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Inside Politics

Military Puts President Bush on Defensive; How Should the New Administration Handle the Conflict in the Middle East?

Aired February 9, 2001 - 5:00 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

BERNARD SHAW, CNN ANCHOR: As the president prepares to face the troops, he's on the defense about military funding.

Also ahead:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CARTER ESKEW, FMR. GORE CAMPAIGN STRATEGIST: We were sort of floundering around. And we really weren't putting out a clear message.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Blunt talk about Al Gore's defeat from one of his top campaign strategists.

SHAW: Plus, new snapshots of a new union: Have the media helped keep the honeymoon alive?

ANNOUNCER: From Washington, this is INSIDE POLITICS, with Judy Woodruff and Bernard Shaw.

WOODRUFF: Thank you for joining us.

On the campaign trail, George W. Bush repeatedly promised America's armed forces that "Help is on the Way." But now, as President Bush prepares to visit several military installations next week, he is getting some flak for not immediately seeking a dramatic boost in the defense budget.

CNN's Major Garrett is covering President Bush and the flap over military spending -- Major.

MAJOR GARRETT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Judy, this is a tug-of-war between this new president and his defense secretary on one side and the Pentagon bureaucracy and it allies on Capitol Hill on the other side.

The Pentagon and some of its allies on Capitol Hill felt short- changed during the Clinton years and applauded the president's campaign promises to boost defense spending. The White House says those promises still hold, but there is now an expectation gap. The Pentagon hoped that that spending increase would come immediately. The White House has made clear it is going to take some time. And that time will be devoted to a top-to-bottom policy review at the Pentagon led by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

At an event earlier today to highlight Black History Month, President Clinton made clear that policy will drive future spending decisions.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have said during the campaign, I have said since I've been sworn in, it's important for us to do a top-to-bottom review, to review all missions, spending priorities. And that's exactly what the secretary of defense is going to do. Before people jump to conclusions, I think it's important to get that review finished.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GARRETT: Some Democrats in the House say that an immediate boost in defense spending is needed, not so much to deal with weapons systems, but to deal with more pressing needs, such as a pay raise for members of the military to pay for improvements for housing, spare parts and maintenance.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. IKE SKELTON (D-MO), ARMED SERVICES CMTE.: ... going to lose readiness. But what concerns me most is, it will hurt recruiting. It will hurt retention of the bright young people that we have. We want to encourage them to stay. We want to encourage them to make it a career.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GARRETT: But Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia, a very prominent Democrat, has said that the Pentagon wastes too much money and is not entitled to a spending increase any time soon.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. ROBERT BYRD (D-WV), ARMED SERVICES CMTE.: I don't see how the Defense Department could come up here and ask for $50 billion more money when they can't account for $2.3 billion of their own money in the past year.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GARRETT: Now, senior White House officials tell CNN -- and these comments are also echoed by Republicans on Capitol Hill -- that they do expect, at some time later this year, that Secretary Rumsfeld will request an immediate boost in spending, a so-called supplemental spending increase. But that's going to wait awhile. What the Bush team wants to do is put first things first: an education plan and tax cut across the finish line legislatively before it turns to any boost in defense spending -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right, CNN's Major Garrett at the White House, thanks -- Bernie.

SHAW: President Bush's overall review of Pentagon spending includes an assessment of how much U.S. nuclear forces can be reduced.

CNN's Jamie McIntyre now looks at how dramatic those cuts might be and how domestic politics and Russian forces may figure in.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In ordering a review of how many nuclear weapons the United States really needs, President Bush is simply delivering on a promise he made during the campaign.

BUSH: While the exact number of weapons can come only from such an assessment, I will pursue the lowest possible number consistent with our national security.

MCINTYRE: The U.S. and Russia are already limited to 6,000 strategic warheads, each under the Start II agreement. Start II, which has yet to implemented, would takes both sides down to 3,500 warheads. And the U.S. has indicated it would go as low as 2,500 in a Start III agreement, while the Russians, who can no longer afford a large nuclear force, are pushing for between 1,000 and 1,500 warhead.

Last year, Mr. Bush said he was prepared to cut the U. S. nuclear arsenal even if Russia doesn't go along. Some arms-reduction advocates argue that would be giving away something for nothing.

TOM COLLINA, UNION OF CONCERNED SCIENTISTS: We have way more nuclear weapons than we need for any conceivable security scenario. And, at this point, we need to use those weapons as chips to bargain down the Russian arsenal. That's the most important use for them.

MCINTYRE: In the past, the Pentagon has argued against deeper cuts, saying the U.S. needs at least 2,000 weapons to arm its nuclear triad of submarines, ground-based missiles, strategic bombers. Any fewer, and the Pentagon might be forced to retire B-52 bombers that the Air Force wants to keep for their non-nuclear role.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MCINTYRE: The Bush administration has dismissed the doctrine of mutual assured destruction as a Cold War relic. So the president, looking for a new approach, might be willing to trade what he sees as excess nukes for an agreement on the ABM Treaty to accommodate one of his top priorities: national missile defense.

Jamie McIntyre, CNN, at the Pentagon -- Bernie.

SHAW: Thank you, Jamie.

As the Bush administration reviews Pentagon spending, public opinion may come into play. In our new CNN/"Time" magazine poll, 68 percent of Americans say they believe a strong national defense is important. By way of comparison, 90 percent of Americans held that view back in 1981 when the Cold War still was on and the new president, Ronald Reagan, made defense a high priority.

Turning to those tax cuts: Our survey shows Americans are divided over whether such cuts are important. Again, by comparison, 70 percent of Americans thought tax cuts were important two decades ago when President Reagan was pushing his big tax cut plan.

WOODRUFF: On Capitol Hill, many members of Congress are divided over President Bush's $1.6 trillion tax cut plan.

CNN's Jonathan Karl spoke with Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott about taxes and some other important topics. He asked Lott whether there was anything else he wanted to see added to Mr. Bush's proposal.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. TRENT LOTT (R-MS), MAJORITY LEADER: There are other issues that a lot of people would bring up. You know, we don't have much in here for small businesses. We don't have the very popular IRA and 401(k) pension reforms that we had last year. And, of course, the one that I have talked the most about is the capital gains rate cut. If you really want to add a little extra oomph to economic growth and recovery, that would be the way to do it.

But I commend him for what he's done. I understand, you know, you got to stick to your guns. And I predict, you know, that in the end it will be pretty close to what he sent up here. There will be some changes here and there, but I think he's got a good plan.

And then we can come back again next year and make a further effort to make the tax code fairer and encourage savings for education and for your retirement.

JONATHAN KARL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Now, you said the other day that "Democrats hate tax cuts." Those were your exact words.

