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JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS
President Bush Reiterates Stance on Stem Cells; Senate Standoff Broken; 2008 Election Discussed; Howard Dean Interview; Senator Graham Discusses Senate Compromise
Aired May 24, 2005 - 15:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: Stem cell politics, under the microscope. The House weighs public funding for controversial research, despite the president's veto threat.
PRES. GEORGE W. BUSH, UNITED STATES: This bill would take us across a critical ethical line.
ANNOUNCER: What will Howard Dean say next? Find out during our rare TV interview with the outspoken Democratic chairman. Now, live from Washington, Judy Woodruff's INSIDE POLITICS.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JUDY WOODRUFF, HOST "INSIDE POLITICS": Thank you for joining us.
The Senate is following through on the deal that pulled it back from the brink of a meltdown. But the fallout still is settling after last night's bipartisan compromise on judges and filibusters.
Meantime, the Republican-led House is nearing a showdown vote of its own: a possible challenge to President Bush's stand on stem cell research. CNN's Ed Henry is on Capitol Hill and Elaine Quijano is at the White House. Let's go first to you, Ed.
ED HENRY, CORRESPONDENT: Good afternoon, Judy.
That's right, what a difference a day makes. As you've mentioned, just 24 hours ago, the Senate was on the brink of a nuclear meltdown. Today, though, everyone is practically walking arm in arm in a bipartisan basis. Earlier today, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist finally held that cloture vote we had been hearing for so long for Priscilla Owen, one of President Bush's stalled judicial nominees. She's been blocked four times over the last four years.
Bill Frist not only got 60 votes to clear that nomination and break off the filibuster, he actually got 81 votes. That's a sign of just how the dam has broken because of this deal forged last night by the so-called Gang of 14. Seven Democrats, seven Republicans, moderates who basically said that Democrats agreed finally to get up or down votes on Priscilla Owen, Janice Rogers Brown and William Pryor, three of the judicial nominees. Two others did not get guarantees on an up or down vote. In exchange, the Republican moderates involved said that they would not sign on to the nuclear option, that change in Senate rules to break off filibusters, to eliminate filibusters for judicial nominations, except in extraordinary circumstances.
Everyone now is trying to figure out exactly how this deal was forged, how it came together against all odds. A key moment a lot of people are pointing to is last week when two Senate veterans, John Warner and Robert Byrd, decided to join these talks. They really moved the ball forward and there were pictures of them walking down the hallway together that showed the two long time institutionalists were finally going to really try to push this through and bring the Senate back from the brink.
I spoke earlier to Senators Warner and Byrd, and I asked them whether or not this is a sign that the old bulls are back, and Senator Warner told me, they never left. So, you can see that, in addition to the old bulls feeling like maybe they have new life in this modern Senate, well, also a lot of centrists like Ben Nelson from Nebraska, Joe Lieberman from Connecticut, also the two main Republicans, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, feeling that perhaps on a whole range of issue, they can build off of this -- and now, on Social Security reform, tax reform, the energy bill -- all of this stalled legislation that maybe there's hope that they can forge some bipartisan deals coming out of this.
Also, everyone, of course, trying to assess winners and losers and one barometer of that is the smile test. Last night after this deal was forged, in addition to the centrists smiling, it was also Senate Democratic Leader Henry Reid who came and held his own press conference. He was all smiles yesterday and today. He clearly feels that this was a big win for Democrats. In fact, Democrats today held a victory rally saying that they faced off the Republicans on this showdown.
Meanwhile, Majority Leader Bill Frist, who'd been hoping to use this nuclear option as early as today -- he looked much less happy last night when he emerged on the Senate floor as well as today, though Senator Frist insists that he is fine, and he says he still has the nuclear option at his disposal and will use it if Democrats reneg on this deal and Senator Frist's office is telling us, if Democrats feel the need to hold a pep rally, maybe they're a little more nervous about what's in this deal, and maybe Democrats privately feel they lost more than they won. Judy?
WOODRUFF: Well, that is certainly one way to look at it. All right, Ed at the Capitol; now let's quickly go to Elaine Quijano at the White House. Hi, Elaine.
ELAINE QUIJANO, CORRESPONDENT: Hello to you, Judy.
Well, in recent days the White House had been very careful to say that President Bush did not want to interfere with Senate procedures when it comes to the filibuster, particularly. President only saying that he felt his nominees should get an up or down vote. Well, today at a Social Security event near Rochester, New York, President Bush commented on the filibuster deal struck last night, calling it progress.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BUSH: We got a lot to do in Washington, D.C. One of the big issues of course is Social Security, although yesterday there was some progress made. I am pleased the Senate is moving forward on my judicial nominees who were previously being blocked. These nominees have been waiting years for an up or down vote on the Senate floor, and now they'll get one. It's about time we're making some progress.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
QUIJANO: And after that event, back here in Washington, President Bush turned his attention to another highly charged issue, the issue of embryonic stem cell research. In the East Room of the White House, the president, surrounded by families with children who were adopted as embryos, called those children a reminder, quote, "that there is no such thing as a spare embryo." Now, that, of course, a direct message aimed squarely at the members of the House, who are today debating a bill sponsored by Republican Mike Castle of Delaware and Democrat Diana DeGette of Colorado, a bill which would essentially allow federal funding of research on stem cells from embryos, which would otherwise be discarded by fertility clinics.
