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JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS
Howard Dean Remarks; Florida Senate Race; Global Warming; Senator John Thune Interview; Senator Chris Dodd Interview; Begala and Buchanan Debate Political Issues
Aired June 8, 2005 - 15:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: There he goes again. Howard Dean is back in the headlines by once again slamming Republicans.
HOWARD DEAN, DNC CHAIRMAN: It's pretty much a white Christian party.
ANNOUNCER: But is the Democratic party boss right?
She had a crucial, some say infamous, role in the 2000 Florida recount. Now Katherine Harris puts her hat into the Senate ring, but can she oust the Sunshine State's top Democrat?
Judgment day in the controversy over a judge. We're closing in on a long-awaited Senate vote on Janice Rogers Brown.
SEN. BILL FRIST, (R) TENNESSEE, MAJORITY LEADER: We have the up or down vote on her nomination scheduled for 5:00 p.m. today.
ANNOUNCER: He's bucking his party in the battle over John Bolton. We'll talk with freshman Senator John Thune and we'll speak with Senator Chris Dodd who is holding up the vote on the man President Bush wants at the U.N.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: Now live from Washington, CNN's INSIDE POLITICS.
DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks for joining us. I'm Dana Bash.
The same tough talk and blunt manner that fueled Howard Dean's insurgent presidential campaign are threatening to overshadow his role as top party insider. For the second time in two weeks, Dean's comments about Republicans have caused some fellow Democrats to disavow their own party chairman. Our senior political analyst Bill Schneider has more on Dean's latest remarks and their impact on his party.
BILL SCHNEIDER, SR POLITICAL ANALYST: It's becoming a familiar pattern. Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean says something controversial, like this in January.
DEAN: I hate the Republicans and everything they stand for.
SCHNEIDER: Or this, in San Francisco this week.
DEAN: The Republicans are not very friendly to different kinds of people. They're a pretty monolithic party. Pretty much -- they all behave the same, they all look the same, and they all -- you know, it's pretty much a white, Christian party.
SCHNEIDER: Democrats distance.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), MINORITY LEADER: I do not agree with the statement that was made by Governor Dean or Chairman Dean in relate -- in characterizing Republicans.
SCHNEIDER: Dean explains.
DEAN: I don't hate Republicans, but I sure hate what this Republican party is doing to America.
SCHNEIDER: And complains.
DEAN: They want to divert attention. They are trying to make me the issue.
SCHNEIDER: ...which he's helping them do. Dean's description of Republicans as a white Christian party may be technically accurate. Among all the self-described Republicans interviewed by the CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup poll this year, a whopping 82 percent are white Christians.
But it was politically foolish because a majority of Democrats are also white Christians, including Dean himself. Two thirds of the American people are white Christians. It doesn't make much sense to insult them.
Dean's us versus them rhetoric does rally the Democratic party's core supporters.
PELOSI: He has energized the base of the party.
SCHNEIDER: That may be a good way to raise money from small donors over the internet, but it may not work too well with high dollar donors who want to see a winning political strategy. Last year, the Democratic National Committee raised more money than the Republican National Committee. Dean became chairman in February 2005. Over the next three months the Republicans raised more than twice as much money as the Democrats.
SCHNEIDER (on camera): To be fair, Republicans regained their fund raising lead after President Bush was reelected last year, before Dean took over the party. But the trend has not reversed.
BASH: Bill, the president has not exactly doing well in the polls. Are Democrats missing an opportunity here? Is he sort of an easy target that they're not shooting at?
SCHNEIDER: Well, look at what "The Washington Post" reported from their polling this morning. In a "Post"/ABC News poll, for the first time in two years a majority of Americans say President Bush is doing more to divide the country than to unite the country.
Now, listen to this statement that Congress -- a Jewish Republican Congressman from Virginia just made today. He said, "I'm disappointed that the leader of the Democrat party finds it necessary to divide Americans by race and faith." So, it's really missing an opportunity the Democrats ought to have.
BASH: Bill Schneider, thank you very much.
And we'll have much more on Howard Dean and his comments about the GOP later in the show. Paul Begala and Bay Buchanan will cover Dean and a lot of other issues when they join me for our "Strategy Session."
The stage is set for a Senate confirmation vote later this afternoon on Janice Rogers Brown to the federal court of appeals here in Washington. Brown is one of President Bush's most controversial judicial nominees and the debate is still red hot. Our congressional correspondent Ed Henry is on the Hill with the latest.
Ed, tell us about the debate as it wraps up.
ED HENRY, CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Dana, in fact, Howard Dean's name popped up in the Senate floor debate today over Janice Rogers Brown who is set to be confirmed tonight at 5:00 p.m., and what's interesting about that is it came up because these final hours of the debate over Brown, who's an African-American woman, have become sharply focused on the divisive issue of race.
Republicans say this nomination of Brown, daughter of a sharecropper, grew up in the segregated south, is a sign of how President Bush is reaching out to women and minorities, putting them in very senior positions in his administration. And, they're also saying that Howard Dean's latest comments are really adding fuel to the fire here. Senator Gordon Smith took to the Senate floor today to charge that Dean was engaging in political hate speech. He contrasted that to what Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman is doing by reaching out to women and minorities. Here is Senator Smith.
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SEN. GORDON SMITH (R) OREGON: We in the Republican party are trying to include people, women and minorities, who have historically been kept out of public service and much of the benefit of American law over long periods of time in our history, and I do not think that should be condemned. I think that's to be celebrated when both parties do that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HENRY: Speaker Dennis Hastert also picked up on the theme. Speaker Hastert today was talking with Hispanic journalists, and he said that he believes that Democrats, quote, "almost in a very deliberate way are almost trying to stop people of Hispanic origin or other kinds of origin from getting any place in the administration." Hastert's spokesman Ron Bonjean (ph) also told CNN, quote, "last week's scandal is Deep Throat and this week's scandal is Dean throat, and apparently Dean likes the taste of his own foot."
Now, privately, Democrats are not happy with Howard Dean's comments but they're saying that the Republicans -- that this is over- blown rhetoric right now. They're making too much of this. In fact, on the Senate floor Edward Kennedy said that "the Brown nomination is not about race, it's not about the merits of a wonderful life story. Instead it's about her record," and in fact, Democrats and the Congressional Black Caucus today are saying that her record is anti- civil rights. They're planning a protest. They're going to going to march over to the Senate at 5:00 to go against this nomination.
And, Democrats today also turned to one of their rising stars, Barack Obama, the only African-American in the Senate to fight back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), ILLINOIS: Just as it would be cynical and offensive that Judge Rogers Brown be vilified simply for being a black conservative, it's equally offensive and cynical to suggest that somehow she should get a pass for her outlandish views simply because she's a black woman.
I hope that we have arrived at a point in our country's history where black folks can be criticized for holding views that are out of the mainstream just as whites are criticized when they hold views that are out of the mainstream.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HENRY: And this comes after yesterday's nasty spat on the Senate floor where Democrat Chuck Schumer said he believes Janice Rogers Brown wants to gain so much power that she almost wants to be a dictator or a grand exalted ruler. That led Republican Jeff Sessions that he believed that grand exalted ruler comment was a reference to the Ku Klux Klan. Senator Schumer says that's absolutely ridiculous, that in fact it's just a smoke screen being put up by the Republicans.
