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Inside Politics

Vice President Cheney Leaves the Hospital; President Bush Goes on the Road to Promote Tax Cuts

Aired March 6, 2001 - 5:00 p.m. ET


ANNOUNCER: Live from Washington, this is INSIDE POLITICS with Judy Woodruff.

Vice President Cheney leaves the hospital, trailed by questions about his health and ability to serve.

As the president keeps promoting tax cuts, we'll look at bottom line for families and for Democrats.

And, on this day after the California school shooting, the search for solace, answers, and a different kind of political debate.


SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: This is not about the right to own guns. It's about being responsible once you do.


JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you for joining us.

His clogged artery has been cleared. He is out of the hospital, and now, Vice President Dick Cheney is back at home. As he prepares to return to work, Cheney may have political recovery on his mind, given the drumbeat of questions about his heart condition.

We begin our coverage of Cheney's health with our senior White House correspondent John King.


JOHN KING, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The vice president thanked his lead doctor and headed home from the hospital. And the president welcomed word his point-man would soon be back at the office

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This country needs his wisdom and judgment, and he's the kind of man who listens carefully to his body, and he is not going to put himself in a position where he gets very sick. Any time there is any doubt as to whether or not he needs to see a doctor, he will see a doctor.

KING: In a statement, the White House said EKG and cardiac enzyme tests were normal, meaning no new heart attack and no work restrictions were placed on the vice president.

But it was another reminder that a man the president relies on for so much has a history of serious heart disease. Cheney is 60 years old, has suffered four year attacks over a 23-year span, and had quadruple artery bypass surgery in 1988.

Monday's angioplasty was to reopen an artery that had been operated on after his most recent heart attack last November.

DR. STUART SEIDES, CARDIOLOGIST: I think that there is a high likelihood, no one can ever say a certainty, but a high likelihood that there may be recurrent events that additional procedures may be required, and the degree to which that punctuates his term in office, and the degree to which that punctuates or effects the management of the current administration, nobody can say for certain.

KING: On a typical day, the vice president exercises for 30 minutes before work on a stationary bike or elliptical trainer, arrives at the White House to join the president for a 7:30 a.m. national security briefing. The days are crowded with back-to-back meetings to plan and sell the Bush agenda, and the vice president tends to leave the White House and head home about 7:00.

Selling the Bush tax cut has been one major Cheney task, and there is a key house vote on Thursday.

SCOTT REED, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: The good news is for Republicans, all these building blocks are in place and the agenda is moving forward, and so if he has to take some time now, it's not going to derail things.


KING: In the hours after being released, we're told the vice president went home to the vice president's official residence, checked up on some renovations being done there, helped his wife Lynne unpack some boxes. The Cheneys moved in just last week. Placed a few phone calls to friends to say he was feeling fine, first lady Laura Bush stopped by for a little tea. Soon after she left, the vice president retired to his study and sent top here aides an e-mail, says he'll be at work first thing tomorrow -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: John, even though they are saying that his recovery is coming along as would be expected, this seems like a fast return to work. Was there any pressure on him to come back tomorrow?

KING: No pressure at all. In fact, I spoke to senior officials here this morning who said it would be fine with the president and the top staff if the vice president decided he wanted to take the rest of the week off, perhaps come back on Monday.

It's a difficult political balance. They know that if he comes in tomorrow morning, as he now plans, some will say he's rushing thing. They also know that if he stayed home for a few days, others might question whether this was more serious and whether he had the stamina to compete for the job. The vice president says he wants to come to work and deal with it. And he says his doctors have told him that it's not the work that affects him. He has a serious heart condition. He may have to go back for more treatment in the future, but it is not linked to stress or to working long hours, he says. It's just simply a condition he's had for some time and has to deal with.

WOODRUFF: All right, John King reporting from the White House. Thanks.

This latest hospitalization puts more pressure on the vice president to tell all about any future incidents as quickly as possible. CNN's Candy Crowley has more on Cheney's health and the matter of disclosure.


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The White House, the doctors, the patient all say things are OK. The worrisome part is that's pretty much what they always say when the powerful are less than healthful.

ROBERT DALLEK, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Presidents, vice presidents cannot show weakness. You must not be seen as incapable of performing your duties, and so what you have got to do is put up the boldest front possible and say, well, my health is fine.

CROWLEY: There is no evidence that Dick Cheney is anything other than fine, but it is what they said in November.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He sounded really strong, and informed me that as a precautionary measure, he went into the hospital. He was feeling chest pains, and it turns out that subsequent test, blood tests and the initial EKG showed that he had no heart attack.


CROWLEY: As it turns out, Cheney did suffer a mild heart attack in November, though initially Bush was told otherwise. The confusion and Cheney's refusal to release all medical data has created a suspicion that's also fueled by history.

Grover Cleveland had jaw cancer. John F. Kennedy had Addison's disease. Ronald Reagan nearly died in the hours after he was shot. Vice presidential candidate Tom Eagleton was taken off the McGovern ticket in 1972 when it was disclosed he'd undergone electroshock treatment for depression. And the late Paul Tsongas ran for president as a cancer survivor, but later had a recurrence of cancer, which eventually killed him.

History is full of presidents and politicians who lied about, hid, or only partially disclosed some very serious health problems. DALLEK: Well, I think there is a feeling if you show that you have some kind of a limitation, that the public will -- the impulse of the public will be to reject your leadership; that you are going to lose your credentials, so to speak, as an effective leader.

CROWLEY: Bill Bradley had a minor heart condition that flared during his presidential campaign. For a day or two, the story overtook his campaign and obliterated his message.

ERIC HAUSER, FORMER BILL BRADLEY AIDE: In our case, and I think it is often the case, much more is made of the issue than medically is warranted. Bill Bradley is healthy as a horse, was, is. His minor heart condition had no effect on the campaign, and so forth. So you are reluctant in some ways to get into an issue that more gets made of than should.

CROWLEY: When Bradley's problem recurred, his campaign did not disclose the event until it was asked by a reporter. The cost them another day of questions about whether they were being forthcoming.


CROWLEY: Dick Cheney comes to office at a time when keeping even the tiniest details of his health record private may no longer be politically viable. Over the years, reporters have become increasingly aggressive, and vice presidents have become increasingly more important -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Candy, they acknowledge openly, as they must, the vice president has a heart problem, has a history of heart problems, why not release all this information?

CROWLEY: Well, you know, there is a problem with the privacy. There's always -- I mean, we are talking about the most private things that happen, and they usually happen between a doctor and a patient.

And there is a feeling certainly with this president, and with this vice president, obviously, that some things ought to remain private. But you know, countering that, of course, is -- this is a public figure who has a very -- no one forced into running as vice president, who has a very important job, and the public has a right to know.

Just those little details that maybe health reporters might look at and say, well, here's what this means, but as yet, they haven't been convinced of that.

WOODRUFF: Is his absence even for a day or two having affect on the administration, other than obvious concern for his health?

