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JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS
Abortion Politics; John Ashcroft Gives Farewell Speech; The Bush Agenda; Johnny Carson Dies
Aired January 24, 2005 - 15:29 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: Anti-abortion activists on the march. Has the political debate reached a new place 32 years after Roe v. Wade?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Pro-lifers are proud to have a man like George W. Bush in the White House.
ANNOUNCER: Parsing the president's inaugural address. Days later, people are still asking if Mr. Bush said what he meant and meant what he said.
GEORGE HERBERT WALKER BUSH, FMR. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They certainly ought to not read into it any -- any arrogance on the part of the United States.
ED MCMAHON, "THE TONIGHT SHOW": Here's Johnny.
ANNOUNCER: He made political humor standard fare in late night. We'll remember the laughs we had courtesy of Johnny Carson.
JOHNNY CARSON, "THE TONIGHT SHOW": Let's go to the news and see if Dan Quayle has condemned the -- condemned the lifestyle of Erkel on "Family Matters."
CARSON: Do you get the feeling that Dan Quayle's golf bag doesn't have a full set of irons?
ANNOUNCER: Now, live from Washington, JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS.
JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you for joining us.
Activists on both sides of the abortion debate mark the anniversary of Roe v. Wade every year. But the 32nd anniversary of the Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion comes at a pivotal time, at the start of President Bush's second term, and with a high court vacancy seeming likely in the months ahead. Against that backdrop, the president reached out to anti-abortion activists who were rallying here in Washington today.
Here now, our White House correspondent, Dana Bash. Hi, Dana.
DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Judy.
Well, the president is now back at the White House, but earlier today he was at Camp David. And from there he made a phone call to the anti-abortion activists marching on the Mall. And he they thanked them for what he called their work toward building a "culture of life," enlisted areas where he thought he said they were making progress toward that goal, like his signing of a ban on late-term abortion.
But as you said, Judy, everyone here in Washington is holding their breath on a potential Supreme Court vacancy that could tip the balance of the court and, of course, perhaps change laws governing abortion. But Mr. Bush signaled when he called in to these protesters -- or activists, I should say -- that a total ban on abortion that they were looking for may not be imminent.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The America of our dreams, where every child is welcomed in law, in life, and protected in law, may still be some ways away. But even from the far side of the river, Nellie, we can see its glimmerings.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: Now, Judy, in a recent interview, the president refused to say whether or not he thinks or wants Roe v. Wade overturned. He simply would say that he didn't want to answer that question because he saw that as a litmus test, one he says he will not apply to judicial nominees in the future -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: All right. Dana Bash, reporting from the White House.
And as promised, we want to turn everyone over right now to the Justice Department. Attorney General John Ashcroft delivering farewell remarks to Justice employees.
(INTERRUPTED BY LIVE EVENT)
JOHN ASHCROFT, ATTORNEY GENERAL: In any event, in the aftermath of 9/11, we find so many of the things that at one time might have divided us or allowed us to operate with an all too expensive luxury of division being discarded so that we can embrace one another in unity.
And the strange anomaly that follows is that there seems to a record of achievement that you have generated that far exceeds what we would have anticipated without 9/11, in spite of this demand that we invest so many resources in the fight against terror.
Ronald Reagan profoundly had this little slogan on his desk, saying, "There is no limit to what can be achieved if you don't care who gets the credit." And that's another way of describing unity. There is no limit to what can be achieved when we work together in harmony and unity.
It's important for us to understand, though, that to be in unity, we don't have to be in uniformity. So many people think that in order to be unified, you have to be uniform, all the same.
We are delightfully different. And because we are, we are beautifully productive. The great orchestras of this world are not great because they have all of the same kind of people playing all of the same kind of instruments, playing identical notes at all times. It would be boring beyond comprehension, and the beauty would be totally absent.
Great orchestras come when different talents and different instruments converge -- not collide, but converge. They come together and with good direction and common objective, they devote themselves to achieving something totally impossible in a universe of uniformity, rather than unity.
