Return to Transcripts main page
JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS
Bombing in Beirut; Mideast Hotspots; Are Reporters Going to Jail?; Congressmen Want More Cooperation, Fewer Personal Attacks in House
Aired February 15, 2005 - 15:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: Political passions are still running high in Iraq after historic elections. Is the country on a path to peace or civil war? And what can the Bush administration do about it?
A checklist for 2008. What do potential presidential candidates need to be doing now if they hope to run then?
A fractured Congress. Will two House members have any success in trying to reach across the aisle?
ANNOUNCER: Now, live from Washington, JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS.
JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you for joining us.
At a time when the White House has been talking more optimistically about the future of the Middle East, yesterday's massive bomb blast in Beirut has cast a new cloud over the region. The Bush administration responded today, offering a diplomatic slap at Syria.
Let's get details now from our White House correspondent, Suzanne Malveaux.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Judy, hello.
The White House made it very clear they do not know who actually assassinated the Lebanese foreign minister, Rafik Hariri. They don't know who was responsible for the bombing, but they made it very clear by their actions they're fed up with Syria's aggressive posture in Lebanon.
Today they announced that they are temporarily recalling, pulling out the ambassador in Syria, the U.S. ambassador, Margaret Scobey. The State Department and the White House, both of them today saying this expresses the administration's profound outrage over her Hariri's assassination and what they are calling a destabilizing force and Syria's true presence in Lebanon. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD BOUCHER, STATE DEPT. SPOKESMAN: The Syrian presence in Lebanon is not right. It's been -- the Security Council has said repeatedly that they should withdraw, they should leave the Lebanese to run their own politics and handle their own affairs. The only excuse has been that it somehow provided internal security for Lebanon.
Unfortunately, the very tragic bombing yesterday shows that that's just plain not true. And therefore, we believe that there is no -- no reason for them to remain there. We have believed that, but this shows once again there's no reason for them to remain there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MALVEAUX: And Scobey, of course, when she is back in the United States, will go ahead and consult with Secretary Rice. Before leaving Syria, however, she did deliver a very strong message to the Syrian government, saying they have to comply with the U.N. Security Council resolution requiring that they withdraw their troops from Lebanon. We also heard from U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who is calling for an international investigation.
Judy, the bottom line here from one senior administration official, it says that it does not matter whether or not Syria was responsible for that assassination. Bottom line is that this gives an opportunity for the Bush administration to express their displeasure with Syria on a number of counts, and that it's also a good thing that the United States, as well as the French and the United Nations, all can work together in promoting democracy in a region in the world where that has become something that they believe perhaps wouldn't happen otherwise. And that, of course, Judy, they say, is ultimately a good thing.
WOODRUFF: It's interesting they're calling it an opportunity. All right. Suzanne, thank you very much.
Well, let's talk more about the Middle East, including the bombing in Beirut and the situation in Iraq. We are joined by Ed Djerejian. He's a longtime diplomat in the region. He served as U.S. ambassador to both Syria and Israel. He's now director of the Baker Institute for Public Policy at Rice University in Houston.
Ambassador Djerejian, before this bombing in Beirut I was going to ask you about how well things are going in the Middle East. Does this change everything?
ED DJEREJIAN, BAKER INSTITUTE FOR PUBLIC POLICY, RICE UNIVERSITY: Well, this is definitely a setback to the positive movements you've indicated, Judy. When we see what's happened in the Palestinian territories with Abu Mazen, the first freely elected Democratic leader in an Arab entity since the early '50s, when we see, despite all the horrible difficulties in Iraq, the movement for broad political representation, what we see has happened in Afghanistan, this despicable and tragic murder of the former Lebanese prime minister, Rafik Hariri, is truly a setback in a country -- in a country that from the '40s has demonstrated its own form of a multiconfessional (ph) and Democratic society.
WOODRUFF: Other than pulling the ambassador to Syria back, which is what the Bush administration is doing today, what more should the Bush administration be doing? We heard Suzanne Malveaux just say the administration sees this as an opportunity.
DJEREJIAN: Well, Judy, this tragic killing of Rafik Hariri comes in the wake of a rather tense period between the United States and Syria. I was just in Syria in mid January and met with the Syrian president, and I can tell you that the issues between the United States and some western countries and Syria are extremely sensitive and important, including Syria's role in controlling its border and what happens across that border in terms of individuals crossing and money flows, what happens in terms of Syria's support for Palestinian groups such as Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which do have a presence in Syria.
Syria's role in Lebanon, which is a major issue which very -- in a way uniquely brought France and the United States together to cosponsor U.N. Security Council Resolution 1559, which one of the major requirements is Syria's withdraw of its military forces from Lebanon, all of this -- all of these issues have been on the table. And now when you have this brutal killing in a country in which Syria has preponderant political and military influence, it raises serious questions.
