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Iraqi Prisoner Abuse: Public Opinion; Interview With Senator Susan Collins; Interview With Governor Ed Rendell

Aired May 10, 2004 - 15:30   ET


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You are a strong secretary of defense, and our nation owes you a debt of gratitude.

ANNOUNCER: A portrait of the Bush administration, standing by Donald Rumsfeld. But do Americans think the Pentagon chief should go? We have the first poll results since Rumsfeld's congressional testimony.

Is the Iraqi prisoner abuse scandal being politicized? We're zeroing in on the latest attacks and counterattacks on the campaign trail.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Those abuses have done enormous damage to our country.

ANNOUNCER: The A-list. How are would-be Kerry running mates trying to get attention and an edge?



JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you for joining us.

Well, the Bush White House is not letting up on damage control over the Iraqi prisoner abuse scandal. President Bush went to the Pentagon today to literally stand shoulder to shoulder with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.


BUSH: Thank you for your leadership. You are courageously leading our nation in the war against terror. You're doing a superb job.


WOODRUFF: The American people appear to largely agree with the President on Donald Rumsfeld's fate and on the abuse scandal. Our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider, reports on our just-released poll numbers.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think that Mr. Rumsfeld should resign.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): Does the public agree? No, by better than two to one. Does the public want President Bush to fire Rumsfeld? No, by better than two to one.

It's not that Americans don't take the reports of prisoner abuse seriously. They do. Over 70 percent say these were serious criminal offenses, not harmless pranks. Acts that can never be justified under any circumstances.

Most Americans say these reports bother them a great deal. President Bush says the abuses were a violation of U.S. military policy.

BUSH: What took place in that Iraqi prison was the wrongdoing of a few.

SCHNEIDER: But at least two major investigations suggest many of the abuses were policy.

SEYMOUR HERSH, "THE NEW YORKER": What kind of a system is it that would enable these children to do such bad things with many people watching? The Army can't get out of it simply by saying it's just a few bad apples.

SCHNEIDER: Can they? Most Americans believe the abuses were isolated instances, not common occurrences. They believe the perpetrators were acting on their own, not following orders. And by an overwhelming margin, the public sees the abuses as a violation of military policy, rogue crimes, not a policy. As a result, most Americans blame the soldiers who carried out the abuses and the officers supervising them, not Secretary Rumsfeld or President Bush.

Are the reports changing the public's view of the war in Iraq? Yes. A week ago, just before the photos came out, the public was split over whether it was worth going to war in Iraq. Now a majority of Americans say no, it wasn't worth going to war.


SCHNEIDER: Iraq remains intensely partisan. Three-quarters of Republicans believe it was worth going to war. Three-quarters of Democrats believe it wasn't. What tips the balance is that the prisoner abuse scandal has now turned Independents against the war -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: But the President is holding on to his base.


WOODRUFF: All right. Bill Schneider, thank you. And Bill will be back with us near the top of the hour with more results of our new poll, including the presidential horse race and a job approval rating that may have the Bush camp on edge. Well, the Republican Party chairman today is accusing John Kerry's presidential campaign of playing politics with the prisoner abuse scandal. Let's bring in our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley -- Candy.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Judy, the -- Gillespie today, the RNC chairman, said, look, these people were calling for the resignation of Donald Rumsfeld and trying to fund- raise off of the prisoner scandal, even as John Kerry on Saturday said, oh, this ought not to be a partisan matter, this ought to be above politics. You know, we need to correct it.

Now, the Democrats are now responding and saying, listen, this is an administration that has politicized 9/11, has politicized the war on Iraq, has politicized the war on terror. So we have the back and forth of who's being political.

A little more than that. What you have here on the part of the Kerry camp is an attempt to try to frame this as a larger issue, looking at those numbers that Bill just had. They have a little work to do here because their whole thrust, as regards the prisoner abuse case, is, look, this is a broader thing, this has to do with leadership. And not just the leadership of Don Rumsfeld, but the leadership of George Bush. So in addition to the things that they've put out over the Internet, calling -- using the campaign to have people sign a petition for the resignation of Rumsfeld, they are also trying to frame this as a larger picture and as evidence that the CEO presidency that George Bush talked about has failed because he's not taking responsibility.

