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JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS
Upcoming Iraqi Election; The Greatest Generation; Paid Pundits
Aired January 28, 2005 - 15:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: The balloting begins. Iraqis around the world cast votes before Sunday's election in their homeland.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The advent of democracy in Iraq will serve as a powerful example to reformers throughout the entire Middle East.
ANNOUNCER: Reflections on the U.S. mission in Iraq from two senators who served over a half century ago.
SEN. JOHN WARNER (R), VIRGINIA: They're just as good. In many respects better. We go about our lives today without any feeling of sacrifice as we did in World War II.
ANNOUNCER: Pundit payola. New evidence the practice may be more common than you might think.
Vice President Cheney out in the cold. Wisely bundled up or a fashion faux pas?
ANNOUNCER: Now, live from Washington, JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS.
JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you for joining us.
In many cities across the United States and around the world Iraqi expatriates are casting ballots today, hoping they say to make sure their homeland is free and more secure. One voter calls it the best thing she's ever done in her life.
As many as 280,000 expatriates are expected to vote in 14 countries from Australia to Jordan, from the Netherlands to the United States. Of course, the much tougher test of democracy comes Sunday, when voters in Iraq are expected to go to the polls. Despite ongoing violence in Baghdad today, new attacks that killed five U.S. troops and fresh warnings from insurgents threatening to "wash the streets with voters' blood."
Here in Washington, President Bush promoted the Iraqi vote and his new secretary of state during Condoleezza Rice's formal swearing- in ceremony this morning.
The Iraq vote, we know, will be a formidable test of the Bush administration's policy. We're joined now by acting assistant secretary of state, Michael Kozak.
Secretary Kozak, good to see you. Thanks very much.
MICHAEL KOZAK, ACTING ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE, BUREAU OF DEMOCRACY, HUMAN RIGHTS AND LABOR: Nice to be here.
WOODRUFF: How confident are you that the polling places are going to be secure enough for people to vote?
KOZAK: Well, I think, you know, you have to look at both the desire of the people to vote. And that's certainly evident in all the polling we've done. Way over 80 percent of Iraqis say they want to vote in these elections.
And I think all the Iraqi government, and backed up by the multinational forces, have done all proper measures to bring as much security to the polling places. But at the end of the day, it's going to be regular Iraqi citizens who are going to make the difference.
I remember 20 years ago in El Salvador, where we had the same kind of threats by guerrillas and -- actually shooting at people in voting lines. But when people came out, they faced these guys down. And that was the beginning of a turning point in that -- that country's political evolution. And I think we're going to see the same thing this weekend.
WOODRUFF: Are Iraqis who don't choose to vote out of fear justified in staying away from the polls?
KOZAK: Well, I think everybody's got to make their own assessments. And people obviously have a choice to be in a free society, whether they vote or not.
What they shouldn't have, people trying to intimidate them from voting. But the blame for that lies with the -- with the people who are making those threats. And I think the -- again, the Iraqi government and security forces and the multinational forces have -- have taken fairly strong measures to provide security.
You also see it in the work of the Iraqi Central Election Commission, which has taken special steps in some of the provinces where there have been particular security issues. For example, they will allow people to vote at any voting station in the province, rather than the one that's in their neighborhood. So that way people can make a judgment if there's a problem in their -- in their normal station. They can go, you know, a mile or two over and find a place where it's more feasible.
WOODRUFF: I asked you that question because I saw you were quoted a couple weeks ago in "USA Today" as saying, "If people don't show up to vote, they have no one to blame but themselves."
KOZAK: Yes. That was more in reaction, though, to someone asking about a boycott, a political boycott. WOODRUFF: Oh, OK.
KOZAK: And I said, obviously, people can choose to boycott, but then they have to live with the consequences of that.
WOODRUFF: The former president of the Iraqi Governing Council, Adnan Pachachi, is quoted as saying he thinks in some of the major Sunni provinces, maybe only 20 percent will turn out to vote. Is that what you're hearing?
KOZAK: Well, we'll see on election day. I think I was on one show a couple weeks ago where a gentleman said that he'd been talking to his sister and that she and her husband and son planned to vote. They weren't telling people and they were going to wait until election day to figure out the best way to do it. But they said it was a gift from god and they weren't turning it down by giving into these kinds of threats.
WOODRUFF: If people don't vote on election day because of some clear threat or intimidation, is there any way for them to vote later, or is that it?
KOZAK: Well, again, this is up to the Central Election Commission of Iraq. At this point, there's no plan for any such action as that, but the Central Election Commission has been working with the United Nations, with the International Foundation for Electoral Systems, and others, to set up a system that really provides the maximum degree of convenience and security for people in the circumstances they face.
