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Inside Politics

Hillary Clinton Addresses Presidential Pardons; Are Clinton Controversies Stifling Bush Agenda?

Aired February 22, 2001 - 5:00 p.m. ET



SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: Very sad matter to me personally. And it was -- it was a surprise, but more than being surprising, it was extremely disappointing.


JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton answers questions about her husband's last-minute pardons, including the role played by her brother and her campaign treasurer.

BERNARD SHAW, CNN ANCHOR: Those who lobbied the White House reached into Bill Clinton's inner circle: a closer look at who wanted relief, and who was vying for the president's ear. Plus...


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As far as this White House is concerned, it's time to go forward. I've got too much to do.


WOODRUFF: President Bush steps out to promote his message, but are lingering questions about his predecessor stifling his agenda?

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

SHAW: Thank you for joining us. Almost from the moment he left the White House, Bill Clinton faced questions about his last minute flurry of presidential pardons. And each time the pardon issue has showed signs of fading, new questions emerged. In the last 24 hours, this controversy has grown to include Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, her brother and even her Senate campaign treasurer.

For the latest, we turn to CNN national correspondent Eileen O'Connor and CNN congressional correspondent Jonathan Karl.

First, to Karl.

JONATHAN KARL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Bernie, Hillary Rodham Clinton has spent much of her short tenure here in the United States Senate avoiding those questions about the Clinton's final days in the White House. Today, she came before the full Capitol Hill press corps and started answering some of them.


(voice-over): Hillary Rodham Clinton braved a Washington snowstorm on her way to Capitol Hill to take questions about her brother's involvement in seeking clemency for two convicted felons.

CLINTON: He's my brother. I love my brother. I'm just extremely disappointed in this terrible misjudgment that he made.

KARL: Senator Clinton said she had absolutely no idea her brother Hugh Rodham had been paid $400,000 for helping convicted drug dealer Carlos Vignali and convicted tax cheat Glenn Braswell get clemency during president Clinton's final hours in office.

CLINTON: I did not know any specific information until late Monday night, when -- I was actually in a movie theater, and I was called and told that my brother had been involved and had taken money for his involvement.

KARL: Senator Clinton's press conference came within hours of yet another pardon controversy: William Cunningham, the treasurer of her Senate campaign last year, got paid $4,000 for his role involving two other pardons. Cunningham is an associate of longtime Clinton confidant Harold Ickes.

CLINTON: There's a very big difference between whatever he did and my brother being involved. And I know Mr. Cunningham is a -- you know, a fine person and a good lawyer. And I know lawyers prepare and process pardon applications.

KARL: The 24-minute news conference was the most extensive Q&A session Senator Clinton has had with the Washington press corps since she was sworn in.

CLINTON: I know that people have questions. I believe I have an obligation, as a public official, to answer those questions.

KARL: But she offered little in the way of new information, saying 23 times some variation of "I don't know" or "I didn't know."

CLINTON: It is certainly not how I would have preferred or planned to start my Senate career, and I regret deeply that there has been these kinds of matters occurring. And all I can tell you is that I have gotten up every day and worked as hard as I can to be the best senator I can be.


KARL: As she stood before the Washington press corps, Hillary Clinton said there is one person that she has not spoken to at all about this matter, and that's her brother, Hugh Rodham -- Bernie.

SHAW: Jonathan Karl, thanks very much. Now to Eileen O'Connor.

Eileen, first, what more do we know today about the Braswell- Vignali cases?

EILEEN O'CONNOR, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, what we do know is that sources close to President Clinton say that he does not recollect any conversations with Hugh Rodham about those controversial pardons.

And we also know that, though, Hugh Rodham did contact Deputy White House Counsel Bruce Lindsey. Mr. Lindsey, though, according to sources, says that it was a general conversation and he too did not know that Hugh Rodham was being paid -- that Hugh Rodham had asked just what -- where was the status of this application for clemency, a commutation of sentence for Vignali, and that he had talked about the fact that Vignali's father was a pillar in the community, but this was just a general conversation.

In addition, Bernie, aides are going to go down to the archives in Little Rock, according to sources, and look through the pertinent files and they will, in fact, then see if there were notes of any conversations and, perhaps, the president just is not recollecting those conversations.

Also, I can tell you that the Justice Department, in the Vignali case, actually sent over a document actually arguing against commuting that sentence. Also, they did not know about the Braswell case at all, and had they known, they would have argued against that one too. He was under investigation for further charges of tax evasion and money laundering pertaining to his business -- Bernie.

SHAW: Moving to the Marc Rich pardon. Any developments today in the congressional investigation of that matter?

O'CONNOR: Well, the -- David Kendall, who is the lawyer for the Clinton library foundation, has said that they will comply, but only in part to the subpoena from Dan Burton, the Republican chairman of the House Governmental Reform Committee -- to his subpoena.

Now, he had asked for the donor list for all donors over $5,000. That part of the subpoena, they say, is a fishing expedition, and it would be intrusive into the privacy of the donors. But they say they will give over documents pertaining to 12 names. They say the only documents they found pertain only to Denise Rich and three contributions that she gave, one for 250,000, one for 100,000 and another for 100,000, and also a pledge by Beth Dozoretz to raise $1 million.

Now, Dan Burton, of course, has already fired back and says that that is unacceptable. He's going to, he says, now subpoena Skip Rutherford, the president of the Clinton presidential library foundation.

And, you know, Bernie, there is another subpoena out there, this time sources tell us that a grand jury subpoena from Mary Jo White, the U.S. attorney that's launched a criminal investigation in the Marc Rich pardon, that too has come down for the same documents. No word yet on how they will respond, although legal sources say it could be harder to fight a grand jury subpoena under the grounds of secrecy, because grand jury proceedings are secret -- Bernie.

SHAW: Thank you, Eileen O'Connor.

When Senator Clinton met with reporters earlier today, she repeated on camera what she already had stated on paper, that she had no involvement in any presidential pardons. But CNN national correspondent Frank Buckley reports, the news conference itself speaks volumes about her first weeks in office.


CLINTON: So help me god.

FRANK BUCKLEY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Hillary Clinton was sworn in as a senator amid high expectations from New York voters. One poll showing nearly six in 10 New Yorkers thought she would be a good senator for the state, but she never had a honeymoon.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mrs. Clinton, do you think the president's op-ed piece clears the air, do you think?

BUCKLEY: Mrs. Clinton hounded by questions and controversy from the moment she took office. There was the book flap over Mrs. Clinton's acceptance of an $8 million advance. Giftgate, over the things the Clintons took with them as they left the White House. Mr. Clinton's first pricey choice for office space created another barrage of bad publicity. And some of Clinton's last-minute pardons prompted congressional hearings.

The running faucet of controversy causing, say some observers, difficulty for the junior senator who had hoped to stay low-key in her first year.

VINCE MORRIS, "NEW YORK POST": The problem is is that they keep -- it is one after another. She can't seem to shed it, and every time that happens, it makes it harder for her colleagues, who would like to be talking to her about the tax cut, would like to talk about education, would like to talk about specific projects, instead are distracted, because she, they feel, that she is not focused on what she should be focused.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A pastrami, a woody, a ham-and-Swiss combo...