WOODRUFF: Candy, what about these new poll numbers? We're coming out with some new numbers today, CNN, but there's been some other polls over the past couple of days. What's the Kerry campaign -- how are they reading this?

CROWLEY: They're reading this as Bush in a slide, frankly. They think that, in fact, all of these things have boiled down to one word, and that's "credibility." They believe that George Bush is at the point where most Americans are beginning not to believe what he says. And they obviously are fueling that as well in the way they do their campaign ads and the way they talk on the Web and the way they talk to reporters, obviously.

So they believe that this is George Bush in a free fall. They believe that John Kerry has been able to move out ahead, not just because of the prisoner abuse scenario, but also because of the way the war was conducted. So they are feeling pretty darn good at this point, and feeling that George Bush really has no more -- as one put it, no more quivers to put in his arrow.

The problem they say is that they get to pick a vice president soon. They will have the debates. They have the convention coming up. They feel that John Kerry is sitting pretty good right now.

WOODRUFF: OK. Candy Crowley, talking about this very difficult issue playing out on the campaign trail. Candy, thank you very much. And now let's hear from a Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, a leading panel in the investigation of the prisoner abuse scandal. I spoke just a short time ago with Senator Susan Collins of Maine, and I started by asking her about the president's praise today of Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and his contention that only a few individuals are behind the prisoner abuse, essentially, and that's where the scandal ends.


SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: I don't think so, Judy. Well, I don't think that Secretary Rumsfeld should resign.

It's evident that we need a thorough investigation to find out how the discipline so broke down at that prison, how these atrocities were allowed to occur. It's certainly goes beyond just a few prison guards. I just cannot conceive that these guards, on their own initiatives, undertook these acts. I think there's more to this story yet to come.

WOODRUFF: Senator, today the Army Times, which you know is circulated widely among the military, members of the military, in an editorial said this was not just a failure of leadership at the local command level. This was a failure that ran straight to the top. Accountability here is essential.

What's your reaction to that?

COLLINS: Accountability is essential. We need to find out why military intelligence was apparently running this prison. We need to discover whether the abuses occurred elsewhere. And we need to know for certain whether anyone instructed the guards to treat the prisoners in such a horrendous manner. As I said, I just don't think that the guards on their own would have come up with these bizarre and abusive activities.

WOODRUFF: The International Red Cross is confirming, Senator, that it was issuing warnings to the Bush administration early into 2003, soon after the war ended, about the abuse of prisoners. Is anyone looking into that?

COLLINS: Yes. We are going to take a look at the report that the International Red Cross apparently provided.

It's very troubling to me if the Red Cross or any other outside group alerted members of the military or administration officials to these abuses. It's particularly disturbing if there were no actions taken in response to these findings by respected groups such as the Red Cross.

WOODRUFF: Senator, we know there's now discussion among the members of the Senate, the Pentagon, the administration about what to do with these apparently hundreds of additional pictures and some videos of further abuse. Is it your view that those pictures and videos should be made public? COLLINS: I do believe they should be made public. Otherwise, I fear what will happen is they will dribble out bit by bit over the next few months, making the tasks of our soldiers that much more difficult in Iraq.

One of the tragedies of this story is that vast majority of American troops every day are acting honorably and with compassion and courage in Iraq. And their efforts are undermined by the actions of some who treated the prisoners so abysmally. I think we've got to get the whole story out on the table, even though I know it's going to be very disturbing to everyone.

WOODRUFF: One final quick question, Senator. A report in The Washington Post yesterday that senior officials at the Pentagon having misgivings about the war overall. A senior general quoted as saying that the United States is already on the road to defeat in Iraq. Are you looking into reports such as these?

COLLINS: Well, I don't agree with the general who said that we're on the road to defeat in Iraq. But I am very concerned about the conduct of this stage of the war.