But I think the bottom line is, there will be problems. This is a country that hasn't had elections in, well, real elections in half a century. And so all -- just all the machinery of elections had to be set up from scratch. And I think the Iraqi Central Election Commission and the U.N. have done a fantastic job in getting all those mechanics in place.
There will be glitches. There will be administrative problems. And occasionally you'll find some place where it just doesn't come off.
KOZAK: But it's a question if -- in most of the country, you're able to vote and have your votes counted fairly and so on, it's going to be a credible election.
WOODRUFF: Michael Kozak, who is assistant -- acting assistant secretary of state at the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, thank you very much.
KOZAK: Thank you, Judy.
WOODRUFF: We appreciate it.
WOODRUFF: Stay with CNN for up-to-the-minute coverage of the Iraqi elections. Voter security will be the focus also on "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS" at 5:00 p.m. Eastern. And at 7:00 Eastern, a two-hour CNN special report, "Iraq Votes," with reports on Iraqi expatriates casting ballots in this country and how U.S. troops have sacrificed to make the election possible.
Like so many Americans, members of the House and Senate are following the Iraq vote with wariness and with hope. The U.S. military's role is of special interest to a handful of senators who served in uniform themselves decades ago. Here now, our congressional correspondent, Ed Henry.
ED HENRY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They are two of only five World War II vets left in the Senate. This gives John Warner and Frank Lautenberg a special bond and unique perspective.
LAUTENBERG: I lost a lot of friends during World War II, people -- I enlisted December 12, 1942, and fellows from the neighborhood.
WARNER: We all went.
LAUTENBERG: And we were glad to go.
LAUTENBERG: Glad to serve.
WARNER: Remember when they came back home with the uniforms and how you and I couldn't wait to go and get ours?
HENRY: They each enlisted as teenagers. Warner in the Navy, followed by service in the Korean War as a Marine officer. Lautenberg picked the Army Signal Corps and saw heavy fire in Belgium in 1944.
LAUTENBERG: We were climbing poles, repairing cables and splicing things that the Germans had...
WARNER: But you did tell me about while you were on the top of that poll one day, one of Hitler's buzz bombs on the way to England went right across the top of the poll.
LAUTENBERG: Well, that buzz bomb was on the way to Antwerp and knocked me off.
WARNER: Oh, I see.
LAUTENBERG: But, fortunately, because I got so scared, I was on my way down and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) my telephone. But the -- no, you know, those experiences for both of us I think helped make build a little bit of character and understanding about the national purpose.
HENRY: They did this reminiscing on a day when 37 U.S. troops died in Iraq.
LAUTENBERG: Awful day.
WARNER: Worst day.
HENRY: These men of the greatest generation marvel at the courage of the latest generation.
WARNER: They're just as good. In many respects better. We had the whole country behind us. America today is embracing our men and women, but we go about our lives today without any feeling of sacrifice as we did in World War II.
HENRY: Both have been moved by visits to Walter Reed Army Hospital.
WARNER: And how many of them there with severed legs or arms say to me, "Well, Senator, I want to go back and rejoin my unit."
LAUTENBERG: At Walter Reed, I met a young man who had lost his sight. And his wife was sitting there with him and he said, "You know" -- he said, "I'll never see my 28-month-old daughter again, but I still want to hold her in my arms. And I'm so glad to be alive."
HENRY: Warner served as Navy secretary during Vietnam, so he knows how war can spin out of control. Now, as chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, this Republican is growing restless about Iraq.
WARNER: But we better bear down with tremendous strength on the Iraqi people and say, "You've got to shape up and get these folks trained. And once trained, they're going to stay in that uniform and finish that job."
HENRY: Warner grew emotional as he discussed the phone calls he makes to every family from Virginia who loses a loved one in Iraq. He can't get the last two calls out of his mind.
WARNER: I always conclude by saying, "Now, I'm ready to receive your telephone call any time, day or night, to do anything I can possibly do to help you. Is there anything I can do?" And there's a pause, and in a respectful way, they say "Get the rest of those fellas out of Iraq as fast as you can."
HENRY: These old soldiers are vowing to do just that.
Ed Henry, CNN, Capitol Hill.
WOODRUFF: That's something to think about.
Well, we'll have more on the Iraq vote ahead. Do Donna Brazile and Bay Buchanan agree on what's at stake?
Up next, was the Armstrong Williams incident just the tip of the iceberg? Howard Kurtz will have the latest on government payments to pundits.
And later, President Bush huddles with congressional Republicans. Are they on the same page?
Plus, confronting critics in the "Political Play of the Week."
WOODRUFF: The first names were Armstrong Williams and Maggie Gallagher. Now "USA Today" reports another conservative columnist has been paid for work on behalf of the Bush administration's efforts to promote marriage.
Howard Kurtz of CNN's "RELIABLE SOURCES" has the story.