BUCKLEY: It is a concern shared over piles of pastrami at New York's famous Carnegie Deli. At least some voters worried the various flaps will hamper the former first lady in her new role as senator.

SANDY LEVINE, CARNEGIE DELI OWNER: Here's a new senator who came in with a lot of vim and vigor, and she can't even do her own job. She can't even go in and represent us here in New York.

BUCKLEY: It will allow Mrs. Clinton's critics, say some, to say to her supporters, "We told you so."

LEE MARINGOFF, MARIST COLLEGE POLL: What it does is allow people who had voted for her, who are now starting to feel that they're somewhat had, that there might be an element of disillusionment in there, that this is starting to have a familiar ring to it.

BUCKLEY: Mrs. Clinton, however, is asking voters to suspend judgment.

CLINTON: All I can say is now I've got a position and a responsibility that I'm going to do my very best to fulfill to the very best of my ability, and people will have to judge me at the end of my term based on what I do, and that's what I'm going to ask people to do.


BUCKLEY: And in raw political terms, Mrs. Clinton will not be judged by voters until she runs for reelection in six years -- or four, if she runs for president -- Bernie.

SHAW: Thank you, Frank Buckley in New York -- to Judy.

WOODRUFF: For more now on how the pardon controversy is affecting senator Clinton and her husband, as well as the overall Washington agenda, we're joined from New York by Mike Tomasky, a political columnist for "New York" magazine; and here in Washington, Stuart Taylor of the "National Journal."

Stuart, to you first. To Mrs. Clinton's comments today about her brother, saying in effect, she knew nothing of his involvement, neither did the president that he remembers. Does that put an end at least to this part of the controversy?

STUART TAYLOR, "NATIONAL JOURNAL": Oh, I don't think so. I think Mrs. Clinton has said lots of things in the past that turned out not to be true. She had no role in the firings at the White House travel office, that turned out not to be true -- and many other things.

She learned about the commodities she made -- her $100,000 commodities profit by reading the "Wall Street Journal." So, anybody who believes her just takes it on faith is, I think, being a little naive.

More importantly, I believe her brother -- both of her brothers -- have been peddling influence or at least their appearance of influence, in the Clinton White House for years. One of the saying -- Hugh Rodham was cut in on, what could have been -- didn't turn out to be -- a very lucrative tobacco fee deal. They were in the Republic of Georgia doing some multimillion dollar hazelnut venture; they got entree at least, through being her brothers.

If she had wanted to put a stop to this sort of thing, she could have done it a long time ago. WOODRUFF: Michael Tomasky, you have written a book about Mrs. Clinton and her campaign. Do you agree she could have put a stop to this?

MICHAEL TOMASKY, "NEW YORK MAGAZINE": I suppose she could have, yes. But, so far, we have no way to rebut what she said today, and she said she didn't know about it. And until there is any proof to the contrary, then I think this story can possibly die down, but I also do think that there --I mean, how many more pardons were there that are probably going to be investigated and every rock turned over on these things?

So, you know, she faced a lot of this during the campaign, and I know she's going to face a lot more of it.

WOODRUFF: Let me ask you both another question about the pardon of Carlos Vignali that Hugh Rodham was involved in -- the convicted cocaine dealer Carlos Vignali. You not only had Hugh Rodham, you had the Roman Catholic cardinal of Los Angeles, you had the U.S. Attorney in Los Angeles -- the man who is now the sheriff of L.A. County, you had a congressman, a couple of people running for mayor of Los Angeles.

Is it possible that we're putting too much focus, Stuart Taylor, on Hugh Rodham when you have all these other prominent people advocating?

TAYLOR: Well, it's certainly speculative whether Hugh Rodham's personal role in it made the difference. I think the larger lesson is, money talks. He has a wealthy father who, apparently, has a lot of people he can get to speak up for him. The question is whether he had any business being near the White House lobbying about anything. The answer is no. And, whether...

WOODRUFF: You mean Hugh Rodham?

TAYLOR: Hugh Rodham. Yes. Whether or not his role was dispositive in this case or whether he was taking a lot of money for not doing anything that mattered is a little bit beside the point.

WOODRUFF: Stuart -- I'm sorry -- Mike Tomasky; what else does Hillary Rodham Clinton need to do to address some of these questions that were put to her today?

TOMASKY: Just try to do her job. She's not going to do anything dramatic, I don't think, it's not her way. I watched her pretty closely for 16 months campaigning. There were five, six, maybe more occasions, Judy, when she was supposed to have received a mortal wound, and people said -- insiders and experts -- said that she can't possibly win this race.

She won the race by 850,000 votes and did it, not by doing anything dramatic or not by making people love her or making people believe that she was the poster child of great ethics. She did it by keeping her head down and ignoring the controversies and sticking to the issues and sticking to her work, and that's what she'll do. As Frank said at the tail end of his piece, it's six years, if she seeks re-election before she faces the voters again. That's a long time.

WOODRUFF: Stuart Taylor, just quickly: what about the part of her argument that there have controversial pardons for hundreds of years. At one point she said, if you go back 100 years, who knows what's in the mind, she was saying, in effect, of the president making a decision like this -- this absolute power that the president has?

TAYLOR: Certainly true. The president has the power. That doesn't mean, presumably -- which I don't think she's claiming you can take a bribe for giving a pardon with impunity. I'm not saying that that happened here. But I don't think there's ever been a bunch of pardons that had this stench of money changing hands around them the way these do.

And second, the fact that one has the power, leads the question, can it be abused? The truest signal here that it was abused is not whether Mr. Vignali should or should not be imprisoned now. I don't really know that. That's an awful long time. The question is, whether the process was open and honest and honorable.

And the answer is no. When you have, for example, the Marc Rich case, the president talking to one and only one person, as far as we can tell, about that pardon who knew the facts; and that was Marc Rich's lawyer.

WOODRUFF: Mike Tomasky? On that same point. This argument that every, in effect -- many other presidents have done the same thing?

TOMASKY: Well, you know, it's fair up to a point. There's the Weinberger pardon -- he was two weeks away from facing trial. I've written about that myself. There's certain arguments that can be made along those lines, but you can't really make those arguments to try and construe any defense of -- particularly -- I think the Rich pardon. That's the one that looks worse to me. On the others, the evidence of misfeasance or abuse of power is somewhat substantial, I think.

WOODRUFF: All right, Mike Tomasky in New York. Stuart Taylor here in Washington. Thank you, both -- Bernie.

SHAW: Hugh Rodham is President Clinton's brother in law and sometime golf partner. But to most Americans, he is a relative unknown. We asked CNN's Mark Potter to answer the question; who is Hugh Rodham?


MARK POTTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Earlier this month, Hugh Rodham played golf near his home in Coral Gables, Florida, with Bill Clinton, his brother-in-law. He describes the former president as his "buddy." Rodham was also on hand in Washington for the swearing in of his sister to the New York Senate seat. Fifty-year-old Hugh Rodham first made his name in Miami as an assistant public defender in the county's innovative drug court program. There, he helped addicts try to rebuild their lives.

