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Mississippi Voters Deciding the Fate of Their Flag; Cincinnati Police Department Comes Under Scrutiny

Aired April 17, 2001 - 17:00   ET

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


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: This is INSIDE POLITICS with Judy Woodruff.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now is the time for Mississippi to step out of its racist past.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That flag is a part of our history.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: A banner vote in Mississippi on the future of the state flag.

Also ahead...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Max Cleland said that he is interested in supporting the $1.6 trillion plan.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: Is Georgia's senior Democratic senator really behind the Bush tax cut? We'll ask him about that and his re-election headaches.

And: so long trees, hello visitors! A growing controversy on Capitol Hill.

Now, Judy Woodruff takes you INSIDE POLITICS.

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

We begin in Mississippi, where voters have another three hours to weigh in on the future of their flag. Other states have grappled with criticism of banners that bear the controversial Confederate emblem. But Mississippi is the first to let voters decide whether the flag is a symbol of racism that should be banished or a piece of history that should be preserved.

CNN's Brian Cabell joins us from Jackson, Mississippi -- Brian.

BRIAN CABELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good afternoon, Judy. We should get results here on this referendum in about three hours or so. But if the pre-election polls are any indication, those that have been taken in the last few months, it will be an uphill battle for those who want to change this flag.

A few month ago, there was a 20-point lead for those who wanted to keep the flag. Just about three weeks ago, there was a 30-point lead for those who wanted to keep that flag. So, as I say, an uphill battle for them.

The turnout today, it's been spotty in some places, along the Gulf Coast in Meridian over by the Mississippi river, but here in Jackson, we are being told, it's been quite heavy as a matter of fact. For the voters, the ballot is really very simple, very straightforward. It will take all of 10 seconds to vote. You either vote for the old flag with the Confederate emblem on it in the corner or you vote for the new flag that contains 20 stars over the blue background.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's time now for us to look for things that can bring us together, rather than to maintain symbols that continues to divide us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know, I really don't like the magnolia, which is our flower. I would much rather have a pine tree. But I know we're not going to change it. And also, I don't really like the bird that we have. I would like to have a turkey. And I think we have a lot of turkeys around that would appreciate that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABELL: I think that what she is trying to say is that Mississippi already has a flag, it's a perfectly good flag and Mississippians will have to learn to live with it.

Now, we've got one report of irregularities, this in a town of Clinton, about 10 miles north of Jackson. Apparently, there is a number of dog, we are told, German shepherds outside of one of the precincts, apparently intimidating some voters. That has been reported into federal monitors. But overall, this has been a very peaceful and quiet campaign. As I said, Judy, we should have the results here in the next three our four hours or so. Back to you.

WOODRUFF: Brian, any sense of just how interested people are in this, how many of them are actually coming out to vote on it? CABELL: Well, as I say, the turnout has been spotty in some places, and, frankly, what we have seen in the last couple of days is that there is quite a bit of apathy on the part of both black and white voters. They -- I think that in a sense, people outside of Mississippi seem to care more about this election than people within the state of Mississippi.

There hasn't been an awful lot of money spent on either side of this campaign. It's been a campaign devoid of really heated rhetoric, and people are just waiting for this to get over with. But for the most part, it has not been like South Carolina and Georgia, where it was a very big and hot campaign.

WOODRUFF: All right. Brian Cabell, reporting from Jackson, thanks.

Meantime, in Cincinnati, concerns about race and civil rights remain very much on the agenda today within the city council, the police department and throughout the community. CNN's Bob Franken joins us with an update on the fallout from the recent violence on Cincinnati's streets -- Bob.

BOB FRANKEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Judy, this is -- the violence has subsided. Last night was the first night without the curfew that was imposed as I response to the violence, and the city streets were normal, the city streets were quiet, and now people are talking about reform in the wake of the shooting of the 19-year-old unarmed African-American male, which set off all of the confrontation. It was over a week ago.

And right now, the city council is having a hearing to decide on the reform over the police department, which would change the city charter. This is live picture, by the way -- would change the city charter to allow the police chief to be chosen from outside of the Cincinnati police department. Right now, the requirement is he must come through the ranks.

In any case, that's the reason for this hearing, but it's really been a long discussion about the issues that are the hostilities that exist between the police department and the African-American community, including the plight of African-American men who say that they live in consistent danger.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We feel that, you know what I am saying, we are tired of just, you know what I am saying, getting harassed for no reason at all. We want to be treated like you all are getting treated. We want love in your communities. We want everyone to be able to come together. We are tired of all the pain.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FRANKEN: Now, recurring subject was the incident that followed the burial of the young man on Saturday in which police officers left their cars and fired bean bag pellets from their shotguns into the crowd. Any number of people said that they did this without provocation, and there were a lot of -- a large number of witnesses.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was assembled peacefully after Timothy Thomas' funeral when an 11-year-old girl and a 7-year-old girl were shot with bean bag bullets. Don't tell me that those two girls also had guns. Don't tell me we weren't peacefully assembled. Don't tell the police -- that police actions have been to serve us. This is very, very wrong.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FRANKEN: Now, there are any number of investigations that are under way into this incident. Among them, the FBI investigation to see if, in fact, the police acted in an inappropriate way. They have not been taken off the streets.

The investigations are far and wide. There is a grand jury investigation of the shooting of the 19-year-old young man. There are federal investigations into the conduct of the Cincinnati police department. There is a lawsuit that has been filed, charging racial profiling, that was the lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union. It has now been joined by the NAACP -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Bob, which of all of these investigations takes precedence, the ones at the federal level, or all in there in there with equal running, or what?

FRANKEN: Well, they all have their own purpose. The federal investigation, of course, would look at other -- among other things, at civil rights violations. There is the possibility that the Justice Department could decide that the Cincinnati police department needed to be taken over, at least have some of its operations taken over.

The grand jury investigation into the shooting is certainly a priority for that police officer, because he faces the possibility if there is an adverse finding that he could be charged criminally.

WOODRUFF: All right. Bob Franken, reporting from Cincinnati.

Now, we turn to the Bush administration and its environmental policies. After weeks of being attacked by Democrats and environmental advocates, the president appears to be trying a different tack. Here is our senior White House correspondent John King -- John.

