolina. And from top to bottom, the Republicans supported it. So I don't see what they're jumping on Trent Lott about.
I think the Democrats can say we disagree with what he said and we don't think it's right, but that's the Republican policy. How do they think they got a majority in the South anyway?
QUESTION: So he shouldn't leave office?
CLINTON: I think that's up to them, but I think that they can't do it with a straight face. How can they stand to jump on him when they're out there repressing, trying to run black voters away from the polls and running under the Confederate flag in Georgia and South Carolina. I mean look at their whole record. The others, how can they attack him? He just embarrassed them be saying in Washington what they do on the backroads every day.
WOODRUFF: Hmmmm. Pretty strong words from the former president.
And in response to Mr. Clinton's claims about Republican Party campaign tactics, the Republican National Committee's Press Secretary Jim Dyke said -- quote -- "We worked hard to make sure that more people were registered to vote, more people went to the polls and more people voted for Republicans on Election Day. President Clinton should check his quote." End quote.
A look at Trent Lott's relationships on capitol hill, just ahead.
Also, the search for Iraqi weapons. Why the white house is ready to declare the Iraqi weapons declaration a failure.
Some comments on Trent Lott from Jesse Ventura. We'll tell you what the Minnesota governor had to say.
Also, Rudy Giuliani is not running for office, but he's leading a Democratic incumbent in one new poll.
REP. DAVID OBEY (D), WISCONSIN: Well, it seems to me that the White House in this case knows the cost of everything and the value of nothing.
WOODRUFF: My interview with Congressman David Obey and his criticism of the president's strategy on America's homeland defense.
WOODRUFF: With me now to answer some questions about the Trent Lott controversy, Paul Kane of "Roll Call" and Jim Vandehei, of "The Washington Post."
Jim, I guess my question for both of you is, How could somebody who has achieved leadership job after leadership job in the Congress, about to be majority leader of the Senate, suddenly -- almost suddenly, overnight, find himself practically begging for support among his colleagues?
JIM VANDEHEI, WASHINGTON POST: Because this exploded into something so much bigger than his comments now. It's about the political ramifications for the party. People are worried, especially in the White House, that this will hurt outreach to minorities and will hurt their prospects in the 2004 elections.
So Lott is having to go to members one by one and beg for their support.
WOODRUFF: But Paul, if this is somebody who has the confidence of colleagues, why weren't they -- why haven't they been more willing to come to his rescue?
PAUL KANE, ROLL CALL: Well Lott is somebody who's always been sort of a -- I think people described it -- has support that's very wide but not very deep. I asked an aide today, I said, You know, personal relationships with senators, on a scale of one to 10, where does Lott fall? They said a six. He's somebody that, you know, they don't go out and socialize with. They don't necessarily love him, but they do respect the job that he has done.
WOODRUFF: But not enough, Jim Vandehei, to come riding to his rescue right now.
VANDEHEI: Right. They haven't. I mean, we're starting to see members rally around him. And there's still a chance that he can survive. But you only have 10 members on record right now saying they would vote for him. There were 40-some members that are going to be in the Congress next year that are here now that voted for him one month ago.
So this is remarkable. You're not seeing this rally of support that you would think around a popular leader.
WOODRUFF: You both say he's respected. On the other hand, there have been some moves that he has made, over the years, as leader of the party that they've been unhappy with. I mean, all the way to the way he handled the Clinton impeachment to other matters.
KANE: Yes, they're -- it started in the Senate with the chemical weapons treat in 1997. They felt that he was too accomodationist with President Clinton. That angered some conservatives, such as Paul Wyerich, and that was sort of the start of when they...
WOODRUFF: That's not what they thought we it achieving in a leader?
VANDEHEI: They thought they'd get someone conservative than Bob Dole. When it came to impeachment he wasn't as furvent as a lot of conservatives were. When it came to budget deals or as conservative as members thought he would be, and that hurt his support.
WOODRUFF: But on the other hand, he had served in leadership posts in the house. Why weren't he aware he was someone who would be willing to make compromises to get progress?
