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JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS
Bolton Nomionation Leaves Committee Without Recommendation; Why the Delay in Informing President Bush about Cessna Incident?; New Round of Base Closings
Aired May 12, 2005 - 15:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
SEN. GEORGE VOINOVICH, (R) OHIO: It is my opinion that John Bolton is the poster child of what someone in the diplomatic corps should not be.
ANNOUNCER: A Republican's biting words, a Senate panel's dramatic vote, and a controversial nomination hangs in the balance.
He was biking while Washington panicked. Americans still are asking why the president was initially kept in the dark about the D.C. security scare.
It's party time for Tom DeLay. The guest list and the no-shows speak volumes about tonight's big tribute to DeLay and about his troubles.
Now, live from Washington, Judy Woodruff's INSIDE POLITICS.
JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you for joining us. John Bolton's nomination to be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations is heading to the full Senate for a vote, but without a recommendation by the Foreign Relations Committee, at least a partial blow to President Bush. The panel made that decision just moments ago in a party-line vote of 10-8.
Early in the long and contentious session, one Republican, George Voinovich of Ohio, set the stage for what was to come. He suggested Bolton's temperament disqualifies him for a top diplomatic post.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VOINOVICH: This is not the behavior of a true leader who upholds the kind of democracy that President Bush is seeking to promote globally. This is not the behavior that should be endorsed as the face of the United States to the world community in the United Nations. Rather, Mr. Chairman, it is my opinion that John Bolton is the poster child of what someone in the diplomatic corps should not be.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOODRUFF: Senator Voinovich pledged to vote against Bolton on the Senate floor, and yet, he managed to find something good to say about the president's nominee.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VOINOVICH: I have met with Mr. Bolton on two occasions, spent almost two hours with him. I like Mr. Bolton. I think he's a decent man. Our conversations have been candid and cordial. But Mr. Chairman, I really don't believe he's the best man that we can send to the United Nations.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOODRUFF: Committee chairman Richard Lugar defended Bolton and the president's decision to nominate him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RICHARD LUGAR, (R) FOREIGN RELATIONS CHMN: The picture is one of an aggressive policymaker who pressed his missions at every opportunity and argued vociferously for his point of view. In the process, his blunt style alienated some colleagues, but there is no evidence that he has broken laws or engaged in serious ethical misconduct.
At the core of any nomination process is the question of whether the nominee is qualified to undertake the task for which he or she is nominated. I have no doubts that Secretary Bolton is extremely well qualified.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOODRUFF: That was Richard Lugar. In just a moment, we will talk with one of the leading Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Joe Biden.
Well, meantime, the Bush administration still insists that John Bolton is the right man for the job at United Nations. Let's bring in CNN's Ed Henry at the White House. Ed, have they had time to react yet?
ED HENRY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No, not yet, Judy. But I can tell you, White House officials have been watching this Senate action very closely today. That, of course, is because President Bush has put a lot of political capital into fighting for this nomination on behalf of John Bolton. White House press secretary Scott McClellan, before that Senate vote, said that he at least was hopeful and positive about the fact that Senator Voinovich, despite airing this tough criticism, was saying he would not let the nomination die in committee, would not block it from going to the Senate floor.
McClellan said the White House is still very confident that they can win this vote on the Senate floor, where they will only need, at this point, 51 votes. Of course, there are 55 Senate Republicans, so even without Voinovich, they're confident they can get this nomination through. The problem, though, is if Senate Democrats launch a filibuster, they will need 60 votes to overcome that. And with Republicans like Voinovich defecting -- if others follow Voinovich, it's going to be that much tougher to get the 60 votes the president would need to get this nomination through. So you can bet they're watching it very closely -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: All right, Ed is at the White House for us right now. Ed, I'm going to ask you to stick around for just a few moments.
But right now, I do want to bring in one of the senior Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He is Senator Joe Biden of Delaware. Senator, thank you for being with us.
SEN. JOE BIDEN, (D) DELAWARE: Happy to be here.
WOODRUFF: Senator, will Democrats try to filibuster John Bolton's nomination on the floor?
BIDEN: I'm sure there's going to be significant debate. Whether or not there's a filibuster, it's too early to tell.
WOODRUFF: Do you think -- then how much doubt is there in your find that Mr. Bolton's nomination will be confirmed?
BIDEN: Well, look, I think if I told you I didn't know, but if I told you two weeks ago you were going to hear a statement as tough and as concise and as penetrating as you heard from the senator from Ohio, Mr. Voinovich, a Republican, I think maybe you and others would have doubted it. I still think there is a sufficient amount of people of rectitude on the floor of the Senate, that the facts will matter.
