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CNN INSIDE POLITICS

Group Claims to Have Produced Human Clone; Stars on a Soapbox; Political Play of the Week

Aired December 27, 2002 - 16:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

ANNOUNCER: Science fiction comes to life. A group with alien ideas claims to have produced the first human clone.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGITTE BOISSELIER, SCIENTIFIC DIRECTOR, CLONAID: She's not like a monster, like some -- some results of something that is disgusting. She's a very healthy baby.

GEORGE WALKER BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Life is a creation, not a commodity.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: If a baby really has been cloned, what's Washington's next move?

Stars on a soapbox: the land mines faced by actors who become activists.

A new take on a holiday classic, the grinch who gets the "Political Play of the Week."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GRINCH: These stockings (UNINTELLIGIBLE) are the first things to go!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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

JEANNE MESERVE, GUEST HOST: Thanks for joining us. I'm Jeanne Meserve. Judy's off today.

More ammunition for growing tensions between the U.S. and North Korea. In this news cycle, U.N. officials say North Korea recently brought machine guns into the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas. That's a violation of the 1953 agreement ending the Korean war. More on that and North Korea's nuclear ambitions ahead.

The Food and Drug Administration plans to investigate whether the group claiming to have produced the world's first human clone broke any U.S. laws. The head of Clonaid announced an American woman gave birth to the baby girl yesterday. She would not say where the child was born and did not provide any immediate proof of her claim. The White House issued this response: "The president believes, like most Americans, that human cloning is deeply concerning, and he strongly supports legislation banning human cloning."

Clonaid's claim that a baby has been created exclusively from its mother's DNA is as controversial as the group itself, which promotes unusual ideas about extraterrestrials and the origins of life on earth. Here's CNN medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRIGITTE BOISSELIER, SCIENTIFIC DIRECTOR, CLONAID: I am very, very pleased to announce that the first baby clone is born. She was born yesterday at 11:55 AM.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The scientific director of a group called Clonaid claims the clone, a baby girl named Eve, is healthy, weighing in at 7 pounds.

BOISSELIER: She's doing real fine, and the parents are happy.

GUPTA: But the announcement brought outrage almost immediately from cloning experts.

DR. ROBERT LANZA, ADVANCED CELL TECHNOLOGIES: Without any scientific data, one has to be very, very skeptical. This is a group, again, that has no scientific track record. They've never published a single scientific paper in this area. They have no research experience in this area -- in fact, have never even cloned a mouse or a rabbit.

GUPTA (on camera): They think it's really, really dangerous to do this. Why did you do this?

BOISSELIER: Through the years, I started to have requests from parents who would like to have a child, infertile couples, homosexual couples, single individuals or people with AIDS or all kinds of people who would like to benefit from this service.

GUPTA (voice-over): Although Dr. Boisselier came with reasons, she came without any proof -- no baby, no pictures, no scientific tests.

BOISSELIER: You should have the answer and all proof that you request in eight or nine days from now.

GUPTA: Clonaid was founded by a controversial group called the Raelians. They call themselves a religion and follow the teachings of Rael, who teaches all human life was created by aliens, and they want a clone to become immortal.

RAEL, SECT FOUNDER: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) as a young clone of your body (UNINTELLIGIBLE) -- 90, about to die, you transfer all your data, and you will get a young body for new 90 years old or 95 years life.

GUPTA: In addition to Eve, they claim other clones are on the way.

BOISSELIER: The first one, so, was born yesterday. The next one is due in Europe next week. So it's very close, and the three others will be by the end of January.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

GUPTA: And Dr. Boisselier says that if everything goes as planned, they expect 20 more implantations next month. Their goal is to get a clinic, a cloning clinic, set up in every continent in the world. A lot of people -- that's not illegal, but a lot of people think it's immoral. Right now, as we mentioned, all of us are waiting for any kind of proof.

MESERVE: Talk about that process of proving whether or not this baby is, in fact, a clone.

GUPTA: Well, the proving process actually isn't that hard. There is DNA testing that exists today. They use it for paternity testing. They use it to -- for issues -- in instances of violent crime, such as rape. It's a simple DNA test. They actually take some DNA from the baby through the blood, and some from the mother, as well, probably through the blood, and analyze them and see if there's a match. The spooky part about it, Jeanne, is if there is a match, then that baby is not only the daughter of the mother, but also the identical twin -- Jeanne.

MESERVE: A lot of talk about the ethical concerns about cloning, but talk to us for a minute about the scientific concerns about this process, of doing this with humans.