But, the bottom line is that all of this shows just how bad the partisanship has gotten in the Senate. In fact, we're now being told that Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and Democratic Leader Harry Reid are planning, starting next Thursday, to have open office hours -- almost like professors -- where they are going to open their doors privately to any individual senator and each party to step forward and bring up any issue they want.
But, I can tell you, people on each side are already whispering about how long is this really going to last. Dana?
BASH: Ed, it will be interesting to see how many senators actually attend those office hours. We'll definitely get back to you on that. Thank you, Ed.
He was the Republicans' rock star in last year's election, but now he's bucking his party and the battle over John Bolton. Next I'll speak with Senator John Thune.
Congress was off last week and lawmakers had a chance to meet with their constituents. So, what do voters want Congress to do? We'll get the inside buzz from Bob Novak.
Plus, it was one of George Bush's winning issues in last year's campaign. But are the president's numbers now slipping when it comes to fighting terror?
BASH: As we've reported, the Senate is moving toward a confirmation vote on an Appeals Court nominee, Janice Rogers Brown. And Senator John Thune, Republican of South Dakota, is with us from Capitol Hill.
And Senator, I want to start by asking you about that. You have now a second nominee, actually going through, poised to go through, after this deal was cut, a deal that many conservatives were very unhappy about. But looking at it now, do you think that it -- the case can be made to conservatives that perhaps they were wrong because you are seeing some of President Bush's nominees going through that wouldn't have otherwise?
SEN. JOHN THUNE, (R) SOUTH DAKOTA: Well, as a matter of principle, Dana, we think that all the nominees deserve an up or down vote, a yes or no vote in the United States Senate. And we still believe that's the correct and appropriate way to approach these nominees. But the fact that we are voting -- we voted on Priscilla Owen, we're now voting on Janice Rogers Brown. We're going to take up Judge Pryor, Judge McKeague, Judge Griffin here in the not-so-distant future.
I think it's a good thing. And I think that's why you're hearing so much protest from the political left right now. They are seeing us move on some of these nominees that earlier they were describing as way out of the mainstream and radical. And now we're approving them. So this is a good thing, this is why we're here. This is part of our agenda. And we want to continue to move these judicial nominees through the process.
BASH: I want to ask you about another nominee that is not moving through right now and that is John Bolton, the president's pick to go to the U.N. You think he's a good choice, but you're not going to vote for him, essentially to protest a base closing in your state. Ellsworth Air Force Base is being closed. Some Republicans are looking at that, Senator, and saying perhaps that's sour grapes. What do you say to that?
THUNE: Well, first of all, I said what I -- same principle applies to John Bolton that applies to judicial nominees, Dana, and that it is that he does deserve an up and down vote. I've made it abundantly clear. If I wanted to block his nomination, I could certainly do that. And I'm not going to do that. He will be voted on.
I've said that I don't think he's the best person for the job, that I do take very seriously the diplomatic posture of this country, but I also take very seriously the defense posture of this country. And right now I've got very serious defense-related matter in my home state of South Dakota and that's my first priority.
BASH: Senator, talking about Ellsworth Air Force Base. Of course, on the list to be closed. I want to take you back to your campaign just a few months ago. You are a giant killer. You unseated the Democratic leader Tom Daschle in South Dakota, primarily because of your relationship with President Bush, who personally came and recruited you.
I want to read a quote from you about Tom Daschle during the race. You said: "It puts Ellsworth in a lot stronger position than having someone who's going to be in the minority and someone who doesn't have a relationship with the president of the United States." So there in the campaign you made it clear that perhaps your relationship would help save the Air Force Base. What happened?
THUNE: Well, Dana, what I said was true then and it's true now. And that is, we are better served, I think, as a state to have someone who at least has a relationship and can make the case with this administration. But that being said, these are military decisions. They were made based upon military value.
I'm going to plead my case every place I can with the administration, with the Pentagon, with the BRAC Commission, in the form of legislation. I'm going to use every tool at my disposal to try and see that this base gets off the closure list. Not just because it's a big employer -- it's the second largest employer in the state of South Dakota -- but because I think it has critical value to our national security.
BASH: Have you had any conversations with the president, anybody at the White House saying, wait a minute, you're the ones who wanted me here. Can you help me out this time?
THUNE: I've had ongoing discussions with the administration, with the White House, with the Pentagon, throughout this process. And, as I said earlier, they've it abundantly clear that they are not going to politicize this process, that they're going to allow these decisions to be made based on military value.
That being said, we're going to continue to dialogue and discuss with them. But we are going to press this case with them, with the Pentagon, with the military leadership in this country, with the BRAC Commission. Because I am so absolutely convinced about the rightness of keeping this base off the list. This base is important to the national security of this country and that fundamentally ought to be our first concern is.
BASH: Senator, just one -- a little bit of a turn here. One final question. Tomorrow, you're going to speak to a group called the greater Des Moines Partnership. That's a group of business leaders from the state of Iowa. And it's essentially a cattle call for presidential candidates in 2008. You've been in the Senate for six months now. Are you already bored?
THUNE: No. Not at all, Dana. But when the chairman of the Finance Committee, Senator Chuck Grassley, asks you to come and do something, the answer is usually yes. Iowa is a neighbor state and I'm looking forward to having a chance to visit with them a little bit about what our agenda is right now in the United States Senate.
BASH: Never too early to meet some folks from Iowa, though, right?
THUNE: Those are your words, not mine.
BASH: OK, Senator, thank you very much for your time. Thank you for joining us.
THUNE: Thanks, Dana.
BASH: Thank you for joining us.
Well, getting an earful. You might be surprised what lawmakers heard from their constituents over the Memorial Day recess. Bob Novak joins us with that and much more in his "Reporters Notebook" when INSIDE POLITICS continues.
BASH: Bob Novak joins us now with some inside buzz. And Bob, members of Congress are back in Washington after a short recess. What are you hearing specifically from Republicans about what they learned back home?
ROBERT NOVAK, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Dana, they're worried about two things. One -- and these two things are not Iraq, it's not gas prices, it's not judges, it's not filibusters. Number one is fiscal integrity. No, they don't want a tax increase. They want a lot less spending.
And secondly, something that's not even on the radar screen of the big boys in Washington and that's immigration. Ordinary people think there's too much immigration. There's too much benefits for the immigrants. It is a burning issue out there in the country.
BASH: And certainly something that splits Republicans. The Bolton nomination. White House is saying they're not giving the Democrats the documents they want. The Democrats are saying they're digging in. What are you hearing?
NOVAK: People who think that this thing is all over, who misinterpreted what Senator Biden said on television over the weekend. In fact, the White House is very worried about this situation. They don't have the 60 votes right now because Senator Biden and Senator Dodd are digging in, saying it's a matter of integrity, they've got to get the prerogative of Congress. And there is really -- it's a deadlock right now and there's -- there is a -- Democrats say it's not a filibuster, but it is a filibuster.
BASH: And there's a lot more on Congress' agenda. They have a huge agenda. Do they have time to do it all?
NOVAK: What is funny is their schedule. I got his schedule for next week. On Tuesday night, there's no votes because the Republicans have their huge president's party, a fundraiser, massive fundraiser. Then on Wednesday, there is the White House picnic. And then after that, the Democrats start leaving town for the big retreat in Chicago. So one thing senators don't like to do, Dana, is work. And they can find any number of things not to do it. And they're just wasting away the weeks.
