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Supreme Court Ends Session; Bush Meets Schroeder; Iraq Situation Parsed; Supreme Court Vacancy Discussed
Aired June 27, 2005 - 15:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: Decisions and uncertainty at the U.S. Supreme Court. The justices end their term with a split ruling on public displays of the Ten Commandments.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a victory for our acknowledgment of God.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're very concerned about this court.
ANNOUNCER: Rehnquist retirement watch. No word yet from the chief justice, but that's not stopping protesters, or slowing down preparations at the White House.
The president keeps talking up the U.S. mission in Iraq.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The key to success in Iraq is a -- is for the Iraqis to be able and capable of defending their democracy against terrorists.
ANNOUNCER: On the eve of his Iraq speech, what can Mr. Bush say to the American people that he hasn't said already?
Inside Guantanamo Bay. We'll hear from lawmakers who got a firsthand look at the controversial military prison. Were they satisfied, or concerned about what they saw?
Now live from Washington, CNN's INSIDE POLITICS.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you for joining us. I'm Candy Crowley.
Maybe this is the way Chief Justice William Rehnquist wanted it, with more of a focus on the Supreme Court's end-of-the-term rulings and less on him. The court adjourned today without any announcement that Rehnquist or any other justice is retiring. That could still happen. Abortion rights supporters demonstrated outside the high court today in anticipation of a possible battle over a replacement for Rehnquist. But most of the court-side political positioning dealt with two different rulings on public displays of the Ten Commandments.
As our national correspondent Bruce Morton reports, the justices drew a fine line as to when those displays are allowed on government property.
BRUCE MORTON, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Texas case involves this monument near the capital, which lists the commandments with the words, "I am the lord thy God" in large letters. The court ruled 5-4 that that was proper.
ROB SCHENK, NATIONAL CLERGY COUNCIL: This decision out of Texas may be a sign that the creeping hostility towards religious expression and religious people may be slowing down or even reversing itself. Perhaps we have hit rock bottom at this point, and there is no place for us to go but up.
MORTON: But in the Kentucky case, the court ruled, again 5-4, that the display of the commandments inside two courthouses, even with other historical documents, was improper.
RABBI DAVID SAPERSTEIN, JEWISH ACTION GROUP: If something like the Ten Commandments, that is a mix of messages, is portrayed so as to acknowledge historically the role of religion, or focus on the civil, moral content of it, it may be permitted. But the bottom line is that separation of church and state that says that the government cannot endorse or oppose religious messages is held intact.
MORTON: Back when the court was hearing arguments on these cases in the chamber, with a frieze of historical figures, including Moses, but also Muhammad and Confucius, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor noted how hard it was to draw these lines. She was the swing vote today against the display in the Kentucky courthouses, for the display on the grounds of the Capitol.
(on camera): So we know it's OK in one place, not OK in one other place, and probably most of the people who are happy with one ruling are unhappy with the other. But what about other displays, inside the Capitol, outside the courthouse, in the park? This Supreme Court term is over, but this issue may be back here, again.
Bruce Morton, CNN, at the Supreme Court.
CROWLEY: We want to get back now to the shoe that has yet to drop at the high court. If President Bush gets the chance to nominate a new Supreme Court justice, our new poll shows 41 percent of Americans say they'd like to see a new justice who would make the court more conservative. 30 percent say they'd prefer a new addition who would make the court more liberal. 25 percent want the court to keep the same balance it has now.
I want to talk about the politics at play, if there ends up being an opening on the court. CNN political analyst Carlos Watson is at the Supreme Court.
Carlos, little more than a decade since the last time there was an opportunity for a Supreme Court nomination. If we get one this time, how is it going to change the debate? CARLOS WATSON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Candy, at least in two significant ways. One, there will be a lot more money spent, as we've talked about on this show and in other places. We might see north of $40 million spent by both sides in opposing and supporting whoever the president might ultimately nominate.
But maybe more significant than the money -- which will translate, by the way, into ads in places like Arkansas and Maine -- more significant than that may be the new media that's involved. Last time when Stephen Breyer was nominated and ultimately confirmed, you didn't have blogs. Cable news really meant CNN and nothing more. And you certainly didn't have talk radio as strong as it is today.
So I think all those things will mean that more Americans are engaged in this debate. And frankly, the debate will be more nastier, not only because the issue's already divisive, but because more media and more money will be trained on this.
CROWLEY: So when you look at, say, 2006, maybe even 2008, just in sheer political terms, would a nomination and the fight that follows, play into the elections?
WATSON: Well, it certainly could. I mean, if we remember back some 14 years ago to Clarence Thomas' nomination, while he ultimately was confirmed by a narrow margin, you remember that the following year, you saw a number of people get elected to the U.S. Senate, in part because of the issue of sexual harassment that was raised. Everyone from Patty Murray in Washington to Barbara Boxer in California to Carol Moseley Braun in Illinois.
So don't be surprised this time if we see issues raised that ultimately affect races, for example, in North Dakota, where Kent Conrad is a Democrat running in a very Republican state. Another situation very similar is in Florida with Bill Nelson. And yet another Democrat running in a red state is Ben Nelson in Nebraska. So there could be some changes, based on who is nominated and the conversation that ensues.
CROWLEY: So is there any way, Carlos, to talk about what issues might come before the court in the next term that would have implications, if there was a new person sitting on the court?
WATSON: Well, you know, a lot of ways, if you assume that the vacancy is Chief Justice Rehnquist, then the changes aren't likely to happen. Whoever replaces him probably is going to feel similarly on issues like abortion and affirmative action and a number of other issues.
But I'll give you two issues, Candy, where even a conservative, depending on what brand of conservative, actually could vary from the chief justice. Take, for example, the issue of gerrymandering or redistricting. The court hasn't been able to find consensus on that. And a so-called crossover conservative might be work with Justice Breyer and others to find a new road forward. So that might be one area where a replacement might make a difference. A second area where you might see that is a little bit on the issue of privacy. Remember, in some quarters, Chief Justice Rehnquist is seen as a pro-government power conservative, instead of a libertarian. A more libertarian conservative might allow more privacy rights. That might be another distinction.
CROWLEY: Political analyst Carlos Watson, appreciate it.
WATSON: Good to see you.
CROWLEY: We will have more ahead on the future of the high court and today's decisions, including two that have stirred up the blogosphere.
In other decisions, the justices declined to hear and appeal today by Matthew Cooper of "Time" magazine and Judith Miller of "The New York Times." They are the journalists who refused to identify their sources to a grand jury which was investigating the leak of a CIA operative's name.
Meantime, the court dealt a blow to Grokster and other Internet file-sharing services. The justices unanimously overturned ruling barring the entertainment industry from suing online services used by consumers to swap songs and movies for free.
At the White House, President Bush is warming up for his primetime speech on Iraq. He touched on the subject during a meeting today with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder. At the same time, new poll numbers show why Mr. Bush wants to explain the Iraq mission to the American people again.