LOTT: Yes, they always have.

KARL: Now, are you willing to work with them? Do you want to work with them? As you say, they hate tax cuts, is ultimately what's going to happen here a basically party-line vote with a few Democrats crossing over?

LOTT: Well, I hope it's not a party-line vote. And I think it's unfair to say all Democrats hate tax cuts. There are some Democrats from the South and the West that have been inclined to support that.

I mean, Zell Miller of Georgia, former governor, stepped up there and said, you know, "return to sender." The people that sent this money up here should be able to keep more of their money.

And I think that there's some others out there from different regions of the country, I don't think it'll just be Southern or Western. I could foresee a couple of senators that I know that are Democrats from New England that might be interested in working with us on that. And I think that's why you've got to be prepared to make some changes. KARL: Now, I've already seen Senators Voinovich, Snowe, Specter, Chafee and I'm probably leaving out a few, raise some serious concerns about the size of this tax cut, because they don't necessarily trust the surplus projections. If you've got that many Republicans already concerned about the size of this, how do you ultimately get this passed through the Senate?

LOTT: Well, what I have asked a number of senators on both sides of the aisle is, look, don't get dug in. Don't draw a line in the sand here. Let's see how this thing develops.

I think we need to listen to, you know, an Arlen Specter or Olympia Snowe or, you know, Tom Carper, a Democrat from Delaware, see what they have to say, and let's make this thing work. That's the important thing.

KARL: What about John McCain? Is he going to be a thorn in your side on this? I mean, he campaigned against this tax cut in the Republican primaries.

LOTT: I think he will keep his options open and will want to support it. I've watched what he's had to say about it and I think he wants to give the president's package an opportunity to be considered carefully. And I believe he also now recognizes that -- and I know he pays a lot of attention to Alan Greenspan -- that there's an additional impetus here.

KARL: He was out there with Senator Ted Kennedy reviving the Democratic version of the Patients' Bill of Rights that you fought so hard to defeat. He's working with Joe Lieberman to revive once again the whole gun control issue. What's going on with John McCain? I mean, not to mention -- we haven't campaign finance reform, but just start with those two. What's going on with McCain?

LOTT: Well, I don't know, you know. I wonder about a lot of this. But I think the best way to get that answer would be to ask him.

KARL: But how much of a problem is he for a 50-50 Senate and how much of a problem is he for you?

LOTT: Oh, probably less than some people think.

KARL: How are you going to work with him on this?

LOTT: I work with him when I can and I'll work in other ways when I can't.

KARL: You know, he's also... LOTT: People are over-focused on the beginning and the middle. They're not focusing on the third step and the final product. There's a long way to go from a press conference to a bill being signed into law.

KARL: Well, let's take them apart. What about Patients' Bill of Rights, where are we going on that? I mean, the president has moved forward. McCain's already out with a statement saying he has a problem with some of the president's principles outlined.

LOTT: Yes. Yes.

KARL: I mean, where are we going with that issue?

LOTT: Well, we'll work it through the process. I think the Patients' Bill of Rights issue will be up in the first six months of the year. The Senate will act. The House will act. It'll go to conference. Hopefully, we can come together in the conference on a bill the president can sign. The president made it very clear that if this is a bill that just opens up the floodgates for lawsuits. That's unacceptable.

Now, what we need is to deal with the real problems of the patients and the way they deal with the managed care companies and insurance companies and employers and the whole package. There's no question we need some reform in this area. I've said that all along, that I wanted to have a bill that we could support.

LOTT: In fact, I supported a version very different from the so- called, I guess, Dingell-Norwood package. But, you know, if it's just, you know, going to be something where, "Oh, good, there's a problem here; let's file a lawsuit." That's not the answer, that is the problem in many instances.

And for them to talk about how they got liability limits, when in their bill it would be $5 million, give me a break. But in end, I believe that the conference will want to come up with something the president will sign. And if they don't, if I were in his place, I'd veto it with great glee.

KARL: And I get the sense from what you're saying is that this bill that McCain and Edwards and Kennedy are talking about isn't really a compromise.

LOTT: Absolutely not.

KARL: It's the kind of thing that should be vetoed if it were to pass.

LOTT: Absolutely should be vetoed in the form that they have offered it.

KARL: And then the last question I wanted to ask you about defense spending. As you know, president -- I mean, then-candidate Bush made increasing the military budget a major part of his campaign. And there's been some concerns expressed by Senator Warner and some others that he's not exactly keeping that promise, or at least is going about it slowly.

LOTT: No, I was a member of the Armed Services Committee, and most people would describe me as a heavily laden hawk. But to me it makes good sense to say, "Now, wait a minute. Before we start, you know, providing a lot more money for defense let's see where we are. Let's see how much we actually have." As a matter of fact, it's not the Clinton budget. The budget he asked for is $14 billion below what is now provided for in this fiscal year, because the Congress added $14 billion. I believe those figures are correct. So it's Clinton-plus.

Are there some places where there's some fat where we can make some savings? What are the weapons systems that we're going to need, not just next year, but in 10 years? A full-scale review of everything, I think, makes good sense.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Jonathan Karl spoke with Senator Lott on Capitol Hill yesterday.

Still ahead on INSIDE POLITICS: from White House security to administration staffing. We'll check in with Bob Novak on the political issues of the week.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHAW: The man involved in Wednesday's shooting near the White House was officially charged today in federal court. Robert Pickett of Evansville, Indiana, who was shot once by a Secret Service agent, was charged with assaulting a federal officer with a deadly weapon.

The criminal complaints says Pickett brandished a weapon outside the White House fence and fired twice. After a tense standoff, a Secret Service officer subdued Pickett with a single shot to the knee. Pickett is is listed in good condition after surgery at George Washington University Hospital. Authorities say Pickett was likely suicidal at the time of this incident. He faces a maximum of 10 years in federal prison if convicted.

WOODRUFF: And joining us now with his "Reporter's Notebook": Bob Novak of the "Chicago Sun-Times."

Bob, what are you hearing about White House security in the aftermath of this shooting?

ROBERT NOVAK, "CROSSFIRE": Judy, it has stepped up the lobbying efforts by the Secret Service to keep Pennsylvania Avenue closed in front of the White House. You remember after a previous shooting incident, at the behest of the Secret Service, President Clinton closed it.

During the campaign, President George W. Bush indicated it would be open. And it's in the Republican platform. But this incident has stepped up the lobbying to keep it closed. And the FBI and the CIA have joined in. I don't know what they have to do with the presidential security. The thing I have a hard time understanding is how, if a pedestrian can shoot, why would close it to -- closing it to vehicular traffic doesn't do much good.