It's evident to me that the administration did not anticipate the difficulties of this stage of the occupation. And the violence makes life very difficult for our troops and for the Iraqis. I think we need a reassessment of what our strategy is, and certainly the critics of that strategy within the military should be involved in that process. And their views should be welcomed by the administration, not just cast aside.


WOODRUFF: That was my interview with Senator Susan Collins, who suggests the prisoner abuse scandal clearly has complicated the U.S. mission in Iraq.

Up next, is there dissension among the military brass about the president's Iraq policy and whether it ultimately will be successful?

Plus, Bush versus Kerry in the showdown state of Pennsylvania. We'll catch up on the state of that race with Democratic Governor and Kerry supporter Ed Rendell.

This is INSIDE POLITICS, the place for campaign news.


WOODRUFF: As the United States military continues its efforts to secure Iraq and to pave the way for the June 30 handover, some high- ranking officers in the Pentagon and in the field are concerned, apparently, about the long-term U.S. strategy. For more, I'm joined by Washington Post reporter Thomas Ricks. He is in The Post's newsroom.

Tom Ricks, you wrote yesterday that there are deep divisions emerging in the military over the course of this war. What are the differences over?

THOMAS RICKS, WASHINGTON POST: The differences are really over how things are going in Iraq, their assessment of the situation, and what they think the long-term trends are.

WOODRUFF: And what specifically do they disagree with the president the secretary of defense on? I mean, you know, to listen to the administration, one would think the war is going well, for the most part.

RICKS: The basic division is twofold. First, they're saying things are not going so well. As several officers put it to me, some on the record, they think we're winning tactically, winning the battles, but losing strategically. That is, losing the broader war.

And a lot of them think the reason is because the strategic goals are unrealistic. This core goal of the Bush administration of making Iraq free and Democratic and then using that as a beacon to transform the Middle East, they think, is a bridge too far. They think it's a recipe for having troops in Iraq for years dying.

WOODRUFF: How high up the chain of command are these officers who are telling you this? And some of them by name, right?

RICKS: Some of them by name. The first person I quoted in the story is Major General Swannack, the commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, one of the most storied units in the U.S. Army.

Another person I quoted was a Colonel Paul Hughes (ph), who last summer was the first director of strategic planning for the U.S. occupational authority in Iraq. Other people rank even higher. They didn't want their names attached, but they're very senior generals inside the Army.

WOODRUFF: How significant is it, Tom, that they are speaking out either by name or speaking at all to the press?

RICKS: Well, I think history will judge this period. I think it feels kind of like a turning point on Iraq, but I felt like we've had several major turning points on Iraq. I think it's real significant, though, that serving officers on active duty are going on the record with their worries and their dissents about the situation in Iraq.

WOODRUFF: Tom, what is their bottom line? Why do they think that the administration goal of turning Iraq into a democracy is not a realistic goal?

RICKS: They think that it fights trends in Iraq. They worry that the support of the broad middle of Iraqi people for the U.S. presence there is declining rapidly. And they think that, by trying to force the situation in Iraq, by trying to impose our goals, that we've put ourselves at odds with a big chunk of Iraqi society.

A lot of them are saying, why don't we go with the flow more, go with the trend? One thing a lot of them talked about was a article by former Ambassador Peter Galbraith that talked about embracing the separatist trends of the Kurds, the Sunnis, and the Shias, in the three major parts of Iraq, and kind of letting each part of the country determine its own political future rather than having one imposed by the United States.

WOODRUFF: Do you get the sense that these generals and other officers are being listened to at the very top levels of the Pentagon?

RICKS: No, they don't feel they're being listened to. And that's one reason there's a real anger among senior Army officers with Donald Rumsfeld and Deputy Secretary Paul Wolfowitz.

As one general said to me, "I feel like they're breaking the Army. But what really angers me is I feel like they don't care." So I think there's a sense that they're going public because they're not being heard internally.

WOODRUFF: Is there any fear of retribution on their part?