KANE: Some of this people are saying that they should have known. Lott first won an election, a leadership election in 1980. Since then, he's won ten other leadership elections, been re-elected to House majority whip. A position where he had to be making deals and counting votes. He won in 1992, his first election in the Senate. Then in '94, again, for whip. And they say they really should have known that about him. WOODRUFF: And they should have known it. Why are they un -- if it was there, if the evidence of his style was out there all along, why, then, are conservatives...
KANE: But I think we are focusing on his ideology. He'll be rejected for leader because they think this has long-term ramifications for the party.
WOODRUFF: It goes beyond...
VANDEHEI: Way beyond that. I think a lot people think Trent Lott...
WOODRUFF: Whether he's a six, five or ten on the scale?
VANDEHEI: People think he's getting treated unfairly, but they think it's so much bigger. It's about the party now. That's the decision a lot of wavering members are having to make.
KANE: It's no longer about Trent Lott and his views on race. It's about how he will be perceived as the lead spokesman for the party.
WOODRUFF: You're saying if he had been the most popular Republican in the Senate, he would still have these problems?
KANE: He would still have problems. He definitely would still have problems. You couldn't see a Bob Dole or Danny Hastert or Tom DeLay in this predicament, so it play as role. This thing has exploded into something so much bigger. Especailly with the White House. I think that really undercut him. Had the president come out last week and strongly endorsed Lott I we don't think we would be here talking about this today.
WOODRUFF: All right, Jim Vandehie, Paul Kane, thank you both very much. Good to see you both. Thanks for your good reporting, too.
The top Democrat in the Senate, Tom Daschle, is speaking out about the Trent Lott controversy. Daschle talked with our Jonathan Karl about Lott's predicament, and what he thinks the future holds for the embattled Republican senator.
KARL: On the occasion of -- honoring the retiring senators, you said some words about Strom Thurmond. I mean, not like Senator Lott's, but I want to read what you said.
You said of Strom Thurmond, "He's gone from a Democrat to a Dixiecrat to a Republican. His party affiliation may have changed, and his position on some issues may have changed, but his service to the people of South Carolina has been unwavering."
You even called him the "Cal Ripken of the United States Senate." But my question is, when he was out there favoring segregation, or when he was here in the Senate opposing civil rights, was he really unwavering in his service to the people of South Carolina? Including, of course, the African-Americans?
SEN. TOM DASCHLE (D-SD), MAJORITY LEADER: Jon, the key word here in my whole statement, as you properly noted, is "changed." Strom Thurmond has changed. His actions have changed. His attitude has changed by his actions. You can see it. The record's there. And so, I think, in his case, at least to the extent that it appears on record, he has made some changes that you would hope that others could follow.
KARL: But just to press you a little bit on this, you said that he has been unwavering in his commitment or his service to the people of South Carolina throughout those changes. I mean, we can't really say he was unwavering back when he was in favor of segregation? He was unwavering, maybe, in his commitment to some people in South Carolina, but not as a whole.
DASCHLE: Well, again, I -- I think the real question is, what is the Strom Thurmond of the year 2002? What does he represent? What does he stand for? Is it different than what he was in 1952? I would say -- I would say, clearly, yes. He has made a transition. He has evolved into somebody other than what he was.
KARL: Does the Lott controversy strengthen your hand?
DASCHLE: I think it does.
DASCHLE: Well, I think because the Republicans have to prove, not only to us, of course, but to the American people that they are as sensitive to this question of racism, this question of civil rights, this question of equal opportunity, as they say they are. But whether or not they truly are depends on who they nominate, what actions they take, how they vote. What their real, true course of action will be legislatively is in large measure reflected by that, not by their words.
KARL: If Senator Lott resigns, of course, we have the possibility to get back to a 50/50 Senate. Have you have spoken to Governor Musgrove in Mississippi?
DASCHLE: I have not, no.
KARL: Would you expect that he would appoint a Democrat?
DASCHLE: I would.