HOWARD KURTZ, HOST, "RELIABLE SOURCES" (voice-over): Liberal "New York Times" columnist Maureen Dowd jokes that she wants to join the conservative media lead and rent out her column to the highest bidder. But the issue of pundit payola is no joke to the Bush administration, which today is grappling with a third case of payments to a conservative commentator.
The Health and Human Services Department paid pro-marriage activist and syndicated columnist Mike McManus at least $4,000 to train what are called marriage mentors under President Bush's marriage initiative. The same program that paid commentator Maggie Gallagher $21,000 to write brochures and do other work for the program. McManus told "USA Today" that he was hired for his expertise in working with churches, and that the money, including $49,000 in federal funds to his group, Marriage Savers, hasn't influenced his writing.
The biggest buck-raker to date is commentator Armstrong Williams, who took $240,000 from the Education Department to promote the president's No Child Left Behind law. None of the three told their readers and viewers about the government contracts before the payments were disclosed by news organizations. All of which has a lot of people asking, how independent are journalists and commentators anyway?
Senator John Thune paid two bloggers to attack his opponent, former minority leader, Tom Daschle, in last year's campaign. And the bloggers, one of them, John Lau (ph) got $27,000 and did not disclose it. A former aide to Howard Dean says his presidential campaign paid bloggers to say nice things about the candidate, although one of them, whose site is called "Daily Kos," did disclosed the payments for what he called technical assistance.
Where should the line be drawn? Some journalists and commentators from Pat Buchanan to Jack Germond, speak to corporate groups and trade associations for fees that can reach as high as $50,000 for the biggest names.
And there is criticism about pundits quietly huddling with politicians even when no money changes hands, such as when James Carville and Paul Begala served as informal advisers to John Kerry's campaign while co-hosting CNN's "CROSSFIRE."
ANNOUNCER: On the left, James Carville and Paul Begala. KURTZ: "Weekly Standard" editor Bill Kristol and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer have recently offered advice to top White House officials in private meetings. But both men say they pedal opinions for a living and see nothing wrong with the practice.
(on camera): At the heart of this debate is the question of credibility. Are commentators influenced by being too cozy with politicians or by sizeable paychecks from government agencies?
The Democrats have demanded an investigation and want to outlaw what they call covert propaganda. President Bush realizes that pundit payola looks bad, which is why he's asked his cabinet heads to stop the practices.
Howard Kurtz, CNN's "RELIABLE SOURCES."
WOODRUFF: Thank you, Howard.
And joining me now with her take on all this, CNN contributor and former Pentagon spokeswoman, Torie Clark.
You also, I want to say, worked for the first Bush administration...
TORIE CLARK, FMR. PENTAGON SPOKESWOMAN: I did.
WOODRUFF: ... in several capacity.
CLARK: A long time ago.
WOODRUFF: So you not only know how government works, you know how the press works. You worked for a newspaper here in Washington.
CLARK: A very long time ago, 25 years ago.
WOODRUFF: A long time ago. How much more of this do you suspect there is out there, Torie?
CLARK: I don't know. You know, it's pretty amazing. You know, how often in this town do you say, "Boy, how could people be so dumb?"
But this is -- this is a stupid thing to do, and it's a wrong thing to do for the obvious reasons. And you'd think that a message has been pretty clearly communicated when the president of the United States says this is wrong, don't do it.
You know, I hate to think that every head of every agency now has to send out a memo to people saying, OK, let's check every nook and cranny to make sure. But they ought to be doing it. If they're not doing it now, they ought to be doing it pretty darn soon.
WOODRUFF: What would -- what do you think would possess, or why would someone in a government agency have gotten the idea that this was OK? CLARK: Stupid. That's the only thing I can think of. You know, the world of information is getting very complex. What's a blogger? Is a blogger a journalist? Should they be held to the same standards that you are right now? Probably not, but who knows?
But when it comes to very traditional mainstream media, there is a very bright line. And you shouldn't be doing that. So I can't imagine what possessed somebody, other than they were very desperate to try to get out their story.
WOODRUFF: Well, now we're reading this week that the Bush administration has paid public relations firms something like $250 million to help push Bush proposals. They say this is double what the Clinton administration spent.
Now, is this -- is this tax payer money, you know, well spent? I mean, is it appropriate?
CLARK: Again, it's the reflection of the times in which information increasingly plays a very, very important role. There is nothing new about the United States government having outside consultants for a variety of things.
The Department of Defense has paid contractors for years to build planes and ships. This is another tool, if you will, that people in the government use.
But I do think people need to draw some pretty bright lines. The president has. The president has drawn a very bright line about what he thinks is appropriate and what he thinks is inappropriate. I think everyone in the government needs to take stock of that.
WOODRUFF: Were you ever aware when you worked in government, either first Bush administration or this administration, first term, of this kind of practice under way anywhere in the government?