WOODRUFF: But no decision yet?

NOVAK: No decision by the president.

WOODRUFF: All right, let's talk about the perceived performance of the new administration. You are picking up some concerns among Republicans about health care and Social Security. Tell us about that.

NOVAK: These are very important issues for the president. And these Republicans are very concerned that they're not putting in new people yet. There is no deputy secretary of HHS. There is no assistant secretary of health. They have named a career civil servant as acting director of Social Security.

But it's really an administration-wide problem, owing in part to the late transition. There are all kinds of political appointees of Bill Clinton still in their desks and working. And this administration is very slow in filling these jobs, even though on the P.R., the public-relations, they are doing very well.

WOODRUFF: But, eventually, you assume those jobs are going to get filled.

NOVAK: They will eventually, but there's no -- not any time soon, I don't believe.

WOODRUFF: Bob, "Washington Post" had a story we all saw this week about a post-election confrontation between Bill Clinton and Al Gore. Well, you're picking up some reaction from Democrats about that.

NOVAK: Well, Al Gore isn't all that popular, but he's more popular than Bill Clinton among the Democrats. They are very upset about the -- the Democrats I talked to -- about the post-election performance of the president and his wife, Senator Clinton, about taking the gifts out of the White House, about the pardons.

I had a long-time financial supporter of the Democratic Party say he will not give a dime to the Democratic National Committee now. Others are saying that they are very upset about giving any kind of money. And they would really want President Clinton to try to take a lower profile. They think it's the worst thing -- all the Democrats I have talked to -- for the Democratic Party at the moment.

WOODRUFF: All right, Bob, and then back on President Bush, you've been hearing Republicans comment -- or Democrats and others comment -- on how President Bush did when he spoke to a congressional Democratic retreat last weekend.

NOVAK: Yes. Well, you know, the president wasn't really very well prepared. And there was -- I had heard they were going to quiz him on the census and what -- whether they were going to use the sampling methods or not in giving material to the states. He said he wasn't briefed on it. He showed up there with the chief of staff and his brother-in-law -- who happens to be a Democrat and former aide to Dick Gephardt.

Democrats there were amazed there were so few people. And I really believe if he is going to walk into the lion's den, he is going to have to be a little better prepared. A lot -- I think to the general public, the Democrats seemed a little mean-spirited and the president looked like a good guy. But some Republicans really feel that when he goes to talk to these Democrats, his intelligence -- and by that, I mean his espionage operation, not his intelligence in his head -- has got to be a little bit better.

WOODRUFF: And this was the House Democratic retreat, not the Senate.

NOVAK: Senate Democrats are polite because they are senators. But the House Democrats have been in that cockpit for years. And wherever they go, they make a little version of the House of Representatives, which is very raucous.

(LAUGHTER)

WOODRUFF: All right, Bob Novak, thank you for being here. Have a good weekend.

NOVAK: You, too.

WOODRUFF: And there is much more ahead on this edition of INSIDE POLITICS. Still to come:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ESKEW: It's fair to say that we struggled mightily with that weight on our back. And we didn't figure out exactly how to do it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: Former Gore campaign adviser Carter Eskew talks about defeat and Bill Clinton's effect on election 2000.

Also ahead:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (ph): One corner detached, two corners, three corners: For these punch-card ballots, there are nine different categories -- statewide: the same standards, even the same type of light.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: The latest media-ballot survey in Florida: all those important dimpled chads under the microscope again.

And later: A political comeback earns Bill Schneider's "Political Play of the Week."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHAW: We will have more of this day's political news coming up, but now a look at some other top stories. O.J. Simpson surrendered today in Miami to be booked on charges in a reported case of road rage that occurred in December. Simpson faces a felony charge of theft from an occupied vehicle and a misdemeanor charge of first-degree battery. A Miami motorist claims he blew his horn at Simpson for running a stop sign and says Simpson approached his vehicle, cursed at him, then ripped his glasses away. After being released on bond, Simpson spoke with reporters from his lawyer's office.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

O.J. SIMPSON, FMR. NFL PLAYER: I know it's a story if I'm arrested. But I don't think this is, you know, certainly qualifies with other things that have happened in my life -- or maybe 10 things that I can read about that happened here locally in the paper today. So I'm not discouraged at all. I mean, I'm used to it. This happens to be, because of this happening now, I think it gives me an opportunity to show the citizens of Miami and the country just how out of proportion something can become. And I hate totally blaming the media. But I think the media is the main cause of it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHAW: Since moving to Miami last May, O.J. Simpson has been in several incidents that involved the police. This is his first arrest.

WOODRUFF: A woman and her three children have survived an airplane crash that kill the two pilots. The survivors were rescued this morning, after spending a cold night at the crash site on an island in northern Lake Michigan. The wreckage was found about 15 hours after the twin-engine turboprop overflew an airport where the crew was supposed to land and then disappeared from radar. The youngest survivor is 5 years old. Their conditions range from stabile to good.

Space shuttle Atlantis docked today with the International Space Station. Atlantis is hauling a $1 billion science lab which is to double as the station's command center. The Atlantis crew will install the lab while orbiting more than 200 miles above the Earth.

SHAW: Motorola is announcing more deep job cuts. The company said it will cut as many as 4,000 jobs or about 3 percent of its workforce from its semiconductor operations by year's end. Just last month, Motorola eliminated 2,500 jobs at its cell phone manufacturing facility in Illinois.

There are more troubles for Lucent Technologies. Last month, the company announced that thousands of workers would be fired. Now the Security and Exchange Commission confirmed it is investigating accounting practices at Lucent. A Lucent spokesman said the company is cooperating with this investigation. And one employee was fired during its internal probe.

There will be more on the Lucent investigation and the layoffs at Motorola on the "MONEYLINE NEWS HOUR" after INSIDE POLITICS at 6:30 Eastern. WOODRUFF: Still ahead on INSIDE POLITICS: straight talk from one of Al Gore's top campaign strategists on the successes and failures of election 2000.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHAW: As we've been hearing all week long, the Democratic Party is going through a post-election defeat process of trying to figure out what went wrong and why Al Gore lost. But we haven't yet heard the view from inside the Gore campaign.

Well, with that in mind, we dispatched CNN political analysts Charlie Cook and Stu Rothenberg to talk to Gore senior strategist Carter Eskew over a cup of coffee, or so they said it was coffee, at a new Washington restaurant that's tailor-made for political talk: The Caucus Room.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHARLIE COOK, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Carter, this is your first in-depth interview since the election. You won the popular vote, you lost the electoral college, what happened?