WOODRUFF: Ambassador Djerejian, a very quick question about Iraq. Now that you have a Shiite -- Shiite factions holding a slim majority in the new parliament, what do you think the prospects are for political stability in Iraq?
DJEREJIAN: Well, I think the results of the vote that there was no clear overwhelming majority by the Shiites shows that there's going to have to be some hard political bargaining. And the Shiites recognize this.
The fact that Ayatollah Sistani is urging moderation, and the fact that the Sunnis are looking at the national assembly as a place where they can try to have their influence in forming the future government, I think this bodes well in a very difficult environment. It bodes well for getting the major factions, having a stake in the future government of Iraq.
WOODRUFF: And I'm sorry to move on quickly to yet another subject, and that is Iran, because there's so much on the platter right now. Is the administration correct right now to be urging the Europeans to take a tough line against Iran and its nuclear program?
DJEREJIAN: Well, I think it's -- it's correct to take a tough line certainly by the United States and urging the Europeans to be very vigilant and tough-minded in approaching Iran on its nuclear program. The goal is of everybody in the international community to prevent Iran becoming a nuclear weapons power. And therefore, I think the United States playing this tough cop role is an important one now. WOODRUFF: Well, we are going to have to leave it there. But we very much appreciate talking to you.
DJEREJIAN: It's a pleasure, Judy.
WOODRUFF: Ambassador Ed Djerejian, thanks very much.
In a political footnote on Iraq, Senator John Kerry told reporters today that he will vote for President Bush's new $81.9 billion funding request for Iraq and Afghanistan. As you probably remember, Kerry took considerable heat during the campaign for saying that he had voted for and earlier $87 billion funding request for the troops, before he had voted against it.
Now we turn to a question of first amendment rights. A federal appeals court ruled today that two journalists must testify before a grand jury investigating the leak of a CIA operative's name.
Judith Miller of "The New York Times" and Matthew Cooper of "TIME" magazine could go to jail for refusing to divulge their confidential sources. The appeals court upheld a lower court ruling that first amendment protection did not apply in this case.
The name of covert CIA operative Valerie Plame was leaked to columnist and CNN commentator Robert Novak back in 2003. Some Bush opponents charge that the leak was politically motivated, a White House response to criticisms of the president by Plame's husband, former Ambassador Joe Wilson.
Let's quickly bring in media analyst Howard Kurtz of CNN's "RELIABLE SOURCES."
Howard, so is this the end of it? They have to testify now?
HOWARD KURTZ, "RELIABLE SOURCES": Well, it looks like they may be heading to jail barring some unexpected legal reversal. But, Judy, it's a chilling decision for the press because Judy Miller didn't even write a story about this in "The New York Times," and Matt Cooper wrote a story in "TIME" magazine about leaks to Novak.
A lot of people are asking me, well, why isn't Novak being squeezed by the prosecutor? The answer is we don't know. The prosecutor is not saying, and for reasons I don't understand, Novak isn't saying.
But this is not a great test case for the press, because there's very little public sympathy because it's not a case where the anonymous source is a whistleblower or somebody who's pointing out government wrongdoing. It is a case where the press was used apparently by senior administration officials to out a CIA operative who was married to a critic of President Bush.
And so if you had to pick a test case in order to generate sympathy for the fourth (ph) of state, this would not be it.
WOODRUFF: So you don't see that they're going to testify? KURTZ: Both of them have said over and over again that for them to divulge their confidential sources would basically put them out of business as journalists. And so I don't think anybody is looking forward to the prospect of being behind bars, but I don't think that they are going to betray the promise they made to their sources.
WOODRUFF: OK. Howard Kurtz. And Howard is going to rejoin us in just a minute to help us keep track of the buzz on blogs. Is the CIA-leaked story making a splash online? We're going to find out.
And later, would-be presidential candidates can't start organizing for 2008 too early. We'll tell you what some top contenders are up to.
Plus, where is California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger trying to draw the line now?
WOODRUFF: We continue now with our weeklong look at the growing influence of political blogs. With me here in Washington are, again, Howard Kurtz of CNN's "RELIABLE SOURCES," and Jacki Schechner, who is our blog reporter.
Jackie, tell us what you're seeing now.
JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN BLOG REPORTER: You are absolutely right, Judy. They are talking about whether or not the journalists are going to jail. And Howie is with me here to talk about that a little more.
We actually -- when the news broke, we went onto the blogs to take a look and see who was talking about it. InstaPundit broke and said the subpoenas are out. That was the first time we sort of saw that. And that was just before noon, so about the same time, a little bit after the news came out.
