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Public Support Down For The War On Terror; Senate Prepares for Another Vote on Bolton Nomination; CIA Chief Say He Knows Where bin Laden's Hiding; Senator Biden Announces Presidential Ambitions

Aired June 20, 2005 - 15:30   ET



ANNOUNCER: Another step down for President Bush. Has public support for his War on Terror has become a casualty of the conflict in Iraq?

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think about Iraq every day, every single day.

The hunt for bin Laden -- what does the CIA director really know about the al Qaeda chief's hiding place? We'll examine the evidence and the politics.

Here they go, again! The Senate prepares for another vote on John Bolton's bid to be U.N. ambassador. Will the president decide to take the matter into his own hands?

Once more, with feeling! Senator Joe Biden sounds intent on another presidential bid. What's different now than when he ran 17 years ago?

Now live from Washington, CNN's INSIDE POLITICS.


TOM FOREMAN, HOST "INSIDE POLITICS": Good afternoon. Thanks for joining us. I'm Tom Foreman.

Summer doesn't start until tomorrow but it is heating up at the White House over Iraq. President Bush says he thinks about U.S. troops in harm's way every single day, but he says he does not want to have Americans killed in Iraq, those who have been killed to have died in vain, so Mr. Bush defended his Iraq policy at a news conference with European leaders. Our White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux was there. Suzanne?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Tom, President Bush's message was very simple today. Essentially, he wants the American people to know that he is paying attention, that he understands their frustration and that he cares. Now, White House aids say this is all a part of an initiative, essentially, to give what lawmakers have been calling for, the kind of assessment -- honest assessment -- that they want, that the president will talk about the good as well as the bad.


BUSH: I understand we've got kids in harm's way and I worry about their families, and, obviously, any time there's a death, I grieve, but I want those families to know, one, we're not going to leave them -- not going to allow their mission to go in vain and two, we will complete the mission and the world will be better off for it.


MALVEAUX: And Tom, of course, the White House, very much aware of the recent poll numbers -- the poll numbers showing that the majority of Americans now do not support the U.S. mission in Iraq. Tom?

FOREMAN: That seems to be a perpetual problem there with public support getting up there, congressional support, Senate support, people raising questions about this. Is the White House fundamentally going to change anything or just try to quell those complaints?

MALVEAUX: Well, essentially Tom, what they're going to do is reiterate their message. No, they're not going to change in terms of a timetable. The president as well as his aids have said before that they believe that that is ultimately a formula for failure. They are going to say and continue to say that they will stay until the mission is accomplished.

But the one thing the White House will do, the president in particular, is that he will talk directly to those families. He will say, look, I understand your hardship, but at the same time, you have to realize, there are two prongs here. One is the political one, the other one, of course, the military strategy.

He says he talked to military commanders on the ground; their assessment that things are improving with those Iraqi troops. They are getting trained. He also says, of course, that the political strategy is also working, the fact that they are getting closer to writing that constitution. Tom?

FOREMAN: Suzanne Malveaux at the White House, thank you very much for that.

We're going to shift gears here a little bit. We've had a situation develop in Seattle at a courthouse there, where a courthouse has been put into lockdown with apparently 100 people evacuated from the building. You see people coming out there. We don't know a whole lot about what has happened, but we know police have surrounded this federal courthouse in Seattle and someone may have been shot there. We don't know a lot of details, and we don't want to say a lot if we don't know, but we're going to find out more as the show goes on and move on with that subject a little bit later on.

FOREMAN: The Bush administration is well aware that the capture of Osama bin Laden would likely bolster public confidence in the War on Terror. We just -- talking about it a moment ago with Suzanne. There are renewed questions today about whether the fugitive leader of al Qaeda might be found any time soon. "Time" magazine quotes CIA Director Porter Goss as saying he has an excellent idea as to where bin Laden is hiding. Others U.S. officials, however, sound less specific, telling CNN the search for bin Laden along Pakistan's border with Afghanistan has narrowed somewhat, but one official says the area is still quite sizable, hundreds of square miles.