JOHN KING, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Judy, in the announcement here today at the White House that is significant both from the substantive standpoint and from the political standpoint, the EPA administrator, Christie Whitman, brought into the White House briefing room this afternoon to announce that the administration was allowing to stay in place regulations issued in the final hours of the Clinton administration that significantly reduced the levels of lead that industries are allowed to put out into the environment without reporting it to the government. Now, many small business organizations had hoped the Bush administration would overturn these regulations. Of course, the administration has been criticized for overturning other Clinton administration regulations: arsenic in drinking water for one, some rules against minors that the Clinton administration put in place trying to reduce levels. The Bush administration overturned those.

Still, Secretary Whitman and the White House insisting today she was not here for political reasons, and the secretary saying that the Bush administration would not have been put into this predicament of having to review so many Clinton administration regulations, if the former president hadn't waited until the final days in office to issue all of those rules.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTIE WHITMAN, EPA ADMINISTRATOR: We have been undertaking an appropriate review of a number of the things that the previous administration couldn't get done in eight years. And now, we are taking steps to get them done, to make sure they happen.

And what we want to make very clear to the American people is that this administration, this president, cares about these issues, and on a case-by-case basis as we move forward, as we look at them, as we analyze them, we are going to make what we feel are the appropriate decisions.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Now, despite the public denials from the White House and from Administrator Whitman, privately senior administration officials acknowledging this is part of the effort by the White House to rehabilitate the president's image on the environment. He has been widely criticized by major environmental groups, and just today, a new television advertising campaign launched by a dozen such groups in key states around the country.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "ENVIRONMENTAL ANTI-BUSH AD")

NARRATOR: President Bush is already active to ignore global warming pollution, weaken arsenic standards in drinking water and open national forest to new logging, all to help his coal, oil, mining and logging contributors. Send President Bush a message. Let's move forward, not backward, and save our environment.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Now, the administration insists that criticism is unfair and that on balance, the president's record is pretty good whether it comes to the environment. But again, Administrator Whitman here today for a clear reason. The White House has made a political calculation that they're not doing a good enough selling the president's agenda when it comes to the environment. They acknowledge it's an issue very important across the country, especially to women in suburban swing districts -- Judy. WOODRUFF: John, the White House had to know that some of their early actions would bring on criticism. Why now have they decided that this criticism is so damaging for them?

KING: Privately, they concede they were caught flat-footed, the political steps. So much emphasis put on selling the president's tax cutting agenda and his education agenda, even the faith-based administration in the early days of the administration, that they had not thought it through that if they were going to roll back some of those Clinton administration regulations and they make the case that those regulations go too far that they should have sprinkled in with those announcements of the retreat from the Clinton administration some of the announcements like yesterday, when they left in place wetlands protection, like today's announcement: that they could have balanced their announcements somewhat better. That's what they're trying to do now.

They acknowledge and they admit that this a bit of a rehabilitation effort.

WOODRUFF: So are they learning a lesson, you might say, John, from this?

KING: Well, I think they learned a lesson that they could perhaps better coordinate their announcements in the early days of the administration. But they also say, look, the No. 1 priority here is the tax cut and the budget agenda and the spending agenda. And that was where their emphasis had to be placed.

Look what we went through with a 50/50 Senate. They had a difficult fight there. They did need to dedicate significant resources to it, and they still are, including the president's travel tomorrow and in the week ahead.

But they do acknowledge they could have done a better job here, trying to strike a better balance and perhaps reaching out more to those environmental groups that are now being so critical of the new administration.

WOODRUFF: All right, John King at the White House, thanks.

Well, speaking of priorities, while others focus on his environmental policies, President Bush says he would prefer to keep the spotlight for now on his proposed tax cut. While pitching the plan yesterday, Mr. Bush said he may have picked up the support of another Senate Democrat.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I've learned that the people can make a big difference in a lot of debates, particularly the tax relief debate. We're making some pretty good progress. I saw a good, good Democratic senator out of Georgia the other day. Max Cleland said that he is interested, and when he comes back, interested in supporting the $1.6 trillion plan.

I think that's what he said. It certainly sounded like it to me.

(LAUGHTER)

And that's a good sign. I appreciate the senator going home and listening to the people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: Well, what did Senator Cleland mean? Senator Max Cleland joins us now from Augusta, Georgia to answer that question and to talk about his newly launched bid for re-election.

Senator Cleland, did the president understand you correctly that you're going to be with him on this tax cut?

SEN. MAX CLELAND (D), GEORGIA: Well, I'm on board with 64 other senators to support, and did support, a $1.2 trillion tax cut that included an $85 billion up-front economic stimulus package that rolls the taxes back and actually is retroactive to 1 January of this year. I think that's a healthy bite for us to take this year.

I have indicated that we should maybe look at the full 1.67 tax cut that the president is talking about next year if we need a continued economic stimulus for our economy.

WOODRUFF: Where do you think the president got the idea that you were willing to support him for that much right now?

CLELAND: Well, I wrote an op-ed piece for "The Atlanta Constitution" about a week ago when I voted for the $1.2 trillion tax cut as part of the centrist coalition. And there were 65 of us: 50 Republicans and 15 Democrats that supported that position. I indicated that I was willing to look another look at this next year to see if we needed to go the full point -- 1.67 trillion. I think we still ought to keep our options open.

My problem is with a sinking economy, we can't bite off too much too soon.

WOODRUFF: Well, what do you think, senator, are the economic conditions that have to be there before you and others would be willing to support a tax cut the size the president wants?

CLELAND: Well, you know, it's interesting: One of the things you want to do, if the economy is still sinking, is to continue to cut taxes. I just think that right now we do have a surplus, we don't want to get out of our surplus, we want to stay in a surplus situation, and we don't want to bite off too much too soon.

That's why I supported the centrist plan that had 65 votes in the Senate.

WOODRUFF: All right. Well, just to be clear then, senator, as of right now, you would not support a tax cut for 10 years, starting now, that would be of the level of the president is asking, just to be clear? CLELAND: That is -- that is correct. I am part of a centralist coalition, a bipartisan centralist coalition that voted 65 votes in the Senate, very bipartisan, and we said that the middle road was the best road: 1.2 trillion now, which includes reform of the inheritance tax, the death tax, and reform of the marriage penalty. I think that's a good tax package.