Then we went over to Vodkapundit.com, and what they were talking about there, they had the press release that came from "TIME" magazine where the editor in chief was standing behind his journalist. And he was basically saying that journalists have to protect their sources, that's absolutely what they must do or they lose their credibility as journalists.
KURTZ: You might think, Jacki, that it would be a great first amendment debate about should Judy Miller and Matt Cooper go to jail, why should they go to jail, what would this -- what kind of chilling effect would this have. But that doesn't seem to be the focus of the debate.
A lot of the Web sites beating up on Bob Novak. He's not a popular figure on the left, and wondering about his involvement in this whole thing. It was his 2003 column that started this.
And I've got a soap box -- excuse me, I've got SoapboxBlog.com up here talking about Jeff Gannon, the online reporter who resigned last week. He had something to do with reporting on the Plame case as well.
"How does a writer for a pretend news service get access to CIA documents on Valerie Plame?" So there are different sidebar aspects of this whole story that seem to be exciting the blogers more than the more fundamental question for people in my line of work, which is reporters protecting their sources and staying out of jail.
SCHECHNER: Well, Gannon was one of the big stories that we covered yesterday. So it's all sort of interconnected, which we talked about, how the blogs sort of feed back on each other.
And then we went over to DailyCause (ph), which is interesting, because Cause (ph) says that they should give up their source, that who are they protecting, who are these reporters protecting? It's somebody in the Bush administration who is using them, which I think you mentioned earlier that it's a possibility.
KURTZ: Very easy to say, but if they were to take that advice, they basically would be out of business. Who would ever trust them again? Who would ever give them information and say, "You can't use my name?"
It's a very risky road to travel down when you've made a promise to somebody that you are going to expect to keep.
SCHECHNER: That's right. As a journalist, that's sort of where your credibility begins and ends.
We also want to talk about Eason Jordan, that issue in the blogs. Not so much about Eason Jordan, even though that's sort of the topic of conversation, but more about the role of the blogger and the role of the mainstream media and how they can sort of interconnect.
Buzz Machine was one that was sort of talking about the Internet and how the Internet changes journalism in the face of journalism, and how sort of there's eyes and ears everywhere now, and how that's going to change the mainstream media. There's other sites like Captains Quarters, where they're talking about the integration, the synthesis, is the word he uses, the old and the new media. "The Washington Times" was an example that he cited as somebody who's actually starting to do that well.
And then PressThink, which I think is really interesting. A site we talked about yesterday where you can go and see what the stories are through the day.
KURTZ: In real time.
SCHECHNER: In real time. Which ones are rising, which ones are falling, what's number one.
The number one today that people are checking out is this thing called PressThink. And it's written by Jay Rosen, an NYU professor. And he's talking about -- he says it's his closing thoughts on the resignation of Eason Jordan. But what he says is, "The solution when you miscommunicate has to be more communication, not excommunication." KURTZ: But the debate has very much moved from should Eason Jordan have resigned as CNN's chief news executive over those comments he made about the U.S. military and journalists in Iraq, to the role of the blogosphere. You have bloggers arguing with each other, is it a lynch mob or not, are we providing a good factual check on the mainstream media or not.
You certainly have some resentment from people in the old dinosaur media. Now you have people looking over their shoulders. And so it's interesting the way this has just absolutely caught fire. And I think this will rage for days because...
SCHECHNER: Oh, absolutely.
KURTZ: ... it's like the Dan Rather story. It's a tale in which bloggers played an absolutely essential role. This would not have happened without that original posting from somebody who attended the Dallas conference and now they are either celebrating or in some cases having second thoughts about their role in the Jordan case.
SCHECHNER: Yes. I mean, there is some call out there still for the tapes to be released from Davos and the World Economic Forum and all of that stuff.
KURTZ: I would like the tapes to be released. Let's resolve the question of what he said and what he didn't say.
SCHECHNER: Right. Right. But I think also now they're talking about integration, not so much who's right, who's wrong, who's checking whom, but how do we integrate this and how does this new medium become part of mainstream media and sort of integrate and become one big journalistic entity with sort of checks and balances and that sort of thing.
Another story that sort of relates to this we thought was interesting, it was rising on -- on (UNINTELLIGIBLE). We took a look at it, and it's been rising all day.
It's BatesLine.com. And it's a Tulsa, Oklahoma, blogger.
He got a letter from "Tulsa World," a local newspaper, that basically said, stop publishing bits and pieces of what we publish. And they sent him a letter, sort of a cease and desist, and said that we'll take legal action if you don't stop. You want to reprint anything that's on our -- in our newspaper, you need to get clearance for it.
So his call basically was, help me out here. I'm going to need to speak on behalf of all the bloggers.
