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Senators View More Photos of Iraqi Abuse; Politics of Gas Prices

Aired May 12, 2004 - 15:30   ET


ANNOUNCER: Beyond the initial shock: could the photos of Iraqi prisoner abuse get that much worse? Senators get a private viewing of the pictures the world has not seen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These are going to be much worse, and they're going to be men and women in American uniforms who are doing things that Americans don't do.

ANNOUNCER: A matter of message...

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Health care is not a privilege for the wealthy and the connected and the elected. It's a right for all Americans.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I believe every child can learn.

ANNOUNCER: Can the topic of the day on the presidential campaign trail be heard above the clamor over Iraq?

Priming the pump: rising gas prices fuel another round of election year finger-pointing.



JUDY WOODRUFF, HOST: Thank you for joining us.

We begin with a slide show that many members of Congress probably would have preferred not to see. But as one lawmaker put it, "I guess it is part of my job." Senators now are halfway through a three-hour period to view images of Iraqi prisoner abuse not yet seen by the public. And members of the House of Representatives are getting to look at the pictures, too.

Let's check in with our congressional correspondent, Ed Henry -- Ed.

ED HENRY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Judy, lawmakers are coming out of those briefings, and they have a lot to say about what they're seeing behind closed doors. Democratic Congresswoman Jane Harmon said she saw cruel, sadistic torture. She said it was stomach churning.

She noted there was a photo of multiple men engaging in sex acts, another one with a man handcuffed next to a wall, repeatedly beating his head against the wall. The bottom line is that Congresswoman Harmon said that "Twelve sadistic kids could not have acted alone."

And a Republican lawmaker, Sherry Boehlert of New York, came out of the briefing as well, seconding that notion, saying, "The photos are appalling." And he added, "It's not just seven reservists from Maryland. I think it goes beyond that."

But I would stress that the House members are saying that, but senators coming out of their secure room in the Capitol are saying something a little slightly different. We're picking up senators coming out, and as one Republican senator told me off camera, "The photos are disgusting, terrible." But this senator said they're fairly consistent with what we've already seen from photos that were out in the public.

This senator stressed also that there's no evidence of rape and murder and some of the other, you know, horrible allegations that we had heard leading up to this. So there's a little bit of caution from the Senate side.

And the bottom line now is that a growing number of lawmakers in both chambers are saying that, especially in light of the horrific murder of Nicholas Berg yesterday, the video that was released yesterday, lawmakers from both parties are saying, especially Republicans, that releasing these images right now could really inflame the situation and put more American lives at risk. And I think Senator John Warner put it very bluntly just a few moments ago when he came out of this briefing. Here's what he said.


SEN. JOHN WARNER (R), ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: In my view -- and it's solely my view -- these pictures at this time by the executive branch should not be released into the public domain. And they await release until the course of the trials.


HENRY: Judy, also this morning, the House Republican leaders convened a closed-door meeting, and one House Republican leadership source told CNN that several House Republican lawmakers stood up and said they were very concerned, especially in light of the Berg murder, that these images should not be released. This was even before they saw the images.

And as you can see now, after seeing the images, more Republicans are coming forward and saying they do not want to see the Pentagon release these images. That is the next political fight we are going to see unfold over the next few days -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Interesting, that discrepancy between the Senate and the House descriptions. All right. Ed Henry, thank you. HENRY: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: Well, John Kerry has -- a little later, I want to say, first, I'm going to be talking to two senator who did get a look at those photos about what they saw and about what happens next.

The Kerry campaign is accusing the Bush White House of paying lip service to the problem of rising gas prices. Meantime, oil refiners told a Senate committee today that there are no silver bullets to reduce prices in the short term. Look for the debate to get even hotter as we head into summer.


WOODRUFF (voice-over): As temperatures soar, oil prices hit a 14-year high, topping out at more than $40 a barrel. This, as the national average cost of a gallon of gas is poised to pass the $2 mark next month. Drivers are changing their routines.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm just not driving as much because I know I have to keep filling it up.

WOODRUFF: And John Kerry sees an opening.