But I don't know. I mean, obviously, his chances are -- but it's clear he did not have a support of the majority of the members of the United States Senate Foreign Relations Committee to be confirmed. In that committee. Clear he did not have the support. That's really unusual.
WOODRUFF: For all the criticism, though, even from Senator Voinovich -- he did go on to say, and I'm quoting, he said, "I'm not so arrogant to think that I should impose my judgment and perspective of the U.S. position in the world community on the rest of my colleagues." In other words, he went ahead and voted him to floor because he said this ought to be voted by all the members of the Senate. Why wouldn't you and other Democrats share that view?
BIDEN: Well, Judy, if we were going to vote everything on the floor, there's no sense in having a committee, is there?
WOODRUFF: Well, I'm asking you.
BIDEN: Well, I'm asking you back. You know the answer to the question. The answer to the question is, we're supposed to give our best opinion. And when you're a Republican taking on the president of the United States where he, as you said, invested a great deal of capital, I think it's not inappropriate for a Republican senator to say, "I don't like this guy, but I'm not going to deny my president the opportunity to have a vote on the floor of the United States Senate."
But the fact of the matter is we are supposed to vote yes or no. That's the purpose of the committee, to give recommendations to our colleagues. And we have killed a number of nominees, Democrat and Republican, because the majority of the members of the committee doing the oversight did not think they should be confirmed.
It is also not unusual -- it's rare, but not unusual, to say almost always coming from the party of -- the senator in the party of the president, "Look, I know my guy's mad enough at me as is. I'm going to let this go to the floor. I'm not going to presume to tell my Republican colleagues how to vote. Let them vote." And I don't have any problem with that. But you ask why I voted no and others voted no. Because I don't even think he should get to the floor.
WOODRUFF: How strongly do you feel that this is the wrong choice? I mean, do you support a filibuster?
BIDEN: I'll make that judgment when we get to the floor.
WOODRUFF: You were asking, Senator, for more information from the State Department on John Bolton. You didn't get it. If that information were to come forward, do you think something could potentially change your mind about him?
BIDEN: No. All it could do is say that he did not do additional things that are implied by others that he did do. Look, the fact that he dealt with intelligence analysts the way he did -- and that's not what these requests are about. We have all that information. The fact that seven major, major figures in the Republican administration said and came openly out to say, without us asking them, that this man should not be confirmed, is overwhelming.
In all your years in this town, can you ever remember that happening? It's a rhetorical question. I know I'm not supposed to ask the questions. But I bet you can't think of any time that's ever happened. I know I can't. That's incredible.
WOODRUFF: All right, well, we are going to leave it there. And you're right, I'm not going to answer your question, Senator. At least not right here.
BIDEN: No, no, no. I don't want -- you shouldn't have -- I'm not implying you should.
WOODRUFF: All right, Senator Biden, we appreciate it. Thank you very much for coming out to talk to us.
BIDEN: Thanks an awful lot, Judy.
WOODRUFF: Thank you.
We were -- before we spoke with Senator Biden, we were speaking with Ed Henry, who's at the White House for us today. And Ed, I do want to move onto another subject with you, and that is yesterday's security scare with the small private plane invading, or getting into what is supposed to be secure airspace around the nation's capital. There are a lot of questions being asked today about how that was handled and why President Bush wasn't told about it until well after the incident was over. What are they saying at the White House?
HENRY: That's right. White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan was pounded with some very tough questions today in his daily briefing about why the president essentially was kept in the dark yesterday while this was unfolding. The White House was very open yesterday about saying that the president was on a bicycle ride at a wildlife research facility in nearby Maryland, with a high school friend, and they said, at the time, yesterday afternoon, that the president's Secret Service detail was kept in the loop.
But, what the White House did not reveal until later yesterday evening was that, in fact, the president himself was not informed about all of this as it was unfolding. Scott McClellan was asked repeatedly about whether or not this was a wise decision, given the fact that the commander-in-chief was out of loop at a time when, basically, a decision could have possibly, possibly been made about whether or not to shoot down this plane. Also, about the fact that the president's own wife was taken to a secure location, from the White House, because the White House was so concerned. You had some 30,000 people evacuated in the city. Repeatedly, Scott McClellan said that, since basically it all blew over, the president's -- presidential authority was not needed at any point. He defended the decision not to inform the president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECY.: You have highly skilled professionals who are involved in situations like this, in a variety of different fronts, from our Homeland Security officials to National Security Council officials to Secret Service officials, and to others, and to local officials. And they worked very closely together. The protocols that were put in place were followed, and I think they were followed well.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HENRY: Now, Scott McClellan repeated that same refrain, over and over, that the security protocols were followed, but McClellan did acknowledge that there will be a full review of yesterday's situation and he said that those protocols very well could be improved -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: All right, Ed Henry at White House for us today. Ed, thank you very much.