CARTER ESKEW, FORMER GORE CAMPAIGN STRATEGIST: Well, I appreciate you saying that we won the popular vote and we also got more votes than any other Democratic candidate for President in history, more votes than anybody except Ronald Reagan ever in a presidential contest. We're proud that we've gotten more votes among African-Americans than the Clinton-Gore ticket did, more votes among labor. But we also got more votes among people who make over $100,000 a year, which is sort of the heart of the so-called new economy.

So I think that our message had some resonance. Was it is a perfect campaign? No. I would also say on the topic of things that we did right, I think we also had a good political strategy. We were ruthlessly disciplined about the states that we played in. We didn't divert resources into other places. We didn't divert our candidate into other places. It was one of the ways that we made up ground on Bush because they had superior financial resources and so we, in being that disciplined, it played off.

But there's another issue which people say sometimes, they don't say it in public, but they then they say jeez, you know, they had the greatest economy in history, you know, and yeah, OK, you know, you won the popular vote you but you should have just blown this guy away. And I think that that misses one of the fundamental facts about the election in the year 2000 which is the election was not just about economic matters. It was also about, you know, restoring honor and integrity to the White House, to use George Bush's phrase.

And when we asked voters early on in the contest, did they want a president to tend the economic prosperity, keep it going and extend it, or a president that was going to restore honor and integrity to the White House, that was about a 50/50 split.

Now, you know, most elections, remember 1992, it's the economy, stupid. This election was not just about the economy. And I do think it's fair to say that we struggled mightily with that weight on our back and we didn't figure out exactly how to do it.

STUART ROTHENBERG, "ROTHENBERG POLITICAL REPORT": And did you feel that if you tried to address this question of bringing back honor to the presidency that you were in a lose/lose situation?

ESKEW: Well, we tried to address it in the sense that, you know, the convention, I think we did a pretty good job at in terms of Al Gore saying look, I'm standing here tonight as my own man. Clearly, I think we presented Al Gore as a man of strong family values and morals.

But, you know, if you took it head on it might be, you know, you doth protest too much and draw attention to it. And so it was a difficult strategic challenge for us and I think -- and let's also give some credit here to the Bush. I think they did a very good job on blurring some of the issue distinctions. Yes, I think that we out polled them on who can do a better job in the economy and health care and education. But they closed the gap for a Republicans that's normally there on those issues with a Democrat and they drove a very, very tough campaign on the ethics of the Clinton administration and that was a factor in the race.

COOK: Let's talk about the convention and the choice of Joe Lieberman. Through the year, you had been behind.

ESKEW: Yes.

COOK: Gore had been behind Bush.

ESKEW: Yes.

COOK: You go into the choice of Lieberman and the convention and suddenly you pop out ahead. Talk first about the Lieberman pick. What was going on behind the scenes and what were people thinking?

ESKEW: Well, you know, it was a decision that the Vice President kept very close to his vest. I had a number of conversations with him about it, as did others. Every time he would ask my opinion he would sort of smile because I am very close to Senator Lieberman and worked for him in 1988 and 1994. So he would always sort of say well, I know what your choice would be.

But going into the final weekend of it all that we knew was that it was likely down to Senator Edwards and Senator Lieberman and also Senator Kerry. But we did not know of those three...

COOK: John.

ESKEW: John Kerry, correct. Although there was, there were some that were very in favor of Bob Kerrey. But the actual, the vetting was done very professionally. The decision was made, I think, really by the Vice President and him alone.

COOK: Now the next turning point seemed to be the first debate on October 3rd. Was that it or did it start waning a little before that?

ESKEW: Well, I think that, you know, the Bush people had done a good job. They -- and again, I give them credit. They were a disciplined campaign and I think they were very reluctant to give up what had been one of their mainstays of their message. And so they continued the drip, drip on questions of veracity. And then the first debate happened. And I think that it's interesting, because I think, again, it's not unlike other debates where if you actually read the transcript, I think Gore clearly won the debate. But if you saw it, you had different impression.

But, I think -- and this is a failure of our campaign and I take responsibility for this, we did not, coming out of that debate, understand the job that the Bush people were going to do on some of the statements that were made in the debate about going to Texas with James Lee Witt when, in fact, we'd been there, you know, many times but not on this particular occasion and they did a great job of really stirring that pot.

ROTHENBERG: Carter, I have a question about these debates. Two specific things.

ESKEW: Yeah?

ROTHENBERG: In the first debate the sighing by the Vice President...

ESKEW: Yeah?

ROTHENBERG: And in the third debate, I think that it, was when early in the debate Mr. Gore got up and walked very close to Governor Bush and taunted him with the what about Norwood-Dingell.

ESKEW: Right.

ROTHENBERG: Were those planned or was this the Vice President freelancing?

ESKEW: Well, you know the first debate and the sighing, I think that we didn't do a good job in preparing. You know, it's funny because we prepared strenuously for the debate. We took them seriously and we, I must say about the debates, with all due respect to the fact that we could have done better, you know, we had a situation in our opponent that there was sort of what I call an impossibly low bar and he managed to get over it.

So, you know, we did have a difficult challenge in those debates, obviously one of the expectations, and I think the country or the press assumed that Al Gore was the greatest debater, you know, since Henry Clay. And so it was, you know, it was difficult for us.

But, that said, we did not work enough on sort of the reaction shots. You know, believe it or not, we were told that there would not be reaction shots. Now, anyone who has been in our business as long as...

COOK: You should have never believed them.

ESKEW: ... the collective years that we had -- well, we didn't believe it, and there was discussion late in the preparation. Oh, by the way, they say there are not going to be any cutaways but the camera's always on you and blah, blah, blah.

But we didn't work on it and so we had Paul Begala playing Bush, who was, literally was Bush and was exasperating and so we kind of got into a mode where we would, you know, this started to be kind of unconsciously built into our performance. And so, yeah, that's what happened there.

And I must say that the third debate I have a very different feel about. I think we won that debate pretty clearly and I think that debate was very instrumental in what was our, our next, what I call our mini comeback. We had the big comeback. This was our mini comeback.

The specific end of the campaign, there is no one that works harder in, you know, as a candidate than Al Gore. I mean, he, -- when I was on those trips and I slept a lot more than he did. But it was brutal.

ROTHENBERG: Final question, what does Al Gore do now?

ESKEW: For the short term, you know, Al Gore's happy. He is out making speeches, teaching classes, talking about the things that matter to him. And I think that politically, you know, we are way too early to know anything and we won't know anything until after 2002. He will work really hard and campaign all across this country for Democrats, many of whom are already calling him for him to come in and help them. So I think he'll be in a good position to make a decision in 2003 about what he does for the following year's election.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SHAW: Stu Rothenberg, Charlie Cook talking to former Gore strategist Carter Eskew.