HUGH RODHAM: Why don't we just lower her bond? I would move to have her bond reduced to $100, and she could go to our program.

POTTER: Supporters say Rodham was quite effective, and worked tirelessly.

JOSEPH GELLER, FORMER DEMOCRATIC PARTY OFFICIAL: Hugh Rodham is a great part of this community. He's worked hard for this community. Long hours, very low wages, for very many years, just because he thought it was the right thing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Presenting to you the first lady of our great country, Hillary Rodham Clinton.

POTTER: In 1994, with his sister and brother-in-law in the White House, Rodham ran for U.S. Senate. He had never held public office before, but won Florida's Democratic primary, appearing in rallies around the state.

RODHAM: The Republicans can talk all they want about family values but with my brother in front of me and my wife and my sister behind me, there is no better exhibition of family values than standing before you.

POTTER: But, Rodham's attempt to unseat popular Republican incumbent Connie Mack failed. He was beaten by a landslide.

JIM KANE, EDITOR "THE FLORIDA VOTER": Rodham just never caught fire with the Floridian -- the Florida voter here. He was somebody who just was Hillary's brother and that's not enough to get you elected to a major office like the U.S. Senate.

POTTER: Since then, Rodham has practiced law, and is a partner in a Fort Lauderdale firm that, among other things, specializes in criminal law, government-related law and personal injury.

(on camera): Hugh Rodham also become involved in tobacco litigation, and two years ago, tried to set up a business in the former Soviet republic of Georgia, but because it involved a political opposition leader there, the proposed venture ran afoul of the Clinton administration.

Mark Potter, CNN, Miami.


SHAW: Next on INSIDE POLITICS: President Bush meets the press. Is all this Clinton coverage drowning out his message? Or is it actually helping?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) WOODRUFF: For the first time today, President Bush answered questions in the White House briefing room. On any other day, that's big news.

But as CNN's Major Garrett reports, Mr. Bush is vying for the public's attention with the Clintons.


BUSH: Good afternoon. I -- it's been about a month now since I've taken office, and I thought it appropriate to come by and have a press conference.

MAJOR GARRETT, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Typically, this would eclipse all other stories, but Former President Clinton has thrown the news universe out of balance, with damaging revelations raining down like a meteor shower.

CLINTON: I was heartbroken and shocked by it.

GARRETT: So said the senator about her brother, who pocketed and then returned $400,000 received for winning for two felons a last- minute pardon and commutation from his brother-in-law president.

But it's a subject the current president dare not touch.

BUSH: As far as this White House is concerned, it's time to go forward. I've got too much to do.

GARRETT: And the Clinton legacy? It's hard to see through all the scandal.

DAN RATHER, ANCHOR, "CBS EVENING NEWS": So far, Bill Clinton is making more news in less time than any other former president.

SHAW: We begin with an all-too-familiar situation for Bill Clinton and the United States.

TOM BROKAW, ANCHOR, "NBC NIGHTLY NEWS": Good evening. Tonight President Clinton was forced to issue another explanation in what has become an unending controversy.

PETER JENNINGS, ANCHOR, "WORLD NEWS TONIGHT": Good evening, everyone. We're going to begin this evening with former President Clinton.

GARRETT: Democratic strategists say the former president is suffocating his party's message.

PETER FENN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST; I think you want all this Clinton stuff off the table, as a Democrat.

GARRETT: White House officials concede the Clinton publicity has deprived them of center stage. But they say it's a small price to pay for keeping Democrats in the bunker.

Political analysts agree.

JAMES THURBER, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY: It's not clear what their position is on taxes and education at this point. It gets buried, or not covered at all; they need to change that.


GARRETT: In politics, it's sometimes better to be lucky than good. White House officials believe they've been both: good in that they've had a smooth roll out of the president's education, tax and defense agenda; lucky in that the clearest democratic voice across the country is a scandal-plagued ex-president -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Now, Major, President Bush also had something to say today -- sort of a peek at what he's going to tell us next week about his budget proposal?

GARRETT: Yes, White House officials tell CNN that was really the purpose of this press conference: to tee up the budget presentation the president will make first in a nationally televised address to Congress next Tuesday, and then the formal budget submission on Wednesday.

He said it's a balanced budget that will have some increases of spending for education and defense, but will also hold in spending on other domestic programs. That's a warning to congressional Republicans who've already been complaining to this White House of budget cuts that are on the way. But, as the president pointed out, Republicans have often said, if we only had a Republican Congress and a Republican president, we could really cut Washington spending. The president said, now's the time to star -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right; Major Garrett on a snowy afternoon at the White House, thanks -- Bernie.

SHAW: Joining us now, CNN senior political analyst Bill Schneider.

Bill, how are these pardons affecting former President Clinton's standing with the public?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Badly; and that's before the news about his brother-in-law came out.

Just look at the public's reaction to the pardon of financier Marc Rich: Three-to-one disapproval. It's even hurt the former president with his own democratic base; Democrats are split over whether he should have pardoned Rich.

Now, in his op-ed article on Sunday, former President Clinton said he decided to pardon Rich because it was in the best interests of justice, but he failed to convince the American public. By nearly three-to-one Americans believe he did not do it because he felt it was in the best interest of justice -- he did it, people say, in return for financial contributions. The public sees a quid pro quo, even if the former president denies it. Which may be why, by 50 to 41 percent, people believe Congress should hold hearings into the Rich pardon.

SHAW: Now, is all this having an impact on President Bush?

SCHNEIDER: Maybe, and the evidence here is kind of suggestive. Look at favorable opinion of President Bush: It's been going up, from 56 percent in December to 67 percent now. And at the same time, favorable opinion of Bill Clinton has dropped sharply, from 57 percent in December to 42 percent now -- which is as unpopular as Clinton has ever been.

Now, are they related? Here's a clue: The Pew Center Poll, released today, reports that what people like best about President Bush is his personal qualities -- his honesty and character. Other polls have shown that that is exactly what people like least about Bill Clinton. Could be a connection there.

SHAW: Is there any evidence that this is having an effect on the senator from New York, Hillary Clinton?

SCHNEIDER: Oh, yes, and among the people who matter most, which is her New York constituents. The Quinnipiac Poll shows Senator Clinton's favorability ratings in decline among New Yorkers, from 46 percent positive in December to 38 percent positive last week -- last week -- that was before the revelations about her brother.

The danger is that the name Clinton is coming to evoke scandal and controversy, not the former president's record, as President Clinton could change the subject to his record whenever scandals came up, but he can't do that anymore, though his wife certainly tried at her news conference today -- Bernie.

SHAW: Thank you Bill Schneider -- Judy.

Well, there's much more ahead on INSIDE POLITICS, including our exclusive interview with a top adviser in the Bush White House.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have to acknowledge that former President Clinton has gotten a good deal of attention.

KARL ROVE, BUSH CHIEF STRATEGIST: I would say a large amount attention; I'm not certain -- I'd say a good deal of attention.


SHAW: Karl Rove on the pardons, the election and the shape of American politics.