And there's some of the bloggers who've responded -- Wizbang blog was an interesting response that we came up with. Kevin Aylward wrote a letter back to John Blair (ph), who is the VP of "Tulsa World." And this is the quote: "It's a bad idea to tangle with the community of Web blogs," and he refers to Rather (UNINTELLIGIBLE). And basically says, "When you attempt to silence them, you attempt to silence them all."
KURTZ: It sounds like he's saying nice little site you got here, it would be a shame if anything happened to it. But, you know, if this blogger is really just picking up bits and pieces from the biggest newspaper in Oklahoma's capital, and putting his own comments on it, everybody does that these days.
I do that every day on WashingtonPost.com. I provide the links. Other news organizations like that because it drives traffic to their sites. You can't just steal outright the entire editorial product. That's called theft.
KURTZ: But if you're just picking out bits and pieces, especially if you're linking to the source and crediting the source, then I'm not sure that "Tulsa World" is going to win on at least the public relations battlefield.
SCHECHNER: Well, that's what they were saying, that he's linking. And really that's not infringement or anything. So we'll keep an eye on it and see if this gets any bigger.
We'll turn it back to Judy.
WOODRUFF: And Jacki, you're answering a question I was going to ask, which is, how much of all the conversation back and forth on these blogs is driven by cable television news? You've got three, at least three channels out there. Certainly CNN right in the middle of it. But you are saying that some of this conversation is being picked up from newspapers?
SCHECHNER: Well, they're picking up some of these issues and then they're discussing them and talking about them. It's not so much their self-discovery today. They're not necessarily finding new issues today. But a lot of them are sort of talking about what's going on.
Michael Jackson being one good example. We...
KURTZ: I've got Dead Pool (ph) up here and they've got -- a lot of people posting about the fact that Michael Jackson was taken to the emergency room today. Dead Pool (ph) says, "Just keep him out of the children's cancer ward, OK?" That gives you the tenor of the comments.
But I'm not seeing much about Michael Jackson in many of the political blogs that I look at regularly, even though it's been on cable television so often. There isn't as much for them to argue about in this case. Although it may not go away. I mean, after all, we're still in jury selection.
SCHECHNER: It's always ever-changing. So we'll have more tomorrow and see what's going on then. WOODRUFF: All right. Jackie Schechner, Howard Kurtz, thank you both. And a reminder there at the end that all these blogs are not political blogs. They do look at issues and what's going on across the spectrum.
Coming up next, an early look at the next race for the White House.
And later, a call for civility and cooperation of all things on Capitol Hill. We'll talk with two congressmen about their bipartisan effort to encourage getting along.
WOODRUFF: It may seem pretty early, but potential candidates for the next race for the White House are already planning ahead. It's true.
With me now to talk about the race for 2008 is Chuck Todd. He's the editor in chief of "The Hotline," an insider's political briefing produced every day by the "National Journal."
So, Chuck, what are we looking for in these potential candidates these days?
CHUCK TODD, EDITOR, "THE HOTLINE": Well, there's sort of four things going on. And I think the first one to start with is travel. That's always the easiest way to find out who wants to run and who isn't.
We've had 10 different presidential candidates hit various key states or talk to key constituency groups. Probably the most prominent being John Edwards has already done one trip to New Hampshire.
Among the most interesting on the Republican side, Mitt Romney is going to be doing his first sort of big presidential event this coming Monday in South Carolina. South Carolina is becoming sort of the place to go if you're running for the Republican nomination. Giuliani and McCain have both already been there in the last couple months.
WOODRUFF: What about fund-raising? Are they already looking at that? We know they are.
TODD: Right. No, and what's interesting, what you can find here, 13 of these guys have PACs or have started PACs (UNINTELLIGIBLE) three newest sort of entrants into the presidential PAC field are Evan Bayh, who just launched his PAC just after the first of the year; Sam Brownback, the Kansas Republican senator, he's -- his leadership PAC has been a little under the radar; and Russ Feingold, Wisconsin senator, he's just trying to put together a PAC. So they're just counting the PAC for its 13 candidates.
WOODRUFF: You have to have a PAC if you're going to run, right?
TODD: You've got to have a PAC and you've got to pay for the travel. You know, and it's a way to raise money. You've got to give money to these candidates. So it's an essential part of this.
WOODRUFF: What about hiring people, starting to put a team together?
TODD: Staffing is -- you know, that's another reason to start a PAC, is sometimes to stash staff. Probably the guy who's made the biggest splash on the staffing front so far, at least on the Republican side, is George Allen, who is up for re-election himself in 2006.
WOODRUFF: Virginia senator.
TODD: Virginia senator, likely to run in 2008. He hired sort of the first-round draft pick of staffers so to speak. And that's Dick Waddoms (ph). He was the guy who managed Johnson's upset of Tom Daschle in South Dakota.