WOODRUFF: Senator, some people are surprised that you're announcing your decision to run for re-election a whole year-and-a- half away from the time of election day. Is it because President Bush did so well in -- in your state of Georgia last November?

CLELAND: No, it's because I would like to do well in November 2002. I mean, that's why I'm running. I love the Senate, I want to stay there, I want to make sure everybody in Georgia knows that. And we're going all out. We're going over some 10 cities in about seven days here in Georgia. Today, we're in Augusta. Tomorrow, we'll be in Macon and Columbus and other cities.

So I want everybody to understand I'm running, I'm in this race to win.

WOODRUFF: The conservative business group called the Club for Growth is -- is already targeting you, not only talking about the president's tax cut, but about other issues. Is this the sort of thing that makes your nights sleepless?

CLELAND: I don't have sleepless nights.

(LAUGHTER)

I've been targeted by the North Vietnamese and the VC. I've been targeted by a lot of people.

Let me just say that I love the Senate, I'm running for re- election. I want everybody in Georgia to know it. And I intend to win. And I intend to make sure that any Republican opponent out there knows who they've got to deal with.

WOODRUFF: Senator, the Senate, as we all know, 50/50 right now: 50 Republicans, 50 Democrats. Are the Republicans going to come after you and any other Democrats who are up next year who they think they might have a chance to beat with greater intensity than usual because the Senate is split right down the middle?

CLELAND: Well, I've been a target for a long time, and the South is a very competitive region of our country. Georgia is a very strong two-party state. I'm sure there will be an able opponent on the other side. And I understand that the Republicans have targeted me, but that's OK. I'm targeting to win. I'm targeting to represent Georgians in Washington, not Washington in Georgia.

I think Georgia voters are moderate, they're split-ticket, and they vote for the person, not so much the party.

WOODRUFF: You're fellow Democratic senator, Zell Miller, was one of the only Democrats, very few Democrats, to support the president's tax cut in its full size, 1.6 trillion. Does that make it any harder on you, does that make it any harder on you in terms of what you can do?

CLELAND: Well, he started out at that level, but he wound up voting with the rest of us, 64, the rest of us, at the 1.2 level. You know, there were 15 Democrats, and he was one of them. He was part of the centralist effort to make sure we didn't bite off more than we can chew. I think that's the key.

I'm open to considering further tax cuts next year as we see how the economy goes.

WOODRUFF: All right, with Senator Max Cleland, we thank you very much for joining us on INSIDE POLITICS.

CLELAND: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: Thank you. Good to see you.

CLELAND: You, too.

WOODRUFF: There's much more ahead on INSIDE POLITICS, including a discussion on the Mississippi flag vote. We'll hear from state residents for and against a change, right after the break.

Also: new video of a Chinese pilot intercepting a U.S. flight up close and personal. We'll preview tomorrow's talks between the U.S. and China over the U.S. surveillance plane incident.

And the latest on the escalating violence in the Middle East. Secretary of State Powell calls on both sides to exercise restraint.

This is INSIDE POLITICS.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Now, we return to the issue of Mississippi's current flag, and today's referendum in that state on whether to change it. Joining us now, George Shelton of the Mississippi Legacy Fund, who supports changing the flag, and John Cripps of the Web site FreeMississippi.org. They favor the current flag. Gentlemen, thank you for being with us.

Mr. Shelton, to you first, how do you expect today's vote to go? Mr. Shelton, can you hear me? How about Mr. Cripps, are you able to hear me? Gentlemen? We're sorry about that. We just spoke to them just seconds ago, but we must have lost an audio link. We will try get that fixed. We'll be right back in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Now, we think we have our audio problem fixed. I think the gentlemen can hear me on the Mississippi flag vote today. Joining us, George Shelton of the Mississippi Legacy Fund, which supports changing the flag of the state, and John Cripps of the Web site FreeMississippi.org. They favor the flag as it is.

Mr. Shelton, to you first, what do you think is going to happen with today's vote?

GEORGE SHELTON, MISSISSIPPI LEGACY FUND: Oh, we feel good about where we are. I think Mississippians see the importance of what it is we're trying to do. Today is a history-making day. We have a chance to send the statement to the rest of the nation and the world that Mississippi is moving forward, and that's what we think is going to happen.

WOODRUFF: And Mr. Cripps, if he feels good about it, how do you feel?

JOHN CRIPPS, FREEMISSISSIPPI.ORG: We feel great about it. We have believed all along that we've had a two- of three-to-one numerical advantage. We knew that the real chore today was to get people out to the polls, and the initial results coming in from around the state looked very good. We've got a lot of people going out to the polls, there's a lot of interest in this vote, and we believe that we'll have a victory celebration later this evening.

WOODRUFF: Mr. Shelton -- I'm sorry, Mr. Cripps, I want to stay with you for just a moment.

CRIPPS: Yes ma'am.

WOODRUFF: Why is it so objectionable, the idea of changing the state flag?

CRIPPS: Well, Judy this has been -- this is the only flag that any of us in Mississippi have ever known this. This flag has flown for 107 years. This is a part of Mississippi history, and there's been a lot of ad campaign done by the Legacy Fund which is very confusing. Save Mississippi history, vote for Proposition B. Well, we're to save Mississippi history by voting for Proposition A and to keep our current state flag. It's been there for 107 years.

SHELTON: Judy, that flag has been there for 107 years, but not coincidentally, Mississippi has been ranked on the bottom for about the same period of time. We need to send a message that Mississippi is moving forward. We have seen tremendous progress over the past three to four years, but more specifically, the past 30 to 40 years.

We feel like it's important to have a flag that represents the state that we are today. For far too long, Mississippi has been what's known as one of the "thank God for" states, states all across the nation who are ranked in low of one category or another would say, thank God for Mississippi, at least they're below us. We've made so much progress, and the rest of the nation isn't seeing that. We need to change our flag so that it's representative of what's really going on here in the state.

WOODRUFF: Mr. Shelton...