WOODRUFF: A remarkable conversation there.

SHAW: Indeed!

WOODRUFF: Well, it is now three months after election day and Florida still has not escaped the spotlight of election 2000. Up next, we return to the Sunshine State for an update on news media efforts to examine the state's disputed presidential ballots.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: As President Bush settles into the White House and pursues his agenda, the way he won Florida, and therefore the election, remains under scrutiny. Another news media group which includes CNN is now taking a second look at some of Florida's presidential ballots.

Our Brooks Jackson went to Florida to find out who is doing the survey and how the process is working.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BROOKS JACKSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Once more to Florida, land of sunshine, orange groves and, yes, presidential ballots. Not a recount this time, a systematic evaluation of what's really on those troublesome bits of cardboard and paper. A news media consortium -- CNN along with "The New York Times," "Washington Post," "Wall Street Journal" and others -- has hired the University of Chicago's National Opinion Research Center, NORC for short, to examine by hand all Florida under votes, ballots where machines saw no presidential vote at all, and also over votes, multiple votes that invalidated the ballots using teams of trained researchers not to determine voter intent but to describe precisely what's on each of those ballots using standardized classifications.

DANA JERGOVIC, NATIONAL OPINION RESEARCH CENTER: Our codes range from least disrupted to most disrupted. And so, for example, the least disrupted chad would be one that wasn't voted at all. There's no disruption to the chad. It's not touched. And the most disrupted would be a cleanly punched chad.

JACKSON: One corner detached, two corners, three corners -- for these punch card ballots, there are nine different categories. Statewide, the same standards, even the same type of light.

(on camera): Isn't this kind of subjective?

JERGOVIC: We've trained our coders to look for certain things. So, for example, we've trained them to recognize a dimple and a dimple with sunlight.

JACKSON (voice-over): Each coder got not only training, but also an eye test. Those chads are tiny. This is Hillsborough County, Tampa. Florida officials never counted any of these votes by hand. During this project, only county officials are allowed to handle the ballots while three observers each make their own calls, noting what they see. A team leader sees that those observations are numbered consistently. But there's no talking.

JERGOVIC: They are providing us with independent judgments and so they are not to talk while they are coding.

JACKSON (on camera): So this is kind of like taking a multiple choice test?

JERGOVIC: Absolutely.

JACKSON: You're not supposed to look at the other guy's work.

JERGOVIC: Right. Right.

JACKSON: OK.

(voice-over): Also at each table, an observer from the Republican Party. They say these votes have been counted enough. They're here keeping tabs on us.

STEPHANIE HOUSEL, FLORIDA REPUBLICAN PARTY: We're here, in a main sense, to observe the way the media is interpreting these ballots.

JACKSON: It's a big job and it won't be done quickly.

(on camera): There are about 180,000 ballots to examine in 67 counties. Even with 20 teams working, the process will take weeks to complete.

(voice-over): Nearly 60 percent of those ballots are so-called Vote-A-Matic punch card ballots prone to problems like this bit of dangling chad. But optically scanned ballots like these in Polk County, Florida, are also being examined, and they have their problems, too. Machines failed to count this as a vote for Bush. The voter marked outside the little oval.

LORI EDWARDS, POLK COUNTY ELECTIONS SUPERVISOR: It's considered technically an under vote because the machine didn't see any reading in the presidential race, yet most people would agree the person voted, and you can see how they voted. And that's were you just can't replace human beings.

JACKSON: And when it's all over, what does this project expect to find?

FRED FESSENDEN, "NEW YORK TIMES": We're not down here trying to decide what a vote is. We're here trying to say sort of systematically what's on these ballots? How many of them have something you might characterize as a dimple? What are those dimples? How easy are those dimples to see?

JACKSON: Other news organizations are also examining Florida's ballots statewide, but only under votes, not over votes.

EASON JORDAN, PRESIDENT, CNN NEWSGATHERING: I think the over votes are an important part of this process and certainly distinguish this ballot accounting effort from other accounting efforts that have been under way.

JACKSON: The consortium's results eventually will be made fully public, posted on the Internet, a resource for all.

(on camera): At its best journalism has been called a first rough draft of history. This could well be an important footnote to history.

Brooks Jackson, CNN, Hillsborough County, Florida.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SHAW: Just ahead, call it a honeymoon or a charm offensive, either way, Howard Kurtz says President Bush has sailed through his first few weeks in office.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: President Bush is wrapping up his third week in office with a weekend at Camp David. Mr. Bush has received mostly positive reviews for these early weeks despite the pre-inauguration questions about his ability to lead without a mandate.

Howard Kurtz of CNN's RELIABLE SOURCES reports that for now the President seems to have much of Washington and the press corps, eating out of his hand.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HOWARD KURTZ, RELIABLE SOURCES (voice-over): It's called a honeymoon and almost every new president gets one. To judge by his media coverage, George W. Bush is practically a blushing bride. He seems to do everything right.

DEREK MCGINTY, WJLA'S CAPITOL SUNDAY: George W. Bush is obviously very good at being nice and that buys him some credibility.

GEORGE WILL, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: It's called the charm offensive. It's this self-created honeymoon on the part of the President who, because of Florida, was supposed to be denied a honeymoon.

KURTZ: Ah, yes, Florida. When the Texas Governor beat Al Gore by just 500 votes, the press was filled with dire predictions about a paralyzed president.

CHARLES COOK, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I mean there are going to be a lot of people who will say he's a lame duck from day one.

KURTZ: But that was before the new President began giving members of Congress nicknames and staging photo-ops with black children and meeting with a steady stream of Democrats, sometimes on their own turf, and inviting Ted Kennedy over for a movie. The press, you may have noticed, is eating it up.

BRIT HUME, FOX NEWS: All these meetings and outreach sessions that he's having and attending the retreats of the other party and all of that, I think that the public's appetite for this kind of behavior by a president is so strong now and it is so conspicuous in the public's eyes that he has already gotten a huge boost out of it.

KURTZ: Bush uses the word "humble" a lot and doesn't like this song played when he enters a room. His press secretary smiles a lot and Bush seems to be having a grand old time. None of this is exactly a surprise to any reporter who spent five minutes on the campaign trail.

STEVE ROBERTS, "U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT": This is Barbara Bush's son and he's always been very good at this. He's turning on all the wattage on Democrats.

KURTZ: But when a man becomes President and the cameras of the world are upon him, seemingly modest virtues can suddenly, magically, become larger than life. Just look at the kudos for other new Presidents. Gerald Ford making his own English muffins. Jimmy Carter carrying his own bags. Ronald Reagan clearing brush at the ranch. Only Bill Clinton, who liked to go jogging in shorts, was denied a media honeymoon. But none of these early images lasted long and some Democrats aren't exactly buying into Bush's charm offensive.