Here's our White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux -- Suzanne.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Candy, President Bush actually hosted Gerhard Schroeder for a couple of hours here at the White House earlier today. At first, an Oval Office meeting and then followed by a lunch. These two leaders, as you know, of course, have had strained relations in the past. It is somewhat thawing, that chill, but still, Gerhard Schroeder remains one of the staunchest opponents of the Iraq War and this, of course. comes at a critical time for the president, as the president prepares, in a primetime speech to be delivered tomorrow before the American people, to try to win back the American people's support for the U.S. mission in Iraq.
Candy, these are the latest poll numbers that show what he's up against. The latest "Washington Post"/ABC poll showing -- asking the status of the Iraqi insurgency. 22 percent say it's getting weaker, 24 percent say it's strengthening, 53 percent say there is no change. And of course, another poll here also showing, when people asked about the decision to go to war overall, 42 percent say it's the right decision, but 53 percent said that it was a mistake.
Now as you know, of course, Germany is a key player, at least in the reconstruction effort. It was Germany that was one of the first countries to initiate forgiving debt for Iraq. Also, of course, it's also engaged in training those Iraqi soldiers in the United Arab Emirates. This, of course, an essential agreement for the U.S. exit strategy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: Part of the political process is not only the elections and the constitution, but part of the political process is the reconstruction programs, of which Germany is an important part. And I want to thank the chancellor and this government.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MALVEAUX: Now, of course, this visit also comes at a critical time for Gerhard Schroeder, as well. He is up for re-election in September, just a couple of months away. It is widely believed, looking at polls in his own country, that he is falling behind, the more conservative may actually win that election. That would not be bad news for this Bush administration. They really want to see someone that they can work with, someone who is more in line, in step, in thinking with President Bush -- Candy.
CROWLEY: White House Correspondent Suzanne Malveaux. Thanks, Suzanne.
The Bush administration acknowledges holding talks with some leaders of the insurgency in Iraq. Is that a violation of America's policy against negotiating with terrorists? Bill Schneider will explore that question, ahead.
Up next, I'll talk to a Republican and a Democratic lawmaker about their visits to Guantanamo Bay. Did they walk away with the same take on allegations that suspected terrorists have been mistreated?
Plus: Will he or won't he? -- the Rehnquist retirement cliff- hanger and the high court ruling on the Ten Commandments, in our "Strategy Session."
CROWLEY: Over the weekend, Democratic Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon was part of a bipartisan Congressional delegation that visited the Guantanamo Bay Naval base, in Cuba. In a moment, I'll talk with Republican Congressman Joe Wilson of South Carolina, who was also on the trip, but first, Senator Wyden joins me from Capitol Hill.
So, Senator, I guess the big question is: Did you see anything that made you change your mind about the facility?
SEN. RON WYDEN (D), OREGON: I think under General Hood they've made real improvements. I really get a sense there's a different approach to the interrogations, you don't see the same kind of stress points, sleep deprivation, that sort of thing.
I'll tell you, I have essentially made the judgment that you close Guantanamo and you'll have less accountability for these detainees and probably through the rendition process, outsource a lot of these interrogations to countries like Egypt and Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, that don't share our values.
CROWLEY: You've called -- I have a quote here -- called the prison there, "A black mark on America's image and a danger to the American troops abroad." Sounds to me, a little bit, like you think that things have changed enough that you're willing to let it stay there.
WYDEN: Well, of course, Candy, I was talking about the reputation that had developed over the last few months, but I do sense that some significant progress has been made, but there is still more to do.
The president is absolutely right; we're dealing with a war. This is a war on terrorism to protect our citizens. This is not a garden-variety criminal justice kind of issue, but I do think Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill have got to find a way to clarify the legal status of these detainees, because they're in a kind of legal-limbo that I think needs to be addressed.
CROWLEY: And what about an independent commission, something that the president has rejected? I'm wondering if you think there should be any kind of independent commission to look into allegations of abuse at Guantanamo?
WYDEN: I haven't reached a judgment on an independent commission, but I have on the key question and that is that Congress ought to step in and do its job. I met these wonderful guards yesterday, from Oregon; people like Kristen Seymor (ph) and Michael Edmundson (ph). They are doing their job.
The Congress needs to step in, however, and address these legal questions about the status of these individuals, how they're held, when they're charged, this sort of thing and that's something Congress ought to do on a bipartisan basis.
CROWLEY: Is that something you think Congress can do on a bipartisan basis? It seems to me, that every issue now surrounding the war seems to kind of end up in a -- in partisan bickering. Do you think that Congress, at this point, is capable of getting together and saying we need to have some -- and get -- you need to get together with the administration as well. We need to have some sort of rules that govern this.
WYDEN: Well, you're being logical, Candy, and sometimes that doesn't apply to Congress, but I sense a growing need for bipartisanship here. The comments that Senator Nelson and I made this afternoon, I think, could track quite well with the comments that Senator Specter, the chairman, of course, of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
All of us are saying that these issues, with respect to the legal status of prisoners, as of now, are not dictated by any law passed by Congress. Essentially, they're administrative proceedings that are raising questions; congress can do better. CROWLEY: Let me ask you, quickly, just want to turn the corner; we learned over the weekend that the administration -- or that forces on the ground in Iraq are, in fact, talking to insurgents. We are told that negotiations would be too heavy a word, too big a word, but that they're meeting with them. Do you have any problem with that?
WYDEN: I will tell you that the second that we can hand over the key functions of self-governance; here I am talking about the military and law enforcement. We need to have a way to start bringing our folks home.
I, of course, was one of 23 in the United States Senate who voted against this and I'm glad Hussein is behind bars, but we've got to figure out a way to start bringing our people home and I am interested in any kind of process that's going to allow self-governance, particularly handing over the military function, the law enforcement function to the Iraqis so our wonderful soldiers can start coming home.
CROWLEY: Democratic Senator Ron Wyden, from the beautiful state of Oregon, we really appreciate your taking the time.
WYDEN: Thanks, again.
CROWLEY: Much more on Guantanamo from a Republican perspective, when we return. Republican Congressman Joe Wilson also toured the U.S. prison, over the weekend. We will hear his thoughts, next.
CROWLEY: I just discussed a congressional trip to the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay with Democratic Senator Ron Wyden.
Republican Congressman Joe Wilson of South Carolina was also on that trip to Guantanamo. Congressman Wilson joins me from Capitol Hill. I want to ask you, Congressman, is the first question -- what I asked the senator, which is, when you got there and over time did you learn anything different from what you thought going in?
REP. JOE WILSON, (R) SOUTH CAROLINA: Well, I did in one respect, Candy. I found out that the terrorists who were there are highly educated. They come from a background who I felt should know better than what they were doing, of trying to kill American citizens. Because some have visited the United States, they have visited Europe. They've -- they're people who have access to millions of dollars through different charities. And so what really surprised me to find out that these were not people who were uneducated and didn't know what they had been involved with. These were people who are very committed as hardcore terrorists.