When the order was given to evacuate the Capitol building, some women took off their shoes, fearing their high heels would slow them down. Well, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi was among the shoeless sprinters on the Hill, and today, one of Pelosi's shoes was returned by a Republican colleague, Dave Reichert of Washington. You can see the return right here, and something of a Cinderella-like moment. He bent on one knee, as you just saw, to present the missing shoe, and Pelosi gushed, you are such a gentleman. The others -- at least, that's what we're told she said. The other shoe that dropped was found by Capitol Hill police. It's nice to know there are still gentlemen and ladies in this city.
Well, TV viewers across America tuned into see the evacuation of the White House and the Capitol building. Should President Bush have been in-the-know sooner? Bay Buchanan and Donna Brazile have their wheels turning on that one.
Also ahead, the political calculations as the Pentagon gears up for another round of military base closings.
And a veteran figure in the conservative movement speaks out in defense of Tom DeLay. I'll talk with Phyllis Schlafly about challenges facing DeLay and the Republican right.
WOODRUFF: With me now, former Gore campaign manager Donna Brazile and Bay Buchanan, president of American Cause.
Let's talk first about yesterday's scare here in Washington, the little plane flew close to the White House. Donna, the president was riding a bike, not too far away from Washington, but he wasn't told about what happened until afterwards. Is that a cause for concern?
DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST, FMR GORE CAMPAIGN MGR: Absolutely. The president should, you know, ask the Secret Service to go back and look and see what procedures can be put in place in the future so that he's involved in the decision-making. Look, this was a red alert, and I understand that the plane didn't get within, you know -- didn't come close to the White House, but he should have been told. He should be angry that they kept him in the dark.
BAY BUCHANAN, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN CAUSE: Yes, you know, every time a plane comes close and violate the airspace here, you can't be talking to the president and certainly you don't want the president making security decision. This is a decision of the Secret Service. Protocol was set in place after 9/11. They were thoughtful lines (ph), analyze it, decide what to do, and our Secret Service did everything right.
Now, if you want analyze it and say, maybe we should make some changes, fair enough. But there's no criticism -- what happened yesterday because the Secret Service did their job.
BRAZILE: Well, God forbid if something would've happened, look, they whisk away the vice president, they took his wife and former first lady Nancy Reagan to a more secure location. They evacuated the Capitol. The president should have been told, right then and there. Look, what's interrupting a bicycle? If this was president John Kerry we would interrupt his surfing, or president Al Gore, we would interrupt him.
WOODRUFF: But their argument is it never got to that.
BUCHANAN: Exactly. It never got to that point. Look at this, happens a lot. We have these planes come in. The Secret Service knows what to do.
BRAZILE: Within three -- within three miles? The president should have been involved. He should have been told. This was a serious situation.
BUCHANAN: It wasn't. It clearly wasn't. They made the right decision.
BRAZILE: (INAUDIBLE) you know that on -- on hindsight.
BUCHANAN: No, not in hindsite. They said, the planes were up there. We were watching it. They said there was -- this plane was very steady. There was nothing erratic.
BRAZILE: He was on a bicycle.
BUCHANAN: Every indication...
BRAZILE: He wasn't on a treadmill.
BUCHANAN: And, you know, this plane is like a Pinto. It's a tiny little thing. It wasn't a threat.
BRAZILE: We could've just said, Mr. President, can you take a break? I mean, take a break. Let's have a little Gatorade and let me tell you what's going on at the White House. There's one silver lining in all of this.
BUCHANAN: They told him in plenty of time.
BRAZILE: You know, given some of the bad decisions he makes, perhaps that was the only silver lining, that this...
WOODRUFF: All right, let's talk about another White House story. "USA Today" newspaper came out with a story today saying, they've taken a look at all the people who -- visitors -- who slept overnight at the White House last year, and it turns out that a third of them have given money to the president's campaign.
WOODRUFF: Bay, is this something...
BUCHANAN: Yes, a third of them -- a third of them, and half of that third are close friends or family members, so now we're talking 16 percent were just strictly fund-raisers. That is approximately two -- 12 -- 12 couples. That's all we're talking about, is 12 couples. This is not even a story. This is just a couple of friends.
BRAZILE: Of course, because it's a Republican (ph). BUCHANAN: Somebody -- oh, no, no, no. This fellow -- their -- her guy, Clinton -- and they're trying to compare this -- was moving those renting rooms in the White House by the hour. I mean, that was just a constant flow of people going through there. This is not comparable.
