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DeLay Controversy Continues; Bill Clinton Defends Hillary; Stem Cell Research Debate

Aired April 12, 2005 - 15:30   ET


ANNOUNCER: "The Hammer" is back on the Hill, meeting with colleagues and facing questions about his ethics.

SEN. TRENT LOTT (R), MISSISSIPPI: When you have a strong, dynamic leader like Tom DeLay, you better get ready to be pounded in this city.

ANNOUNCER: Back to Iraq, the president returns to a politically comfortable subject.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our success in Iraq will make America safer for us and for future generations.

ANNOUNCER: Hillary Clinton's campaigner-in-chief. Is he doing her any good by slamming Republicans out to stop her?

WILLIAM CLINTON, FMR. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There are some sort of self-loathing or something.

ANNOUNCER: Now, live from Washington, Judy Woodruff's INSIDE POLITICS.


JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you for joining us. We begin with a CNN "Security Watch." Just a short while ago, federal authorities outlined charges against three men in connection with an alleged plot against U.S. financial targets.

Let's bring in our justice correspondent Kelli Arena.


KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Judy, you may remember that back last summer in August, there were arrests made in Britain, several men who had allegedly scoped out buildings here in the United States as possible terror targets for al Qaeda. Well, those men are facing terror-related charges in Britain already. And today, U.S. prosecutors have brought charges here, as well.

One of the men, his name is Dhiran Barot -- he's also known as Issa al-Hindi -- and he's described as a very high-level al Qaeda official who trained at al Qaeda camps and took his orders directly from September 11th mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. He and two of his associates face charges of conspiracy and providing material support to terrorists. Now, the three are accused of putting together very sophisticated, very detailed surveillance of financial buildings, in New York, New Jersey, and here in Washington, D.C.

The government says that even though the surveillance was conducted back in 2000 and 2001, that it was so well done that it could be successfully used in an attack today and they allege that the conspiracy was very much alive and kicking until those men were arrested. Government officials say that after the British are finished with their prosecution that the U.S. intended to extradite all three men back to the United States, Judy. But that could take several years.

WOODRUFF: Kelli, have authorities ever said what the targets were?

ARENA: Well, they said the Prudential Building in New Jersey, Citigroup and the New York Stock Exchange in New York City, and then the IMF in World Bank here in Washington, D.C. Those were the five distinct targets that had been surveilled with the extreme detail.

WOODRUFF: And what concerned them, as you just said, is that this wasn't done so -- in a sophisticated manner, that they were concerned that it might have been used beyond.

ARENA: That's right.

WOODRUFF: OK. Kelli Arena is our justice correspondent. Thank you.

And remember to stay tuned to CNN day and night for the most reliable news about your security.

President Bush is heading back to Washington from his Texas ranch. He took a detour along the way to once again rally U.S. troops, and perhaps give a bit of a boost to his poll numbers. Our White House correspondent Dana Bash traveled with the president to Ft. Hood, Texas.



DANA BUSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's the ultimate photo-op, a march to "Hail to the Chief" through a sea of flag-waving soldiers and a greeting in their language.

BUSH: Hoo ah!

CROWD: Hoo ah!

BASH: Nearly all of the 25,000 troops here at Ft. Hood served in Iraq, and the president applauded their successes -- like taking Baghdad two years ago -- in remarkably sweeping terms.

BUSH: The toppling of Saddam Hussein's statue in Baghdad will be recorded alongside the fall of the Berlin Wall as one of the great moments in the history of liberty.

BASH: Lately, the most frequent Bush backdrop has looked more like this, as he tries to sell his Social Security plan to a skeptical public. The different images track a big difference in public opinion. The president still wins marks for leadership on terrorism.

When it comes to Iraq, his numbers do drop, but his lowest approval rating is on his top domestic priority, Social Security. So this is his comfort zone, greeting rowdy crowds in camouflage, joining troops for some collard greens and mac 'n cheese.

GLEN BOLGER, REPUBLICAN POLLSTER: And I think it's a good way to keep him in a positive element and keep the floor under that approval rating.

BASH: No question these are powerful political images. But the reality is, many at Ft. Hood, some 20,000 members of the 4th Infantry Division, are about to return to Iraq for a second tour.

BUSH: Yet your work isn't over.

BASH: The president said Iraqi security forces are now 150,000 strong, but they need more help and training before Iraqis can take the lead, and before Mr. Bush can start bringing U.S. troops home.

(on camera): The president's overall approval rating is hovering right around the 50 percent mark. Critics say it's because he's endorsing changes to Social Security that Americans don't want. White House aides call that the price of tackling tough issues.

