CNN INSIDE POLITICS
Bush, Blair to Speak on New Proposed Security Council Resolution; Mary Matalin Discusses White House Strategy
Aired January 31, 2003 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: Standing shoulder to shoulder again. Will President Bush and Prime Minister Blair chart a course toward war with Iraq?
TONY BLAIR, PRIME MINISTER OF BRITAIN: It's right that we go for a second resolution, because that's the way of saying this is an issue the international community's not going to duck.
ANNOUNCER: We'll have live coverage of the Bush/Blair news conference.
Something about Mary. Fresh from her tour of duty in the Bush White House, Matalin shares insights about the president's political strategy.
MARY MATALIN, FORMER COUNSELOR TO VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: He's going to fight to the end for the package that he sent to the hill.
ANNOUNCER: Before there was Monica, there was Donna and Marilyn. We'll revisit the political sex scandals that made headlines and those that did not.
ANNOUNCER: Live from Washington, this is INSIDE POLITICS with Judy Woodruff.
JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you for joining us. Well, if ever President Bush needed to count on America's special relationship with Britain, it may be now, in the final phase of the showdown with Iraq.
In this "News Cycle," British Prime Minister Tony Blair has a meeting with Mr. Bush at the White House. Their joint news conference is due to begin any moment now. Of course, we will carry it live. Blair is urging a second U.N. resolution before any military action to force Saddam Hussein to disarm.
At the United Nations, top weapons inspectors say they are willing to return to Iraq at Baghdad's invitation before they make their next report to the Security Council. But, they say, Iraq must first meet certain conditions, such as agreeing to let scientists be interviewed in private. But first, President Bush's National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft will talk to us about the threat of another war with Iraq ahead on INSIDE POLITICS.
Well as we await the Bush/Blair news conference, let's bring in our White House Correspondent John king. John, we know that Tony Blair and George Bush have been very close in terms of their approach to Iraq. What's the point of this meeting as we get ever closer to a countdown to war?
JOHN KING, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Judy, it is critical because of continuing divisions on the U.N. Security Council that the prime minister and the president be on the same page.
As you know, the prime minister says he believes there needs to be a second United Nations Security Council resolution authorizing military force, but perhaps setting a deadline, one last deadline, a hard deadline, for Saddam Hussein to come into compliance.
The Bush administration had been resisting that. We are now told the president is prepared to go along. Still not fully committed heading into this meeting. So it'll be interesting to hear what he says. Prepared to go along, but the U.S. does not want this to drag on for any more than two or three more weeks.
So we are told that was the main focus of this meeting: how to come up with a strategy for going to the Security Council and saying the United States would accept a new resolution. But that resolution, according to the president's aides, would have to include a hard deadline for Iraq to comply and make crystal clear that if there is not full compliance at that deadline, there will be no more debate. That the United States and its allies would move at that point, ostensibly, with the Security Council blessing to military action.
WOODRUFF: But, John, isn't it the case that the military wasn't going to be in position to move ahead until the end of February anyway?
KING: Certainly the full deployment will not be ready until the end of February. So in a way, if this debate goes on for three to four more weeks, that would fit nicely with the military deployment, which is a little behind schedule.
But the administration says it does not want the debate to drag on longer. It is very wary of this invitation from Iraq for Hans Blix and Mohammed ElBaradei to go back. They view that here as a stalling tactic. They don't want negotiations. If there is a new resolution, they want it to be very clear that it gives Iraq a period of a couple more weeks, but that that deadline is the hard deadline. And after that, no more talking.
WOODRUFF: John, why are the British now saying more time is needed?
KING: Well, certainly you can look at the political opposition to Tony Blair back home. You can look at the efforts Mr. Blair made to bring other European leaders along with him. They face skepticism among their publics as well.
So there is an effort here to try to bring the French and the Germans and Russians along believing that if you can give a little more time, if you can be a little more flexible and say that Saddam Hussein is not in compliance, but, all right, we understand the disagreements here.