CROWLEY: Well, I think, you know, when you have the president out pushing his budget plan -- and what we're leading with, of course, on this show is that Dick Cheney has been released from the hospital, that in itself is a problem.

WOODRUFF: All right, Candy Crowley. We want you to stick around, because we have another important story that we're going to talk about in just a minute.

But now, we are joined by CNN senior analyst Jeff Greenfield. Jeff, how much pressure is there on the vice president right now to put those medical records out there?

JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SENIOR ANALYST: Well, I think there's more pressure because of the history in this particular case. If you look back to when Dick Cheney was selected as George Bush's running mate, it's very clear that they were far less than forthcoming. They did not put out the kind of information Candy just alluded to that would have allowed health reporters to look and make an independent judgment.

All those statistics on cholesterol, triglycerides, injection fractions, all that stuff that for you and I might not mean much, but to a doctor or a health reporter would mean a lot. And because of this constant lowballing that all White Houses and politicians do -- the fact that he's now been in the hospital a second time since the election I think puts a lot of pressure on us to say, look, you've got to not raise a credibility issue, especially as part of an administration that is trying to draw a contrast in honesty and openness with the last one.

WOODRUFF: Well, is there a way, Jeff, given their privacy concerns, where they could put some information out and then keep other information back? Say, release all the heart-related information?

GREENFIELD: Of course. That's why the privacy issue, while it's in general legitimate, is really a non-starter in this case.

If you were to draw a graph, and try to figure out what belongs in the privacy part of anybody's health records and what doesn't, the capacity of somebody to do a job is as close to a no-brainer as you can get. That's the kind of thing the public must have a right to know, particularly given the history Candy cold us about, of presidents and candidates who have been -- let's be polite -- less than candid. I mean, Franklin Roosevelt ran for a fourth term when everybody who looked at him knew he couldn't live out the year. John Kennedy's Addison's disease was hidden from the public.

So that in this case, it's not like some kind of private, personal matter that's none of the public's business. This is the definition of what the public's business is.

WOODRUFF: And, Jeff, you know, we all talk about how unusual Cheney is -- that he plays such an extraordinarily important role in this administration. Does it make a difference if someone at his level is away for a few days?

GREENFIELD: Well, you know, I -- I always think that people in power tend to exaggerate their indispensability. But the broader question, if I may, is that -- that if a generation ago somebody told you the vice president had a health problem, the general response of the public would be vice president who? But over the last 25 years there's been a sea change in what the vice president means. And in this administration, maybe it's because George Bush is our first MBA president, you've got, in a sense, a chief operating officer. And so the whole image of the Bush administration, which has been, I think, enhanced by, again, the contrast with how the Clinton administration began. As opposed to this dorm room all-night seminar, you've got a smooth, on-time, efficient operation.

The fact that the second-in-command, which is what Dick Cheney is, may have a health issue, is a more serious issue than it would be in a -- in, say, an administration from 30 years ago.

WOODRUFF: All right. Jeff Greenfield in New York. Thanks very much.


WOODRUFF: And now we want to follow up on a controversy that arose during the 2000 presidential campaign which some had dubbed "Debategate." Today a federal grand jury in Texas indicted an employee of the Bush campaign's primary media consultant. The charges stem from the release of the Bush camp's debate preparation material to a political ally of Al Gore. CNN's Jonathan Karl joins us with that story -- Jonathan?

JONATHAN KARL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Judy, as you well remember, that was one of the great mysteries of campaign 2000. When, in the heat of the fall campaign on September 13th, a tape containing 60 minutes's worth of George W. Bush's debate preparation session and 120 pages of debate preparation materials landed on the doorstep of Tom Downey, who was the person in charge of preparing Al Gore for the upcoming debates against George W. Bush, suddenly appeared.

Now, this prompted investigation. It prompted charges and countercharges. If you remember, there were suggestions from the Bush campaign and from republicans that democrats had actually somehow gotten into their offices, the offices of Mark McKinnon, their media consultant, and sent these tapes off to Downey. There were countercharges from the democrats that somehow that the Bush campaign did this as effort to set Downey up and to set the Gore campaign up.

Well, now the mystery seems to be a step closer to being resolved. The person indicted is Yvette Lozano, who was an employee of Maverick Media, the company run by Mark McKinnon, the top media consultant for George W. Bush.

Lozano, 30 years old, was a junior member of the staff there, not somebody of authority within the Maverick Media, but she has been charged with three counts, including mail fraud, false statements to the FBI, and committing perjury before the grand jury that's been investigating this matter. If convicted on all these charges, Lozano could face up to 15 years in prison and $750,000 fine.

Now, as you remember, there were these charges that if Lozano was involved, that somehow the Bush campaign was also involved as an effort to say ha ha, the Gore campaign's got this tape. They did this in an effort to set them up. Well, this indictment specifically says that neither the Bush campaign nor Maverick Media had anything to do with this.

Quoting from the indictment, it says -- quote -- "defendant Lozano would and did conceal her activity from Maverick Media, the Bush campaign, and others." As a matter of fact, what the indictment does is it portrays Maverick Media, Mark McKinnon's company, as the victim in this case, not as a coconspirator.

Now, that said, Judy, you also remember when this was going on back during the campaign and in the days afterwards, that Mark McKinnon stood by Lozano, said that she had absolutely nothing to do with this, compared her to Richard Jewell, who, of course, was charged with the Olympic Park bombing case only to later to be exonerated. This was the situation.

They are still standing by her to some extent. You know, Lozano was at Bush campaign headquarters on election night. They've stood by her all along. I've spoken to several people who were involved in the Bush campaign and Maverick Media who say they knew this was coming because they knew the grand jury was gearing up for something.

But they are still surprised, and one person very close to Lozano at Maverick Media told me: You know, it looks bad, but we're all human. And she told us that we -- that she had nothing to do with this, and until I see firm evidence, I'm going to believe her. That said, looking at the indictment, veterans of the Bush campaign believe that they may have been wrong all along about this -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right. Jon Karl, reporting from the Capitol here in Washington. Thanks very much, Jon.

Now, I want to bring back our senior political correspondent Candy Crowley, who of course, covered the Bush campaign throughout the election year.

Candy, so evidently, what was going on is she just wanted to help Al Gore, or was she hoping to catch the Gore campaign in some theft of Bush debate preparation?

CROWLEY: Well, one must assume that right now she's still saying that she didn't do it, which is what she told the Bush campaign and Maverick Media all along. And it remains unclear whether she acted alone, or whether someone on the Democratic side, or some other Republican said, you know, let's do this.

So, the motivation is unclear, whether it was simply to help the vice president -- that's what the indictment seems to indicate -- that that was her motivation. But more than that, for the Bush people -- while this is a disappointment, because they did, from Karen Hughes on down, say that they believed in Lozano's innocence and felt that she was being framed in the Richard Jewell scenario.

That -- while this is not a wonderful thing to happen, at the time there was talk that perhaps Mark MacKinnon, the chief media consultant, was working -- that somehow he was involved, and somehow Karl Rove was involved.

