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Does President Bush Have a Clear Plan for Handling Iraq?; Interview With Ralph Nader

Aired December 17, 2003 - 15:30   ET


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ladies and gentlemen, the president of the United States.

ANNOUNCER: Flying high. While President Bush celebrates the anniversary of flight, his post-Saddam capture numbers have taken off.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We still rely on men and women who overcome the odds.

ANNOUNCER: The downside for Howard Dean. Are the constant attacks by fellow Democrats tugging at his poll numbers?

HOWARD DEAN (D), DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: They've got these Washington Democrats who thinks that's going to win elections. It's not going to win elections.

ANNOUNCER: The Ralph Nader wildcard. We'll ask him if he's ready to jump into the presidential race and what he might hope to accomplish.



JUDY WOODRUFF, HOST: Thank you for joining us.

President Bush repeatedly has said that the capture of Saddam Hussein was a great moment for the Iraqi people. But our just- released poll proves that it was also a great political moment for Mr. Bush.

Fifty-one percent of Americans now say they believe Mr. Bush has a clear plan for handling Iraq. That is up 11 points from September.

Our Bill Schneider has more on the president's Said that the capture of Saddam Hussein was a great moment for the Iraqi people. But our just-released poll says it was also a great political moment for Mr. Bush. 51 percent of Americans now say Mr. Bush has a clear plan for handling Iraq. That is up 11 points from September. Our Bill Schneider has more on the president's gains, and the fallout for Howard Dean and the Democrats.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): President Bush is sitting pretty. His job approval hit the danger point, 50 percent, a month ago, and it's been going up ever since. Good economic news, the stock market, the Thanksgiving trip to Baghdad, and Saddam. That really paid off.

The president's ratings have jumped nearly 10 points, from 54 percent last week to 63 percent this week. Until now, the American public had supported war in Iraq, but they were critical of the occupation. A month ago, 55 percent disapproved of how the U.S. was handling Iraq since the major fighting ended last spring.

DEAN: My position on the war in Iraq has not changed.

SCHNEIDER: Maybe not. But that of many Americans has. There's been a huge jump in approval of the U.S. occupation. Why? Ask Saddam.

BUSH: Our brave troops, combined with good intelligence, found you. And you'll be brought to justice.

SCHNEIDER: On Monday, Howard Dean argued that the capture of Saddam Hussein has not made America safer. Some of his rivals beg to differ.

SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (D-CT), DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: How many people here believe that we're safer with Saddam Hussein in prison? Well, Howard Dean says we're not.

SCHNEIDER: Most Americans say the war has made America safer. Although Dean's fellow Democrats are still inclined to say, no, it hasn't. Is Dean still the front runner among Democrats? Yes. But his momentum has been halted.

A month ago, Dean was the choice of 17 percent of registered Democrats. Early this month, he was up to 25. Last week, 33. And now, 27.

Some Democrats seem to be looking at Dean and thinking, do we want to do this? Here's why. In a match-up with President Bush Dean is running 23 points behind.


SCHNEIDER: On the other hand, Dean's fiercest critic, Joe Lieberman, is running 21 points behind Bush. Now, Wesley Clark does a bit better, but Bush still leads Clark by 16. President Bush has widened his lead over all three Democrats -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right. So, Bill Schneider, thank you very much.

Well, for all of the gains Mr. Bush appears to have made on Iraq, Americans have not really changed their opinion apparently about the initial decision to go to war in Iraq. Sixty-one percent now say that it was worth it. Just a couple of ticks up from earlier this month.

Let's bring in our senior White House correspondent, John King.

John, plenty of positives for the president, for the Bush camp, in all these numbers. What is the White House saying now about it?

JOHN KING, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: They have their own polling that is consistent with ours. And they've gone back to the Carter administration, looking at presidents as they prepare to run for reelection. And they say when it comes to job approval ratings, that this president is in the best shape of any, including his father, of course, who went on to lose, including Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton, who went on to win quite handily, both of them.

The White House of course likes it when the president's job approval number goes up. What the political team finds most significant, Judy, is that one you read at the beginning of the show. Does the president have a clear plan for handling Iraq?

Now up at 51 percent saying yes, when only 40 percent said that in September. This is a president who will run on the theme of leadership. If the American people do not think he has a clear plan, it's very difficult to make that case.

Also, how has the United States handled Iraq since major fighting ended? A major spike there. Sixty-five percent approve of how the United States has handled it. Up from 42 percent in November.