KERRY: If it keeps going up like that, folks, Dick Cheney and President Bush are going to have to carpool to work together.

WOODRUFF: Kerry is not the only one trying to score political points off this pocketbook issue.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Some people have wacky ideas, like taxing gasoline more so people drive less. That's John Kerry. He supported a 50-cent-a-gallon gas tax.

WOODRUFF: But that was 10 years ago. Kerry doesn't feel that way anymore. His camp's response to the latest price hike, the White House needs to do more than just pay lip service to a problem that is threatening to exacerbate the weak economy.

BUSH: For the sake of jobs and job expansion, we must become less dependent on foreign sources of energy.

WOODRUFF: But who do voters hold accountable? Polls have shown that when it comes to gas prices, Americans have not been willing to throw the blame on the White House lawn.


WOODRUFF: And now checking the headlines in our "Campaign News Daily," Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader has picked up the endorsement of the Reform Party. The move gives Nader access to the ballot in eight states, including the crucial states of Florida and Michigan. And a Nader spokesman says that Nader will continue to campaign as an Independent, and he will decide on a state-by-state basis whether to accept the Reform Party ballot line. New TV ads by and for the Bush campaign are hitting the airwaves and the Internet. A new TV ad running in showdown states and on cable promotes the No Child Left Behind education law. It also appears online with an introduction by first lady Laura Bush.


LAURA BUSH, FIRST LADY (voice-over): The President is so committed to education reform because he looks at schools as a parent looks at schools. He wants to make sure that children who are at risk of being left behind get the help they need to be successful students.


WOODRUFF: The online ad appears on about 50 Web sites, including Yahoo!, and the Ladies' Home Journal.

The anti-tax group Club for Growth is also launching a pro-Bush TV ad. The group is spending $500,000 on the spot in various showdown states in support of the Bush polls in the war on terror.

Well, some Democrats apparently are not buying one of John Kerry's lines. Coming up, the complaints about Kerry and other items from Bob Novak's notebook.

Up next, some criticism of Donald Rumsfeld may hit the defense secretary, particularly close to home. I'll talk to the editor of The Military Times about his editorial.

And later, President Bush speaks out about the beheading of an American in Iraq. How does it fit into his broader message about Iraq?


WOODRUFF: We've been reporting on members of the Senate and the House getting a look today at more pictures of Iraqi prisoner abuse. For his part, John Kerry has expressed his disgust over the scandal more than once. Now, for the most part, though, he's trying to stick mainly to other issues. But as our national correspondent, Kelly Wallace, explains, that is easier said than done.


KELLY WALLACE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In Orlando, John Kerry tries to stay on message.

KERRY: I mean, what are we doing, folks? One out of every four people don't have any health care. You know what happens when you don't have health care?

WALLACE: But as Kerry focuses on health care, he faces questions everywhere he goes not on his domestic plans, but on events overseas.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's your reaction on what happened today in Iraq? KERRY: My reaction to what happened today is outrage, pure outrage.

WALLACE: Asked by a radio interviewer Wednesday if he were finding it difficult to get traction on issues like health care when the country's attention is on Iraq, Kerry said not at all. And aides say that message might not get national press, but makes it into the headlines locally.

For instance, on the front page of Wednesday's Orlando Sentinel, Kerry brings health message to town. But there is one pocketbook issue that could come back to haunt the presumptive Democratic nominee. Kerry, who has made jobs lost under President Bush a campaign issue, missed Tuesday's vote in the Senate on a measure extending unemployment benefits. It failed to pass by just one vote. Asked about his absence, Kerry accused Republicans of playing politics with the bill.

KERRY: So it's not really a one-vote margin. It's a multiple- vote margin, because they don't want it to happen. And it was very clear that even if it passed the Senate, they're not going to pass it in the House.


WALLACE: Aides say the senator's strategy continued to weigh in on the war in Iraq when he and his aides feel it is appropriate, while sticking to what one adviser calls kitchen table issues, like health care and the rising cost of gasoline. The goal? Make sure that the campaign is defining Kerry's agenda, not outside events -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right. Kelly Wallace, thank you very much.