Also ahead:


WALTER RODGERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: U.S. Presidents and British prime ministers have frequently been buddies. Reagan and Thatcher were soul mates; Clinton and Blair were so close they jointly announced they had overcome the forces of conservatism.

That may not play so well with Washington's new Mr. Conservative.


SHAW: CNN's Walter Rodgers on the upcoming visit of British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

That and much more, on this edition of INSIDE POLITICS.


WOODRUFF: We'll have more of the day's political news coming up, but now a look at some other top stories.

Every FBI agent will feel the pinch from the agency's embarrassing spy scandal. They will now have to undergo random polygraph tests. And they will likely start from the top down, with FBI Director Louis Freeh himself. Sources confirm that accused Russian spy Robert Hanssen had never taken a polygraph test during his 25-year FBI career.

The auto racing world paused today to remember legend NASCAR racer Dale Earnhardt. Friends, family and fans turned out for a memorial service in Charlotte, North Carolina. It was one last chance for fans to say goodbye to the Intimidator. He died last Sunday in a crash on the last lap of the Daytona 500.


REVEREND MAX HELTON, FRIEND OF DALE EARNHARDT: Starting several years ago, Dale invited me to come by his car on Sunday mornings, which I did this past Sunday just before the race, after the drivers' introduction. And I'm talking about like two minutes before they start their engines. And we meet together. He was inside of his car. I reached inside, held hands with him, with his wife Teresa and Richard Childress. And we had prayer together.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is it appropriate for me ask you what you prayed for?

HELTON: Yes, we prayed for safety. We did pray for God to give him wisdom to put him in the car in the right place at the time on the track. We prayed for that, and God would just give him energy as he drove, because it's a long race. So a few things like that we prayed for.


WOODRUFF: One fan traveled more than eight hours just to be near the invitation-only ceremony.

SHAW: A horror story of gang rape and torture unfolded today at the U.N. War Crimes Tribunal in the Netherlands. Three former Bosnian Serb soldiers were convicted of raping and sexually enslaving Muslim women and girls during the Bosnian war. The ruling marked the first time the tribunal classified rape and sexual enslavement as crimes against humanity. Prosecutors said the victims -- some as young as 12 years old -- were taken to, quote, "rape houses" where they were brutally beaten and assaulted. The victims were praised for appearing before the tribunal.


JIM LANDALE, INTERNATIONAL WAR CRIMES TRIBUNAL: There is a move, a trend in international humanitarian law to try these sorts of cases. And I and think pivotal to this case was the participation of the actual victims of the crimes. They had the bravery and the tremendous courage to come here to the tribunal to testify, and to sit in court facing their accused, and to tell their stories which were often extremely gruesome and very compelling.


SHAW: The three former Bosnian Serb soldiers received sentences ranging from 12 to 28 years in prison.

Following that accidental sinking of a Japanese ship by a United States submarine, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld plans to ban civilians from operating U.S. military equipment. The sub is now in dry dock for repair. Sixteen civilians were on board when the sub hit the Japanese ship while surfacing.

A crewmember on the sub says the civilians were a distraction. But the Navy says the civilians' presence did not contribute to the collision.

When Judy and I return: up close and personal. A candid conversation with senior White House adviser Karl Rove


SHAW: Of George W. Bush's top election campaign staff, strategist Karl Rove has made the most visible transition to the administration itself. As senior adviser to the president, Rove orchestrated Mr Bush's first six weeks.

Now he's responsible for selling the president's tax cut and other initiatives to the American people. This morning, at the Caucus Room restaurant here in Washington, Rove sat down for a cup of coffee with two of our political analysts: Charlie Cook and Stuart Rothenberg. They talked politics.


STUART ROTHENBERG, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Karl, tell us how you felt when you heard the Supreme Court's final decision about the vote count, and you knew that your guy, President Bush -- soon to be President Bush -- had won the election? How did you feel?

KARL ROVE, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE ADVISER: I was in my pajamas in a hotel in McLean, Virginia when the Supreme Court decision came on. And I was watching NBC. And the president-elect was in bed in Texas and called. And he was watching a different channel. And he said, "What's going on?" And I said,"Well this sounds like good news." And he was watching another channel that got the coverage wrong, and he said, "Well it sounds like bad news."

And this went on for about 10 minutes until we figured out that we were watching different channels. He turned to NBC with me and watched it, and then he said,"You know, I'm not certain what's going on. I'm going to call a lawyer."


ROVE: So -- so, that's how I found out.

And it was really the moment when he came into the chamber with our Democrat speaker, and with his wife and with our Republican lieutenant governor that it just sort of hit me that he was going to be president.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I, George Walker Bush, do solemnly swear.

ROVE: You know, the normal emotions that you have as a political consultant were colored by the fact that I'd known him for 27 years. So, you know, the kind of normal emotions I think you would have felt, of professional pride or of achievement, were all clouded over by the personal feelings toward him.

CHARLES COOK, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Next week, the president has his first address to Congress. He delivers a budget package the next day. How do you grab the attention and grab the focus and get your message across when it's clouded up by pardons and all these controversies like that?

ROVE: Well, I'm not certain it is clouded up. People sort of compartmentalize news. And a lot of this discussion about Clinton and his difficulties is all retrospective. That's all -- people classify that as then. They're concerned now about now and the future. So I don't see any difficulty at all.

I don't know if -- I should have brought it with me. I don't know if you saw the headlines from yesterday. The president was in -- was in Tennessee. The day before that he was in Ohio and in St. Louis. And, you know, the front pages of those newspapers and the evening news broadcasts in those towns had no mention of the other issues. I mean, the president dominated as the -- as any president does when he goes on the road to carry his message.

ROTHENBERG: But, Karl, you have to acknowledge that former President Clinton has gotten a good deal of attention -- not that he wanted this kind over the past few days.

ROVE: I would say a large amount of attention. I'm not certain I'd say a good deal.

ROTHENBERG: Okay, a large, a large amount. Does that make it easier or harder for President Bush? Is it harder to get his message out? On the other hand, is the comparison a favorable one, therefore positive for the president?

ROVE: I don't think it -- I mean, there is a limit to how much space there is in a newspaper. There's a limit on how much time in the evening news they're going to spend on something. But I think it's tended to crowd out other things, not what the president has been saying.

ROTHENBERG: Karl, if I could ask you two or three quick questions looking back toward the campaign.

ROVE: Sure.

ROTHENBERG: At the end of the campaign, the president spent some time in California and New Jersey. Now, with 20/20 hindsight, was that a mistake?

ROVE: No, he should have been in California. I'm convinced that, in California, we were much closer before Election Day than we were on Election Day. And the fact that we weren't as close on Election Day has everything to do with the calls, the premature calls made that evening. Calling the election, in essence, I think, dramatically drove down the turnout in California.

I know it anecdotally from -- within 10 minutes, our campaign chairman in California, Jerry Parsky, was calling me saying, "They're getting up and walking out of our phone banks." And an hour later he called me and said, "I'm getting reports from all around the state of people just leaving the lines."