CROWLEY: Pardon me, that progress has been made under our current state flag.

WOODRUFF: Mr. Shelton, let me just keep on with you. What is so objectionable about the Mississippi state flag? You've had that flag since 18 -- what is it, '94.

SHELTON: Yes, well, the difficult part of it is that the Confederate emblem that is incorporated into the state flag has been stolen by hate groups and white supremacists all across the nation. That's not what is indicative of what is going on in Mississippi. We need a symbol that represents our entire state that shows that we're moving forward and that's not what the current flag does.

WOODRUFF: Mr. Cripps?

CRIPPS: Yes ma'am.

WOODRUFF: How do you respond?

CRIPPS: Well, we can say the same thing about the other symbols as well. The very same groups that he mentioned have used the U.S. flag and the Christian cross for some time, even longer, than the Confederate battle emblem. If we're going to start attacking all symbols, then where is the outcry towards those particular symbols. It seems like they're isolating only one symbol that's used by hate groups, and not all symbols.

SHELTON: Well, I don't think it's good policy to get into the business of defending hate groups, but if that's what Mr. Cripps wants to do, I'll certainly let him. We didn't hear the outcry when the hate groups started stealing this emblem. I'd like to know where Mr. Cripps was then?

CRIPPS: Mr. Cripps was mighty young then and Mr. Cripps is not defending the use of these symbols by these other groups.

WOODRUFF: Mr. Cripps, let me just ask you, do you think the state of Mississippi is hurt at all of keeping that Confederate -- that Confederate symbol in your flag?

CRIPPS: No, ma'am. I've heard the economic arguments, but I've never seen any data presented. Take the Nissan plant, for instance. In Alabama, there was a Confederate flag flying atop to the capitol dome. That flag was removed a few years ago. I understand Nissan was also in negotiation with the state of Alabama. If this is all of a matter of the flag keeping away businesses, then why did Nissan not move to Alabama? Their flag has been lowered. Ours still flies.

SHELTON: I think it's interesting that Mr. Cripps brings up Alabama. If you look at Alabama, they took their flag down in 1993. Shortly after that, they landed Toyota, Nissan and Mercedes-Benz. They've also recently landed Boeing. There are very, very positive things going on in Alabama that happened shortly after they removed the positive flag -- excuse me, the Confederate flag.

WOODRUFF: But how do you know there was a connection there? SHELTON: Well, because Alabama wanted to send a statement to the rest of the nation and the world that they had strong communities, much like we do in Mississippi. Is there a direct tie-in? No, there is not.

But companies are looking for a lot of things when they're deciding where to locate or where to start a business. One of the things is whether or not they have strong communities, whether or not this is going to be a good place for my employees to live or for my managers to live. And the flag we have now sends a symbol of divisiveness, and that's not what Mississippi is all about.

WOODRUFF: Mr. Shelton, if the current state flag is objectionable to anyone, if it sends a signal of -- whether it's hatred or racism or whatever, what would be wrong with modifying it to keep some of the history, but not having the Confederate symbol be such a prominent part of it?

SHELTON: Oh, I couldn't agree with you more. I think it is important...

WOODRUFF: No, I'm asking Mr. Cripps that question.

SHELTON: I'm sorry, you said Mr. Shelton. I apologize.

WOODRUFF: I'm sorry, that's my fault.

CRIPPS: I heard Mr. Shelton as well.

WOODRUFF: My fault -- Mr. Cripps.

CRIPPS: The problem here is there is no flag design that you can present that's not going to be offensive to someone. Again, this flag has flown for 107 years. It's the only flag that any of us alive have ever lived under, and it's just now said to be causing division. Where was the outcry before?

SHELTON: I think that the outcry has been consistent. Again, if Mr. Cripps understands that the current flag is divisive, I am glad to know that and I hope that you will soon be joining us in terms of the efforts to change the flag. That flag has been opposed is offensive to no one.

CRIPPS: I believe that a division has been caused by groups such as Mr. Shelton's, who have worked to stir the pot, so to speak, on this issue.

SHELTON: I actually I believe that Mississippians for the most part have a lot to be proud of, over this entire debate up until Mr. Cripps and I came on your show. This has been a very calm and very gentlemanly -- and gentlewomanly, I should say -- debate and that's something that all of Mississippi can be proud of.

WOODRUFF: The two of you are certainly gentlemen and I mean that as a compliment. And I thank you very much for joining us and our apologies to both of you to George Shelton and to John Cripps for the audio problems that we had earlier on.

But thank you both, we appreciate it.

SHELTON: That is quite all right.

WOODRUFF: Just ahead, the latest on the U.S.-China dispute, and Israeli troops on the move in Gaza after a U.S. call for restraint.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Just hours before talks are expected to begin between the U.S. and China on that recent plane collision, the U.S. has released more video to illustrate the aggressive flying by Chinese pilots who shadowed U.S. surveillance flights.

In this tape made January 30, a Chinese pilot presumed to be the one that later collided with the U.S. plane, holds up a sheet of paper believed to show his e-mail address. The video again illustrates just how close the U.S. and Chinese planes came during reconnaissance flights, but for the Chinese government, the issue is clear: the U.S.- China -- the U.S. remains completely at fault for the collision.

With the latest from Beijing, CNN's bureau chief Rebecca MacKinnon.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

REBECCA MACKINNON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Members of the U.S. negotiating team arrived in China, prepared for tough talks, but would say little else about them.

PETER VERGA, DEP. UNDERSECRETARY OF DEFENSE: As I said, I'm going to talk to the Chinese government, but not through the press.

QUESTION: What's going to be the tone of these talks, if you would, Mr. Verga?

VERGA: Frank.

MACKINNON: China continues to reject U.S. claims that the April 1st collision was caused by the Chinese pilot.

ZHANG QIYUE, CHINESE FOREIGN MINISTRY (through translator): Some senior U.S. officials have made quite a number of irresponsible remarks, have shown no respect for the facts, and confused right and wrong, so as to avoid responsibility.

MACKINNON: China's main argument is that the accident would not have happened if the EP-3 surveillance plane hadn't been where it was in the first place.