Let's give him one more chance that perhaps then you can get the blessing of the Security Council and if you look at the polls in Great Britain, if you look at the polls here in the United States, other countries in Europe that have backed the president in this stance, if you have the blessing of the Security Council, those leaders are on much more firm political footing.
WOODRUFF: But you're not saying that the Bush administration agrees with the British and with the Blair administration that it is so important to get the French, the Russians and others onboard. Are you?
KING: Well, they certainly would like to have them onboard. They realize that politically here in the United States and internationally with all the criticism of this administration, which the Bush administration says is unfair, but as a bully, is you will, as a unilateral bully in the world, they understand that it would give them much more international solidarity in the effort.
They also have said for months, and the vice president and Secretary Powell said it in public here in Washington today, emphatically, that the United States will not have its hands tied by those other governments.
But if it is a matter of two to three more weeks in which you could get the support of the French and others on the Security Council, the administration is willing to go that long. But they stress here at the White House, no longer. They want clarity by the end of the month of February and they insist the president will not wait any longer.
WOODRUFF: If the French are probably among -- you're naming several countries. I think a lot of people would say the French may be absolutely critical to getting this through the Security Council without a veto. What do they realistically think the chances are thought that they'll get the French onboard?
KING: Well the administration says that it thinks it has a pretty good chance, actually. And the way they explain that is they back to the initial debate. It took about eight weeks to get Resolution 1441 from an idea into a hotly contested draft into a resolution that was approved by the Security Council 15 to nothing after weeks of debate in which all the media coverage and all the diplomats were saying that couldn't reach an agreement. It passed unanimously.
So the view here at the White House is that if you work hard enough at this you can get a consensus on the Security Council, but the Bush administration this time working against a different clock. Back then it wanted to get the debate over with because the president said in his speech on September 12 he wanted this done within weeks, not months.
Now when they say weeks not months pressing up against them is their optimum timetable for military action, if that becomes necessary.
WOODRUFF: All right, John King at the White House as we continue to wait for this news conference with President Bush and Tony Blair. They've been meeting for the last few hours.
I want to bring in our Chief International Correspondent Christiane Amanpour who traveled to the United States with Prime Minister Blair just yesterday. Christiane, in your interview earlier today with Tony Blair, among other things that he told you that he didn't see any need for setting an arbitrary timetable. Is that consistent now with what apparently is an effort to give, to put a timetable on this?
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Well he said both that and the fact that they believe strongly, the British, that there is a need for a new U.N. resolution. So what they're trying to do is go for that and get as much broad and international coalition as possible.
But when we specifically talked to him about specific deadlines and timing, what he was saying to us is that it's not about right now setting a specific deadline. I mean, who knows? That may come out at this press conference. But in his view, before that meeting today, it was about deciding when to come to a judgment about whether Saddam Hussein was actually going to be cooperating with the disarmament process.
Right now, he says, and the rest of the international community is saying, or at least a great deal of them, that Saddam Hussein is in breach of his responsibilities and duties under the current resolution.
Although the current resolution implicitly talks about serious consequences and, therefore, potentially military conflict, Blair is very conscious that even those countries such as his own, such as Spain and the handful of others that join what President Bush calls the coalition of the willing, even those countries are very eager to have another U.N. resolution or to keep going through the U.N. route to be able to have international legality and that kind of international legitimacy as covered.
Because as you know, there is so much disapproval around the world for the idea of a military conflict. What they're hoping to do is be able to take it to a point whereby it's impossible anymore to ignore the fact that Saddam Hussein not cooperating.
And so some British officials are telling us that they may even seek to have not just one more report by the U.N. top weapons inspectors, but maybe a couple more to build the case that Saddam Hussein is not cooperating and, therefore, we, the U.S., Britain and others have no other route but the military route.
WOODRUFF: But all that, Christiane, within this three to four- week deadline in a way, that you and John are discussing?
AMANPOUR: Well, they're telling us that it's weeks. I mean, I heard, you know, maybe a month or so. So I think all of that is somewhat iffy. Again, we'll hear the details after the press conference. But, yes, they're talking about weeks. They're not talking about months.