Dana Bash, CNN, Ft. Hood, Texas.


WOODRUFF: Thank you, Dana.

Over on Capitol Hill today, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay is surrounding himself with allies, friendly faces to welcome him back from spring break at a time when his political fortunes don't seem to be very rosy.

Our congressional correspondent Ed Henry is on DeLay watch. Ed, what are you learning?

HENRY: Well, good afternoon, Judy.

That's right. Two days after a top Senate Republican, Rick Santorum, basically told Tom DeLay to come forward and clear up all of these ethical questions swirling around him, Tom DeLay came across the Capitol and attended a previously scheduled lunch with Santorum and the rest of the Senate Republicans behind closed doors. The purpose was to discuss the legislative agenda, but Republicans in the room tell CNN that Mr. DeLay actually briefly addressed his ethical situation at the top of his remarks and basically said -- he asked Republican senators for their patience as he deals with this matter moving forward. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham told CNN that Mr. DeLay also said he has been the victim of a political attack here. That's obviously something we've already heard previously from Tom DeLay. When I asked Lindsey Graham whether or not he believes it is just a political attack, Graham said, time will tell. I think that's a sign there a lot of Republicans up here on the Hill who are wondering whether another shoe will drop.

But I think it's very important to point out, in fairness to Mr. DeLay, that there was not a single Senate Republican coming out of that lunch and joining Republican Congressman Chris Shays in calling on Tom DeLay to step down, as Chris Shays did over the weekend.

Instead, in fact, there was a rather interesting Republican to step forward, come to cameras. And Senator Trent Lott, the last Republican leader to be bounced out of his leadership post, came to the cameras and defended Tom DeLay.


LOTT: To demonize somebody, you got to make sure they're well- known. You know, both parties have succeeded in doing that to each other over the years. I think it's unfair. It's part of the continuation of destruction of personal character that we deal with in this city. And certainly, when you have a strong, dynamic leader like Tom DeLay, who is a conservative Republican, strong leader from the South, you better get ready to be pounded in this city.


HENRY: Now this lunch that Tom DeLay attended with Senate Republicans gave him a chance to show himself at his best, muscling through legislation. He was talking to these Republican senators about the fact that this very week, House Republican leaders will be pushing through the bankruptcy reform bill, which is a key priority of theirs; also, legislation dealing with extending the elimination of the estate tax, again, another top priority for Republicans.

So while there may be questions about Tom DeLay's effectiveness right now, amid this ethical firestorm, in fact, the Republicans are pushing ahead. It doesn't look like they're distracted, but that's not to say things are completely back to normal. After this lunch, Tom DeLay left, there was a swarm of reporters, a pack following him back as he tried to make it back to his office on the House side of the Capitol. He certainly looked like a leader under siege.

He declined to answer most questions about the ethical situation, except when he was asked, is he distracted? He said, basically, you mean, the Democratic agenda. He was referring to the fact that he believes these attacks are generated by Democrats. He insisted he has not been distracted.

But obviously, if other Republicans step forward and call on him to step down, and if others join the "Wall Street Journal" editorial board in saying that there is an ethical odor around Tom DeLay, it's going to be difficult for him to continue to say this is just Democratic attacks.


WOODRUFF: OK. Ed Henry, bringing us up to speed from the Hill. Ed, thank you very much.

Meantime, over on the Senate side of the Hill, President Bush's choice to be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations was described today as a, quote, "serial abuser of underlings." Nominee John Bolton told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee yesterday that he never tried to have officials who disagreed with him discharged. But today, a former State Department official accused Bolton of trying to sack an analyst who clashed with him over Cuba policy.


CARL FORD, FMR. STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: He's a quintessential kiss-up, kick-down sort of guy. There are a lot of them around. I'm sure you've met them. But the fact is that he stands out, that he's got a bigger kick and it gets bigger and stronger the further down the bureaucracy's kicking.


WOODRUFF: Despite such criticisms, Bolton's nomination still appears likely to be approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.


SEN. RICHARD LUGAR (R), FOREIGN RELATIONS CHAIRMAN: The paramount issue, as I perceive it, is the reform of the United Nations. The confidence that President Bush and Secretary Rice have in this particular nominee, as the person they believe is best able to effect the reforms that they believe are important for the United Nations and for this country.


WOODRUFF: Senator Richard Lugar. It has been, by contrast, smoother going for John Negroponte during his hearing to be the first director of national intelligence. He got a pointed but friendly warning today from senators to fight the political turf wars of Washington.