WOODRUFF: He is a former Democrat, MacKinnon.

CROWLEY: He is a former Democrat. So, you know, it could have been much bigger, and all along the Bush campaign also said -- now we have a clip from late September -- said that there was just no way that could happen in the Bush campaign.


KAREN HUGHES, BUSH COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: I can assure you that any implication that any senior member of the Bush campaign would have been interested in helping Al Gore prepare for his debate is just ridiculous.

These are my friends and colleagues, these are the people I've worked with tirelessly for three years almost now to -- from the -- I date that back to the first time the governor had a press conference when he was asked about running for president.

We have worked tirelessly since that time to help elect him president, and I can assure you that none of our senior campaign team officials are interested in helping Al Gore prepare for his debate with Governor Bush.


CROWLEY: So, while this is perhaps a blow to have Lozano be indicted, and it does appear -- given the specificity of this indictment, that they do have the goods. While it's a blow to the Bush White House, because they did believe -- in particular Maverick Media -- the fact that, you know, the higher-ups have apparently been completely exonerated from this has got to be a big plus. But as you saw, they never actually doubted it.

WOODRUFF: They have to be deeply, deeply -- feeling deeply, deeply betrayed by this?

CROWLEY: Yes, absolutely.

WOODRUFF: All right, Candy Crowley, thanks very much. I appreciate it.

The nation asks, "Why?" A day after another deadly school shooting, the latest in a live report from Santee, California coming up on INSIDE POLITICS.


WOODRUFF: The community of Santee, California is searching for answers now in a school shooting that has left two students dead and 13 people wounded. Authorities describe the 15-year-old suspect in yesterday's attack as "an angry young man." Charles Andrew Williams is accused of sneaking a gun into Santana High School in his backpack, and randomly firing on everyone around him. The high school freshman will now face murder and weapons charges as an adult. CNN national correspondent Frank Buckley joins us live from the school campus in Santee near San Diego -- Frank.

FRANK BUCKLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Judy, a difficult day here in Santee, California. Community leaders saying this is a community in mourning. Evidence of that right here in front of Santana High School, where you can see a scene that we have been taking a look at throughout the day, with the students, faculty members, members of the community coming here to a makeshift memorial to put down flowers, to just be with each other, to talk about what happened here.

Meanwhile, their classmate, Charles Andrew Williams, the suspect in this case, remains in custody. He will be arraigned tomorrow on murder charges as an adult. Investigators today said that they believe he fired some 30 rounds and reloaded a 22-caliber revolver four times. One of the victims in the shooting today told CNN what he experienced.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He comes out facing the door, like still in the bathroom, and he started shooting out. And that's when I got hit and I just fell to the ground, and everybody else was carried away.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you say him aim at you?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Tell me about that. Tell me about that moment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Like, I didn't like see him; I just basically saw the gun pointing around and I saw it like going off and the flashing of it. And it was very scary.


BUCKLEY: Two students, Brian Zuckor and Randy Gordon were killed. 13 other people were wounded in the shooting, and yet, today, authorities said it could have been worse.


LT. JERRY LEWIS, SAN DIEGO COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPT.: When our detectives recovered the weapon, the weapon was fully loaded, with eight rounds and the hammer was cocked. Based on that information, it is our belief that the quick response and the quick actions of the deputy sheriffs and the off-duty San Diego police officers, by their quick actions and response they were able to prevent further individuals from being shot.


BUCKLEY: Despite all of the shootings that have occurred here and what this community has experienced, this is a community that says it is determined to move forward. Evidence of that a few moments ago here at the school. The school opening up to at least the teachers who have all gone back to their classrooms. At 5:00 locally here, they will also open up the campus to reporters and photographers to go in and get a firsthand look at the campus, and then tomorrow morning, at 9:25 a.m., the campus will open for another school day.

The principal telling me they'll devote the entire day to allowing students to talk about what they experienced and talk about what they're feeling throughout the day. Counselors will be tasked to each classroom to help them discuss what they're experiencing -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Frank Buckley reporting from Santee, in southern California.

A question that arises from this incident: will this latest school shooting spur a new push for gun control on Capitol Hill? CNN senior political analyst Bill Schneider joins us from Los Angeles -- Bill.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Judy, don't bet on any new gun control legislation coming out of Washington this year. These days, both parties have become gun control shy. Why? Because the gun movement has been showing its muscle at the polls.


SCHNEIDER (voice-over): After Columbine, there was enormous public pressure for gun control legislation. Remember last year's Million Mom March?.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We will not tolerate the fact that there are more regulations protecting our children from their teddy bears than from handguns!

SCHNEIDER: But in the end, a bill that would have required background checks for buyers at gun shows never got out of Congress. The last significant gun control measures to make it through Congress were the Brady Bill in 1993 and the Assault Weapons Ban in 1994. And Democrats saw what happened to them in 1994.

Don't most Americans support stricter gun control measures? They do. And when the people are given the chance to vote on tougher gun laws, they often pass. Just like they did last year in Colorado and Oregon. But these days, despite appalling school shootings, it's the gun control advocates who are running scared. Al Gore rarely talked about gun control during the campaign last year. And when he did, he was very cautious.

AL GORE, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: All of my proposals are focused on that problem: gun safety. None of my proposals would have any effect on hunters or sportsmen or people who use rifles.

SCHNEIDER: Democrats have to deal with gun control the way Republicans deal with abortion: don't threaten to take anyone's rights away.

SCHUMER: I'm not calling for new gun laws or more gun prosecutions. But if you are a family that owns a gun, and after all that we have seen and witnessed over the last several years, you are still not keeping that gun locked up. It's time for you to wake up and start acting responsibly.

SCHNEIDER: Even Handgun Control Incorporated, the leading gun control organization is planning to change its name to something less threatening.

Democrats have learned not to rile gun owners. There are a lot of them: nearly half the voters in last year's election had a gun in the household.

But what about the 60 percent of voters who favored stricter gun laws? They voted for Gore: 62 percent. But they got trumped by opponents of stricter gun laws, who were fewer in number, but who voted even more solidly, 74 percent, for Bush.


SCHNEIDER: What makes the gun movement so strong isn't numbers. In a straight vote count, like a referendum, gun supporters can be beaten. The key to their power is intensity. They vote the gun issue, and make politicians pay a price. Gun control advocates just don't do that with the same ferocious intensity -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: So, Bill, why don't people who support gun control just give up? I mean, what keeps them going if the odds are so stacked against them politically?

SCHNEIDER: What keeps them going is outrage, outrage over events like we saw here in California yesterday. Outrage that this epidemic of gun violence seems out of control. Outrage that children can get their hands on guns. Every time something like that happens, the outrage pours out. They put pressure on politicians, but unlike the gun owners, they rarely sustain it right through Election Day.

WOODRUFF: All right, Bill Schneider, thank you very much.