GUPTA: That's right. Well, and that is also a very big concern. I think what has scientists pretty outraged -- you know, before Dolly the sheep, perhaps the most famous clone, was cloned, it took 276 attempts. It was the 277th attempt you actually got the sheep. What you didn't hear was what happened to that subspecies of animals that was created on 276 attempts. It wasn't very pretty. And that's exactly what people did not want to see in human beings -- all these sort of damaged, defective, dead babies that might result from the attempts at cloning.

Now, this particular organization, Clonaid, again, an offshoot of the Raelian organization, has never cloned anything. They haven't done a mouse, a cat, cattle, nothing. They've never written a paper about it, and no one is actually sure whether they know how to do any of this cloning. The fact they actually could jump scientifically to actually trying to clone a human being does have a lot of people upset, skeptical and maybe even a little outraged -- Jeanne.

MESERVE: Sanjay, even if their claim turns out to be false, aren't there others who claim that they have this process under way, as well?

GUPTA: That's right. I mean, there are other -- there are other scientists -- two other scientists who come to mind immediately, who've been very vocal that they'd like to clone, as well. Again, they're not doing it in the United States, but they are doing it in other places around the world. One of the scientists says in January, just a month from now, he expects that his first clone will actually be born, as well. So there are other scientists interested in this.

But, Jeanne, let me make the quick point that this reproductive cloning is very different than therapeutic cloning, which we've talked a lot about in the past, as well. Therapeutic clones never get implanted into a woman's uterus. They're never allowed to come to any kind of delivery. So very different between therapeutic and reproductive cloning.

MESERVE: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thanks so much.

GUPTA: Thank you, Jeanne.

MESERVE: There is no specific law in the United States against human cloning, but the Food and Drug Administration has contended since 1998 that its regulations forbid human cloning without the agency's permission. In light of today's announcement, the White House is urging the next Congress to revisit a ban on human cloning supported by President Bush.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: Our children are gifts to be loved and protected, not products to be designed and manufactured. Allowing cloning would be taking a significant step toward a society in which human beings are grown for spare body parts and children are engineered to custom specifications. And that's not acceptable.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MESERVE: The House approved a ban on human cloning, but the legislation stalled in the Senate, where members tried to draw distinction between cloning for baby-making and cloning for research. Most Americans disapprove of cloning designed to result in the birth of a human being, believing it is morally wrong, but a narrow majority approve of cloning to aid medical research.

Republican senator Sam Brownback of Kansas is pledging to reintroduce legislation to ban human cloning. He joins us now from Kansas City.

Senator, welcome. First let me ask you your reaction to this announcement from Clonaid today.

SEN. SAM BROWNBACK (R), KANSAS: Well, two things. I'm skeptical of whether they actually did do this or not. They may have. There's easy DNA testing to determine whether or not this has occurred. Skeptical on that count, skeptical on the other statement that they said if they did do this, that it's a healthy baby because we're seeing in other cloned mammals that have been coming forth that there are frequently a lot of -- a number of health issues. Heart may not develop right. The liver may not be developed right. A number of health issues that are associated with any cloned animal that we've seen thus far. MESERVE: Now, if they have done it, or if somebody else does it, what are your fears? Where are you afraid this could lead?

BROWNBACK: Well, what I think it could lead towards is just a full-scale cloning would take place on a regular basis, And you heard the president's statement that I think you're quoting him from earlier this year, where he was talking about just the -- the creation of people for spare body parts is something that it could lead to. You're already hearing people talking about research on human beings. Now, they're talking about it on an early stage, but what keeps that from moving on forward? There's a whole series of ethical issues here that really the Congress needs to consider and then act upon to set some sort of framework on this whole debate of human cloning.

MESERVE: Brigitte Boisselier of Clonaid, the one who made this announcement today, gave a defense, an explanation of why they did this. Let's listen to a bit of what she had to say, and I'll ask for your reaction.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOISSELIER: I believe that these people who have hopes through the human cloning technology deserve to have -- to benefit from this technique. And I don't see any problem, any harm, dealt humanity from providing a child with (UNINTELLIGIBLE) these parents. And so if you can demonstrate me that there is any problem with that -- I think you'll have a hard time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MESERVE: Senator, what is your response to that statement?