Well, today, just a few days after he threatened to veto that very bill, the president reiterated his opposition to the measure.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: Today the House of Representatives is considering a bill that violates the clear standard I set four years ago. This bill would take us across a critical, ethical line by creating new incentives for the ongoing destruction of emerging human life. Crossing this line would be a great mistake.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
QUIJANO: Now of course it was four years ago that President Bush announced a decision to allow federal funding for research on existing embryonic stem cell lines. Now, at this particular hour, debate on this very contentious issue continuing in the House this afternoon, a vote expected on that bill in just a short time from now, a couple of hours from now. Indications are that the House will, with the help of moderate Republicans, defy the president's veto threat -- and a look at the recent polling on this issue may help explain why.
In the latest CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup poll, it shows that 53 percent of people, when asked, would prefer fewer restrictions on government funding of stem cell research, and proponents of this science, including high-profile supporters like Nancy Reagan, believe that embryonic stem cell research could eventually lead to cures for debilitating diseases, like Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, and diabetes.
Nevertheless, the president is remaining firm on this issue, also, saying that there are other, more ethical alternatives, including a bill also in the House, involving umbilical cord stem cell research. But President Bush, again, reiterating his position. He has not yet used his veto pen since taking office, but the president's sticking to his position that he first outlined a few days ago, saying he would veto a bill that went against his beliefs -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: All right, Elaine Quijano staying mostly dry in the rain at the White House. Elaine, thank you very much.
Well, the ink had barely dried on the Senate deal when angry reaction statements started coming from the right and the left. This is to the filibuster deal. James Dobson, chairman of the conservative group Focus on the Family, called the agreement, quote, "a complete bailout and betrayal by a" group of -- or "a cabal of Republicans and a great victory for united Democrats." Nan Aron, president of the liberal Alliance for Justice said she is, quote, "very disappointed with the decision to move these extremist nominees one step closer to confirmation," end quote.
Both sides are keenly aware that some leading figures in the filibuster fight and the deal resolving it may run for the White House in 2008. So, what better place to look for reaction than the presidential testing ground of New Hampshire? Here now, our chief national correspondent John King.
JOHN KING, CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: History is important here in New Hampshire, with its reminders of a time when the big issue was freedom, not filibusters.
UM: A respect for everybody's right to have a voice in government. That has always been worth fighting for.
KING: The city of Portsmouth has been around a while. People tend to treasure things that pass the test of time. So talk in Washington of changing rules in place for more than 200 years never sat well with many here.
TIMOTHY FORTIER, GOVERNMENT AFFAIRS ADVISER: I would hate to see the rules in the Senate change for 10 judicial nominees. It just doesn't seem right to have to change the rules of the game for that purpose.
KING: Attorney Tim Forte is an independent who voted twice for Bill Clinton and then twice for George W. Bush. His photo album from a recent trip to Washington with the Portsmouth Chamber of Commerce is a gallery of presidential hopefuls.
Hillary Clinton is from New York.
Chuck Hagel from Nebraska.
John McCain from Arizona.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist from Tennessee. All spent time with the Portsmouth group, a reminder of why the filibuster fight might matter more in New Hampshire than most other states.
Chamber President Dick Ingram recalls a conversation with Senator Frist that appears telling now.
DICK INGRAM, PORTSMOUTH CHAMBER OF COMMERCE: He felt challenged. You know, he knew he had a hard road ahead of him. The leader of any institution like that could be a very lonely place to be.
SEN. BILL FRIST (R-TN), MAJORITY LEADER: The pious (ph) nomination...
KING: The stakes for Frist are enormous. His unsuccessful effort to keep Republicans unified in the fight over the president's judicial nominees was more than just a test of his strength in the Senate.
TOM RATH, NEW HAMPSHIRE GOP ACTIVIST: The overarching question for the majority leader, if he wants to run for president is, is he the master of that institution or the captive of it?
KING: Senator McCain is back in the maverick role that helped him win the New Hampshire primary five years ago, bucking his own leadership to forge a compromise with Democrats in the dispute over the filibuster and judicial picks.
RATH: So Frist-versus-McCain may be a precursor of what you see her in four years.
KING: McCain says he can wait until next year to decide whether to make another run for the White House.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you sign this?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
KING: Senator Frist is more active, especially friendly with New Hampshire Republican leaders on this visit back in March.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'll have a link to the White House.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my god!
KING: New Hampshire, of course, isn't the only early power in presidential politics. Iowa conservatives who wrote this letter, warning against a compromise, promise now to punish Senator McCain if he is on the '08 caucus ballot.