CROWLEY: Congressman, the U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has said that a U.N. rights experts ought to be allowed to go into Guantanamo Bay to look at the facility, if nothing else to tell the world what you and also the senators seem to have seen there, which is that it's a well-run place there is not torture. Do you think it's a good idea to let the U.N. go in there? WILSON: Well, actually, Candy, incredibly enough, I do think that the U.N. should visit. I think, though, that the terminology is so important because there's been some misinterpretation. For example, the Red Cross has a facility adjacent to the detention facility. They are there 24 hours a day. And they have determined that there was torture going on. And you say, well, what do you mean, torture? Well, they have determined by interpretation, that if you do not identify to detainees when they are going to be released, that that is considered torture. I humbly disagree.
I believe that they are going to be held until the war on terrorism is completed, but that is not torture. And so I do have a concern that good and well-meaning people could visit and use terminology which simply would inflame people, not knowing that they're talking about legalisms rather than reality.
CROWLEY: But on the other side, you leave open the possibility that you could have gone at a time when, obviously, they would have been on their best behavior. I mean, they brought Congress down there. It's quite unlikely they'd do something you disapprove of in front of you.
WILSON: Well, in fact, you need to be aware, I served 31 years in the Army National Guard, so I felt like I was speaking the language of the military. I know that we've had guard units from South Carolina who were sent to serve at Guantanamo. These are patriotic Americans, these are not persons who would inflict injury.
And the best example of that is that of the nearly 700 people who have been detained, not a single person has died at Guantanamo. I think that's an amazing record. In fact, I met with the medical personnel and found out how they had saved lives of people who'd attempted suicide, people who had severe medical problems. And, as proof of that again, there has not been a single death at Guantanamo.
CROWLEY: And I certainly take your description of what went on there. I'm just wondering, you have other people saying it's a gulag, it's a -- you know, terrible things have gone on there. And in the eyes of the world, there has to be some way to settle that huge gap between what's -- about what's going on there.
WILSON: And Candy, it distresses me that there is this gap, because 400 newspaper reporters, and also electronic media, have visited the detention facility. There have been ten different reports about the facilities. And as I mention, I was not aware that the Red Cross has 24-hour access and is actually there. But there -- I also understand that there are some people who just never will be satisfied.
But I believe that we are making efforts to protect the American people. In fact, 10 people have been released -- over 100 have been released, but 10 have been released and subsequently found that they were involved in terrorists activities, attempting to kill Americans. And so if the mistake was made, and the chairman of the Armed Services Committee Duncan Hunter pointed this out, we had too open a process of letting the terrorists go. But I am confident that members of Congress can go and they can see the process and find out how the detainees are being treated. The intelligence information which is being received is leading to arrest of cells throughout the world, in North America and Europe and in the Middle East, which are saving lives. And so instead of costing lives, it's saving lives.
CROWLEY: Republican Congressman Joe Wilson of South Carolina. We have to leave it there. I thank you for your time.
WILSON: Thank you.
CROWLEY: We will have a live debate now on what's going on over Iraq, when James Carville and Terry Holt joins in "The Strategy Session."
Plus she's staying quiet about any possible run for the White House, but did Hillary Clinton pick up a major endorsement already? That story in "Political Bytes."
And later, he is known as a tough politician, but does Senator Rick Santorum have a soft side when it comes to canines?
CROWLEY: As the markets get set to close on Wall Street, I'm joined by Christine Romans in New York with "The Dobbs Report" -- Christine.
ROMANS: Hi, there, Candy, thanks.
Stocks are little changed, but oil prices climbed to another record high. With the final trades being counted on Wall Street, the Dow Industrials are down four points, and the Nasdaq is losing more than a third of a percent.
For the first time, oil prices ended above $60 a barrel, jumping today another 70 cents. One reason for the increase, strained relations between Iran and the United States could get worse after Iran elected a hardline government over the weekend.
The Supreme Court handed big victories to the music industry and to big cable companies. In the first case, the justices ruled that software companies can be held liable for copyright infringement, when consumers use their technology to download songs and movies illegally. In a case against Grokster, the high court overturned a ruling that had barred Hollywood and the music industry from suing Internet services used by consumers to swap songs and movies for free.
The high court also ruled that cable companies do not have to provide rivals with access to their high-speed Internet lines. That's a big win for cable operators like Comcast and Time-Warner Cable. At the losing end are smaller Internet service providers like Earthlink.
Coming up on CNN at 6:00 p.m. Eastern on "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT," we'll take an in-depth look at the Chinese national oil company's proposed offer to buy Unocal. If that controversial deal happens, it would be the largest takeover by a Chinese company and would mean substantial reserves for China.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FADEL GHEIT, OPPENHEIMER: It's really a small step that China is trying to take for its long-term strategy to secure energy sources. As you well know, China became an importer of oil only in the last few years from being an exporter of oil. And its energy and oil demand continue to increase very rapidly. And they definitely want to secure energy supply for their future economic growth.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROMANS: Also tonight, we take a look at foreign ownership in the United States. Who owns what, and how much do they own? Then controversial author Edward Klein joins us to discuss his new book about Hillary Clinton called "The Truth about Hillary."
Plus, Congressman Randy Forbes has a new plan to accelerate the deportation of illegal alien gang members from the United States. That and more, tonight at 6:00 Eastern on "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT."
Now back to you, Candy.
CROWLEY: Christine Romans, we will be there. But right now, back to INSIDE POLITICS.
The White House calls this a time of testing in Iraq. It is also a time of testing for President Bush. With polls showing the American people increasingly skeptical about his Iraq policy, yet another question has emerged: is the Bush administration negotiating with terrorists? Here's our senior political analyst Bill Schneider.
BILL SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: The U.S. describes its adversaries in Iraq as terrorists.
SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We are fighting the terrorists in Iraq so that we don't have to fight them here at home.
SCHNEIDER: A report in the "London Sunday Times" reveals that the U.S. held two face-to-face meetings with leaders of the insurgency.
DONALD RUMSFELD, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: I think there have probably been many more than that.
SCHNEIDER: According to the newspaper, U.S. officials met leaders of a group that has carried out suicide bombings, once that killed 22 people in the mess hall at a U.S. base last Christmas. Is the U.S. negotiating with terrorists? It depends on the ability for make distinctions between terrorists... RUMSFELD: A suicide bomber who's willing to go in, and blow themselves up, and kill 50 to 100 innocent men, women and children, is not the kind of person you negotiate with.
SCHNEIDER: ... and other insurgents.
GEN. JOHN ABIZAID, U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND: U.S. officials and Iraqi officials are looking for the right people in the Sunni community to talk to in order to ensure that the Sunni Arab community becomes part of the political process.
SCHNEIDER: Making that distinction is not so easy. All the insurgents have used terror tactics. Sometimes it appears to be a distinction between Iraqi insurgents and foreign extremists.