BROWNBACK: Well, I didn't hear all of it, unfortunately. The audio wasn't feeding very well. But as I understand her, they're just trying to fit the yearnings of people to have a child, a child of their own design and their own pick. I would really question that. There are people that are struggling to have children. There are other people that are working with them. But is the purpose and the route for mankind to design our own children, our own babies? Plus, if I could, in looking at the Raelians and their backdrop, what they're seeking to do is some form of immortality, where they would create a clone, a blank clone, I guess you would say, and then inject brain cells, human brain cells from a prior person. This is really -- really strange. It's something that we don't need to do and I don't think we should do.

MESERVE: Your proposal for a ban on human cloning did not succeed in the last Congress. Do you think this development gives new impetus to that?

BROWNBACK: Yes, I do. And I was saying this 18 months ago, that really, we need to act now before the science overtakes the ethical discussion, that we need to have a debate within the Congress, determine what the policy of the United States should be, and act before people keep coming forward. I think the fact of the matter is that while the Raelians may not have done this, and I'm skeptical whether they did, the fact of the matter is, you have a number of groups working in the United States and other places around the world to clone humans at various stages, whether it's embryonic stage, middle stage of a young child's development, full-birth human clone.

We need to act on that before the scientific fact actually occurs because it's going to occur sooner rather than later. If you can do this in cows and pigs and sheep -- sheep and goats and cats, we're going to be able to do is soon in humans. The question is, should we? And really, that's where Congress needs to act and act now before the fact becomes that we actually are seeing clones being born.

MESERVE: But as you pointed out, this research is going on all over the world. Even if the U.S. Congress did act, this human cloning might go forward somewhere else.

BROWNBACK: That's true. And that's why there's negotiations going on right now in the United Nations about a global treaty on human cloning. And that's as it should be. We need to get that negotiation taking place. Still, the United States is the global leader. We're the ones, we should step up and state a clear position, a clear, conscious position of what the position of our country should be. And I think that will provide a lot of leadership to the world. And I think, clearly, we need to say human cloning is not something that we should be doing.

MESERVE: Senator Sam Brownback, thanks for joining us on CNN today.

BROWNBACK: Thank you.

MESERVE: Up next, a live report from the Pentagon on North Korea bringing banned weapons into the DMZ.

Also ahead...

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I'm Suzanne Malveaux with the president near Crawford, Texas. The Bush administration says it will not respond to threats from North Korea. I'll bring you the very latest on nuclear tensions.

MESERVE: A close relative of a politician in the spotlight survives a plane crash. We'll have details.

With thousands of Americans about to lose their unemployment benefits, what message are voters sending with their pocketbooks?

And later: stars with a cause, the hits and the bombs of celebrity politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MESERVE: It's time to check your IP IQ. How much of the African-American vote did Tennessee senator Bill Frist get in his re- election to the Senate in 2000? was it A, 11 percent, B, 21 percent, or C, 31 percent? Stay with INSIDE POLITICS. We'll tell you the answer later on in the show. Did you make or lose money on Wall Street today? Coming up, we'll go live to the New York stock exchange for a market wrap-up.

Plus, Americans voted with their pocketbooks and wallets, and the economy lost in a landslide. A political take on Christmas shopping, when INSIDE POLITICS returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MESERVE: Amid tensions over North Korea's move to restart its nuclear facilities comes word today of a violation in the Korean buffer zone, the most heavily armed border in the world. Let's bring in our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, with the latest -- Barbara.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Jeanne, hello to you. Well, yes, another bit of tension today between North and South Korea. The United Nations command in Seoul announced earlier today that North Korea has violated the 1953 armistice agreement because in the last several days, they have moved machine guns into the demilitarized zone. The U.N. said it had asked North Korea for a meeting about all of this, but the North Koreans even refused to acknowledge that they had received that request for a meeting.

Now, as you can see in the picture here, this -- you can see it in the center, one of the tripods of one of these light machine guns that the North Koreans have been bringing in. And of course, you can see the North Korean soldiers there with that machine gun. All of this a violation of the 1953 armistice agreement, which bans weapons in that zone.

Now, according to the U.N. command, the North Koreans were observed all the way back on December 13 beginning to bring these guns into the demilitarized zone. This went on several days, all of this happening in an area about 100 to 400 meters north of the demarcation line, essentially, the current border between North and South Korea. Apparently, we are told, the North Koreans were removing those machine guns every day.

Now, to put it all in context, this is not militarily significant that these machine guns are in the demilitarized zone. It's nothing that the U.S. is terribly worried about. But indeed, this is always, especially now, a hair-trigger area. Things can go wrong very, very quickly in the DMZ. That's what the Bush administration wants to avoid.