But what Blair wants to do is to be able to hammer out, get all these diplomatic ducks in a row, provide this incontrovertible evidence that Saddam Hussein is not cooperating and then if you like, challenge other countries, such as France, which has desented (ph) quite vigorously to the immediate need for war, to challenge them to say, Well, we're going to use our veto. He would call that an unreasonable veto and he wants to get them all onboard so that there is another unanimous Security Council resolution.
WOODRUFF: Well given all this, where does that leave the presentation that Secretary of State Powell is to make to the United Nations Security Council next week? Is that really going to matter in the scheme of things?
AMANPOUR: Well, yes, certainly. Because as you know, one of the key problems that international public opinion has is the issue of evidence. Not necessarily on the issue of does Saddam Hussein have weapons of mass destruction? Because many people around the world believe that's the case.
But is it an imminent threat? And furthermore, the thing that the Americans keep hammering is that they believe that there is a definite link between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein. The British don't necessarily believe that there is exact evidence for that, and Prime Minister Blair told the Parliament that just this week.
So what they're hoping, and the message that the British tell us that they're sending to the Americans at this point is that when Colin Powell goes to the Security Council, the evidence he lays out must be compelling, must not be able to backfire. Because if it does that could leave them a worse position.
But Blair saying to us, Just wait for next week. Obviously British Intelligence, he told us, is helping the Americans in terms of the evidence they present to the Security Council. But they are just hoping that it is a solid case that will not be able to back fire in the course of public opinion.
WOODRUFF: Well on that point, and let me bring John King back in on the question of what kind of evidence Tony -- or, I'm sorry -- Colin Powell is going to have next week. U.S. officials are saying, anonymously in the last day or so, John, it's going to be circumstantial at best. How does that square with the need that Christiane is describing on the part of many and the rest of the world to see something more compelling? KING: Well they say no, quote, "smoking gun," if you define smoking gun at obvious proof as in the Cuban Missile Crisis, pictures of missiles on a luanchpad or something like that.
They do say there are satellite photographs that will prove that Iraq has been moving things just prior to inspectors going in. They say they have evidence and they are debating just how and what to release among the evidence that shows -- that intercepts of conversations in which Iraqi officials have infiltrated the inspectors. They know where they're going. And therefore they go out and sanitize sites and move evidence just before the inspections.
As to the al Qaeda link, there's a debate even within the U.S. intelligence community about how strong that evidence is. The United States says it can prove that several al Qaeda operatives have been in and out of Iraq, some for medical treatment, some for other reasons. As to whether there is any proof that Saddam has ever supplied them with weapons; U.S. officials concede they don't have that proof. They want to build a circumstantial case, though, that there are at least relationships back and forth and that they will not run the risk. Dick Cheney, the vice president, talked about this today. He said the United States simply will not run the risk that those relationships will blossom to a point where Saddam Hussein will go ahead and then supply sarin gas, anthrax, mustard gas or any weapon of mass destruction to a terrorist.
WOODRUFF: All right, John, I'm told we are just about a minute away from President Bush and Prime Minister Blair coming out of their meeting, and we are going to go to that.
Meanwhile, we want to take you very quickly down to Florida, South Florida, where a hostage situation has apparently been resolved. A man took -- hijacked a mail truck and hijacked a postal employee. She was released some time ago. She is safe. But they've just now negotiated with him. He was heavily armed and police have now worked it out. That situation is evidently at an end.
So we are continuing to wait. We are apparently just seconds away now from this, John, from this White House meeting. I don't think we can underestimate the pressure that these leaders have been under, and you and I both are watching microphones there in the front part of the White House there before they come out. But I don't think you can underestimate how much pressure both Mr. Blair and Mr. Bush have been under on this?
KING: Hard to overestimate the pressure on them. It will be interesting to see if they commit to any specific timetable. We were told heading into the meeting that the president did not believe -- that aides did not believe the president would be prepared to do that after this meeting. In part, I think, because there is a bit of a disagreement on the length of the timetable between the U.S. and the British. Not a disagreement on how to proceed now that they're going back to the United States, but a disagreement perhaps over how long it should take. We'll hear if there's a deadline -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: All right, John, President Bush and Prime Minister Blair.