With me from now from Capitol Hill to talk more about the Goss comments, Senator J. Rockefeller, who is leading Democrat on the Intelligence Committee. What do you make of this?

SEN. JOHN ROCKEFELLER (D-WV), INTELLIGENCE VICE CHMN.: First of all, if Porter Goss knows exactly where bin Laden is, the last thing in the world he should be doing is talking about it to a magazine or anybody else.

Secondly, he should be getting him, bringing him down, and thirdly, I don't think this is a matter of trying to boost the president's poll ratings in the war on terrorism. It's a question of trying to get somebody who has been a mentor to people all over this world who are trying to kill Americans. It's not that bin Laden runs the entire al Qaeda network, but he's an enormous symbol and we should not be playing fast and loose when we get him.

Of course, we've been close to him and we know the proximate couple of hundred miles in which he's been for a number of years, but we have not been able to bring him in, and I think that's something of an embarrassment to the Bush administration and something of harm to America.

But, look, the war in Iraq is going very badly and one of the things that worries me -- and I hope I'm wrong about this -- is they're using, oh, we are about to get bin Laden as a distraction from the war in Iraq. I think the American people have turned very strongly against that war and I think things are going to be quite bad for a number of years.

So, somehow playing games with Osama bin Laden for the sake of public interest strikes me as not helpful.

FOREMAN: Senator, we're going to talk about the war a good bit later on this broadcast, talk to me about this intelligence issue? How is it that, year after year, we keep hearing that Osama bin Laden is generally in this area and we're unable to do anything about it? We're the largest, most powerful military of all time.

ROCKEFELLER: Which is one of the lessons of this war, that being the largest and most powerful of all times doesn't mean that we can get done, militarily, what we want to.

FOREMAN: But, why not, though, in this...


FOREMAN: We're talking about tribal groups standing us down. ROCKEFELLER: Because it's -- because it's -- you know, we have this -- Don Rumsfeld has decided that we needed to downsize the size of the Army, and upsize the number of airplanes and bombs that we can drop, and unfortunately, where bin Laden probably is up at 14,000 feet and hundreds of miles of caves are not subject to site, to satellites, to bunker-busting bombs, or to anything else.

I mean, we're still fighting, and I hate to make it such a cliche, but it's kind of a World War II mentality, and what we need is troops. If we had a war break out in Syria, between the United States and Syria, most people generally, I'm sorry to say, don't think we would be able to field a complete boots-on-the-ground operation. And that's a pretty scary thing to ever to say, much less if something should break out in North Korea, Iran, or some other part of the world.

FOREMAN: Let me ask you something, though. You talk about boots on the ground -- if you turn loose enough boots on the ground to do what needs to be done, to take a man out of a series of caves in an area like this, you would be talking about some pretty high American casualties. Would you and your other senators who oppose the president on many things then stand by and say, yes, let's keep going?

ROCKEFELLER: No. First of all, you don't -- to be quite honest, bin Laden is an enormous symbol. I think he's -- however, he's not really directing the war in Iraq. He's not necessarily directing all of the war on terrorism. Remember, he -- in those Afghan camps where he trained all those people, he trained them to be independent, to make decisions on their own, not to rely on a topdown structure of running a terrorist organization. So, putting thousands of soldiers in 14,000-foot mountains, or whatever, in Afghanistan, and -- it really doesn't make that much sense.

FOREMAN: Senator, let me interrupt you for a moment, though, because that's what you were saying was needed, though. What -- it seems like you are having it both ways, here.

ROCKEFELLER: No, I'm not having it...

FOREMAN: In one breath you're saying the Bush administration's not doing what it ought to do; secondly, should we not be going after Osama bin Laden?

ROCKEFELLER: What I -- I'm not having both ways. You're quite wrong about that. What I said is that we don't have the sufficient number of soldiers, fighting soldiers, on the ground even to suppress the insurrection, and the insurgents, in Iraq, one state that we have thoroughly obliterated, much less if we have to take on, you know, Syria, or North Korea, or Iran, which are possibilities. I mean, the president talked the other day, or the White House talked the other day, about other options in North Korea. That's a very dangerous word to use with North Korea.