Much of that, of course, attributed here at the White House and in our own polling to the capture of Saddam Hussein. Republican pollster Bill McInturff among those who say this gives the president a chance to frame the whole debate about his Iraq policy.


BILL MCINTURFF, REPUBLICAN POLLSTER: People have been concerned about where this is heading, how long are we going to be there, and is Bush's policy working. Capturing Saddam Hussein gives people a chance, and gives George Bush a chance to represent that to the American electorate. And I think it gives him the breathing room he needs to demonstrate that things can become more stable in Iraq, and people can see kind of a positive way out of this country.


KING: Still a long way to go, Judy. Remember the president's approval has spiked previously, as it did in May, when he declared major combat operations over on the deck of an aircraft carrier. So the White House certainly encouraged, they believe the president will reenter the election year in pretty good shape. But they also know, still big questions about an exit strategy in Iraq. And they're still keeping a watchful eye on the economy as well.

WOODRUFF: Which brings up my follow-up question, John, which is, what do they think could derail the strong shape the president's in right now?

KING: Well, certainly any chaotic situation, rising casualties, a bad stretch in Iraq would potentially derail, because most of this bounce is attributable, the bounce in the last week or so, to the capture of Saddam Hussein. So if Iraq went south, if you will, they believe some of that might go away.

And of course they also believe the economy is a huge factor. They believe they're on a path now. Three or four consecutive months of job growth. They say they need to show that in December, in January, and carry it on. But of course they're quite mindful. They say the recovery, in their view, is strong, but they still have a few question marks.

WOODRUFF: OK. John King at the White House, thank you.

Well, even before these latest poll numbers, some Democrats were worried about attacks on Howard Dean within the party and the potential benefits for President Bush. Former Dean rival, Bob Graham, vented on the subject at a Democratic fund raiser in Florida last night.


SEN. BOB GRAHAM (D), FLORIDA: It will substantially weaken our chances of election next November if this primary process degenerates into a squabble among Democrats. None of the Democrats are our enemy. All of the Democrats running for president would be a better president than the incumbent.


WOODRUFF: Senator Graham went on to defend Dean's foreign policy agenda, calling it visionary.

Meantime, some other Democrats are offering harsh words about a controversial ad questioning Dean's commitment to defending America. The ad, featuring an image of Osama Bin Laden, was produced by a group of veteran Democratic campaign staffers, including one who had worked for Dick Gephardt and another who had worked for John Kerry.

Two labor unions that helped to finance the ad now are calling it despicable. A spokesman for the Machinists and Aerospace Workers Union says, "It is just a travesty that this isn't the way we intended this to come about." And he suggests that the union would like a refund of the $50,000 that he says it donated.

But a founder of Americans for Jobs Health Care and Progressive Values, the group putting the ad together, is standing by the group's ad. David Jones says, "The ad is intended to bring up the issue of national security and foreign policy experience. That is the ad's intention, and that is what it does."

The Dean camp meantime has urged other White House hopefuls to denounce the ad.


DEAN: They've got these Washington Democrats who think that's going to win elections. It's not going to win elections. It doesn't help Democrats. And I think the people behind it ought to be not only be ashamed of themselves, I think they ought to remove themselves from the party.


WOODRUFF: The Lieberman campaign says it agrees the spot is over the top. But it declined to get into the fight over whether it should be pulled from the airwaves.

In New Hampshire today, '04 Democrat Wesley Clark reserved most of his criticism for Saddam Hussein. Clark laid out a plan for prosecuting Saddam Hussein publicly in Iraq with the death penalty as an option.


WESLEY CLARK (D), DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's not only that justice must be done, but justice must be known to have been done right.


WOODRUFF: Clark is back in the United States after testifying at The Hague in the war crimes trial of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.

CNN's Walter Rodgers looks at the retired general's appeal in Europe.


WALTER RODGERS, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The former NATO Commander Wesley Clark, now running for president, returned to Europe, clearly among friends, allies, among people who see the world the way he does, see it differently from President Bush and his people. Candidate Clark talks a language comforting to America's NATO partners.

CLARK: We used our power to persuade not to coerce. We used it to lead, not to bully.

RODGERS: Names like Bush, Rumsfeld, Cheney, Wolfowitz never crossed General Clark's lips in this speech in The Netherlands. The criticism was implicit. His words soothing to European allies and friends alienated by what has been seen in Europe as the Bush administration's truculent, go-it-alone style in Iraq and elsewhere.