This is the profound lesson that you have demonstrated to me over and over again as I've had the privilege of working with you here at the Department of Justice. I've been surprised by what we've been able to do, not merely by what we have been able to say.
My mother used to have a sign on the refrigerator door -- a family with three young boys, the real truth is posted right where we would all see it.
And it was simply this: "Talk is cheap, but you can't buy it back."
The truth of the matter is, you can talk about operations, you can talk about bureaucracy, but outcomes are what drive the quality of life for this great nation. And I want to thank you for that.
That's come as a result of a kind of unity that I don't think is common in bureaucracies or in governments. But this miracle has taken place because of your inspiration.
I think we've dared to ask the question of how much can we do instead of how little can we do.
Bruce Schwartz (ph) helped me with that so much in the international arena, where it became very important for the United States of America to have relationships of excellence with people around the world.
And so, when someone would come to visit us, we would pull the team together and ask: Just how much can we do? How gracious can we be? How substantial can we be in serving and meeting the objectives and needs of those counterparts we have overseas, so that they become full-fledged partners in supporting liberty and opportunity for us here at home? And as I look across this audience, I see Jason (ph) -- I call him the ambassador, because he does the cooking along with Oz (ph) and his crew there -- and I'm grateful for the fact that everyone in this department plays a part in those achievements. It's a pleasure to call him into the dining room and introduce him to foreign leaders to signal that we understand our operation is a team.
There is no achievement in the Justice Department which does not belong to each of you. You may be floors away, you may be buildings away, you may be a continent away, but every achievement of this department belongs to you.
And this unity that is expressed in the way we've responded crosses the divides between career and presidential appointment or political or however you want to say it. The most noble of ideas becomes an inspiring drive to unity.
And I want you to know how much I appreciate that.
I want to thank my wife, Janet, who came here. She fought her way over the big mound of ice behind the garage door in the alley.
You only missed two flattering speeches.
And I figure you'd heard about as much flattery as you could take, anyhow, so maybe God sent the ice storm just to spare you the indignity.
But I want to thank, specifically, other people.
I want to thank Janet Potter (ph) for being...
I don't know of a kinder person on the face of the earth than Janet Potter (ph), and she's had two very great colleagues to work with Jane (ph) and Bessy (ph).
I'm grateful for you. I don't refer to them as Huey, Dewey and Louie in public, but occasionally. I know they work together with that kind of unity.
I would be remiss were I not to give blame to all of the individuals who populate what's known as the attorney general's office. It would be inappropriate for me to extend credit for all of the good ideas to that office alone, because I have welcomed many of you into the office to bring your own ideas into the office. And I've been grateful for those ideas. But in particular, I want to thank David Ayers (ph) for his outstanding contribution. He is the best lawyer that the Wharton School of Business ever produced.
(END LIVE EVENT)
WOODRUFF: Attorney General John Ashcroft saying goodbye to members of the Justice Department, naming some staff who he worked -- who he has worked closely with over the last four years. He is stepping down after President Bush's first term.
Well, four days after President Bush's inaugural address, there still is a good deal of reading between the lines. Has the Bush camp been able to clarify the meaning of his message?
Also ahead, she was a behind-the-scenes figure who became famous in the Watergate scandal. We'll mark the passing of Rose Mary Woods.
And later, dueling agendas on Capitol Hill. Do Republican and Democratic leaders see eye to eye on anything?
WOODRUFF: President Bush's father, the nation's 41st president, says too many people are trying to read too much into his son's inaugural speech last Thursday. In the address, President Bush pledged to advance liberty in countries whose people are deemed repressed. But his father says those comments were not meant to signal a more aggressive U.S. foreign policy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
G. H. W. BUSH: A lot of people want to read a lot into it, this new aggression, newly asserted military forces. That's not what that speech was about. And it doesn't mean there will be instant change in every country. That's not what he intended.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOODRUFF: With us now to talk more about President Bush's inaugural speech and other political issues, CNN political analyst Ron Brownstein of the "Los Angeles Times."
Ron, you -- we've already heard the father, President Bush 41, in effect, defending his son from even Republicans who are saying this is just too much for the president to be asking.
RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I mean, the big question, of course, with a speech like this is what does it translate into operationally as we go forward? If you look back in American history, the first president who said that the U.S. would be more secure in a world with more democracy was Thomas Jefferson. So this is an idea that has been around for a long time.
Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, John F. Kennedy all have said things similar at one point or another, but we've often honored this idea in the breach. So the question is, what exactly does the president mean? How does he intend to pragmatically advance this goal?
What the White House has done since is sort of say what he doesn't mean. He doesn't mean a global crusade, he doesn't mean we're going to overturn our relations with countries like Saudi Arabia and Russia overnight. They leave open the question, Judy, though, of what does he mean and how will we move this forward.
WOODRUFF: So the fact that they've had to do all this explaining, what does that say?
BROWNSTEIN: Well, that says -- I mean, I think that, you know, what they were trying to was cast a big marker and lay out a big vision. But obviously they made some people nervous about what exactly they have in mind, especially in the context of the first term, when, after all, we did invade Iraq without explicit U.N. authorization and now have sort of retroactively moved to justify that by the idea of spreading democracy.
There's a lot of concern about whether he means this as something he does in concert with the world, or it's a kind of a unilateral mission. I think one critique of the speech was that he portrayed this to a large extent as America's mission in the world. I mean, he ended the speech by saying "America proclaims liberty throughout all the world," as opposed to talking about the way in which the democracies of the world can work together to increase their number.
WOODRUFF: But we know his view is that United States, if you will, stands ascended. It's a country that stands head and shoulders above the other nations of the world. This is what he believes, isn't it?
BROWNSTEIN: And I think the real challenge he faces, though, is to what -- the question I think that this speech -- one of the questions this speech raises is can you advance democracy -- is the best way to advance democracy to have democracy be seen as America's goal for the world? Because there are parts of the world where American preeminence inspires a recoil, particularly in the Muslim world.
There are analysts and experts on Arab reform who feel that democracy itself is being called into question by those who say it is becoming a code word for American domination looking at Iraq. And I think a legitimate question is whether he can make more progress toward advancing what he talked about if the goal of democracy isn't seen as an American crusade, but rather a project of the democracies of the world.
WOODRUFF: Ron, is it your sense that this president and the people around him want this to be a joint effort, or do they want this to be a U.S.-led effort?
BROWNSTEIN: And we're going to have to see. First of all, we don't even know what the effort is. I mean, we're going to have to see what -- you know, a commitment like this acquires meaning through the actions that follow it up. And I think we're going to have to see.
I mean, they talked about reconciling more with Europe, but the question -- I think it's a very legitimate question, Judy. Do they see this as something that is America's mission in the world or something that America contributes to with the other democracies?
WOODRUFF: We talked at the end of last week about Peggy Noonan, the former White House speechwriter, who said there was a lot of -- in her words, a lot of "god" in the speech. She talked about how this is not heaven that we live in, this is earth.
Today, you have Richard Haas...
WOODRUFF: ... who formerly worked at the Bush State Department, who is now running the Council on Foreign Relations, saying the United States needs a foreign policy that deals with the world as it is.
BROWNSTEIN: And if you take this literally, what you see is a real fissure among republicans. "The Weekly Standard" and the neoconservatives sort of clustered around that find this inspiring.
Many of the more traditional conservatives of "The National Review," what you saw from Peggy Noonan in "The Wall Street Journal," Richard Haas, would say, look, we're biting off more than we can chew. And there's a danger in understating crusades.
It's not clear that he means as much of a crusade as they're afraid of. And that's part of what the White House was trying to say in the next 96 hours. But again, what does he mean? And how do you move this forward?
I think, you know, the issue is how do we, in fact -- can we -- there is anything between the rhetorical exhortation of the speech and the full-scale military invasion that we saw in Iraq that will allow us to encourage other democracies? One model is the European Union, which has required democratic procedure and protection of individual rights as a condition for membership.