COOK: Back in Philadelphia at the Republican Convention, you were telling us: "Look, Gore is going to get a bounce out of the Democratic Convention. We going to be even, maybe even behind." You know, so you expected that.

ROVE: By Labor Day. By Labor Day.

COOK: Coming out of Labor Day, you know, when it became clear that the Gore bounce wasn't evaporating immediately, what were you thinking about?

ROVE: Well, we never expected it to evaporate quickly. The bounce -- we expected to be behind by Labor Day and to have to fight our way back into the lead.

Now, we were helped -- we were hindered in that by some events. We were helped in that by some events. I think that one of the key turning points was the battle over the strategic petroleum reserve. Now, it was not a major issue of the campaign. But Gore coming out in favor of selling the strategic petroleum reserve after having dismissed it a year earlier...

COOK: It looked political.

ROVE: It looked -- it was another Elian Gonzalez thing. It looked overly political and reminded people of all of the things that they had in the way of concerns about -- and that built steadily to the debates and through the debates, where Bush exceeded expectations and Gore pursued a puzzling strategy at best.

COOK: I heard a number of times that you thought the 2000 election might be a realigning election, the way political scientists term it, a change in the dynamics between the parties. It doesn't look as if that happened. Why not?

ROVE: Well, elections are only seen as realigning in retrospect, not at the time. And we're still at the time. I would make the argument that there were signs and signals of a realignment taking place.

COOK: Well, what are those?

ROVE: Well, first of all, George W. Bush won 11.3 million more votes than the Republican ticket won in the 1996 election. That's only happened four times in the 20th century out of 50 opportunities for it to happen. Twenty-five elections, two major parties, they've only reached it in '52 for the Republicans, '72 for the Republicans, '76 for the Democrats, '84 for the Republicans. I mean, that's a pretty extraordinary swing of votes.

He got pretty dramatic movement among a series of groups in the electorate that have been historically Democrat in their orientation. He won an 18-point swing among people who live in small towns, a 13- point swing among people who live in rural America. And those were primarily more Democrat areas like West Virginia, where the Republican candidate for the presidency won it for the first time in an open race since 1928 -- and a 14-point swing among Latinos, which are a rapidly growing part of the American electorate. We gained seven points among union households in the face of an extraordinary effort by organized labor to turn out a strong vote for Gore.

Something is going on out there. And whether or not it's going to be a permanent change or a significant change is yet to be decided. But I think that seeds of it were set in this election, because Bush won. And by winning, Bush gains the opportunity over the next four years to affect policies that will either attract or repel voters.

COOK: At the same time, the popular vote has gone for Democrats in three consecutive elections. You've seen the suburban vote that used to be a base Republican vote. Now, the last three elections, Clinton won by two points, five points. You won by two points. But this is now a swing area.

ROVE: Right. And remember, the nature of those reliably Republican voters in the suburbs have changed. It's like Schaumburg, Illinois, that 20 years ago was white Anglo-Saxon Protestant. And today I think there are, like, four Muslim temples and Sikh temples in Schaumburg.

I mean it's -- the nature of our suburbs is changing. I mean, the suburbs are becoming more like cities, only newer. They are -- people are, you know, being able to -- businesses are being dispersed through our major urban areas, so people are still able to live close to where they work but to live in the suburbs.

And I think that the nature of the -- the changing nature of the suburbs is going to be something that both parties are going to have to grapple with. But this seven-point swing between '96 and 2000, and particularly among Latinos, and Muslims, and Asian-American, Pacific Islanders, is a pretty significant thing for the Republicans.


WOODRUFF: President Bush top adviser Karl Rove talking earlier today with Charlie Cook and Stu Rothenberg.

Coming up on INSIDE POLITICS: One week after an allied attack on Iraq, the United States is sending Secretary of State Colin Powell to the Middle East. We'll have a preview of his mission.


SHAW: U.S. jets patrolling no-fly zones in Iraq opened fire again today on Iraqi radar sites. The Pentagon says they were responding to antiaircraft fire in Iraq's northern no-fly zone.

Tomorrow, Secretary of State Colin Powell will head off on a whirlwind tour of the Middle East and the Persian Gulf, exactly one week after the United States and Britain carried out airstrikes near Baghdad.

CNN State Department correspondent Andrea Koppel reports Iraq will be at the top of his agenda.


ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As Secretary of State Colin Powell prepares to leave on his first diplomatic mission to the Middle East, a review of U.S. Policy toward Iraq is currently under way.

Among the range of options: regime change -- working to overthrow President Saddam Hussein, for example, by arming the Iraqi opposition, some of whom have been in Washington in recent days to ask for training and support.

AHMED CHALABI, IRAQI NATIONAL CONGRESS: I think we represent the collective will of the Iraqi people to produce democratic change in Iraq and overthrow the dictatorship and end the nightmare that Saddam has imposed on the Iraqi people.

KOPPEL: Another option: a looser form of containment -- that is, agreeing to lift all economic sanctions imposed by the United Nations while maintaining core financial controls and a military embargo.

GEOFFREY KEMP, THE NIXON CENTER: We should allow many more products to go into Iraq than are currently, technically permitted under the U.N. sanctions. But we should be very hard-nosed about weapons-transfers and any attempt to get rid of the escrow fund. KOPPEL: A third option: reenergizing existing U.N. sanctions by eliminating restrictions on travel and air flights into Iraq already routinely violated, while rebuilding a coalition within the Arab world, necessary to enforce the remaining sanctions. It is this option that Secretary Powell will try to sell during his Middle East meetings.

COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: We don't want to hurt the Iraqi people, but we don't want Saddam Hussein and his efforts to hurt the people of the region or to threaten the people of the region. And that's what it's all about.

KOPPEL: But in the Arab world these days, the only weapons most people are concerned about are the ones used by Israeli soldiers against Palestinians.

(on camera): As if the 10-year-old sanctions regime were not already unpopular among Arab states, the five-month-old Palestinian uprising has further hardened opposition, making Secretary Powell's task all the more difficult.

Andrea Koppel, CNN, the State Department.


WOODRUFF: British Prime Minister Tony Blair is scheduled to arrive at Andrews Air Force Base in about five hours. He has two days of meetings with President Bush. While Mr. Blair hopes to lay the foundation for a strong working relationship, he faces a few big challenges. CNN's Walter Rodgers has the story.


WALTER RODGERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Britain's prime minister Tony Blair has said he sees Britain as a bridge between the old world and the new. A friend of Russia's President Putin, Blair now wants to become George W. Bush's friend.

ROBERT SHRIMSLEY, "FINANCIAL TIMES": The British people, I think, sill consider America to be the country's greatest ally, and would frown upon a prime minister who didn't take that view, although inevitably, political development is continually pulling the U.K. closer and deeper into the European Union.

RODGERS: It is Mr. Blair's joint initiative with the French to create a new rapid reaction military force, independent of NATO, that worries the Bush administration; Washington fearing a decoupling of America from Europe.

ROBERT MCGEEHAN, UNIVERSITY OF LONDON: Certainly, what he'll have to explain in particular, is how he perceives the new European rapid reaction force, because this is seen by many in Washington as a very dangerous move.