CLARK: Multilateral action is always going to be preferable. And we would come here to our friends and allies in Europe as a first resort.

RODGERS: Clark warned America that without European friends, it cannot win the war on terror. He pledged to make healing the Atlantic rift his priority.

CLARK: Well, so far, it's been good. It's been interesting. Really interesting.

RODGERS: His appearances invited comparison with another American general, Eisenhower, who saved Europe in an earlier time. Europeans know two kinds of American presidents, those they do not like and those they like a lot.

Never mind Jack Kennedy literally declared himself a jelly doughnut. It was understood Kennedy was really declaring himself a European.

Bill Clinton, the Rhodes scholar, was educated in Europe. Europeans tend to need leaders they can look up to. Clinton had the fluid intellect Europeans adore.

Enter now Wesley Clark, Rhodes scholar. Again, educated in Europe with many European friends.

CLARK: We're here to have a little friendly meeting, Dr. Solano and I.

RODGERS: Javier Solano is the European Union's chief foreign envoy.

(on camera): What Wesley Clark needs, however, is not friends in Europe, but votes in New Hampshire. And American voters generally don't care a lot about what the rest of the world thinks. Recall George W. Bush had only visited Mexico, Israel and China before becoming president, and that was never an issue.

Walter Rodgers, CNN, at The Hague.


WOODRUFF: Well, with the presidential race already heated, what if the Green Party's Ralph Nader gets into the mix? I'll ask him about his political plans and Democrats' worst fears.

Plus, the "Inside Buzz" on '04 Democrats in Iowa. Bob Novak knows the lay of the land.

And later, Strom Thurmond's biracial daughter speaks out about her father and his segregationist past.


WOODRUFF: As we approach the start of the presidential primary season, I'm joined by consumer activist and former Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader.

Ralph Nader, good to see you.


WOODRUFF: Thanks very much. You told my colleague, Kelly Wallace, last week that if you could raise enough money, that there is a high probability that you will run. It sounds like you're leaning toward doing that.

NADER: No, we're testing the waters. And we've got a Web site up, for any comments, contributions. And we're going around the country talking with people.

And we're trying to convince people that more choice in elections is healthy. It gets more voters out. And I don't know whether the Democrats really know how to beat Bush.

WOODRUFF: It sounds like you'd like to run.

NADER: Well, substantively there's a strong case for it. But we have to see what kind of support there is among young people, people who are representing labor and want a living wage, people who want universal health care, people who want to crack down on the trillions of dollars of corporate crime, fraud and abuse. And above all, people who want clean elections with public financing.

WOODRUFF: My take on this is that Democrats, a number of them, are desperate to see you not run. I understand Terry McAuliffe has been talking to you or at least trying to talk to you, the Democratic Party chair. Have you been talking to him, and what's he saying?

NADER: Yes. In fact, in late October, I submitted a 25-page agenda inquiry to the Republicans and the Democrats. And they both said they're going to respond. But I think the Democrats are making a bad mistake.

If they really want to beat Bush, that they stop tearing each other apart in the primary with clips and comments that are going to be used against the eventual nominee. If they look at the Greens, or the third-party effort, it's saying, look, if they're against Bush, if they want to show the American people how Bush is taking down the country in one way or the other, spending too much time in Iraq and not enough time about workers and environment, the more the merrier. Let's go.

WOODRUFF: All right. Howard Dean is somebody who has voiced some of those concerns that you just expressed. He has put together a remarkable grassroots movement. Why wouldn't Ralph Nader be with Howard Dean?

NADER: He has broken the frontiers on small contributions through the Web, and all the blogs, and the get-togethers. That's his great contribution. One is, his record as governor is really pretty conservative. Number two, he's a work in progress.

WOODRUFF: OK. I'm going to interrupt you. I want you to stay with me, because we need to...

NADER: Kitty Hawk.

WOODRUFF: Kill Devil Hill, very close to Kitty Hawk. Stay with me, Ralph Nader. We're going to go to my colleague, Miles O'Brien -- Miles. MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Judy. Hopefully this particular craft you're about to see run down that track is safe at any speed. Let's watch as they try to recreate the flight 100 years to the day after the Wright brothers first flew here at Kill Devil Hills.

The engines are turning. And I'm with Darrell Collins, who is the chief historian here for Wright Park. Those propellers spinning at all of what, what 340 RPM? Is that it?


O'BRIEN: And that's pretty much all it needed to just barely get off the ground 100 years ago. Of course, the advantage they had back then was this stiff head wind. We don't have that right now, Darrell. How much of a problem will that be?