Well, if anyone knows about political wars in Washington, it might well be Bill Clinton. But did the former president cross the line while defending his wife? We'll examine his role as a campaign surrogate.

Also ahead, the architect behind the scenes. We'll preview an in-depth profile of the president's uber-strategist Karl Rove.

And later, Dana Reeve on a cause she and her late husband championed, stem cell research and other legislation. Is she getting closer to what she wants from Congress? (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Karl Rove's impact on America's political landscape has been enormous in the last few years. President Bush calls him "the architect," the man who engineered Mr. Bush's victory over Al Gore in 2000 and John Kerry last November. This evening, the PBS program "Frontline" profiles this master of the political game, looking back at his decades of working in the trenches of the Republican Party.

In this excerpt, Rove had caught the eye of then-CBS News correspondent Dan Rather. Actually, I'm told now, we may not have this excerpt, so I'm going to ask our guest about it. It was back in 1972 when Karl Rove was head of the College of Republicans. With me now is the producer of the documentary, Michael Kirk. He joins us from Boston.

Michael Kirk, Karl Rove has been at this for a long time is one of the things that comes across this program.

MICHAEL KIRK, DOCUMENTARY FILMMAKER, "KARL ROVE: THE ARCHITECT": Well, that's right. It's too bad we don't have the clip, Judy, because there is a certain irony, of course, involved in fact that it's Dan Rather talking to Karl Rove, young Karl Rove in 1972. Aside from the fact that it's like all of us, a slightly embarrassing high school photo moment for Mr. Rove, it also -- the content of it talks very much about counting votes, which is something Karl Rove has been doing all of his adult life.

WOODRUFF: Let's, let's -- and now we have it, Mike Kirk. Excuse me, we've got it and let's show it to the audience.

KIRK: Good.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But it was Rove the tactician who caught the eye of the CBS News White House correspondent Dan Rather.

DAN RATHER, CBS NEWS: Down in the basement of party headquarters is the operation aimed at embarrassing pundits who say Nixon doesn't appeal to youth. The people in charge here are from the 18 to 21- year-old bracket.

KARL ROVE: First of all, voter registration is probably the most important function that we are undertaking now. You can't get a 35- year-old to teach the Republican Party how to get to young people. Just can't rely upon it. Young people have got to reach out to other young people and that's what we're seeking to do.


WOODRUFF: So Mike Kirk, other than having lost a good bit of hair since then, how has Karl Rove changed since 1972?

KIRK: Well, I think he's gotten a whole lot better at what he was very good at, almost from the very beginning. We've talked to people who knew him back then, who said he was always bright. He was always a legend. He was autodidact in the sense that he'd left the University of Utah early but was, as David Broder, one our reporters in program tonight -- we do this program with the "Washington Post" -- Broder said that he -- when he met Karl Rove, it was many, many years ago when Rove was a young man. He knew more about the politics in the South than almost anyone Broder had ever seen, even then.

So, Judy, I think he's just gotten better and better at it because he has that kind a brain, both for facts and figures, and policy. But also I think along way, he learned to get tough in a political campaign.

WOODRUFF: Well, there've been a lot of people moved -- passed through this town of Washington, Democrats and Republicans. Really smart. Really determined. What do you think sets Karl Rove apart?

KIRK: I think he's a combination of both things. We all know James Carville, Lee Atwater, Paul Begala, they all get to the edge -- they get their guy elected and then they go away and get other people elected. Karl Rove has a policy agenda and a real connection to his candidate, to George W. Bush. He has a penchant in life, we discovered, in partnering up with the cool guy, kind of the wonk and the cool guy act that he does. He certainly did it too, fairly well with this particular president. And between this president's policy and his ability to connect with people, and Rove's master plan, I think you have what you have now, which is the Republican Party being on the verge of a sort of durable majority.

WOODRUFF: Quickly, can you answer the question, or does the documentary answer the question, would George Bush be where he is today without Karl Rove?

KIRK: I think neither may. I think both men would agree that neither of them would be where they are without the other.

WOODRUFF: OK. Fair enough! Michael Kirk, who is senior producer for this "Frontline" program on Karl Rove. Thank you very much. It's good to see you. We appreciate it.

KIRK: You too, Judy.

WOODRUFF: Thanks a lot.

WOODRUFF: All right. In a moment, we've been telling you Bruce Morton has taken a look at the role Bill Clinton has played recently defending his wife. That's coming up next.


WOODRUFF: Former President Bill Clinton has come to his wife's defense. Yesterday, he questioned the motives of a Republican strategist planning to fight Senator Hillary Clinton's re-election effort in New York. Bruce Morton looks at how family matters can make a difference in politics.