JAMES CARVILLE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: What tickles me is that the easiest thing in Washington to do is have a meeting, and nothing snows the press like walking out and saying gee, we had a nice collegial meeting, everybody is getting along. And I'm just kind of amused at how everybody thinks, "The Washington Post" and "The New York Times" thinks that having a meeting is making policy.

KURTZ: Maybe. And the White House did stumble this week when Chief of Staff Andrew Card said mistakenly that the AIDS office would be shut down. But even if all of the glad handing is just for show, it's helped morph W.'s image from this...

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Strategery.

KURTZ: To this.

BUSH: For those of you who have not been to our office yet, your coming. Just don't take any silverware.

KURTZ (on camera): For all the pretty pictures, Bush and the Democrats have serious disagreements about tax cuts, school vouchers, a patients' bill of rights. Those battles will be taking center stage just as the press grows tired of all these stories about bipartisanship. That's when the romance may fade and the honeymooners could look like a squabbling married couple.

This is Howard Kurtz of CNN's RELIABLE SOURCES.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SHAW: And for more on the news media coverage of President Bush, please tune into CNN's RELIABLE SOURCES tomorrow at 6:30 P.M. Eastern.

There is even more INSIDE POLITICS ahead in the next half hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: New clashes and olive branches after Israel's election of Ariel Sharon. What role is the Bush administration playing in the search for peace?

Also ahead...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARIO CUOMO (D), FMR. NEW YORK GOVERNOR: My first instruction to him is remember your old man's goofs, avoid them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHAW: From one Cuomo to another, advice on running for New York governor.

WOODRUFF: And this comeback kid features in our discussion of the Democratic Party's future, but another one wins the political play of the week.

ANNOUNCER: From Washington, this is INSIDE POLITICS with Judy Woodruff and Bernard Shaw.

SHAW: Welcome back to INSIDE POLITICS.

We begin this half hour with the politics of the Middle East and how it is playing out from Washington to Israel. Israeli Prime Minister Elect Ariel Sharon made his first phone call to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat today. Sharon's message: he is interested in resuming peace talks if the violence stops.

But as clashes between Palestinians and Israeli troops continue, Sharon also reached out to the man he defeated in Tuesday's election. Sharon invited outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Barak to join his cabinet as defense minister even though they differ widely on how to negotiate with the Palestinians. It's not clear if Barak will accept the job, but it is a major step in Sharon's effort to try to form a unity government.

Meantime, here in the United States, Secretary of State Colin Powell announced his first trip abroad will be to the Middle East later this month.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: The purpose of this trip will be to share views with friends of the region, especially in Israel and Gaza and the West Bank, to make an assessment of the situation, talking to, I would expect, Chairman Arafat and the Prime Minister of Israel and Mr. Barak, if he is in the caretaker status, of course, and also with Mr. Sharon.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHAW: The Bush administration has responded cautiously to Sharon's election and the future of the peace process. President Bush spoke briefly today about a phone conversation he had with Yasser Arafat yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: Oh, I had a good talk with Mr. Arafat. I've also had talks with leaders, other leaders throughout the region and I've urged calm. I said it was very important to give the newly elected leader of Israel a chance, a chance to form a government and a chance to do what he said he wanted to do, which was to promote the peace in the region.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHAW: The American people appear to be somewhat skeptical about Ariel Sharon's ability to promote peace. In our new CNN/"Time" magazine poll, 25 percent of those surveyed see a better chance for peace, under Sharon. Thirty-seven percent say the chances for peace are worse. Twenty-eight percent are unsure.

WOODRUFF: I posed that same question, does Sharon's election make the prospects for peace less likely, in an interview with former Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger and former Congressman Lee Hamilton.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LEE HAMILTON (D), FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: If you look at the positions that the Prime Minister Elect has taken over a period of years, no give on the settlements, no dividing of Jerusalem, no more land in the West Bank and Gaza for the Palestinians, then you have to conclude that the prospects are not bright. On the other hand, I've seen a lot of politicians say one thing campaigning for office and quite another thing when they have the responsibility of power.

So I suspect the key point to make here is that we ought not to prejudge this situation. Let the prime minister-elect develop his policies.

WOODRUFF: Larry Eagleburger, same question: Do you believe his election makes peace that much harder to achieve?

LAWRENCE EAGLEBURGER, FMR. SECRETARY OF STATE: I really couldn't have said it better than Lee Hamilton has. I think you've got the on- the-one-hand-on-the-other-hand.

What will be interesting to see is whether, in the end, Sharon recognizes -- and I think he is smart enough he will -- that he has to depart from some of his past policies. I guess I think it will be a much more difficult -- it will be a tough negotiation, but I suspect we'll find that he's prepared to negotiate. He won't go as far as Barak. On that, I'm clear.

WOODRUFF: Lee Hamilton, what about the U.S. position here? How is the U.S. posture toward Israel going to change simply as a result of this election?

HAMILTON: I don't think the U.S. posture should change. We stand ready to be helpful in the peace process where we can. President Bush has said that he wants to stand back, to pause, to reassess, to put his team together in the Middle East.

That makes all kinds of sense to me. On the other hand, sometimes events in the Middle East can impose themselves upon you. And you may not have that luxury. So he has to proceed carefully and take his time: step back, do the reassessment, but be ready, because violence could erupt again and force him to take steps immediately.

WOODRUFF: Secretary Eagleburger, can the new president, the new administration, can they afford to step back and take a pause now?

EAGLEBURGER: I don't think they have any choice, again, depending on how long the pause is. But, first of all, we have to see how Sharon is going to proceed with the negotiations himself. And I would disagree only marginally with what the chairman said a moment ago, in the sense that I think our posture will change because I do not think this administration -- at least I hope not -- will not get so intimately involved in the negotiations as President Clinton did, say, in the last six months.

He might as well have been sitting at the negotiating table as a third member to this negotiation. I think we have to -- in that sense, certainly I think that the U.S. needs to step back, that is: not to say we can't give advice to the Israelis or the Palestinians. That's not to say that we can't become a party in the sense of trying to push people toward a settlement.

But we cannot begin to substitute our judgments for those of the parties, particularly the Israelis. And I think Mr. Clinton really pushed Barak much too hard and much too far.

WOODRUFF: Representative Hamilton, is it a concern, then, if this administration is not as involved as the previous one was?