Is there something like that? Some of the Democratic candidates talking about that kind of idea, a club of democracies. Those are the kinds of things that might allow the president to put flesh on this in between those two polar extremes.
WOODRUFF: Well, at the very least, it is an inaugural address that has raised many questions.
BROWNSTEIN: And we'll be talking about it for a long time.
WOODRUFF: We sure will. Ron Brownstein, thanks very much.
BROWNSTEIN: Thank you.
WOODRUFF: We appreciate it.
Her name will be forever linked to one of the biggest scandals in American history. Coming up, Rose Mary Woods, President Nixon's secretary, has died at the age of 87. Bruce Morton looks back at her role in the Watergate scandal.
WOODRUFF: Americans are paying tribute today to show business icon Johnny Carson, who died yesterday at the age of 79. We'll have more on Carson's death coming up.
Some other prominent Americans also died over the weekend. Among them, David Nyhan, in influential political reporter and former columnist for the "Boston Globe" and a frequent guest here on INSIDE POLITICS.
Nyhan died yesterday at his Massachusetts home from a heart attack after shoveling snow. He retired from the "Globe" in 2001 after 32 years. David Nyhan was 64. We miss him.
Rose Mary Woods, a household name during the Watergate era, died Saturday at a nursing home in Ohio. Woods was the devoted secretary of the late President Richard Nixon. CNN's Bruce Morton takes a closer look at her role during those turbulent years in the Nixon White House.
BRUCE MORTON, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: For presidents, Rose Mary Woods was as close as family. In fact, Richard Nixon wrote in his memoirs that he asked her in August 1974 to break the news to his wife and daughters that he had decided to leave the White House to avoid impeachment over the Watergate scandal.
RICHARD M. NIXON, FMR. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I shall resign the presidency effective at noon tomorrow.
MORTON: They met years before that when he was a young congressman. She became his secretary when he was elected to the Senate in 1950, stayed with him when he was Dwight Eisenhower's president. Went back to California with him when he lost the presidency to John Kennedy in 1960, came back to the White House with him when he won it in 1968.
But fame came after the break-in at the Democratic Party's Watergate headquarters by burglars linked to Nixon's re-election campaign. What did the president know, was the question, and when did he know it?
Nixon secretly tape-recorded his White House meetings and Woods transcribed the session with the top aide HR Haldeman three days after the burglary, the discussion of how to divert attention from it. The tape turned out to have an 18.5 minute gap.
Woods demonstrated in this improbable photograph how she could have erased four or five minutes worth reaching for a telephone and accidentally hitting the wrong pedal on the tape machine. The rest of the gap remained a mystery.
She was the ideal presidential secretary. Nixon biographer Jonathan Aitken said she was intelligent, literate and clan-like in her discretion. Rose Mary Woods died Saturday. She was 87.
Bruce Morton, CNN, Washington.
WOODRUFF: And she was loyal to her boss.
At "The New York Times," a milestone for columnist William Safire. He's bidding his readers farewell today after more than 3,000 columns. But he is not retiring.
Safire says at 75, he still needs to keep trying something new. So he is starting a new career as the full-time chairman of the DANA Foundation, a private organization with interests in science, health and education.
We'll keep watching you, Bill Safire.
Well, Senate Republicans and Democrats lay out their agenda. Next up, we'll look at whether the two parties have any common goals.
Plus, how a late night appearance helped Bill Clinton raise his star power just days after he fell flat at the 1988 Democratic convention.
Those stories ahead on INSIDE POLITICS.
WOODRUFF: It is just about 4:00 in the East. And as the markets get set to close on Wall Street, I'm joined by Kitty Pilgrim in New York with "The Dobbs Report."
KITTY PILGRIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Thanks, Judy.
Well, investors were hoping for a bounce on Wall Street today after three straight weekly declines. By the way, that is the worst start to any year since 1982. No strength to be found today.
Now, the final trades are still being counted. But you can see the Dow industrials did lose on the day. The Nasdaq is also 1 percent lower.
Crude oil prices rose slightly today. Now, that blizzard this weekend increased demand for heating oil by 16 percent above normal levels. That's according to the National Weather Service.