ZHANG (through translator): When the U.S. sends aircraft to engage in reconnaissance activities along China's coast, this is a threat to Chinese national security. We demand that the U.S. take China's complaints seriously and stop sending military aircraft to conduct reconnaissance activities near China's coast and take effective measures to prevent the recurrence of similar incidents."

MACKINNON: The U.S. says it wants its plane back. But China has refused to say whether its even willing to discuss that matter.

Chinese fighter pilot Wang Wei, dead after colliding with that U.S. plane, is now lionized daily in the Chinese state-controlled media. Still touring Latin America, Chinese President Jiang Zemin declared Wang "protector of the sea and sky", calling on the military to follow his example.

A more spontaneous outpouring of Chinese feelings came on the World Wide Web. In less than 2 days, more than 13,000 people laid virtual flowers and lit virtual candles for Wang Wei in cyberspace.

(on camera): Chinese sources say the foreign ministry is under political pressure not only from the public, but also from the Chinese military to be very tough in Wednesday's talks. Many here now believe Washington's switch to a tougher tone immediately after the return of the U.S. crew proves the U.S. government didn't really mean it when it said, "very sorry."

Rebecca MacKinnon, CNN, Beijing.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: The Israeli army late today announced it is pulling its forces out of northeastern Gaza. The decision to pull back reverses a move overnight to retake a one-square-mile area the Israelis gave up under terms of a 1994 peace accord.

After a night of shelling, Israeli forces bulldozed their way into Gaza. And Israeli forces also shut down roads at the checkpoints they normally occupy inside Gaza, effectively sealing the territory on all sides. Israeli officials say they acted in response to Monday night mortar attacks on an Israeli town outside of Gaza.

The militant Muslim group Hamas claimed responsibility for the strikes, but Israeli leaders blamed Palestinian security for the mortar fire. Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat called the Israeli occupation of land in Gaza, "an unforgivable crime."

The U.S. had a quick and stern reaction to the escalating violence in the Middle East. And the U.S. reaction included a message for both the Israelis, and the Palestinians. Here's CNN national security correspondent, David Ensor.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID ENSOR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Israeli military seizure of a Palestinian-controlled area in the Gaza strip, a reaction to mortar fire into Israel by the Palestinians, was what prompted the unusually pointed U.S. criticism of Israel. In a statement from Secretary of State Colin Powell, read by his spokesman.

RICHARD BOUCHER, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: The hostilities last night in Gaza were precipitated by the provocative Palestinian mortar attacks on Israel. The Israeli response was excessive and disproportionate. We call upon both sides to respect the agreements they've signed.

ENSOR: In particular, Powell's statement said, Israel should honor its agreement to withdraw permanently from Gaza. He also criticized both the recent Hezbollah attack on Israeli forces and the Israeli retaliatory attack against a Syrian military position in Lebanon.

BOUCHER: The situation is threatening to escalate further, posing a risk of broader conflict.

ENSOR: Secretary Powell, and the Bush administration generally, have chosen not to play such a high profile mediating role between the Israelis and Palestinians as did President Clinton and his aides, but some analysts say if they don't get more engaged soon, they may regret it.

SHIBLEY TELHAMI, UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND: You cannot afford to wait too long because events on the ground will preempt you very quickly, and you'll find the choices you have today, you may not have tomorrow.

ENSOR (on camera): Though the U.S. criticized Palestinians for provocative mortar attacks, what will get all the attention, officials acknowledge, is their calling the Israeli response "excessive and disproportionate," plain words from a new administration about the actions of Ariel Sharon, a new Israeli prime minister.

David Ensor, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Up next, the motor city will have to find a new mayor. We'll ask the incumbent, Dennis Archer, why this term will be his last.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: The city of Detroit's mayor, Dennis Archer, announced today that he would not run for a third term this year. The announcement came as a surprise to some in the city. Mayor Archer joins us now from Detroit.

Mr. Mayor, you are just -- what 59 years old, is that right?

MAYOR DENNIS ARCHER, DETROIT, MICHIGAN: That's correct.

WOODRUFF: Still a relatively young man. You have what -- 83 percent of the vote the when you ran?

ARCHER: The last time I ran, that's correct.

WOODRUFF: So, why not try again?

ARCHER: Well, every indication -- my polls and I believe the polls of my opponents, to extent there are several that have announced -- all suggested that I would win if I ran. But the reality of it, Judy, is that work 16 hours a day or so, and it's like seven days a week. And I have been doing this now going into my 8th year.

And it's been a privilege and an honor to represent our citizens in the city of Detroit, but I will also tell you that it takes so much away from your family and your friends. You stay because I'm tied to a pager, I'm tied to a cell phone and I'm always dealing with issues and challenges and opportunities that come to our city.

WOODRUFF: Mr. Mayor, you have been given lot of credit for improving the image of the city of Detroit, for spurring economic development. At the same time, Detroit is plagued with what is called "white flight," people leaving the city with decayed parts of downtown. Are these the kinds of things that just wear one down as a public figure over time?

ARCHER: No. As a matter of fact, what it does is to energize you, because what you want to do is to solve the problem. We are right now in the process of building a brand new town downtown. Compuware, an outstanding software company, is building a brand new, $1.3 million square feet, new international headquarters right downtown.

We have completed Coamerica Park for the Detroit Tigers, the Lions' Ford Field. Their going to be coming in 2002. We have the 2006 Super Bowl. We have new housing all throughout our community. We have challenges, to be sure, but there are great opportunities here, and that's the reason why, by the way, if there's anybody who wants to do business, I'm still in office for eight months and about two weeks.

WOODRUFF: But people still moving out of the city, is that correct?

ARCHER: Judy, that's correct. We lost 7.5 percent of our population according to the 2000 census. However, that's sharp decrease from the 14.5 percent in 1990, and a 20.5 percent decrease in 1980. So we have reduced the number of people leaving the city, but I think with the housing developments that we have got going in our city, we will see by the year 2010, whoever the mayor is at that point, will be able to brag about the increase in population, increase in jobs, and how our city turned itself around.

When you are mayor, just like being president of the United States, you take the baton and you hand it off to the next person coming behind.

WOODRUFF: At the same time, Mr. mayor, Detroit still has unfortunately one the highest homicide rates in the country...