W. CLINTON: I've never met an abler person in public life, and the job she's done as senator from New York proves it.

BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He campaigns for her; says she's a fine senator, would make a fine president. This week, Arthur Finkelstein, a reclusive Republican campaign consultant, announced he's forming a political action committee called "Stop Her Now" to do that.

Finkelstein is homosexual -- recently married his partner for 40 years -- and describes himself as a libertarian, not a social conservative. He's worked for Republicans like Jesse Helms, who oppose gay rights, and Republicans like Al D'Amato who don't. He helped make the word "liberal" a negative for Democrats.

FORMER U.S. SENATOR AL D'AMATO (R), NEW YORK: Arthur Finkelstein is probably one of the brightest cutting-edge political scientists that I've ever met.

MORTON: His anti-Hillary group will be a 527, like the Internet groups that raised so much Democratic money for Howard Dean last time.

Hillary Clinton's surrogate promptly counterattacked.

W. CLINTON: I was sad. I mean, there were two stories. One is that he went to Massachusetts and married his longtime male partner, and then he comes back here and announces this, which means, I thought, one of two things: Either this guy believes his party is not serious and is totally Machiavellian its position, or, you know, as David Brock said in his brave book, "Blinded by the Right," there are some sort self-loathing there.

MORTON: We haven't been able to reach Finkelstein to get a response.

Has any other possible presidential candidate had an ex-president campaign for him? Sure. This president had his father.

Finkelstein may raise money. Hillary Clinton is like Ted Kennedy -- Republicans give money to try to beat them.

W. CLINTON: He may get up a bunch of money and -- but he can't overcome the fact that she's got -- what was the last survey? -- 49- to-36 approval rating among Republicans.

MORTON: In fact, a Marist poll out this month shows 51 percent of New Yorkers saying they would definitely vote to re-elect Hillary Clinton to the Senate. A CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll out last month shows 40 percent of the Democrats want her to be the party's presidential nominee in 2008. John Kerry was second with 25 percent. And her ex-president husband campaigns for her just as this president's ex-president's father campaigned for him. Must be what they mean by family values.

Bruce Morton, CNN, Washington. (END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: And New York politics, never dull.

The Reverend Al Sharpton is denying reports claiming that he failed to report contributions to his presidential campaign. The "Philadelphia Inquirer" and the "New York Post" report the FBI is investigating Sharpton's fund-raising. The stories claim a Democratic fund-raiser and a businessman were heard on wiretaps discussing Sharpton's failure to report thousands of dollars in donations. Sharpton says all money given to his campaign was reported.

More than four years after President Bush laid out his policy on stem cell research, Congress may soon vote to ease the restrictions he set. What does that say about Republican priorities on the Hill?

And the blogs are buzzing about Bill Clinton. More INSIDE POLITICS ahead.


WOODRUFF: We have some breaking news to tell you about, and that is the U.S. Marshals Service is confirming the capture of a South Carolina man who had been the subject of a manhunt in connection with the rape -- the sexual assault of a 15-year-old girl in South Carolina over the weekend, and the kill, the murder of two people. This is a picture of the man, Stephen Stanko, the man authorities have been looking for. They had put out the word that they had issued a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of this man. And now, just moments ago, we have learned that he has been captured in Augusta, Georgia, which is just across border from South Carolina.

Again, U.S. Marshals Service authorities telling CNN that they have captured this man they were look for, Stephen Stanko. The were looking for him in connection with two murders and the sexual assault on a 15-year-old girl in South Carolina.

We'll give you more details as soon as they are available.

Well, it is just before 4:00 on the East Coast, and as the markets get set to close on Wall Street, I'm joined by Kitty Pilgrim. She's in New York with "The Dobbs Report." Hi, Kitty.

KITTY PILGRIM, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, Judy. Thanks. Let's take a look at stocks. They made a big comeback from earlier losses, and the reason why is that we're seeing notes from the Federal Reserve's meeting last month, and those notes show that the Fed's thinking that inflation is under control. That helped stocks enormously. We had a total reversal. Dow Industrials right now gaining about 59 points; the Nasdaq nearly 1 percent higher.

Another story: Oil prices fell nearly $2, ending below $52 a barrel. Good news there. Trade picture, however, not good. Trade deficit in February soared to a record $61 billion. We had record imports of oil and consumer goods. March's report could be even worse. The worry is that could stunt economic growth. Well, details are still unclear, but a New York judge has tentatively approved a plan to return more than $400 million to investors who lost money in the tech bubble five years ago. Now he says Wall Street brokers allegedly gave those investors biased advice. Eleven firms have agreed to set up a pool for some investors who own shares like AT&T and WorldCom and Ask Jeeves and some others. Now the only information now available, however, is investors that qualify will be notified by mail.

