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JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS
Bush Continues Europe Trip in Georgia and Russia; North Carolina Church-Goers Expelled for Political Views
Aired May 9, 2005 - 15:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: Let's make a deal. Will senators resolve the fight over judicial filibusters or trigger an all-out war in the days ahead?
President Bush gets a warm welcome in the Republic of Georgia.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want to feel the sense of a new democracy.
ANNOUNCER: But this visit may not sit well with his last host, Russian President Putin.
Politics in the pews. Did a North Carolina church give Democrats the boot or not?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I was told that I was terminated because of my support for John Kerry.
ANNOUNCER: Now, live from Washington, Judy Woodruff's INSIDE POLITICS.
JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you for joining us. President Bush is overseas, but he is not letting a less than happy anniversary back home go unnoticed. Some of his controversial nominees to serve on the federal courts have been in political limbo for exactly four years. During that time, Mr. Bush says, "the blocking of judicial nominees in the Senate has escalate to an unprecedented level." In a statement, he urged the Senate "to put aside partisan practices of the past" and give his nominees an up-or-down vote.
On Capitol Hill today, the fight over judicial filibusters is getting more urgent and intense. Here now, our congressional correspondent Joe Johns.
JOE JOHNS, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On the fourth anniversary of Priscilla Owen's first nomination to the federal bench, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales was trying to put rest claims by Democrats that he once admonished Owen for judicial activism.
ALBERTO GONZALEZ, ATTORNEY GENERAL: Judges disagree from time to time over particular issues. That doesn't in any way detract, from my view, that she would make a terrific judge on the Fifth Circuit. I've never accused her of being an activist judge.
JOHNS: It's important because Judge Owen, who once served with Gonzales on the Texas Supreme Court, could be the first test-case nominee when and if they the majority leader tries to get judicial filibusters ruled unconstitutional in Senate floor vote. The end of a week-long Senate recess renewed the sparring between right and left on and off Capitol Hill over whether Democrats should have the right to demand a 60-vote majority to put a federal judge on the bench.
SEN. JOHN CORNYN, (R) TEXAS: Fundamentally what we have is a partisan minority blocking a bipartisan majority from being able to act on the Senate floor, and this is something that we think needs to come to an end.
JOHNS: Meanwhile, attempts to find a way out of a full-blown confrontation continued. The Senate Democratic leader proposed moving forward with a vote on one nominee who is not among the most controversial judges.
SEN. HARRY REID, (D) MINORITY LEADER: We know the difference between opposing nominees and blocking nominees, and I believe this is the time to put all this behind us.
JOHNS: There was also a setback in a behind-the-scenes negotiation to get six Republicans and six Democrats essentially to declare a truce. Senator Trent Lott, the chairman of the Rules Committee, put out a statement saying he'd been trying to find common ground, but there is no deal.
JOHNS: There is still doubt as to the timing of any confrontation on the Senate floor. Of course, Senate majority leader Bill Frist can make that decision whenever he wants to. He does have to deal with an Iraq supplemental spending bill. There is also a highways bill that could keep the Senate pretty busy, at the first part of the week -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: So, Joe, no signs of a deal?
JOHNS: No signs of a deal. As you saw right there, there was some talk about six Republicans and six Democrats getting together. But I think Senator Lott made it pretty clear, in his view, there is no deal, at least so far -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: All right. Joe Johns at the Capitol.
Some pointed word as the filibuster fight nears a showdown. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid reportedly called President Bush a loser last week, when high school students in Las Vegas asked him about Mr. Bush's policies. Reid quickly called the White House to apologize, saying that his remark was inappropriate.
On the right, Focus on the Family founder James Dobson is blasting the judiciary as quote, "the last playground of the liberal left." In a radio program broadcast today, Dobson suggested the Bush presidency would be defined by how the fight over judges plays out. Dobson is quoted as saying, "Nothing good took place last November, only the potential for something good."
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee now is just three days away from a scheduled vote on John Bolton's nomination to be U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Chairman Richard Lugar says the committee likely will vote along party lines in favor of Bolton. But panel Democrats have raised the possibility of delaying the vote a second time, as they investigate questions about whether Bolton tried to stretch the truth about intelligence during his tenure at State Department.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice defended Bolton during an interview today with our chief national correspondent John King.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE: I have seen nothing that suggests that John was anything but an interested consumer of intelligence and asked difficult questions. I don't think there's anything wrong with someone -- a policymaker asking difficult questions of the intelligence community.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOODRUFF: Rice spoke to our John King in Moscow as he travels with the president in Europe.