COLLINS: A real good problem here today. There's no wind. Let's see what happens.

O'BRIEN: You saw them practice here a little while ago. The last practice attempt was -- ended in a crash. But you saw a successful flight.

COLLINS: I saw a successful flight the Thursday before Thanksgiving. The airplane lifted off the rail. It flew almost 100 feet.

O'BRIEN: And that must have been exciting for you to see after all these years of talking about the history of the Wrights.

Kevin Kochersberger is the pilot. He has years and years of experience as a hang glider. And he is lying down, just as Orville Wright was on that day.

It's an inherently unstable aircraft. You have to wiggle your hips to turn it. And it has a very -- tip sensitive. You have to make sure your weight is in just the right spot. You really have to be careful flying this thing.

Have you tried the simulators at all?

COLLINS: Oh, yes. I've crashed and burned quite a few times.

O'BRIEN: And that's what a lot of pilots will tell you. Pilots who know a little bit about flying actually have learned kind of the wrong things, because this thing requires -- oh, it looks like they have stopped the prop.

Judy Woodruff, we're going to send it back to you. I think that was just an attempt to give us another opportunity to hear what the Wright fliers sounded like. For some reason, they're not trying. We'll try to get you the scoop on why they didn't try.

Back to you, Judy, and Ralph Nader. WOODRUFF: OK. Thanks, Miles. And we'll come right back to you if that gets under way again. I can tell you Ralph Nader appreciated the comment (UNINTELLIGIBLE) reference of course to the work that you've done.

Let's quickly go back to Howard Dean. I was asking, why wouldn't Ralph Nader support Howard Dean, given the grassroots effort, given the position he's taken on Iraq and a number of issues that I would think are near to your heart?

NADER: Well, I support and urge Democratic voters to support Dennis Kucinich. I've worked with him for many years. He's the real thing. He's sacrificed his political career for what he believes in, standing up to big business. I think he's the best candidate.

Now, as far as Howard Dean is concerned, a work in progress. We should give him the benefit of the doubt. Sometimes he holds his ground. He's trying to do it in a grassroots way. And let's see what happens.

But will he be left alone from incredibly vicious attacks that are coming on him from his Democratic competitors? And that's going to come back to haunt the Democrats.

WOODRUFF: You had some very tough things to say about Al Gore in the 2000 election. I was looking it up today. You say he refused to take on the auto industry, he didn't fight for the environment, he waivered on trade. You said you can't trust him. You said he's no different from George W. Bush.

Would you say the same things about Howard Dean, or is he better than Al Gore?

NADER: Well, I think Howard Dean is better than George W. Bush by quite a bit. And I think his whole medical background and his work with patients is going to give him a different kind of face for the American people. George Bush is taking down this country in so many ways. I mean, just think of the obsession with Iraq and the crowding out of all the attention that a president should give to the necessities of the American people.

WOODRUFF: If you want to beat George W. Bush, why wouldn't a candidacy by Ralph Nader divide the vote that might be trying to defeat George W. Bush?

NADER: Because I think it would amplify it. It would excite more people to come out. It would show Bush's vulnerabilities like on corporate crime, lack of enforcement, and his buddies in Enron that the Democrats don't know how to really go into.

And it would affect the right wing of the Republican Party. The Republican conservatives and libertarians are furious with Bush over the Patriot Act, corporate welfare, NAFTA, sovereignty and corporate subsidies. That's a whole story for you to explore.

WOODRUFF: Well, we're going to have to leave it there today. You know we're going to come back to a lot of this. Ralph Nader thinking hard about running for president.

We appreciate you being with us. Thanks a lot.

NADER: Thank you very much, Judy.

WOODRUFF: And especially for sitting through the effort once again to get that airplane under way in North Carolina.

Well, during the presidential primary season, as we know, winning isn't everything. Coming up, Bob Novak explains why the race to be an also-ran in Iowa is so important next year.


WOODRUFF: Just a month away from the Iowa caucuses, and this year they may be more important to the Democrats than ever. Bob Novak here with some "Inside Buzz."

All right, Bob, you're talking to some Democrats. What are they saying about Iowa?

ROBERT NOVAK, CO-HOST, "CROSSFIRE": They say that if Dean wins big in Iowa on January 19, that's the ball game. He's going to be nominated. But if it's close, or if he finishes second, this could continue well into March.