And of course, some people will remember back in 1976, there was an incident in which a U.S. and South Korean military party entered the demilitarized zone simply to trim a tree. Violence did break out with the North Korean military. And when it was all over, two U.S. military officers were dead, beaten to death with the blunt end of an axe by the North Korean military. That's the last time there was such violence in that area, but it underscores the hair-trigger situation in the DMZ. And both the United Nations and, of course, the Bush administration would like to see these machine guns taken out of the area -- Jeanne. MESERVE: Barbara, one quick question. If these were first sighted on December 13, why are we only hearing about them now?

STARR: Well, the U.N. had been trying to -- the U.N. command in South Korea and the U.S. military there had been trying to approach the North Koreans. Some people have told us that there were informal meetings over the last several days, that this was broached through some channels, very back-door, that the North Koreans said they knew nothing about it. By all accounts, by publicizing it, by making the picture public, the U.N., the U.S. military in South Korea, is trying to send a message that we do understand that the Bush administration does see what the North Koreans are doing. And they want to make it public now.

MESERVE: Barbara Starr at the Pentagon. Thanks a lot.

And now to North Korea's nuclear program. The Pyongyang government today ordered the expulsion U.N. nuclear inspectors and announced it will reactivate a lab that's capable of producing weapons-grade plutonium. CNN's Sohn Jie-Ae is across the border in South Korea.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SOHN JIE-AE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): North Korea took another step towards reactivating the nuclear facility suspected of being used to produce nuclear weapons by announcing it was kicking out U.N. inspectors. North Korea said the two monitors from the International Atomic Energy Agency are being expelled because they have no more reason to stay now that the reactor is being unfrozen. The North also stated it was getting ready to reactivate a research lab that could be used to reprocess the spent nuclear fuel rods into weapons-grade plutonium.

The developments come as the war of words escalated on both sides of the Korean peninsula. The sharp rhetoric from the North follows a stern warning by South Korea's president-elect, Roh Moo-hyun. Roh takes office on February 25, delivered his strongest message so far to the North by saying Pyongyang's moves are in defiance of international community's wishes to end proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and run counter to the hopes of a permanent peace on the Korean peninsula. He also said the North's nuclear ambitions could hinder ongoing South-North cooperation. Nevertheless, South Korea's unification minister told lawmakers Friday that inter-Korean projects and aid to the North should continue.

JEONG SE-HYEON, SOUTH KOREAN UNIFICATION MINISTER (through translator): As long as we see the possibility of resolving the nuclear issue through dialogue or exchanges between the North and the South, inter-Korean projects should proceed. I believe they can contribute to resolving this issue.

SOHN: In one such project, South Korea recently completed clearing mines on its side for a railway and road link with the North.

Sohn Jie-Ae, CNN, Seoul. (END VIDEOTAPE)

MESERVE: And now let's get the Bush administration's reaction to North Korea's latest move. Suzanne Malveaux is with the president in Crawford, Texas -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Well, the White House is making its position very clear, saying it will not negotiate in response to any type of threats or broken promises from North Korea, that it will not be blackmailed. President Bush, we are told, received his daily briefings, intelligence and security briefings, at the Crawford ranch early this morning, and he has been monitoring the situation both in North Korea, as well as Iraq.

Earlier today at the White House, there was a meeting among his top advisers, including national security adviser Condoleezza Rice and deputy secretary of defense Paul Wolfowitz, talking about the strategy -- U.S. strategy dealing with North Korea. Scott McCorn (ph), a White House spokesperson, had a gaggle (ph), a briefing earlier today, and he released this statement, saying, "We call on North Korea to reverse its current course and take steps necessary to come into compliance with the safeguards agreement and to eliminate its nuclear weapons program in a manner that's verifiable.' The international community is in agreement that North Korea's actions are a challenge to all responsible nations and has made clear that North Korea's relations with the outside world hinge on North Korea's elimination of its nuclear weapons program."

A senior administration official telling us that North Korea's Kim Jong Il is putting himself in a box, that he is isolating himself from the rest of the world. Administration officials today reiterating that the Bush administration will continue working diplomatic channels, as well as economic pressure, working with our allies -- Russia, South Korea, Japan, as well as China. We understand the administration will be sending an envoy to South Korea as early as next week.