(INTERRUPTED BY LIVE EVENT)
WOODRUFF: President Bush with Prime Minister Tony Blair of Great Britain. They've been meeting at the White House. You just heard the president at the very end defending his approach to use military might against Iraq. The reporter said, have you always had it in mind that you would go to war, prepared to go to war with Iraq? And the president once again said his strategic vision changed dramatically after September the 11th, when it became clear the United States was vulnerable to regimes like Iraq.
Let's bring back our White House correspondent John King. John, we were talking before this about Tony Blair came to Washington wanting the president, President Bush, to agree to another U.N. resolution. However, there still seems to be a little difference of approach here. Tony Blair saying it's important, we need the international community onboard, but President Bush saying, well, really, Resolution 1441 gave us the authority.
KING: Well, Judy, you asked beforehand about the pressure on these two men. I think you could feel the tension there. In their opening statements, neither man said anything about how they plan to go forward from here, both being very tight-lipped about their plans. And in response to questions, the prime minister was asked specifically and directly if he asked President Bush to back a second resolution. He never directly answered the question. When Mr. Bush was asked if a second resolution was a good idea and he would support it, he never directly answered either, only saying that if the United Nations decided on a new resolution that it has to be done quickly, that it has to have a process that is concluded within weeks, that he was not going to allow this process to drag out.
So both men holding their cards very tight, and for obvious reasons. They do not have a settled strategy yet, they do not have a consensus as to what any new resolution should say, and there is certainly frustration and fear here at the Bush White House, that any debate over a new resolution could drag on like the last one, which went about eight weeks. This White House says that will not happen. Three weeks, maybe four, left in this debate.
WOODRUFF: So maybe a little daylight at this point between the British and the Americans for an approach?
KING: But it may not be so much daylight between the approaches, but a reluctance to discuss publicly what their plans are, because once those who oppose or have difference of opinions within the Security Council know exactly what the British or exactly what the United States want, they know then where to debate the next point.
You also heard profound skepticism from both leaders to the idea of Saddam Hussein's government inviting the top two U.N. inspectors back into Baghdad. Both say they view that simply as another stalling tactic.
WOODRUFF: All right, John King at the White House, following that news conference with President Bush and Prime Minister Blair.
Moving along, some veterans of the Persian Gulf War have been wary about attacking Iraq again. Up next, I'll ask Bush's 41st national security adviser, Brent Scowcroft, if he's satisfied with the latest moves of the White House and the U.N.
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I'm Bill Schneider in Washington. Hawks and doves have been let loose to debate war with Iraq. Together they spawned the "Political Play of the Week."
WOODRUFF: And a dramatic hostage situation in Florida comes to a close. We'll go live to the scene, when we come back.
WOODRUFF: Former National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft served the first President Bush during the 1991 Gulf War. In the current standoff, he has cautioned this Bush administration not to go it alone against Iraq.
I spoke with Brent Scowcroft just a little while ago and I asked him about the dangers of entering a war without the support of the French and the Germans.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRENT SCOWCROFT, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: It is disturbing because it shows a fracturing of the alliance, of NATO. And that, after all, will give comfort to al Qaeda, give comfort to any rogue states that we're not acting together, because we're a much more formidable force when we are together and pursuing common objectives.
I would guess that what Colin Powell will seek is another U.N. resolution, getting as close to that all-necessary-means resolution as possible. A minimum would be, for example, a resolution declaring Iraq in further material breach and then on from that to degrees of permissiveness for the action that looks like we will take.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOODRUFF: Scowcroft says, if the evidence is compelling enough, differences between the U.S. and its allies would likely disappear. But, in reality, he doesn't think that the evidence will change many minds.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCOWCROFT: I believe, if it were convincing to the point of, really, sort of without a doubt incriminating Saddam Hussein, that it would help in terms of the unity with which any military action took place. But I think it's likely to be more in the nature of filling out what the president said on the State of the Union and primarily circumstantial rather than smoking gun.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOODRUFF: Secretary Powell presents his evidence to the U.N. Security Council next Wednesday.