The business of Washington this Monday got right to the key debate of Social Security. President Bush has said he has a goal of bringing big change during his second term in office. But, according to a new survey by the AARP, two out of three Americans over the age of 30 would rather not change the current system very much. The AARP has already come out against the Bush administration's idea of privatizing part of Social Security by allowing private accounts.
Well, there were national security concerns over one corporate deal. IBM's $1.25 billion deal with Chinese computer maker Lenovo has hit a snag. U.S. regulators are reportedly concerned the nearly done deal could pose a threat. And here's the worry. That the sale of IBM's P.C. unit to Lenovo could allow Chinese agents to steal important data from an IBM facility in North Carolina and use it for military purposes. IBM says it's following all normal procedures and filing the right paperwork with the government.
We'll have a full report on that story at 6:00 p.m. Eastern on "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT." Also, our special report, "Broken Borders." We take a look at how one state is fighting back against the flood of illegal aliens into its communities.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUSSELL PEARCE (R), ARIZONA STATE REP: Not all of them come here for jobs. We have a welfare system, they don't. They know that being poor America is a lot better than being poor someplace else. And this system can't sustain that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PILGRIM: Also tonight, the U.S. government has suspended its system of tracking illegal aliens working in America's heartland and we'll look at why they did it.
And then, is America losing its world dominance? Well, our guest tonight, author T.R. Reeve (ph), says Europe is re-emerging as the world's next superpower. Plus, the latest on the escalating violence in Iraq, just days away from its elections. All that tonight 6:00 p.m. Eastern.
But for now, back to Judy Woodruff in Washington -- Judy.
JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks, Kitty. We'll be watching you then. INSIDE POLITICS continues right now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Modernizing and strengthening the Social Security program is probably the most important domestic legislation we will address in this Congress.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This isn't a crisis, so why should we be lurching forward?
ANNOUNCER: And it's not only Social Security where Republicans and Democrats aren't seeing eye to eye. We'll look at the competing agendas on Capitol Hill. From challenging the presidential election to the Condoleezza Rice confirmation, Barbara Boxer is a thorn in the Republican side.
SEN. BARBARA BOXER (D), CALIFORNIA: I'm only doing my job, even though Andy Card would like me to go away. I'm not going to go away.
ANNOUNCER: Is the senator from California the new darling of the left?
Now, live from Washington, Judy Woodruff's INSIDE POLITICS.
WOODRUFF: Welcome back. As President Bush plows ahead with his second term agenda, sources say GOP Senate leaders and Republican members of the Finance Committee will meet with the president tomorrow to talk about Social Security. The meeting apparently is in response to growing questions and criticism within the party about the president's reform plan.
Meantime on Capitol Hill, Republican and Democratic leaders are drawing road maps for the legislative session and they clearly are anticipating some rough terrain ahead. Here now our congressional correspondent Joe Johns.
JOE JOHNS, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): There are high hopes for getting something done in the Senate this year.
SEN. BILL FRIST (R), MAJORITY LEADER: I hope that we continue and we will continue to reflect our desire, our willingness to work together. It's what I think, I know, the American people want.
JOHNS: But judging from their top priorities announced Monday, Republicans and Democrats start out miles apart as the new Congress gets down to work this week. Putting the hardest job first, Republicans placed revamping Social Security at the top of the list.
SEN. RICK SANTORUM, GOD CONFERENCE CHAIRMAN: I'm hopeful, in fact, optimistic. And we'll have some brave souls on the other side join some brave souls on this side and take on a task that we know is before us and have the courage to do it the right way.
JOHNS: But Democrats fail to see the urgency and didn't even make this presidential priority one of their goals.
SEN. HARRY REID (D), MINORITY LEADER: We have said that if he wants to do something to help in the out years and Senator Durbin outlined that, we'll be happy to take a look at that. But this isn't a crisis, so why should we be lurching forward?
JOHNS: Besides Social Security reform, Republicans are looking to make the tax cuts from the president's first term permanent and they're proposing a slew of health, safety and security measures. Democrats are renewing the call to increase the number of army troops and marines by 40,000. They want to increase education funding and like Republicans, they're calling for new measures to make healthcare more affordable.