CLARK: Never. Never. We were very aggressive.
I was very aggressive at the Pentagon about bringing people in to talk to groups, whether it was education leaders, labor leaders, religious leaders. Across the board we'd bring people in to talk to them and try to explain our positions and our views on things. But that was the extent of our outreach.
WOODRUFF: What is the line here, though? Because, you know, as we just saw on Howard Kurtz's report...
CLARK: It was interesting.
WOODRUFF: ... you have people who are doing commentary and going out and making speeches before different groups.
CLARK: Again, I think on some things, it's a pretty easy, bright line. Traditional mainstream news media, we know who you are, you know who we are. I think it is very easy to draw that line. I think it's harder when you get into some of these peripheral growing fields and disciplines, if you will. I think that is much, much harder. It does bring to bear, though, the importance of transparency.
If people would disclose everything, who gets paid for what and when did they get paid for it, then people, the American people can make up their own minds whether or not they think it is appropriate. They can make up their own minds if they think a news maker, a journalist who is out giving speeches is credible when he's on the air talking about another issue. The more transparency we brought to all it, the better off we'd all be.
WOODRUFF: So are we going to ultimately learn if there's any more of this out there? I mean, do you assume it's all going to get smoked out?
CLARK: I think these days everything comes out. If somebody's doing something bad, they ought not to be doing it for the obvious reasons. And then just be smart.
We're in an era in which information will get out eventually. So I don't think it's beyond belief.
WOODRUFF: Very quickly, I want to clarify, you are a contributor for CNN.
CLARK: That's right.
WOODRUFF: So you're paid by CNN.
CLARK: That's right.
WOODRUFF: You don't have any affiliation with the Bush administration anymore?
CLARK: None. None whatsoever.
WOODRUFF: Torie Clark making it clear. Thank you very much.
CLARK: Good to see you.
WOODRUFF: It's always good to have you on. We appreciate it.
WOODRUFF: Thank you.
President Bush and the Iraq elections. Coming up, Donna Brazile and Bay Buchanan weigh in on the effect of Sunday's vote.
Also, we'll get Donna and Bay's take on something very different, the vice president's attire at the somber 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz Nazi death camp.
WOODRUFF: With me now, former Gore campaign manager, Donna Brazile, and Bay Buchanan, president of American Cause.
Bay, is the president's Iraq policy at stake in these elections Sunday?
BAY BUCHANAN, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN CAUSE: Obviously, this is a very important moment. You cannot deny that.
In order for him to have the support of the American people, there's got to be some success on Sunday. A way to say that this was a giant step forward. Maybe we won't have as many vote as we hope, but enough to make it so it's a very legitimate election and you can see the Iraqi people moving forward towards democracy.
WOODRUFF: Is his policy at stake?
DONNA BRAZILE, FMR. GORE CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Well, he has a lot at stake on Sunday. Of course, at first, he said we were going there to rid Saddam of weapons of mass destruction. The connection to al Qaeda, none of those things panned out.
So clearly, his last rationale, we're going there to bring about democracy. So clearly, he has a lot at stake. If we don't succeed this Sunday in allowing millions of Iraqis to participate, people will once again question the policy.
BUCHANAN: But I think the good news is that the American people want this to succeed. They clearly...
BRAZILE: No question.
BUCHANAN: ... without question, understand the real bravery and courage of those Iraqis who are coming out to vote, especially the Sunnis, who is really -- they're risking their lives to do so. And so if we see that these people really are interested in having this self- determination, I think we'll be more interested in helping the president see that happen.
WOODRUFF: But how do you measure success? What's the difference between a successful election and one that isn't?
BRAZILE: Well, they'll look at the turnout, of course, to see if millions of Iraqis were able to participate. Of course, as Bay said, they're risking their lives, as well as limbs and others and property.
Some people tonight are just moving closer to the polling site so they don't have to drive or they don't have to, you know, go a great distance to -- in order to vote. So they will measure it by the number of people who turn out.
But I think long term, we've got to measure it in terms of -- I mean, is the country stable? Have we been able to help with the reconstruction efforts? This is still a risky gamble for the president.
BUCHANAN: And I think you also -- you judge it, what happens three months, four months? Do we see this parliament putting together a constitution? Is one being hammered out with these different parties which we never thought could be brought together? If that happens, it will be a success.
WOODRUFF: All right. I want to move you on now to a story that is not as important as this one but one that is getting some attention in the newspaper.
And that is, one day after attending the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz Nazi death camp in Poland, Vice President Dick Cheney is being chastised for what he wore to ward off the bitter cold weather. While virtually all the other dignitaries were dressed in dark formal overcoats, hats and shoe, Cheney chose an olive drab parka with fur-trimmed hood, a ski cap and hiking boots.