There is much more ahead on this edition of INSIDE POLITICS. Still to come, the president visits the trading floor, to sell his economic vision of tax cuts. Plus:


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It kills me to say that I like the Republican plan! but he does,

SNOW: But he does, because when the president's overall plan, when it's fully phased in, would help more.


WOODRUFF: Kate Snow with a dollars and cents view of how the Bush plan would help families.

And later, Louisiana's Democratic senior senator, on the president's effort to sell his plan to America.

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

That big nor'easter is pounding parts of New England this hour. Big waves, high winds, and blowing snow have slammed coastal areas all day long. Flooding chased some people inland. Heavy snow has fallen on parts of upstate New York and the states to the north, and a blizzard warning was posted today in Maine.


WOODRUFF: The recording industry is hailing the latest big setback for Napster. A federal judge says that once notified by record companies, Napster will have only 72 hours to block copyrighted songs from being downloaded from its Internet site. However, some experts say the ruling gives Napster time to launch a service that would pay royalties to the artists and record labels.

A judge in Arkansas has voided the controversial adoption of twin baby girls by a couple in Wales, and the judge has recommended that the girls be returned to the United States from Britain. The adoption was arranged over the Internet, after the twins had been placed with a couple in California. The California couple is seeking custody, and the girls' biological mother says she wants them back. The next move is up to officials in Britain, where the girls are under the care of the state.

When INSIDE POLITICS returns, the president's tax cut plan, and two families with very different views on his proposal.


WOODRUFF: President Bush took his message to Chicago today, extolling the economic virtues of his tax plan on the crowded floor of the Chicago mercantile exchange. The president's visit also included lunch with that city's staunchly Democratic mayor, Richard Daley.

Major Garrett is on the road with Mr. Bush, and he joins us now from Chicago -- Major.

MAJOR GARRETT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Judy. The president came to the Chicago Mercantile Exchange because White House aides believed the imagery of a trading floor where trillions of dollars of stocks and assets and other financial vehicles are trading on a daily basis would reinforce the president's message about the importance of economic growth. And the president told the traders on the floor here that they know all too well that all is not well with the U.S. economy.


BUSH: We're facing a problem. And the problem is our economy is slowing down. You all know that as well as anybody does. This kind of great boom is beginning to sputter a little bit, and the question that you need to be asking the president is "What do you intend to do about it, Mr. President?" (END VIDEO CLIP)

GARRETT: One thing the president tends to do about it is lobby aggressively for House passage of his entire tax cut. He brought Illinois House Democrat Bill Lipinski. Last year, Mr. Lipinski voted to repeal the marriage tax penalty and the estate tax, and the White House hopes that he will vote for Mr. Bush's across-the-board tax cut in a crucial House vote on Thursday.

In his remarks, the president also said that his budget pays down the government's debt, but it also allows millions of Americans to wrestle with their own consumer debt.


BUSH: There's some debt all right at the national level, and there's plenty of debt on the consumers of America. I bet you've got friends, and maybe yourself, that understand what it means to have credit card debt, and when you couple that with high energy bills, there are some people beginning to feel pinched.


GARRETT: The White House is closely monitoring the vote count in the House. House leaders have told the White House they can expect almost unanimous support from House Republicans for that first part of the Bush tax cut, and as many as six House Democrats. But the White House is still working on six other Democrats, hoping to gain as much of a bipartisan support in the House for that bill as they can -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right, Major Garrett reporting from Chicago, thanks

Well, Democrats have their own tax cut proposal as an alternative to the president's plan. To find out how the plans measure up in actual dollars, Kate Snow talked taxes with two American families.


KATE SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Monday nights, 4- year-old Olivia has dance class. She's the big sister. The baby is 9-month-old Ben.

The Galias live in suburban Pittsburgh. Together, they make in the mid-50s. Donna teaches preschool. Marty knows something about taxes. He happens to work at the IRS. He's also a staunch Democrat.

MARTY GALIA, FATHER: It kills me to say that I like the Republican plan.


SNOW: But he does, because for his family, the president's overall plan, when it's fully phased in, would help more. We asked accounting firm DeLoitte & Touche to run the numbers. Right now, the Galias pay $4,406 in taxes. But watch what happens when the Republican tax rate cut, marriage penalty relief and an expanded child tax credit are added in, all part of the president's overall plan. By 2006, the Galias would save nearly $2,000, far more than the 760 they'd save in 2003, when the Democratic alternative is fully implemented.

Both Donna and Marty say they favor the Bush plan because it gives them more to save or spend.

DONNA GALIA, MOTHER: For us actually right now, using that money is like a vacation coming up. So it's not something that I think we certainly would like need for monthly bills or to live day-to-day.

SNOW: But it would help day-to-day for Lisa Arrington, a single mom in Baltimore making in the mid-20s.

LISA ARRINGTON, MOTHER: Right now I'm living paycheck to paycheck, and a lot of the money that's being taken out for taxes I could really use it.

SNOW: Her youngest dreams of going to Harvard University. Her oldest is almost college age now. Arrington says she tries to save, but it's hard, even with a new job as a medical technician.

Currently, Arrington would get a refund of $1,233. Once the president's plan is fully phased in, five years from now, Arrington would gain almost $400. But the Democratic alternative does even more, adding more than $600 to her refund in just three years time. That's about the size of an extra paycheck.

ARRINGTON: I get paid twice a month, and I really have to juggle make ends meet top buy food, the kids always need money for something. Household products, and the cost of living is really high.

SNOW: Arrington favors the Democrats' tax cut not just because she'd do better personally, but because, she says, people with higher incomes should be paying higher taxes.

(on camera): In a way, Arrington personifies the Democratic argument, that tax cuts should be targeted at lower income Americans. The Galia's illustrate the Republican view that tax breaks for families will spur spending. As the political debate heats up, both families will be watching.

Kate Snow, CNN, Capitol Hill.


WOODRUFF: Well, what sort of reception will the Bush tax cut plan receive in the U.S. Senate? Ahead on INSIDE POLITICS, a Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee gives us some idea. Stay with us.


WOODRUFF: More now on President Bush's proposed tax cut plan. I talked yesterday with Louisiana Senator John Breaux, one of the leaders of a bipartisan centrist group in the Senate. I began by asking, is the president blowing it, in effect, by insisting that he have the tax cut his way or no way?


SEN. JOHN BREAUX (D), LOUISIANA: One thing that we have proven time and again in Washington, that when you take the position it's my way or no way, that no way always wins. And we've had that experience for the last several years, when both sides have insisted on doing it only their way, and not being willing to compromise in a realistic fashion.

And I think that is certainly a mistake in the past. It will be a mistake in the future if anybody takes that approach.

WOODRUFF: Well, which is the real George W. Bush at this point, senator? Because on the one hand, you had the president in his budget address last week talking about a new spirit, changing the tone in Washington, a spirit of cooperation. On the other hand, you had a president that let Republican leadership in the House Ways and Means Committee work its way on a straight-party line vote last week. Which is the real Bush approach?