The president flew today from Moscow to the former Soviet Republic of Georgia, where he received perhaps the warmest welcome of his current European tour. Mr. Bush seemed to get caught up in the enthusiasm, shaking his hips and clapping along with a performance by musicians and dancers. It was a stark contrast to his more formal and at times tense trip to Russia to mark 60 years since the end of World War II.
Our White House correspondent Dana Bash is traveling with the president.
DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Cannons fired. The Soviet, now Russian, anthem, plays. In Red Square, hundreds of soldiers march lockstep, carrying flags bearing the hammer and sickle.
Flower-holding veterans ride in vintage Soviet war vehicles, and next to Lenin's tomb in the reviewing stand, the American president, among the dozens of heads of state here paying tribute to the 27 million Soviets killed in World War II.
An extraordinary gathering, sitting side by side, the victors of 60 years ago and the adversaries they defeated. Leaders from Germany, Japan and Italy. Open nostalgia for the Soviet war legacy, a seemingly awkward event for the president to attend, especially one hoping to make spreading democracy his legacy. But he's here to honor Russia's incredible sacrifice and show respect for his friend, Vladimir Putin. Taking a seat of honor, Mr. Bush temporarily put aside increasingly public concern the Russian leader's retreating from Democratic ideals.
BUSH: There's a lot we can do together.
BASH: At one-on-one meetings the night before, Bush aides say he did press his fear Mr. Putin's backsliding on freedoms for Russians and trying to intimidate his neighbors moving toward democracy.
But this was a day to put aside differences about the course of the future and, instead, honor the past. And the unknown soldiers who never returned from what the Russians call the great patriotic victory.
(on camera): Despite the public niceties, Russia has clearly irritated Mr. Bush is also visiting former Soviet states on the trip, publicly challenging Mr. Putin on Democratic reform. The White House notes the Russian leaders recently promised more freedoms, but one top official also admits he has yet to translate his words into deeds.
Dana Bash, CNN, Moscow.
WOODRUFF: We'll have more ahead on the president's efforts to promote democracy in the former Soviet Union and the fall-out.
Here in Washington, the Senate is on the brink of a showdown or maybe two. Up next, we'll talk with a key Republican, Chuck Hagel, about the filibuster fight, John Bolton's nomination and how he figures into those battles.
Also ahead, John Edwards moves on. We'll tell you how that affects the D.C. landscape.
And a message from on-high. Democrats are not welcome. We'll follow up on the political firestorm at one small Southern church.
WOODRUFF: With me now to talk more about a range of issues including the John Bolton nomination to be U.N. ambassador is Republican Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska. He is a member of the Foreign Relations Committee. He joins me from Capitol Hill. Senator, thank you for joining us.
SEN. CHUCK HAGEL (R), NEBRASKA: Thank you, Judy.
WOODRUFF: Senator, your committee chairman Richard Lugar is saying he thinks Bolton's nomination is going to come on a party line 10-8 vote and it's going to the floor. Do you see it that way?
HAGEL: Well, Senator Lugar is the chairman and he's counted the votes. I haven't. But, we will have five hours on Thursday to take a look at the results of the examination of the charges against Mr. Bolton and we're going to vote, as we should. Mr. Bolton deserves a vote. I have reserved my vote until I hear all the facts, but I've seen nothing new or heard nothing new that will lead me to believe he will not be voted out with an affirmative vote, but again, let's wait and see what the facts are.
WOODRUFF: So, you're reserving judgment until you hear more?
HAGEL: Well, I think we have to. That's our role. There have been serious allegation lodged against Mr. Bolton. He deserves to have those allegations examined carefully. That's what our staff has done. The president deserves it. America deserves it.
This job that he's being nominated to do is a big job. It's the face of America to the world at the United Nations. It's a big job, and it will be involving reform which we need at the U.N., but until I get all the facts, then I'll wait and then I'll vote.
WOODRUFF: Yesterday, the former CIA Deputy Director John McLaughlin said here on CNN -- he said he turned back an effort by John Bolton to have an intelligence analyst transferred over a dispute over Cuba. Is that the thing that would concern you or not?