And when we come back, I'll talk with the editor in chief of The Military Times newspaper. He is taking on some of the top brass at the Pentagon.



DONALD RUMSFELD, DEFENSE SECRETARY: We all go through strong emotions when something like this occurs. We see it, and we're shocked and we're stunned and we're disgusted. And we know in our hearts we're better than that. And yet, that's what is being seen in the world as representing our country.

I know it doesn't represent our country. That isn't America. We've got -- we're a lot better than that.


WOODRUFF: Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld defended the U.S. military and the country today as he addressed the Senate Appropriations Committee. Democrats are still calling for Rumsfeld to resign over the Iraqi prisoner abuse scandal. And now there is a new voice added to the mix.

The Military Times newspaper says that Rumsfeld and others at the Pentagon should be held accountable. The newspaper's editorial says, "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 even if that means relieving top leaders from duty in a time of war."

The paper is an independent publication not run by the military, but it meets -- it reaches members of the armed services all over the world. Its editor, Tobias Naegele, spoke to me just about an hour ago, and I started off by asking him if this was an editorial that was hard to write.

TOBIAS NAEGELE, MILITARY TIMES: It was a tough editorial to write. We take very seriously and with great concern what we say to our audience. We try to -- they can't criticize their leadership and we will criticize the leadership, but only with a great amount of consideration.

WOODRUFF: Today -- or yesterday, you had Major General Taguba who wrote that report on what happened at Abu Ghraib, saying basically he thought it was just a few soldiers who were responsible, that it didn't go very high up the chain of command.

NAEGELE: But he also said that there was a systemic failure of leadership and a failure of organization and procedure, and that there weren't enough people in place, that they violated Army doctrine. I don't think that we can hold those soldiers responsible for their specific actions. But the problem is really an outgrowth of a much bigger problem, how the prison was operated, how the entire campaign has been operated.

WOODRUFF: The campaign in Iraq. What sort of reaction -- have you gotten reaction yet to...

NAEGELE: We've gotten a fair amount of reaction. I would say what we've gotten is about two to one against us so far. But, you know, we've had people who have written in and said they want to subscribe because of the editorial, as well as some have who have said, you know, "Cancel my subscription."

We didn't do it to get a lot of notoriety. We didn't do it because we wanted to lose subscribers. We did it because we thought it was the right thing to do.

WOODRUFF: Tobias Naegele, who is the editor in chief of The Military Times, there was a report in The Washington Post over the weekend that much of the -- some of the military, some generals, even, others higher up the chain of command at the Pentagon, are angry even at Secretary Rumsfeld, at the chairman of the joint chiefs, General Richard Myers, for the way this war has been conducted.

What do you know about that? You're obviously talking to people at the Pentagon all the time. NAEGELE: I think that the feeling among a large number of uniformed military is that this administration, this civilian leadership at the Pentagon, beginning with Don Rumsfeld, has not taken into account the views of others who disagree with them, has underestimated the needs of requirements of this war, they effected a battle plan that was streamlined and had successfully few -- a smaller number of troops.

But you need a lot of troops after the -- after the fighting in order to maintain the peace, and they underestimated that. And I think there's a significant complaint among -- especially in the Army, among army brass, that they underestimated.

WOODRUFF: How widespread would you say that feeling is, based on your reporting?

NAEGELE: I'd say it's fairly significant. It's fairly significant. You know, there's always going to be some underlying current of disagreement with leadership one way or the other.


NAEGELE: In this case, I think the sort of bullying tactics of the Rumsfeld camp have increased the intensity of that.

WOODRUFF: Today, members of the Senate and the House of Representatives were given a chance to look at more pictures, maybe up to 1,000 more pictures and videos out of Iraq, mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners. As a journalist who covers the military, do you those pictures, any of them, should be made public?

NAEGELE: I think we've seen a lot of pictures. I don't know exactly what's in the remaining pictures, and I -- probably a lot of my colleagues would disagree with me. I'm not sure there's a lot to be gained by seeing any more of them.