BREAUX: Judy, I'm not sure who was calling the shots in the House, but I think that the procedures they used, in my opinion, were a mistake. You can't say that we're going to try and work in a bipartisan fashion and change the way things have been going in Washington, and then immediately start off with the first big issue of the year and say that we have more votes and more numbers and, therefore, we don't want your input. We are not going to sit down and negotiate with you. We are not going to have hearings on the tax bill. We are just going to pass it out. I mean, that, I think, is predictable of bad feelings in the future on other big issues that we are going to have to face.

WOODRUFF: Is there any doubt in your mind that that's the approach the administration's taking right now?

BREAUX: I can't say if that's their approach or if they are taking a hands-off approach and said, let the Republican leadership in the House call the shots. I know that that process cannot work in the Senate.

We're 50/50, and you're going to have to negotiate. That's what bipartisanship is all about. We're going to have to sit in the same room and talk about the size of the tax cut and how the money is distributed if we are going to get anything done in the House -- I mean, in the Senate.

You cannot just ram it through, if you will, like apparently they are going to try to do in the House.

WOODRUFF: Well, senator, the president has made it very clear he wants this tax cut on a fast track. They want to do the tax cut first and the budget later. Is this the right approach? BREAUX: Well, a fast track doesn't mean that it's a one track. It doesn't mean that only one party is going to be involved in writing it. I mean, that cannot happen in the Senate when it is 50/50.

I think that most people think that look, let's get the budget done and if the budget calls for a $1.6 trillion tax cut, that's what we'll have to produce. But you don't put the cart before the horse. You don't put the tax bill in front of the budget.

WOODRUFF: The president is campaigning in your home state of Louisiana this week. He's trying to build support, presumably, support for you and for your colleagues, Senator Mary Landrieu, to be behind the Bush tax cut. Do you welcome this, or is this -- is this going to battle as far as you're concerned?

BREAUX: Well, Judy, we in Louisiana always welcome the president of the United States to come to Louisiana. It gives us a chance to talk to him about other things that are of interest to our state. We always welcome him and are glad that he is visiting.

I think the idea of campaigning, if you will, for his tax bill in areas where he's trying to seek support is perfectly legitimate. I don't have a problem with that. I think that we ought to be a dialogue between the two parties, and hopefully, he will continue that.

WOODRUFF: You say you don't have a problem with it. And yet, your Republican -- the Republican majority leader in the Senate said if your colleague, Senator Landrieu, if she doesn't vote for the tax bill, she's going to pay a price for it.

BREAUX: Well, that's probably more than I thought I'd hear Trent Lott say publicly, but sometimes he may have just said more than he really intended. I think that we don't go -- we're not in the business of saying to our colleagues what will happen politically, I think, if in fact they vote one way or the other. Our obligation is to vote the way our states and the people who elected us want us to vote and I think that we don't really need a lot of advice from our colleagues in that vein.

WOODRUFF: Are there votes there now for the president's tax cut proposal in the Senate?

BREAUX: Not in the Senate, not they way it's proposed, which means that bipartisanship in the Senate will not just be political theory. It's going to be an absolute political necessity. Otherwise, it won't get accomplished. It may be that the president is saying, well, I'll wait to compromise and talk to Democrats when it gets to the Senate. I would recommend that they talk to Democrats in the House before it even gets to the Senate.

WOODRUFF: All right, Senator John Breaux of Louisiana, thank you very much for joining us on INSIDE POLITICS.

BREAUX: Thank you, Judy.


WOODRUFF: And up next, we'll talk with journalists Robert George and Cynthia Tucker about the reaction to school violence and gun control, and we'll get their opinions on whether the vice president's health will be a problem for the Bush administration.


WOODRUFF: And Joining us now, Cynthia Tucker, editorial page editor, "The Atlanta Constitution," and Robert George, columnist for "The New York Post."

Thank you both for being with us. Robert George, to you first. How much of a problem for the Bush Administration are the heart problems of Vice President Cheney?

ROBERT GEORGE, COLUMNIST, "NEW YORK POST": Well, I'm sure it's something that they've got, they've factored in to their workday schedule and their communication points and so forth.

Basically, it looked like the, his, his surgery went fine yesterday. He's out of the hospital and resting, and resting now. This is obviously not something you want to deal with from a political or communication's standpoint.

But I think in terms of their day-to-day activities I think they're just going to proceed onward and assume that he's, he's in regular contact and communication with his, with his doctors and let, and let it, and let it stand there.

WOODRUFF: So, Cynthia, all goes on as before? No change?

CYNTHIA TUCKER, EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR, "THE ATLANTA CONSTITUTION": Well, Judy, I think the major change that we will see is that journalists are going to step up the pressure on the vice president to release more information about his medical condition.

I don't think this is yet an issue with the general public. Americans are used to the idea of people being vigorous well into their 60s and people recovering from heart conditions. But I do think this will prompt journalists to step up the pressure a bit, ask more and more questions and keep the pressure on Dick Cheney about his heart.

WOODRUFF: Robert George, go ahead.


GEORGE: I'm not sure if it's necessarily a good idea to keep pressure on the vice president, when you put it, when you put it quite that, that way. But I think one -- I think one thing we have to keep in mind here is that I think journalists over the last six months -- excuse me, over the last six weeks have come to see, even though Dick Cheney has a hand on everything that's going on, it's, people have previously underestimated George W. Bush. And I think they're starting to see that he has kind of a handle on how the administration is handling -- is running, as well. So it's not just the Dick Cheney show as it's been described.

WOODRUFF: Cynthia Tucker, should the vice president release his medical records?

TUCKER: I think he absolutely should. And as Candy Crowley said earlier, he doesn't have to release everything. Certainly there are parts of his medical record going back years and years that the public has no business having access to.

But certainly that that affects his ability to do his job, which is the condition of his heart, and how much -- how many more of these disruptions we might expect,that's information that is absolutely relevant and the American people have a right to know that.

WOODRUFF: Robert George, how long can the vice president go without at least releasing the information about his heart?

GEORGE: I don't know, that's kind of a tough call. I'm not sure if -- if we're quite willing to say that this is regularly interrupting, interrupting him doing his job. Obviously, if there is another episode within the next, you know, couple of months or so I think it would be impossible for the White House not to release, release the appropriate records.

WOODRUFF: All right. Let me turn your, both your attention now to the school shooting tragedy in Southern California yesterday.

Cynthia, does this incident create once again, does it -- does it give a lift to the movement, those people who want gun control enac -- further gun controls enacted in this country?

TUCKER: Well, Judy, it depends on where are you're talking about. I think it certainly encourages average Americans, advocates for gun control who have been working all along. Certainly there are parents who may have been a little iffy about gun control in the past who will now be moved by yet another episode. Yet another teenager with a gun.

But I don't thinking that anything is going to change on Capitol Hill. If President Clinton, a Democratic president, couldn't get gun control, then there is no reason to expect that a Republican president who had -- who was very, very suspicious of gun control, is going to push this forward with the Republican Congress.