HAGEL: Sure, it concerns me. It should concern every American, and that's why we need to take a careful look at these allegations. These are serious charges from serious people. Then, we'll have to decide whether these allegations are serious enough or if they merit further examination, but my guess is that we will have the vote on Thursday, and I think we've had enough time to examine all the allegations.
WOODRUFF: The State Department, Senator, is saying it's not going to turn over some internal documents that Senator Joe Biden is asking for, having to do with John Bolton and some remarks he made on Syria and Sudan. Is that something you feel strongly about or not?
HAGEL: Well, I think there's a fine line here, Judy, as to what should be turned over to investigators from the executive -- or, from legislative, from the executive. The fact is we don't want to inhibit internal discussions that are very important to senior policymakers like a secretary of state or a president. And once you open that box up, then nothing's safe, and presidents and senior ministers and members of our National Security Council cannot rely on candid, honest appraisals, because if people are concerned about a committee getting copies of appraisals, they won't give candid appraisals, and we need the frank discussions internally.
So, I think again there's a balance there. But what I do know of requests, I think Secretary Rice was correct in what she has withheld.
WOODRUFF: Senator, let me turn you now to the judicial filibuster dispute in the Senate. There are reports -- we've just had -- heard the latest on an effort by some -- a bipartisan group of senators -- Senator Ben Nelson, a Democrat, Senator Trent Lott, a Republican -- try to put together agreement on this that would involve Republican senators agreeing to oppose the nuclear option, and then some Democratic senators agreeing to let four of the seven disputed nominees go through. Does that sound like the compromise that you could live with?
HAGEL: Well, there are a lot of compromises that have been floating around, Judy, a lot of ideas, a lot of exploration of how we can make this work without a nuclear option or exploding, really, in the United States Senate. I don't think we need to do that. I've said that this is an internal issue that should be worked out by the 100 U.S. senators.
Minority rights are an integral part of the United States Senate, and it's important we keep the minority rights through tools like the filibuster. Both parties have used them, both parties have used them, probably in the opinion of the other party, irresponsibly, but this is a serious issue, and we've got to be careful not looking just at the short-term but long-term consequences, and it is my hope, and I believe because I have faith in Senator Frist and Senator Reid, that we can work this out. We've been through the tough spots before. We've got another tough spot here. It's the responsibility of all of us to do that.
I would just remind us all here, Judy, that the oath of office I take, every one of us in public office -- the president -- we all take the same oath of office. It's to the Constitution of the United States. That means to the people and the institutions that represent that Constitution and implement that Constitution. Not the political parties. Not the presidents, and we all have some responsibility here for this institution.
WOODRUFF: Senator, we're going to leave it there. Senator Chuck Hagel, Nebraska,
HAGEL: Thank you.
WOODRUFF: Thank you very much. We appreciate you being with us.
HAGEL: Thank you very much.
WOODRUFF: And now, checking the "Political Bytes" on this Monday, a bill pending in the Alabama state senate would move that state's presidential primary from June to the first Saturday after New Hampshire holds its primary. The bill is scheduled for a final vote on May 16th.
South Carolina Republican official is already vowing to move up his state's primary if Alabama tries to jump to third in line behind Iowa and New Hampshire.
Condoleezza Rice was the winner of a presidential straw poll at Wisconsin Republican convention. The political website was WithPolitics.com (ph) conducted the unscientific survey. Rudy Giuliani came in second followed by Jeb Bush. Bill Frist and George Allen were next. John McCain and Mitt Romney also received votes.
As we reported, former Democratic presidential running mate John Edwards is moving back to North Carolina, and his home in Washington's Georgetown neighborhood is now on the market. A real estate listing says the six-bedroom, eight-bath home was built in 1830. The asking price, $6.5 million.
So, how much of a role should politics play in church? A congregation in North Carolina is wrestling with the issue after several members say they were kicked out, over votes they cast in the presidential election.
WOODRUFF: The rise of faith in politics has led to a split in a North Carolina church. The pastor of the church and several members apparently had differing views on last fall's presidential election, and that has led to a controversy over who is still welcome to worship.
Bruce Morton explains.
BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The constitution says the government can't regulate religion, but can religion play a role in politics? In North Carolina, the East Waynesville Baptist Church has expelled nine members, nearly all of whom say they supported John Kerry in the presidential election.
FRANK LOWE, CONGREGANT: Well, I was told that I was terminated because of my support for John Kerry, which said that I was supporting abortion and homosexuality. The church clerk told me that.