I think that, you know, we have a significant international situation on our hands as a result of this coming out. But I don't think we can blame anybody because -- you know, and say this is all the fault of some people who took pictures or somebody who blew the whistle. What happened was wrong, and frankly, this administration wasn't reacting sufficiently to what was wrong. And they took too long, they didn't take it seriously.


WOODRUFF: Tobias Naegele is the editor and chief of The Military Times. He points out that the newspaper endorsed the Iraq war last year.

Yesterday, INSIDE POLITICS ran a brief comment from Vice President Dick Cheney on the prisoner abuse scandal. Mr. Cheney made his comments on Tony Snow's show on Fox News Radio. We just wanted to give credit where credit is due.

And when we return, Robert Novak joins us with some "Inside Buzz" on the Iraqi prisoner abuse scandal and Donald Rumsfeld's job situation.


WOODRUFF: Bob Novak joins us now with some "Inside Buzz."

All right, in the aftermath of this whole prisoner abuse scandal, there were calls in the last days, as you know, for Secretary Rumsfeld to step down. What are you hearing?

ROBERT NOVAK, CO-HOST, "CROSSFIRE": What I hear from Republican insiders, Judy, is that this is a two-week period which began Monday of this week. It's going to pretty well determine his fate.

If he can get out of this two weeks without any really bad news pinning him or him making mistakes -- and he's been behaving himself, from what he says -- he'll probably survive. But this is a critical period.

I suspect, Judy, that the new fall guy is Dr. Stephen Cambone, the undersecretary of defense for intelligence. He didn't have a very good time testifying yesterday, and sources tell me he may be the guy who has to go.

WOODRUFF: He oversees military intelligence, which is taking some of the rap for what happened. All right. Democrats, you've been talking to about Senator Kerry not being there for that unemployment insurance vote yesterday.

NOVAK: They were not happy with him. He knew about it in advance. He just didn't come, and his explanations are very lame.

One explanation that they would have changed the Republican votes if he had been there, those are not votes that can be changed. You don't change John McCain's vote because the White House called him. And the idea it may not pass in the House, so there's no use of being there, that's a silly explanation. So that it was kind of a sign of a slightly incompetent campaign, and this is coming from Democrats, not Republicans.

WOODRUFF: All right. President Bush, you're going to tell us about, is going to be on the international trail next week or in the weeks to come.

NOVAK: In June, he's going to be in Europe, the 4th, 5th and 6th of June, then back here on the 8th and the 10th, hosting the G-8 summit meeting. Then at the end of the month, he's in Iceland for the European EU summit, 25th of June, then for the NATO summit, 27th, 28th, 29th.

Judy, that doesn't happen by accident. They want to show Republican managers that he is a world leader, he's not just a guy like John Kerry going to union meetings. The danger is, I think he's going to have to come out of these meetings with something to show that we are getting support, the United States is getting support in Iraq. I don't think he can just show up. I think he's got to accomplish something. So it's a little bit of a risk taking that high profile international appearance during the month of June.

WOODRUFF: But you're right, there will be a lot of coverage and a lot of pictures coming out of all those meetings. All right. Bob novak, "Inside Buzz." Thank you.

NOVAK: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: Good to see you. And we'll see you on "CROSSFIRE" in days to come.

NOVAK: Thursday and Friday.

WOODRUFF: Thursday and Friday.

Coming up in the second half-hour of INSIDE POLITICS, President Bush reacts to the beheading of an American citizen in Iraq. We'll tell you what the president has to say about this and the impact on the U.S. mission in Iraq.

Plus, former President Bill Clinton weighs in on this year's race for the White House. We'll tell you why he says John Kerry should win.



BUSH: You are doing a superb job. You are a strong secretary of defense.

ANNOUNCER: Why is President Bush standing so firmly by Don Rumsfeld? Our Bill Schneider has some thoughts.

WILLIAM JEFFERSON CLINTON, FMR. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The only way we can lose is if we're lazy or dumb.

ANNOUNCER: Bill Clinton speaks out on the race for the White House and his new book.

CLINTON: For three months I have done nothing but try to finish the story of my life. It was hard enough to live it the first time. It's been awful.