And quite frankly, Al Gore didn't push gun control very much when he campaigned. He ran from it just like George Bush ran from the issue of abortion.

WOODRUFF: Well, that being the case, Robert George, have we pretty much heard the end of the gun control movement?

GEORGE: I think so for the time being. I agree, basically, with everything that -- everything that Cynthia -- Cynthia said. In fact, I mean, the problem -- what you've got, even though Repub -- even though Democrats did well in some of the, in some of the congressional elections last year, the ones that did do well are in rural areas where there is absolutely no sentiment for gun control.

One of the most powerful Democrats in the house is John Dingell and he is a strong member of the NRA, strong supporter of the NRA. So I don't really see where, where it's going to be going. And the other thing, too, California is one of the strongest gun control states, actually. I mean, there are any -- there's at least a half of a dozen or maybe twice that many of laws that are on the books that this young man violated. So I think in certain ways, you -- you've got so many laws that are there, what more can you do?

WOODRUFF: All right. We're going to have to leave it there. But we hope to see both of you again soon. Robert George in New York, Cynthia Tucker in Atlanta.

Thanks very much.

And more INSIDE POLITICS ahead.

Coming up: A cabinet secretary talks about health issues , budgets and life in Washington.

My interview with Tommy Thompson, in the next half-hour.


WOODRUFF: After less than two months as vice president and another heart episode, questions about whether there's too much stress on Dick Cheney. Also ahead...


SEN. DON NICLES (R), OKLAHOMA: ... most expensive, intrusive regulation every promulgated.



SEN. EDWARD "TED" KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Today, your safety is on the chopping block.



KENNEDY: The greed is unbelievable.


WOODRUFF: A political clash for these high-tech times over conditions in the workplace.

And later, does a "thank you" from Al Gore say something more about his political future?

WOODRUFF: Welcome back to INSIDE POLITICS. A top aide says Vice President Dick Cheney plans to return to work first thing tomorrow, less than 48 hours after undergoing a procedure to unclog one of his arteries. Cheney was released from the hospital this morning and returned home. The White House says the chest discomfort that prompted Cheney to check himself into the hospital yesterday was not another heart attack. Aides say the vice president plans to maintain his current workload, and President Bush says he doesn't see any need for Cheney to cut back.


BUSH: Because he's needed. This country needs his wisdom and judgment, and he's the kind of man who listens carefully to his body, and he is not going to put himself in the position where he gets very sick. Any time there is any doubt as to whether or not he needs to see a doctor, he'll see a doctor.


WOODRUFF: And we're joined now by our senior White House correspondent John King.

John, doctors are saying Cheney is just about a model patient. What about the people around him? Do they agree with that?

KING: Not always, Judy. Most say that since that November scare when the vice president actually had -- then-Secretary Cheney -- had a mild heart attack, he has been much better in sticking to a better diet. He's not supposed to eat the meat; much better in getting at least four or five days a week of exercise.

But some close friends say he's far from perfect. One recalls Mr. Cheney having a steak just a few weeks ago. They say he needs to be a little more careful. They don't say this to be critical, but they're worried about him.

WOODRUFF: John, we know his going into the hospital again, once again, puts the focus, on just how important he is to the administration. What about other people around President Bush? Is there any resentment on their part?

KING: No resentment of Cheney. Some resentment, I guess, might be the right word or at least curiosity about the media coverage. Nobody around the president -- now we're talking about Bush loyalists, people who have been with the then-Governor Bush, now President Bush -- nobody disputes the prominent role the vice president plays, but they all that all this coverage of the vice president, even before this recent heart episode, somehow left the impression on the table that he is in charge around here. They say that's not the case, the president calls the shots. They certainly wish the vice president well.

They think we could do a better job explaining just how this management relationship works and make clear it's much like a corporate structure, that the president is the chairman of the board, perhaps Mr. Cheney is the chief executive officer most days, but they insist around here that the president calls the shots and they say, sometimes, we don't leave that impression.

WOODRUFF: All right, John King, thanks for helping straighten us all out. Appreciate it, John.

Now that there's a Bush-Cheney White House, Senate Republicans are scrambling to undo an 11th-hour Clinton administration rule designed to protect workers from repetitive stress injuries. A vote is expected tonight. As CNN's Jonathan Karl reports, this issue pits Republicans against Democrats and business against labor.


KARL (voice-over): Jim Wordsworth is a northern Virginia caterer and restaurant owner who has been in the business for 27 years. He's also exhibit A in the Republican battle against new workplace safety rules issued during the waning days of Bill Clinton's presidency.

JIM WORDSWORTH, RESTAURATEUR: Something like this is a torpedo, I mean it's under the water -- you don't even see it coming.

KARL: Wordsworth, who has 300 employees, says complying with the new ergonomics regulations, which are meant to protect workers from repetitive stress disorders, will cost his business at least $50,000 this year, and more in the future.

While business lobbyists bring employers like Wordsworth to Capitol Hill to make the case for junking the regulations, Democrats and labor groups presented their own victims to make the case for keeping the rules. People like 32-year-old Heidi Eberhardt, who says spending eight hours a day in front of a computer has taken its toll.

HEIDI EBERHARDT, REPETITIVE STRESS VICTIM: I started to notice that I had difficulty doing things in my home, such as buttoning my clothes, washing dishes, squeezing shampoo bottles -- I started to realize then that this was getting a little bit more serious than I ever thought it could.

KARL: With millions of employees and employers affected, the effort to do away with the new regulations has set off the first major battle between business and labor since Republicans captured control of Congress and the White House for the first time in nearly 50 years.

SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: They're coming in here with a blunder buss and say, we've got the votes. We're playing hardball. Effectively, we are not going to -- we are going to give short shrift to the American workers.

KARL: Senator Kennedy, who is leading the charge for labor, says by moving so quickly on the issue, Republicans are directly contradicting President Bush's promises of bipartisanship.

KENNEDY: There's an uncertain trumpet, so to speak. It sounds one way in the morning, and another way in the afternoon. KARL: But Republicans say they are only trying to undo the damage they say was done as President Clinton left office.

SEN. DON NICKLES (R), OKLAHOMA: It's probably the most expensive, intrusive regulation ever promulgated, certainly by the Department of Labor, maybe by government entirely. Its cost are in the billion and billions of dollars.

KARL: That's an argument that seems to be winning in the Senate, where as many as 50 Republicans and at least a half-dozen Democrats are expected to vote to do away with the regulations.

RICHARD TRUMKA, AFL-CIO: There's a price to pay, and we will simply lay the facts out to the American public: these are the people who voted for this, these are the people who voted against it. Make up your mind.


KARL: In an effort to win support from wavering senators, Labor Secretary Elaine Chao has sent a letter addressed to Senators Jim Jeffords and Ted Kennedy of the Labor Committee, saying that she will take steps, including possibly new regulations to deal with the problem of repetitive stress disorders in the workplace -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right, Jon Karl, reporting from the Capitol.