Allen hired him as the chief of staff. That got a lot of Republicans buzzing, going, you know, this Allen team is pretty impressive. He's got Chris Losovita (ph), who is behind the Swift Boat stuff, which was a very successful 527. 2004 is also sort of on the Allen team, so Allen has probably made the biggest staffing splash so far today.
WOODRUFF: But they're all doing various versions.
TODD: All hiring, absolutely.
WOODRUFF: What are these candidates focusing on, though, in the short term? Yes, they have to do all these things, but what about just in terms of getting themselves ready?
TODD: Right. Those are the mechanics part. Then there's the positioning, figuring out how they're going to fit and how they're going to either position themselves as a primary candidate or as general election candidate.
We've seen a little bit of this with Hillary Clinton in her -- in the big the deal they made out of her abortion speech, where she tried to sort of pull back a little bit on abortion. Still saying she's pro choice, but getting back to the rare aspect when it comes to the abortion debate.
Or a guy like Bill Frist, who is -- while he's all over the map issue-wise, simply because he has to be because he's majority leader, he does something that none of these other guys are doing yet, and he's a constant blogger. You just had a blogging -- and somebody will say, well, is he really a bloger?
He sends these e-mail updates to his PAC members, always very detailed, tell you about all his trips (UNINTELLIGIBLE). So he's already trying to start the sort of conversational tone that got Howard Dean's campaign off the ground, for instance, in 2004. And so that seems to be where Frist is trying to be the man of the people type of thing.
WOODRUFF: We'll have to take a look at that.
TODD: You've got to sign up for his e-mails. They're very -- they're very interesting.
WOODRUFF: I've actually been getting them. But we'll have to look at them on the air now.
TODD: Worth reading. That's right.
WOODRUFF: Chuck Todd, thank you.
TODD: You got it.
WOODRUFF: "The Hotline," again, an insider's political briefing produced every day by the "National Journal." You can go online to nationaljournal.com for subscription information.
Thank you, Chuck.
A vow for fidelity. Why is a possible 2008 presidential contender renewing his marriage vows? The story when INSIDE POLITICS returns.
Plus, the Michael Jackson trial goes on hold as Jackson is rushed to this emergency room. We expect an update on Jackson's condition in just a few minutes. Our cameras are in place. We'll have live coverage of the hospital news conference when it starts.
WOODRUFF: It is exactly 4:00 on the East Coast and as the markets close on Wall Street, I'm joined by Kitty Pilgrim in New York with "THE DOBBS REPORT." Hi, Kitty.
KITTY PILGRIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Judy. Thanks. Well, stocks on Wall Street logging fairly modest gains right now. They're helped by a stronger-than-expected report on retail sales last month. So with the final trades still being counted, the Dow industrials are up about 46 points, Nasdaq less than 1 percent higher.
And speaking of retail, shares of Circuit City are jumping 16 percent because of an unsolicited takeover value valued at $3.25 billion. A private investment firm wants to buy the chain, take a private.
A separate retail deal has fallen apart at the negotiating table. Federated and May Department Stores have ended merger talks and a source tells us that the two could not agree on the price that Federated would pay. Now the breakdown puts fairly new stresses on May, which is the owner of Lord & Taylor and Filene's and Marshall Fields. That store chain also has to replace its CEO, who resigned last month. And industry watchers say Federated could look for other acquisition opportunities such as the department store division of Saks.
The FDA is trying to improve its safety record -- or its drug safety record. It's creating a new independent drug safety oversight board. Now, it will monitor FDA-approved drugs once they're on the market and inform doctors and patients of any risks and benefits that emerge. Tomorrow the FDA begins hearings on the safety of prescription painkillers. Now, the agency became a target of much criticism when reports linked Merck's Vioxx and Pfizer's Celebrex to dangerous side effects.
Coming up 6:00 p.m. Eastern, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT," Wal-Mart says it wants to handle its labor problems by itself for at least two weeks before any government agency steps in. We'll take a look at why. And our special report, "Culture in Decline." The president's 2006 budget cuts on drug prevention funding by a third and we'll look into the effect that the lack of funds could have on teen drug use.
Also, senator Larry Craig, Congressman Howard Berman, want to grant legal status to thousands of illegal farm workers. And they'll tell us why they want to do that. That and more with Lou Dobbs, 6:00 Eastern.
But for right now, back to Judy Woodruff.
WOODRUFF: Thanks, Kitty. We'll be watching at 6:00. INSIDE POLITICS continues right now.
GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER (R), CALIFORNIA: Right now 153 districts -- congressional and legislative districts -- in California are up for re-election this last November. None of them changed parties. That's -- what kind of democracy is this?