And it depends on who is a good second or even a good third-place finisher in Iowa. It could be the contender that fights Dean to the finish. The situation, Judy, is that a lot of people feel General Wes Clark made a big mistake in not going into Iowa.

WOODRUFF: Well, speaking of Howard Dean, he was endorsed in the last few days by the governor of New Jersey, Jim McGreevey. What are you hearing about all of that?

NOVAK: Well, what Democrats say is that McGreevey is probably the most unpopular and weakest Democratic governor in the country right now. Worried whether he could even get nominated for another term. So this -- a lot of feeling that he endorsed Howard Dean to get into the Dean machine. So it's more of a case of McGreevey's weakness rather than Dean's strength on this endorsement.

WOODRUFF: Scoot over to South Dakota for me. Former Congressman Thune announcing this week he's not going to run for the Janklow seat. But what are you hearing about that?

NOVAK: Well, there was a sigh of relief in the Republican establishment that he's not running for the House seat, because that means he still might run against Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle. John Thune, he's the only Republican who can beat Daschle. He hasn't made up his mind yet, I'm told. It's still an even shot.

WOODRUFF: All right. Bob Novak. We'll see him on "CROSSFIRE" at 4:30.

Thank you, Bob. NOVAK: Thank you, Judy.

WOODRUFF: Ahead in our next half-hour of INSIDE POLITICS, why this woman says she waited all these years to reveal the identity of her father, a well-known and long-serving U.S. senator and one-time segregationist.

And the latest poll results on how Americans feel on having the law recognize same-sex marriages.



ANNOUNCER: The politics of Saddam's capture. We'll talk strategy with a Bush ally and discuss polls that give the president more reason to say good riddance.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I asked the people of Connecticut for forgiveness.

ANNOUNCER: A governor's plea in the (UNINTELLIGIBLE). But are the state's voters in a forgiving mood?

After nearly eight decades of silence, the late Senator Strom Thurmond's illegitimate daughter speaks out.

ESSIE MAE WASHINGTON-WILLIAMS, STROM THURMOND'S DAUGHTER: I am Essie Mae Washington-Williams, and at last I feel completely free.



WOODRUFF: Welcome back.

The president's newest poll numbers bear repeating this hour, especially in the eyes of Republicans, who may feel inclined to do a couple of cartwheels. Our CNN-"USA Today" Gallup survey shows Mr. Bush's approval rating has jumped to 63 percent since the capture of Saddam Hussein. That is up nine points in just one week.

These prospects against the Democratic front runner are looking up as well. The survey shows Mr. Bush now 23 points ahead of Howard Dean, compared to a nine-point lead back in November.

Well, let's talk more about the president's political fortunes in the race to '04 with former Reagan White House chief of staff Ken Duberstein. He's a Republican strategist with close ties to the Bush campaign. Ken, good to see you.


WOODRUFF: Thank you for with being with us. All right, the numbers have got to be nothing but something to celebrate at the White House. They are clearly good news and yet Iraq's still an unresolved issue. No way to know where it's going -- where things will turn in the next 10, 11 months. What has to happen for you and others who support this president to feel confident about Iraq?

DUBERSTEIN: No. 1, the capture of Saddam Hussein is good news for the Iraqi people. It's good news for the American people. It's good news --

WOODRUFF: Ken Duberstein, I have to interrupt you. My apologies.


WOODRUFF: We're talking about the decision by the judge today to let John Hinckley, the man convicted of shooting President Reagan, trying to assassinate President Reagan back in 1981, allowing him to have daytime only unsupervised visits with his family.

Ken Duberstein, our guest on INSIDE POLITICS. Not the reason we asked you to talk this hour, we wanted to talk about this president and his campaign. But as someone who knows Mrs. Nancy Reagan, who worked for President Reagan, what's the reaction going to be?

DUBERSTEIN: Well, I think it's a sad day for American justice. The idea that John Hinckley, who tried to kill our beloved Ronald Reagan, walks free on the streets of Washington? Of course he can't be unsupervised. He needs more than adult supervision. He needs police supervision. And I just think it's a real sad commentary to have this happen today.

WOODRUFF: Have you spoken with Mrs. Reagan about this at any point along the way? Because he's been trying to get this --

DUBERSTEIN: Not recently about this. But years ago. And I just think it's -- it's unfortunate the judge ruled this way. Here's a guy who tried to take from us Ronald Reagan at the beginning of the presidency. And look what happened. And the idea that Hinckley can now walk free in the streets of Washington, who knows what he might -- what havoc he might wreak. And so I think it's an unfortunate decision.