And we want to tell our audience that we have an interview here on INSIDE POLITICS tomorrow with Secretary Elaine Chao at Labor.

Also on Capitol Hill today: Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson defended President Bush's budget, and he fended off charges from Democrats that Mr. Bush was poised to divert Medicare reserves to help pay for other government programs.

I interviewed Thompson the other day, and I asked him how he would justify the fact that in the Bush budget, HHS is projected to grow by slightly more than 5 percent, compared to 4 percent overall growth.


TOMMY THOMPSON, SECRETARY OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES: I justify it because the big part of the increase in the Department of Health and Human Services is $2.8 billion going to NIH, and this is for doubling the research necessary.

And I think every American -- Democrat, Republican, independent, no matter where you come from -- is very delighted with this president putting that kind of dollars into research, hoping to come up with a cure for AIDS, cancer, Alzheimer's, cystic fibrosis, whatever the case may be. This is how we really solve our health problem, I believe, in America -- by coming up with some of these, you know, real cures to these diseases that have been around for a long time.

And NIH is the place to get the job done, and they need the extra dollars, and the president recognized that. He put the amount of new dollars in that. The rest of the department is not doing as well, comparatively speaking, because the big share of the money goes into research, and I think that is a right decision. I fully endorse the president on that.

WOODRUFF: Well, let me ask you about that, because there is -- I mean, behind every silver lining is a dark cloud. The question, if you look at it from the other side, is -- since NIH is getting so much money, which many would argue is a good idea, parts of your department, like the Centers for Disease Control, the Food and Drug Administration, other agencies that are already strapped for money -- they've been saying for a long time -- are going to get less money, much less money than they need. How do you...

THOMPSON: They are going to get more money than they got last year. So, there is still an increase in CDC as well as the Food and Drug, and...

WOODRUFF: But less than they're asking for?

THOMPSON: Less than -- well, have you ever met a department that said, you know, that's enough? But, you know, last year they got over 10 percent increases, and this year, the president says, you know, we just can't spend that way.

We have to be just like a family. We have to recognize our limitations, and a 4 percent growth -- I think is pretty healthy.

WOODRUFF: Let me ask you about an overall criticism that was made today, the former budget director Jack Lew asserts in "The New York Times" -- he writes an editorial column saying that his assertion is that the Medicare surplus of something like $500 billion, is -- could be used, it looks like to him, for this $1.6 trillion tax cut, or for the new so-called reserve fund.

Now you've been a proponent of Medicare reform...


WOODRUFF: How do you justify that, Medicare going for one of those purposes?

THOMPSON: Well, first off, he's looking at only one part of Medicare, and that's Title I of Medicare. And there is a surplus there.

But Title II, their expenditures far exceed the revenues, so the taxpayers are subsidizing Medicare. And when you put the whole Medicare together, both Title I and Title II of Medicare, you are going to find that you are spending more dollars that's coming in. And therefore, he's just taking part of it.

And that's a good argument -- if you are a Democrat -- by segregating it. So, when you look at the total amount of revenue going in, it's still subsidized by the federal government, so there is not a surplus when you put the whole combination of all the programs together of Medicare.

WOODRUFF: So, you are not concerned that Medicare is going to be adequately funded down the road, given the way the president is using...

THOMPSON: I'm very concerned about it, Judy. The only way you will really be able to make sure the Medicare is going to be there for all the people when they retire is by reforming it, and putting in a prescription drug component in. That's what this president is doing, setting aside $153 billion to reform Medicare, put in a prescription drug component and also have a helping hand, and I think that's the right approach...

WOODRUFF: I want to ask you...

THOMPSON: And we're going to push very hard to get that done, hopefully this year in the Congress.

WOODRUFF: I want to ask you about that, because we have both Democrats and Republicans out there, arguing that this budget does not include enough money for a prescription drug plan. They are talking about, in the budget it's $12 billion a year for four years, and they're saying that is not even close to enough money to cover what is needed for senior citizens in this country.

THOMPSON: If, in fact, you just pass a prescription drug, you can make this argument. But the president says, you know, let's do more than that, let's reform Medicare, give people more options, more choices, and put a prescription drug in there, and we will have some savings and those savings can be plugged into a prescription drug component. And so, if you are just going to pass prescription drug, which some members of Congress want to do, and that is not what the president or I want to do, we want to reform Medicare with the prescription drug, and there will be savings internalized that we can put into the prescription drugs that will fully fund it.

WOODRUFF: Let me ask you about another issue, Mr. Secretary. Your department is, right now, and this has been publicized, considering whether or not the federal government should fund embryonic stem cell research which, as we know, could help lead to advancements in Parkinson's disease and other diseases -- now this was pioneered in your home state of Wisconsin.

THOMPSON: That's correct, by a guy by the name Thompson. No relation.

WOODRUFF: No relation. Do you think the research, as much as we know about it now, holds great promise?

THOMPSON: This research holds tremendous promise and the thing we have to contend with, Judy, is that there is a federal law that says you cannot use stem cells from an embryonic -- and because of the federal law, there is a prohibition, and so, what we have to do, is find out legally whether or not we can do this, and we have been asked to do some reviews, and we're making a whole review of stem cell research and making a report to the president sometime in the next several months.

WOODRUFF: Is this something that you would like to see worked out? Would you like to see if it's possible, if the law can be interpreted in a way that this is acceptable, would you like to see it done?

THOMPSON: I would like to see the continuation of research being done, and there are many ways to do that. Core blood is one way, adult stem cells is another way, and I don't know if you have to destroy an embryo in order to get the stem cells to do the research. Those are questions the scientists will have to answer, and that's why this review is so important.

WOODRUFF: When do you look for a decision to be made on this?

THOMPSON: I would say in the next several months; I would say sometime this spring to early summer.

WOODRUFF: Finally, Mr. Secretary, what is it about working in this city all the time that surprise you? Anything? Or is it?

THOMPSON: Everything. The cost of living.

WOODRUFF: You've been here a lot before?

THOMPSON: I really have, the cost of living, the tremendous amount of bureaucracy that you have to go through in order to get a decision made.


WOODRUFF: That's the new secretary of Health and Human Services, Tommy Thompson.

The White House is responding to today's indictment in connection with the so-called "debate gate flap" during the presidential campaign. Press Secretary Ari Fleischer says no one wants to know more than members of the Bush administration who mailed the videotape of Bush debate preparation material to the ally of the Gore campaign.

A Texas grand jury today indicted Yvette Lozano, an employee of the Bush campaign's media consultant Maverick Media. She is charged with mail fraud, making a false statement to the FBI, and perjury before a grand jury. Lozano has denied any involvement in the leak of the debate materials. Maverick Media's chief Mark McKinnon had defended his employee. Today he says the news of Lozano's indictment is devastating for him and for his family.