But some Iraqi-born insurgents appear to share the same goals as the foreign jihadists, like one interviewed by "Time" magazine who said, "I am a terrorist. The Koran says it is the duty of Muslims to bring terror to the enemy. So being a terrorist makes me a good Muslim."
The U.S. seems to be willing to negotiate with insurgents whose purpose is to change the Iraqi political process.
RUMSFELD: There are all kinds of people involved in the insurgency, and a lot of them will end up participating and supporting the government.
SCHNEIDER: But not with those who have bigger and more dangerous goals, goals Americans may not understand.
RUMSFELD: The terrorists have no vision. They have no Ho Chi Minh. They have no Mao. They don't have any cause.
SCHNEIDER: How can the U.S. tell the difference between insurgents it can deal with and those it can't, especially when they do share one goal, bringing down the new Iraqi government?
CROWLEY: Let me ask you, Bill, just slightly turning the corner, and that is, the president's giving this big speech on Iraq. When you look at the polls, what do you think the number-one thing he has to do is tomorrow night?
SCHNEIDER: Define what victory means in Iraq, define what the goal is, and give the American people some understanding of how we expect to make progress toward that goal.
But I don't think he has to give a timetable. People understand why that would be ill-advised. But they have to understand how we are making progress to a discernible goal.
CROWLEY: Bill Schneider, thanks very much.
The Bush White House is refusing to speculate publicly about when and if Chief Justice William Rehnquist will retire. As we reported, the court adjourned today without any announcement that Rehnquist or any other justice is stepping down.
Still, behind the scenes, the Bush administration and political activists continue to gear up for a high court showdown. Our congressional correspondent, Joe Johns, reports.
JOE JOHNS, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The battle over the Supreme Court is about to begin.
CHRIS MYERS, CONSERVATIVE ACTIVIST: We're not going to be caught unprepared.
JOHNS: Activists are huddled in their war rooms, plotting strategy, rallying the ground troops.
MYERS: I think it'd be a good idea to go over this with a field. Actually when you were doing with it, we can e-mail it out to them so they'll have it in front of them.
JOHNS: In the video editing bays, television attack ads are waiting for someone to push the play button.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president nominated George Washington. Democrats attacked Washington for his environmental record of chopping down cherry trees.
JOHNS: Conservative activist Chris Myers and his group, Progress for America, are preparing to defend the president's nominee, whoever it is, against an expected onslaught from liberals. They have organizers in 21 states and an $18 million war chest.
MYERS: We do know that, if there is a retirement, that it will be defined quickly. We know the kinds of patterns that the left exhibits based upon the things they've done in the past.
JOHNS: On the left, Ralph Neas, a 30-year veteran of these wars, sometimes called the 101st senator for his civil rights advocacy.
RALPH NEAS, PEOPLE FOR THE AMERICAN WAY: We're really well- prepared for whatever happens, whether it's one, two, or three possible vacancies.
JOHNS: Neas and his group, People for the American Way, fear the president will nominate someone who will take a wrecking ball to civil liberties. They've already sent out a million pieces of mail with more to come once a nominee is named.
And they're taking the fight to the Internet.
NEAS: We have registered a number of domain names, both with respect to the name of the campaign, and we want to make sure that we're ready to go from the very first moment.
JOHNS: At the center of all this, 100 U.S. senators.
SEN. TED KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: If the president submits an in-your-face nomination to flaunt his power, it takes time and effort and sweat and tears before the truth about the candidate is fully discovered.
SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R), TEXAS: And over the last four years, this president's judicial nominees have been labeled kooks, Neanderthals, and even turkeys. Respected public servants and brilliant jurists have been called scary and despicable.
JOHNS: Senator Arlen Specter, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, the primary battleground, warns it's a little early to get so worked up over a possible Rehnquist retirement.
SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (R-PA), CHAIRMAN OF THE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: What he intends to do or what anyone else intends to do remains to be seen. But it is hardly the time, given the kind of confrontation in this body which we have seen on the judicial nomination process, to be looking to pick a fight.
JOHNS: But with the stakes this high and the troops this ready, a fight is the one thing sure to happen.
JOHNS: Activists on both sides today were fully prepared to leap into action. As we have reported, there was no announcement on a retirement today. However, there are a number of people in this town, including some conservatives we've talked to, who say they expect it to happen and very soon. How soon, of course, the question.
Candy, back to you.
CROWLEY: Joe Johns, watching and waiting up on Capitol Hill. Thanks, Joe.
Up next, the president prepares to go primetime. Political analyst Ron Brownstein joins me to talk about the president's scheduled speech to the nation tomorrow night.
The Reverend Billy Graham takes his message to New York and has some kind words for Bill and Hillary Clinton.
And later, the Supreme Court weighs in on Internet file-sharing. Our blog reporters sample the reaction online.
CROWLEY: The president's primetime speech tomorrow night is a centerpiece of his latest P.R. offensive on Iraq. This isn't the first time. It may not be the last time he has to explain and defend the U.S. mission there. We want to talk about what he may say and what he should say with CNN political analyst Ron Brownstein of "Los Angeles Times."
RON BROWNSTEIN, "LOS ANGELES TIMES": Hello, Candy.
CROWLEY: Is there anything new he can say? I mean, I feel like, is there some silver bullet here that he can put out there that will turn what has been, you know, a slow tide, but a tide that clearly at this point is running against him?
BROWNSTEIN: I think the short answer is no. I mean, I think the big thing we've learned over the last two years is that events outweigh argument in shaping the American attitudes toward Iraq.
There have been intermittent spikes upward in public support. When we captured Saddam, around the election that was widely praised around the world in January, but the inability to reduce the violence has basically bled away those gains and led to a steady erosion to where he is now, where in polls we're looking at the lowest numbers, in terms of public support, at any point since the war began.
CROWLEY: So why do it, because doesn't he risk going out there and two weeks from now we say, "Well, the president didn't pick up a thing from his primetime speech"? I mean, it's a risk, isn't it?
BROWNSTEIN: I think they feel a need to try to recapture control of the debate, both in the political arena in Washington and to some extent in the country. I think that, you know, When the president gives a speech like this, they rarely appear full-blown, like a Pallas Athena from the head of Zeus.
I mean, the best preview of what he's going to say is what he has been saying. And they've been out talking a lot over the last week. And I think the key argument they have been making, the president himself and Donald Rumsfeld and others, is that you can't -- they are arguing you shouldn't look only at the violence in judging how things are going.
There's a political track, that we are making political progress. And interestingly -- I think is something that they're emphasizing more than the past -- they're arguing that ultimately the solution to the violence will be the political process, the creation of an Iraqi government that can not only build its own security force, but also potentially, in their view, marginalize the insurgents by becoming a representative government.
CROWLEY: Have you been able to sort of figure out how much this sort of out-of-touch with reality charge has hurt him, which has come even from Republicans?