LexisNexis says about 300,000 people may be affected by their security breach. That's about 10 times more people than previously thought. The company announced last month identity thieves stole passwords from the company's database -- the names, addresses and Social Security numbers. And LexisNexis says they will contact anyone involved in that.

And coming up on CNN at 6:00 p.m. Eastern on "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT," three former call center employees have allegedly cheated Citibank customers out of hundreds of thousands of dollars. That call center was in India.


MARCUS COURTNEY, WASHTECH: It's a threat to our privacy information and it raises serious questions, in terms of what kind of protections are available to us as Americans when this private financial data goes overseas and something goes wrong.

PILGRIM: Also tonight, "Broken Borders." The Mexican Army is reportedly helping illegal immigrants steer clear of the Minutemen Project patrols. We'll have a special report on that.

And Senate Select Intelligence Committee leaders, Senator Pat Roberts and Jay Rockefeller, discuss whether John Negroponte should be confirmed as America's first director of national intelligence.

Plus, Texas Congressman Michael McCaul is fighting for stronger border security. And he joins us tonight. That and more, tonight, 6:00 Eastern, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT."

But for now back to Judy Woodruff.

WOODRUFF: Thank you, Kitty. We'll be watching. And "INSIDE POLITICS" continues right now.


ANNOUNCER: On Capitol Hill, a new push to give new life to stem cell research. Christopher Reeve's widow Dana joins Judy to talk about her cause and the pressure on Congress.

Under fire. Tom DeLay's camp borrows a page from Hillary Clinton's playbook. We'll have the inside story on DeLay's attempts at damage control.

Marital politics. New snapshots of public officials tying and untying the knot.

Now, live from Washington, Judy Woodruff's INSIDE POLITICS.


WOODRUFF: Welcome back. Advocates of embryonic stem cell research are here in Washington today, championing a cause that has gained momentum in Congress. Our senior political analyst Bill Schneider has more on this politically-charged issue and how it is pitting some Republicans against the president.


WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): Easing restrictions on federal funding of embryonic stem cell research has become a top priority for moderate Republicans like Representative Mike Castle of Delaware and Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania. They are sponsoring legislation to modify the policy President Bush announced in 2001, which restricted research to existing stem cell lines.

BUSH: This allows us to explore the promise and potential of stem cell research without crossing a fundamental moral line by providing taxpayer funding that would sanction or encourage further destruction of human embryos.

SCHNEIDER: The president's position gives moderate Republicans an opening: allow research on human embryos that are already marked for destruction.

SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (R), PENNSYLVANIA: ... in-vitro fertilization, perhaps a dozen of these embryos are created and only a few are used and many will be thrown away. So the alternative is either to use them for saving lives or to throw them away.

SCHNEIDER: Last month, House Republican leaders agreed to allow a bill that would ease restrictions to come up for a vote this summer. There are only a handful of moderate Republicans in the House. How did they get House leaders to let them have a vote? Simple arithmetic. Eight moderate Republicans met with Speaker Dennis Hastert last month, just before the House budget vote. The leadership needed their votes. It got seven of them. The budget passed by four votes.

Suddenly, stem cell research was on the House agenda. Bills to ease restrictions can probably pass both the House and Senate with solid support from Democrats, moderate Republicans, and some conservatives who hear influential voices favoring more research.

NANCY REAGAN, WIDOW OF PRESIDENT REAGAN: I just don't see how we can turn our backs on this.

SCHNEIDER: California and New Jersey have already passed laws to fund embryonic stem cell research, and Massachusetts is likely to do so over Governor Mitt Romney's veto. A new federal law would create the prospect of President Bush's first veto, a veto that could split the Republican Party.


SCHNEIDER: Moderate Republicans have the same power today that conservative Southern Democrats used to have when the Democrats were in the majority. They're the swing voters whose support must be bargained for, and what they want is clear: more funding for embryonic stem cell research.


WOODRUFF: Bill Schneider, thank you very much.

WOODRUFF: Well, Dana Reeve is among the stem cell research advocates here in Washington continuing her work toward a cure for paralysis, the goal of her late husband, Christopher Reeve.

Dana Reeve joins me now on INSIDE POLITICS. It's very good to see you.


WOODRUFF: It's been six months since you lost your husband. How are you and your son doing?

REEVE: We're doing well. I will say that carrying on Chris's legacy has really helped me move forward. And he is a very strong presence. He always did. And we're doing well.