BRAZILE: Bay, that was a fabricated scandal during the Clinton years. I don't believe it's a scandal. Judy, look, we all know that the president has close, wealthy friends, many of who are donors and old-time acquaintances. I have no problems with sleep-overs. Look, Laura admitted -- Laura Bush admitted that she's a desperate housewife. Perhaps she needs company. She's lonely in the evening. You know, she needs somebody to watch TV with. I have no problems with the sleep over, but it was a scandal during Clinton -- you know, the Republican motto is, do as we say, not as we do. So...
BUCHANAN: There's a scandal -- the press made it a scandal. Let's be fair. There was all kinds of people across the country -- liberals and Democrats outraged.
BRAZILE: And Judicial Watch and all...
BRAZILE: ...the conservative groups that hounded and hounded.
BUCHANAN: Judicial Watch is (INAUDIBLE) Cheney, if you remember correctly. That's is hardly a Democrat -- a Repub -- a conservative group. But the key is, it's a perk of the office of the White House. You invite your friends and your family and you should feel comfortable inviting friends of friends.
BRAZILE: Bay, why don't we just go ahead, and I'll say, Mr. President, we would like...
WOODRUFF: But, why is what President Clinton did any worse than what President Bush is...
BUCHANAN: Well, look at the numbers here. We're talking about 12 couples throughout the year that went, that you all say were not close friends of him. This is insignificant. They could've been friends of friends who caught -- could've been cousins of cousins. We don't know who they were. But there's not a large number. I think the key with the Clinton people wasn't even -- even though it was kind of scandalous -- the number of people who went through the Lincoln Bedroom -- the was the coffee klatches. You had to pay to have coffee. That was the scandal with Clinton.
BRAZILE: It is hypocrisy, it's hypocritical and...
BUCHANAN: It's not equivalent.
BRAZILE: Typical, typical, typical.
BUCHANAN: It's not comparable..
WOODRUFF: We are going to leave it here. This was typically excellent on the part of both of you.
BRAZILE: And I'm ready to go to the White House free of charge.
WOODRUFF: Donna and Bay, thank you very much. All right, we'll see you next week.
BRAZILE: Thank you.
WOODRUFF: A lot of military towns are apparently bracing for bad news. Up next, we'll preview the politics behind the next round of military base closings.
WOODRUFF: At the Pentagon tomorrow, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld will release the names of U.S. bases targeted in the next round of military base closures.
CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr reports that military base shutdowns result in collateral damage to local economies, a prospect that makes elected officials very nervous.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):In Illinois, Rock Island arsenals workers make parts urgently needed for armored vehicles in Iraq. But is it about to end? At Rock Island and communities across the country, worries that their bases will be on the Pentagon's hit list. Jobs may be lost, local towns hit hard.
The Pentagon will send its proposed list of bases to be closed to an independent commission for review. Eventually it will make its way to Capitol Hill, where the list is already a political hot potato.
SEN. TRENT LOTT, (R) MISSISSIPPI: And anybody who thinks politics won't come into play in this hasn't been to Washington lately. They're not living in the real world.
STARR: Lawmakers are wary.
REP. CURT WELDON, (R) PENNSYLVANIA: Because the Congress does not want to be burned by either a Democrat or a Republican president that randomly and specifically selects those bases that he thinks are most important politically.
STARR: Lobbyists are lining up to make their case to the commission. Charles Smith represents Illinois in its effort to make sure Rock Island and other bases stay open. He was the senior staffer on the last commission in 1995.
CHARLES SMITH, LOBBYIST: It gets very tough when you got to make that vote because you're putting people out of work. STARR: 97 bases have been closed since 1988, saving an estimated $18 billion. But it has cost $22 billion to clean them up and close them down. This base closure round is different. Lott and Weldon, strong Republican military supporters, differ on whether the whole effort should be delayed.
LOTT: I think the timing is completely wrong. Here we are fighting two wars, one in Afghanistan and Iraq, and a war on terrorism.
STARR: Weldon says money saved by base closing can help troops at war.
WELDON: We need to put the focus on our sons and daughters and give them the best equipment, the most modern technology.
STARR (on camera): Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says the Pentagon's proposed base closure list, if approved, will save the military nearly $50 billion over the next 20 years.
Barbara Starr, CNN, the Pentagon.
WOODRUFF: Feeling the heat. The top Republican and Democrat in the Senate get cornered on the floor and get a tongue lashing. We'll go live to Capitol Hill for the play-by-play in the fight over filibusters.
Also, why are John McCain and Ted Kennedy teaming up? I'll talk with the senator -- the senior senator from Massachusetts.
Plus, circling the wagons for Tom DeLay. What is tonight's tribute for the embattled house leader really about? Find out when we come back.