Also, we've heard from the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohammed El-Baradei, who says if North Korea does not comply, does not allow those monitors back in in the next couple of weeks, that he will reconvene the U.N. Security Council to deal with North Korea at the same time that it deals with Iraq -- Jeanne.

MESERVE: Suzanne Malveaux in Crawford, Texas, thank you.

And just ahead right here: Consumers deliver a holiday message to Washington. What the disappointing sales numbers say about retailers, shoppers and the nation's economy.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MESERVE: Unemployment checks will run out this weekend for hundreds of thousands of Americans. Will the president and Congress come to the rescue? That story in 60 seconds.

But first: It was not a fabulous Friday for stocks. Fred Katayama joins us live from Wall Street, where he's keeping an eye on your money.

Hey, Fred.

FRED KATAYAMA, CNN FINANCIAL NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Jeanne. In fact, it was a miserable Friday for most investors. International turmoil weighed on the market again, uncertainty about events in Iraq, North Korea and even the ongoing strike in Venezuela all hurt investor confidence. The Dow industrials tumbled 128 points, ending lower each of the four days the market was open this week. For the week, the Dow lost 207 points, but trading volume has been very light, meaning these moves may not be all that important. As for the NASDAQ, it shed nearly 1.5 percent.

But defense contractor Lockheed-Martin scored a big victory. It won a $3.5 billion deal to supply F-16 fighter jets to Poland. Lockheed beat out two European rivals for the largest defense order ever from any of the former Eastern Bloc nations. The new jets will replace Poland's aging fleet of Soviet-built MiGs.

And that is the latest from Wall Street. Jeanne, back to you.

MESERVE: Thanks, Fred.

Hundreds of thousands of Americans will lose their unemployment benefits tomorrow when a federal program that extended benefits is set to expire. The temporary emergency unemployment compensation program took effect back in March. It extended benefits to jobless Americans up to 26 weeks. Congress failed to agree on a new extension before leaving town, so the extension ends tomorrow, December 28. At least three quarters of a million people will be affected.

Today Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton said extending benefits should be the first order the business in the new Congress.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: As we move into this new year, I hope that America will do the right thing. And it's not only right for all of our unemployed fellow citizens, who, there but for the grace of God, go any of us -- and that's something I think each of us should be willing to admit -- but also, it is the fastest way to stimulate the economy. And finally, people say, Well, where's the money going to come from? It's going to come, as you've heard from the unemployment insurance trust fund. That's what it is there for, to help take care of people in times like these.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MESERVE: As for the president, Mr. Bush has called on Congress to pass a benefit extension retroactive to December 28.

The tight job market is just one factor blamed for disappointing holiday sales numbers. Our Bill Schneider has taken note, and he see as message for Washington.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Attention, shoppers! This month's election results are in. What election? The one every December on the economy. Consumers have spoken, and what they've said is the "Political Play of the Week."

In November, Americans vote with their ballots, up or down for the president's party. This year, they made a strong and clear statement. Up. In December, Americans vote with their dollars, up or down for the economy. They've made a pretty clear statement on the economy, too. Down.

DANA TELSEY, BEAR STEARNS: We've just come off a nine-day, nine- city trip around the country, visiting all different malls. And definitely, what we're seeing is the traffic isn't as strong as it should be, especially going into these last few days before Christmas.

SCHNEIDER: No, it wasn't. In fact, it was the worst holiday shopping season in over 30 years. For the third straight year, the growth in holiday sales has slowed, cut in half each year. Why?

HOWARD DAVIDOWITZ, RETAIL CONSULTANT: There's no job growth. There's lower bonuses. There's less job possibilities. There's lower corporate profits. There's less corporate spending, ergo, no jobs. It's a slow economy.

SCHNEIDER: A lot of people have a hangover from the spending binge of the 1990s, especially since the drop in the stock market has made them feel less financially secure. Shopping habits have changed radically. Most shopping is now done in discount stores. And it's done later and later in the season, because consumers are more savvy.

VINCENT BOBERSKI, RBC DAIN RAUSCHER: People have learned over the last couple of years to wait until things go on sale.

SCHNEIDER: Retailers are hopeful that the post-Christmas season will rescue them.

BOBERSKI: They're really going to be looking to push the stuff off the shelves. And that certainly means consumers are going to see a lot of great bargains.

SCHNEIDER: They do.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The sales are better after Christmas, I think, even though a lot of the stores had sales before because of the economy. But it's been pretty good. Today, we did a lot of shopping.