ANNOUNCER: Will his book tour hurt or help John Kerry's bid for the presidency?



WOODRUFF: Welcome back. President Bush said today that there is no justification for the beheading of an American in Iraq. It was his first public comment about the killing captured on videotape. Our White House correspondent, Suzanne Malveaux, has more on the president's comments and how they figure into his broader message, Suzanne, about Iraq and about this prisoner abuse scandal.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, President Bush earlier today expressed his personal outrage, his sorrow, as well as resolve, when it comes to Nicholas Berg's execution. We are told the president did not watch the video clip on the Internet of Berg being beheaded, but we do know that he got the details about that. And earlier today, he offered his condolences to the friends and to the family, who said this was an innocent civilian who was trying to help build a free Iraq. And he said essentially that there was no justification for this brutal execution.

As you know, of course, he is trying to make the argument here that this is just the work of a few, that these are some terrorists -- that these are the people who want to advance or stop the advance of freedom in Iraq and what is important is that the U.S. remain resolved.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Their intention is to shake our will. Their intention is to shake our confidence. Yet, by their actions, they remind us of how desperately parts of the world need free societies and peaceful societies. And we will complete our mission. We will complete our task.

MALVEAUX: Judy, make no mistake, however, White House officials acknowledge they recognize that this tape plays both ways. On the one hand, it demonstrates the cruelty of terrorists, the need for U.S. soldiers to be vigilant inside Iraq. On the other hand, they are quite aware that this has led some Americans to again call into question whether or not it's even worth it to be in Iraq -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Suzanne, what about the additional pictures that we know the Pentagon had? They've made them available today to members of the Senate and the House of Representatives. What is the White House, the thinking right now at the White House and the Pentagon if you know, about whether those should be made public.

MALVEAUX: The White House thinking here is that some of the heat has been taken off the administration. There is not so much the pressure, the rush to release those photos right away. That there were some Republicans, some leadership, who said we need to hold on to this and take a closer look. The White House is still in negotiations, discussions with the Pentagon over the possible release of them, but there are three concerns here.

First and foremost, they don't want to undermine the integrity of the ongoing criminal investigations. Secondly they don't want to violate anyone's privacy that happens to be in the photos and third, they don't want to create more of a dangerous environment for U.S. soldiers who are on the ground. They do believe they have breathing room out here that these lawmakers have seen the photos, they can describe the photos, but they don't need to release them right away. Having said that, they know that eventually they will be leaked and they have to come up with some sort of strategy to do that the best they can.

WOODRUFF: The way that the terrible incident of the beheading has been a factor in that decision. Suzanne, thank you very much.

Well, as we reported earlier members of Congress have been viewing still classified photographs of prisoner abuse in Iraq. Two senators who have seen the pictures join us now. They are Democrat Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Republican Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. We appreciate both of you being with us. Let me start with you Senator Nelson. Can you characterize what you saw?

SEN. BEN NELSON (D-NE), ARMED SERVICES CMTE.: Well, I saw more of what has been released so far. More of the same in many respects but some different accounts. And quite honestly, it's a horrifying experience to imagine that kind of inhumanity would take place anywhere in the world let alone under American command in any respect.

WOODRUFF: Senator McConnell, how are these pictures any different from the ones that we've already seen?

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), KENTUCKY: Not dramatically different. They are covered by the Privacy Act and we need to keep in mind the most important thing is that the criminal prosecutions which are underway, the investigations leading to prosecutions, need to be protected. We want to make sure that people who are guilty at whatever level of the military that may end up being are brought to justice and fortunately, under the military justice system, that can be done rather expeditiously particularly when compared to the regular criminal courts in this country.

WOODRUFF: Senator Nelson, there are members of the House who have seen the pictures and they are saying, having comments to the effect that they show obvious examples of inhumane treatment in one case, a prisoner beating his head against the wall. Other sexually -- pictures that are sexually suggestive. Does this match what you saw?

NELSON: Well, it does. I think these are the same photographs. I don't know, but I assume they are because these are the ones that are being shown to all of our colleagues.