WOODRUFF: It's just a minute or so before the markets close on Wall Street, and we are joined by Kitty Pilgrim in New York with "The Dobbs Report." Hi, Kitty.
KITTY PILGRIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Judy, thanks.
Well, right now, Dow Industrials are down more than 100 points. Let's take a look for the number, 106. Nasdaq losing half of one percent. Oil stocks are the reason they're leading the decline. Exxon Mobil falling more than $2.00. Crude oil fell nearly $2.00 and settled below $49 a barrel in today's trading.
We have some positive news for retailers. April sales jumped 1.4 percent. That's the biggest increase in more than seven months. Auto sales picked up, and that was helped by a new round of buyer incentives. That is easing concerns about an economic slowdown. The good news did not carry over to Wal-Mart, however. First quarter profits below expectations and the company warned that its second quarter results will fall short, too, and that stock consequently fell more than 2 percent.
Well, these days, people are paying closer attention to their car's gas mileage. In many cases, drivers are finding that the actual number of miles per gallon is absolutely nowhere near the estimated mileage advertised for the car. So, the Environmental Protection Agency is planning to revise the fuel economy tests to better reflect real-life driving conditions. The changes would be the first since the 1985 -and would likely lower the average fuel efficiency numbers for most cars.
Coming up on CNN, 6:00 PM Eastern on "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT," broken borders, hearings on Capitol Hill today look at border security, from citizen patrols to the role of employers who should stop the flow of illegal aliens.
T.J. BONNER, NATIONAL BORDER PATROL COUNCIL, PRESIDENT: We need an easy method for employers to figure out who has a right to work in this country and we need laws that make it easy to go after employers who choose to disobey those laws.
KITTY PILGRIM, CNN ANCHOR: Also tonight, a special report on the Central America Free Trade Agreement and the anti-CAFTA grassroots movement that's gaining momentum across the country. And origins of the universe, we'll debate today's leading theory on evolution and creationism. Plus we'll look at the battle in Kansas over which theory should be taught to school children. That and more, 6:00 PM Eastern on "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT," but for now back to Judy Woodruff.
JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you, Kitty, and we'll be watching.
And now, back to INSIDE POLITICS. Hundreds of conservative activists will gather here in Washington tonight for dinner and to toast House majority leader Tom DeLay. But first they will have to pass by dozens of liberal protesters distributing bars of soap in the message that DeLay needs to, quote, "clean up his act." The demonstration helps explain why the DeLay tribute was planned in the first place. Here now, our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider.
Bill, you are with us?
BILL SCHNEIDER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I'm with you. The conservatives are with Tom DeLay. The meaning of this tribute that they are having in Washington tonight is to rally their support behind DeLay, even though most members of the House and most House Republicans will not be there. Let's take a look at what all this means.
SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Conservatives call themselves a movement.
KARL ROVE, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: We have seen the rise of a great cause and a powerful movement.
SCHNEIDER: That movement is meeting in Washington to defend one of its own, embattled House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, who told the National Rifle Association last month ...
REP. TOM DELAY (R), TEXAS: When a man's in trouble or in a good fight, you want all your friends around them, preferably armed.
SCHNEIDER: The tribute to DeLay is a call to arms. David Keene, an organizer of the tribute, told CNN's MORNING GRIND, "We cannot tolerate our opponents cutting one of ours out of the herd, isolating and then attacking him without one of ours doing something." That's called collective security. An attack against one is an attack against all. Some 900 leading conservative activists are expected to attend the tribute. Notably absent, according to a CNN congressional unit survey, the vast majority of House Republicans, including the speaker, almost all committee chairs, and most Republican members of the House Ethics Committee. House Republicans face three choices when it comes to DeLay. They can rally ...
REP. ROY BLUNT (R), MISSOURI: Tom DeLay is not going to run away from this fight.
SCHNEIDER: They can bolt.
REP. CHRIS SHAYS (R), CONNECTICUT: I think he should step down.
SCHNEIDER: Or they can duck, which is what most of them are doing. They don't want to show up at the tribute and be publicly identified with a colleague who is under ethics investigation. But they don't want to offend conservatives. These days, most congressional districts are dominated by one party. Most House Republicans no longer face any serious competition from Democrats, but they do worry about facing a conservative opponent in the Republican primaries. That's where conservatives get their power, as one liberal democrat respectfully acknowledges.
REP. BARNEY FRANK (D), MA: They have a lot of power not because they stole it, but because they vote in primaries. It's to their credit and the discredit of their critics, people who think that they may be disproportionately influential should understand that's because they organize. And they get out and vote.