EDITH NICOLS, CONGREGANT: We felt like it was our right to vote for whoever we wanted to.
MORTON: One of those expelled, a Republican, was quoted as saying she did not vote for Kerry, but was terminated because she did not agree to have a political church. About 40 more church members resigned in protest, they say.
The minister, Chan Chandler, issued a statement yesterday saying it wasn't political, just a quote, "great misunderstanding." Unquote. But listen to audiotape of this sermon he preached last October.
PASTOR CHAN CHANDLER, EAST WAYNESVILLE BAPTIST CHURCH: The question then comes in the Baptist Church, "How do I vote?" Let me just say this right now. If you vote for John Kerry this year, you need to repent or resign.
LOWE: We had the meeting, and we were told that the church had decided that it was going to be a politically active church, and that if we did not pledge to support his political views, to get up and leave.
NICOLS: He stated that if we were not politically -- if we were not in favor of this being a politically active church, that we would be dismissed, and I was not in favor.
MORTON: Not all ministers agree with Reverend Chandler.
REV. FRANKLIN GRAHAM, BILLY GRAHAM EVANGELICAL ASSN.: For a church to say you have to support one of the other, I don't know where the pastor was coming from on that.
MORTON: He doesn't know where there's another meeting Tuesday evening.
DAVID WIJEWICKRAMA, ATTORNEY: This congregation is one big family, and right now, my clients, these congregates, feel as though they've been separated from the family. And they just want to go back to their home.
NICHOLS: I am hoping that we will get our church back, so we will have a place to worship and be with our church family.
MORTON: Bruce Morton, CNN, reporting.
WOODRUFF: Call it a duel over democracy. Coming up, we'll take a closer looked at tough talk from both George Bush and Vladimir Putin. Which president has the upper hand?
Plus, moderates are trying to avoid a Senate meltdown over the president's judicial nominees. We'll speak with one of those moderates, Senator Ben Nelson, about the fierce fight over filibusters.
WOODRUFF: It's a couple of minutes before 4:00 on the East Coast, and as the markets get set to close on Wall Street, I'm joined by Kitty Pilgrim in New York with "The Dobbs Report." Hello, Kitty.
KITTY PILGRIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Judy. Thanks.
Well, stocks slightly higher on Wall Street. Let's take a look as we approach the closing bell. Dow Jones Industrials up about 33 points, the Nasdaq about half a percent higher. Crude oil rose a $1.00, to just above $52 a barrel in today's trading.
In corporate news, General Motors. It continues to lose market share to foreign competitors. Now, one of its main rivals wants to help the company. Toyota says it may supply its hybrid technology to G.M. That's in order to help both companies develop more and better hybrids, that they could do more -- less alone. G.M. says it has no deal with Toyota at this point. The two companies are competitive, but they've also collaborated before.
And Roy Disney and Stanley Gold are suing Disney for fraud. They say the company issued false statements to stop them from putting up their own pick of board members. Now, their lawsuit looks to overturn the election of Robert Iger as the successor to chairman Michael Eisner. Two utility companies merging. Duke Energy -- it's already the nation's biggest, and it agreed to buy Synergy for more than $9 billion in stock. This combined company will prevent electricity to homes throughout two-thirds of the country. That's some five million customers.
Coming up on CNN, 6:00 p.m. Eastern on "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT," "Broken Borders." A group of college students is suing Kansas for allowing some illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition at public universities.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KRIS KOBACH, UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI: Right when Kansas universities are breaking under the strain of costs that exceed their revenues, suddenly the Kansas legislature heaps on another costs and says, here, would you please subsidize the university education of these illegal aliens? It's crazy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PILGRIM: Also, tonight, following the lead of the Minuteman project, a newsgroup is planning its own civilian patrol of the California border this summer.
Plus, an up date on the status of the central American free-trade agreement. The leader of the CAFTA countries tour the United States. We'll have the latest on that.
Also, Senator Pat Roberts says North Korea is the number one threat to our country. He explains tonight. All that and more, 6:00 p.m. Eastern on "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT," but for now, back to Judy Woodruff. Judy?
WOODRUFF: Thank you, Kitty. Now, back to INSIDE POLITICS.
President Bush says that he wants to thank the people of the Georgian Republic for embracing democracy and setting a good example for other countries. Mr. Bush is in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi, the latest stop on a tour marking 60 years since the end of World War II.