RODGERS: U.S. presidents and British prime ministers have frequently been buddies. Reagan and Thatcher were soul mates. Clinton and Blair were so close, they jointly announced they had overcome the forces of conservatism. That may not play so well with Washington's new Mr. Conservative.

The Bush-Cheney team is committed to a national missile defense shield. And despite the traditional British-American special defense relationship, it's believed, on son of Star Wars, Blair will only be a reluctant participant.

MCGEEHAN: I think there's a fear that moving forward too quickly would do more harm than good, triggering an arms race, undermining the ABM Treaty, and so on. People who know about this, prefer a cautious approach.

RODGERS: Still, Britain points to the Anglo-U.S. airstrikes against Iraq as proof London stands with Washington against the world's bad guys, even amid growing British criticism of the Iraqi sanctions policy. These differences will likely be glossed over during the Blair-Bush meeting.

SHRIMSLEY: This trip is going to be a success, regardless of what it's like in private. One thing, you can absolutely be sure -- to quote a film phrase, "this is going to be the best Christmas ever," and it was.

RODGERS (on camera): Basically, Tony Blair is going to Washington to do some bonding, and the meeting will be a success because nothing will be attempted that cannot certainly be achieved. Walter Rodgers, CNN, London.


WOODRUFF: Coming up, the "Washington Post"'s Lloyd Grove joins us to talk about how the new president got up and close and personal with his home town last night. His new home town. INSIDE POLITICS will be right back.


SHAW: They have the hottest address in Washington. But with only a month in the White House, President and Mrs. Bush still aren't new in this town. Last night, the Bushes were formally introduced to the capital's "in" crowd, courtesy of Katherine Graham, former publisher and now chairman of the "Washington Post" Executive Committee. For more on the Bushes' coming out, we turn to "Washington Post" reporter Lloyd Grove.

Lloyd, does this kind of affair set a tone in this town?

LLOYD GROVE, "WASHINGTON POST": Yes, it absolutely does. Eight years ago, Mrs. Graham threw a similar kind of dinner for Bill Clinton, and basically, in his host, he said, thanks for dinner and you are not going to like me and he was right.

But the Bushes came to meet people, they were very friendly. It was just a very low-key affair. They were not larger than life. They were life-sized and people had a good time with them, and I think that helps in dealing with the substantive issues that President Bush has to face.

SHAW: Now, what does the guest list say about one-standing in Washington?

GROVE: Well, I wasn't there. I wasn't on the guest list. So that says something. But it's the American establishment, not just the Washington establishment. It was media people from New York: Diane Sawyer; Barbara Walters; Diane Sawyer's husband, Mike Nichols, the director; Bill Gates; Warren Buffett; so, it was a cross-section, aside from all of the usual suspects in Washington. Even your own Judy Woodruff was there.

SHAW: Yes, and Al Hunt from the "Wall Street Journal."

GROVE: Indeed.

SHAW: Tell me something. How helpful of is it for a new president, a new first lady -- to be able to sit around Katherine Graham's table and have the movers and shakers commanded by her invitation to be under the same roof?

GROVE: I think that it's very helpful. Of course, people are going to have disagreements when the substantive legislation begins, but it's very helpful to get to know people as human beings, and at least, you don't start questioning motives -- at least everybody's heart's is in the right place. That is the point of dinners like this.

SHAW: Katherine Graham; tell us about her. Here's a woman who won a Pulitzer Prize for writing her memoirs.

GROVE: Well, I'm sitting in Katherine Graham's news room, so I'm only going to say the best possible things. But I really think she is a great lady. I have worked for her for 20 years, and she runs a great newspaper; and it's because of her that this newspaper has done so well.

SHAW: And she commands my utmost respect and affection. One last quick question -- what does last night's dinner do for the president?

GROVE: I think that it -- to people who think that he didn't win, legitimately, I think it establishes himself as part of the Washington scene; and now he's a legitimate member of the Washington A-list.

SHAW: Lloyd Grove, "Washington Post" reporter. Thank you very much.

GROVE: Thank you.

SHAW: Quite welcome.

There's a lot more coming up here on INSIDE POLITICS. In our next half-hour, another day, another pardons controversy. We're going to have a closer look at some of the latest players in the story affecting the Clintons.


SHAW: New York's junior senator faces the news media, and says news her brother was connected to the pardon controversy came as a surprise.

WOODRUFF: Across town, the president has his own face-to-face with reporters and shares his thoughts on the pardon process.


SHAW: Our Bruce Morton takes a look at presidents and press conferences. Are these media sessions helpful or harmful, and does it just depend on the president?

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

WOODRUFF: The questions about presidential pardons that have dogged Bill Clinton since January 20 have taken a personal turn: his wife, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton held a news conference today at the capitol to answer questions about the ongoing controversy, which now includes her own brother and her Senate campaign treasurer.

CNN's national correspondent Eileen O'Connor has the latest.


EILEEN O'CONNOR, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Hillary Rodham Clinton says she learned just Monday night that her brother, Hugh Rodham, had been paid $400,000 to help along two clemency applications.

CLINTON: I was heartbroken and shocked by it; and, you know, immediately said this was a terrible misjudgment and the money had to be returned.

O'CONNOR: Sources say the former president also does not recall any conversations with his brother-in-law concerning the applications of Carlos Vignali Jr. for a commutation of his drug-related sentence, and that of Almon Glenn Braswell, a multimillionaire businessman who was granted a pardon while still under investigation by the U.S. attorney. Sources say the Justice Department was bypassed on the Braswell case and would have argued against it, as it had with the commutation of Vignali's sentence. Rodham did contact Bruce Lindsey, the former deputy White House counsel, about Vignali. But sources say Lindsey, too, did not know Rodham was being paid.

Senator Clinton admitted passing on information about pardons people had given her. But on another front, she denied knowing anything about clemency applications backed by the treasurer of her campaign, William Cunningham III, a lawyer. She said his involvement was proper, unlike her brother, another lawyer, but also a family member.

CLINTON: I know lawyers prepare and process pardon applications.

Please -- ask you to make a distinction between a gentleman with, you know, Mr. Cunningham's background and experience and my brother, who, you know, as a family member, should not have been involved in this situation.

O'CONNOR; As for the pardon of fugitive financier Marc Rich, she says, ask her husband.

CLINTON: I knew nothing about the Marc Rich pardon until after it happened.

O'CONNOR: And the former president is willing to answer some questions about that controversy by giving Republican Dan Burton's committee documents on Thursday relating to donations made by Denise Rich to the foundation for the Clinton library. According to the foundation's lawyer, David Kendall, it will not comply with a part of the subpoena asking for lists of all donors with pledges of more than $5,000, calling that intrusive and a "classic fishing expedition" in a letter to the committee.

Congressman Burton calls that unacceptable, saying in a statement: "Until President Clinton releases this information and waives all claims of privilege over the testimony of his former staff, this committee and the public will believe that he has something to hide."


O'CONNOR: Now, that's not the only subpoena the Clintons have to answer. Sources say that they have received another subpoena for those same donor lists from the U.S. attorney in New York, Mary Jo White, who is also investigating the Marc Rich pardon.