RATH: People adjust...
KING: Veteran activist Tom Rath says it wouldn't be the first time, a trait that helps New Hampshire hurts in an Iowa caucus process dominated by conservatives.
RATH: It's the nature of the event. A caucus different than a primary, is more partisan, and, therefore an appeal from the base is probably more important in Iowa than it may be here.
KING: A plan to close the Portsmouth shipyard is the big deal here at moment, but filibuster fight does comes up some when Dick Ingram stops for coffee as people here think down the road a bit.
INGRAM: I don't believe that one issue would be a differentiater in and of itself, but certainly it would be something that would play. New Hampshire is a very politically active, aware state. We, you know -- politics is a full-contact, non-spectator sport around here, and whether it's town meeting or the United States Senate, people are very engaged.
KING: After all, it won't be too long before the line for coffee includes the candidates.
WOODRUFF: Not to mention the press. John King has winged his way already back to Washington.
John, we heard about -- talk about McCain, talk about Bill Frist. What about some of the other Republicans looking at a White House run? George Allen of Virginia, Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, Chuck Hagel?
KING: Well, it's interesting, Judy. Being up there so early, you'd think maybe you wouldn't hear these names yet, but all of these senators, those you just mentioned and others, are beginning to make quiet trips up there, take people to dinner. Chuck Hagel was up to see your old friend Tom Rath who in that piece, who said to say hello. He was up just las week to see him, wrote him a little handwritten note afterwards.
Noticeably missing from this group of 14 that cut the compromise deal, Senator Hagel was among those who had raised concerns about ending the filibuster. He was not in that photo yesterday so he did not apparently want to anger conservatives so much. So, he's sort of in the middle right now. Senator Santorum has been up. Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas has been up and talking to people on the telephone. Many impressed with George Allen, the former governor, now senator from Virginia, very folksy style. He's made a few trips up there, raised a little money, so we're still in the early dance of the process.
And I'll give you one more quick footnote -- most of that Portsmouth group were Republicans. They were most impressed with Hillary Rodham Clinton.
WOODRUFF: Very interesting, a lot interesting. It's never too early to look at next election. John, thank you very much.
All right, John McCain's a very busy man, John. While we've been talking, John McCain has joined with some other members of the Senate and the House to look at a completely different issue, and that is steroid testing for athletes, American athletes. Let's listen. They're holding a news conference on the Hill.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R) ARIZONA: ...five key components of our legislation and ask my other colleagues here to make comments, and then we'll answer questions. The five key components are the independence of the entity that performs the league's drug test. There are some questions about the entities and their connections that conduct these tests and their connections with the league that they are supposedly testing for. It has to be an independent entity.
Testing for a comprehensive list of doping substances and methods is obviously, on its face, a strong system of unannounced testing no matter where that athlete may reside, significant penalties that truly discourage the use of performance-enhancing drugs in pro sports.
Now, my friends on the House side were told that, as I was, Major League Baseball was going to impose very severe restraints. I'm glad to hear that, but as far as I know there's been no action. As far as I know, what's still on the punishment for the first time infraction is a 10-day suspension or up to a $10,000 fine.
Now, I appreciate -- we all appreciate what the commissioner said they want to do, but so far they haven't done it.
Fair and effective adjudication process for athletes accused of doping -- these are citizens who are entitled to the right of innocence until proven guilty.
These are crucial components of any credible performance- enhancing drug testing policy.
And I know that I speak for my colleagues that we wish we were not into this. We would rather do other things.
We would much rather be talking about filibusters.
MCCAIN: No, not really.
But there's a lot of issues that we would much rather address. And if the professional leagues had taken action, we would not be here today.
But they have not taken sufficient action, and it's our obligation, not because we like to get into the business of professional sports, but to protect high school athletes and junior high school athletes all over America.
I thank my colleagues and friends for their tremendous work on this issue.
DAVIS: Congressman Waxman, our ranking Democrat, who really started our investigation on the House side.
WAXMAN: Thank you very much. I'm pleased to join with Senator McCain and Chairman Davis, Elijah Cummings and Mark Souder from our committee in sponsoring this legislation.
WOODRUFF: We've been listening to Senator John McCain, now members of the House, introducing legislation today that would require the major American sports leagues -- football, basketball, hockey, and baseball -- to test their players for steroids, amphetamines, and other illegal drugs, five times a year and toughen penalties for those using these drugs. We're going to be hearing much more about that in the days to come.
Meanwhile, the other issue we're looking at today besides judicial filibusters is legislation on the floor of the House right now, having to do with stem cells. Members of the House are expected to vote just a short time from now on a bill that would expand the use of federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. With me now from the White House to talk more about the president's stand on this issue is Claude Allen. He is an assistant to the president for domestic policy. Mr. Allen, good to see you.
CLAUDE ALLEN, BUSH DOMESTIC POLICY ADVISER: Good to see you, Judy. Thanks for being with me.