ANNOUNCER: Why is Arnold Schwarzenegger's latest crusade scaring both Democrats and Republicans?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here in Arkansas, it is actually easier to get out of a marriage than it is a contract to purchase a used car. Clearly, something is wrong.
ANNOUNCER: But is covenant marriage the solution? One possible presidential contender says yes.
Now, live from Washington, Judy Woodruff's INSIDE POLITICS.
WOODRUFF: Welcome back. California is known as a trendsetter in politics, as well as in pop culture. And the Golden State may be leading the way again with a hard push by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Our senior political analyst Bill Schneider reports on a Republican star taking on a less than glitzy issue.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): A hot new issue in California could create a political revolution across the country. Redistricting. How excited are California voters?
REP. DEVIN NUNES (R), CALIFORNIA: When you talk about political lines being drawn, when you talk about districts, you know, their eyes glaze over and they fall asleep because they don't understand the importance of this.
SCHNEIDER: But one political leader does.
SCHWARZENEGGER: Right now 153 districts -- congressional and legislative districts in California -- were up for re-election this last November. None of them changed parties. That's -- what kind of democracy is this?
SCHNEIDER: Governor Schwarzenegger is leaving the cause for a ballot initiative this year that would take the drawing of district lines for the U.S. House of Representatives and the California state legislature out of the hands of politicians and turn it over to a bipartisan panel of retired judges. How revolutionary is that? Look at what the measure says. No data regarding the residence of an incumbent or the party affiliation or voting history of electors -- that's the voters -- may be used in the preparation of plans.
Yikes. An entire industry emerged that uses exactly that kind of data to draw district lines. For instance, what's this thing? It's California's 23rd congressional district. It snakes along the coastline for 200 miles, crossing county and city lines, picking up voters from six different media markets. Why? To gather enough Democrats in the district to protect the Democratic incumbent.
NUNES: When you won election in 2002 you essentially -- it's like you have a ten-year term and, you know, to me, that's not -- it's not fair. And it needs to be changed.
SCHNEIDER: Campaigning on this issue has not made Congressman Nunes many friends.
NUNES: Two years ago when I first started talking about this, everybody thought I was, you know, way out to lunch and that it was something that shouldn't even be looked at.
SCHNEIDER: Now he has a powerful ally.
SCHWARZENEGGER: Whenever you see both parties disagree with something, then you know you're on to something really good.
SCHNEIDER: The measure threatens the Democratic majority in California and if it catches fire nationwide, it could threaten the Republican majority in the U.S. House of Representatives. It would threaten incumbents everywhere by forcing them to face real competition from challengers. That's called democracy.
WOODRUFF: So, what's Karl Rove's position on this? The White House position on all of this?
SCHNEIDER: I haven't heard anything from the White House or Mr. Rove. I'm not sure they want to tangle with Governor Schwarzenegger over this issue. But a lot of Republican politicians, and Democrats, too, incumbents everywhere, are very nervous that this thing can go somewhere if it passes California.
WOODRUFF: OK. Bill Schneider, always on top of the story. Thanks very much.
Well, now, we turn to Arkansas, where governor Mike Huckabee is trying to lead by example. The Republican made a very personal statement in favor of what is known as covenant marriage, a popular idea among many religious conservatives.
Here now, our national correspondent Bruce Morton.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Governor, Mrs. Huckabee, congratulations, you have a covenant marriage.
BRUCE MORTON, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): About 5,000 watched as Mike and Janet Huckabee renewed the vows they made three decades ago. But this is a covenant marriage, designed to discourage divorce. Three states have covenant marriages. Louisiana, the first state to pass such a law, Arizona and Arkansas.
Covenant marriages don't look different, but they require counseling before marriage, counseling before any separation and divorce only on limited grounds: adultery, felony, abuse, separation of at least two years and in Arkansas, intolerable indignities.
GOV. MIKE HUCKABEE (R), ARKANSAS: Here in Arkansas it is actually easier to get out of a marriage than it is a contract to purchase a used car.
MORTON: In fact, just under half of Arkansas marriages end in divorce. Here are some figures for recent years. The idea of covenant marriage was popular inside the hall where the Huckabees reaffirmed their vows.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For those couples who want to just make it tougher on them to think about divorce, covenant marriages is perfect.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it's a great idea. It doesn't make people love each other any more, but sometimes if something happens it keeps you from making, I think, impulsive decisions.
MORTON: Outside, a crowd, some gay, some straight, chanted in favor of same-sex marriages, which Arkansas voters rejected last fall.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What do we want?
UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: Equal rights.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When do we want it?
UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: Now!
(on camera): Religious conservatives have had success in opposing same-sex marriages, much less success in trying to decrease divorce by promoting covenant marriages. Studies suggest few people use covenant marriages, even where they're legal, and some two dozen states have decided against them. Conservatives hope celebrations like the Huckabees' will change that.