BASH: And of course, they've got this agenda, but they might have a Supreme Court nomination that could blow everything out of the water.
NOVAK: That's right.
BASH: Next week, big fundraiser. A big Republican fundraiser. What are you hearing about how things are shaping up for that?
NOVAK: let me tell you how Washington works. All the members of Congress, Republican members of Congress, are given a quota. They got to raise so much money. So if you think they are going around raising money -- what they do is they call a lobbyist that they've been working with and say, you -- my quota is so and so, will you raise this much for me?
So the lobbyists know which side their bread is buttered on. They're going -- the lobbyists are all running into each other, raising money for their favorite sources. That's the way Washington really works. And beneath that -- beneath the surface, Dana.
BASH: So it sounds like the most dangerous place to be between now and next Tuesday is between a lobbyist and a ticket for this.
NOVAK: You better believe it.
BASH: one last question before we go. Talk to me about the judicial deal. Conservatives, of course, balked very vocally, saying that this was a bad idea. But the president this week will likely see three judges go through. So is there a change of heart?
NOVAK: No. The true believers in both parties don't like it. The liberals don't like it, either, particularly a lot of the black American activists don't like Janice Brown in California being nominated. This thing has not run its course yet. Because there's a lot of judges in this pipeline, and if they are filibustered we come right back to whether the nuclear option will be used. So it may seem dull in Washington for -- and everybody -- all the goody two shoes are saying oh, they got together. But there's a lot of hard times ahead. And you and I like that, don't we?
BASH: Always. It's what makes politics fun. Bob, thank you very much for joining us.
NOVAK: Thank you.
BASH: And why did the Bush administration alter a report on global warming? Coming up, we'll go live to the White House to find out.
Plus, she rose to fame during the 2000 Florida recount. Now Katherine Harris jumps back in the spotlight again.
And later, much more on Howard Dean's rhetoric. I'll ask a top Senate Democrat about his party boss' latest comments.
BASH: As the markets get set to close on Wall Street, who can better inform us on what went on than Christine Romans, who's in New York with "THE DOBBS REPORT" -- Christine.
CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Dana, thanks. Stocks close to the flatline, even though oil prices fell more than a dollar today. The final trades are still being counted. And the Dow Jones Industrials averages down a resounding not even five points. The Nasdaq is down about a quarter of a percent.
Shares of General Motors jumped more than 4 percent, though. That's on the heels of yesterday's news that the company will cut 25,000 jobs. Also helping that stock is word that billionaire investor Kerkorian boosted his stake in the automaker.
And help may be on the way from an unlikely source, Toyota. Its chief is worried that G.M.'s growing problem will prompt U.S. policymakers to turn on foreign carmakers if Ford and G.M. collapse. He told a Japanese newspaper that Toyota may raise vehicle prices to support U.S. carmakers.
The White House says the economy remains steady, though the administration is not quite as optimistic as it was in December. The Council of Economic Advisers now forecasts the economy will grow at an annual rate of 3.4 percent this year. That's slightly lower than its earlier projection. It also sees a rise in inflation due to rising energy prices.
On the plus side, the Bush administration says the unemployment rate should average just 5.2 percent this year; slightly better than the White House had thought.
Tobacco companies offered closing arguments in a landmark six- year lawsuit today. Big tobacco is getting a big break as that trial wraps up. The government is now demanding only a fraction of the $130 billion that it had initially wanted cigarette makers to pay for smoking cessation programs.
Prosecutors asked for a penalty of about $10 billion dollars to fund a five-year program to help people kick the habit, that is less than eight percent of the $130 billion dollars initially sought. At the heart of the suit is the governments allegation that cigarette companies conspired for decades to deceive the public about the dangers of smoking.
Coming up on CNN at 6:00 p.m. Eastern, on "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT:" with more people migrating to coastal areas, the world's oceans are more polluted than ever, making people and fish sick.
We'll have a special report.
Plus, bio-chemist Daniel Baden joins us to discuss why U.S. waters are toxic.
And medical attorney Madeline Pelner Cosmith (ph) -- she claims that illegal aliens are bringing dangerous diseases to the United States.
That and more, 6:00 Eastern on "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT."
Dana, back to you.
BASH: Thanks, Christine.
And now back to INSIDE POLITICS.
A day after British Prime Minister Tony Blair tried and failed to convince President Bush to increase U.S. efforts to reduce greenhouse gases, a published report is focusing new attention on the administration's approach to global warming.
The "New York Times" reports a White House official and former oil industry lobbyist has edited government climate reports to cast doubt on links between climate change and greenhouse gases.
For more on that, we turn to CNN's Joe Johns who is at the White House today -- Joe.
JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Dana, the Bush administration getting some tough questioning about its handling of climate reports in ways that tended to downplay the effects of global warming and the connection to greenhouse gases.
The story, as you said, first reported in the "New York Times," today, asserting that a White House official, who used to work for the oil industry, filtered out, essentially, language suggesting the most severe effects of climate change; adding in language stressing the uncertainties and the science of global warming.
White House spokesman Scott McClellan said it was just part of a process of vetting documents to try to make sure they are scientifically sound.
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SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I'm here to tell you what the facts are, and the facts are that our policies and our reports are based on the best available science. And that this administration is acting and leading the way when it comes to addressing the serious, long-term challenge we face from climate change.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JOHNS: The administration declined to make available for interview the individual who has been credited with making the edited changes.
Meanwhile, the story is attracting the attention of capitol hill Democrat -- Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid saying in a statement that by repeatedly editing government documents on global warming to cater to the special interests, the Bush administration has once again shown it will abuse its power by any means necessary.
The story, of course, giving Democrats an opportunity to restate their contention that the administration has, in the past, used science to put its views out there on policy.
Back to you -- Dana?
BASH: Joe, thank you, very much.
Now that she's thrown her hat in the ring for the Senate next year, Republican representative Katherine Harris of Florida is back in the spotlight.
Our National Correspondent, Bruce Morton, takes a look now at the events that helped drive Harris's political career.
BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): She's a second- term Congresswoman now, but that's not where most of us got to know her.
KATHERINE HARRIS, FLORIDA SECRETARY OF STATE: In the race for the president of the United States, these certified results from Florida's 67 counties for the top two candidates are as follows -- Governor George Bush: 2,910,492. Vice President Al Gore: 2,910,192.
MORTON: That wasn't the end of it, of course. Floridians argued over chads: hanging, dimpled, and so on; argued over absentee ballots; argued over well, it went on for 36 days and the Supreme Court finally intervened. And George W. Bush carried the state by 537 votes.
HARRIS: The true winner in the election is the rule of law.
MORTON: People still argue about that. Critics, they'd be democrats, say Harris tilted the rules to help the Bush campaign. Defenders, like the Republicans, say she didn't.
Now in her congressional office, she recalls some advice her husband, who has just become a U.S. citizen, gave her. HARRIS: I said, "What am I going to do?"
You know, it was kind of a rhetorical question, and he said, "That's simple."
Simple -- he said, "You just have to act with the most extraordinary integrity, because you have to live with yourself the rest of your life."
MORTON: And in her office, she keeps a souvenir a Florida sculptor gave her.