WOODRUFF: Let me quickly cite to you what Congressman Castle of Delaware, co-sponsor of the bill, says. He says these embryos would be discarded. In other words, we're not talking about using any substance that has or had the potential to be a human being.
ALLEN: Well, actually, Judy, that's incorrect, and in fact, the president had an event today to show that there are alternative uses for the very embryos that you're talking about, and those alternatives are to provide families that cannot conceive children naturally, to allow them to adopt these embryos for developing of children, so that they, too, can enjoy a family with young children.
The president had 21 kids and 21 families represented here today that were products of frozen embryos. The president's policy though is very clear. It's simply, because an embryo may be unwanted does not mean it's not worth protecting, and therefore, it not an inappropriate use of federal funds for the destruction of that human life.
WOODRUFF: What about the argument, Claude Allen, though, that the other side makes, that you can't do as much research with the umbilical cord tissue, umbilical cord blood, that is an alternative piece of legislation?
ALLEN: Well, actually, there's not sufficient science to demonstrate that. The umbilical cord blood has the same potential, we believe and are exploring, aggressively, research in this area to demonstrate that you can get stem cells from umbilical cord blood to try to accomplish much of the same.
What is very clear, though, is that there has been no application derived from the destruction of an embryo in this case and so it's important to recognize that the hope that there's research or that there's applications or therapies available by the destruction of human embryos, that's absolutely not correct.
WOODRUFF: There is a new CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup poll. You may have seen it, showing 53 percent of those asked -- Americans -- say they favor fewer restrictions on government funding of stem cell research. Is the president out of sync with the majority of Americans on this?
ALLEN: Well, absolutely not, Judy. In fact, I want to correct an earlier piece in your program. I watched it with great interest and it's important to know what the president's policy does and what it does not do.
What it does is that this president is the first president to actually support federal funding for embryonic stem cell research to the tune of $50 million since 2001. What his policy does not do is it says that government funds should not be used for the destruction of nascent life, but it also does not prohibit the use of private funds or anything. But it's a very narrow restriction on the use of federal funds, but we also provide opportunities for using embryos that had already been destroyed and to explore in this area, and we're seeing research go on in this area already under the president's program.
WOODRUFF: Claude Allen, White House domestic policy adviser, talking to us about stem cell -- federal funding for stem cell research. This is a piece of legislation that could come up for a vote shortly in the House. We thank you very much.
ALLEN: Thank you, Judy. Good to be with you.
WOODRUFF: Good to see you.
Well, another potential opponent for California's governor. A Democrat with deep pockets has written a big check to his own campaign. The latest would-be challenger to Arnold Schwarzenegger next in our "Political Bytes."
WOODRUFF: Red state support for Senator Hillary Clinton leads off our "Political Bytes" segment. The Dallas Morning News reports that Texas residents are second only to New Yorkers when it comes to making donations to Senator Clinton's re-election campaign. The newspaper says in the first three month of this year, Texans gave Senator Clinton more than $460,000.
Access to his own fortune is one advantage that California Democrat Steve Wesley will have in a race for California governor. The state controller and former eBay executive has written a $10 million check to his own campaign account. A formal announcement of his candidacy is expected next month. Democratic State Treasurer Phil Angelides is already in the race.
It a follow-up to a story we reported yesterday, a federal agency is notifying all 50 states that they do not have to offer Medicaid reimbursements to sex offenders who purchase Viagra. The move follow a report that New York officials discovered that almost 200 sex offenders in that state were reimbursed for the drug over last five years.
Fourteen moderate lawmaker from the Senate form a possible -- prevent the Senate from a possible meltdown. But did they do more than that? Our Bill Schneider investigates.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Here's what I know's going to happen now. People at home are going to be very upset at me for a while.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOODRUFF: Will those moderate senators face retribution from the right? I'll ask South Carolina's Lindsey Graham what he expects.
WOODRUFF: It's just before 4:00 on the East Coast, and as the markets get set to close on Wall Street, I'm joined by Christine Romans in New York with "The Dobbs Report." Hi, Christine.
CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Judy. Well, after a little bit of a winning streak, stocks are a little changed here. Right now, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is losing about 22 points, 10,501. And if the Nasdaq can manage to close higher here -- it looks like it might pull it out -- it'll be the eighth straight day of gains for the Nasdaq.
If the talk is true and there is a housing bubble, then it's only getting bigger. Sales of existing homes rose 4.5 percent last month to the highest level on record. The National Association of Realtors also says the median home sold for $206,000. Folks, that's 15 percent more than a year ago, the biggest jump in home prices in 25 years. It's also the first time that the median home price topped $200,000.
A union at Northwest Airlines says that company wants to lay off nearly 3,000 of its mechanics and cleaners and wants to cut wages for the rest. Northwest says it is renegotiating its labor contracts. One union official said last week that the airline is teetering on bankruptcy. Other airlines have cut mechanic jobs, outsourcing the work to save money.