His pro-democracy pitch may play well in the former Soviet Republics, but Moscow was another matter. Here now, our senior political analyst Bill Schneider.
BILL SCHNEIDER, CNN SR POLITICAL ANALYST: Goose-stepping soldiers parading through Red Square under the hammer and sickle. Is the Cold War back? You might think so, what with President Bush lecturing Russia about democracy.
PRES. GEORGE W. BUSH, UNITED STATES: All the nations that border Russia will benefit from the spread of democratic values and so will Russia itself. SCHNEIDER: And President Putin saying, mind your own business.
PRES. VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIA (VIA TRANSLATOR): Democracy cannot be exported to some other place.
SCHNEIDER: President Bush was in Moscow to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II. In 1945 the U.S. and Russia had been allies in fighting fascism, a war that had just ended. In 2005, the U.S. and Russia are allies in fighting terrorism, a war that is ongoing.
PUTIN: Addressing the threats and challenges of today -- first and foremost, fighting terrorism.
SCHNEIDER: In 1945, the Russians were committed to spreading communism. Now, the Russians proclaim their commitment to democracy.
PUTIN (VIA TRANSLATOR): Russia has made its choice in favor of democracy, 14 years ago.
SCHNEIDER: A peculiarly Russian version of democracy.
PUTIN (VIA TRANSLATOR): The implementation of the principles and norms of democracy should not be accompanied by the collapse of the state and the impoverishment of the people.
SCHNEIDER: Like the peculiarly American version of democracy.
PUTIN (VIA TRANSLATOR): Four years ago your presidential election was decided by the court.
SCHNEIDER: 2005 is not 1945. The U.S. and Russia share values.
BUSH: All I can tell you is he said yes-meant-yes when we talked about values that we share.
SCHNEIDER: And interests.
PUTIN (VIA TRANSLATOR): ...that we need to unite our efforts again to counter contemporary threats and challenges.
SCHNEIDER: Do the two countries have differences? Sure. President Bush offers President Putin a little instruction on democracy. President Putin offers President Bush a little driver's ed. But as an old Soviet specialist noted, things really are different now.
CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE: President Putin and President Bush's relationship, in fact, enables them to talk about these issues in a way that is so open and so honest that to me even as an old specialist on the Soviet Union and Russia is really quite remarkable.
SCHNEIDER (on camera): The Russians do not seem to take the Bush doctrine of spreading democracy as a threat, because they don't think it is aimed at them. It's aimed at the Middle East.
WOODRUFF: Bill, what about criticism of the United States. Where did the president come down there?
SCHNEIDER: Well, he offered a little self-criticism. He says that he -- he acknowledged America's shameful record of racial discrimination. And he almost criticized what he regarded as U.S. complicity in the division of Europe at the 1945 Yalta Summit, which sounded very much like a swipe at President Franklin Roosevelt. Now, that puts Bush at odds with President Reagan. President Reagan said in 1984, we reject any interpretation of the Yalta agreement that suggests American consent for the division of Europe.
WOODRUFF: So this is the farthest any U.S. president has gone since Roosevelt on that.
SCHNEIDER: It is the farthest, and departs from that tradition.
WOODRUFF: OK, Bill Schneider, thanks very much.
The United States Senate may be to brink of an ugly partisan war. Up next a Democratic view over the fight over judicial filibuster from Senator Ben Nelson from Nebraska.
Also ahead a former Democratic senator is still living up to his old nickname of give them "hell, Zell." Zell Miller speaks out about his new book and the lingering anger at his party.
And, when we got into the blogs, a famous political name plans to bring some star power to the blogosphere.
WOODRUFF: We return now to the Washington debate over judicial filibusters. A little while ago I spoke with Nebraska Republican Senator Chuck Hagel. For a Democrat's perspective, I'm joined by Nebraska's other senator, Democrat Ben Nelson.
Thank you for being with us.
SEN. BEN NELSON (D), NEBRASKA: Thank you, Judy.
WOODRUFF: Senator, can you fill us in on the efforts that you and, I believe, Senator Trent Lott are making to come up with a compromise on this whole judicial filibuster issue?
NELSON: Well, sort of taking from what my colleague said -- or Hagel said, I think yesterday, on one of the news shows, there ought to be enough moderately intelligent members of the Senate to come up with a solution to find our way out of the mess. That's what Senator Lott and I are premising our efforts on, to try to find a solution that will avoid having an outright nuclear option laid out for a vote which then could hamper, if not endanger, any further Senate business this year.