KARL: What are the implications there? What happens if we go back to 50/50?
DASCHLE: Well, we go back to the power-sharing agreement.
KARL: And some Democrats are openly speculating that Mike Espy could be somebody who would be appointed. What kind of a signal would it send out, only the fifth African-American in history to serve in the U.S. Senate...
DASCHLE: I think it would be wonderful. This Senate so badly needs an African-American representation. I thought we were going to have it with Ron Kirk from Texas. He was an outstanding candidate. But whether it's Mike Espy or anybody else that represents the African-American community, we would welcome them. I think it would be terrific for our caucus, for the Senate, and for the country.
KARL: So you have no problem trading Trent Lott for Mike Espy?
DASCHLE: No. Not at all. I'd go down and pick him up myself.
KARL: You must feel a lot different than you did when I saw you the day after the election in South Dakota. You've had Mary Landrieu's victory, you have had the implosion of the Republican leadership. Everything has changed.
DASCHLE: Well, I said week ago, there's a bounce in my step, and there is. I've been bouncing for the last week. I feel good. I don't feel good, certainly, you wouldn't wish what's happened to Senator Lott on anybody, but we feel very good about the Louisiana election, we feel very good about the attitude, the mood. I talked to the Democratic governors, and you know, we picked up a net of three additional Democratic governors.
So we feel very good about many of the things that have happened in the last month, and excited about the future.
KARL: All right. Well, thank you very much.
DASCHLE: My pleasure.
WOODRUFF: And an update. We reported a little while ago on comments made today by outgoing house Republican member J.C. Watts commenting on the problems Trent Lott is having. Watts office called INSIDE POLITICS to reiterate Congressman Watts remains supportive of Senator Lott.
Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura is speak out on a wide range of issues as he prepares to leave office. He said Senator Trent Lott's praise of Strom Thurmond 1948 presidential kind was a mistake but it should not affect his job. Speaking of Senator Thurmond who turned 100, questions why South Carolina voters continued to send him back to the Senate? He said, "With all due respect, I love my father, who died at 83. But at age 81, I wouldn't have wanted him making decisions that would have the bearing of the world's security and the nation with it." Thurmond will step down next month at end of this term.
Coming up, has Saddam Hussein missed his last chance to disarm? we'll go live to the White House and hear what the bush administration thinks.
It's time to check your I.P. I.Q. What do Senators John Kerry and Joe Lieberman have in common? Is it, A, both served as lieutenant governor? B, both went to Yale? Or, C, both were born in 1942?
Stay tuned to INSIDE POLITICS we'll tell you the answer later on in the show.
WOODRUFF: If Tom Daschle decides to give up his post as Democratic leader, who is in line to replace him? Well, some names are already in the mix -- coming up.
WOODRUFF: The Bush administration today made it clear that the government has serious concerns about what is missing from Iraq's recent weapons declaration.
CNN White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux is standing by with the latest.
Suzanne, they commented on this right away today.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, absolutely, Judy.
The White House making it clear they do not believe that Saddam Hussein and Iraq have complied with the U.N. Security Council resolution requiring it to completely disclose as well as destroy its alleged weapons program, be it biological, chemical or nuclear components.
Earlier today, President Bush met with his National Security Council, Secretary Powell, as well as the General Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Secretary Rumsfeld, to talk about how they were going to respond to this 12,000-page declaration that Iraq submitted on its weapons program.
Now, we are told to expect Secretary Powell here in Washington, as well as the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. in New York as early as tomorrow to make statements outlining the administration's position. We expect to hear from the president, perhaps as early as Friday. The bottom line: The message is, is that Iraq has not proven, has not given enough evidence to show that it has destroyed its alleged weapons program.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
POWELL: Iraq was given an opportunity in U.N. Resolution 1441 to cooperate with the international community, to stop deceiving the world with respect to its weapons of mass destruction. We are not encouraged that they have gotten the message or will cooperate, based on what we have seen so far in the declaration.