A congressional committee has voted against legislation for the United States to drop out of the World Trade Organization. The entire House votes next, and is expected to agree that the U.S. should stay involved, despite rising tensions over trade issues with China and Central America.
Coming up at 6:00 p.m. Eastern on "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT," Senator Pat Roberts joins Lou to discuss his fight to expand the federal government's investigative powers under the Patriot Act.
And we'll take a look at immigration and education reform with the president and CEO of the National Council of La Raza.
Plus, an alarming discovery at the Pentagon: Hundreds of Defense Department employees are using invalid Social Security numbers. That and more, 6:00 p.m. Eastern on "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT." Now back to Judy Woodruff.
WOODRUFF: Christine, thanks very much and we'll be watching.
Now back to INSIDE POLITICS.
The White House says President Bush plans to meet later this hour with Judge Priscilla Owen as the Senate moves forward. In fact, these are pictures -- are these new pictures? We are told that the president was going to be meeting with her this afternoon. All this as the Senate moves toward a final vote on Miss Owen's long, stalled nomination.
Even though the Senate showdown over judges has been averted, Capitol Hill is hardly a sea of tranquility. Some Republicans are skeptically eyeing the compromise and one another.
And a looming House vote on a stem cell research bill, opposed by the president, isn't doing much for GOP unit either. Here now our Senior Political Analyst Bill Schneider.
BILL SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT, (voice over): The Republican monolith is beginning to crack. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist could not hold the GOP majority together to end the filibuster on judicial nominations. This time. Just wait until next time, he says.
SEN. BILL FRIST, (R) MAJORITY LEADER: The constitutional option is going to come out again. I will bring it out once again. And once again I will set a date to use it.
SCHNEIDER: A powerful counter veiling force led seven GOP senators to go a different way. They put the interests of the Senate ahead of their party.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) ARIZONA: We have reached an agreement to try to avert a crisis in the United States Senate and pull the institution back from a precipice that would have had in the view of all 14 of us lasting impact, damaging impact, on the institution.
SCHNEIDER: The House majority lead are tried to keep his majority intact on the issue of embryonic stem cell research against a vote he describes as one...
REP. TOM DELAY, (R) MAJORITY LEADER: To fund with taxpayer dollars the dismemberment of living, distinct, human beings for the purposes of medical experimentation.
SCHNEIDER: The powerful counter veiling force in this case is human needs.
REP. MIKE CASTLE, (R) DELAWARE: That's more than one out of three who have illnesses who could potentially benefit from this kind of research. To not go forward with this kind of research I think would be wrong.
SCHNEIDER: Many House Republicans are putting human needs ahead of party principle by voting to ease restrictions. Christian conservatives see betrayal. Focus on the Family Chairman, Dr. James Dobson, issued a statement saying "we share the disappointment, outrage and sense of abandonment felt by millions of conservative Americans who helped put Republicans in power last November. I am certain that these voters will remember both Democrats and Republicans who betrayed their trust." Republican defectors are bracing for trouble.
GRAHAM: Here's what I know is going to happen now. People at home are going to be very upset at me for a while.
SCHNEIDER: But the counter veiling forces are powerful.
GRAHAM: And that's why I'm willing to change my vote, because this is a lot bigger than me.
SCHNEIDER: Can moderates become a new power in American politics? Only when the counter veiling forces are stronger than partisanship.
WOODRUFF: Quite something we watched over the last day or so. All right.
Bill Schneider, thanks very much.
And an update, we just learned that President Bush will be meeting with Justice Priscilla Owen this afternoon around 4:45, a little over a half an hour from now, at the White House. We know that Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist is also expected to be at the White House for that get together.
Well, the filibuster deal has put some Republicans in a more uncomfortable position than others. Up next, I'll ask Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina about the compromise and consequences.
Plus, DNC Chairman Howard Dean. Does he sense any fear that he's not the best messenger for his party? My interview with Dean ahead.
And when we go "Inside the Blogs," is the Senate deal being filibustered online?
WOODRUFF: In the lead up to the Senate compromise on judicial nominees and filibusters, Republican Lindsey Graham of South Carolina came under intense pressure from conservative groups not to sign on to any deal. Well, he did anyway. And Senator Graham joins us now from Capitol Hill.
Senator, very good to see you.
GRAHAM: Thank you, Judy.
WOODRUFF: We are hearing conservative activists are already very upset with you. Focus on the Family's James Dobson says this deal is a complete bail-out and a betrayal by a cabal of Republicans. What do you say to him?
GRAHAM: Well, I don't think he's on the fence about it. Bottom line is, I think it's a good deal for the United States Senate. I think it's a good deal for the American people. And more importantly, it will help restore some sanity when it comes to approving judges. The biggest loser in this whole process are the good men and women who have been called awful names who deserve better treatment. And if we continue filibustering, we're going to destroy the judiciary.