But there's also already disagreement on the focus. Still, items not on either party's priority list could dominate, including judicial nominations.
REID: The president should, every day, hope that he gets the same cooperation from us he got last time.
JOHNS: And Conservatives will keep pushing social and cultural issues like abortion and the gay marriage amendment.
JOHNS: On the other hand, an early piece of legislation expected on the Senate floor is class action reform. This is a bill many Democrats say they think and pass the Senate as long as it goes through the regular committee process. So as it stands now, there appears to be some early agreement, at least on one piece of legislation right out of the blocks -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: Well, that's a little glimmer of positive news. Thank you very much, Joe, we appreciate it.
I talked about the Senate's agenda and other matters a short time ago with the Minority Leader Harry Reid. I began by asking him about a report that the president is proposing a freeze in non-defense discretionary spending and asked him if the Democrats will support it.
REID: We have to wait and see what the president is going to do. The domestic discretionary spending is important. When you talk about that, you're talking about all kind of programs that affect Americans every day. These aren't a bunch of plush programs. And the president has to give us something in writing. He's talked about Social Security for months and months now, we still haven't seen anything in writing.
And with these budget cuts, we'll take a look at them, we're happy to work with the president, but we're not going to do things that hurt seniors, we're not going to do things that hurt our education program, which is teetering anyway, public education. We have to make sure we protect the environment so people have fresh air to breathe and pure water to drink.
So, we'll take a look at this. Remember, domestic discretionary spending is a very small part of our budget and I think that there are other places he can look, rather than trying to do some of these programs in, so to speak.
WOODRUFF: But haven't Democrats made a point of criticizing the size of the deficit? Aren't, then, you obligated to go along with cuts and spending? REID: We have a place to look and that is what happened in the Clinton years. This isn't just pie in the sky. What we did is actually cut spending and we, during the years of the Clinton administration, the last three years of the Clinton administration, we were spending less money than we were taking in. We were paying down the debt.
So all this talk about we have to follow what the president's doing is poppycock. He has destroyed the economy of this country, largest deficits in history of the world. Every year he's president they get bigger. So, we, Democrats, believe in pay-as-you-go spending. Obviously, they don't.
WOODRUFF: Let me ask you about Iraq. Senator, are Democrats in general favoring the idea of keeping troops there until Iraq has a stable government?
REID: The president has a unique situation. He developed a theory how to win the war, but not the peace. I think that we have to make sure that we don't leave the people in Iraq like we left the people in Afghanistan after the Cold War became not -- for not.
And I am very concerned about what we're doing to the Middle East. I don't think we can cut and run from the Middle East, it wouldn't send much of a message. But in the process, we have to call upon NATO community to help us. We need the United Nations to be more fully involved and we've got to do a better, better job and I say that without any question, of having Iraqis help themselves.
WOODRUFF: Senator, another -- two other quick questions and I realize I'm changing subjects here, so, please forgive me. But abortion. You are anti-abortion rights. There is a Catholic pro-life group today calling for the church for bishops to stop giving communion to Catholic public office holders who are pro-abortion rights. Is your party particularly vulnerable on this question?
REID: Listen, I think that there are some Catholic leaders who are calling for that. I think it's wrong. I understand the Catholic Church pretty well and I understand how much they care about things like the poor and the oppressed and I think that we have to look at senators for what they are, not for just one thing. So, I think these people are very shortsighted in going after people for one issue. These one-issue proponents out there cause me concern every day.
WOODRUFF: Senator, finally, the Democratic National Committee, the chairmanship race. It looks as if the momentum is with Howard Dean. If he continues to collect support among the members of the DNC, are you prepared to support him?
REID: Well, today I received calls from two of -- I'm sorry, Governor Dean's opponents and they both tell me they have the vote. So, I don't know what's going to happen. We have 447 people. On February 12th, we will decide who is going to be head of the DNC. Whoever that choice is, I will support them and work with them the best I can.