WOODRUFF: Ken Duberstein, who was chief of staff to Ronald Reagan. Ken, I want to ask you now to turn back to the -- one of the other subjects, anyway, that we were talking about, and that is this upcoming campaign. We started out talking about Iraq and how clearly the president's gotten a boost from the capture of Saddam Hussein.

DUBERSTEIN: Well, the Iraqi people have, the American people have, the world has. And George W. Bush has.

WOODRUFF: And is this something that can last until the election in November?

DUBERSTEIN: Well, I think there's a long way between now and next November. You know, I think this election is going to be very tight. It isn't going to be a blowout. But I think George Bush has demonstrated the kind of leadership and persistence that really will pay off with the American people come next November.

WOODRUFF: You know, the people who were working with the president's campaign, the president himself, they keep saying publicly, "we don't want to talk about politics right now. There's plenty of time to do that later." And yet, over $110 million has been raised. There is a massive organizational effort underway out there in the country. Why not be up front about the fact that this campaign is really moving along, and well organized at this point?

DUBERSTEIN: The best politics is good governing and what George W. Bush is doing, I think, whether it is a prescription drug benefit, or the economy coming back, not enough jobs being created, but going in the right direction, now the capture of Saddam Hussein is demonstrating, let me do my job as president, and politics and the campaign will come in due course.

But we still have, you know, a few weeks left in this year. We have the State of the Union Address. We can have a productive legislative session, as long as the Democrats will allow George W. Bush. So focus on governing, not on the art of campaigning.

WOODRUFF: The president said in an interview with ABC yesterday that if necessary, he would be willing to support a constitutional amendment to preserve, in effect, protect marriage, to say that marriage is something that should be only be between a man and a woman. Is this going to be an issue in this campaign? Is this a signal that social issues, so-called, are going to be front and center in this campaign?

DUBERSTEIN: I think social issues may not be front and center. Because I think foreign policy and the economy will always dominate. But there will certainly be an undercurrent on social issues. And the question is, the contrast between George W. Bush and what I see as increasingly liberal Democratic field. The Democrats will coalesce. The race will become much more competitive once they have a leader, a presidential -- a candidate. But the focus, I think, is going to be on pocketbook issues and foreign policy. And there'll be an undercurrent on some of these social matters.

WOODRUFF: So much left to unfold.

DUBERSTEIN: You better believe it.

WOODRUFF: Ken Duberstein, thank you very much for coming to talk to us about the campaign, and also being available to answer these questions.

DUBERSTEIN: Judy, as always, it's a pleasure for me. Thank you.

WOODRUFF: We appreciate it. Thank you.

All right. More INSIDE POLITICS right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) WOODRUFF: A political debate over the same-sex marriage does continue to divide the American people. You just heard me ask Ken Duberstein about it.

In our CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup poll, a strong majority, 65 percent, said that gay marriages should not be legally valid. That is an increase in opposition since June. Thirty-one percent said gay marriages should be legal.

When asked how strongly they viewed this issue, 17 percent said they strongly support gay marriages, 52 percent said they are strongly opposed.

In a televised interview last night, as I mentioned a short time ago, President Bush said he continues to believe that a marriage is defined as between a man and a woman.


BUSH: If necessary, I will support a constitutional amendment which would honor marriage between a man and a woman, codify that.

And the position of this administration is that, in whatever legal arrangements people want to make, they're allowed to make, so long as it's embraced by the state.


WOODRUFF: Democratic hopeful Dick Gephardt, who's openly gay daughter works on his campaign, blasted the president's comments. In Gephardt's words, "It is time for President Bush to end his alliance with bigotry once and for all and speak out against the Republican Party's hostile election year attempt to polarize this election."

A 78-year-old retired schoolteacher met with reporters today for the first time since it was confirmed that she is the daughter of the late Senator Strom Thurmond and African-American maid who worked for Thurmond's family.

For more, let's turn to CNN's David Mattingly in Columbia, South Carolina.


DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Some have called it the worst-kept secret in South Carolina. But now Essie Mae Washington- Williams, a retired Los Angeles schoolteacher, who managed to keep people guessing for 78 years, is now leaving no doubt that she is indeed the daughter of a young Strom Thurmond, and the Thurmond's African-American housekeeper.