WOODRUFF: You are here -- stem cell research is what we're talking about right now, but you're also here right now, pushing a bill called the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Act. First of all, tell us what that is.

REEVE: The Christopher Reeve Paralysis Act was actually introduced in the last Congress. And we ran out of time and as you know, things have to be reintroduced with every new Congress. It's a bill that has nothing to do with stem cells, in this case, although we are supporters and public advocates of that research.

This bill is completely noncontroversial, which makes it great. It has bipartisan support. It deals with quality of life issues for the paralyzed. It deals with making the NIH accountable and producing science that's not redundant. There's a V.A. component. It's a very feel-good bill, and we're getting a lot of support.

WOODRUFF: No price tag on this bill. It's not money, but it's about advocacy. Is that right?

REEVE: Absolutely, yes. At the moment. And appropriations would come later.

WOODRUFF: All right, let me ask you about stem cell research. Again, this is not a part of this bill that you just referred to. But we're hearing in that report from Bill Schneider and elsewhere that there does appear to be some movement on stem cell research. Is that what you're hearing? And how important is that?

REEVE: There's definitely movement. And I think that the -- there's a ground swell of popular support and the victory in California was substantial, (INAUDIBLE). That was something we worked with on our foundation and worked out in California with Robert Klein (ph), among other people. It's going to happen.

I think Senator Specter, in the package you showed, made the most salient point, and that is, if you take the controversy away, I believe when you realize that these are cells that would be thrown in the garbage, anyway, why not make use for them in a humanitarian and very ethical way? It has to be strictly monitored, but I think it's possible.

WOODRUFF: But you're still up against some pretty stiff opposition. I mean, I'm just quoting right now a fellow at the Family Research Council. He said there's little evidence -- he says, "There's little evidence at this point that embryonic stem cells will make good on the promises of treatment." He says, "The evidence is all on the side of adult stem cells."

REEVE: Well, I think he's in support of adult stem cells because they have -- they've shown great promise in bone marrow research, in terms of leukemia. I think it's -- today is actually the anniversary of Salk discovering the polio vaccine. And I think that that's a wonderful tribute to biomedical research. And the fact is, I think that probably there were a lot of negative statements about Jonas Salk and the research he was doing at the time.

It's important to try it. It's important to move forward in an ethical way, in the way that many other countries are already doing. We need not fall behind in this area. The humanitarian thing to do would be to move forward.

WOODRUFF: Do you have any sense that President Bush is going to change his position on this?

REEVE: Well, I think that he made some statements in his State of the Union, which I was privileged to attend. And he said that we're going to -- you know, he wanted to pursue medical science in the most ethical possible way. And I think that's certainly what we stand for. And to separate reproductive cloning from embryonic stem cell research. Very different things.

WOODRUFF: Dana Reeve, how many differences does it make if this kind of federal -- expansion of federal support for embryonic stem cell research gets passed or not?

REEVE: It would make all the difference in the world. It's -- at the moment, it's privately funded -- our foundation and as well as many across the country. The state-by-state initiatives are great and I think that they will sweep the nation, because there is tremendous popular support. And I think that federal backing would move things forward. The AIDS crisis diminished dramatically when the federal government became involved. Breast cancer -- when the federal government became involved and started to sanction that kind of fund raising. It makes a huge leap forward.

WOODRUFF: So, Dana Reeve is somebody who will continue to keep working on this.

REEVE: Yes, absolutely.

WOODRUFF: Dana Reeve, we appreciate you being with us. You're, of course, the widow of Christopher Reeve, someone everyone admires.

REEVE: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: Thank you very much.

Well, one of the most memorable lines of Hillary Clinton's public life would no doubt be her charge of a vast right-wing conspiracy. Up next, is there a parallel for Tom DeLay's political problem? His advisers apparently think so. Their take ahead.

Plus California Governor-turned-Oakland-Mayor Jerry Brown is making his up-coming wedding a political event.

And, when we go "Inside the Blogs," find out why online pundits are still venting about the 2004 Republican Convention.


WOODRUFF: As Tom DeLay fights to fend off critics who accuse him of ethics abuses, one of his advisers is taking aim at what he says is a vast left-wing conspiracy that's out to get the House majority leader. With me now, CNN political editor John Mercurio, who focused on the story in today's "Morning Grind."

So, John, DeLay is back in town. His advisers are hard at work trying to figure out what to do. What sort of pushback are they engaging in?

JOHN MERCURIO, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: They are meeting regularly. They're trying to devise what I hear is a pretty multifaceted strategy to try to get him through this.