WOODRUFF: Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid.
Well, I did mention abortion when I was doing that interview. And there is another wedge issue that tops today's political bite. Senate supporters of a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage say they intend to press for its passage in the new Congress. The measure failed last year and President Bush recently has sent mixed signals about the issue's importance in his second term.
The new chairman of the Republican National Committee acknowledges there may be some intraparty criticism of President Bush heading into the 2008 election. Ken Mehlman told CNN's Dana Bash he believes the party is more united by its principles and the current president than it is divided.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KEN MEHLMAN, RNC CHAIRMAN: I think that the incumbent president has a bold agenda and I'm confident that that bold agenda will help reflect positively on him, but there are always going to be people -- we're a big party, today the majority party of this country.
So, you're going to have people that disagree. That's fine, that's appropriate. When you're a big party, you want that to happen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOODRUFF: Meantime, at the Supreme Court today the justices refused to intervene in the legal battle over whether a comatose Florida woman should be allowed to die. Governor Jeb Bush had appealed a state supreme court decision overturning a law that gave him the authority to keep Terri Schiavo alive. Her husband has asked to have her feeding tube removed. She remains on the tube while appeals in this case continue.
Back on Capitol Hill, the political clashes are just beginning, but one Senate Democrat's aggressive tactics already standing out. Our Bill Schneider is listening to the buzz about Barbara Boxer.
Plus, the king of late-night political humor. Long before Leno or Letterman, our Johnny Carson memories, ahead.
WOODRUFF: Last week's presidential inauguration coupled with election gains by Republicans have some Democrats feeling they're losing their voices in the corridors of power. Our senior political analyst Bill Schneider says one voice for the left is speaking up.
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): The hottest figure among liberal Democrats right now is a woman senator from California who seems to be taking on the entire Bush administration singlehandedly. BARBARA BOXER (D), CALIFORNIA: I'm only doing my job, even though Andy Card would like me to go away. I'm not going to go away.
SCHNEIDER: On January 6 Barbara Boxer was the only senator to object to the electoral vote count thereby delaying the results and forcing a debate over election irregularities.
BOXER: It's not about overturning election, but I'll tell you from my perspective, to me, it's the opening round, for me, personally, in the battle for electoral justice.
SCHNEIDER: And annoying her colleagues.
BOXER: I've always said that the thing about the House and Senate people love to do the most is nothing.
SCHNEIDER: Last week Senator Boxer infuriated the White House even more when she went after Condoleezza Rice.
BOXER: I personally believe, this is my personal view, that your loyalty to the mission you were given to sell this war overwhelmed your respect for the truth.
SCHNEIDER: Rice responded with obvious irritation.
CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE NOMINEE: I would hope that we can have this conversation and discuss what happened before and what went on before and what I said without impugning my credibility or my integrity.
SCHNEIDER: Some Democrats also expressed irritation with Boxer's aggressive tactics.
GOV. ED RENDELL (D), PENNSYLVANIA: Did Barbara Boxer do it in a style that I would agree with? No.
SCHNEIDER: But the left is lauding her courage. And she has earned the ultimate anti-establishment accolade, a spoof by "Saturday Night Live's" Amy Poller (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Let me show you something. This is the number zero on a piece of paper, which represents how many weapons of mass destruction have been found in Iraq. Right here is a graph that I made. The yellow bar -- the yellow bar represents the truth, the blue bar represents what you say. Blue equals lies. As you can see the blue bar is crazy higher than the yellow.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Once again, senator, I'm going to get confirmed.
SCHNEIDER: How could Senator Boxer do this? Well, she just got re-elected for six years by more than 2 million votes. And privately, another Democratic senator told me, a lot of her Democratic colleagues were saying, you go, girl. WOODRUFF: If that's the case, Bill, if they think it's good what she's saying, why aren't they joining her? Why aren't they being as outspoken as she is?
SCHNEIDER: The answer is, they were not just re-elected for another six years by 2 million votes. They are far less safe than she is.
WOODRUFF: So you're saying she has a little political cushion.