ARCHER: Wait a minute, Judy! That is not correct, Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right, correct me if it's not right.

ARCHER: You need to go back and take a look at the stats. We are way down in terms of homicides. One homicide is one too many, to be sure, but we were 396 last year. We are not proud of that at all, but it's substantially lower than what it used to be.

And if you look at a per capita, on terms of one to 100,000, we are not high in crime. We are not leading any national crime statistics for homicide. Check out the stats!

WOODRUFF: Well, let me ask you then about the controversy in Detroit right now about the number of homicides that your police department has not been able to solve. There's speculation...

ARCHER: Oh, now, that? To be true, to be sure, that there are those issues that are before us. That is to say, the number of unsolved homicides. But that does not mean that the homicide rate is high. Rather, it goes to the work of the homicide department.

But they are working on those issues. We're still solving crimes every day. We're still arresting people, and we're still finding, even on stale cases, those who have committed crimes, and that's because we have got a great community who happens to be engaged with our police department.

WOODRUFF: Did that have anything to do with your decision?

ARCHER: Absolutely not! I'm going to tell you something, I'm very proud of our police department. We have got some challenges, to be sure. We are turning those challenges into opportunities.

But that did not cause me to walk away. Please understand something: there is a -- I mean, just as you are engaged in your work, I'm engaged in mine. At some point, it begins to take its toll, at least it does for me: 16, 18 hours a day. My wife and I couldn't remember the last time we went to the movie, the last time I personally sort of darted away on a Saturday was to see the brand-new opening of "Episode One," which was a "Star Wars" sequel! Now, you go back and date that. That will tell you when I had time to go to a movie.

WOODRUFF: We hear you loud and clear. Mr. mayor, let me finally ask you a question about the Democratic Party.

ARCHER: Yes.

WOODRUFF: No longer in charge at the White House, no longer in the majority in the U.S. Senate, the U.S. House, nor in most the vast majority of governors' offices around this nation. What do the Democrats need to do to regain the majority somewhere?

ARCHER: We are going to regain the majority when it comes time to back the House in 2002. Watch what happens in the governors races in 2002, and also watch what happens in the United States 2002, and we have...

WOODRUFF: How can you be so confident?

ARCHER: How? Because we have been energizing our party base all throughout the United States. We have not sat still since the election. To be sure, we have a new president. I am going to work with him. I am going to be able to make sure that our city benefits from whatever his domestic policies happen to be. I look forward to working with this administration.

But at the end of day, the Democrats are ready, we are going to be out there. We have been registering the people to vote. Everybody is highly energized. We support country, we support Congress and everything, but when it comes time to vote, Charlie Rangel at the end of the day is going to be chair of Ways and Means, John Conyers is going to be chair of the Judiciary, and Dick Gephardt is going to be speaker!

And I look for Tom Daschle to be the new majority leader in the United States Senate.

WOODRUFF: All right. Spoken like a loyal Democrat. Mayor Dennis Archer, thank you very much.

ARCHER: Thank you very much.

WOODRUFF: We do appreciate you joining us.

ARCHER: Thank you, Judy.

WOODRUFF: Thank you.

Coming up next, a check of the day's other top stories, including the rising flood waters. As residents in the upper Midwest wonder how much higher the waters will go, the latest when we return.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

The United Nations is calling on the West African nation of Benin to investigate a mystery. It involves allegations of a ship that may or may not have transported dozens of children sold into slavery. Early today, authorities boarded one vessel in question and did find 43 children, but no evidence that the children were being held for slave labor. The rest onboard were adults, most of them migrants.

More hard work today for those who were battling flood waters in the upper Midwest. The hardest-hit states are North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa. The source of the trouble in North Dakota continues to be the Red River. Officials say the river's level is now dropping slightly, but they warn it may be another month before the river returns to normal size.

For more on what is expected from the weather there and elsewhere in the nation, let's turn to Karen Maginnis in the Weather Center. And Karen, I want to make sure what I said a moment ago about rising waters is correct.

KAREN MAGINNIS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: It looks like they actually have fallen, but just "minusculy." We are seeing just maybe half a foot drop here and there, but they are receding slowly. But what we are expecting for the next several days is yet another weather system to invade the Midwest. So we're looking at a rainfall event here maybe late in the day on Wednesday, going into Thursday, going into Friday.

The extended weather picture shows a chance of rainfall across the Upper Mississippi River Valley going into Saturday and Sunday. So it's not over yet.

(WEATHER BREAK)

WOODRUFF: All right, Karen, thanks for bringing us up to date.

Still ahead on INSIDE POLITICS, the Capitol trees that could soon be history. Why plans for a visitor center may mean the end for some historic trees on Capitol Hill?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: In Washington, an environmental concern of a different sort: The plan to put an underground visitor center near the Capitol means digging up a large plot of land.

As Kate Snow reports, the project could cost the nation a very few special trees.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARGARET FURFARI, FORMER CONGRESSIONAL SECRETARY: Oh, this just makes me so proud.

KATE SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For Marguerite Furfari, it's more than a 20-year-old sugar maple. it's a memorial to Representative Harley Staggers, the man she worked for, for 32 years.

FURFARI: It meant very much to him and it meant a lot to me that he was honored.

SNOW: Since the early 1900s, more than 90 trees have been planted here to honor people, groups or events. Furfari remembers a day in 1980 a young Al Gore stood with them to dedicate the Staggers tree.

FURFARI: It was cold, frigid cold.

SNOW (on camera): But 20 years later, plans for the space just east of the Capitol have changed. When construction starts on a new visitors center, 50 to 70 trees will be removed. Most don't have plaques naming them, but the Staggers tree does.

FURFARI: It's a part of our history, just like if somebody would come down here and put a bomb on our great Capitol -- ooh, it's giving me the goose pimples just to even think of that.

ALAN HANTMAN, U.S. CAPITOL ARCHITECT: There's a long history of members of Congress and the American people protecting and loving their trees, and everything we're doing on this project is really geared toward saving virtually every tree that we can.

SNOW (voice-over): Alan Hantman is the architect of the Capitol, the man responsible for a thousand trees around the U.S. Capitol.