RICKS: Quite a lot. A lot of them point to the experience of Army Chief General Shinseki, who was chief of staff of the Army before the Iraq war, publicly disagreed with Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz over the likely size of the post-war U.S. occupation force. And these officers feel that there was kind of a vindictive retribution against Shinseki, that he was kind of frozen out by Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz after that, and was kind of really kicked out of the Army at the end of his term.

WOODRUFF: And they're worried about that happening themselves, maybe?

RICKS: Yes. At the same time, enough are so worried about the situation that they're now willing to go on the record with their worries.

WOODRUFF: Thomas Ricks with a notable piece of reporting yesterday in The Washington Post. Tom Ricks, thank you very much. We appreciate it.

When we return, John Kerry's focus on Pennsylvania today shows just how important that state is in the battle for the White House. We'll have a live interview with the state's Democratic governor, Ed Rendell.


WOODRUFF: Senator John Kerry is focusing on Pennsylvania today as he pushes his health care plan. The state, with 21 electoral votes, is one of the battlegrounds where the race for the White House is expected to be decided. Pennsylvania went with Al Gore in the 2000 election, but just barely, with Gore beating President Bush by just five percentage points.

With me now from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Governor Ed Rendell.

Governor, so where does Pennsylvania stand right now? The polls have Kerry-Bush neck and neck. What do you think? GOV. ED RENDELL (D), PENNSYLVANIA: Well, I think that if the election were held today, John Kerry would win based on two factors. I think Democratic turnout is going to be much higher than usual, number one. And number two, I think Ralph Nader's percentage come Elections Day is going to go way down.

WOODRUFF: Well, he's got, what, 5 percent of the polls right now? Which is a big chunk.

RENDELL: Right. Not a chance. He didn't come close to that in Pennsylvania four years ago, and he won't come close to that again.

WOODRUFF: Governor, President Bush has been to Pennsylvania, what is it, something like 27 times since he was inaugurated?

RENDELL: I think he's broken the 30 mark, Judy. He's broken the 30 mark.

WOODRUFF: Are you sure he's not going to be able to win your state over into the Republican column?

RENDELL: Well, look, the president has been here and so have his cabinet members. And to be honest, we've enjoyed having his cabinet members come here because they usually bring a check with them. But nothing is in the bag. And this is as fluid an election as I have ever seen.

But if you look at 2000, you look at the Gore votes in Pennsylvania, it's hard to see where John Kerry is going to get less votes than Al Gore, where the margin is going to be much reduced. John Kerry's war record and his ties with veterans are going to work very well in southwestern Pennsylvania, which has been a traditional Democratic area. But, as you know, President Bush did very well in 2000.

I think Kerry's going to do better than Al Gore there. And in the southeast, remember President Bush ran as a compassionate conservative who was not going to crack down on the social values that a lot of moderate Republicans in the southeast care about.

I think any veneer that there's a compassion behind the conservatism is pretty much gone. So I think John Kerry is going to outstrip Al Gore even in the southeast.

WOODRUFF: You mean -- oh, I see what you mean. Governor, you talk to Democrats all over the country on a regular basis. You know there's talk, questions right now about why Senator Kerry isn't doing better against President Bush in the public opinion polls, when the president has been through such a difficult time with events in Iraq, the 9/11 Commission, and so forth.

How well is Senator Kerry doing?

RENDELL: Well, I think under the circumstances he's doing very well, Judy. What has produced this close race and the tightening of the race is $60 million of negative commercials. It is always what our biggest worry was, that post our primaries, the Bush campaign would use its incredible accumulated campaign war chest to try to define our candidate. And that's gone on to the tune of $60 million.

WOODRUFF: But isn't he handicapped, though, by having a very similar position on the war to President Bush's position?

RENDELL: Not really. People who are against the war are going to vote for John Kerry. People who think the administration -- who might have been for the war initially, like I was. I believe we should have gone to war to rid the world of a terrible tyrant. But people who were for the war originally are so turned off by the administration's handling of the post end of hostility events that they're going to vote for John Kerry.