SCHNEIDER: Yes, she does. California.
WOODRUFF: Bill Schneider, thank you.
A top official with the Department of Homeland Security, we learn, is quitting his job. Just ahead, we'll tell you who's leaving and what his plans are.
WOODRUFF: In our CNN security watch, the nation's homeland security department is losing one of its top officials. Asa Hutchinson has resigned effective March 1. Hutchinson is in charge of border and transportation security issues. The former congressman from Arkansas says he is excited about other options, including a possible run for governor of his home state.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ASA HUTCHINSON, HLS UNDERSECRETARY: All options are on the table and, certainly, with a governor's race open in '06. That's something that I'll be happy to talk to the people of Arkansas about and something that would have to be considered.
WOODRUFF: In another security related matter, President's Bush's nominee to replace Attorney General John Ashcroft, Alberto Gonzales is expected to face a confirmation vote by the Senate judiciary committee in the coming days.
Last week Democrats asked for a delay in the vote and Democratic leaders are still expressing concern about the nomination. Senator Joseph Biden of Delaware said yesterday he is inclined to vote against Gonzales because of his ties to the Bush administration's policies concerning the treatment of prisoners from Iraq and Afghanistan.
And this programming note, coming up at 8:00 p.m. Eastern on "PAULA ZAHN NOW," a look at airline safety with the focus on maintenance and cheap labor. Stay tuned to CNN day and night for the most reliable news about your security.
From the Kennedy era through the first Bush presidency, Johnny Carson helped us see the funny side of our elected leaders. Coming up, we'll remember the late comedian's contributions to political humor.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) WOODRUFF: We all know that political humor has become a staple of late-night television due in large part to the man who reined supreme in that time slot for decades. Johnny Carson's death yesterday at the age of 79 got us to thinking about all the politicians he had on his show over the years and all the laughs he gave us.
JOHNNY CARSON, HOST: During the run of the show there have been seven different United States presidents and thankfully for comedy there have been eight vice presidents.
WOODRUFF (voice-over): He was an equal opportunity needler.
CARSON: Do you get the feeling that Dan Quayle's golf bag doesn't have a full set of irons?
WOODRUFF: Securing politicians with a gentle touch.
CARSON: Senator, Mrs. Kennedy are expecting their tenth child. If I understand, Ethel Kennedy is demanding a civilian review board.
WOODRUFF: Welcoming the powerful, making them seem a little more like the rest of us.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because I ride up and down in my building every day in the elevator and I see a man that says he is Johnny Carson. Great to see you finally.
WOODRUFF: Offering the wounded a second chance.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You come over on television like gangbusters. Boy, I'm the expert on how important that is.
CARSON: You're not going to lend me your makeup man, are you?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I wouldn't lend him to Lyndon Johnson.
WOODRUFF: In 1988 after a rising star from Arkansas bombed on one national stage.
WILLIAM CLINTON, FMR. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In closing...
WOODRUFF : Carson saved him on another matching an endless convention speech with an endless introduction.
CARSON: Bill Clinton is the four-time governor of Arkansas. He also oversaw Arkansas's once depressed state economy. Clinton expanded his horizons as a Rhodes scholar studying at England's renowned Oxford University. He returned to America. Here's a man who needs no introduction, the honorable Bill Clinton of Arkansas.
WOODRUFF: Was it the comeback kid's first comeback.
CARSON: I thank you for coming here tonight and my first question is how are you?
WOODRUFF: And what if Carson himself...
CARSON: A tongue, teeth and a foot. What's inside Ronald Reagan's mouth?
WOODRUFF: Where did his own politics lie? Not even Carnac the magnificent could answer that one.
WOODRUFF: But we'd sure like to know. Thank you, Johnny Carson.
Tonight, a CNN primetime exclusive. Ed McMahon will talk with Larry King about his 30 years in the chair next to Johnny Carson. That's at 9:00 Eastern here on CNN.
That's it for INSIDE POLITICS this Monday. I'm Judy Woodruff. Thank you for joining us. "CROSSFIRE" starts right now.
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