Now, from what I gathered their plan has four main points. First of all, maintaining strong support among the conservative activists around the country who form his main political base. This is his base. We saw that playing out last month in his involvement in the Terri Schiavo affair, a big red-meat speech he gave to the Family Research Council. We are going to see that this week when he speaks to the National Rifle Association in Texas.

Secondly, the House Republican Conference. This is his main constituency as majority leader. Essentially, they need to make sure there are no more Christopher Shays. I talked to aides who say they haven't done a whip count, they haven't individually polled members to see how they feel, but they're are pretty confident that Shays will be the only member to defy him. Of course, Shays honed on that. We'll see what happens. Third, they are trying to discount the charges. Aides have started distributing memos on a pretty regular basis, essentially research documents that rebut, or try to rebut, a lot of the main charges about Congressman DeLay.

And fourth, attacking the attackers. This is what I think is interesting. They are trying to create the impression that DeLay is the target, a victim of this sort of complex web of groups acting under the guise of good government that are trying to attack him. And this is where the left-wing conspiracy comes in. An aide I talked to said, "I know this sounds like Hillary Clinton, but there really is a vast left-wing conspiracy" out there. "They're all in bed together."

WOODRUFF: So who is it that makes up this conspiracy? What groups are they talking about?

MERCURIO: It's essentially public watchdog groups. You've heard of most of them, Common Cause, Democracy 21, Public Citizen, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, better known as CREW. These are groups that have generated a lot of complaints against Congressman DeLay, but the DeLay camp is claiming that they're really just an arm of the Democratic Party.

Now, there are some numbers that back up DeLay's claims. These groups' campaign finance reports show, have given largely to Democrats over Republicans over the past 10 years, in some cases, significantly so. It's important to point out a lot of these groups, there are some groups out there like Republican leaning -- groups like Judicial Watch is one example. But, to a large extent these groups have Democratic ties. We have Shelly Pengry (ph), the head of Common Cause made a very important point which was they were highly critical of Jim Wright, the former speaker. They called Chris Austren (ph) in 1989...

WOODRUFF: Democrat, he was a Democrat.

MERCURIO: ...Democratic speaker. Highly critical of Bill Clinton during the fundraising scandal over the Lincoln Bedroom. It is really important to point out the groups do have high levels of Democratic -- office holders in some cases who are running the groups. Shelly Pengry, for example, the head of Common Cause was the 2002 Democrat Senate nominee in Maine. She lost to Susan Collins (ph). Scot Harshberger, also, Dick Clarke a former Iowa senator and Abner Vic, who was a White House counsel.

WOODRUFF: So, John, what's next for Tom DeLay? What are we going to see from him in the next days?

MERCURIO: In the next couple days, in some ways I think we are going to see more of the same, but in some ways, there is -- could be some changes. The Ethics Committee -- the House Ethics Committee -- meets tomorrow, or tries to meet tomorrow. There's not much expectation that they are actually going to be able to sit down because of a disagreement over the rules. But his advisers I think they are not really one for big surprises or big, bold gestures. I think they see a plan, they see a strategy, that they have been working on. They like the way it is working and intend to stick with it, at least from the short term.

WOODRUFF: That's our strategy and we're sticking to it.

MERCURIO: We're sticking to it!

WOODRUFF: John Mercurio, thank you very much. We'll have you back when there is more to report. We appreciate it.

Bill Clinton speaks out about the man behind a stop-Hillary movement in New York. When we return, we'll hear what the bloggers are saying about that and other hot topics online.


WOODRUFF: Former President Bill Clinton is causing a lot of buzz today in cyberspace with his comments about a political opponent of his wife, Hillary. So what are the bloggers saying? We check in now with our blog reporters, Jacki Schechner and Cal Chamberlain.

Hi, Jacki.

JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Judy. Yeah, President Bill Clinton's comments regarding GOP operative Arthur Finkelstein getting some attention on the blogs today. Clinton found out that Finkelstein was the strategist behind the "Stop Hillary Now" campaign, and he wasn't happy. And because Finkelstein is gay and a Republican, Clinton wondering out loud if Finkelstein wasn't going through some self-loathing.

We start at the Republic of T -- that it "T", not tea. That other one will take you to a beverage site, as we've learned. He says over there -- his name is Terrence, and he's actually a gay father in D.C. He says he's not a huge fan of Hillary's "shuffle to the right routine of late" but thinks her husband has a point. Down at the bottom of the post, it says, "Doesn't working for or supporting a party run by people who despise you and for candidates who don't think you deserve equal citizenship automatically entail a certain degree of self-loathing?"