FLEISCHER: The president is concerned about Iraq's failure to list information in this document. The president is concerned with omissions in this document. And the president is concerned with problems in this document.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MALVEAUX: Clearly setting up, making his case for why they believe Iraq has not complied with U.N. Security Council resolution, President Bush earlier met with the leader of Spain in the Oval Office. They both talked about the importance of fighting the war on terror.
But President Bush did not specifically talk about the Iraqi declaration. But senior White House aides are telling us that, really the strategy here is not to use the strongest, toughest language of material breach, which would imply a trigger for serious consequences, perhaps military action, which they believe would put the president in a box, because he's called for zero tolerance for noncompliance.
But, rather, they are stressing, they are putting pressure on chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix, who is actually going to be reporting to the U.N. Security Council tomorrow to make the message clear, to be on record that the United States is not happy with the Iraqi declaration, also to push for tough weapons inspections, as well as getting those Iraqi scientists out of Iraq, to go ahead and give as much information as possible about the alleged weapons program.
All of this, as you know, Judy, a strategy to garner as much international support as possible in the case, in the event that the president does have to call for war -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: All right, Suzanne Malveaux at the White House. Making their views clear, but holding back in terms of whether this triggers military action. Thanks very much.
WOODRUFF: The new CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup poll surveyed public opinion on U.S. policy toward Iraq: 58 percent of those polled said they would support the use of U.S. ground troops to remove Saddam Hussein from power. But 35 percent said they were opposed. When asked the degree to which they understand the Bush administration's policy toward Iraq, 25 percent said they understand completely; 54 percent said somewhat. The rest said they understand the policy either not much or not at all.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld will be answering questions about Iraq and other matters tonight on "LARRY KING LIVE." That's at 9:00 p.m. Eastern.
And now a quick look inside "Their Politics" at campaign news from across the world that has a direct effect on the U.S. Voters in South Korea head to the polls in a few hours to elect a new president. Fears of North Korean nuclear ambitions and security concerns dominate the election. But outrage at 37,000 U.S. troops stationed in South Korea could also play a major role in the race.
Angry protests broke out after the acquittal of two U.S. soldiers who armored vehicle struck and killed two South Korean girls in June. One of the two presidential candidates is closely aligned with the U.S., while the other could benefit from the surging anti-American sentiment.
When we return, our Bruce Morton tells us what the next presidential race without Al Gore could mean for the Democrats.
WOODRUFF (voice-over): It's time to check your I.P. I.Q. Earlier, we asked: What do Senators John Kerry and Joe Lieberman have in common? Is it, A, both served as lieutenant governor, B, both went to Yale, or, C, both were born in 1942? The answer: B. Both graduated from Yale University.
WOODRUFF: Al Gore's decision not to run for president in the next election will have a major decision on the Democratic field.
CNN's Bruce Morton takes a closer look at the Gore factor and at some of the crowded fields from past elections.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "60 MINUTES")
AL GORE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I've decided that I will not be a candidate for president in 2004.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BRUCE MORTON, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Al Gore was the one potential candidate with high name recognition. His departure may mean the field will get bigger.
STUART ROTHENBERG, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: There's room for people who don't start with a lot of name identification, who figure they're pretty much on equal footing with the other senators and governors who might be running.
MORTON: The Democrats have had big fields before, eight or so candidates in 1972. Maine's Ed Muskie was the early favorite, George McGovern the eventual nominee.
Eight candidates in 1976: Jimmy Carter, the nominee, was "Jimmy who?" when he started. Seven fairly serious candidates in 1988: Michael Dukakis finished third in Iowa, but won the nomination because he had time. Primaries lasted until June back then.
In 1972, McGovern didn't clinch the nomination until June, same for Jimmy Carter in '76, Walter Mondale in 1984, Dukakis in '88, Bill Clinton in '92. But last time, Al Gore won New Hampshire and never looked back. Bill Bradley didn't win a single state. The new shorter season will change the way this crop of candidates campaign. ROTHENBERG: The front-loading of these primaries and caucuses that is moving most of them into January and February and early March really requires candidates to run a national campaign right off the bat. You can't hope to run merely in Iowa and, then, if you do well there, start a whole campaign.