WOODRUFF: Well, Senator McConnell, given all this, what is your view about whether these should be made public?

MCCONNELL: Frankly, I think it wouldn't add a whole lot for the public to see these disgusting photographs. You have a sense of what they were about. The most important thing we need to do to reassure the American public and frankly, the public in Iraq and around the world is to pursue these criminal investigations rapidly. We don't want to do anything to compromise those investigations. I'm confident since the military began on its own very quickly that these will be pursued to their logical conclusion at whatever level of the military that may be. And that's the most important thing, that the justice system work here. WOODRUFF: When you say whatever level, are you saying no matter how high it goes?

MCCONNELL: Sure, of course. Whoever is complicit in this needs to be brought to justice. That's what this investigation is about. That's way more important than showing the public disgusting photographs. Take our word for it, they're disgusting. Some of them have already been shown. I don't think that really adds anything. What we really need to do here is to show how Americans deal with a problem like this when it occurs.

WOODRUFF: Senator Nelson, are you getting the answers that you're seeking from the Pentagon in terms of the chain of command, who was in charge, what orders these troops were following, if any, who was influencing them and so forth?

NELSON: Well, there are still questions to be asked and answered such as the Taguba report deals with General Karpinski and below her command, she has raised questions about the severing or the interference and intervention with her command by Colonel Pappas (ph) who was directed there by her accounts and other accounts by General Sanchez. So there isn't anything that no one above General Karpinski. So we will have to ask General Sanchez and perhaps a host of others questions and try to get to the bottom of it. I don't think we ought to engage in a witch hunt and we certainly ought not to hold anybody out as a scapegoat.

WOODRUFF: Senator McConnell, one other thing, Senator John McCain was quoted last night as saying these pictures in effect, these pictures are going to get out anyway, that it's just the way Washington works. If they didn't, it would be the first time something like this was kept quiet.

NELSON: They may, but they're in the custody of the Pentagon. This investigation is going forward rapidly as it should. It will not be within the purview of Congress to make a decision about whether or not to release the pictures. If the Pentagon ultimately decides to do that, that's fine. I've given you my opinion. I don't think it adds a thing to show the public disgusting pictures of something they're already aware of and is being investigated very aggressively right now.

WOODRUFF: All right. We're going to have to leave it there. Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska. Gentlemen, thank you so much for talking with me. We appreciate it.

These new photographs of abuse could reenergize some Democrat calls for Donald Rumsfeld to step down as secretary of defense. The heat on Rumsfeld has eased up some since President Bush's public show of support for him. Our senior political analyst Bill Schneider explains why politically Rumsfeld is likely to stick around.


WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: There's a reason President Bush would find it difficult to fire Donald Rumsfeld. You could hear it in a question posed to Rumsfeld by a Democratic senator.

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D), VERMONT: How do you answer the question you posed last October? Your question was, again, are we capturing, killing or dissuading more terrorists every day and the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) clerics are recruiting, training, and deploying against us? How would you answer that today?

SCHNEIDER: You could hear it in President Bush's statement about the dangerous implications of the prisoner abuse scandal.

BUSH: It has given some an excuse to question our cause and to cast doubt on our motives.

SCHNEIDER: You could hear it in Senator Kennedy's call for Rumsfeld's firing.

SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: I think we need a new secretary of defense. My preference would be Secretary Colin Powell. He knows how to win a war in Iraq. Our Iraqi policy is a disaster.

SCHNEIDER: Just like a former secretary of defense, Robert McNamara was once identified with the war in Vietnam, Donald Rumsfeld is totally identified with the war in Iraq and President Bush cannot afford to have that war seen as a failure.

DONALD RUMSFELD, DEFENSE SECRETARY: There should be no doubt that if force is to be used, and that decision has not been made, that the coalition forces will prevail and that it will be a very large coalition.

SCHNEIDER: Back then, in March of last year he dismissed talk of a quagmire in Iraq.

RUMSFELD: I can almost promise you that someone in this room will say it's a quagmire. Quite apart from the facts.