Well, anti-war activists are voicing their opposition to war in Iraq in some traditional and nontraditional ways. The president of an Ohio billboard company says that he would consider prosecuting whoever painted anti-war slogans on his signs near Cincinnati. About six billboards were defaced along Interstate 75. The damage is estimated at $10,000.
Meantime, the anti-war group Win Without War has released another TV ad. This one includes the actress Janeane Garofalo and a bishop in the United Methodist Church.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, WIN WITHOUT WAR AD)
JANEANE GAROFALO, ACTRESS: If we invade Iraq, there's a United Nations estimate that says there will be up to a half a million people killed or wounded. Do we have the right to do that to a country that's done nothing to us?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No nation under God has that right. It violates international law. It violates God's war. War only creates more terrorists, and makes a dangerous world for our children.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOODRUFF: A program reminder: Actress and activist Janeane Garofalo will be our guest tomorrow on CNN Saturday morning.
He is one of the most influential vice presidents ever. Coming up, we will hear from the woman who is advising Dick Cheney.
And a dramatic hostage situation in Florida comes to a close. We'll go live to the scene when we come back.
WOODRUFF: In Miami earlier today, police had their hands full with a mail truck hijacked and a woman postal worker being held hostage. Now, though, we know police have the situation under control.
Our John Zarrella joins us from the scene.
John, tell us how it all -- what happened?
JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN MIAMI BUREAU CHIEF: Judy, yes, not just under control. It's completely resolved now just within the last 30 minutes or so.
The hostage-taker came out of the mail truck, came out of that vehicle with his hands up. And he surrendered to police here without incident, no shots fired. They got him on the ground and got him restrained. And so it ended peacefully here, for -- at least, thankfully, a peaceful ending here.
Now, before that, what had happened was, the female hostage -- and we have now identified her as Tonya Mitchell. She's been a mail carrier here in Miami-Dade county for three years ago. She was freed after a cell phone was delivered by a robot to the vehicle, to that mail vehicle, mail truck. And they talked to the hostage-taker and actually got him to go ahead and release her.
And then they continued negotiating with him until he peacefully surrendered. Now, this started about 11:30 this morning, a low-speed chase throughout the streets of northwest Miami, making U-turns, stopping periodically, where this hostage-taker talked to people on the streets. What we do understand now, there was another person involved as well.
And how this all started was, this one man who took the mail carrier hostage jumped into the vehicle. The other man did not jump into the vehicle. He was caught by police. And so two people involved, but everything has ended here peacefully -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: And, John, we're glad it's all over and no one's hurt. Thanks very much. We appreciate it.
Coming up: Is Colin Powell a reluctant warrior? Next, we will go in-depth on the secretary of state's role in the showdown with Iraq.
WOODRUFF: A new development here in Washington in the standoff with Iraq.
Our congressional correspondent Jon Karl has just let us know that he has learned that the Senate minority leader, Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle has written a letter to President Bush asking that Secretary of State Colin Powell appear before the Congress to discuss any evidence that Iraq has defied U.N. resolutions before Secretary Powell appears before the U.N. Security Council.
That's something that's scheduled for next Wednesday. All we know at this point is that the letter has been sent. We don't know what any reaction will be from the White House. And, of course, we will be pursuing that.
Well, the diplomatic debate over Iraq has shifted in recent days, in part because a key player in this debate appears to have shifted his views on the standoff.
Our senior political correspondent -- or political analyst, Bill Schneider, is with us now with more on that -- Bill.
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Judy, as we all know, Americans are reluctant warriors. And so are America's allies.
So, what better way to make the case for war than to show a reluctant warrior coming around?
A clever and effective "Political Play of the Week."
SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Colin Powell was a reluctant warrior in the first Bush administration 12 years ago, and still is.
COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: And I, more than anyone else, will do everything I can to avoid war.
SCHNEIDER: Secretary Powell was the chief advocate of giving Saddam Hussein one last chance to comply with the U.N. inspection process.
POWELL: I am one of the principal authors of 1441. And, for better or worse, I can take some credit for having been one of its champions.