ESSIE MAE WASHINGTON-WILLIAMS, STROM THURMOND'S DAUGHTER: The question looming here today is why have I waited to come forth? My response is throughout his life and mine we respected each other. I never wanted to do anything to harm him. MATTINGLY: After the senator died six months ago, her family convinced her to come forward and claim her heritage. She says out of respect for the senator, it's something she would have never dared to do when he was alive. But now that she is able to come forward and publicly speak about her relationship with him, she says it is such a relief.

WASHINGTON-WILLIAMS: Ladies and gentlemen, I am not bitter. I am not angry. In fact, there's a great sense of peace that has come over me in the past year. Once I decided that I would no longer harbor such a great secret...

MATTINGLY: Williams speaks of the former senator very affectionately. And she said the Strom Thurmond she knew was not at all like the fiery segregationist who ran for president as a Dixiecrat back in 1948, something she admits that she has mixed emotions about.

But she says Strom Thurmond provided her with financial assistance throughout her life and she has no plans to make any claims on the Thurmond estate.

One thing she would like to see, however, is that her name be placed on monuments around the state next to the name of Thurmond's children that he had by marriage. No word if the state of South Carolina has any plans to do that.

David Mattingly, CNN, Columbia, South Carolina.


WOODRUFF: Remarkable story.

Ahead on INSIDE POLITICS, the 100th anniversary of the first powered flight. A look at how airplanes have helped change the political campaigning process.

An outlook on the U.S. and British relationship. Plus the future of British Prime Minister Tony Blair. We'll hear from the new chairman of the conservative party in Britain.



WOODRUFF: Still ahead on INSIDE POLITICS, I'll talk with the new chairman of the conservative party in Great Britain, Liam Fox, for his views about Iraq, about Prime Minister Tony Blair, and the U.S.- British relationship.

And later, the latest flap involving, of all things, chicken wings, between two presidential Democratic camps.


WOODRUFF: Great Britain, of course, has been a staunch U.S. ally in the war on terror and the military operation to overthrow Saddam Hussein.

With me now to talk more about U.S. relations with Britain and the war's effect on British politics is Liam Fox. He's a member of parliament and co-chairman of Britain's conservative party.

Liam Fox, good to see you. Thank you very much.


WOODRUFF: In this country great celebrating over that capture of Saddam Hussein. What's the reaction been in Great Britain?

FOX: It's been a celebration. But much more muted than the one especially since it's being rerun almost constantly on TV here.

I think it was taken for granted that we knew Saddam Hussein existed. There was nowhere else for him to go. And it was only a matter of time before he was caught. I think it was a great relief that the American troops that caught him did so.

WOODRUFF: Well, as you've watched, I'm sure, President Bush's approval ratings have gone up in the aftermath of his capture. What about in Great Britain? obviously you're the leader of the party that's challenging -- would be challenging Tony Blair. But how has it affected his standing?

FOX: It's difficult to say at this point. As you know, there is a strange situation in the United Kingdom where the prime minister's Labour Party is very divided over the issue of the war in Iraq. In fact, he probably wouldn't have been able to get backing in parliament for it if it were not for the conservative party support.

In terms of the how the electorate react, I think probably the issue of weapons of mass destruction will play a bigger part in public opinion, whether or not they're found, than the capture of Saddam.

WOODRUFF: And what do you mean by that? I mean if there are no weapons of mass destruction found are you saying you've got -- your party has an in then? And we should say, elections probably not until 2005?

FOX: Probably not for another 18 months.


FOX: In the United Kingdom, unlike in the U.S. where there was the big backdrop of terrorist activity here, in the United Kingdom, the prime minister made the case we're going to war that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction that could be deployed in 45 minutes. The public opinion has been skeptical about that, his own party's very skeptical about that.

And we're waiting the results of an inquiry by Lord Hutton at the present time and to (UNINTELLIGIBLE) events around that time. I think the public will be taking with a pinch of salt anything that's said at the moment until we get the results of that particular independent inquiry.

WOODRUFF: So in the meantime, Tony Blair politically twisting in the wind? Is that fair to say?

FOX: It's a difficult time for him and I think he's been courageous given that he didn't have the overwhelming support of his own party to take Britain into this war and to give support to the United States.

But I think it's perhaps no more than any British prime minister of any political color would do. The trans-Atlantic relationship is possibly the single most important relationship that we have as a country. And the preservation of that would always be at the top of the list for any prime minister.

WOODRUFF: Take us quickly inside British politics. Assuming you, your party is challenging Tony Blair 18 months from now, what are the main issues?