BROWNSTEIN: I think it does hurt. And it's a real constraint on them as they talk about this. Because on the one hand, every president wants to accentuate the positive. On the other hand, in a situation like this, you run the risk where you do seem out of touch with what people are seeing everyday, even today.
And you know, really, for a strange of days behind us, we see this violence. The president can't ignore it. But on the other hand, he has to try to make a case to the American people that it's not the entire picture.
CROWLEY: And you know, when you look at it, and you just look at it in terms of the dateline, what's really the political fallout for George Bush? He doesn't have to run again. So why are these polls important? Why is he doing this?
BROWNSTEIN: Well, I think there are several reasons why it matters in a very tangible way. One is narrow and one is broad. The narrow one is that weakness invites criticism. I mean, the weaker the numbers are in public opinion about the war, the more emboldened people on Capitol Hill feel, in terms of raising questions about it.
And that kind of feedback loop, the more the public hears about that kind of criticism, the more opposition and concern, I think, there is in the polls.
More broadly, Iraq is clearly having a downward pressure on his overall approval rating. If you look at where President Bush is at this point in his second term, his approval rating is lower than any reelected president since World War II, except President Nixon, who had his own problems, in terms of Watergate.
So in that sense, if Iraq is weakening his overall political position, it gives him less leverage over members on Capitol Hill on everything else. It effects not only Iraq, but it affects his ability to move anything else on the Hill.
So in both of these ways, reversing this erosion, which is very dramatic this year, on the war, it has to be a top priority. But their ability to do so, I think, is limited without progress on the ground in Iraq. That, to me, remains the key.
CROWLEY: And in fact, are they not fighting the political calendar here? Because you begin to peel off -- I mean, Republicans begin to peel off, because a lot of them have to run for reelection next year.
BROWNSTEIN: Well, I think that's the big question is, we have a lot of agitation and anxiety on Capitol Hill about the war. We don't have a lot of alternatives.
And the question is, as we move toward 2006, are you going to see more than just a handful of voices begin to argue for a change in direction and a change in policy, if, in fact, conditions don't improve? That, to me, is the big unanswered question.
Neither party, really, is coalescing behind any alternative to what President Bush -- and I think that's one of the things he's going to argue tomorrow, if you look at the last few days, that setting a date, for example, for withdrawing the troops would only strengthen the insurgents.
He's benefiting from the fact that no one else seems to have a better idea right now of where to go, at least nothing that anyone can coalesce around.
CROWLEY: Ron Brownstein, from one our favorite newspapers, "L.A. Times," appreciate it.
BROWNSTEIN: Thank you.
CROWLEY: Checking the "Political Bytes" on this Monday, Bill and Hillary Clinton joined evangelist Billy Graham in New York over the weekend for what Graham has said will be his last Crusade in the U.S. The former president praised Reverend Graham, and Graham had some kind words for the Clintons, as well.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
THE REVEREND BILLY GRAHAM, EVANGELIST PREACHER: I thought that when he left the presidency, he should be an evangelist, because he has all the gifts. And he could leave his wife to run the country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: Pennsylvania Republican Senator Rick Santorum is winning praise from the animal rights community. Santorum recently introduced legislation to regulate animal breeders and so-called puppy mills. The AP reports the animal rights PAC, Humane USA, has donated money $5,000 to Santorum's reelection effort and has pledged to campaign on his behalf.
Anti-tax activist Grover Norquist made his feelings clear about several Republican senators in a recent speech to College Republicans. Norquist told the group that so-called Reagan Republicans are the party's mainstream but that Senators Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine, as well as John McCain of Arizona, don't really qualify for the title.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GROVER NORQUIST, ANTI-TAX ACTIVIST: Being a Reagan Republican means you're part of the mainstream of the Republican Party, and I mean, everybody with the exception of maybe, you know, the two girls from Maine and the nut job from Arizona refer to themselves as Reagan Republicans in the Senate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: And finally, in Illinois, Governor Rod Blagojevich is facing questions about the state's use of a private contractor that also happens to be a major political donor. The AP reports that a company called PWS Environmental has done more than half-a-million dollars worth of work on various state projects. A spokeswoman says hiring the private company saves state funds and it also allows state workers to concentrate on other duties.
The Supreme Court has completed its term, but the debates are just getting started online. Up next, we go inside the blogs for reaction to the court's decisions on file-sharing and other issues.
CROWLEY: The Supreme Court is a hot topic online today. We want to check in now with CNN political producer Abbi Tatton and Jacki Schechner, our blog reporter -- Jacki?
JACKI SCHECHNER, BLOG REPORTER: Hi, Candy. Yep, Supreme Court front and center today with a handful of really interesting decisions on the docket and wide speculation that somebody, no matter who it was, was going to retired. The blogs were geared up and ready. There is retirement as of yet, but we know that when there is one, they will be geared up to go.
Meanwhile, plenty to distract them otherwise. Kevin Aylward at wizbangblog.com sums it up nicely. "Hollywood wins big, reporters lose, Ten Commandments split."
ABBI TATTON, POLITICAL PRODUCER: And bloggers usually go to mainstream news outlets online for their updates throughout the day, but when it comes to a Supreme Court issue, it seems like they all go, left, right and center, to one place, and that scotusblog.com, a blog operated by the D.C. law firm of Goldstein Howe, with lots of analysis.
But they also employ a reporter, Lyle Denniston, who's been at the Supreme Court in the press room live-blogging there all day all the updates. And everyone linking over here.
One of the decisions that's been getting a lot of play in the blogosphere and online in general is the much-anticipated MGM v. Grokster. If you go to the visual guide to today's ruling -- it's the second one down here -- you see all the justice highlighted.
I know, you know I love this tool here. All the justices highlighted that shows that this was a unanimous decision. The court ruled that file-sharing software companies like Grokster can be held liable for copyright infringement if their consumers use their software to download illegally things under copyright status, music and that kind of thing.
SCHECHNER: I actually think this is the first time we've seen all of the faces on the same line at the same time, at least since this blog's been up and running.
It's a big day for blogs, law blogs, blawgs, as we call them. Technology experts, lots of people talking, weighing in, comment boards, that sort of thing.
Two sites we wanted to show you, p2p.weblogsinc.com. This is Alberto Escarlate who builds Web sites for Fortune 500 companies. He's a tech expert weighing in on his thoughts, saying the decision paves the way for a torrent of lawsuits against peer-to-peer companies. That's what Grokster was.
But the plaintiffs have to prove that the technology is meant to be used for a bad purpose. So he's waiting to see what happens when this gets back down to the lower courts.
On the other side, the law experts we were talking about, Susan Crawford being one of them, she specialized when she was an attorney practicing in Internet law. She's now a professor at Cardoza Law School. She actually says this is a balanced view, that the content companies win, because now they have the ammo they need to go after the bad guys, and technology companies win because they can still distribute their technology.
TATTON: But not just technology cases getting a lot of play. Politics, as well, the Ten Commandments case, the public display of the Ten Commandments, lots of people talking about the two rulings there from the justices.