CAL CHAMBERLAIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Then we have Eric over at Classical Values' blog,, who's got a couple of comments and questions for Bill Clinton, and his question is, "While Bill Clinton's loyalty to his wife is admirable, I've got questions about self-loathing. One, is self-loathing for a gay person to oppose Hillary Rodham Clinton? Two, or is it the self-loathing to be a gay Republican who disagrees with his party?" And then he goes on the comment: "I could see Bill Clinton's point if Arthur Finklestein actively opposed that, which he has now done. But from what I've read, this simply isn't the case. According to the 'New York Times,' Finkelstein is on record as a staunch opponent of the moral conservative wing of the Republican Party."

SCHECHNER: Michael Ball over at Merion (ph), Massachusetts, that's (ph), wondering if Finkelstein is not another Roy Cowen -- that of course a reference to Joseph McCarthy's right-hand man, who happened to be homosexual -- saying that Finkelstein "has earned his living for decades advising the worst of the hate mongers. And while he was outed as gay in '96, he persisted in working for homophobic Republican right," -- also mentioning that Finkelstein was married in Massachusetts to his lover of 40 years, benefiting from those advantages that his party is so violently against.

CHAMBERLAIN: And another story that's making the rounds in the blogosphere today is the "New York Times" article titled, "Videos Challenge Accounts of Convention Unrest." And the story is basically about the arrests that happened at the Republican National Convention in New York City last summer, and how a large percentage of them were actually thrown out -- something like 91 percent. And a portion of those were thrown out based on video evidence from citizen journalists. And one of the guys commenting on this on his blog is Dan Gillmor at Dan Gillmor on Grassroots Journalism, Etc. And he says, "Accountability is more than getting bogus charges dropped. It's holding to account public employees who lie in pursuit of law and order." And he says, "The ubiquity of cameras have the disturbing privacy implication. But it also means that the truth won't always stay buried."

And then we have Dr. Steven Taylor over at the Poliblog who just outright wonders what the police were thinking. And he says, "It's specifically disturbing to find out that over 90 percent of the arrests were unnecessary." And he also says, "Arresting that many people during political protests who weren't guilty of a crime is highly problematic in our democracy."

SCHECHNER: Also discussing this at under the heading "Citizen Video Undoes RNC Protest Prosecutions." Their point at the bottom was something that we liked.

"Technology's potential to enhance and protect our rights rises and falls on the intent of the person or government department using it. At this moment in these cases at least, the rights of individuals seem to be winning."

Now we should mention that one of five sites nominated for Best Blog for the Webbie Awards this year. They call themselves the Oscars of the Internet. The four other sites -- I'm going to read off the list -- in;; and -- three of those looking more like photo-sharing sites or photojournals than actual blogs. And Hicksdesign themselves wonders why they've been included in this category. You'll have to wait until May 3 to find out the winner of that one.

Now another story we wanted to tell you about real quickly was something that came up as a story. The AP said did John Kerry yesterday in the Bolton confirmation hearing out a CIA operative by mentioning Fulton Armstrong's name. Now, they're saying no, he didn't out anybody. Armstrong's name has been circulating for a very long time, and it's been circulating in conjunction with Bolton.

So they're picking up on this in the blogosphere. They've done their research. There's lots of sites talking about it, Judy -- something that was a story, a nonstory, and then a story again in the blogs.

WOODRUFF: Okay, so Jacki, when do we find out about the Webbies?

SCHECHNER: That's May 3rd. So -- and then there's a ceremony in June, so you'll have to get your dress for that.

WOODRUFF: Yes, well, we're putting all of that on our calendars.

Okay, Cal and Jackie, thank you very much.

The search for a more perfect union is just ahead. Can public officials separate marriage from politics? Maybe not. Stay with us.


WOODRUFF: In today's political bytes, a wedding that's on and a marriage that's off. Oakland Mayor, former California Governor and long-time bachelor Jerry Brown is moving ahead with plans to marry his girlfriend, Anne Gust, in June, even as he prepares to run for state attorney general.

A top California Democrat is supporting him in at least one of those quests. The publication "The Hill" reports that Senator Dianne Feinstein has agreed to officiate the ceremony -- a special favor for a well connected constituent.

Meantime political analysts are speculating on the possible political fall-out now that Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin says he and his wife of 14 years are planning to divorce. The Democrat is seen as a possible presidential contender in 2008. Some observers question whether Fiengold's marital status will affect his campaign prospects.

Well that's it for this Tuesday edition of INSIDE POLITICS. We thank you for joining us. I'm Judy Woodruff. "CROSSFIRE" starts right now.



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