Now, "The Washington Post" fashion writer, Robin Givhan, noted today that "Cheney's attire was more appropriate for operating a snow blower," she wrote, "than a somber event where he was representing the United States." We tried to contact the vice president's staff for reaction to the story in "The Post." We were not able to reach anyone because they were still traveling.
Now, having clarified all that, Bay, was it appropriate or not?
BUCHANAN: Listen, even that -- this article was completely petty and catty, and the woman that wrote it even herself admitted that the vice president showed enormous thoughtfulness and respectfulness at this occasion. And so what is she talking about?
She didn't like the way he dressed. That's all. And he needed to stay warm. He chose those clothes that keep him warm. And I strongly suggest here that there could have been an advance man problem, that he wasn't properly informed as to the kind of occasion, the kind of clothes he needed to bring with him.
WOODRUFF: Well, there's a way to stay warm and still be appropriate. But do clothes matter in a situation like this?
BRAZILE: Well, clearly he could have borrowed the clothes he wore at his swearing-in and it would have been appropriate. But, look, I'm no fashion critic or fashion police. I understand.
He looked cozy, in my judgment. Perhaps another vice president in earth tones, no problem with that. But clearly, you know, the vice president didn't get the memo that this was a solemn occasion, that perhaps he could have used his inaugural suit and jacket to show more respect.
WOODRUFF: Well, I'm certainly not going to criticize anybody for clothes.
(CROSSTALK) BUCHANAN: It's clearly borrowed. It looks like some staffer handed it to him, and more than likely, Lynne said, put this on, Dick. You need to stay warm.
So this is just -- what happened is I'm sure they're opened their suitcases and said, "We don't have the right clothes, but we're going to stay warm."
BRAZILE: More appropriate in Wyoming, but not appropriate for that occasion.
BUCHANAN: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) warm clothes.
BRAZILE: Yes, they did.
WOODRUFF: All right. We've talk talked about everything from Iraq to the vice president's clothes today. Thank you very much.
BRAZILE: Stay warm, Mr. Vice President.
BUCHANAN: That's right. I'm with you.
BRAZILE: Stay warm.
BUCHANAN: And healthy.
WOODRUFF: Donna and Bay, thank you both. We'll see you next week. We appreciate it.
BRAZILE: Thank you.
WOODRUFF: Well, Condi Rice may need to stand up to Vice President Cheney and other administration figures in her new job as secretary of state. Coming up, we'll look at how she has handled confrontation and criticism.
Plus, Howard Dean hits high Iowa and New Hampshire Democrats where they live. More INSIDE POLITICS ahead.
WOODRUFF: It's just after 4:00 in the East and as the markets close on Wall Street, I'm joined by Christine Romans in New York with "The Dobbs Report." Hello, Christine.
CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Judy. Well, stocks are broadly lower once again. Blue chips getting way down by Procter & Gamble and Merck. Both of them in the news today. As the final trades are still being counted, the Dow industrials down about 41 points. The Nasdaq nearly one percent lower.
Some economic numbers disappointing investors today. GDP, that's gross domestic product -- it grew at an annual rate of just 3.1 percent in the fourth quarter. That was slower than expected and the slowest pace of growth in two years. Economists blame a drop in U.S. exports. But for all of last year, GDP grew by a very solid 4.4 percent.
A major deal between two of the countries biggest and best-known makers of consumer goods. Procter & Gamble has agreed to buy Gillette for $57 billion. Now, that combination would create the world's largest consumer products company, taking that title from European- based Unilever. Now, in addition to razors, blades, shaving cream, Gillette is also a leading maker of batteries, toothbrushes, and men's deodorant. Now by controlling more of the market, the deal might allow P&G to fight off pricing pressures from discount retailers like Wal-Mart.
Now, the federal investigation into Merck's arthritis drug Vioxx is going deeper. The SEC sent the company a formal notice of its investigation related to that drug's withdrawal. Subpoenas could follow to find out when the company became aware of the deadly side effects related to Vioxx. Merck withdrew the drug last year when a study revealed it doubled the risk of heart attack and stroke in patients. Merck stock tumbling 10 percent today. Also feeding those losses, a federal judge ruled Merck's osteoporosis drug Fosamax, will lose its patent protection years earlier than planned.
Coming up on CNN at 6:00 p.m. Eastern on "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT," days before the elections in Iraq, we honor a hero who helped fight for that country's freedom. He tells us his story of bravery and survival.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SSGT. DENNIS GRIFFEE, U.S. ARMY: Nobody could figure out how we lived through it. Everybody agreed that we should have been all killed. And then you have to deal with the questions of why am I still here and why did -- you know, why did my driver die?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROMANS: Also tonight, we take a look at the possibility of democracy in Iraq. Michael Rubin, former adviser to the coalition government there, will join us. Then in our special series, "Broken Borders," illegal aliens using tax I.D. cards to obtain privileges usually reserved for U.S. citizens. We look into why some states are allowing it, in fact, even encouraging it. Then Senator Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat from California, tells us about her fight with the federal government over the immigration service in our country. All that and more tonight at 6:00 p.m. Eastern on CNN.