WOODRUFF: Spoken optimistically by the governor of Pennsylvania, Ed Rendell. Governor, good to see you.

RENDELL: Thanks, Judy.

WOODRUFF: Thanks very much. We appreciate it.

Coming up in our next half hour of INSIDE POLITICS, standing firm as the critics bash Donald Rumsfeld. We'll have more on President Bush's visit to the Pentagon and his show of support for his embattled defense secretary.

And we'll hear from the author of a new book on a broadcasting pioneer, Edward R. Murrow.



BUSH: Those responsible for these abuses have caused harm that goes well beyond the walls of the prison.

ANNOUNCER: But has the prisoner abuse scandal affected the presidential campaign?

KERRY: The system today is badly broken. And I have a health care plan.

ANNOUNCER: The campaign battle over your health care. Which candidate has the right prescription?



WOODRUFF: Welcome back.

President Bush promised again today that there will be a full accounting for what he calls the cruel and disgraceful abuse of Iraqi prisoners. The president got a firsthand look today at classified photos from the Abu Ghraib prison that have not been seen publicly. Our White House correspondent, Dana Bash, joins us with more on that and on the president's latest show of support for his Pentagon chief -- Dana.


Well, beyond what has already leaked out in the media, the president saw for the first time today the classified colored photos at the Pentagon of some of the really graphic pictures of the Iraqi prisoner abuse. We are told that he saw more than a dozen still photos and some pictures from video clips that, again, were apparently quite graphic. Some showing inappropriate behavior, some sexual in nature.

Now, back here at the White House, the president spokesman described his reaction this way.


SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president's reaction was one of deep disgust and disbelief that anyone who wears our uniform would engage in such shameful and appalling acts. It does not represent our United States military, and it does not represent the United States of America.


BASH: Now the issue that's vexing the White House now is what to do about this? Whether or not to release these photos to the public? What kind of PR strategy they should have, if you will, on this that will make the political damage here and abroad as less -- less of an impact on that as possible?

Today I talked to some officials who say the important thing is to get ahead of this story in a way that some experts around town would say is important in this kind of damage control situation. Others who say that if you put the photos out, it will make the situation worse because they are so graphic in nature.

But as for what the president himself thinks should be done, they are simply not saying here. They've been trying today to keep the president distanced from this decision, saying a number of times from the White House podium and even in private conversations that this is going to be up to the Pentagon to decide whether or not these photos are released to the public -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: And, Dana, what about the president's support for Defense Secretary Rumsfeld? I know there was one quote to a newspaper reporter last week by someone close to Condoleezza Rice saying she wouldn't be unhappy if something happened to the defense secretary. But other than that, it's been a show of support.

BASH: That's right. And Condoleezza Rice herself came out in a couple of newspapers to try to correct that statement. In addition, the vice president himself put out a rare weekend statement. All weekend long, Judy, we saw a White House officials trying to essentially say, especially following the hearing on Friday where they thought that Secretary Rumsfeld did quite well, that he's going to stay in place.

But, Judy, that all compares -- pales in comparison to actually having the president of the United States on secretary -- the secretary of defense's turf in images and in words saying that he strongly supports him.

And although some Republicans are withholding judgment, they are certainly emboldened by the fact that no Republican has called for his resignation. And as Candy was reporting a short while ago, Republicans are coalescing around their talk points. Essentially saying that Democrats are overreaching and they're politicizing this.

But they do understand here, Judy, that any kind of firing of Donald Rumsfeld would put the president perhaps in a worse political situation than he already is because Donald Rumsfeld is -- so embodied the Iraq war at this time -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right, coalescing around the talking points. Thanks very much, Dana.

Those still unreleased images of Iraq prisoner abuse with the subject of a high-level meeting on Capitol Hill this hour. Let's bring in our congressional correspondent Joe Johns -- Joe?

JOE JOHNS, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Judy, this day started out with what was described by sources here as a tentative agreement with the Pentagon to bring over to Capitol Hill about 100 of those controversial photographs and a video file, or some video files.