Bruce Morton, CNN, Washington.
WOODRUFF: Thank you, Bruce.
Here in Washington, a former deputy director of the White House office of faith-based initiatives is criticizing the Bush administration's commitment to achieving its stated goals. In a column on the religious Web site beliefnet.com, David Kuo writes that while he does not question the president's sincerity on this issue, quote, "there was minimal senior White House commitment to the faith- based agenda." White House spokesman Scott McClellan today defended the administration's actions on its faith-based programs.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SEC'Y: This is a high priority for this administration. The president has participated in White House conferences on the faith-based and community initiative. They bring conferences all across the United States to highlight this initiative and to reach out to the armies of compassion that exist all across America to enlist their help in our efforts to help people in need.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOODRUFF: Former White House aide David Kuo also used his column to criticize congressional Republicans for not doing more. He says that they quote, "match Democratic hostility with snoring indifference." End quote.
Faith and politics also at issue in Michigan. Democratic governor Jennifer Granholm says that she will not support displaying the Ten Commandments in the state capital rotunda. That is an apparent switch from last Friday, when she said she didn't have a problem with having the commandments displayed. Granholm says she was expressing her personal opinion then, not encouraging such a display, which she says would violate the U.S. Constitution.
And in Virginia, the Stanton (ph) City School Board has voted to allow elementary students to keep going to nearby churches during class time to learn about the Bible and morality. But, the board said that it will review complaints that children who do not attend the religious training are stigmatized and lose valuable class time. Most local residents support the Bible classes. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDREA OAKES, SUPPORTS PROGRAM: I would like to think that, no, they're not attacking us because we're Christians. However, I cannot help but question whether or not that is the reason.
AMY DIDUCH, OPPOSES PROGRAM: I'm not opposed to a parent on an individual basis choosing to take a child out for religious instruction. But I am opposed to having the school day stop while those children are absent.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOODRUFF: The U.S. Supreme Court ruled decades ago such classes did not violate the separation of church and state because they are held off school premises.
Here in Washington, hardly a day goes by without a partisan attack or two or more. Up next, can a couple of House members do anything to change the often ugly tone under the dome?
And Senator John McCain complains about what he is not seeing on TV.
WOODRUFF: These are -- we're going to be showing you some live pictures from Santa Maria, California. This is just outside the Marian Medical Center where pop singer Michael Jackson was taken just hours ago for what appears to be a case of the flu, all of which is putting his trial -- brought his trial to an abrupt halt. Jury selection, it has been called off for the rest of the week because the singer has come down with what is apparently a case of the flu. In any event, the hospital holding a news conference. We're going to go to that live just as soon as it gets under way. We'll be right back.
WOODRUFF: There is a new effort among some in Congress to tone down some of the incivilities of political life. Two representatives, Republican Tim Johnson of Illinois and Democrat Steve Israel of New York who are forming what they call the Center Aisle Caucus. They want more cooperation and fewer personal attacks. I spoke with both men earlier, a couple of hours ago at the Capitol. And I started by asking Congressman Israel, why is something like this needed?
REP. STEVE ISRAEL (D), NEW YORK: Well, it's vitally important because the floor of the House now sounds more like an elementary school auditorium that's out of control than the floor of the people's House. We're not having good-faith debate on issues, we're not exploring issues, we're throwing chairs at one another, we're throwing sound bites at one another. We're questioning each other's integrity, motives, patriotism. And if we're really going to serve the American people, we have to elevate the debate and engage in a process that does justice to those issues.
WOODRUFF: But Congressman Johnson, the country is divided, people do have strongly-felt views on opposite sides of these issues. Why shouldn't the House engage in vigorous debate?
REP. TIM JOHNSON (R), ILLINOIS: I don't think either Congressman Israel or I question vigorous debate. What we question and what we're trying to set as an example for the opposite is the rancor, the nastiness, the seeming attempt to politicize everything and that's what we object to and that's what we want to try to reverse.
WOODRUFF: So specifically, what would you change? I mean, and how would you go about changing it?
JOHNSON: Well, in a bigger sense, we want this to be a bully pulpit, Judy. We want to serve as personal examples in the caucuses, a collective personal example of how people of different philosophies in some cases or even closer philosophies can get along and engage in civil discourse and treat one another with respect and the citizens expect this. People in Steve's district and my district and all over the country have really seen this exponential increase in incivility and I think they believe, I'm certain they believe that that just serves everyone. Them, the Congress and the whole process.
WOODRUFF: So, how do you get people to change, I mean, members to change?