SCHNEIDER: After the high-tech bubble burst and business investment collapsed, consumers have been the one thing holding up the U.S. economy. This Christmas, the message from consumers is: Hey, don't count on us.

(on camera): Here in California, taxable sales are predicted to drop more than 3 percent this year. That's one of the main reasons why California faces a $35 billion budget deficit.

So, this is your last chance, shoppers. Save the state. Save the country. Shop until you drop.

Bill Schneider, CNN, Los Angeles.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MESERVE: And when we return: African-Americans put new political pressure on incoming Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist; plus, a close call for a member of Frist's family.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(voice-over): It's time now to check your I.P. I.Q. Earlier we asked: How much of the African-American vote did Tennessee Senator Bill Frist get in his reelection to the Senate in 2000? Was it, A, 11 percent, B, 21 percent, or, C, 31 percent? The correct answer is B. Frist won 74 percent of the white vote and 66 percent the vote overall.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MESERVE: A Frist fight: Civil rights group lay the heat on the new Senate majority leader -- the political hot potato coming up.

(NEWS BREAK)

MESERVE: A coalition of civil rights and labor groups are joining forces to pressure new Senate Republican leader Bill Frist on a host of civil rights issues.

The strategy was announced just days after Frist replaced Senator Trent Lott as majority leader. Lott had praised Strom Thurmond's 1948 segregationist campaign for president. The director of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights today called on Frist and other Republicans to consider a new civil rights agenda.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WADE HENDERSON, LEADERSHIP CONFERENCE ON CIVIL RIGHTS: Well, as the new Senate majority leader, Senator Frist has an opportunity to add substance to the rhetoric of the Republican Party with regard to its policies of inclusion and its effort to promote equal opportunity on behalf of all Americans.

We see the current opportunity that Senator Frist has as being one that we hope will advance a broader agenda, a broader, more inclusive agenda for civil rights. And, certainly, we think Senator Frist has the opportunity to put his own personal stamp on those policies.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MESERVE: Among their specific requests, the civil rights groups want Frist to abandon support for several conservative judicial nominees and to support a new federal hate crimes law. Bill Frist's oldest son, 19-year-old Harrison Frist, was slightly injured today when the small plane he was riding in crashed on takeoff. The small Cessna flipped over and rolled down a 30-foot embankment at an airport near Nashville, Tennessee. Two other Frist family relatives were on the plane. They also suffered minor injuries. Harrison Frist is a freshman at Princeton. He's home in Tennessee for the holidays.

Also on the medical list today: Chicago Mayor Richard Daley and his wife, Maggie. The couple were taken to a hospital by ambulance this morning after they both fainted from dehydration. Mrs. Daley may have suffered a broken rib when she fall. A doctor says the couple is suffering from the stomach flu and will probably stay in the hospital overnight.

Now a look "Inside Their Politics" at campaign news from around the world that Washington is keeping a close eye on: Voters packed the polls in Kenya today in what could be an historic election for East African nation. On the ballot: Who will replace this man, President Daniel Arap Moi, who has ruled Kenya for nearly a quarter- century? Five people are running, but only two were given any chance of winning, the leader of the opposition, who is the front-runner, and Mr. Moi's favorite, the son of the country's first president, Jomo Kenyatta.

One reason: the economy. Kenya boasts the region's largest, but it's hit rock bottom in recent years. The polls are now closed in Kenya. Partial results are expected tomorrow, official results not until Sunday or Monday.

Kenya is also one of Washington's most important allies in Africa, playing a key role in the war on terror in the region. But Kenya has also seen more than its fair share of terrorism in recent years, from the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombing in Nairobi to last month's terror attack on an Israeli-owned hotel in Mombasa.

In these dangerous times, should movie stars be promoting war or peace? Up next: celebrities venturing onto foreign territory. We'll ask an expert on stars and politics if the two roles really mix.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MESERVE: Actor Sean Penn has gotten raves for some of his challenging roles on screen. But his recent trip to Iraq was widely panned here in United States. More stars seem to be moonlighting as activists these days.

John Orman is the co-author of the book "Celebrity Politics." And he joins us.

Is Sean Penn's venture overseas just an indication there really can be a downside to this sort of activism for celebrities?

JOHN ORMAN, CO-AUTHOR, "CELEBRITY POLITICS": Yes, Jeanne.

Although Sean Penn has First Amendment rights, as any American citizen does, to freedom of speech, once Sean Penn went over there -- he doesn't have a long record as being an activist, other than the fact that he did take out an ad in "The New York Times." So, he was easily made to be perceived in the United States as a fool. And I think this is where we have a difficulty with a lot of actors becoming celebrity politicos.