SCHNEIDER: And attend dinners like the tribute to DeLay.
The tribute is a warning to House Republicans. The conservative movement is rallying to DeLay. Bolt, and you could pay a political price.
WOODRUFF: All right. Bill Schneider. Thank you very much.
WOODRUFF: Well, in connection with that long-time conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly is on the speakers list for tonight's tribute to Tom DeLay. I spoke with her a little while ago with the founder of the Eagle Forum, and I started asking her what she and others hope to accomplish tonight.
PHYLLIS SCHLAFLY, EAGLE FORUM, FOUNDER: I think it's a demonstration that the whole conservative movement is standing behind Tom DeLay. We recognize that he's the leader of the conservative movement, that he's the most effective man in Congress. And I think it's pretty obvious that the paranoid, hysterical liberals who failed to destroy George Bush last year have selected Tom DeLay as their target this year.
WOODRUFF: So you think that the charges against him are entirely politically motivated, there's nothing of substance in what the ethics committee is looking into?
SCHLAFLY: That's right. I think it's wholly political, because if you look at it it's done about the same thing that Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi have done. He's not even one of the biggest trip takers in Congress. And so I think it's clearly a political attack on the man whom the liberals recognize as the most effective Republican in Congress, who is responsible for the passage of whatever conservative legislation we can get passed.
WOODRUFF: I think that some members of the Ethics Committee might take issue with some of what you've said because they have chosen to pursue this so they -- at least they must believe that there's something that merits looking into. But let me move on and ask you, we know that some members of Congress are coming tonight but that many Republican members of Congress decline to come. Does that say anything to you?
SCHLAFLY: I don't think so. I think the members of Congress show their support of DeLay by backing him up in various votes. And the purpose of this dinner tonight was to show the backing of the entire conservative movement, all the elements, all the organizations, all the people and that's why I'm proud to be there in support of DeLay.
WOODRUFF: If there are Republican members of Congress, Mrs. Schlafly, who are either not supportive of Tom DeLay, in one way or another, does that say something about them, do you think?
SCHLAFLY: Well, I think it does. Of course, there are divisions in the Republican Party. Maybe some of them don't like him, I don't know. But Tom DeLay has a very conservative agenda. We praise him for that. I think one of the main reasons the hysterical liberals are going after him is that he has spoken out about the out of control activist judges. And the liberals know that the only way they have to get their agenda since they've lost Congress and lost the presidency, is to get activist judges who will try to impose their will on the American people. And we thank Tom DeLay for leadership in that field as well as many other areas. Are Republicans who take a more moderate line, if you will, could they face challenges from the right, from the conservative movement?
SCHLAFLY: Well, sometimes, yes. I think -- I think sometimes. But clearly if you look at the way the Republican platform has been adopted, the RHINOS, the Republicans in name only, are diminishing. They are not able to get their planks in the Republican platform. I think we have had a good demonstration that the Republican Party reflects the conservative views and that is where the American people are. They want to keep the pledge of allegiance with "under God" in the pledge. They want 10 Commandments monuments, and they certainly do want traditional marriage as husband and wife. ' (END VIDEOTAPE)
WOODRUFF: Phyllis Schlafly, she's the founder of the Eagle Forum. She is one of the speakers at tonight's tribute to Tom DeLay here in Washington. We want to let you know that tonight, just about an hour from now in fact, there will be a news conference at Andrews Air Force Base. The pilots of the F-16 fighters that intercepted and escorted that small plane, the Cessna, that came into secure airspace over Washington yesterday, the pilots of the F-16s will hold a news conference. CNN will carry that live.
An uncomfortable TV confrontation in the fight over judges and filibusters. Up next, find out who stole the show in the Senate.
Also ahead -- a day after teaming up with Hillary Clinton, we'll tell you what Newt Gingrich is doing to for an encore.
And online reaction to the John Bolton vote and Senator Voinovich's tough words, when would he go "Inside the Blogs."
WOODRUFF: The latest now in the battle over the president's judicial nominees. The Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee today sent the nomination of William Prior to the full Senate on a 10-8 party line vote. Now, Prior is among the nominees Democrats say they plan to filibuster, a move that prompted Majority Leader Bill Frist to threaten the so-called nuclear option which would ban the use of filibusters to block judicial nominees. Meanwhile our congressional correspondent Joe Johns reports the ongoing filibuster standoff prompted the Senate senior member to take to the floor today.
JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Trapped on Senate TV, Majority Leader Bill Frist and Minority Leader Harry Reid got confronted Thursday by West Virginia Senator Robert Byrd on the impasse over judicial nominations.
SEN. ROBERT BYRD (D), WEST VIRGINIA: I'd like to avert showdowns if we can do it. Why do we have to have a showdown?