One saying allowing the display of the Ten Commandments outside the Texas State Capitol, another one barring the display inside Kentucky courthouses. The left Carpetbagger Report saying for civil libertarians it was a mixed bad of results today.
And a lot of people are kind of saying that, "Make your mind up." Why haven't the justices come down, you know, one side or another? They're having fun with it at the Conservative Corner, saying, "Why don't they just rule that on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, you can display the Ten Commandments, but not on Tuesdays and Thursday? Or maybe you should just display the commandments that don't mention God?" Having a little bit of fun with it there.
SCHECHNER: The other decision they're talking about is that the Supreme Court said it would hear the appeal of Matt Cooper and Judith Miller, who will possibly or could possibly, rather, go to jail for protecting a source in the Valerie Plame case.
And the Agitator -- this is Radley Balko, who's a libertarian, then an analyst with the CATO Institute -- he makes the point that a case like this will intimidate reporters and it will make the government less accountable.
We should also tell you that online today, mixed reaction. At the Washington Monthly, for example, they're saying to save Matthew Cooper. They want to make sure he doesn't go to jail, or at least try to save him. There's a campaign going on over there.
And then a lot on the left not big fans of Judith Miller. Michelle Malkin, on the right, points out the left is sort of celebrating. It's a personal thing for them. They're just not a huge fan of her.
So that's what's going right now, Candy, most of it in regard to the Supreme Court and today's decisions.
CROWLEY: Jacki Schechner, Abbi Tatton, thank you all.
There is word from Connecticut today that the mother of Senator Joe Lieberman has died. Marcia Lieberman was 90-years-old.
She was a familiar face during the 2000 and 2004 presidential campaigns. She often appeared on her son's behalf before seniors groups. In a statement, the senator and his two sisters said of Marcia Lieberman, quote, "Her spirit and light continues in all who were touched by her."
There is no vacancy yet, but the battle-lines over the makeup of the U.S. Supreme Court are already being drawn. We'll talk about that issue, straight ahead in our "Strategy Session."
CROWLEY: Welcome back to INSIDE POLITICS and our "Strategy Session" on today's hottest political topics. With us today, CNN political analyst James Carville and Republican strategist Terry Holt.
Today's topics, the Supreme Court ends its term without announcing any retirements. But the battle over the court's future make-up has already begun. Before adjourning, the high court sends mixed signals about public displays of the Ten Commandments. And as President Bush gets set to deliver a major speech on Iraq, his defense secretary raises some eyebrows with his comments about the Iraqi insurgency.
At the Supreme Court recessed today, there was no mention of any of the justices stepping down. It has been widely speculated that Chief Justice Williams Rehnquist, who's battling thyroid cancer, might announce his retirement today.
Just the possibility of a vacancy on the court has sparked intense preparations by Republicans and Democrats and their ideological allies. Worried about the possibility that Roe v. Wade could be overturned, a group of women gathered outside the court today to call for the continuation of abortion rights.
It's already started and we don't even have a resignation yet. I'm tired already.
TERRY HOLT, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: There's a lot of people out there that have been really ready for this fight since Bork was the subject of debate. Republicans were caught flat-footed on the Bork nomination and since that time, we've gotten better prepared and I think we'll be ready to make this fight, when it happens.
JAMES CARVILLE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, follow the money. There's a lot of money be made and spent...
CARVILLE: Yes. No, I mean on both sides and this is what -- not the public, but to the really committed, and the people who write the checks, this whole thing -- and they're gassed up about one issue: Choice. All right, and it just permeates to everything.
Now, there are probably some business groups that are concerned and labor groups, but 80 percent of the energy on this whole thing is, on both sides, is on the choice issue and it's -- and these groups, be they liberal groups or conservative groups, they justify their existence with their donors by being on top of this. So, they've got to really get gassed up about this. HOLT: It's the values arguments.
CROWLEY: The raison d'etre has finally come.
HOLT: It's the values arguments. I mean, look at the case today with the Ten Commandments, you're talking about a very split court and you're talking about whether or not values are going to be a central element, a discussion point in America's civic life. It -- they clearly are and that's why the Supreme Court fight is such a big deal.
CROWLEY: Let me...
CARVILLE: I think it's all about abortion.
CROWLEY: I think you may be right. I mean, at least that's the thing that gets them to the gate. Now, what moves them forward, I'm not sure. I wanted to show you a poll that we have out, when we asked people whether they wanted -- if there were a new appointment, would you like to see a new justice who would make the court more conservative? Forty-one percent said yes.
How about: Would you like to see a justice that would make the court more liberal? Thirty percent. No change: 25 percent.
What do you make of that?
CARVILLE: Well, obviously, the president is not going to appoint somebody that's going to make the court more liberal. So, you know, I'll take with the public -- if you take 30 and 25 and you -- look, this is not the biggest -- this is a much bigger issue in Washington than it is in the rest of the country, with the exception of the activists. This fight is going to be huge and I think it will turn a lot of the country off, because they're going to see that people in Washington care more about one seat in the Supreme Court than they do about gas prices, healthcare costs or economy.
CROWLEY: See, I wanted to ask you that: Do you agree with that? Because I do think that this -- I mean, we've done story after story, and people are already out there -- I mean, I'm getting press releases already about the big fight. Is there a chance that people are going to, once again, look at Washington and go...
Over the last six months, the Democrats have scored a lot of political points by being obstructionists on issues that don't really matter that much to the American people. If we're talking about the economy, if we were taking about the War on Terror, the president has strengths there. They've been successful by moving this subject to things that people don't care as much about and you can have a fight about process.
But let me say this about the poll: People in this country are conservative and I think they're fundamentally uncomfortable with the idea that an activist judge would tinker with the constitution or try to make law from the bench. I think that's a legitimate concern people have.
CROWLEY: Let me ask you if you think, James, that if Justice Rehnquist -- Chief Justice Rehnquist should resign? He's a conservative and let's say he gets replaced with a conservative. Are those -- are people on the left going to spend all their money for that battle?
CARVILLE: Good point and I think that it depends, because if Justice O'Connor resigns and they appoint a real conservative, I think you would probably see a lot more energy. So, I think O'Connor -- so, I'm just going by what -- I don't think the press knows anymore -- by the way, if you're listening to this show, you know as much as any reporter that you've got out in front of the Supreme Court pontificating about this...
CROWLEY: Hey, hey.
CARVILLE: But I do think that they're will probably be more energy about an O'Connor replacement, because that's not going to change -- the Rehnquist change wouldn't alter the ideological composition of the court; it could very well be that an O'Connor replacement would.
CROWLEY: And yet, you're talking about how they've so -- I mean, this is 11 years of pent-up of wanting to change the court. Do you think people would be willing to step back from this fight, waiting, perhaps, for a fight over a Justice O'Connor resignation?