MESERVE: Now, some of these stars know what they're talking about, though, don't they?

ORMAN: Yes. We have some people like Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward, Bono and a few others. They've studied the issue. They've taken stands. And, like any citizen, they have First Amendment rights.

But in our book "Celebrity Politics," that I wrote with Darrell West, who is from Brown University, we argue that celebrities have sort of like monopolized public space and they've taken up a lot the political oxygen that normal citizens could actually be speaking about.

MESERVE: Well, normal citizens certainly have First Amendment rights as well. They can speak out, can't they?

ORMAN: Yes.

But, in modern media times, the way we cover American politics, citizens sort of just watch. We don't vote. We don't run for office. We don't write letters to the editors. We have one of the lowest participation rates in American democracies. And the celebrities seem to get all the coverage. Their every coming and going is chronicled. And it kind of wipes out sort of like the average citizen's partake on American politics.

MESERVE: But is it possible that they're setting a good example by getting out there, getting involved, grasping an issues, and that other people might see that and say, aha, maybe I should do the same thing? Or doesn't it work that way?

ORMAN: Yes.

Darrell West and I argue that one of the upsides of celebrity politics is that, on certain issues, they can bring up new issues to the agenda. But more often than not, we have maybe a baseball player who hits .320 and maybe drives in 100 runs, one of the first questions in the locker room will be, what do you think of the Middle East political situation?

So, we're mixing up our politicians, rock our stars, our movie stars. And it just helps for a very entertaining political system.

MESERVE: Now, some of these celebrities are enlisted into certain causes, aren't they, because of their high profile and because of their money?

ORMAN: Yes. A lot of interest groups have found out that they can't really get their message across unless they have a celebrity. If you have a certain disease or if you have a certain political cause that you want to get, we find out that you have to have a celebrity, usually, to break through in this mass media market.

We also note that the Republican Party and Democratic Party both have this role called the celebrity coordinator. And that's something that you wouldn't have found in certainly the 1940s or the 1950s.

MESERVE: And, also, the media coverage and how that plays into all of this, I know I've been to many a hearing on Capitol Hill which might not have been of too much interest except there was someone from television or the movies there testifying. And so, there would be swarms of cameras that the hearing.

ORMAN: That's right.

One of our best examples, in 1985, we had hearings on farmers who were going under in the Midwest, when we had our farm crisis. And the first three witnesses were Jessica Lange, Sally Field and Jane Fonda, because they had recently been portraying women in movies, poor farm women. And the next day, when the real farm women came in, nobody showed up.

So, it is a way that we cover politics in America. It's sort of like blurring entertainment values and political values into one entertaining show.

MESERVE: But one could say we blur it the other way, too, with shows like "The West Wing."

ORMAN: Yes.

And that's why it was even interesting last week when I watched CNN. We got to see Martin Sheen call for President Bush to take a new stand in Iraq. And many viewers were probably saying, well, he's already the president. Why can't he do something?

(LAUGHTER)

MESERVE: John Orman, thanks so much. Appreciate your joining us.

ORMAN: Thanks a lot.

MESERVE: And another sign today that Joe Lieberman is close to making a run for the White House. The senator told an Israeli newsmagazine program that he probably will run for the Democratic nomination in 2004. Lieberman gave the exclusive interview during the tail end of a tour through the Persian Gulf region and the Middle East.

We return to the political debate over cloning just ahead: how the cloning issue could affect more traditional debates, including future nominees to the nation's highest court. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MESERVE: And with me now to talk more about the politics of cloning in Stu Rothenberg of "The Rothenberg Political Report."

Stu, welcome.

STUART ROTHENBERG, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Thanks, Jeanne.

MESERVE: What's the political fallout of this announcement today from Clonaid?

ROTHENBERG: Well, I think it's going to get us talking about a subject that's really on the buck burner, if on the burner at all.

You know, clearly, there really aren't two sides to the overall question of cloning. The survey data -- Gallup survey data from the spring, admittedly, but some the most recent data that I've seen -- shows that 90 percent of Americans says that it's morally unacceptable to clone a human being or to use cloning specifically to create a human being. So, it's not as though there is going to be a huge argument in favor of cloning.

But, as we talk about cloning, I think we're going to be talking about some bigger issues, thinking about bigger issues. What is life? When does life begin? This could get us to the entire argument, the discussion over abortion.