HAMILTON: Well, I think it's a concern. Look, you look back over the last few months of the Clinton administration, when, as Secretary Eagleburger correctly stated, the president was very heavily involved in the details of the negotiations.

They apparently came fairly pretty close but they failed. That didn't work. You got new a president in now. He wants to take a new tack. It makes some sense. He should have that opportunity, it seems to me. Undoubtedly, President Clinton, with his inclination to get greatly involved in all of the policy details -- foreign or domestic -- wanted to jump in. And he came very close. And, indeed, I think the outlines that emerged from those discussions at the end will be the point that we come back to eventually.

But I don't know that for sure. We'll just have to see how things play out. For sure, we've got a dicey period ahead of us in the next few weeks.

WOODRUFF: Larry Eagleburger, do you agree that -- with what Lee Hamilton just said: that the outlines of what was taking place there with the prodding of the Clinton administration is what Israel and the Palestinians are ultimately going to come back to?

EAGLEBURGER: Well, they certainly are going to have to come back to the issues. Whether the Sharon government -- whether Sharon will be prepared to go as far as Barak was prepared to go, for instance, on the right of return of Palestinians, all sorts -- Jerusalem -- all sorts of issues -- I think remains to be seen. I suspect that Sharon -- particularly on Jerusalem -- will be very, very cautious and very constrictive.

But let me -- Judy, on this question of whether we've become involved or not, let me just tell you a short story. When the Bush administration of which I was a part was leaving the office, the upcoming secretary of state, Warren Christopher, came to see me one day. And the end of our discussion, as he was leaving he said: "Well, Larry, I will tell you one thing: We will not become as deeply involved in the Middle East as you people have been."

(LAUGHTER)

EAGLEBURGER: And you will notice that didn't last long. And we will be dragged into it. There is no question about that.

WOODRUFF: Lee Hamilton, let me just ask both of you: What should the administration do right now? Should it just lay back and wait at this moment until Mr. Sharon makes it more clear what he's going to do?

HAMILTON: Yes, I think we have to wait and see what the prime minister's policies are, get our team ready, keep abreast. Let them know we want to be helpful and constructive, try to chip away, maybe, with the multilateral groups -- working groups that are meeting. But the major initiatives will have to come from the parties now.

WOODRUFF: And Larry Eagleburger.

EAGLEBURGER: Totally agree that -- in fact, I would caution this administration -- and I don't think he will have this proclivity -- but I would caution them to be careful not to get enmeshed in the details now with either side and to be very cautious about how they deal with the Sharon government, in the sense of our not trying to substitute our judgment -- at least for now with -- for his.

I think we're going to have to play it cool for a while and become involved slowly over time as we see how the two parties are proceeding.

WOODRUFF: Well, no doubt, they're listening to the two of you right now. Lee Hamilton, Larry Eagleburger, we thank both very much for joining us.

SHAW: We have more now on the Middle East and the Israeli election from our Bill Schneider in Jerusalem.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Ariel Sharon has been called an extremist, a radical and a provocateur. And that's just by Israelis. Now they're calling him something else: Prime Minister.

His election was one of the most remarkable political turnarounds in history. It was also the "Political Play of the Week."

(voice-over): Ariel Sharon has been a man of controversy for 50 years, the entire span of Israel's history. As a military leader, Sharon was called daring and bold, but also reckless and brutal. Sharon has been a central figure in every conservative Israeli government for 25 years. Under Menachem Begin, he was responsible for expanding Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Sharon spearheaded Israel's controversial invasion of Lebanon in 1982. After an Israeli tribunal held him indirectly responsible for the massacre of hundreds of Palestinians, he was forced to resign as defense minister. He remained an unapologetic critic of the government for not being forceful enough in dealing with terrorists.

ARIEL SHARON, FMR. DEFENSE MINISTER: If I would have been minister of defense, I believe that the situation would have been entirely different.

SCHNEIDER: And a vehement critic of the peace process.

SHARON: Yasser Arafat is not only a terrorist. Yasser Arafat is a war criminal.

SCHNEIDER: Sharon provoked Palestinian rage last September when he visited the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. It was part of the chain of events that ended with this week's election. In the past, many thought Sharon was unelectable. When Benjamin Netanyahu stepped down as leader of the Likud Party after his defeat in 1999, Sharon was chosen as a caretaker leader, awaiting Netanyahu's return.

When Prime Minister Ehud Barak resigned in December and called for new elections, Barak calculated that with Netanyahu legally ineligible to run, he would have no trouble beating Sharon. But Sharon had a powerful message that defied all calculations: security.

SHARON: The government of Israel will act to restore the security and stability we need.

SCHNEIDER: This week, Sharon won a spectacular victory, the largest majority in Israel's history. His ads defused his dangerous image. He even ran as the peace candidate: "Only Sharon will bring peace." Why did it work? Because under Barak, there was no peace.

Sharon's victory proved an important rule of politics: Given the right circumstances, no candidate is unelectable, a rule Sharon heard directly from President Bush when the president made his congratulatory telephone call.

SHARON (through translator): He reminded me of the trip I took with him through Sumeria and the Jordan Valley. And at the time, he said to me: "No one believed then," he said, "that I would be president and you would be prime minister. But as things turned out, in spite of the fact that no one believed it," he said, "I have been elected president and you have been elected prime minister."

SCHNEIDER: See what happens when you defy calculations? You get the "Political Play of the Week."

(on camera): Plenty of people in Israel calculate that a Sharon government can't last. It's bound to fall, they say, before the end of this year. The Arabs are counting on it. The Israeli left is counting on it. Netanyahu is counting on it. But you know what? It's never a good idea to count Ariel Sharon out.

Bill Schneider, CNN, Jerusalem.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Back here in the United States, CNN has learned that the House Government Reform Committee plans to subpoena two sets of records related to the Marc Rich pardon investigation. The committee wants to examine the bank records of Denise Rich, Marc Rich's ex-wife, and the donor list for the Bill Clinton Presidential Library.

The committee is also preparing to legally immunize Denise Rich to force her to testify. Denise Rich was a major contributor to Democratic Party causes, including Hillary Rodham Clinton's Senate campaign. Sources tell CNN that Denise Rich donated $450,000 to the Clinton Library Foundation. President Clinton pardoned Marc Rich on his last day in office.

When INSIDE POLITICS returns: Who leads the Democratic Party? A look at who ranks where in a new CNN/"Time" poll. And we will talk party politics with former New York Governor Mario Cuomo.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHAW: The controversy over presidential pardons, office space and White House furniture do not appear to have affected the public's opinion of Bill and Hillary Clinton. A new CNN/"Time" magazine poll finds the former president's approval rating held steady at 53 percent over the last month. Senator Hillary Clinton's approval rating also remains steady.