HARRIS: ... and during election 2000, he actually sculpted a hand holding a ballot. Of course, you have pregnant chads, and dangling chads, and all kinds of things.
MORTON: She's weathered the jokes about her makeup -- "I have not owned blue eye shadow since I was seven," she once said.
In Congress, she supports the president on social security, opposed oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, her district is on the gulf coast and said, "She likes life behind the scenes."
HARRIS: To be in the spotlight was rather uncomfortable. I had never initiated that kind of sense, no matter what I had done in the Senate or secretary of state or even now in Congress. I really enjoy more of the back scenes, behind the scenes, and making things.
MORTON: Now she's running for the Senate in the spotlight, again, against moderate Democrat Bill Nelson. And how people remember her role in election 2000, may have a lot to do with how she does in 2006.
Bruce Morton, CNN, Washington.
BASH: More news about future Senate races in today's "Political Bites."
Former Indiana Democratic Congressman Tim Roemer is responding to a Democratic Party poll that finds him trailing Republican Senator Richard Lugar by just two points in a hypothetical match-up. Roemer issued a statement in which he said, in part, that he will consider quote, "How to best continue my public service."
Tim Roemer most recently served on the commission that investigated 9/11 intelligence failures. Senator Lugar is finishing his 5th term in the Senate.
In Pennsylvania, a new poll taken for Franklin and Marshall college finds incumbent GOP Senator Rick Santorum continues to appear vulnerable to a Democratic challenge. The latest Keystone poll finds Santorum trails his potential Democratic challenger, Bob Casey, 44 percent to 37 percent in a head-to-head match-up. Indiana Senator Evan Bayh is often mentioned as a potential presidential candidate. And here in Washington today, he met with a group of Iowa leaders known as the Greater Des Moines Partnership.
Bayh told the group he hasn't decided on a White House run, but he's keeping his option open.
Speaking of Iowa, National Governors Association Chairman Mark Warner of Virginia says the group will hold its summer meeting in Des Moines in July. Warner, who is mentioned as a presidential hopeful, as well, told "The Des Moines Register," that holding the meeting in Iowa would be quote, "A good way to make sure lots of governors show up."
And in New Jersey, Doug Forrester won the republican primary for governor last night. He will take on Democrat John Corzine in November. Corzine, of course, currently serves as one of the state's senators.
Will Senate Democrats give up their fight against the nomination of John Bolton as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations?
Coming up, I'll talk about that with one of Bolton's main critics: Democratic Senator Christopher Dodd.
Also, Howard Dean's blunt comments about Republicans -- our blog reporters join us with reaction from people online.
And our "Strategy Session" on key political topics: Paul Begala and Bay Buchanan talk about our latest poll results on the war in Iraq.
BASH: Many Democrats are in a quandary over Howard Dean and his blunt remarks about Republicans as we told you earlier. Some have openly criticized their national committee chairman over his choice of words, others hold back and say he's doing a good job.
Well, joining me now on Capitol Hill, Democratic Senator Christopher Dodd of Connecticut. A former party chairman himself. And senator, thank you very much for joining us.
We are going to get to the discussion about John Bolton in a minute. But because you essentially stood where Howard Dean is standing, so to speak, you held his post, I want to start there. Once again his remarks on Monday. He said of the Republican Party, it's pretty much a white Christian party. You were DNC chairman once. You were taken on because the party need a new national spokesman. Is it time for that again?
SEN. CHRISTOPHER DODD, (D) CONNECTICUT: Well, first of all, look, I don't want to dwell on this. Howard Dean is -- I think you're posing the question correctly. That is, he's doing a good job as chairman. Did he make a mistake with these comments? Absolutely. I think -- you don't criticize the electorate here, you criticize obviously the administration. And their -- and the political community that is advancing their policies here.
So, I still think overall, Howard's doing a good job, but obviously, I think he could have chosen better words here to talk about the Republican Party and the Republican leadership.
BASH: Now, after the election in November, Democrats pretty much unanimously said how important it was, crucial it was to get back those red states if Democrats want to win back the majority in the House and the Senate, perhaps win back the White House. Is what Howard Dean is saying really stepping on that message and making it really hard to get there?
DODD: No, not necessarily. Look, you and I are interested in that. That's Washington talk. But 25,000 people lost their jobs at General Motors in this in the last 24 hours. We haven't done an energy bill yet, a transportation bill, health costs are rising by the hour. We just learned in the last 24 hours that students are going to have to pay higher interest rates on their loans in the coming years.
These are the things the American people worry about. We're doing nothing about those issues is here in Washington today. Howard Dean is talking a lot about that, Democrats are talking about it. That's what the American public are interested in. What are we doing about the issues they have to grapple with every single day?
We're not doing much at all. We spend five weeks here talking about five judicial nominations. And that's not really the major issue for the American public. Those are not the things they're worried about. They're worried about jobs, their health care, their kids education, whether or not they've got an economic future with any kind of stability. Those are the issues that I think most people care about, not Howard Dean.
BASH: And senator, those are definitely the issues we hear you and your colleagues on Capitol Hill talk about. But when Howard Dean makes comments like this, and it's not the first time, it's certainly the second set of remarks in the past week or so. Doesn't it make it hard to get that message you were talking about out?
DODD: Well, if we constantly talk about Howard Dean it does. But I don't think that's really the subject matter that people care about. I think they'd rather hear you and I talk about what's going to happen to their health care issues. How about their kids going to college, is it going to cost $10,000 more a year as a result of higher interest rates? Those are the things they want to hear us debating.
What about those 25,000 people who just lost their jobs at General Motors? What is Washington doing about trying to reduce the trade deficit, the fiscal deficit in the country? Those are the things the American public want to hear us debate, discuss and resolve if we can here, not about Howard Dean and the statements he made in some speech someplace.
BASH: Senator Dodd, I want to turn to the Bolton nomination, perhaps another issue that you'd like to talk about. Just to quickly update our viewers what you are looking for. The leader on this issue for the Democrats, is whether or not John Bolton, when he was at the State Department, obtained classified names from intercepts from the National Security Agency. Who those names were. So you offered the director of national intelligence a compromise saying if I give you a list of names, you can tell me if they were right. He said no deal.
My question to you is, who are these people you want to know about and why?
DODD: Well, at that point here, I would probably be crossing a line here, in that suggesting the names that may be on those lists. And again, it's not a question of whether or not Mr. Bolton sought the interceptions in which 19 Americans' names were on. He did do that. And he's -- some of thinks staff saw them, as well.
What I don't understand is why the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, the Intelligence Committee and the ranking Democrats, four United States senators don't have the same right that John Bolton would have. And that is to look at those intercepts, look at what he looked at and determine whether or not there was any further intimidation.
We know very categorically that John Bolton tried to have fired two intelligence analysts, because he didn't like the conclusions they reached about America's intelligence. That to me is going way beyond the prerogatives of a policy maker here.
Did he go further than that? I need to know the answers to those questions. I have a right to know it as a senator, not me personally, but the Senate does. The administration has said we're going to give you the cold shoulder. We're not going to allow you to have any additional information. I think that's wrong, many of my colleagues do as well -- Republicans and Democrats. This is now an institutional question here. And I think we have a right to stand up for the American public in knowing whether or not he did more than we know already. And if so, than is he qualified to serve as our ambassador at the U.N.