CARVILLE: It's possible, but I don't think. I get too many -- they're too -- it's like you're getting ready to go to war and you just can't stand down and they've got -- everybody is alerted, everybody is on -- you know, they've e-mailed everybody: Get your checkbook out. Everybody is at the go.
I mean, people are in their starting block, and if the gun doesn't go off here pretty soon...
HOLT: Plus, there's no national election to focus everybody else on. I mean they endured -- there's permanent campaigns in this country and permanent campaigners, permanent staff that does this stuff and permanent direct-mail fund-raising. These groups have to raise money to keep themselves in business.
CARVILLE: Millions, but the public -- somebody needs to do a story on just how much money is going to be raised, spent, made, fees -- God knows what...
HOLT: And put in the pot by George Soros and MoveOn.org.
CROWLEY: Now, now.
CARVILLE: You know, I'm supposed to sit here and be an analyst and...
CROWLEY: We're being nice here.
HOLT: All right.
CROWLEY: Do you think there's any 2006 implication to this? Let's say Rehnquist resigns, let's say a conservative is put in his place, let's say we get the battle we think we're going to get and let's say he gets in, which is probably odds on what would happen.
CARVILLE: It's possible. I think there's a growing sense of frustration in the country, that they don't seem to be focused on anything that matters to me and I think this is going to be -- when the country sees how much energy is unleashed over this by both the interest groups, the politicians, the press, it's going to be like they don't have the same passion about a Supreme Court vacancy that we do in Washington.
That you already have a sense going into this that: Hey, all they're dealing with are extraneous things and I want something that matters to me. This is going to add to this, will have a considerable effect on 2006, not necessarily the appointment itself, but the sort of sense that Washington spends more time on things that matter less to me. that could be of an enormous consequence.
HOLT: Well, I think that what has to happen here is: The president has to nominate a well-qualified person for the job and someone who is conservative that reflects his values and they fight it on the merits.
And if the arguments are put out there, and the policies are discussed in a substantive way, then I think the American people will get it. I do think that they do place a lot of importance on the Supreme Court. It is the third branch of government, people understand that and it will remain an important part of what we think of as our government.
CROWLEY: Before the Supreme Court ended its term, it send some mixed signals on displaying the Ten Commandments in public. In two 5- 4 decisions, the high court OKed a granite display on the grounds of Texas state capitol, but it ruled that displays in two Kentucky courthouses violated the separation between church and state.
So, granite OK -- I would asking to explain that, but the larger -- I think the larger issue here is: Does this -- is this one of those issues that does play in politics?
CARVILLE: Well, I think, obviously, people see it, they got an opinion on it, but again, I just think that the country doesn't want Washington to be tied up in a two-week or two-month fight over whether the Ten Commandments are in granite or in marble or in wood or paper, whatever it is and I think that's the sort of key thing -- I do disagree with Terry in this sense. I think it all boils down to the activists, to the people that stand up, it's a question about abortion or pro-life, pro-choice, or whatever the nomenclature you want to use. I think that, that, in the end, is where the real energy is. HOLT: People wouldn't be so passionate about the Ten Commandments, if it weren't such a fundamental part of their daily life and of western civilization. How do you have the legal system if -- that we have today, without the Ten Commandments?
And this fight today, we're talking about, it was a split decision and we're going to see it again, because the Ten Commandments are a fundamental part of what makes this country, of what makes this civilization. It is the foundation of our laws and I would say this, you know the atheists got their day in court. This is proof that any goofy idea, atheism, can see its day and headline up in spotlight.
CARVILLE: look, I'll give you proof: Justice Scalia voted to -- that you couldn't outlaw flag-burning. Does anybody on the right care? No, because he's right on abortion. I mean, are you going to tell me that the flag is not part of our daily life? Of course it is, but that's my point.
CROWLEY: But does it -- I know Democrats in general, don't like this issue, I guess, because particular in the south, this becomes a very uncomfortable issue.
CARVILLE: Right. This is not -- But this is not helpful.
Look, if you're a Democrat, this is not a helpful thing to interject into the debate right now.
HOLT: Why not? Be a Democrat for the Ten Commandments.
CARVILLE: You know, what I'm sitting here trying to analyze here, but we seem bound and determined to have...
CROWLEY: Sorry, you can speak for the Republicans, if you'd like.
You know I'm just wondering...
CARVILLE: I think that, again, people view it just like they viewed -- there was a reaction in -- we're having against Washington right now. I mean, you're seeing a, you know, really bad right-track numbers in the country. You're seeing really bad numbers for Congress. You're seeing very, very weak numbers for the president and you're seeing pretty weak numbers for the Democrats also. I think the country is trying to say something. We can figure the Ten Commandments out. For God's sake, somebody get in touch with things that we're faced with every day. People are faced with gas prices every day they go to the pump. They're faced with health care costs every day. They're faced with what they see to be Chinese influence in a declining fiscal situation in the United States. They're watching the news and they see Iraq. They don't have the sense that either party in Washington is dealing with this.
CROWLEY: Let me -- we're going to take a break. We'll be right back. While President Bush gets ready to talk about the situation in Iraq in a speech at Ft. Bragg, his Defense secretary is on the defensive over critics of the administration's Iraq policy. We'll talk about that issue when our "Strategy Session" continues.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. Coming up at the top of the hour, the Supreme Court says Ten Commandments displays may be acceptable on public property, but only under certain conditions. We'll have much more on that and today's other major rulings.
The accused BTK murderer pleads guilty and shocks the courtroom with a chilling statement.
And there's been another shark attack in Florida. How safe is it in the water this summer?
All those stories and much only minutes away on "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS." Now back to INSIDE POLITICS.
CROWLEY: The "Strategy Session" continues on INSIDE POLITICS. With me today, CNN political analyst James Carville and Republican strategist Terry Holt.
With polls showing support for the war in Iraq dropping, President Bush takes his campaign to turn the tide of public opinion on Iraq to Ft. Bragg, North Carolina, tomorrow night.
Okay. First of all, we have a couple of things going on here, and I wanted to talk first about the news that there have been talks with insurgents on the ground in Iraq. Do you take that to mean, James, that they're looking now for a political rather than a military solution?
CARVILLE: It's possible? How -- did we institute the talks? Were we glad -- you know, did we -- we may very well. I don't know this, but it certainly could be the beginning of an end game here to say, look you have the constitutional elections. We have -- a certain substantial part in the insurgency has agreed to change -- you know, turn in their arms for seat in the parliament, or whatever it is. And, you know, we have now done what we can.
At some point here, and it's not going to be 12 years down the road, we're going to have to do something. I think that this could be -- I don't know, it maybe be the most innocuous thing in the world -- I think there's a better than mild possibility that this could be the beginning of an end strategy, where you combine the elections that are coming up, try to keep them on track, to say look, we're making real progress on the political front, and by the way, we are getting people previously unbrought into the political process to come into it. We have done what we can do.