Now back to Judy Woodruff in Washington -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: Christine, thanks. And we'll see you at 6:00.
INSIDE POLITICS continues right now.
ANNOUNCER: Keeping his party in line. GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We know how to set an agenda and work together to achieve it.
ANNOUNCER: Are congressional Republicans firmly behind President Bush when it comes to Social Security and other hot button issues?
They served in Iraq and paid a heavy price. Now, some soldiers speak out about their sacrifice for this weekend's vote.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Iraq is going to be free. Iraq is going to have free elections.
ANNOUNCER: Now, live from Washington, Judy Woodruff's INSIDE POLITICS.
WOODRUFF: Welcome back. President Bush told congressional Republicans today he is doing verbal jumping jacks to warm up for his State of the Union address next week. But Mr. Bush may have been warming up his political muscles in another way, by trying to get some restive members of his own party to see things his way. That kind of cajoling happened behind closed doors at the GOP retreat in West Virginia. Publicly, Mr. Bush was nothing but upbeat about his party and his agenda.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: I think we've proven to the country we know how to set an agenda and work together to achieve it. Now, people ought to view this team we've put together, the relationship between the executive branch and the legislative branch, as people who come to Washington, D.C., to solve problems. And we have done so over the last four years and we will continue to do so for the next four years.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOODRUFF: So, what are the lawmakers at the retreat saying about the party's agenda? We sent our congressional correspondent Joe Johns out to West Virginia to find out.
JOE JOHNS, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At the historic Greenbrier resort, which once housed a Cold War bomb shelter for the Congress, Republicans from the Senate and House huddled on Friday, talking war, money and entitlements.
REP. ERIC CANTOR (R), VIRGINIA: Whether it's Social Security reform, whether it's to continue the efforts in Iraq and across the world to spread freedom and democracy. It's -- we're having the discussion now on the budget.
JOHNS: Of these, it is the war that looms largest for House Armed Services Committee chairman, Duncan Hunter. REP. DUNCAN HUNTER (R), CALIFORNIA: We have to remind ourselves constantly that there is, while we're talking about Social Security at this retreat, there is no Social Security if you don't have national security.
JOHNS: With the Iraqi elections on Sunday, Hunter says exit strategy for the American forces must be tied to the readiness of the Iraqis.
HUNTER: We are going to get out, but the key to getting out is to stand up the Iraqi military.
JOHNS: With the administration already asking for $80 billion more for Iraq, Republicans also face a difficult balancing act this year, with the federal deficit growing to record levels. Congressman Steve Buyer, new chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee, served in the first Gulf War.
REP. STEPHEN BUYER (R), INDIANA: Those are the challenges of a nation. How do we -- we're engaged in the world, we're fighting a multi-front war and we have domestic responsibilities.
JOHNS: And with the administration pushing hard for changes to Social Security, intense pressure is building on all sides. Senator Rick Santorum has challenged conventional wisdom before.
SEN. RICK SANTORUM (R), PENNSYLVANIA: I think most of our members understand, particularly because of the last couple of election cycles, that the dynamics of Social Security and politics of Social Security has changed.
JOHNS: John Thune, who unseated Tom Daschle in South Dakota, was attending his first retreat as a senator. He says the debate over Social Security is in some ways a continuation of the battles he and others fought on the road to Capitol Hill.
SEN. JOHN THUNE (R), SOUTH DAKOTA: Everybody, to the person, really campaigned on reforming Social Security, personal retirement accounts, giving people more choices and more options and making sure that we don't pass on a $10 trillion tax increase to the next generation.
JOHNS: Needless to say, there is a lot of disagreement among Republicans that is being underplayed here. Democrats, for their part, are basically casting down on this event here in Greenbrier. They say among other things, that the president's call on Social Security is something they just can't live with. Of course, they say there's no crisis. The Democrats, themselves, are going to hold their own retreat in Virginia next week. So Republicans will have, then, a chance to take a shot at them.
Judy, back to you.
WOODRUFF: So when they do have disagreements inside the party, they don't like to talk about it in public.
JOHNS: They certainly don't and they're not talking about it today, but I bet you we'll hear about it again when we get back to Washington.
WOODRUFF: OK. Joe Johns, covering the Republican retreat out at the Greenbrier. Thank you, Joe.
Well, before heading to West Virginia, President Bush attended a formal swearing-in ceremony for his new secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice. This week Rice proved she knows how to handle her critics diplomatically, and our Bill Schneider says that earns her the political "Play of the Week."