Such a grand jury subpoena may prove harder to fight on the grounds that it's intrusive, as grand jury proceedings are secret -- Bernie.

SHAW: Thank you, Eileen O'Connor.

President Bush was asked about the Clinton pardon issue today during his first White House news conference. Mr. Bush said, if he decides to grant pardons, he will have what he called, "the highest of high standards." And he said he is too busy to be concerned with Bill Clinton's pardon decisions.


BUSH: As far as this White House is concerned, it's time to go forward. I've got too much to do to get a budget passed, to get reforms passed for education, to get a tax cut passed, to strengthen military than to be worrying about decisions that my predecessor made. I understand there's going to be some people on Capitol Hill that are going to be asking questions; that's their right to do so. But I can assure you our White House is moving forward.


SHAW: When asked if he had any advice to his own family members if they decided to take a role in seeking pardons or exerting influence, Mr. Bush said his guidance would be, quote, "behave yourself."

The two men represented by Bill Clinton's brother-in-law, Hugh Rodham, were convicted cocaine trafficker Carlos Vignali and a man named Glenn Braswell, who was once convicted on tax evasion and fraud charges.

We will have more on Vignali in a moment; but first, CNN's Greg Clarkin reports Braswell may have received a pardon for his past conviction, but his legal problems are not over.


GREG CLARKIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Almon Glenn Braswell is a wealthy businessman who made his fortune selling vitamins and health remedies to fight everything from baldness to prostate problems. The presidential pardon excuses Braswell of mail fraud and perjury convictions from the early 1980s, but not his current legal problems.

Federal prosecutors in Los Angeles are investigating Braswell for what was described in a court document as a massive tax evasion and money-laundering scheme. Legal experts say granting a pardon to a felon under investigation is extremely rare, considering the pardons are usually reserved for individuals who have put their legal problems behind them.

RICHARD DAVIS, ATTORNEY: It sounds very much like there was a breakdown at the White House, in the sense that there was the desire to issue a large number of pardons at the very end of the administration, and therefore they did not take the time to have them all go through the Department of Justice in an orderly way.

CLARKIN: Braswell's convictions were tied to Gero Vita International, the mail-order health supplement and vitamin business he owns.

Doctor Stephen Barrett is a consumer watchdog who has followed Braswell's businesses for more than two decades.

STEPHEN BARRETT, CONSUMER ADVOCATE: I believe he's taken in more money selling mail-order health products with false claims than any other individual in history -- probably over $1 billion.

CLARKIN (on camera): Attempts to reach Braswell were unsuccessful. As for his mail-order businesses, Dr. Barrett said those companies were sending out more than 20 million solicitations a month at one point; and while the volume has dropped off, Barrett said those companies still remain very active in the health-related mail- order field.

Greg Clarkin, CNN financial news, New York. (END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Now, the other man whose prison commutation was sought by Senator Clinton's brother, Hugh Rodham. His name is Carlos Vignali.

CNN's Charles Feldman joins us now from Los Angeles.

Charles, first of all, tell us, who is Carlos Vignali and why were there so many powerful people trying to help him?

CHARLES FELDMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Carlos himself, of course, is no one of any great distinction except for the fact he was a convicted drug dealer.

But his father is a different story; Horatio Vignali is a very prominent Los Angeles businessman. He's somebody who, through the years, has given substantial amounts of money to various political parties and to various people running for political office. And so when the calls went out from the father, apparently, to various L.A. leaders, many of those, based on their knowing the father, interceded on his behalf and made phone calls to either the White House counsel or to others in order to see whether or not they can spring the younger Vignali out of prison.

WOODRUFF: Just to refresh everyone's memory, we're talking about his having contact at the Cardinal -- Roman Catholic cardinal of Los Angeles, the U.S. attorney there and many others.


WOODRUFF: I was going to say -- go ahead.

FELDMAN: I was going to say that, I mean, it clearly is having an affect on a lot of the politics of L.A. at the time, Judy. Because, as you just pointed out, at least two of the people that interceded are running for the office of mayor of Los Angeles. You have, of course, a high church official.

And perhaps the most significant, is you have the U.S. attorney for southern California, Alejandro Mayorkas. He's significant because he has admitted, in an interview with "The Los Angeles Times," which his office says he stands by -- he won't do any other interviews, he says -- that he made a call to the White House because of his knowing the senior Vignali even though, and this is the interesting thing, even though he told "The Times" he really didn't know much about the case. And even though he was aware that his counterpart, the U.S. attorney in Minneapolis, was clearly against having the younger Vignali released from prison any time sooner.

So it's interesting that he now says in "The L.A. Times" interview, and I quote, "I think in hindsight I should not have made that call to the White House" -- but that's all he wants to say about it.

WOODRUFF: All right, Charles Feldman joining us from Los Angeles; thanks very much.

And, coming up next on INSIDE POLITICS: Senator Clinton faces the heat; a rocky start for the Senate freshman gets rockier yet.



CLINTON: With respect to any of these decisions, you'll have to talk with people who were involved in making them; and that leaves me out. I don't know enough to answer your questions, and I don't want to say anything that leads you to believe that I either know something or don't know something, because I don't.


SHAW: New York Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton before reporters on the Hill today.

Joining us now: CNN senior analyst Jeff Greenfield in New York, and here in Washington, Robert Novak of the "Chicago Sun-Times."

Bob and Jeff, I'm going to put a basic question on the table -- Jeff, your response first. On the issue of pardons, who has the bigger problem, Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, or the Democratic Party?



GREENFIELD: No, I mean -- I don't know which one of them doesn't. If Clinton was obsessed the whole last year about his legacy -- reminds me of that thing that's on the tombstone, supposedly, of W.C. Fields: "On the whole, I'd rather be in Philadelphia."

Hillary Clinton's looking to establish herself as a credible political figure in New York -- new senator with national possibilities. I think -- my keen insight tells me this isn't the best way to do it. And the Democrats, you know, this is going to be (UNINTELLIGIBLE) leader; this was the guy who's supposed to go out and raise a fortune for them for their fight two years from now to take back the Congress.

So I don't know -- Bob may have a sense of who's hurt worse -- probably Hillary because she has more of a future, but it's bad news all the way around.

ROBERT NOVAK, "CROSSFIRE": I think Jeff is exactly right, and -- but the difference with the latest revelation of Hugh Rodham getting a cool 400 grand for getting involved in this pardon game -- for the first time, people who are really involved in the electoral process, political operatives that I talked to today in the Democratic Party are beginning to worry that this may have legs. It isn't just something that titillates Republicans and people in the media for a few weeks -- but this may have legs affecting the 2002 election. They are really worried about the long-term impact on the Democratic Party. Not so much that it is obscuring a legislative agenda on the Hill -- that isn't something people pay attention to, anyway, but -- excuse me -- but rather, that it gives a very, very unpleasant image for the whole party.

SHAW: Jeff, as you think about these pardons, the former president's actions, the words of the former first lady today on the Hill, what questions are uppermost in your mind?