ISRAEL: There are substantive ways to change the culture around here and the interest of advancing our different agendas. One of the things that we want to do is take a look at the rules of the House. Sometimes those rules stifle debate. Sometimes those rules close down a vigorous discussion of issues. You want to take a look at those rules and wherever you can get members on both sides of the aisle looking at those rules and talking about bipartisan policy, that's moving forward. May not be moving left, may not be moving right, but it's moving forward.
WOODRUFF: Let me just read you all a couple of releases I've gotten in the last few days from both political parties. The Democrats saying Terry McAuliffe's office, this is when he was DNC chair, saying a brief history of Rove v. and dirty tricks and skullduggery. This is coming from the Democrats. On the other hand you have Republicans saying, Barbara Boxer and the Democrats' attempt to profit their partisan obstructionism.
We in the media are getting this kind of information all the time from the parties, the political parties you represent. So, you know, aren't -- you really are swimming against the tide here.
JOHNSON: I think you have crystallized in those press releases exactly what we're addressing on a widespread basis. And we are swimming against the tide but we want to turn the tide the other way. We want, by personal example, by proactive cooperation with each other, to change the tone and, so that a year from now when you're doing the same show, you won't be getting releases like that. Or at least if you are, they'll be looked on with some askance eye. WOODRUFF: How many members of the House are going to join you in this, do you think?
ISRAEL: Well, right now we are about to announce the caucus. We've had some tremendous response informally. We're in recess next week. When we return, I think we'll get a good response. I think that there is a thirst for this. And it's not just that Tim Johnson and I have figured it out, Bill Clinton, at the opening of the presidential library in Little Rock said, am I the only guy in America who believes that John Kerry and George Bush are decent guys with different ideas. I think members of Congress with the former speaker, Democratic speaker Tom Foley and the former Republican leader Bob Michael, that means we've momentum and credibility.
WOODRUFF: This kind of thing has been tried before. It didn't get very far in recent years. What if this doesn't work?
JOHNSON: First of all, I'm not sure this exact approach has been tried before, certainly the idea has been floated. This is going to work. It's going to work because we've formed it and we're going to be the personal examples to people, hopefully, that will permeate out over some years. But we have to work at it. We have to work at civility. You're not going to do it by simply sending out a press release, doing one interview and assuming that everything will make a radical change.
WOODRUFF: Congressmen Tim Johnson and Steve Israel and we're going to check in with them from time to see how it's going.
Just ahead: new poll numbers from New York. We'll find out where state residents stand on Governor George Pataki and whether they would rather see him run for president or former mayor Rudy Giuliani.
WOODRUFF: Some new poll results offer sobering reviews of New York Governor George Pataki in our Tuesday political bytes. With the governor facing a decision about running for a fourth term next year, a "New York Times" survey found that 43 percent of New Yorkers say they approve of the way Pataki is handling his job. 41 percent say they disapprove. The poll found New Yorkers are even less enthusiastic about a potential Pataki run for the White House. When asked to choose between Pataki and fellow New Yorker Rudy Giuliani as to who should run for president, 55 percent chose Giuliani, 16 percent chose Pataki and 23 percent said neither.
A number of well-known Republicans are reportedly rising to the top of the list for potential replacements for outgoing U.S. ambassador to Canada Paul Cellucci. The "Toronto Star" reports former RNC chairman Mark Roscoe is considered the frontrunner for the job along with former energy secretary Spence Abraham and recent Colorado Senate candidate Pete Coors.
On Capitol Hill today Senator John McCain criticized the results of a survey documenting a steep decline in the amount of local television coverage dedicated to local politics last year. In the month leading up to last fall's election, the study found just 8 percent of local newscasts in 11 major markets devoted time to local races or local issues. McCain is proposing new legislation applying stricter broadcast requirements for local programming.
Up next, the last nominee for the Bush cabinet finally comes up for a vote in the Senate. We'll update the status of Michael Chertoff's nomination to become homeland security secretary. That's when we return.
WOODRUFF: Voting appears to be wrapping up on the floor of the United States Senate right now on the nomination of Michael Chertoff to be the next homeland security secretary. And it looks like he's passed with a vote of 96-0. That is the unofficial count. Voting still under way, but it is just about officially wrapped up. He is expected and was expected, that is, to win. He would succeed Tom Ridge, who has headed the agency since it was created. Today's vote was delayed several days by Democratic Senator Carl Levin who said he wanted more information about what Chertoff may have known about interrogation procedures at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Again the vote at this point, 96-0 for Michael Chertoff to be the next secretary of homeland security.
And updating you on a story we have been keeping an eye on at the hospital in Santa Maria, California where Michael Jackson treated for the flu this afternoon. They will be holding a news conference any minute now. CNN will carry that live when it gets under way. In the meantime that's it for INSIDE POLITICS. I'm Judy Woodruff. Thanks for joining us. "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