MORTON: That means you need money before the early tests. Dick Gephardt has friends in organized labor, John Edwards among trial lawyers. But it will be hard, even with a base.
ROTHENBERG: Now the whole election is rushed. The whole primary process is rushed. And I think it puts additional pressure on the candidates and on the staff and on the early states that really are going to decide who the nominees are going to be.
MORTON (on camera): Still, the new rules are the rules. The campaign has started. And it will be short. A year and a couple of months from now, we'll know who the Democrats have chosen.
Bruce Morton, CNN, Washington.
WOODRUFF: The newspaper "Roll Call" reports that Senators Chris Dodd and Harry Reid have started to talk to their Democratic colleagues in an effort to lock up support if minority leader Tom Daschle leaves his position.
Well, Senator Dodd told me that he is having conversations with many senators and discussing what happens if Daschle decides on a bid for the White House, but Dodd says he has never asked a single senator for support if the position opens up. Dodd is on a timetable, a loose timetable, to decide, probably next month, whether to run for president himself.
A possible presidential candidate in 2004 speaks out on homeland security. When we return, we'll find out what Senator John Edwards says he would do to make homeland security better.
WOODRUFF: Senator John Edwards is pushing a broad agenda to improve homeland security. Edwards, a possible Democratic candidate for president, outlined his plan today in a speech at the Brookings Institution.
We get more from CNN's Jeanne Meserve.
JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Edwards says no decision on a presidential race until the end of the year, but he sure sounds like a candidate.
SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D), NORTH CAROLINA: I have a very clear notion of what I think needs to happen in this country. It's largely different than what this president and this administration believe. And I think the American people are entitled to that choice.
MESERVE: Edwards highlighted one difference in a major homeland security speech Wednesday, saying the administration's priorities are -- quote -- "out of whack."
EDWARDS: How this administration can prefer tax cuts for the most fortunate 1 percent of Americans over domestic defense for 100 percent of Americans is beyond me, but they do.
MESERVE: Edwards proposes the creation of a domestic intelligence agency, the hiring of 10,000 additional immigration officials, the federalization of security forces at nuclear power plants, and a one-time appropriation of $1.5 billion for first- responders.
EDWARDS: We have to summon every last bit of American strength, guts and wits to win this war. And if we do, we will win it.
MESERVE: Congressman David Obey, ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, was even more scathing in his assessment of the White House.
REP. DAVID OBEY (D), WISCONSIN: For the last six months, the administration has needlessly and outrageously politicized the homeland security issue.
MESERVE: Obey said the White House has -- quote -- "rebuffed, stunted and blocked" bipartisan congressional attempts to fund bioterrorism, port security, border security and first-responders. The Office of Homeland Security responds that protecting the American people is the president's No. 1 priority.
A spokesman says the administration proposed doubling homeland security funding in 2003, but 2 1/2 months into the fiscal year, Congress has failed to act. Wednesday, Tom Ridge met with some of the nation's mayors and pledged to push through a $3.5 billion appropriation for first-responders.
JOHN DESTEFANO, MAYOR OF NEW HAVEN, CONNECTICUT: Our expectations is that an appropriations bill for $3.5 billion will get through in January, that it will be sent out to the states immediately thereafter.
MESERVE (on camera): The Republican used the homeland security issue with considerable success in the last election. But, with several recent studies showing the nation is still not prepared, Democrats are clearly hoping to seize it next time around.
Jeanne Meserve, Washington.
WOODRUFF: The highest-ranking senator on the House Appropriations Committee, Congressman David Obey, you just saw there in Jeanne Meserve's piece. I interviewed him earlier today. My first question was about the impression given by the White House and Republicans during the midterm elections that it was the Democrats who are holding up progress on homeland security.
OBEY: Well, that perception is absolutely backwards.