HANTMAN: We have specifically oriented the visitor center excavation to miss all of the major trees over here.

SNOW: Members of Congress have been talking about building a visitor center for decades to improve security and accommodate growing crowds.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How many? Four or five?

SNOW: Earlier this month, the line for Capitol tours set a record, a 3 1/2-hour wait outdoors. The new center will put the crowd underground, beneath a granite plaza to the east of the Capitol, three stories deep, with an auditorium, a great hall and orientation theaters, not to mention a cafeteria and restrooms.

The excavation will be almost as big as the Capitol itself: so big removing some trees just can't be avoided. Tree experts will transplant eight memorial trees and pull out four.

HANTMAN: You can see that the roots have heavily overgrown the sidewalk.

SNOW: Hantman says this hybrid elm and a nearby red oak wouldn't survive a transplant. But first lady Pat Nixon's southern magnolia will be moved. So will the Liberty Elm, planted by Senator Ted Kennedy, and the red bud named for House Speaker Carl Albert.

Once the visitors center is completed in 2005, crews will plant about 50 new trees in keeping with the 1874 plan by landscaping pioneer Frederick Law Olmsted.

HANTMAN: Change is difficult, and somebody somewhere is always going to be impacted and not happy with change.

SNOW: But not everyone.

GAYLORD NELSON, FORMER U.S. SENATOR: Well, we grow a lot prettier maples in Wisconsin than that one.

SNOW: Former Senator Gaylord Nelson founded Earth Day. His tree is on the chopping block.

NELSON: Maybe they'll give the nameplate. I can put it on the kitchen door.

SNOW: Or, he says, maybe he'll sneak in late at night and plant a new tree.

Kate Snow, CNN, Capitol Hill.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Keeping a sense of humor.

Well, there is much more ahead in the next half hour, including the latest from the pentagon on the U.S.-China plane collision.

Plus, remembering another international event: The Bay of Pigs invasion, four decades later.

This is INSIDE POLITICS.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: The United States releases another in-flight video, setting the stage for sensitive talks with China.

It may not be quite like Nixon going to China, but Senator Jesse Helms' trip to Mexico marks a milestone.

And they came to Ellis Island yearning to be free. Now, you can trace their history online.

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

WOODRUFF: Welcome back to INSIDE POLITICS. It is Wednesday in Beijing, and in just a matter of hours, United States and Chinese officials are scheduled to confront one another and unresolved issues after their recent 11-day standoff. U.S. representatives arrived in Beijing seeking the return of the Navy surveillance plane that went down after colliding with a Chinese fighter jet. China, in turn, has demanded an end to U.S. surveillance flights near its territory.

But CNN has learned that those surveillance flights will resume as soon as the end of this week. CNN's Jamie McIntyre has more on that and on new pictures released by the Pentagon.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): More video tapes released Tuesday document what the Pentagon says are aggressive and dangerous intercepts conducted since late December by Chinese pilots based at Hainan Island.

In one tape from January 30th, Wang Wei, the pilot who collided with the U.S. EP-3, can be seen making gestures and holding up a paper with what appears to be his e-mail address at yeah.net. The Pentagon is singling out the pilots from Wei's squadron as some of the worst offenders when it comes to harassing U.S. flights.

REAR ADM. CRAIG QUIGLEY, PENTAGON SPOKESMAN: We have no problem with intercepts of our reconnaissance and surveillance aircraft, as long as it is done in a safe manner. The issue is the overly aggressive flying, and the squadrons that come out to do intercepts to the East Coast of China do not appear to have the same aggressive flying style as those along the South Coast. MCINTYRE: In fact, administration sources say when U.S. reconnaissance flights resume, possibly later this week, they will first fly a pattern to the north, where the Chinese fighter pilots have generally kept their distance, and avoid for a while the southern route that takes the planes near Hainan Island.

That plan will also allow for land-based U.S. fighter escort jets to fly from Korea or Japan to protect the flights if China won't agree to back off. That kind of fighter support requires constant aerial refueling, something that is difficult to do from an aircraft carrier.

So, the Pentagon says the U.S. aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk will continue toward Guam. Pentagon officials insist there are no plans to turn it around to send any signal to the Chinese.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MCINTYRE: The Pentagon is philosophically opposed to escorting U.S. planes flying legally in international airspace. So, whether the option of sending up armed fighters as a last resort depends very much, officials here say on the tone and tenor of the meeting with the Chinese -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Jamie, simultaneous with the timing of this, you have been reporting today that the Pentagon has made a recommendation to the president with regard to what sort of arms the U.S. ought to be selling Taiwan. Tell us what you have been finding out.

MCINTYRE: Well, administration sources say that the Pentagon and the State Department have come to a consensus, the civilian leaders, that they ought to add a little bit more to what the military said Taiwan absolutely needs to be able to thwart any invasion from the mainland.

And what they're talking about is not selling the Aegis destroyers that Taiwan says it wants, but instead of giving it an Aegis-like capability to beef up its air defenses so that it will have a better protection against anti-ship missiles and aircraft attack, and not so much think that China will think that Taiwan is beginning to get the elements of a rudimentary missile defense. That's something that has the Chinese very upset, the idea that the Aegis system could provide a missile defense for Taiwan.

So, that's the recommendation, sources say, that the State Department and Pentagon civilian leaders are bringing to the president. Of course, President Bush has to make that decision about exactly what to sell to Taiwan by next week.

WOODRUFF: Jaime, what sort of a time frame are we talking about here? Presuming decisions were made to provide the Taiwanese with certain weapon systems, when would they be able to deploy these?

MCINTYRE: Almost a decade, it takes a long time. They'd have to come up with the technology, tailor it to Taiwan, figure out what kind of ship they're going to put it on, especially if they're not selling existing destroyers. That all has to be put in the pipeline. Pentagon officials say they estimate it'll be eight to nine years from the time the decision is made before Taiwan actually has this enhanced battle management capability from a high-tech system that would be similar to the Aegis system.

WOODRUFF: All right, Jamie McIntyre at the Pentagon.

And now, let's get the latest view from the White House on U.S.- China relations and those imminent talks in Beijing. Here's our senior White House correspondent, John King.