SCHNEIDER: The public already thinks things are going badly in Iraq.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: We risk losing public support for this conflict as Americans turned away from the Vietnam war they may turn away from this one.

SCHNEIDER: That hasn't quite happened. Most Americans do not believe it was a mistake to go to war in Iraq, but by the same margin, they don't think the war was worth it. Implying the cost is too high. If President Bush were to fire Rumsfeld, it would hand opponents an argument. It shows that the administration's Iraq policy has failed.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I called for Secretary Rumsfeld's resignation months ago because of the degree to which he miscalculated Iraq. They miscalculated what it would take to win the peace. They miscalculated the numbers of troops. They miscalculated in their strategy. They miscalculated in the weapons of mass destruction. Why did we reward that?


SCHNEIDER: The perception that Iraq is a failure could very well doom President Bush's reelection. Firing Rumsfeld would feed that perception -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: OK. Bill Schneider, thank you.

Well, John Kerry says if he is elected president, there are a number of people he would consider to be defense secretary. Of the three he named specifically two are Republicans. During an interview today with radio's Don Imus, Kerry named three members of the Senate armed services committee as potential Pentagon chiefs, Republicans John McCain and John Warner and Democrat Carl Levin. From the McCain camp, a thanks but no thanks his spokeswoman says. McCain thinks he can be more effective by staying in the Senate.

A certain former president is going around suggesting he is free at last.


BILL CLINTON, FMR. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have been in rotter's jail up in Chappaqua (ph). For three months, have I done nothing but try to finish the story of my life...

We'll look at Bill Clinton getting ready for his big book tour and the push for John Kerry for win the White House.

Plus, former Senator Jean Carnahan has known rare joys and sorrows. I'll talk to her about new book and her remarkable life experiences.

And later, the Cannes Film Festival is known for glitz and glamour, but could it be a stage for a presidential campaign surrogate?


WOODRUFF: Checking our second edition of campaign news daily, a new nation-wide poll gives John Kerry a slim lead over the president in a head-to-head match-up. The latest survey by the Pew Research Center gives Kerry 50 percent to Bush's 45 percent. When Ralph Nader is included, Kerry has a three-point edge over Bush. The Bush campaign kicked off a new effort to attract women voters in an event here in Washington. Among those attending the National W is for Women leadership team event were Labor Secretary Elaine Chow, the president's sister Dora Bush (ph) and Vice President Cheney's daughter Liz.

Word that former president Bill Clinton has sent his memoirs to the publisher for final editing sets the stage for Clinton's return to the media spotlight. A quick glance at the calendar tells us the planned Clinton book tour will get started just as the summer campaign season is getting underway.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) CLINTON: I'm yesterday's news. Forget about me.

WOODRUFF (voice-over): As if that's possible. Get ready to see a great deal of Bill Clinton this summer.

CLINTON: I have been in rotter's jail up in Chappaqua (ph). For three months I have done nothing but try to finish the story of my life.

WOODRUFF: And now it is done, and the former president is preparing to morph into the author-in-chief, hitting the road to sell his memoirs. He's sure to fire up Democrats.

CLINTON: I am much more happy to see you than you are to see me.

WOODRUFF: But will a whirlwind Clinton book tour suck the oxygen out of the room, just as John Kerry's looking to catch fire?

CLINTON: The only way we can lose is if we are lazy or dumb.

WOODRUFF: Clinton has sent out several fundraising e-mails for Kerry. The most recent popped into inboxes this morning. But will he campaign for the nominee? Will his presence be sought on the stump this year? Al Gore kept his distance in 2000. Will Kerry do the same? All decisions, say camp Kerry, to be made a little further down the road.


WOODRUFF: Meantime, the Clinton memoirs expected to hit bookstores late next month.

Ahead here, former senator Jean Carnahan talks about her life in and out of politics. I'll ask about her new book, her time in the Senate and how she triumphed over personal tragedy.


WOODRUFF: Former Missouri Senator Jean Carnahan never planned on serving in the Senate. She agreed to the job back in 2000 after her husband, Mel Carnahan was elected just weeks after he was killed in a plane crash. Jean Carnahan was defeated two years later and has since written a book about her experiences. I spoke with her recently and started by asking her why she chose the title "Don't Let the Fire Go Out."