SCHNEIDER: While others in the administration argued that inspections were a waste of time.
DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There's a great danger that it would provide false comfort that Saddam Hussein was somehow back in his box.
SCHNEIDER: Doves in the U.S. and abroad saw Powell as their champion. They were shocked to hear Powell reach the fateful conclusion inspections will not work. What led him to change his mind?
POWELL: I have been consistent throughout this entire process. And as I have watched the process unfold, I have watched Iraq go by every exit ramp, diplomatic exit ramp, that was put there for him.
SCHNEIDER: Powell has unique stature in the United States. He is more widely admired than the president. When France and Germany tried to undercut Powell at the Security Council last week, they were the ones isolated. This week, eight European countries signed a letter backing the Bush administration on Iraq. France and Germany are surrounded.
In his State of the Union speech Tuesday night, President Bush used Powell to trump his critics.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Secretary of State Powell will present information and intelligence about Iraqis' -- Iraq's illegal weapons programs.
SCHNEIDER: The Bush administration has closed ranks.
POWELL: There's no disagreement within the American administration.
SCHNEIDER: A reluctant warrior is ready to go to war.
POWELL: So, however difficult the road may be with respect to Iraq, we must not shrink from the need to travel down that road.
SCHNEIDER: With Powell on board, the dye is cast. The "Play of the Week" has been made.
SCHNEIDER: Some believe Powell's reluctance was actually a setup, that he on board all along and just timed his shift for maximum political impact. Maybe now the Iraqi military will get the message: The U.S. is serious. If you want to avoid devastation, get rid of Saddam Hussein yourselves.
WOODRUFF: Well, either way, the message is clear.
WOODRUFF: The administration is united.
SCHNEIDER: It is now, yes.
WOODRUFF: All right, Bill Schneider, thanks very much.
Two other notes on the showdown with Iraq: Turkey's top military and political leaders say that they'll ask their country's parliament to vote on allowing U.S. troops into the country for a possible war against Iraq. It's a hot-button issue in NATO's only Muslim nation. The U.S. wants to base 40,000 troops in Turkey, which borders Iraq to the north.
Meanwhile, U.S. jets based in Turkey currently patrol the northern no-fly zone in Iraq. And American and British planes patrolling that zone today attacked Iraqi military targets. The strike, in response to anti-aircraft fire, was the first such attack in almost two months.
Up next: The Bush White House is trying to stay focused on the economy as well as on Iraq. How tough a struggle is it? We'll talk to the former formal adviser to the president and the vice president, Mary Matalin.
WOODRUFF: Mary Matalin may have stepped out of the public eye when she gave up her official position as an adviser to the vice president to take care of her family and carve out more of her own schedule, but she remains an influential behind-the-scenes voice at the White House. Matalin was with Dick Cheney today just before he spoke to the Republican National Committee.
I caught up with her in the hotel lobby and asked her what Mr. Cheney's precise role is right now.
MATALIN: His role is as it always was, which is to be the most confidential adviser to the president. We don't always know what he says. And that's why I think he's as successful as he is advising this president, because he keeps his advice confidential. But he is involved in everything the president's involved in: national security, economic security, homeland security. He had a special role in the biodefense, so, whatever projects are assigned to him, plus whatever is on the president's plate.
WOODRUFF: What about the State of the Union? It was widely observed that the president -- there was more energy and more passion when the president was discussing Iraq than in any other part of the speech. Was that intentional?
MATALIN: The president is very involved in his speechwriting, his speech preparation. And he is, as in all things, you see what you get.
There was no intentional coaching to do that. That's -- he came to it as he feels about it. And it's clearly weighing heavily on him, this burden of being commander in chief at this time. And we're all working through a peaceful solution to this with all our allies and friends. So, I think he brought his real emotion to that.
On the other hand, it is pretty difficult to get all up in arms about a growth package and macroeconomics.
WOODRUFF: Well, speaking of that, you're already seeing some Republicans on Capitol Hill normally friends of the president, people who support the president, raising questions about the tax cut package, saying it may be to geared to the wealthy, raising questions about the Medicare proposal, saying there may be not enough choice there for lower- and middle-income seniors.