BASH: I know you're talking about the institution. But I want to take one more whack at the substance here. Do you think -- are you -- do you suspect that John Bolton was perhaps spying on American policy makers?
DODD: Well, we don't know that. We know he tried to have a couple of people fired. We know that categorically now. We had eight different people who gave testimony before the Foreign Relations Committee that he clearly tried over a period of months to have these people removed from office.
Did he go further than that? I think that disqualifies him, by the way. But if he went further and used intercepts from the National Security Agency, than that, In my view, would be a more serious violation here.
So right now, of course, intelligence is so important, our credibility. We saw what happened with the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. We now know that the intelligence was faulty. We don't need to have an ambassador at the United Nations who cooks the books, in effect, who makes up information to serve policy purposes. That's what John Bolton tried to do.
I want to know if he went further than we know what he did already. I think my colleagues have a right to know that, as well.
BASH: OK. Well, Senator Dodd, we're going to have to leave it there. The White House is, as you know, saying no. There seems to be a standoff. We'll see what happens in the next couple of days. Thank you very much, Senator. Appreciate your time.
DODD: Thanks, Dana.
BASH: Well, Howard Dean's fiery comments about Republicans are fueling a lot of talk in cyberspace. Just ahead, we'll go inside the blogs and find out what's being said about the DNC chairman.
BASH: He's known for his blunt talk and now Howard Dean is stirring up a lot of buzz in cyberspace for his comments about Republicans. Let's check in with CNN political producer Abbi Tatton and Jacki Schechner, our blog reporters. Jacki?
JACKI SCHECHNER, BLOG REPORTER: Hi, Dana.
Yes, Howard Dean's comments continue to give the blogs plenty of fodder today, and over at QandO.net, a neolibertarian blog, they sum it up nicely saying, "Dean continues to ignore the 'Law of Holes,' which says when you're in one, quit digging." They've also got a roundup of what people are saying and that more Dems distance themselves from Dean, that being their title.
They're referring to the Democratic leadership, but if you go out into the blogs and you read a lot of the liberal bloggers, a lot of them are coming down in support of Dean, saying they like the way that he speaks, his blunt manner, the fact that he's so straightforward.
One example we found was Winifred.blogspot.com (ph). This is a female professor in the southeastern United States, and she says, "You go, Howard." Goes on to say, "is it seriously in dispute that the Republican party agenda promotes whites over minorities, Christianity and Christian morals, and heterosexuality and rich people?"
ABBI TATTON, CNN POLITICAL PRODUCER: Is it a white Christian party? That's what some of the bloggers are trying to prove or disprove today, both on the left and the right.
Here's MyDD.com, a very popular progressive site, where Jerome answers the question by just posting a simple photo here. He's got the quote from Dean, "A pretty monolithic party. They all behave the same. They all look the same." There is Bush with some prominent Republican lawmakers looking fairly homogeneous as a group, there.
At RedState.org, they've got something different. This is over to the right now -- where they have the audio, the whole clip. You can listen to what Dean was saying. They're picking up on something else that he said, not just the white, Christian party bit. "I'm trying to think of an Asian-American who has had success as a Republican. Um, I can't think of one off the top of my head." That's later in the comments from Howard Dean. "Hmm," says RedState, "paid any attention to the cabinet lately, Dr. Dean? I'd suggest the Department of Labor." Click over there, obviously they're referring there to Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao. And lots of the Republican bloggers, bloggers on the right, pointing to the diversity in the cabinet of President Bush.
SCHECHNER: Another story that is picking up some traction today is that the Justice Department wrapped up a racketeering suit against big tobacco and, in closing arguments last night, the lawyer asked for an interesting amount of money. Instead of the $130 billion they were expected to ask for, they asked for 10. This not lost on David Sirroto(ph), over at DavidSirroto.com (ph). He is a fellow at the Center for American Progress. He calls it "the great tobacco capitulation," goes on to say that "this is one of the most egregious examples of pay to play," pointing out the Republicans have gotten a lot of money over the years from big tobacco.
TATTON: Over here at Suburban Guerrilla -- this is SuzieMadrak.com -- she posts part of the article, actually a quote from a lawyer from the Philip Morris group. "We were very surprised. It's clear the government hasn't thought through what it's doing," says the lawyer. What she says is, "Gee, I had a completely different reaction. I think they know exactly what they're doing. They're protecting yet another massive corporation." So, that story resonating with the progressive bloggers today.
Now, there's a picture that we're seeing more and more on the blogs as the days go on -- sometimes a picture paints 1,000 words. Here it is. This is Gregory Despres who, on April 25th of this year, crossed over into the United States and was allowed in over the border even though he had a slew of weapons with him. He had a knife and a hatchet and a bloody chainsaw -- a small chainsaw we hear, but still. Border officials saying that there was no reason to detain him. This is CrooksAndLiars.com, a liberal blogger, but it doesn't matter. On the left and right, lots of people are talking about how this happened.
SCHECHNER: Over at MichelleMalkin.com, she actually follows the immigration issue pretty closely. She's also part of the Immigration Blog. It's a group blog that handles issues with border patrol and border crossings, but she points out that the Department of Homeland Security didn't do anything wrong in this case. The border agents seemed to act properly, that they did -- there were no warrants out at the time that he crossed the border and that they did detain him for a couple of hours, which is what they were expected to do if they had any questions.
A lot of people agreeing with her on that point, DiggersRealm.com being one of them, saying that, yes, procedurally, it looks like the border agents did what they were supposed to do, but maybe, they say, "the border patrol's procedure should be revised to allow" -- looks like my batteries low, look at that -- "to allow the denial of entry to individuals based solely on the fact that something just doesn't look right."
So, Dana, lots of stuff going on there today. We're going to have a second block coming up and we're going to talk about the Downing Street memo and how it's got some traction, thanks to the blogs.
BASH: Thank you very -- both. Go plug that laptop in.
And, up next, we go to today's "Strategy Session," and we're talk -- going to talk about, you guessed it, Howard Dean and his comments, how they're playing inside the parties. That's just ahead on INSIDE POLITICS.
BASH: Welcome back to INSIDE POLITICS and our "Strategy Session" on hot political topics. The strategists for today's session, CNN political analyst Paul Begala and Bay Buchanan, president of American Cause. Today, Democratic chairman Howard Dean, as we've been talking about, accuses Republicans of being nothing more than a white Christian party; a growing number of people think the war in Iraq has not led to a safer America; and, the woman who became famous at the same time as the hanging chad has big plans for her future.
First, DNC Chairman Howard Dean continues to stir up controversy. Dean's latest comments came while he was in California raising money for a meeting with party activists. This time, the one-time presidential contender was trying to illustrate the diversity of Democrats when compared to the Republican party.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HOWARD DEAN, DNC CHAIRMAN: The Republicans are not very friendly to different kinds of people. They're a pretty monolithic party. Pretty much -- they all behave the same, and they all, you know, it's pretty much a white, Christian party.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: Paul, your party chairman, I'll let you take the first whack at this.
PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Duh! No, I think it's news from nowhere. I have to say -- there's a couple of things going on. First, Michael Kinsley, who once was with this network, now with the "Los Angeles Times" editorial page, said, a gaffe in Washington is when someone makes a mistake and tells the truth. The Republican's Party is 82 percent White Christian.