WOODRUFF: And, very briefly, how would it work? NELSON: Well, without going into a lot of details because they're still to be worked out -- that's one of the things about negotiations that we all must remember. Not all the details are worked out. But it's to get a six senators on the Republican side, to agree not to support a nuclear option and six on the Democratic side to try to facilitate up or down votes on judges, and then try to figure out how we are going to deal with the seven that are pending. And that's -- very delicate right now.
I think that most of us feel that we've got to do something, and we ought to be able to put our minds together and come up with something.
WOODRUFF: So you think you can come up with something that will win broad support here?
NELSON: Well, we certainly are hoping so. We certainly are hopeful that we can. Until you actually get something done you know you don't have a deal. It's also been important to us to not undermine the efforts of our two leaders to try to find a solution that might be satisfactory -- some sort of agreement between the two, dealing with future growths on Senators, as well as on the pending seven. If they're unable to do it, then this is very important. I think enough of us then would certainly be supportive of an effort to do it on our own.
WOODRUFF: Senator Nelson, you know what it's like to be up for reelection in what we call a red state, a state that President Bush carried pretty handily last year. How important do you think it is for Democrats to come around, to not be seen as obstructionists on this issue?
NELSON: Well, I think it's important not to be seen as an obstructionist. You can certainly disagree and vote against many of these candidates if you don't think that they are going to be good judges on the bench. But I think there is a major concern about just obstructing the process.
But some people think that obstructionism is good. I just don't happen to be one of those. I've always wanted to support the president when I could, oppose when I must, look for compromise or solutions wherever possible, but not obstruct. That's certainly my effort. I think that's what the people in Nebraska sent me here to do.
WOODRUFF: So you don't see a principle here that you worry might be violated one way or another?
NELSON: Well, not the way we're talking about doing it, because no one on the Democratic side gives up their right to use a filibuster. They're just simply saying that they wouldn't do it except in exceptional circumstances, if you really had a nominee that you just simply couldn't live with. But one would hope that those would be few and far between. And if that's the case, then you -- I think you'd see us getting to up or down votes on many of these senators. WOODRUFF: Senator, your leader, Democratic leader Harry Reid, has -- it's been reported that he's been privately telling some Republican senators that he does not intend to block votes on any Supreme Court nominees unless it's an extreme case. Now, is this a helpful comment from your perspective?
NELSON: Well, I haven't talked to Senator -- I talked to him today, but not specifically about that. But that seems to be the kind of agreement that would be comfortable for a handful of Democratic senators, that except in extreme circumstances, exceptional circumstances, you would vote for closure, to move forward to get an up or down vote. You could still vote against the nominee. That's always an option.
WOODRUFF: Well, we're going to have to leave it there. Senator Ben Nelson, we appreciate it. It's good to see you again.
NELSON: Nice to see you, Judy. Thank you.
WOODRUFF: Thank you.
Another Democrat, Zell Miller, was a featured speaker at the Republican convention last year. Up next, I'll talk with the former senator about politics, his party, and why he thinks there's a deficit of decency in American culture.
WOODRUFF: Former Democratic senator Zell Miller of Georgia earned a reputation here in Washington for speaking his mind. He spent his last few months in office campaigning against his party's presidential nominee and now he has written a book titled "A Deficit of Decency."
I spoke with Zell Miller recently, and I started by asking him how he came up with the title.
ZELL MILLER, FORMER U.S. SENATOR: I'm trying to put up a warning sign that says danger, bridge out ahead. Because I think that there are a lot of things out there in this country right now that shows a lack of decency, a deficit of decency.
WOODRUFF: Now, who is responsible for this? Is there one guilty party or many?
MILLER: Oh, I think we all are. And I think that the reason is that we have just sort of become numb to it. It's just become the water that we swim in. A fish doesn't know it's wet when it's swimming around. And we don't realize that there's a lack of decency in this country that is far different from the way it was whenever I was growing up and whenever you were growing up and coming along. Things were accepted now that never would have been accepted in the past. And I think there's certain constants. I don't think that everything is relative. WOODRUFF: You are a Democrat who has been critical of Democrats in the past. Are you putting the finger of blame in this book on the Democrats?