The political maneuvering has begun in the 2004 presidential race. We'll get insights from one observer on who might be the future Democratic contenders when INSIDE POLITICS continues.


WOODRUFF: Former Vice President Al Gore recently hosted a dinner for some big contributors to his presidential campaign. Was it just one big "thank you" or does it have implications for 2004? Somebody is here to answer that for us. Richard Berke, he reported on the story for the "New York Times," and joins us now.

Any doubt in your mind that Gore is running, Rick Berke.

RICHARD BERKE, "NEW YORK TIMES": I wouldn't say he's running, but he's laying the groundwork in case he wants to run, and I think -- you'd think he'd want to take a break for a while, but the way politics is nowadays, you can't take a break, there are fund-raising people out there right now saying I want -- pressuring Gore and other people saying we have to know now what you are doing, you have to send a signal out. And he's sending the signal out.

He is saying, look, I'm going to be out there, I may not run, but he's suddenly making -- you know, touching the right bases with his donors. It's a subtle strategy, he's not out there publicly, not out there criticizing the president, but he's maneuvering behind the scenes.

WOODRUFF: Because publicly, as you say, he's teaching courses in New York and Tennessee; he's saying this is something that's not on my mind right now. But he was at a dinner, contributors -- I mean, talk about who was there and what went on?

BERKE: Right. First of all, it's no mistake when he's in New York teaching at Columbia there is often an ulterior motive there. That's where all the fund-raising people are so he can go to dinners like this. This is a dinner at Steve Ratner's house, who is a major Democratic contributor in New York, and there was about two dozen fund-raising people from the campaign -- it was billed as a thank you to Al Gore for their help in the campaign last year, but I talked to several of the participants and they said if he doesn't thank us now, we won't be there for him in four years should he decide to run.

So, many of them took it as definitely a sign he's laying the groundwork for a run himself. They said it's an odd position that the former vice president sends because -- I said what did you talk about at this dinner -- and they said, he doesn't want to talk even to them about Bush, because he's got to be careful to keep a low profile and not look like he's carping and going after the new president and he didn't want to talk about Clinton because he doesn't want -- there is tension there and didn't want to play that up. So, they stuck to safe things like the environment.

WOODRUFF: You mentioned that even at this early stage -- here we are; March has just begun in the year 2001. Who else is out there, talking about money, visiting Iowa and so forth? I mean, there are several?

BERKE: The most active out there is Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts. He even has a finance person, Bob Farmer -- you remember raised money for Mike Dukakis in 1988. I talked to Farmer about this and he said, you don't think a 63-year-old man who weighs over 200 pounds is traveling around the country to help with a Senate bid, do you? He's out there working -- not full-time, but he's out there traveling the country to help John Kerry begin to lay -- to make the -- put out networks and begin raising money.

There's John Edwards, the senator from North Carolina.

WOODRUFF: New Democratic senator.

BERKE: Right, fresh face. Gore -- he was on Gore's short list for the vice presidency. So there's people talking about Dick Gephardt, --

WOODRUFF: Tom Daschle, some?

BERKE: Tom Daschle, and also you hear about the governors. Governor Davis of California -- but, of course, he's enmeshed in his own energy problems in California right now. You hear Tom Vilsack in Iowa.

There is talk already, there's maneuvering already. I hate to say it, but it's begun.

WOODRUFF: Hillary Rodham Clinton, is that a name that is out there?

BERKE: It was out there until the recent -- the whole pardon debacle. Now you don't hear it anymore. Some Clinton people said that was all wishful thinking on their part. But now, you don't hear her talked about anymore.

WOODRUFF: Rick, is it safe, or is it fair to say at this point that Gore has to be given the leg up, or not?

BERKE: I don't think anyone can be given the leg up. I mean, I think you have to talk about Gore as a serious contender, should he want to do it.

But I've talked to a lot of strategists, a lot of fund-raising people, and they all say, you know, we think -- Democrats think he got a raw deal. They feel for him. They wish he were president, but they also say, you know, the way the world is right now, he's going to have to start from scratch, and work pretty hard...

WOODRUFF: He didn't win?

BERKE: He didn't win. He's not in the White House, and there's a lot of -- even you talk to a even some of his supporters, and they say, look, we feel for him, but we want someone who can win.

WOODRUFF: All right, Rick Berke, that's what it's all about. Thanks very much. Great to see you again.

BERKE: You too.

WOODRUFF: And the country has lost one of its political elder statesmen. Coming up, Bruce Morton takes a look at the legacy of former Minnesota Governor Harold Stassen.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) WOODRUFF: Harold Stassen was the Republican boy wonder when he was elected governor of Minnesota in 1938. But at his death last Sunday, he may have been better known for his nine failed attempts at the White House than for his successes in office.

CNN national correspondent Bruce Morton takes a look at a very long political career.


BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Reporters, voters, these last few years, saw the old man with the funny toupee and smiled. Harold Stassen, perennial candidate, the man who had stayed too long at the fair.

He was much more than that. He was the boy wonder, elected governor of Minnesota in 1938, age 31, youngest elected governor ever. He cut the state's payroll from 17,000 to 10,000. Who's done anything like that lately? Arranged for the first black to be a commissioned officer in the state National Guard, not so easy back in the 30s.

Elected three times, he left during his third term to join the Navy, saw combat in the Pacific, made a national splash at the 1944 GOP Convention, where he backed Wendell Willkie -- like Stassen, an internationalist. Served at the conference that led to the United Nations, one of eight Americans to sign the U.N. charter.

Ran for president in 1948, won some primaries, but lost in Oregon, and the nomination went to New York Governor Thomas Dewey, who lost to Harry Truman. Ran in 1952, then backed Dwight Eisenhower against the more conservative Robert Taft. Served in the Eisenhower administration in charge of foreign aid, then of disarmament, with cabinet rank.

Tried to get Ike to drop his vice president, Richard Nixon, in 1956, because he found Nixon lacking in deep appreciation of moral issues. Stassen's dump Nixon effort failed, and the party moved away from him permanently when it turned to Barry Goldwater and social conservatism in the 1960s. Stassen kept running. He said ideas were what mattered.


HAROLD STASSEN: One of the students in a high school group jumped up and, as his first question, he said, "How come you are still alive?" Another student jumped up and said, "Don't you know?" he said, "Because God wanted somebody to talk common sense in this campaign."


MORTON: He did talk sense. Wrote, way back in 1951, an article "The Coming Collapse of Communism," arguing that it would fall of its own weight, which it did, 30-some years later.

Campaigned in 1967, to de-escalate the U.S. involvement in Vietnam; President Nixon did that, seven years later. Often right, never president. What's his epitaph?


STASSEN: I would like it to say that very few men knew war more deeply and worked for peace more persistently and intelligently than I did.


MORTON: He was 93. Bruce Morton, CNN, Washington.


WOODRUFF: And he set a record that no one may ever match.

That's all for this edition of INSIDE POLITICS. I am Judy Woodruff. MONEYLINE is next.



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