GREENFIELD: Well, I want -- I'm going to answer that by shifting it a little bit. One of the questions is -- that I'm fascinated by is how interesting -- it's almost like the days of court, in the days of royalty, how quickly your protection, if you do something questionable, disappears when you no longer have power. I mean, I think one of the reasons why people in the Democratic Party and even some in the press are so willing to come down so hard on the Clintons is the Clintons don't have the kind of power they had two months ago. There are no state dinners to be invited to, there are no leaks, there are no access issues that the president -- the former president -- can control.

And when you strip that away, boy, you can see what happens; when you are without power in a political community and you do something that calls you into question, you know, you look around for your friends and it's -- they ain't there.

SHAW: Bob, any burning questions on this matter?

NOVAK: Yes, I have a lot of questions. I'd like to know what went on behind the scenes. I'd like to really know if, indeed, that Hugh Rodham never told his sister, Senator Clinton about this -- the fact that she's never talked to him since this came up -- was made public.

But I'd really like to know the conversations that went on between the president and Jack Quinn and other people. We'll never know that, Bernie, because this president has gotten away with things -- the former president, I should say -- has gotten away with things dating back to Whitewater. He just -- he stonewalls and there's no way of finding out about it.

SHAW: Rapid change of subject, the 43rd president holding his first news conference today. Impressions?

NOVAK: Well, he's not Bill Clinton, I'll tell you that. He...

SHAW: What does that mean?

NOVAK: He's not very swift on his answers, he's not very interesting, he doesn't give detailed answers, he's very unresponsive to questions. I think he's about the most unresponsive -- that was one of the least communicative press conferences I've ever heard.

So does that hurt him much? I don't know. These press conferences are not for the entertainment of me and Jeff, they're for -- to get out his message, and I guess he got that out.

SHAW: Jeff?

GREENFIELD: Well, in fact, you know, one of the breaks that George W. Bush got is that, had it not been that the press was in full feeding frenzy on both Clinton fronts, he said something early in the press conference -- I don't want to make too much of it -- but he said in response to the case of the FBI agent, he said, I'm pleased they caught the spy. And so about 15 minutes later he realized he was supposed to say, "alleged spy." Now, I remember Nixon getting into a lot of trouble back in the '70s for calling Charles Manson guilty before the trial.

That's the sort of thing that a press corps focused on in a new president's first press conference, fairly or not, might have seized on as, ah-hah, he doesn't you're innocent until proven guilty. In the context of what was going on today with Hugh Rodham and Hillary Clinton's campaign treasurer and Bill Clinton still trying to explain himself, that, I think, will pass absolutely unnoticed.

So I keep coming back to the major point that if George Bush said at the very first moment of his press conference, I'm here to change the tone -- and I think Bill Clinton has done more to help George W. Bush make that argument than anything George W. Bush has done.

SHAW: Jeff Greenfield in New York; Bob Novak here in Washington; thanks very much, as always.

And still ahead here on INSIDE POLITICS: the good, the bad, the ugly -- a look at presidents and their news conferences.

First, CNN's Willow Bay has a preview of what's coming up on "MONEYLINE" -- Willow.


Coming up on "MONEYLINE," the very latest on the Clinton pardon controversy. And we'll take a close look at one publication out in front on this story and others, the "National Enquirer"; sure, it breaks news, but does it make money? Plus, tech stocks tumble again; and then after the bell, more bad news. One of Wall Street's leaders says it will disappoint on profits. We'll prepare you what could be another rocky day tomorrow. "MONEYLINE" at the bottom of the hour.

INSIDE POLITICS continues in just a moment.


WOODRUFF: One of the most important relationships presidents have is with the news media. And a big part of that relationship is the presidential news conference. A few hours ago, Mr. Bush held his first one. And he will have many more.

Our Bruce Morton now takes a look at how other presidents have handled that chore.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Questions for the prime minister?

BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The British House of Commons has question time, where members, friendly and opposition, can question the prime minister.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does the prime minister agree with the chancellor, who thinks that the working family's tax credit, this massively expensive scheme, will help to eradicate poverty, or with my hard-working constituent, who knows that it has made it impossible for her problems to be solved?

MORTON: Spared such direct confrontations, American presidents face White House press conferences. Franklin Roosevelt enjoyed them, held lots. But you couldn't quote him directly, only paraphrase what he said. Dwight Eisenhower first allowed microphones and cameras. This is the Indian Treaty Room in the Executive Office Building next door to the White House.

But the White House checked what the president had said before releasing the tape and film. John Kennedy held the first press conferences televised live.




MORTON: Some presidents thought press conferences were. Richard Nixon held very few, as did Ronald Reagan. Are they useful: to presidents, to voters?

BILL PLANTE, CBS NEWS: They're very helpful to any president, because they force him to organize his thoughts about the questions he knows will be asked.

JODY POWELL, FMR. W.H. PRESS SECY.: One of the things that happens is that each agency is directed to come up with a list of possible questions and answers for the president's briefing material. That has the bracing effect of causing the agency to step back, examine itself, take a look at the problems and issues that perhaps they might just as well not have had the White House or the president know about, and decide how they will deal with them.

ANN COMPTON, ABC NEWS: It makes a president have to justify what he's doing and why he's doing it. Now, he can go out and give speeches, but it's not the same as being asked to really specifically explain why something is going on.

POWELL: It is helpful in communicating with the public. But it really is most helpful in communicating with a much smaller set of people, the opinion leaders, the people who help form and shape opinion, both here in Washington and all across the country. MORTON: Some presidents have used them well, some badly. Thursday, in the White House briefing room, it was the new man's turn.

BUSH: Oh, you don't want to see me once a week. You'll run out of questions. Oh, twice? I'll be running out of ties.


MORTON: Bruce Morton, CNN, Washington.


SHAW: And INSIDE POLITICS will be right back.


WOODRUFF: Before we leave you, we want to bring you up to date on a story, a weather-related story affecting this Capital City. A snowstorm incited a frantic rush from Washington today. And disaster struck on a major freeway leading south.

Shortly after 1:00 this afternoon, more than 100 vehicles were involved in a sliding, skidding collision on Interstate 95, just about 40 miles south of Washington. At least one person died. And 15 were taken to hospitals. Two tractor trailer trucks burst into flames. And a traffic jam stretched for 30 miles back toward the capital.

At this hour, authorities continue to try to clear the wreckage. And parts of I-95 south remain closed. Here in the Washington area, numerous multivehicle pileups are being blamed on slippery roads, leaving many commuters stuck as they try to reach home.

And we'll find out shortly for ourselves.

SHAW: Yes.

And that's all for this edition of INSIDE POLITICS. But, of course, you can go online all the time at CNN's, AOL keyword: CNN.

WOODRUFF: And this programming note: Former New York Republican Senate candidate Rick Lazio and Democratic Congressman Marty Meehan will be discussing the Clinton pardon controversy tonight on "CROSSFIRE." That's at 7:30 p.m. Eastern.

I'm Judy Woodruff.

SHAW: And I'm Bernard Shaw.

"MONEYLINE" is next.



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