The question, of course, has been throughout the day, whether to release those pictures only to members of the Senate Armed Services committee, whether to decide to release them to the Senate at large. And even whether to recommend to the administration that such pictures be released into the general public for public consumption.

A series of negotiations going on to try to get to the bottom of that. There are two camps obviously. One camp is strongly urging that the administration put all of the pictures out into public view as soon as possible.

There is deep concern among some senators here, even some Republicans, that the trickle of one picture, another picture after that over weeks and months can be a very damaging political problem for the administration and the Congress.

So they continue to try to figure out starting with the top Democrat and Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, putting together a proposal on how to deal with this, turning it over to the majority leader and the minority leader of the United States Senate, and let them decide as a whole what to do.

So once again, a lot of people here saying they'd like to get those pictures to Capitol Hill. The question, how widely they'll be disseminated -- Judy. WOODRUFF: OK, some very tough questions they're dealing with. Joe Johns, thank you very much.

By the way, we'll be covering that testimony on Capitol Hill tomorrow morning. It will be carried live here on CNN tomorrow morning starting at 9:30. The general Taguba, who was the author of that report on the abuse scandal, will be testifying.

As the scandal plays out, President Bush's job approval rating has apparently sunk to a new low. Here again, our senior political analyst Bill Schneider with more results from our new poll.


SCHNEIDER (voice-over): The prisoner abuse scandal is taking a toll on President Bush. Three weeks ago, just after the insurgency began, the public was evenly divided over how President Bush was handling Iraq. Now? 58 percent disapprove.

In the past, Bush has held the advantage over Democratic challenger John Kerry on Iraq. Now, the public is pretty closely split over who would do a better job in Iraq. Bush's advantage has just about disappeared.

Terrorism is still President Bush's issue. And the economy is Kerry's. What about all those good economic indicators that just came out? Aren't they giving the president a boost? No.

Last week, the president's economic ratings were 56 to 41 percent negative. This week, still 56 percent to 41 percent negative, despite Friday's good jobs report. Gasoline prices, milk prices are throwing a wet blanket over the dry economic statistics. President Bush's overall job rating is at an all-time low: 46 percent. For the first time ever, a majority of Americans say they disapprove of the way Bush is handling his job.

Oh, boy, say the Democrats. We got him! Maybe not. Forty-eight percent of likely voters say they vote for Bush right now, 47 percent for Kerry. Those are the kinds of findings that drive Democrats crazy.


SCHNEIDER: Democrats keep reminding themselves, this election is supposed to be a referendum on President Bush and Bush's numbers don't look good.

Here is something else: among all registered voters, Kerry leads Bush by six points. If Democrats can get turn-out up, Kerry's prospects would be brighter -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Bill, give us a quick history lesson. When a president has approval ratings at 46 percent, pretty low, comparatively. What's the history? Are they able to get them back up before an election? SCHNEIDER: Well, usually when they hit 46 percent, it means they have a big problem because it means a majority of voters are prepared to vote against them.

Can they turn it around? I imagine it's been known to happened. I haven't looked at figures closely. But I think 46 percent is close enough that the president could pump them back up.

But in this election, more than most, with events happening in Iraq, this election is likely to be determined by events unexpectedly, very far away, like the release of these photographs.

WOODRUFF: All right, just under six months left until Election Day, November 2. Bill Schneider, thank you very much.

One of seven U.S. military police charged with mistreating Iraqi prisoners says that she never had read or even seen a copy of the Geneva Conventions until just a few days ago. In 1863, the neutral Swiss government held the first convention in Geneva to write laws for appropriate military conduct. The current rules were signed in 1949 after World War II. They were amended in 1977.

They include protections for civilians and guarantees of the rights of prisoners of war. The Geneva Conventions state POWs must be treated humanely. Among other things, they must not be subjected to torture or medical or scientific experiments. And they must be protected against violence, intimidation, insult and public display.

Coming up on INSIDE POLITICS, John Kerry goes on the attack over rising health care costs. We will tell you why Kerry says Americans would be better off with his health care plan.