To my conservative friends, let's see what happens here. People are going to get a vote, Brown, Owen and Pryor are all good conservatives. They're going to be approved in a bipartisan fashion. I think the likelihood of filibusters in the future goes down. The American people won. We'll see what transpired the next month or two.
WOODRUFF: Well, Senator, some Democratic groups are saying they're thrilled with this. They're saying they preserved the right to a filibuster and they're saying that, yes, there are going to be some extraordinary circumstances when they can use it. Why isn't this a victory for them?
GRAHAM: Well, we know what extraordinary circumstances are not. Pryor, Brown and Owen are very conservative judges and they're going to get a bipartisan majority here. So being conservative in a few weeks here is not going to be an extraordinary chance. It should have never have been an extraordinary circumstance. So after these three judges are confirmed, I think we're going to have some standard around here about why you should be filibustered if at all.
Secondly, if a party believes that they are winning by doing this, they're not looking or listening to the American people as a whole unit. The left and the right loves this. The right is very upset that I didn't jam it down the Democrats throats. The Democrats are very upset that they didn't get every scalp they could get. Most Americans, Judy, saw the Congress, the Senate being in an ineffective body.
WOODRUFF: Well, speaking of listening to people, what are you hearing from your constituents today. Are they upset?
GRAHAM: Some people appreciate the opportunity to avoid a constitutional crisis that would have made the future agenda of President Bush and the party unattainable. Some people are upset thinking that we should pull the trigger. If you didn't have the votes, it would have been a disaster. If you did have the votes, it would have been a potential disaster. Not doing it and starting over was what I thought was best for everybody, conservatives, moderates and liberals. And if we're smart as senators, we'll take advantage as this chance to start over. And some people are mad, and I understand that. But I think over time this will be a very good way to resolve something that was very bad for the American people. WOODRUFF: Senator, it's not only James Dobson, but it's Concerned Women for America, it's a Traditional Values Coalition. They are all saying they are going to be political consequences, political fall-out for Republicans who signed on to this deal. Are you worried about your own political future?
GRAHAM: There are kids in Iraq today and Afghanistan who don't have to be there. They volunteered to serve their nation and some of them are getting killed and some of them are getting injured and they all are subject to being shot at. They did something they didn't have to do for the good of the country. I didn't have to change my vote but I changed my vote knowing that if we don't try to cool off here, we're going to destroy the Senate and ruin the judiciary.
And if your goal is for me to hate people and that's the test, I'm never going to do that. I don't hate my Democratic colleagues. I disagree with them over this issue. We got a chance to start over. And to every conservative group out there, these judges are going to get better treatment, we're going to have a chance to put a conservative on the Supreme Court. And if the deal comes undone, I've retained my right to exercise the nuclear option in the future. No one's given up anything other than a chance to start over.
WOODRUFF: Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. We appreciate it.
GRAHAM: Thank you.
WOODRUFF: It's always good to see you. Thank you.
Meanwhile, some on the left are slamming the senate deal on judges. So how is the plan sitting with Howard Dean? I'll ask the chairman of the Democratic Party. He joins me live right after this break.
WOODRUFF: Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean has been leading his party for a little more than a hundred days now and so far he's spent a lot of time meeting with the Democratic rank and file. Howard Dean is here in Washington today. He joins me to talk about his plans for the party and more.
Good to see you. Thank you very much for being with us.
HOWARD DEAN, DNC CHAIRMAN: Thanks for having me on, Judy.
WOODRUFF: I appreciate it.
Governor, you -- many Democrats are saying that this filibuster judicial deal is a victory. You have said that these judges, who are apparently going to be confirmed, aren't qualified to be on the bench. Which is it?
DEAN: Well, I think both. I think there are three judges going on that ought not to go on. However, it's a victory in this sense. First of all, it's a real blow against the right wing. Seven Republican Senators had the courage to stand up and do what was right and loosen the death grip that the right wing has on the Republican Party. And I think that's really important. And that is a victory. It's a victory for the country.
We don't know if this is a victory in the long run or not. I mean, there was ambiguous language about the filibuster and so forth and so on. I think the key to finding out how big a victory this is, is when a nominee for the Supreme Court comes up, will that person be an extreme person as some of these folks are? Will the president, for the first time, consult with Democrats, as Bill Clinton used to do, before he sends up a nomination. If he does that, then we really will have loosened the death grip of the right wing on the Republican Party and that will be good for the country.
WOODRUFF: But if these nominees are, as you said, not qualified to serve on the bench, what happened to principle here? There are other Democrats who agree with you about that.
DEAN: Well, you know, in politics, the principles collide. That's what politics is about. Is what do you do when have you two really important principle? The first principle is to preserve the right of the 48 percent of us who didn't vote for George Bush to have something to say about how the country runs. That's been a principle that's gone back to Jefferson, is that the minority still has some say even though we didn't win the election. That was an incredibly important principle to preserve.
The second principle is, you don't have unqualified people on the bench. Well, we're still going to have a vote about that but we did preserve the right of the minority, which is a critical part of American democracy, and I think that's...