MILLER: I put it on both. I think that there's plenty of blame to go around. I think there's blame with the Republicans and the Democrats, I think with the legislature and Congress and with the Executive Branch. I think there's plenty of room for blame all around. And I think that it especially also goes into our schools and into our homes. I think there are too many parents who want to be their children's best friend instead of their guiding light.
WOODRUFF: Senator, what do you think can be done? What are some concrete things that you think can be done to address what you're writing about?
MILLER: Well, one of the things that I think that can be done is that we've got to care more about each other, and not just be a big me and a little you. And I think that especially our children are being touched right now with music that is really not fit for a child's ear. I know that Oliver Wendell Holmes (ph), the great Supreme Court justice, said that freedom of speech does not give you the right to shout fire in a crowded theater. Well, I don't think it gives you the right to shout filth in an adolescent's ears.
WOODRUFF: Well, as the parent of a couple of teenagers, I can attest to what you're describing. Let me ask you about a couple of political figures, though, Senator. One of the people you mention in your book is Senator Hillary Clinton. You actually say, I gather -- you say that she -- you call her a warrior and you say she could be elected president in '08. But you're very critical of her husband as president. Why do you think she has a chance?
MILLER: Well, I don't think I said that she could be elected in 2008, but I do think that the Democrats will nominate her. And I think that she will be a very formidable candidate. I don't know that she's going to be able to be elected because to be elected you have to go beyond your base. George W. Bush was re-elected because he was able to get one-third of his vote from people who did not call themselves Republicans. And if she is going to be elected, she's got to be able to go beyond the Democratic base and I haven't seen her able to do that yet.
WOODRUFF: Well, it's been noted that she's attempting to adopt what many would describe as centrist positions on issues. Is she somebody who could win your vote?
MILLER: No, I think she's -- I think she's too far to the left for me. I respect her, I like her, and I have known her for a long time. But I don't think that I could support her for president.
WOODRUFF: All right, is there any...
MILLER: I know I couldn't support her for president.
WOODRUFF: Are there any Democrats out there who you think could run that you could support in '08?
MILLER: I don't know that there are any out there that could get the nomination because the Democratic party, unlike it was a few years ago, is no longer made up of liberal, moderates and conservatives. It's just all liberals right now.
WOODRUFF: Zell Miller, I talked to him just a few days ago.
Meanwhile, here in Washington there is word that long-time presidential advisor Lloyd Cutler has died. Cutler, an attorney, served as White House counsel for Presidents Clinton and Carter. He also defended Clinton before Congress during the Whitewater investigation. He served in various posts for Republican presidents, including President Reagan and both Presidents Bush. A family friend says Cutler died after suffering complications from a broken hip.
Lloyd Cutler, a dear friend, was 87 years old.
We're back in a moment.
WOODRUFF: There are calls today for the mayor of Spokane, Washington, to step down. Last week the city's "Spokesman Review" (ph) newspaper, following a three-year investigation, reported that Jim West used his position as mayor, sheriff's deputy and Boy Scout leader to develop sexual relationships with boys and young men. The report included allegations by two men with criminal records who say West molested them two decades ago, an accusation the mayor says is false. But West, a conservative Republican and former legislature with the staunch anti-gay voting record, did not deny having sex with men, although at first he refused to call himself gay.
A spokesman of the "Review" newspaper is now calling for West to resign, and today, the National Gay and Lesbian task force is also calling for him to quit, which the mayor has so far refused to do. We'll have more on this story on "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS" at the top of the hour.
Well, political columnist and one-time candidate Arianna Huffington has joined the blogosphere. HuffingtonPost.com features contributions from a wide range of public figures on the right and the left, including Hollywood figures such as Ellen DeGeneres and director Mike Nichols. Huffington told CNN's "AMERICAN MORNING" that her team of bloggers will comment on whatever topics capture their interest.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ARIANNA HUFFINGTON, POLITICAL COLUMNIST: They will be blogging whenever the spirit moves them. That's what is so great about it. They don't have to give up their day jobs. But whenever they have a thought, whenever they want to say something, they can just go online. They have their password, and blog about it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOODRUFF: That was this morning. For an early look at the launch of HuffingtonPost.com, let's go to CNN political producer Abbi Tatton and Jacki Schechner, our blog reporter.
JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN BLOG REPORTER: Hi, Judy.
You mentioned the URL -- it is HuffingtonPost.com. We've got it up on the screen. Big old celebrity blog -- lots of people weighing in and lots of people weighing in about it around the blogosphere today.