He helped shape the way news is reported. In my "Page Turner" segment, I'll speak with the author of a new book on Edward R. Murrow and the birth of broadcast journalism.

And, a mistake at the ballot box by Florida's former secretary of state, Katherine Harris. We'll tell you what happened.


WOODRUFF: As we've said, John Kerry is on the attack over what he says is a failure by President Bush to control spiralling health care costs. Democrats are hoping the issue clicks with voters as the party tries to take back the White House.


WOODRUFF (voice-over): If you're looking for daylight between the Kerry/Bush agendas, look no further than health care.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't think that anyone should have to live in fear in this nation that they are one doctor's visit away from financial ruin and personal destruction.

WOODRUFF: John Kerry is painting a sharp contrast this week, rolling out a plan he says will extend coverage to 27 million more Americans, ten times the number the president's proposals would cover. Kerry's price tag, not surprisingly, would be more that seven times higher than Bush's. The Democrats' latest Internet ad whacks the White House.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have a goal. The idea of making sure people have got affordable health care and insurance policies to make sure they're able to pay for them.

WOODRUFF: Kerry would provide breaks to businesses who cover their employees, make prescription drugs cheaper by allowing importation, among other things, have the feds shoulder most of the financial burden for catastrophic cases, and make malpractice insurance more affordable. He would pay for it all by repealing chunks of the Bush tax cut.

BUSH: There is a battle in Washington, D.C. There is a philosophical argument over how to deal with the cost of health care.

WOODRUFF: Team Bush dismissed Kerry's proposals saying the Democratic campaign rhetoric on health care will do nothing to reduce the costs of health care for America's families. Bush aides say Kerry has done little to address the explosion of malpractice cases and has been absent from the debate over how to limit liability.


WOODRUFF: We continue the health care theme as we update the speculation about John Kerry's potential running mate in our campaign news daily. Congressman Dick Gephardt is criticizing what Democrats say are the cozy ties between the Bush White House and the health care industry. In an event set up by the Democratic National Committee, Gephardt hosted a conference call with reporters this morning to make the case against Bush health care policies.

Senator John Edwards is in demand with fellow Democrats after a speech over the weekend praising John Kerry in Ohio. Edwards headed to Colorado to endorse Senate hopeful Ken Salazar. Tomorrow he's expected in Illinois to endorse Democrat Barach Obama's Senate bid.

Recent events in Iraq have given new life to talk that Retired General Wesley Clark could join the Kerry ticket. Sources tell CNN that Clark has joined Edwards, Gephardt, and Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack as serious contenders for the No. 2 spot.

We're also told that Kerry's decision about a running mate is now expected to happen in June at the earliest. Stay tuned.

Time to update our online veep stakes here on CNN where you get to cast your vote for John Kerry's running mate. As you know, we've sorted 32 of the most frequently mentioned running mates into brackets, kind of like the NCAA tournament. Your job is to tell us which candidate is more likely to be Kerry's pick. So far, Senators Hillary Clinton, John Edwards and Republican John McCain are among those still in the running. The final four begins on Wednesday, so be sure to log on to and cast your vote. A new book takes a new look at a pioneering journalist. When we return, Bob Edwards, the author of "Edward R. Murrow and the Birth of Broadcast Journalism" talks with me about his new book.


WOODRUFF: In my page turner segment today, a fascinating new look at renowned journalist Edward R. Murrow and how news reporting has evolved since his era. Bob Edwards is the author of "Edwards R. Murrow and the Birth of Broadcast Journalism" and until last week, Edwards was a long-time host of National Public Radio's "Morning Edition." Just a short time ago, I spoke with Bob Edwards about his new book. My first question, why write about Murrow?


BOB EDWARDS, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: I was asked to write a book in this series called "Turning Points" that John Wiley and Sons puts out. I chose Murrow. I felt it was the person I knew the most about and he had a turning point being instrumental in both the foundation of radio journalism, and again in television journalism. I wanted to write about the patron saint of our profession.

WOODRUFF: What made him the patron saint?