WOODRUFF: The Congressional Black Caucus has just put out a statement saying it strongly opposes this compromise. Says it was more of a capitulation. Are they wrong?
DEAN: Well, we don't know that for sure. We do know that, as I said before, the death grip of the...
WOODRUFF: Well, they say they know it was a mistake.
DEAN: Well, we can't know that until we see what happens when the president sends up a Supreme Court nominee. Will this person be...
WOODRUFF: So you're saying these appeals court judges don't matter?
DEAN: They matter some. This is a compromise. Obviously I'd be happier if we didn't have these three people going on the bench because I don't think they belong there. But the right of the 48 percent of us that didn't vote for George Bush is preserved. We still get something to say about the country. That's important for America.
So I don't think I agree with the congressional black caucus. I don't think this is a capitulation. But they may end up being right. Two months from now or two years from now or two weeks from now when the president sends up his first Supreme Court nominee, if that person is an extreme judicial activist, which is the kind of judge these people are, then we need the right to stand up and say no.
WOODRUFF: Let me turn to something that a lot of people have been talking about, Howard Dean and your rhetoric. Some of the language you've used from time to time as chairman of the party, even earlier. At one point you said you hate Republicans. People asked me why did he use that word? Why did you use the word hate?
DEAN: What I -- I hate what the Republicans are doing to this country. I clearly don't hate individual...
WOODRUFF: But you said, I hate Republicans.
DEAN: Well, that's, you know, that was, you know, as you know, the print media sometimes pick things out of context. That was actually in the context of saying, but I admire some of the things the Republicans do in order to win elections in terms of their organization. Look, I hate what the Republican Party is doing to America. They have -- they have abusive power.
They have an elected leader in the Congress who has been reprimanded by the ethics committee, three times under investigation. They have a president who suppressed a report showing that mercury was highly toxic to allow his agenda to go through. They lied to the Congress about how much the Medicare drug program was going to cost. These are not -- this is -- when you have one party in charge of everything, that's a huge problem. The Republicans have abused their power. I don't like what they're doing to America.
WOODRUFF: I hear you. But when you use words like that that get picked up as the press will, doesn't that distract from what else you're trying to say?
DEAN: I can't worry about what the press does. The press has done what they do since I've been running for office. My job is not to worry about the press. My job is to worry about the American people and the Democratic Party.
WOODRUFF: But you are concerned about the impression you leave.
Let me ask you about...
DEAN: Well, I'm concerned about it but I've learned during my presidential campaign there's not much you can do about it. The press will write what the press will write, whatever it's accurate, whether it's out of context. Whatever it is, there's not much I can do about it. I don't worry about it. I say what I think.
WOODRUFF: So you don't acknowledge that sometimes your rhetoric was -- your words were ill chosen.
DEAN: You know what, Harry Truman in 1948 was told by one of his supporters, give them hell, Harry. And what he said was, I don't give them hell, I just tell the truth and the Republicans think it's hell.
WOODRUFF: Your counterpart in the Republican Party, Ken Melman (ph), has made a point of reaching into the Democratic Party base. He's courting Hispanics. He's courting African-Americans. We're now starting to hear from Democrats who say, this is what Howard Dean should be doing. He should be looking to the center, even looking into the Republican Party, rather than focusing so much on the liberal base of the Democratic Party. Should you be doing more of that?
DEAN: We are doing that. What you just told me was the product of one reporter who has, as often is the case, got the story wrong. The truth is, I've been in 18 state, eight of them have been so called red state, Republicans. We have targeted already 10 states, nine of which are states which voted for Republicans. We're putting a ton of money into organizing states that voted Republican the last time.
We're going to organize every state in the country and we are starting with red states. I hardly think that that is catering to my base. It's part of my job to cater to the base. We need to strengthen our community. We need to do African-American outreach just as much as we need to do outreach any place else because we owe it to our most loyal voters to be in their communities at all times. But we are -- most of my trips are investments have been made prozaltizing (ph), reaching out to voters who did not vote for us the last time. We want them to vote for us this time.
WOODRUFF: You're not worried about Ken Melman and other Republicans reaching into the Democratic base?
DEAN: They have nothing to say to Democrats. Look, Ken Melman is going to some African-American churches. About time. I think that's terrific. His party is trying to cut Social Security. They're cutting back on health care. They're sending our jobs to China. That's not only not good for the African-American community, it's not good for working Americans. I'm not worried about Ken Melman getting a whole lot of African-American support.
The thing I can do to prevent that is to be in the African- American community now, not wait until four weeks before the next election to ask for their vote. If we show up, we will get the vote but we've got to show up, we've got to make our case, we've got to treat people as if they're swing voters, we've got to ask for their vote and that's what we haven't done a very good job in the past.
WOODRUFF: Two other quick things.
Some Democrats I hear them saying, Howard Dean needs to spend more time talking about what the Democratic Party will do in a positive sense rather than criticizing Republicans.