And I hate to read from another network, but today ABC News has a new poll out. Here's how they described part of President Bush's support. The only population groups in which majorities say the president is concentrating on issues important to them are Republicans, Evangelical White Protestants, Conservatives and better off Americans. That's even more narrow than Dean's characterization. It's just the truth. BASH: You're talking about the substance, though.
BASH: But the issue here also is the messenger, right? Bay, I assume you are like the many Republicans I've talked to today, probably all Republicans on the planet who are saying Howard is the gift that keeps on giving.
BAY BUCHANAN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: If you think this is good, you just let him stay right where he is. I think it's great news that you are supporting this type of approach to a leadership in your party. You know, the problem that you have -- this is an embarrassing statement. It's certainly not true. Ken Mehlman, had the best comment. He says, you know, people at my Bar Mitzvah will be very surprised to find out Tom Levy.
BEGALA: He didn't say it was only. Although, I can't think of a....
BUCHANAN: He said, they're all the same. And we're not friendly -- we're not friendly to receiving people that are different. Well, Ken Mehlman is one right there the leader of the party, is a Jewish American. But it's clear we have blacks, Hispanics and people who are Democratic who disagree with how they vote.
BEGALA: Nine out of ten blacks vote for Democrats -- 9 out of 10. Now, are they stupid, are they misinformed, or are they voting their interests? I think they're smart...
BUCHANAN: What kind of percentage of white Americans then vote for us and not for you guys?
BEGALA: Right. That's Dean's point. You're making his point.
BUCHANAN: All right. But I'll tell you where the problem is. And you guys can keep him all you want. The key here is he is the face of the Democratic Party. And when you talk about us as this White Christian group and we don't work hard, et cetera, et cetera, you're offensive and not serious. There's no gravitas in the leader of the party. And so he becomes the face of your party. And that will hurt you badly.
BEGALA: Here's where we part company. He's doing a good cop, bad cop thing. This allows the real leaders of the party to play more to the middle and the center. So, you allow people like Joe Biden and Chris Dodd who was just on with you Dana, to say, gee, I don't like that. Meanwhile, somebody has to rally the base.
Part of the Democrats erosion has been among Democrats. And so, actually, I think, I hope, that there's a method to this madness that Governor Dean can go out and rally the troops and be a partisan party chairman. That's a good thing.
BUCHANAN: The problem is, you all don't have the White House. So, when you have a president, then your party person can be somebody out there rallying the troops. But you can't -- Dean is the face of your party. You can say it's Pelosi, you can say it's Reid, it is Howard Dean. And what's going to happen, he's going to be like the Newt Gingrich used in those commercials next year as -- this is the Democratic Party, here's what he says. And that's going to help us marvelously in many races.
BASH: But Paul, what about that? What about the idea that all the Democrats have been saying, how critical it is to get those red states back.
BASH: How can Howard Dean's comments help that?
BEGALA: It hasn't hurt. I'm a White Christian. Am I offended by being told that most White Christians are Republicans? No. I mean, I don't see -- I just think this -- this actually says more about the media. It says more about the media. It was an unremarkable comment for the Democratic chairman. But we've all got our panties in a wad about it.
BASH: Does it say more about the media? Or about the fact that Howard Dean is who he is and he has known to be a flame thrower. And people are listening for this. And is that an issue, a problem with your party?
BEGALA: And so, if a Republican chairman says something close to this, we don't notice. If Terry McAuliffe who preceded Governor Dean says something like that, we don't know.
I remember being -- working for Bill Clinton in 1992, the Republican chairman then was a guy named Rich Bond, who was a much more mild-mannered guy. He said Democrats are not real Americans. And you know what, nobody in the media cared.
It drove me crazy, because I happen to think I'm real American. But I think that is part of the issue is that Governor Dean is being held to a different standard. It may not be fair, but it's real. The media has decided that we're going to take our talking points from talk radio and pretend that this is somehow newsworthy that a Democratic chairman doesn't like Republicans.
BUCHANAN: Paul, he's become -- instead of somebody who is representing a direction that the country -- that the party should take, he has become just the hatchet man, he's the attack dog.
BEGALA: That is the direction he wants the party to take.
BUCHANAN: He attacks Republicans at all places. But if you're trying to build a party, because right now, if you hadn't noticed, you don't have the House, you don't have the Senate, you're having trouble in state legislature and we have the White House. You might want to build, OK? You don't build by attacking all the time.
BEGALA: Yes, you do.
BUCHANAN: You need to give something positive, some direction that your party is taking this country different from the other side.
BEGALA: For the party chairman, a brick is not a wall. The governor is trying -- I supposed. I have to say, I was a skeptic about Dean. I didn't support him for party chairman. I'm not like plaquing (ph) for Dean, OK. And I think he's got real problems.
What I was more troubled by, for example, in the San Francisco Chronicle story where he made these comments about Republicans being the White Christian party, was that Democratic fundraisers were saying they were unhappy with Dean. That's his real problem, not that he's attacking Republicans. That is his job. And someone needs to do it to rally the base. Better that he do it, so that then the real leaders of my party, Pelosi, Reid, Hillary Clinton, can be more moderate.
BASH: Let me ask you both a question from your experience, you've both worked with or for candidates who have been flame throwers, like Howard Dean. You worked for Zell Miller, and Bob Casey, of course, with your brother...
BASH: (INAUDIBLE) brother, Pat Buchanan. So, looking at this -- I mean, obviously you support Pat Buchanan. So, is this a bad thing.
BUCHANAN: Because when you throw a flame, you like to throw it on issues, you like to be high brow when you're a leader. And you don't want to take it personally. You don't want to be name calling. That's not an effective means to campaign.
And I think that's his mistake. He should hit us on the issues that we don't represent certain things, that we're not responsive to certain thing. But not just to start calling us names, saying we don't work, for one thing. And next week we're all White and we're all Christian.
I mean, first of all, it's like a false.
BEGALA: The president's best friend in the cabinet was Donny Evans, the Secretary of Commercial, who I know and adore. I really love Don Evans. During the campaign, Don Evans, Secretary Evans, said that Senator Kerry looked French. That's not very -- that's calling names of a bizarre sort.
And they repeated that over and over again. You know what, that's fine. That's what politics is. I think people ought to just take a breath take a Valium and understand -- shock of shocks -- the Democratic Party chairman doesn't like Republicans. That's his job.
BUCHANAN: He hates them. He has told us.
BEGALA: Good. That's his job.
BASH: We're going to talk a lot more about politics, moving on from Howard Dean. More of our strategy session is straight ahead. And now we're going to talk about President Bush, how he told Americans that the fight in Iraq would make them safer from terrorists. We'll have new poll numbers how many people now agree with that assessment when INSIDE POLITICS returns.
BASH: The strategy session continues now on INSIDE POLITICS. Paul Begala and Bay Buchanan are here. And a new poll shows fewer Americans think the Iraq war is leading to a safer America. For the first time since the start of the war, only 47 percent of people in the Washington Post/ABC News poll think the war in Iraq has contributed to the long-term security of the U.S. compared to 52 percent who don't believe it has. Two-thirds of those polled believe the U.S. has gotten bogged down in Iraq.
Meanwhile, Senate Democrats held a news conference today to say they're working on ways to support U.S. troops and military families.