When asked who is the leader of their party, self-identified Democrats gave Bill Clinton a 5-point edge over Al Gore. Hillary Clinton finished third, followed by Senator Ted Kennedy and Congressman Dick Gephardt.

As we've seen, Al Gore's defeat has thrown the Democrats into debate over the future: whether the party should stick to the centrist message championed by Bill Clinton or go down a more populous path. Yesterday, I spoke to a man who has been through that battle before, former New York Governor Mario Cuomo. I began by asking Cuomo if Al Gore pulled the party away from the political center.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARIO CUOMO (D), FMR. NEW YORK GOVERNOR: Well, center, right, left: I'm not sure those directions mean a whole lot anymore. I think he wound up with the party being exactly where it ought to be and in a very good position to move ahead two years from now and take one of the two houses -- and maybe both of them -- and in a good position to do well in 2004.

I think the fact, Bernie, that with a campaign that most people say was not as good as it might have been, he nevertheless won by over 500,000 votes. And he won basically, I think, on the issues. And so the Democrats -- he's left the Democrats in very good shape. SHAW: "Washington Post" reports that Al Gore and Bill Clinton had a one-hour nose-to-nose conversation in which they disagreed over the campaign tactic: Mr. Gore reportedly telling President Clinton that his sex scandal really hurt the Gore campaign; Clinton telling Gore that he should have ignored the scandal and run on the eight-year economic well-being that they created.

CUOMO: You know, the interesting about that, Bernie, is, I think, no matter how you analyze it, both people are making a point that indicates how strong the party is. Let's assume that the president's right: that Gore made a mistake in not using the president's record enough -- incidentally, a position that I might agree with. Now let's assume that Gore is right: that Clinton's misconduct for part of the time in the White House was a problem for Gore.

In both cases, it means that he won by 500,000 votes, not withstanding he had at least one impediment and maybe two. That tells you how strong his issues were. And that tells you how strong our position was, notwithstanding that either or both of these guys are right about the impediments imposed on their campaign.

SHAW: Clinton's pardon of financier Marc Rich: politically -- politically -- smart or dumb?

CUOMO: Well, politically, if he were going to run again for president, it would have been very unintelligent. As it was, I'm not sure that I would ever accuse the president -- President Clinton -- of doing something politically dumb. I think he did something that is very unpopular, largely misunderstood by people, I think, because, on the surface of it, it's a rich guy buying himself a pardon.

I think it's not at all like that when you get down to the facts. But very few people are going to get down to the facts. So if he wanted to look good going out, he made a mistake. But it's not going to mean anything politically to him. He's going to continue, Bernie, to be a significant voice, not just in America, but globally.

SHAW: Two last questions about two men: one named Bush, one named Cuomo. First Bush: your perceptions of this president's first month in office?

CUOMO: You know, interestingly, I wrote a little piece for "Esquire" about it. I predicted about a month-and-a-half or so ago that his first month was going to be -- his first period was going to be uneventful, quiet and a relief from the campaign, and that his greatest strength would be recognizing his own inadequacies -- and we all have inadequacies -- and selecting people that who could do things better than he could. That's what Cheney was, etcetera.

I think he's done well. But it's largely irrelevant how well he's done now because he's done it all with personality and staying away from the issues. On the issues, I think the Democrats won because of the issues. And the mistake they would make is compromising too much. This country does not want to you give 40 percent of $1.6 trillion to 1 percent of the people. They don't want that. And that's why Bush is now parading all around the country showing you the impact of his tax cut on middle-class families. That they do want: Give the whole tax cut to the middle-class families and under. That's what America would settle for. That should be the Democratic position. And they shouldn't get conned out of it.

SHAW: Your son has announced he is going to run for governor of New York state. You, a former governor, how are you coaching him?

CUOMO: Well, I am a very big help to Andrew because he was there when I was and he saw all the terrible mistakes I made. So my first instruction to him is: Remember your old man's goofs. Avoid them.

And secondly: Remember, you are trying to be a public servant. Have a rationale. Go out and talk to the people. Tell them specifically what you are going to do to make their life better. And pray.

(LAUGHTER)

SHAW: Mario Cuomo, thanks for joining us on INSIDE POLITICS.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: And one more note about future political races: CNN has learned that South Carolina Republican Congressman Lindsey Graham plans to run for the Senate seat now held by 98-year-old Strom Thurmond. Graham plans to make his announcement February 21. Thurmond's term expires in January, 2003. And he has said that he will not seek a ninth term. Thurmond was hospitalized for fatigue last weekend. And an aide says that he will be cutting back on his daily schedule to get additional rest.

Still ahead on INSIDE POLITICS, poking fun at the Bush tax plan: a comic look at what might be driving the president's push for tax cuts.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHAW: Just three weeks in office and already President Bush has become a mainstay of comedians. Last night was no exception, as the special "Saturday Night Live" prime time edition lampooned the president's tax plan.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE")

WILL FERRELL, ACTOR: I proposed a tax cut that will be retroactive, which I think means you will get money back...

(LAUGHTER)

FERRELL: ... that glows in the dark.

(LAUGHTER)

FERRELL: I have a check here -- that is a big check -- made out to the U.S. taxpayer for the amount of $1,600, which is the average tax cut for a family of four under my plan. And all I'm asking in return is you start being cool to me.

(LAUGHTER)

FERRELL: Ever since I got here, people have had low expectations of the Bushie. I had no idea how low until I tied my shoe at a press conference and everyone applauded.

(LAUGHTER)

FERRELL: I mean, come on, I can tie my own shoe. Most of the people around here are my dad's friends. They don't trust me. So I'm asking you, America, be my buddy.

(LAUGHTER)

FERRELL: I'm gives you 1,600 bucks. Al Gore wouldn't give you any money. He would have bored you with one of his long lectures and given the money to a tree.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

SHAW: The folks at "Saturday Night Live" say they will have more political comedy during their regular weekend show -- funny, funny, funny.

WOODRUFF: We can't wait. We can't wait.

(LAUGHTER)

SHAW: That's all for this edition of INSIDE POLITICS. But, of course, you can go online all the time at CNN's allpolitics.com -- AOL keyword: CNN.

WOODRUFF: These programming notes: Linda Tripp will be the guest tonight on "LARRY KING LIVE." That's at 9:00 p.m. Eastern. At noon Sunday, Secretary of State Colin Powell will be a guest on "LATE EDITION." Also joining Wolf Blitzer at that hour: basketball great Michael Jordan.

I'm Judy Woodruff.

SHAW: And I'm Bernard Shaw.

The "MONEYLINE NEWS HOUR" is next.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com

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