We start at SwineBath.blogspot.com. Matthew Brown is a therapist at a hospital in Indianapolis; also, an evangelical Christian, as he describes himself. I like this because his opinion was that of many of the people out in the blogs: do celebrities really need another place to vent their opinions? Don't we hear them enough already? You mentioned Ellen DeGeneres in your story. He says, "Even Ellen DeGeneres has a little bit to say on the blog. Doesn't she already have a forum to speak her mind? A little something called 'The Ellen DeGeneres Show'?" So, a little sarcasm, making the point.
But not everybody is so skeptical. Over at Martini Republic -- this is Joseph Mailander, a writer in L.A., and he says, "the interesting thing about this is that the Huffington Post is not the political content that's the most interesting part, it's the prospect of reading 'People' magazine as told by the people themselves." Quick note about Martini Republic -- Joseph was telling me in a email today that it started as the Martini Club and it was seven people -- or, people who have known each other for seven years, and they have been a blog for about a year. They will be celebrating their anniversary in June, with martinis, no doubt.
ABBI TATTON, CNN POLITICAL PRODUCER: More on the Huffington Post at DamienPenny.com (ph). Damien Penny is a conservative Canadian blogger who was pleasantly surprised reading the blog this morning. Notes a few conservatives blogging there and makes the following point: "The likes of John Cusack and Julia Louis-Dreyfus have as much of a right to talk about politics as say obscure lawyers from Western Newfoundland. They do not have the right to remain immune from criticism, however." Goes on to say that he will be criticizing such people, but he won't be criticizing them over at the Huffington Post. Why? Because the comment section is not enabled.
The blogosphere is a place where you can engage in conversations. You can comment on posts people have put up there, but not so here. If, for example, you want to comment on what Senator John Corzine has written there, not possible. And this is something that some of the bloggers are picking up on. Over to the spoof site the PuffingtonHost.blogspot.com. They point this out and they say that we've had our comment section enabled from day one. They also say they are not affiliated with the Huffington Post, unless, of court -- course -- you count us ridiculing them loudly and abusively as being affiliated with them.
SCHECHNER: Another Huffington shell site popping up where you can comment on articles and link your commentary is this one, and the blogs are providing plenty of opportunity to give Arianna your feedback and their feedback.
TATTON: "The New York Times" newspaper released a report from an internal committee today that was charged with examining how to improve the trust of its readers. Lots of bloggers picking up on this story. Here at JustOneMinute.typepad.com, they have a list of the recommendations there that "The New York Times" has come forward with. Also picking up on this little nugget that you find right buried deep in there. The web section of the paper should also explore the possibility of creating a "Times" blog -- a "New York Times" blog -- that promotes a give and take with readers while satisfying the standards of our journalism. Not sure if that's going to happen, but certainly included in the recommendation.
SCHECHNER: So, in a similar vein, as "The New York Times" takes a look at increasing its transparency, the bloggers continue to talk about where they fit in this larger scheme of commentators and journalists. Something that came out over the weekend at PennyWit.com, blogging that makes sense. Penny Wit, a former copy editor and reporter in print media, graduating law school in a couple of weeks -- congratulations to him -- comes out in favor of traditional journalists. Surprisingly, a blogger is doing such, saying, "to constantly carp about corporate-owned media or similar malarkey is to insult the work of those journalists who report, work hard, and take risks that you or I never would to transmit the story to a largely ungrateful readership."
Then, over at MediaGirl.org, continuing the discussion -- this is a group blog of, for, and by women to discuss media issues. She continues the debate, basically saying that the bloggers are consumers of the media and they want their opinions heard.
TATTON: One quick update, very quickly, from Princeton University, as Washington awaits a possible showdown over the filibustering of judicial nominees -- the students at Princeton are still doing their filibuster outside the Frist Center, 317 hours. You can look at the web cam. Lovely day in New Jersey there. We'll keep watching. They say they are going to keep on filibustering, Judy, as long as community members come forward and read. They were reading in Middle English yesterday, so we'll keep watching.
WOODRUFF: Whoa, 317 hours? But not all of it in Middle English.
TATTON: Ah, no. Not all of it.
WOODRUFF: All right, Abbi, Jacki, thanks very much, and we'll see you both tomorrow.
That's it for INSIDE POLITICS this Monday. I'm Judy Woodruff. Thanks for joining us. "CROSSFIRE" starts right now.
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