That may be -- this may be the biggest story of the war so far. I don't know that it is. It could be just some people sitting around in a shack, you know, drinking, you know, talking about stuff back and forth. I don't know, but something tells me there's more to this one than meets the eye. CROWLEY: And is there -- I mean, it does seem that in the best light, as James has put it, that you could have someone trying to drive a wedge between the people coming into the country solely for the purpose of killing Americans, and the people who are in the country who don't like the Americans there and want to be part of the political process.
HOLT: But we've heard news that there are divisions within the insurgency between people that are coming in from the outside and people who are indigenous. And the stories about negotiation with Sunnis even if they are insurgents, we're talking to people who have a stake in the future of Iraq as Iraqis.
And it seems to me -- and I've not been there, so I don't have too much I can say authoritatively, but I would have to believe that our guys on the ground are going into communities and trying to unravel the knot. Let's pull all this apart. Let's see who's reasonable, let's see who's scary, let's get rid of the worst, and let's try to bring the Sunnis into the process. Because after all, they are a minority population in the country, and if they don't see a stake in this government, then they'll be caught between the Kurds and the Shi'a. And I don't see how they would have a reason to come to the table unless somebody reached out to them.
CARVILLE: Yeah, I think it's a little -- I think the people are not just talking to some Sunni. I think we're talking to some people that have been engaged in blowing people up. And I'm not against it. I don't think -- I'm not shocked if we're doing that. We're in a pretty nasty situation that we're going to have to get ourselves out of sooner as opposed to later. And I think it may be -- I don't know everything, but look, I think there's a chance this may be a smart thing that they're doing.
CROWLEY: Let me turn the corner here to the speech. And I want you to switch what have been your normal hats. James, you had times when you needed to turn public opinion or move public opinion with President Clinton. What would you tell President Bush to do tomorrow night?
CARVILLE: I would say we're not going to -- we can stop the erosion of public opinion. We might be able to get a slight bump up after the speech. There generally is when the president speaks to troops about a matter of national security or foreign policy. I would say that this speech has to be part of an overall strategy to become more engaged. I think you saw the secretary of Defense out yesterday on five different news programs. I think you saw he and the generals on the Hill last week. I mean, this is obviously part of a larger effort to, at worst, stop the deterioration of public support for the operation in Iraq, and best, to sort of build on it and get some public opinion back.
You're not going to be able to sustain an operation of this size much longer if you continue to have deterioration. I think taking the country -- they can live with keeping going with support around 40 percent for this. But if the thing start getting into the low 30s, you know, you've really got a problem there. And I think these Republicans on the Hill have gone to the White House and said, look, you know, we're going home. We're getting asked about this. We're getting hammered about this. You guys -- you know, you need to get out there and give us some cover. And I think that's what's happening now. And I don't think they have much choice but to do it.
CROWLEY: And let me have you switch positions as well. You're a Democrat. The fact of the matter is that as these polls have folded on Iraq, the president has been -- they have been able to criticize the president more. They've been able to draw some blood on the Bolton nomination. What do you advise -- how do you advise Democrats to react to this, as a Democrat?
HOLT: Well, I'm not sure that I'm in a position to do that. I think that the ultimate goal here is what the nation should do. The nation's still got to win the war. We've to control the battlefield in Iraq. If they have proposals about how to do that, Democrats have failed to put those proposals forward. Until they say what their alternative is to the president's strategy, they're never going to get a leg up on the key factors at stake in the next election, which is, who's going to be the stronger leader? Who has a pathway to peace? Who can protect America?
Democrats have failed to make those arguments since the war began. In fact, they've been a bit schizophrenic. And if you look at Hillary Clinton, at least Hillary Clinton has been consistent. She's been a hawk on this. She said go out and protect American lives, go out and fight the war. I mean, I think if I were a Democrat who's been twisting in the wind, I might go back and look at Hillary Clinton and what she said, because she's been consistent.
CROWLEY: And you agreed at least with the first part of that, James. Do you think that the Democrats' best reaction tomorrow is to say, you know, what. We have got to come together as a country and get this...
CARVILLE: I think what Democrats will say is, first of all, Democrats are not in charge of this war. Okay? The Republican Defense Department is responsible for its execution, the planning for the war. The execution of this is entirely -- so the idea that somehow or another there has to be an alternative.
I think what the Democrats can say, and if I were them, I'd say, look, we just have some unresolved questions. The vice president says that the insurgency is about to end. The secretary of Defense says it's going on for 12 years. Can somebody please step forward, and we got an 11 1/2-year gap here?
I think the Democrats can say clearly the president says stay the course. The course is not working. We wish the president would come present us with some alternatives. If they're good alternatives, we certainly can support it. Who knows?
CROWLEY: James Carville, Terry Holt, got to leave it there. Thanks very much.
We take another look inside the blogs next. Bloggers share their thoughts on the situation in Iraq when we check in with our blog reporters.
SCHECHNER: Welcome back to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm Jacki Schechner, here with Abbi Tatton. And Iraq is always one of the largest topics online in the blogs. You can also count on it to be one of the most divisive.
We wanted to take this opportunity to show you truthlaidbear.com. This is not a new site, but it just got itself a fancy new makeover. And we're always looking for opportunities to show you hot topics and ways to navigate them throughout the world of blogs.
TATTON: The Truth Laid Bear is divided into these topic pages. If you go to the Iraq page, you'll see that there's a graph talking about depicting how many people are discussing Iraq right now. The latest, the most linked-to post, you know what's creating the most buzz on Iraq in the blogosphere. Also a list, blogging this topic, goes to over to 1,000 blogs right now discussing this.
If you go back to the latest, you'll see that one of the things really being discussed today is this story that came out over the weekend that U.S. and Iraqi officials have been negotiating, meeting with insurgents in Iraq.
SCHECHNER: Yeah, that story big. One of the hot posts today, or actually from yesterday, but still hot today is at bowman.org (ph). This is The Whisky Bar. And he personally says he doesn't have a problem with negotiating with terrorists. Thinks that's one of the only options left to minimize the bloodshed at this point, but does note how that's a departure from the Bush administration's rhetoric of with us or against us. We don't negotiate with terrorists. Wondering how this is going to play out in the American public and also with the mainstream media.
TATTON: Also on this topic, Bloggers in Iraq and at Truth Laid Bear, they often talk about communities of bloggers. We've talked about mail blogger here before, and one in particular a couple of weeks ago that we featured, tcoverride.blogspot.com. This is the blog of a member of the U.S. Army over in Iraq. This is Captain Chuck Zeigenfuss (ph). We checked back last week to find that his wife had gone into his site and taken over, because Captain Zeigenfuss (ph) had been injured. He's now back in the United States, and his wife is telling all his readers that he's slightly loopy on painkillers, but he's getting better. So all his readers and us included hope that Captain Charles Zeigenfuss (ph) gets better.
CROWLEY: Abbi Tatton, Jacki Schechner, thank you.
That is it for INSIDE POLITICS. I'm Candy Crowley. "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS" starts right after this break.
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