EDWARDS: Well, he was there at the beginning, of course. He was making it up as he went along. He set the highest standard very early, based on newspaper standards at the time because he had nothing to go on in radio, a standard for what constitutes news and how it should be covered.

WOODRUFF: But at one point -- at some point along the way, he became disillusioned with what he saw happening in television news. What caused him to think that way?

EDWARDS: Well, William Paley, the chairman of CBS, told Murrow that his programs -- he was referring specifically to the series "See it Now" -- gave him stomach aches. And Murrow told Paley, well, they go with the job.

Paley didn't think they went with the job. Paley thought Murrow was bad for business, that his programs created controversy, they created trouble for Paley with the FCC, with members of Congress, with sponsors. They didn't like controversy. They liked entertainment.

And Murrow's conflicts with management made one wonder whether controversial programs and aggressive journalism were possible in commercial broadcasting.

WOODRUFF: But given that -- and Murrow eventually, of course, within a few years, left CBS, went on to serve in the administration of John Kennedy as the head of the U.S. information agency. Given all that, why has his legacy endured, or has it?

EDWARDS: I don't think his legacy has endured at all. It's paid lip service to, but not honored in fact. I think he's still represents an ideal that is simply not achieved in broadcasting today.

WOODRUFF: What would he do, Bob Edwards, if Edward R. Murrow were to appear on the scene today and go looking for a job in television news, what do you think he would find and what would he do?

EDWARDS: I don't think he'd look for one. I think he'd probably be a university president or something.

He -- if there were a Murrow Channel, and he was running it, I think he'd be comfortable with that. But I don't think he'd be comfortable with a boss.

WOODRUFF: Bob Edwards, what about you? You were a fixture and still are going to be a fixture on the morning hours of National Public Radio. What about your career? You've made a big change lately. A lot of people are very interested to know how you're doing.

EDWARDS: I'm doing fine. I'm out on a book tour at the moment, and then going on vacation, and then I'm to be a senior correspondent for NPR. I'll really be on all of the programs, not just "Morning Edition," but "All Things Considered," all our other programs.

WOODRUFF: And any other books in the wings, in the works?

EDWARDS: I think you might see one in a couple of years, yes.


WOODRUFF: Bob Edwards. He promises he'll be back on National Public Radio in just a couple of months.

Up next, she has a way of making headlines. We'll explain why Katherine Harris had problems making her own vote count in a local election.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Much of the nation saw the attempted assassination of George Wallace as another tragic example of political violence.

BOB DOLE (R), FRM. SENATOR OF KANSAS: So I say thank you and farewell to the Senate.

WOODRUFF: He is not only resigning as the Senate majority leader, but he is indeed resigning his seat as the 27-year senator from the state of Kansas.


WOODRUFF: Little political history there.

We want to bring you up to date on an interview President Bush gave at Pentagon today with the Armed Forces Radio and Television Network. This was an interview that went out to the Armed Forces around the world.

Among other things, the president was asked about the incidences of abuse of Iraqi prisoners. When he spoke today, the president spoke in defense of most American troops.


BUSH: People. I mean people in the -- in Iraq who have interface with our troops, the innocent Iraqis who have, know how decent and compassionate these folks are. We've sent the finest from our country overseas.

And I want our troops to know that. And the American people know that. That's what's important. Our troops need to know the American people stand squarely behind them.


WOODRUFF: President Bush in an interview with Armed Forces Radio and Television earlier today.

One last quick note. Republican Congresswoman Katherine Harris says she knows the election laws. After all, she rose national prominence during Florida's 2000 election recount. That's why she also says she understands why her vote didn't count in a recent hometown election.

Harris says she forgot to sign her absentee ballot because she was in a hurry to catch a flight. Because of the oversight, the city's election supervisor sent Harris a letter informing her that her ballot was ruled ineligible.

That's it for today's INSIDE POLITICS. Thank you for joining us. I'm Judy Woodruff, this day in Atlanta, back in Washington tomorrow. "CROSSFIRE" starts right now.


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