SEN. WILLIAM FIRST (R), TENNESSEE: Senator Byrd, if I can be rude and interrupt.
JOHNS: Both Reid and Frist jumped in, but Byrd made it clear he had the floor.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Will the Senator yield for a question?
BYRD: Well, let me finish.
JOHNS: Byrd is a partisan Democrat with a knack for political theater and he focused most of his attention on Frist, the Republican.
BYRD: Does this Constitution accord to each nominee an up or down vote on the Senate floor?
FRIST: No, the language is not there.
JOHNS: Byrd pulled out his copy of the Constitution.
BYRD: We talk about what these nominees deserve. What do the American people deserve?
JOHNS: Byrd is dean of the Senate, the longest-serving member of the current Congress, a former majority leader himself, making more than one point.
BYRD: Now we can wrangle until the crack of doom.
FIRST: Senator should be advised the senator's hour of post- cloture time has expired at this point.
JOHNS: With the showdown over judicial nominations coming as early as next week it was a real sign of how one senator can seize the opportunity to slow down the process. Democrats say that could happen if the right to filibuster is taken away. One other note to make, Republicans say Senator Byrd is the person who actually engineered the practice of getting around filibusters on several separate occasions when he was majority leader.
Judy, back to you.
WOODRUFF: All right. Joe johns at the Capitol. Thanks very much.
Senators John McCain and Edward Kennedy today unveiled bipartisan legislation designed to overhaul the nation's immigration laws. Their proposals include tougher enforcement of current laws and regulations, as well as a new program that would allow some illegal immigrants already in the U.S. to apply for permanent residency status. Critics say the measure amounts to an amnesty bill for undocumented workers.
But when I spoke with Senator Kennedy earlier today, he said the proposals will repair an already-broken system.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) SEN. TED KENNEDY (D), MA: We have to have a change, and what we are basically saying is let us try and regularize and legitimatize the border with strong law enforcement, but also with a legalization program for temporary workers where they can come on in here and work. They have to meet the requirements, obviously, in terms of national security. It has to be the job that is here, but to try to -- we only permit legally now 5,000 of them to come every year, and with the kind of demand that exists in these border states, and then the exploitation of these workers is absolutely out of control, and we have to change this.
The current system is broken, we're giving an alternative.
WOODRUFF: Senator, you're aware of what some conservatives are saying. They are saying it's a mistake to try to give a legal status to people who have already broken the law, in effect, people who have been in this country illegally.
KENNEDY: Well, first of all, this is not an amnesty bill. No one's going to go to the front of the line, no one gets the forgiveness. We've got 10 million now that are undocumented in the United States. You show me the conservative that was going to deport them, and where the resources are that are going to deport them. That's not going to happen.
WOODRUFF: Senator Kennedy, and a program reminder, we'll have the rest of my extended conversation with Senator Kennedy tomorrow, right here on INSIDE POLITICS.
Well, first he went to New Hampshire. Now he's in Iowa. The Newt Gingrich book tour is making stops in states with important roles in presidential politics. Details next in our "Political Bytes."
WOODRUFF: Checking our "Political Bytes," the Newt Gingrich book tour has already stopped in New Hampshire and now the former House speaker is in Iowa. Gingrich is making a three-day visit to the Hawkeye state, signing copies of his new book and doing little to quiet speculation that he may be thinking about a run for president. When asked if he planned to be a White House candidate in 2008 he said, "I might be. I don't know." Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco is among those who would benefit from a proposed state constitutional amendment. The measure would delay the state's elections by one year so they would coincide for the races for Congress and the White House. If approved by lawmakers and the voters, Blanco and other officials elected statewide would get to remain in office an extra year before facing the voters.
Tennessee Congressman Bart Gordon has retained his unofficial title as the fastest member of the Congress. For the 16th straight time, Gordon was the top finisher among members of Congress in yesterday's Capitol Challenge charity road race. Gordon ran the three mile race in 18:17. Senators John Enzine from Nevada and John Sununu of New Hampshire were his closest competitors. We'd like to know how those times looked over the years. Well, on this day after the security scare here in Washington, are the bloggers buzzing about what the president knew and when he knew it. Let's find out next, when we take you "Inside the Blogs."
WOODRUFF: Many of the bloggers are apparently keeping a close eye on the John Bolton nomination for U.N. ambassador. Let's check in now with CNN political producer Abbi Tatton and Jacki Schechner. She's our blog reporter.
JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Judy. A lot of the bloggers were taking a look at senator George Voinovich, the Republican from Ohio because he took center stage today in the John Bolton confirmation hearings. We go over to the Washington Note, Steven Clemens, a longtime policy practitioner in D.C., an entrepreneur, he calls himself, he's been following it all day long, and he sees what Voinovich's breaking with party lines means in the big picture and in the long term.
He says Voinovich has created the political space for defeatist tilting Democrats to buck up and Bolton-offended internationalist Republicans to oppose Bolton. He thinks this is not a sprint, but a marathon, and he says we are at mile 16 in a 26.2 mile race. If it gets out of committee, we do know that. Now it did get out of committee. Then over at OliverWillis.com, he is a Democrat, works in the Web department of MediaMatters for America, a media watch group, and he says, "What is wrong with Republicans?"
He's got the quote from Voinovich saying, "I've come to the determination that the United States can do better than John Bolton," and then, Willis says, "He's going to vote for him? Spineless. Simply, absolutely, spineless."
ABBI TATTON: ConfirmBolton.com is a blog set up by a group of conservative commentators last month. Now their focus was already on Senator Voinovich this morning, even before the hearing got underway. Frank Gaffney, a former Reagan administration official had posted this memo to George Voinovich, saying "Come down squarely in favor of Mr. Bolton," continuing, when Senator Voinovich started speaking, there was a lot of live blogging going on from blogger Joel Mulberry over there. "What is Voinovich doing? Is he trying to sink Bolton?" was the panicked blogging that was going on.
He came down finally by saying, "Senator Voinovich's stupidity has lost out to his gutlessness, as at least he's going to allow Bolton to go to the floor for an up and down vote." Now, more from conservative voters over at Blogs for Bush. That one is self explanatory there. The message there is simple, "Senator Voinovich, Backstabber."
SCHECHNER: In a different story, the blogs have now had time to absorb what went on here in D.C. yesterday with that small Cessna plane and the scare, and now they have a lot to say about it. We got to John Gandelman at the ModerateVoice.com, a veteran journalist and professional ventriloquist. He says -- Gandelman has a roundup of what he thinks went down, and he says that he thinks the military reaction was good, that the jets scrambled in a timely manner, but there was chaos on the ground. He's got some other recommendations and thoughts at the end. All of this suggests that the great Cessna scare showed some improvements since 9/11, but also suggests there has to be a better way of responding to a major terrorist alert.
TATTON: The group liberal blog, the Left Coast, who was embarrassed by the whole affair, by Washington's reaction and also the reaction of the president, while D.C. panicked, Bush Bicycled. That's your headline for the rest of the world. They say, "Now we have the image for all to see, Washington, D.C., scared to death of a Cessna 152," going on to say, "What kind of fireball can you get from a 40 gallon gas tank? That's like three Pintos worth of fuel."
SCHECHNER: Over at ipinions.blogspot.com, this is Anthony Hall, who is an attorney in D.C., he's got something to say about the red alert from yesterday. The only curious thing about these alerts is they only ever sound for those that work in the White House or Capitol building. Those that work blocks away are left in ignorant bliss, as if these presumed target are located somewhere in some distant city, something we're hearing from a lot of D.C. bloggers today.
TATTON: We mentioned before a secret British memo that came out on May 1st in a London newspaper suggesting that the Bush administration was preparing for military action in Iraq in the summer of 2002. Now liberal bloggers have been picking up on this, saying why isn't there more coverage of this in the United States? One of them is Congressman John Conyers, a Democrat of Michigan, who is one of 89 congressman who sent a letter to George Bush asking for an explanation. He's been blogging about this at his blog, ConyersBlog.us, following the coverage seeing how much it's getting there. What he said yesterday, are we nearing the tipping point on the smoking gun Downing Street memo. We'll be seeing what more he has on that. Back to you, Judy.
WOODRUFF: OK, thanks very much, Abbi, Jacki. And we'll see you tomorrow. And finally, two very different first ladies find a common thread. Laura Bush and Nancy Reagan unveiled a collection of red dresses, gowns and suits, all worn by them and other presidents' wives over the years. The exhibit here in Washington is designed to promote healthy hearts for women. And it may be especially near and dear to Mrs. Reagan's heart, given her well-known love of crimson-colored clothes. But not today you see her there on the left in white. Looks like quite an unusual exhibit.
We want to let all of you know something we told you a few minutes ago. And that is in half an hour CNN will carry live a news conference from Andrews Air Force Base with the pilots of those two F- 16 fighters that intercepted and escorted the small private plane the little Cessna that made its way into the restricted airspace over Washington yesterday. That's coming up in just about half an hour at 5:00 Eastern. That's it for INSIDE POLITICS this Thursday. I'm Judy Woodruff. Thanks for joining us.
"CROSSFIRE" starts right now.
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