FOX: Well, Michael Howard, our new party leader, has made it very clear that the issues confronting the public will be the trust in the current government and whether they've breached that trust on a number of occasions, whether the government's in fact wasting our money by taxing us too much and failing to deliver on services, and the sheer incompetence of the government on a number domestic fronts.

When I'm here in Washington, I hear people speak warmly of Tony Blair and I can understand why. All I would say is, You don't have to pay the taxes that we're having to pay.


WOODRUFF: OK. Well, one of these days we'll let Mr. Blair speak for himself.

FOX: Which is more than he's more than capable of doing.

WOODRUFF: Which he's more than capable of doing. All right, Liam Fox who is the chairman, co-chairman of the conservative party in Great Britain, thank you very much for coming by.

FOX: My pleasure. Thank you.

WOODRUFF: We appreciate it. Good to talk with you.

FOX: And you.

WOODRUFF: A lot of things have changed since the Wright brothers' first flight 100 years ago today. For one thing, experts say that airplanes have literally revolutionized the political campaigning process in the United States. CNN national correspondent Bruce Morton takes a look.


BRUCE MORTON, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): First flight 100 years ago? It didn't take the politicians long to put it to use.

Theodore Roosevelt was the first to fly in 1911, but he wasn't president then. Franklin Roosevelt was the first sitting president to use a plane. His was called the Scared Cow. Harry Truman's was the Independence after his Missouri home town. Dwight Eisenhower's was the Columbine. Well, he had several, all called Columbine.

But they never gave up other kinds of transportation. We remember Truman for his Whistle Stop Train campaign in 1948 when the crowds yelled, "Give them hell, Harry," and he confounded odds bakers and pollsters by beating Thomas Dewey.

John Kennedy used a plane in the 1960 primaries named Caroline for his daughter. Lyndon Johnson was the first to use a helicopter, choppering around Texas in the losing Senate campaign in 1948.

But a lot of the campaigns since then have focused on buses. Timothy Krause's book about the 1972 campaign was called "The Boys on the Bus." Lots of stops, lots of food that was really bad for you.

They've used other vehicles. Jimmy Carter campaigned on a river boat once and so did Al Gore. That looks like fun.

But you keep coming back to the bus. John McCain had the famous Straight-Talk Express in 2000.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Reagan Democrats are people who...

MORTON: Now that was a tough bus. Usually reporters complained the candidate won't talk to them. On McCain's bus, we sometimes complained he wouldn't stop. Could we have a ten-minute silence, Senator, while I figure out what my lead is going to be?

There were Al Gore and Joe Lieberman on a bus in 2000. Don't suppose you'd them riding together anymore. Hillary Clinton campaign for the Senate in van. Beth Harpaz's book about that one is "Girls in the Van."

But it's more often buses. John Kerry has a bus this time. So does John Edwards. His is called the Real Solutions Express. Howard Dean does vehicles, cars and buses and so on. And he's found a new medium, the Internet. Maybe candidates in the future will travel on it.

Some candidates like Lamar Alexander have even walked. And they all have won essential thing in common: the one thing it takes to get the jets whining, the wheels turning, money. Can't go anywhere in politics without it.

Bruce Morton, CNN, Washington.


WOODRUFF: Truism that hasn't changed. Well the John Kerry and Wesley Clark campaigns are trading food for thought. Up next, a barb involving chicken wings is about to receive some just desserts.


WOODRUFF: This story just in to CNN. And that is the State Department is urging all non-essential diplomats and family members of American officials in Saudi Arabia to leave that country. We are told that this is a voluntary move on the part of the State Department. It is not a result of a specific threat. However, it is a result of current political and international circumstances.

Again, CNN trying to get more information on this story, just moving in the last moment or so. We'll be right back.


WOODRUFF: Before we go, a quick update on Democratic campaign cuisine. Wesley Clark's campaign sent John Kerry's staff an order of chicken wings yesterday, part of a humorous jab at what they call his changing views on the Iraq war.

Well now Kerry's staff is returning the favor. They say the plan to send back some Zero candy bars along with a not obtained exclusively by INSIDE POLITICS. The note reads, in part, "Number of left wings that arrived yesterday in your chicken order: zero. Number of winning presidential candidates, Madonna has endorsed: zero. Number of chicken wings left uneaten in the Kerry office: zero."

You can't say these guys don't have a sense of humor.

That's it for INSIDE POLITICS. We'll be following that story, the State Department ordering non-essential diplomats and families to leave Saudi Arabia. Much more on that as we're able to get it.

I'm Judy Woodruff. "CROSSFIRE" starts right now.


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