DEAN: I've done that very thing. You've (INAUDIBLE) in the print press only to print the hot stuff. They don't print the agenda. Television, fortunately, is the media where you do actually get your say. The agenda is very clear. We want a strong national defense with honesty when we talk to our parents and support for our troops when they come home and become veterans, not just when they get sent off. We want an economy where we keep jobs at home, where we balance the budget. We want individual freedom and personal responsibility. The president talks about freedom in Iraq. What about the freedom of leaving the politicians out of personal family decisions like who's to die and who's to live. The government doesn't belong in a decision like that. That's a private, personal decision.
WOODRUFF: A very quick question. Pennsylvania Senate race, the leading Democrat challenging the incumbent Republican Rick Santorum is Bob Casey. He's strongly anti-abortion. Your party has traditionally been the party of abortion rights. Is it still?
DEAN: Look, we are the party that believes a woman has a right to make up her own mind about her health care, not politicians. However, I welcome pro-life Democrats to our party because the difference between pro-life Democrats and pro-life Republicans is, pro-life Democrats actually care about kids after they're born. They'll support all those childhood programs which make it easier for a family to raise moral children in a moral society. I think Bob Casey's a fantastic candidate and I'm very much hoping he's going to become a United States senator.
WOODRUFF: Howard Dean, 100 days and counting.
DEAN: That's right.
WOODRUFF: As the chair of the Democratic National Committee.
DEAN: Thanks, Judy.
WOODRUFF: It's very good to see you, Governor. Thank you very much.
DEAN: And good luck.
WOODRUFF: Appreciate it.
DEAN: Thank you.
WOODRUFF: Thank you.
Well, the bloggers have their say on the big deal in the Senate. We'll check in with our blog reporters next to find out what people are saying about the compromise over judicial nominees.
WOODRUFF: The Senate deal over the president's judicial nominees is a big topic with the bloggers. Let's check in now with CNN Political Producer Abbi Tatton and Jacki Schechner our blog reporter.
JACKI SCHECHNER, BLOG REPORTER: Hey, Judy.
Last night's last minute bipartisan deal, big talk on the blogs. A mixed reaction to the compromise and that's just on the left. Josh Marshal (ph) over at TalkingPointsMemo.com sums it up nicely saying, he's been reading his e-mail from readers all morning. And says, to put it mildly, a strong range of opinions about whether the Dems did well or not by the deal. He personally thinks it's a decent resolution given the range of options that were on offer.
Over at mydd.com, Chris Bauer (ph) is taking him a little time to snuff out how he personally feels about this. Now saying he thinks it's more of a victory than a defeat. That being a good thing. Initially just posting opinions on the right and what people were saying and saying that when Republicans are this upset, we must have done something right.
ABBI TATTON, POLITICAL PRODUCER: And there certainly is fury on the right side of the blogosphere today over this deal. "Republicans Buckle." This is the graphic at MartinAmerica.com. That's something that's being linked to a lot of the conservative blogs today. Now, looking at those conservative blogs, the most highly trafficked among them, you'll see that they have a few short words for this compromise.
Michelle Martin (ph) calls it pathetic. Power Line Blog (ph), hideous. Captain's Quarters (ph) calls it a massive failure. And some of them singling out Senator John McCain for their fury. Here he is up here. The photo shot of the maverick senator. Over to Patirico.com (ph), this is a conservative blogger in L.A. County. He says he was no fan of Senator McCain in the first place. But as a result of this action, he's pledging to support his opponent in any upcoming race.
But it certainly not all criticism of Senator McCain. Go to Outside The Beltway (ph). This is another conservative site where they're just glad that it's all over. This is from a guest blogger there today who says that, at least in the short term, they think that Senator McCain seems poised to reap most of the benefits.
Now as you move toward the center of the blogosphere, you certainly find more of the Senator McCain as hero analogy. This one I liked from JeffL.Thigpen (ph).blogs.com referring to the popular TV show "24" in his post today. Saying "Jack Bauer and 13 senators disarm nuclear weapon."
SCHECHNER: Victory for the center, some people say, yes. Joe Gandalman (ph), the ModerateVoice.com, a veteran journalist, professional ventriloquist and the master of the massive roundup today. If you need a one stop shop of where to go to see what people are saying, this is your spot. He say, this is going to be successful for the center. Here's why. The political center was knocked dead in the Senate and held just enough to keep the Senate the kind of institution it has been for years. One where parties will have to give and take a little to get things, not just get into a steamroller, aim the machine and drive over their foes.
Another post that he personally liked, TomWatson.tightpad.com (ph). Watson commenting on the future of Frist. Not much ahead, he says. Bill Frist's political ambitions are at a stark, lonely, pathetic, dead. And this just the initial reactions to what happened last night, Judy. We imagine that as the days progress, there will be even more discussion and more looks ahead.
WOODRUFF: But for right now, you've left me with the image of a steamroller. OK.
Jacki, Abbi, thank you both.
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