And Bay, I'm going to start with you. The Iraq war, this is not a news flash here that the Iraq war is not popular with the American people. But the president's central argument is that it's the central front of the war on terrorism. That is something that still was sort of believed and it's eroding.
BUCHANAN: It is eroding. And it's not -- the problem is this, people in the country -- I think what this poll says -- and the greatest concern is that they're losing patience with the war. And once you lose the patience, then the next step is people will start undercut the trust they have in the leadership. And that's the problem that the president has.
Once they start worrying about that he's not the leader they thought he could be, that is a voting issue. And that will really hurt Republicans.
So, what he has to do, in my opinion, is he has to show progress in that war in the next six or eight months and I think we have to start bringing home troops.
And the American people will say, "OK, good. We really hope it's successful, we hope the Iraqis can be successful and have self determination. And we see that we're coming home."
I read this morning, the British look like they're going to start bringing people home. This would be a good thing, but if he doesn't start bringing some people home and show some -- a change in direction here, I think we have a problem next year.
BASH: That doesn't look -- if you listen to some of the lawmakers coming back from Iraq, it doesn't sound like they're anywhere near bringing U.S. troops home, Paul.
BEGALA: No, they're not. And with those lawmakers coming back from -- including very hawkish, pro-Bush Republicans are saying we're not --they're not leveling with us. That they're saying what they are learning, these law makers, in Iraq, very different from what they're hearing from the president, the vice president, and Secretary Rumsfeld at the Pentagon.
That's the real problem. This poll is particularly upsetting, I suspect, for the White House because it's not -- the decline in support for the war is not linked to some transitory news event; it's not Abu Ghraib or it's not another prominent American kidnapping and murder by the terrorists in Iraq.
BASH: But they are having an incredible number of killings...
BUCHANAN: It's two months -- two months of terrible bombings and attacks.
BEGALA: That's the problem, it's a long-term situation and it's not just some moment news of the day -- a bad moment, a snapshot.
No, this is the American people losing confidence in their president's leadership in the signature event of his presidency. It's an enormous problem.
BASH: Let me ask you about another, probably the signature issue for this president, and that's terrorism.
We'll look at another poll from "The Washington Post" poll, it's on President Bush's handling of the campaign against terrorism. The approval there is 50 percent. It's almost split with the disapproval. That is way down, and terrorism is always his top issue.
Now it's behind issues like the economy, education, other issues like that. I mean, this is probably another troubling thing for the White House -- no?
BUCHANAN: In fairness, the poll indicates that the American people -- if terrorism now, is like fifth on the list of concerns. Which shows that they are not worried about having an attack here. Anything can happen, if we were to have an attack, all of this changes; all of the polls can be thrown out.
But I think the people realize that right now, that's not their number one concern. And so what I think what the president has to look at, is to make certain he's running strong in those issues that are the number one, and number two, and number three concerns.
Because those are the ones that are going to be voting issues next year.
BASH: And Bay's right, that is what the poll says. It said other issues are more concerning to the American people, and obviously, you know, the president talks about the fact that he campaigned on social security and that's what he's pushing for.
Traveling around with him, you know, I know he obviously focused mostly on terrorism, and that's why the American people put him back in office.
BEGALA: In the campaign. Yes, if I work in the White House for President Bush, I don't worry about this number. I'm desperately worried about what the poll says about Iraq, about the collapse of the support for social security plan. I'm not at all worried that support for his position...
BASH: How come.
BEGALA: ... for fighting terrorism. Because he hasn't been talking about. This is, simply, the opportunity cost of focusing on other things, some of them unfortunate for the White House: the Schiavo case, and the distraction over the judges. But this is not a long-term problem for President Bush the way that Iraq and Social Security is.
If I were advising him, I's say, "Mr. President, relax about this. The American people still trust you on terrorism, but you'd better get moving on the things they don't thrust you on anymore."
BUCHANAN: I tell you, what he should have read this morning, which would have really alarmed him, is that G.M. is laying off 25,000 American jobs in the next couple of years. The economy is where people -- it's interesting, the polls show that the people are more confident with his job on the economy.
I don't know how that's possible with all that's been going on. But that's an area that the White House has to be concerned, because that will be a major voting issue along with immigration next year.
BASH: It sounds crass to say, but the fact that people don't fear terrorism as much is not a good thing for the president, politically.
You're talking about politically here. I know you say it's because he's not talking about it as much, but if the White House has their druthers, they're going to keep talking about Social Security and the things the president really needs to do on Capitol Hill.
BEGALA: Today was the 34th time, since the State of the Union Address, that the president went out and pitched his Social Security plan. But it's dead.
I'm sorry, but it's just like this scene in "ER," when the patient is long dead, and George Clooney is still zapping him with electrodes -- sir it's dead, I'm sorry, it's over.
You tried hard, nice try -- I admire anybody who throws deep but it's dead, move on.
BUCHANAN: And as soon as he decides to move on and is concerned about those poll numbers, he's going to right out there and start talking terrorism again.
He can talk about it; we are in a war with terrorists today. And we have a lot of soldiers overseas, and a lot things going on. And anytime he wants, he can start pounding that issue and his numbers are going to come back up.
BEGALA: He can, but does that translate to Republicans generally? I mean, I did get annoyed in the campaign that the very first image and the very first ad was of a corpse from 9/11, wrapped in the American flag, being pulled out of the rubble of the World Trade Center.
And from the beginning to the end of the campaign, it's pretty much all he talked about. Now, I don't think the terrorism threat has evaporated. But apparently, the political threat has.
And so the strategy has changed, and I think Bay is probably right; as we get closer to the mid-term elections, I suspect the president will find new ways to talk about terrorism.
BUCHANAN: And that's exactly why you saw the Democrats, today, coming out in a press conference. Just so -- that they -- they're supporting the troops, even though there is some trouble over there. They're very supportive of the troops. That's the message they want: to make certain that Democrats are perceived as very supportive of the troops.
BASH: Well I can tell you on Social Security, Paul, a senior official at the White House said that the president is going to be talking about it if it's not passed on the last day of his eighth year in office.
BUCHANAN: Get ready, Paul.
BASH: Get ready.
BEGALA: I think Democrats would welcome that.
BASH: Well, still ahead on this "Strategy Session:" recalling the infamous hanging chads at the 2000 elections.
Catherine Harris went from the center of that storm to a seat in Congress. She's set her sights on a new job now.
BLITZER: I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.
Coming up at the top of the hour: the U.S. Senate getting ready to vote on another controversial judicial nominee -- Janice Rogers Brown.
They've been debating her fate for years. We'll have the roll call this hour.
Those freeway chases in southern California -- for the police: What are the rules of engagement? are they putting innocent motor at risk?
And we'll meet a pizza delivery man who won't let anything stop him from making his deliveries, not even a gunshot wound.
All those stories and much more only minutes away on "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS." Now back to INSIDE POLITICS.
BASH: Thanks, Wolf.
And we are back with more of our "Strategy Session."
Bay Buchanan and Paul Begala are here.
Katherine Harris came to national attention during the controversial recount vote in 2000. She was later elected to the House of Representatives and yesterday said she'd run for the U.S. Senate, challenging Democratic Senator Bill Nelson in next year's election.
Where do we start? There is so much to talk about here, let's start with the politics.
Do you think she can beat Senator Nelson?