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): The secretary of state is the nation's chief diplomat.
CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE: In all that lies ahead, the primary instrument of America diplomacy will be the Department of State.
SCHNEIDER: At her confirmation hearings, Condoleezza Rice showed that she could handle criticism diplomatically.
RICE: Senator, I'm happy to continue the discussion, but I really hope that you will not imply that I take the truth lightly.
SCHNEIDER: After years of working closely with President Bush, Rice was challenged to show her independence. Her response was impeccably diplomatic.
RICE: I have no difficulty telling the president exactly what I think. I've done that for four years. Sometimes he agrees and sometimes he doesn't. The fact is that I felt very strongly that no one else should ever know the times when he disagreed and the times when he didn't.
SCHNEIDER: Dr. Rice was schooled in the foreign policy tradition of realism where interests are what matters.
RICE: I'm a student of the Cold War. I'm a Cold War baby.
SCHNEIDER: But she had a transformation, just like President Bush.
RICE: September 11, 2001 made us see more clearly than ever how our values and our interests are linked and joined across the globe.
SCHNEIDER: Some critics of the administration welcome her confirmation as a chance to balance the president's grandiose impulses.
Former United Nations ambassador Andrew Young writes that "Rice has an opportunity to develop a less arrogant, cooperative vision for the planet. She is the most powerful woman on the planet."
The Bush administration has been big on ideals and short on diplomacy. Condoleezza Rice intends to correct that imbalance.
RICE: We must use American diplomacy to help create a balance of power that favors freedom. The time for diplomacy is now.
SCHNEIDER: And the time for the political play of the week is also now.
(on camera): It's been noted that 13 senators voted against Rice's confirmation. The higher -- highest number of votes against a secretary of state in 180 years. But, you know, the two Democratic rock stars, Hillary Clinton and Barak Obama both voted for her.
WOODRUFF: And wonder what that means.
SCHNEIDER: Maybe they have bigger plans.
WOODRUFF: You know that Evan Bayh voted against her. We can talk about all that later on.
SCHNEIDER: He certainly did. So did John Kerry.
WOODRUFF: That's right. Bill Schneider, thank you very much.
By the way Condoleezza Rice will make one of her first television appearances as secretary of state this weekend here on "LATE EDITION" with Wolf Blitzer. That is Sunday at 12:00 Eastern on CNN.
We will get another take on the election in Iraq from U.S. troops who served and suffered wounds there.
Also ahead: will New York voters see a blast from the Nixon era past in 2006?
And later, believe it or not conservatives are saying thank you to Hollywood.
WOODRUFF: Iraqi expatriates have begun voting in their homeland's first independent elections in half a century. Here in the United States nearly 26,000 Iraqis registered to vote in polling places set up in five cities: Detroit, Chicago, Los Angeles, here in Washington and Nashville. Security is tight with guards checking IDs and using metal detectors at the doors. One voter says this is one of the happiest days of her life -- of his life.
But in Iraq where voting takes place Sunday, it has been another deadly day. Five American soldiers were killed in three separate attacks. And a suicide car bomb exploded outside a Baghdad police station killing four people and wounding two others. Yesterday I told you the stories of three Americans, two soldiers and one marine, who were wounded in combat operations in Iraq. Each of them lost a limb. I met them during a visit to Walter Reid Army Medical Center here in Washington. Here's what they had to say about the Iraq elections and the future in that country.
LT. ED SALAU, U.S. ARMY: Iraq is going to be free. Iraq is going to have free elections. They're going to run their own nation without the help of our soldiers some day. We've got to work toward it.
WOODRUFF: What do you think the prospects are in the longer term for the American -- for success and stability in Iraq?
SGT. MANUEL MENDOZA, U.S. ARMY: We need to understand other cultures. That's the biggest thing. A lot of people have the feeling that America is the greatest culture in the world and it is a good culture. It has a great acceptance of everybody else, but it takes time. We're really going to have to appreciate and understand their culture to stop some of the conflict.
WOODRUFF: What's your sense of how long Americans are going to need to stay there? Do you have a sense of that? I mean...
SGT. JACK SIGMAN, U.S. MARINE CORPS: It depends on the political leadership's determinations. This is a little above -- it's just my opinion, we can't duck out too soon despite all the pressure from everyone else for us to do that. Because I don't want my brother, nephews and children to have to come back there in a few years and do it again. It's bad enough, in my opinion, that we didn't take care of this in the Gulf War back in 1991.
WOODRUFF: And for you going forward, this becomes what part of your life?
SALAU: Actually I'm watching Iraq with the same passion as when I was there. Because if America pulls out too soon, if the coalition pulls out too soon then my injury was in vain and everything I did up until that day is in vain. As much as I can influence it, I'm not going to let that happen.