MATALIN: Well, this is ever thus. And there are lots of voices in both parties. And the president puts on the table what he believes are the best policies.
And he doesn't start out by negotiating with himself, as he likes to say, or responding to early posturing. And there was a lot that was going on in the first tax relief package that the president brought to Congress. And this is all part of the expectation of putting through big, bold new initiatives. People want to be heard. And that's part of the sausage-making.
WOODRUFF: So there are going to be some changes.
MATALIN: No. No. You've heard the president, from his lips to your ears. He's putting the package -- he's going to fight to the end for the package that he sent to the Hill.
WOODRUFF: A question about Mary Matalin: You officially left the administration. You'll still be doing some informal advising.
But I want to ask you about -- the large part of the reason you're leaving has to do with family, we gather. And it was Karen Hughes who left some months ago for family reasons, now two of the most influential women in this administration leaving for family reasons. What does that say about the family-friendly Bush White House that we were told about early in this administration?
MATALIN: Well, what it says is that, it is so family-friendly that we have created a whole new working genre for women. That we are still as involved as we are, both Karen and I, while prioritizing our family says a lot about President Bush and Vice President Cheney and their understanding of the needs that we have when our family is this age.
So, we are as involved in the things that we think we do best as we were before. It's a whole new day, Judy.
WOODRUFF: Mary Matalin, thank you. Thanks very much.
MATALIN: Thanks, Judy.
WOODRUFF: Well, as we said, continuing to provide informal White House, as she says, lately, almost on a daily basis.
Well, Bob Novak's "Inside Buzz" is coming up next, including an update on Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta and his status as a member of the Bush Cabinet.
WOODRUFF: Bob Novak is here with us with his "Inside Buzz."
All right, I understand one Cabinet member is having health problems, but you're saying that's not his only problem?
ROBERT NOVAK, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Secretary of Transportation Norm Mineta, the only Democrat in the Bush Cabinet, was not present for the State of the Union address. He was in Walter Reed Army Hospital.
He's been there, really, for a matter of weeks, two operations and a staph infection. And they say he's doing his work from the hospital bed. But the story is that, if he hadn't gone to the hospital, I'm told by very good sources, he would have been out. He would have been out before Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill. But now that he's been so sick lately and in the hospital, what do they do? Because they would like to get a new secretary of transportation.
WOODRUFF: A man who was very close to Bill Clinton, worked in the Clinton White House as his chief of staff, you're saying he's now in big demand.
NOVAK: John Podesta, a very good politician, he was going to run the Tom Daschle, Senator-Tom-Daschle-for-president campaign. Daschle surprised everybody by not running. Now all the other candidates are after Podesta. He hasn't made up his mind.
WOODRUFF: And, finally, last but not least, there's a Bush who's going to make a speech in Washington.
NOVAK: This is wonderful.
The lobbyists around town have gotten invitations that Marvin Bush, the president's brother, on February 26, the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, SAIS, is going to make a speech on hedge funds, hedge funds. And who wouldn't want to hear the president's brother tell you how to get rich on hedge funds? There's just two problems. Only the first 50 are accepted. And to be suitable for this, to hear this, you should have $5 million in investable assets.
WOODRUFF: In other words, you're going to be there?
NOVAK: I thought you might.
WOODRUFF: Or that's way under your limit? OK.
WOODRUFF: Bob Novak, you can tell me what they said.
INSIDE POLITICS will be right back.
WOODRUFF: Florida Senator and potential presidential candidate Bob Graham underwent successful heart surgery today. We can tell you that the doctors at the National Naval Medical Center in Maryland say they replaced Graham's deteriorating aortic valve with a valve taken from a cow. The senator is expected to make a full recovery. Yesterday on this program, Senator Graham said he hoped to make a decision about a run for president by the end of February.
Senator Graham, we're glad the news is good. Happy recuperating.
That's it for INSIDE POLITICS. I'm Judy Woodruff. Thank you for joining us. Have a wonderful weekend.
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