Our problem is, we have too few soldiers, and the War on Terrorism is spreading faster than we thought it would, and we had not done our homework about what life would be like after the war in Iraq, and it's now coming home to haunt us.

FOREMAN: Senator J. Rockefeller, thanks for coming by. We appreciate it.


FOREMAN: Still ahead on INSIDE POLITICS: A leading critic of the president's Iraq policy sounds like he's running for the job himself. Could the second time be a charm for Joe Biden?

Plus: Is this what the last throes of the Iraq insurgencies would look like. The administration's take versus public opinion in our "Strategy Session."

Stay around for that.


FOREMAN: We're going to take you back to Seattle now to that courthouse shooting, or apparent gun play happening at a courthouse there -- federal courthouse. We have some new pictures in, just now. What we understand from the Seattle Police Department is that they were responding about a half-an-hour ago to reports that a man carrying weapons and possibly making threats was shot at the federal courthouse downtown.

Seattle has a very dense downtown area; sort of packed together. So, any response down there would obviously get the attention of a lot of people around there. So, folks have been evacuated from the building, police are responding to that. No more details at this point, but that's the latest update we can offer on that.

As we reported earlier, President Bush vowed again today to complete the mission in Iraq despite the danger to U.S. troops and dwindling public and political support for that. He also defended the treatment for terrorism suspects at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. That may be one area where Mr. Bush still has a lot of the public on his side.

We are joined now by our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider.

BILL SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, in our latest poll, the public approves of the way the U.S. is treating prisoners held at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility by 52 to 37 percent and 58 percent of the public wants the U.S. to continue to operate the facility. Only 36 percent believe, based on what they have heard or read, that the Guantanamo Bay facility should be shut down.

FOREMAN: Is this a surprise at all, Bill?

Is this what we would have expected?

SCHNEIDER: Well, I think Americans hear the word terrorist -- detained terrorists, and they immediately go into a mode that says: Whatever we can do to stop terrorism, we must do. Remember, the question asked: Based on what you've heard and read. One question is: How much have Americans heard or read about Guantanamo Bay.

FOREMAN: How do we generally feel about the War on Terror, right now?

SCHNEIDER: Yes. Well, the War on Terror has always been Bush's strong suit. I believe it's the major reason that got him reelected last year, but in our latest figures, we find that only 52 percent of Americans, just the bare majority, say they are satisfied with the way things are going for the United States in the War on Terror.

Is that because Americans are worried about a terrorist attack? Actually, no. A year ago, a majority of Americans said they worried about an attack on the United States in the next few weeks. That number is now just over one-third.

So, really what's going on? Well, as we've reported, many polling organizations, including Gallup, have asked people whether they think the war in Iraq was worth fighting and growing numbers have turned against the war in Iraq.

President Bush always linked Iraq with the War on Terror and that boosted support for the war on Iraq, until now. Growing anti-war sentiment, measured by many polls, seems to be causing growing dissatisfaction with the War on Terrorism and with the Bush policy on terrorism, as more and more Americans conclude the war in Iraq not working out.

FOREMAN: Not good news for the White House, heading into a long, hot summer here.

Thank you, Bill Schneider.

His campaign for the White House 17 years ago ran out of steam. Now, Senator Joe Biden appears to be setting his sites on the White House, again.

We'll have those details, straight ahead.


FOREMAN: More on that shooting now in Seattle. Apparently, what has happened, according to a spokesman for the U.S. Marshalls Office, is that a man reportedly carrying weapons was shot Monday at the federal courthouse in Seattle. The spokesman -- his name is Robert Davis (ph) -- said that they shut the courthouse down. He did not know whether or not the suspect had been taken into custody. This all happened in the past 30 minutes here. AP is reporting that a bomb squad has been sent into that building. We know that people had been evacuated from the building in that densely packed area of downtown Seattle. A Seattle police spokesman said authorities were responding to a report that man carrying weapons and possibly making threats was at the courthouse, and now the U.S. Marshalls Office says, indeed, that suspect has been shot. We'll bring you up-to-date as more and more comes out of Seattle on that story and see how it all develops there.