MESERVE: Do you expect any legislative push from the White House on the abortion front?

ROTHENBERG: Well, obviously, this is a sticky question for both parties.

On one hand, you put abortion on the table and the Democrats have been trying to get the public to talk about abortion for a long time. They wanted the 2002 election to be about abortion and environment and Social Security and these domestic issues. The election wasn't. So, on one hand, you could, well, the Democrats would be pleased.

However, this is such a politically explosive issue, cloning. And I think it raises the question of life in a way where the pro- lifers, the opponents of legal abortion, are happy to discuss it, while the supporters of abortion rights are probably going to be more cautious. My guess is that, if the abortion issue takes off, the White House will try to deflect some of this through judges, while the Democrats push for more dramatic legislation.

MESERVE: When you say deflect it through judges, what do you mean?

ROTHENBERG: Well, in terms of abortion itself, if the Republicans went straight at the abortion issue and, in terms of legislative action, even in terms of more regulatory action, pushed restrictions on abortion, it would raise the visibility of the issue in a way that could hurt the Republicans. MESERVE: And probably benefit the Democrats.

ROTHENBERG: But, on the other hand, conservatives will certainly, some time over the next two years, want the Republicans to deal with the issue.

If the Republicans can deal with it through judgeships -- conservative groups consider them extremely important -- that would be a way for the conservatives, for Republicans, for the White House to score points without alienating Democratic voters.

MESERVE: We were talking to Senator Brownback a bit earlier about a ban on human cloning in the U.S. Senate. It didn't pass last time, in part because there was disagreement about whether it should be an overall ban or just a ban on reproductive cloning, as opposed to therapeutic cloning. What's your guess on what the Congress might do?

ROTHENBERG: Well, if the Raelians are correct and, in fact, they have cloned a baby, it fundamentally changes the debate. I think it ratchets up the political costs of ignoring it. I suspect that the various sides would come together and pass in force some sort of ban.

But you're right. There's always going to be this question about the line, exactly what you do allow and what you don't. However, there would be new impetus to legislative action. I think there's no doubt about that.

MESERVE: OK. Stu Rothenberg, thanks a lot for joining us.

ROTHENBERG: Thanks.

MESERVE: And checking the headlines in "Campaign News Daily": Colorado Republican Governor Bill Owens has founded a think tank to promote conservative political ideas. As he kicks off his second term, the governor plans to use next month's inauguration dinner as a fund-raiser for the Center for the New American Century. Governor Owens was recently elected chairman of the National Governors Association. He is often rumored to have his eye on running for higher office.

The Boy Scouts have a new political battle on their hands. Coming up: The Scouts fight to stay in the troop after refusing to recognize a higher power.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MESERVE: You may remember the political flap when the Boy Scouts of America ousted a gay leader. More recently, the Scouts expelled a teenager because he does not believe in God.

Now the assistant scoutmaster is fighting to get back in the troop, as CNN's Lilian Kim reports from Port Orchard, Washington.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LILIAN KIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Nineteen-year-old Darrell Lambert has received letters of support from all over the world ever since the Boy Scouts kicked him out last month for his atheist views.

DARRELL LAMBERT, EXPELLED BOY SCOUT: I don't find any scientific backing for the basis of God.

KIM: The assistant scoutmaster joined the Boy Scouts 10 years ago. He has 37 merit badges and made Eagle Scout. This week, Darrell filed an appeal, hoping the organization will allow him back in.

LAMBERT: If I wasn't in Boys Scout, I wouldn't be standing up for anything right now. It's taught me everything I am.

KIM (on camera): A committee appointed by the Boy Scouts' Western regional office will be reviewing Darrell Lambert's appeal. If, for any reason, he is dissatisfied with their decision, then he would have to take it up with the Boy Scouts National Council.

MARK HUNTER, BOY SCOUTS OF AMERICA: For 92 years, the Boy Scouts of America has held close to the Scout oath, Scout law: "On my honor, I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country." Those beliefs are core to our value system.

KIM (voice-over): Observers think Darrell's readmission is a long shot. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled two years ago that, as a private organization, the Scouts can exclude certain members. Still, Darrell says it's a battle worth fighting.

LAMBERT: As long as it's not a safety thing, I think every boy should be allowed in. They may be a private organization, but they're a symbol of America.

KIM: Lilian Kim, CNN, Port Orchard, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MESERVE: And that's it for INSIDE POLITICS. I'm Jeanne Meserve.

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