BUCHANAN: There's no question that Senator Nelson is vulnerable. It's -- the polls show that and Democrats -- Republicans are very excited about that possibility. But this is going to be an interesting race because -- for Katherine Harris, it's going to be one issue. There's only one issue and that is, what happened back in 2000? She's going to be defending it. Are people going to be thrilled? And Democrats hate her. They're going to all come from all parts of the country and they're going to be there to pour money and efforts to take her out. It's going to be the greatest public therapy session in the history of psychology. All this anger and hatred you guys are going to be able to vent all in one race.
BASH: And it's not just Bay Buchanan saying that, Paul. I'm sure you've talked to Democrats. I have, today, who have said that this is really going to be such a rallying cry -- a rallying race -- for Democrats for that reason.
BEGALA: Particularly for Bill Nelson. One of the reasons that Nelson's a little vulnerable is he's not a high-profile guy. He's not a very polarizing senator.
BASH: He was an astronaut.
BEGALA: He was an astronaut. That's as high a profile as you get.
BUCHANAN: Most of us don't even know that.
BEGALA: He's a very -- I think his temperament and personality and political character much up very well against Congresswoman Harris, because I think his message -- I've talked to some of his strategists -- is likely to be, I'm a pragmatic, non-ideological guy who actually gets things done for Florida. And they're looking at Harris's very brief record. She's been a Congresswoman for 15 minutes now and essentially passed nothing as any one-and-a-half term Congresswoman would. So I think they'll take this to more parochial pedestrian pothole sorts of issues, and I like Nelson's chances against her.
BUCHANAN: Wouldn't you agree that, though, that Senator Nelson will stay out of the issue of 2000 totally and talk issues and let the independent expenditures come in and do the rest?
BEGALA: Absolutely. Yes, that's a smart move. I hope Senator Nelson's watching, because Bay is right. Bay's got the right strategy.
BUCHANAN: You stay the high ground, and she's just going to be defending herself at all -- at all counts.
BEGALA: Because she hasn't had enough time. If she'd been in the House for, say, 10 years and passed some legislation, maybe on child care, maybe even a freeway bypass on I-5. Something, anything.
BUCHANAN: But I think the point is, though, that she's an enormously popular Republican. I think you might have about 98 percent turnout here. Democrats tend in the state to vote Republican, and Republicans do very well for Democratic states.
BASH: And, she's got Jeb Bush backing her up.
BUCHANAN: And she's got Jeb Bush, and she's going to have Republicans from all over the country in there to see if they can't help her.
BASH: How much of a factor is that going to be?
BEGALA: Zero. If there's a number lower than zero, less than zero, because he's not the candidate. And, in fact, to the extent that Jeb Bush is out there, the extent that Mel Martinez, the new senator from Florida, Republican, is out there, I think it's bad for Katherine Harris, because they are seen as more moderate. They're seen as what she is not, more pragmatic, more moderate.
I mean, if Mel Martinez were running against Bill Nelson, I think the Nelson people would be very, very scared. I think they'd much rather have this very polarizing, ideological figure with not a whole lot of accomplishments in Congress.
BASH: Have you had a lot of...
BUCHANAN: ...so conservative, when she's -- you claim she's done nothing. I mean, she's perceived as...(INAUDIBLE)...not so right wing.
BEGALA: She plays ideological games it seems to me. She -- accomplished and ideological are not the same thing. I think she's highly ideological and not highly competent.
BASH: Let's go back in time a little bit, to 2000, to the recount. A lot of nicknames came out of that recount. We had our Chad Lad here at CNN. You had a nickname, didn't you, Paul? What was that again?
BEGALA: I did. Madame secretary.
BUCHANAN: Yeah, right!
BEGALA: No, I went out and said that she looked like Cruella DeVille, the puppy-stealing villainness from "101 Dalmations."
BUCHANAN: Another nasty remark.
BEGALA: It was, it was. You know, I did it in good fun. Particularly somebody like me who has worked for politicians who have been really hammered personally needs to keep in mind that these are human beings. I don't think I should've done that. I'm sorry that I did it.
BASH: But, in all seriousness, in terms of image, her years, her couple of years in the House, has that helped to change it, do you think?
BEGALA: No, she hasn't had the time, in defense of Katherine Harris. But, you know, she should have done what the freshman senator from New York did: get into Washington, keep her head down, work with the other party and get things done. That's been Hillary's strategy. That's why she's going to win reelection easily.
BUCHANAN: But what she did do is, she has gone -- traveled across this country. She's a terrific fund raiser and she's really a backbone of the party when it comes to fund raising. I think a lot of IOUs are out there and they're going to be coming back her way, and they're going to be there to defend her and support her and see she that she beats Nelson.
BASH: Well, we will certainly be watching that race, no question about it. Bay Buchanan, Paul Begala, thank you very much.
And, up next, we are going to talk about the so-called Downing Street memo. It continues to be a hot button issue in the blogosphere. When we come back, we will go "Inside the Blogs" to find out what all the buzz is about.
BASH: When President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair got together yesterday, their meeting stirred a lot of interest in cyberspace. An especially hot topic, Iraq and the so-called Downing Street memo. Let's check back in now with CNN political producer Abbi Tatton and Jacki Schechner, our blog reporter. Jacki?
SCHECHNER: Hi, Dana. My mouse is recharged and we are good to go.
So, it's been more than a month now since the Downing Street memo showed up in the Sunday "Times," that being the memo that suggested that the Bush administration had plans to go to war with Iraq as early as July, 2002. The issue is not going away, thanks in large part to the blogs, and yesterday, during the press conference between -- or, with President Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair, it came up in a question from a Reuters reporter, and both Blair and Bush said that the memo was wrong. The bloggers are hanging on to it. They are continuing to make this an issue.
Over at AmericaBlog.com, Michael in New York posting that the "USA Today" article points out how the bloggers are keeping this alive and more specifically, the good news is that the story is being done, so we said, by the blogs and by e-mail.
TATTON: And some of those blogs are celebrating what they think is some kind of success in the story. Here's an example at FreiheitUndWissen, this is freedom and knowledge in German. This is the blogger of University of Chicago, Ph.D. candidate, saying Downing Street in the news. He goes on there to do a roundup of lots of the articles that he found talking about it. He says in many ways, this explosion of reports today is success for the Downing Street campaign because it means people all over the country who have not yet heard about the memo will be reading about it today.
SCHECHNER: Who knew you could speak German, huh?
SCHECHNER: Over at the Big Brass Alliance -- this is BigBrassBlog.com -- that blog, part of this alliance: 372 blogs signed on right now. They are calling on Congress to launch a formal investigation into the issue, trying to find out what happened and to keep the issue going.
TATTON: One member of Congress who's been pushing on this is Democratic Congressman John Conyers. At his blog, he's been posting a lot of this about this. He got 88 other lawmakers to sign a letter which he sent to President Bush. He's now trying to get 250,000 people, members of the public, to sign on to a similar letter, posting it at DailyCos (ph) as well.
SCHECHNER: And we should also mention that, yesterday at DailyCos, a message showed up from Senator Ted Kennedy, who's also interested in launching the formal congressional investigation. Dana?
BASH: Jacki, Abbi, thank you very much. And, that is it for INSIDE POLITICS. I'm Dana Bash. "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS" starts right now.
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