WOODRUFF: And we're listening to all three of those courageous Americans and we thank them for talking with us. Be sure to stay with CNN for the latest on the Iraq elections. At 7:00 Eastern tonight we will have a two-hour CNN special report "Iraq Votes" with reports on Iraqi expatriates casting ballots in this country and how U.S. troops have sacrificed to make the election possible.
At 10:00 Eastern, CNN's "NEWSNIGHT" live from Dearborn, Michigan. Aaron Brown will discuss the Iraq election with Iraqi expatriates.
Looking ahead to elections in this country, is there a sudden rush of Republicans eyeing Hillary Clinton's Senate seat?
WOODRUFF: We begin today's "Political Bytes" in New Jersey. Two published reports say the acting governor Richard Codey does not plan to run for a full term and to make a formal announcement of that on Monday. But Codey's office tells CNN he has not yet made up his mind about running. If Codey takes a pass, that will mean one less obstacle for fellow Democrat Jon Corzine, the New Jersey senator already has announced his campaign for governor and is widely considered to be the front runner.
A day after we learned a Republican district attorney is pondering a challenge to Senator Hillary Clinton, The New York Times reports Richard Nixon's son-in-law, Edward Cox, has told GOP insiders that he may run against Senator Clinton in 2006.
And in Illinois, Republican Alan Keyes apparently is undaunted by his overwhelming defeat in last year's Senate race. The Chicago Sun- Times reports the former presidential candidate is eyeing a run for Illinois governor in '06.
Coming up next: Howard Dean; tension among the Republican congressional leaders; and much more from Bob Novak. Stay with us.
Bob Novak joins us now with some inside buzz. Bob, what is Howard Dean telling the people in Iowa and New Hampshire as he wants to run for chairman or as he is running for chairman?
BOB NOVAK, CO-HOST, "CROSSFIRE": He is the frontrunner and I'm told that he is telling those people if they want to keep their preferential treatment as the first in the nation states, they better support him. If they don't want to have their preferential treatment, don't support him.
WOODRUFF: So it doesn't get any clearer than that.
WOODRUFF: All right. Moving to the Republican Party, tension between Frist and Hastert?
NOVAK: The speaker wanted the majority leader to meet with him at the Republican retreat at the Greenbrier on Friday. He said, I'm going to Davos for the world global conference. That didn't go over very well with Speaker Hastert. And he wasn't back in time today for the -- Frist was not back in time today for the president's speech either.
WOODRUFF: So he had something important to do in Switzerland?
NOVAK: Yes. WOODRUFF: The World Economic Forum. All right. We know that there was a surprising "no" vote to the Condi Rice nomination.
NOVAK: Evan Bayh, the moderate from Indiana voted "no," but the interesting thing about that is that on February 14th, 2003, Senator Bayh joined Joe Lieberman and John McCain as honorary co-chair of the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, you know, because of all the weapons of mass destruction.
I looked at the Web site and he has taken himself off of that. I've been trying to find out all day when he left that committee. But I would say Evan Bayh is moving left and that means he is after the Democratic nomination for president.
WOODRUFF: I guess some move left and some move right. Last but not least, you have got a little visual aid here, Bob. What is it that -- you have some conservatives saying thank you to Hollywood. What is that?
NOVAK: Well, you remember Dave Bossie, don't you, he's a Republican activist, of CitizensUnited.org, and for the Academy Awards on February 27th they're going to have this portrait, being -- this poster and picketing, "W. Still President. Thank You Hollywood!" And they have pictures of Sean Penn, Chevy Chase, Barbra Streisand, Ben Affleck, Whoopi Goldberg and on the top, Michael Moore, saying these were the kind of people that got people to vote Republican. I think it is a very clever poster. I can even get you a copy of it.
WOODRUFF: So they think they owe it all to Hollywood, is that it?
NOVAK: That's right. They were so bad they elected George W. Bush over John Kerry.
WOODRUFF: So maybe Hollywood will be as active in the next election.
NOVAK: They're going to hate that poster.
WOODRUFF: OK. Bob Novak, thanks very much. Have a good weekend.
NOVAK: You're welcome. Thank you.
WOODRUFF: And as always, we're going to urge you to tune in tomorrow morning for "The Novak Zone," that's at 9:30 a.m. Eastern, 6:30 a.m. Pacific right here on CNN. You can see Bob.
That's it for INSIDE POLITICS this Friday. I'm Judy Woodruff. Thanks for joining us and be sure to tune in for a special edition of "INSIDE POLITICS SUNDAY" for all the latest news on the Iraq election. Join Kelly Wallace Sunday morning at 10:00 a.m. Eastern, 7:00 a.m. Pacific here on CNN. Have a good weekend. "CROSSFIRE" starts right now. TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com