A new campaign for a labor boss tops today's "Political Bytes" back here in Washington. Some AFL-CIO officials rallied behind union president John Sweeney and his efforts to hold the labor federation together. Their show of solidarity comes days after the heads of five of the ALF-CIO's biggest affiliates formed a splinter group, a possible step towards breaking from the federation altogether.

The senior senator from Massachusetts is not sounding too impressed with his governor's possible run for the White House. Democrat Edward Kennedy told "The Boston Herald," it's a big question whether Republican Mitt Romney has the vision and ability to be a national leader. Of course, Senator Kennedy has his own dog in the 2008 fight. In the "Herald" interview, he repeated his intention to support fellow Democrat and Massachusetts senator John Kerry, if he runs for president again.

Another Senate Democrat, Joe Biden, has practically thrown his hat into the ring for '08. Biden said yesterday he intends to run in the next presidential election if he finds the support is there. I think that's the qualification they all look for. Our Bruce Morton has more now on Biden, and his hope of getting a second shot at the White House.


BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Joseph Biden was elected to the Senate in 1972, has served longer there than anyone from Delaware ever has. Just after that first election his wife and daughter were killed in an accident. To be with his two young sons, he took the train from Washington home to Wilmington every night -- still does. The little boys are grownups now.

He ran for president 17 years ago in 1988 when his campaign fizzled after an aid's, eventual-nominee Michael Dukakis, revealed Biden was using quotes from a British politician, Neil Kinnick, without attribution.

He chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee during the 1987 hearings on controversial Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork, and got high marks for keeping those hearings serious and orderly.

ROBERT BORK, SUPREME COURT NOMINEE: The question is never whether you like the statues. The question is, is it in fact contrary to the principles of the Constitution?

MORTON: He got worse grades during the 1991 hearings on Clarence Thomas, after witness Anita Hill accused Thomas of sexual harassment when they worked together.

CLARENCE THOMAS, SUPREME COURT NOMINEE: As a black American, as far as I'm concerned, it is a high-tech lynching for uppity blacks, who in any way deign to think for themselves.

MORTON: Thomas, unlike Bork, was confirmed, over Biden's opposition.

As a child, Biden stuttered, but as a senator he has always loved to talk. I remember him once starting out to question a witness and after rambling on for several minutes, pausing and saying, of course, I have no idea what I'm talking about. He usually does, though, calling the president's tax cuts and Social Security proposals cockamamie; said to Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez, I love you, but you're not very candid so far; or his blunt assessment on CBS's "Face the Nation" of the situation in Iraq.

JOSEPH BIDEN, (D-DE) POSSIBLE 2008 PRES. NOMINEE: There's a gigantic gap between the rhetoric here in Washington and the reality on the ground. I don't know anybody who knows the situation. If you strapped on a lie detector device on them, wouldn't tell you that, a gigantic gap.

MORTON: And he's running for president, 17 years after that first try.

BIDEN: My intention now is to seek the nomination.

MORTON: How will he do? He's moderate-to-liberal on most issues; thinks the U.S. can't just pull out of Iraq; probably can't raise as much money as Hillary Clinton; and comes from a small state. How will he do? He and we will find out.

Bruce Morton, CNN, Washington.


FOREMAN: Later on, we'll be talking about whether or not his rhetoric matches the reality on the ground, what real chances he has of making this happen.

Some news just in -- seems like everything is happening this afternoon -- Adelphia Communications Corporation founder, John Rigas, has just been sentenced in New York to 15 years in prison for fraud, a continuing saga, what's happening to some of these big corporate giants. We'll have more on that later on, too, we hope.

The Senate is moving closer to another vote on John Bolton. Coming up, we'll have a live report from Capitol Hill on the state of Bolton's nomination to be U.N. ambassador. How will lawmakers react if Bolton gets the job without their blessing? That's possible.

Plus, behind the new talk about Osama bin Laden's whereabouts. Is politics at play? Make sure you stay with us.



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