The public has been diverted into thinking that the argument about the reorganization of the bureaucratic boxes was the homeland security debate. In fact, that's minor league stuff. The real issue that counts is: What kind of resources are you putting in the hands of the FBI, the Coast Guard, the customs people, the immigration people, the police and fire people back home, the people who have to defend us against a terrorist attack?
And there, the White House has been resisting, strenuously, efforts made by the Congress on a bipartisan basis to increase that funding.
WOODRUFF: But the Bush administration would have us believe that they're the ones who are most strongly supporting a strong homeland security? So, how does that square with what you're saying?
OBEY: It doesn't square at all.
But the fact is that last -- a year ago, after 9/11, I went down to the White House with Congressman Young and the congressional leadership. We gave the president a list totaling over $9 billion of additional items we thought needed funding immediately, based on conversations with his own security agencies. He told us flatly that, if we appropriated one dime more than he asked for, he would veto the bill.
We put $4 billion into that bill anyway in the supplemental this year. We added billions of dollars. The White House objected. The White House on three occasions now has resisted add-ons that the Congress wanted for these homeland security-related items.
WOODRUFF: And just some quick examples of what those are?
OBEY: Well, the first one they resisted was our efforts to provide additional money to the FBI so that 50 percent of the FBI computers weren't helpless in terms of simply sending a picture of a suspected terrorist to another FBI computer. We got that fixed, over the objection of the White House, in terms of the money.
We have tried to get additional money into the hands of the first-responders, police and firemen, who will have to handle any attack that comes.
WOODRUFF: You recognize, Congressman Obey, that your version of what's going on up against the president, who has a reputation among most Americans right now as being somebody who really does fight for the security of this country, you've got an uphill battle here.
OBEY: He's got the megaphone, no question about it.
But the fact is that, on a bipartisan basis, the Congress has tried to add billions of dollars in additional funding to protect homeland security. And the White House Budget Office, at every step of the way, has resisted what we've been doing and they've been trying to hold that funding down.
WOODRUFF: Congressman David Obey, I talked to him just a few hours ago.
By the way, we asked Republicans in the House, we asked at the White House for someone to respond to Obey's criticisms. But no one was provided to us for an interview.
Well, he's been out of office for almost a year, but he is still a draw for New York voters. Up next: A poll gives Rudy Giuliani the edge in a race that, at least for now, he's not even running in.
WOODRUFF: Checking the headlines in our "Campaign News Daily": New Alaska Governor Frank Murkowski is expected to name his replacement to the U.S. Senate within a week, according to a spokesman. Murkowski originally said he would select a successor from a list of 25 people. Well, "The Anchorage Daily News" reports the governor has narrowed that list to six. Among the six are his daughter, Lisa Murkowski, who is the statehouse majority lead, and Ben Stevens, the state Senate majority leader and son of Alaska's senior senator, Ted Sevens, U.S. senator.
Vermont Governor Howard Dean has traveled to Iowa, laying the groundwork for the 2004 presidential caucuses. During his 16th visit to the state, Dean announced the hiring of the former Iowa Democratic Party executive director to be his state campaign director. Jeani Murray is the first state director hired by any of the Democrats considering a run for the White House.
And, finally, New Yorkers still love Rudy, at least according to a new poll. A Marist College survey matched Giuliani against Democratic Senator Charles Schumer in a hypothetical 2004 election matchup. Giuliani received 58 percent, Schumer 37 percent.
Coming up: Trent Lott gets support from a surprising source -- the story next.
WOODRUFF: Trent Lott is receiving support from an unlikely source.
Democratic political strategist James Carville is forgiving the Senate majority leader for his controversial comments on race. Carville faxed a letter to Senator Lott's office today both accepting Lott's apology and pledging not to criticize Lott further for the comments he made at the Thurmond birthday party or on the issue of race.
Carville, of course, is also co-host of CNN's "CROSSFIRE." He's joining that program tonight as a guest. And he will talk about his letter. That is at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. We'll all be watching.
That's it for INSIDE POLITICS. I'm Judy Woodruff.
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Becomes First GOP Senator To Call For Lott's Ouster>