JEAN CARNAHAN (D), FMR. MISSOURI SENATOR: Well, you know, back when after my husband's crash, my daughter was speaking at his funeral, and she used this expression because he had used it when he was sort of firing the fireplace and he would leave and he'd say to our kids, now don't let that fire go out. She thought it was a very appropriate thing to say at his funeral and she promised we would not let the fire go out. It's been something of a family theme. WOODRUFF: You came to Washington under very unusual circumstances. Is your husband was killed in that terrible tragic plane crash. You then occupied a place that he would have occupied in Washington. How much different was what you found this city and the Senate from what you expected?

CARNAHAN: Well, of course, Washington was my hometown. I grew up there. So in one respect, it was like going back home. But going to the Senate, I was hopeful that we would work together. He was really looking forward to that. And I found that there was so much hostility and animosity and everything was politicized and so I was somewhat disappointed by that because I was in hopes that we could work together for common things and I tried to do that when I was there, but it was very, very difficult.

WOODRUFF: Is that the fault of one party or another?

CARNAHAN: It may be just the fault of the time. I've talked to other senators who served such as Senator Eagleton. He said it was not that way when he was there. Perhaps it's the time and maybe something we will eventually get over, but right now it seems like it's a very difficult time in our national history that everything needs to be politicized and everything is very polarized and I find that's a very difficult environment to work in.

WOODRUFF: You paint some interesting portraits of some of the other members of the Senate. Were there any who left a deep impression on you either positive or negative?

CARNAHAN: Certainly there were many that did that. Certainly John McCain, Senator McCain who you just had on the show not long ago, he was a very strong figure and one that I admired and one that I thought was very patriotic and just took the right approach to so many things. I admired what he did.

WOODRUFF: What about Senator Trent Lott the former Republican majority leader?

CARNAHAN: Well, I didn't find him to be as cooperative. I didn't find him to be as helpful and much more partisan and I found him much more difficult to work with.

WOODRUFF: What should the American people think right now, Jean Carnahan, about the Senate, about the Congress overall and whether it's a body that can deal with the nation's problems?

CARNAHAN: Well, you know, it always has dealt with the nation's problems. They rise to the occasion, they have always before and I think they will again, but every election year we get to decide who's going to make the decisions and who's going to lead us through the next four years. There is going to be a very critical time in our nation's history because this will perhaps be one of the most difficult elections we've ever had. We're seeing that as we lead up to November. So I think the people will get the chance to decide and I have every confidence they will pick the person who is the right leader for the next four years. WOODRUFF: You're a Democrat and I know you are supporting John Kerry. How is he doing right now in Missouri? This is a battleground state once again. You know your state very, very well. What does it look like for him right now?

CARNAHAN: I feel very positive about it you know, we are one of the blue states. I mean, we would like to be one. But right now, we think he's doing very well. He's leading in the polls, and we feel very confident that come November, he will be -- he will be elected and we will be, Missouri, which is one of the states that he must win and we hope to be part of making it a victory for him.

WOODRUFF: Any more public service in store for Jean Carnahan?

CARNAHAN: You never say never when you're in politics. I have a son running for the congressional seat that was vacated by Dick Gephardt and I have a daughter running for secretary of state. I think the fire is burning brightly this election year.


WOODRUFF: Jean Carnahan, former U.S. senator and the wife of the late Mel Carnahan.

The glitz and glamour of the French Rivera. Just ahead, the Cannes Film Festival opens for a dozen days of movies and extravagant parties. We'll tell you why there's a Kerry at this year's festival.


WOODRUFF: Some of the biggest names in show business have converged on the French Riviera for the Cannes Film Festival. And there's a political twist to this year's event. Senator John Kerry's daughter Alexandra is showing a short film she made about Vietnam called "The Last Full Measure." Alexandra Kerry is an actress and a filmmaker.

That's it for INSIDE POLITICS. I'm Judy Woodruff. Thank you for joining us. "CROSSFIRE" starts right now.


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