John, what is the administration expecting? What is the White House saying it expects from these talks in Beijing?

KING: Well, the White House saying that they hope for a constructive view, both from the U.S. side and from the Chinese side. Now, no one is expecting the Chinese to say, gee, you're right. We accept your explanation and we now believe that we are at fault for this.

But we're told the U.S. side will make quite a detailed presentation to make the case, in the U.S. view, that the Chinese indeed are to blame, and the U.S. says it is important to do that, even though they do not expect the Chinese accept that explanation: one, to put on the public record evidence -- and they say they will bring some of those videos and other evidence to back up the statements from the administration during the standoff -- and as well to back up the public statements from the pilot and other members of the crew since they have returned home safely.

WOODRUFF: John, the administration has been making these pictures available of the pilot, Wang Wei, perhaps other pilots involved. What more evidence can they provide than what's already been made public?

KING: Well, they will show these directly to the Chinese, permitted they are allowed to do in the meeting. They also have some radar data, we are told, and the materials that have already been provided to the Chinese. It's not so much new information, it's just the U.S. side wants to go into this meeting and make clear to the Chinese, look, we believe your side is to blame, but we're not interested in having a public debate about that.

What we want most of all, as Jamie was touching on, is when we resume these flights, and the U.S. delegation will tell the Chinese these flights will resume very soon, when we resume these flights, the goal of the U.S. delegation is to get a commitment from the Chinese, at least a verbal commitment, that their fighter jets will indeed back off.

WOODRUFF: Well, how will they measure success, John? I mean, you're saying they're going in saying they're going to present this information. They don't expect the Chinese to accept, so how will they know the meeting has been successful or not?

KING: Two substantive things: One, an agreement, at least an implicit agreement from the Chinese that their fighter pilots will back off. As Mr. Quigley, Admiral Quigley was saying in Jamie's piece, the Pentagon has no problem with those fighters being up there. It's how close they come. So the U.S. side will view this as a success if the Chinese fighters back off and if they are allowed to get a repair crew in there to repair and retrieve the EP-3 surveillance plane.

Another issue, it's not so much substantive, it's more stylistic. They are looking to see what the Chinese tone is here. Both governments, some pretty harsh rhetoric, both during and after the standoff. If the administration is to move forward and if the administration is to be relieved of some the political pressure, to take harsh steps against the Chinese, it needs to be able to demonstrate to the domestic political audience here in the United States that the Chinese are adopting a more friendly tone.

WOODRUFF: So many agendas. All right, John King at the White House.

In contrast with China, U.S. relations with Mexico are warmer these days, which helps explain why Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jesse Helms is there today. As CNN's Harris Whitbeck reminds us, Helms hasn't exactly been a fan of America's neighbor to the south.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HARRIS WHITBECK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A United States senator who has been one of the most vocal critics of Mexico and it's policy, has met President Vicente Fox, and Fox's official residence. Senator Jesse Helms and his foreign relations committee will make history when they stage an unprecedented joint meeting with their Mexican counterparts later in the week.

The state of relations between Mexico and the United States has never been better. Analysts say that the result of the election of President Fox.

GABRIEL GUERRA, POLITICAL ANALYST: I think that the Democratic bone that Fox brought with him is one of the things that has made this visit possible. And the fact that Helms has been softening his stance towards Mexico in general and towards the particular issues like drug trafficking and migration, are also very symbolic of the way that the relationship has been evolving and changing.

WHITBECK: There is a certain degree of contention under the surface of handshakes and diplomacy. Mexico wants to make sure that the United States Congress ends the practice of certification through which it grades the country's efforts and the drug war.

FERNANDO MARGAN, MEXICAN SENATE: The decision on whether or not it (UNINTELLIGIBLE) can be certified is not the issue -- it should not be a unilateral decision.

WHITBECK: And both countries want to discuss illegal migration and ways to curb it. Mexican senators want to make sure that the rights of Mexican migrants, both legal and illegal, are respected in the United States.

(on camera): But even if they don't reach an agreement, the meeting between the two groups of senators is already being build of a success. Given that just a year ago, a visit here by Mr. Helms, who once called Mexico the home of fraud, corruption and the strangling of democracy, would have been unthinkable.

Harris Whitbeck, CNN, Mexico City.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Up next, a return to the Bay of Pigs, 40 years later. The long memories, and the lessons learned, from the failed invasion of Cuba.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: A huge celebration is planned Thursday in Cuba to commemorate the Cuban government's victory at the Bay of Pigs. The U.S.-backed invasion began 40 years ago today. But as CNN's Garrick Utley reports, the memories remain strong for everyone involved.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NARRATOR: The assault has begun on the dictatorship of Fidel Castro.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GARRICK UTLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Perhaps it was doomed to failure: 1,500 Cuban exiles landing on the southern coast of Cuba to face 200,000 Cuban soldiers and militia mobilized to beat them back into the sea. The landing force had been trained at this base in Guatemala by the CIA, which expected Cubans to rise up and welcome their liberators. It didn't happen.

In Cuba, Fidel Castro called on his people to push back the invader. More than 100 members of the invasion force were killed, the rest captured.

Arthur Schlesinger Jr. was a White House aide who met with Cuban exile leaders during the invasion. He saw how President John F. Kennedy faced the disaster.

ARTHUR SCHLESINGER JR., HISTORIAN: His immediate reaction was to blame himself for being such an idiot.

UTLEY: The invasion had been approved by President Dwight Eisenhower the year before. Kennedy worried that if he abandoned it, he would be seen as weak in standing up to communism. But in meetings with the CIA and U.S. military leaders, he drew a line.

SCHLESINGER: Kennedy made it clear again and again in these meetings that in no case would American troops be involved. But the CIA and indeed the Cuban exiles, I think, believed that when the time came he would have no choice but to send in American troops.

UTLEY (on camera): And when the time came, Kennedy stood by his words: no U.S. troops. Nor were there air strikes to support the invading force, as its members believed they had been promised.

Forty years later, time has not healed all wounds.

(voice-over): Last month, Arthur Schlesinger Jr. and other Americans met in Havana with Cuban officials, including Fidel Castro, to talk about what happened back then when they were all much younger. There was a visit to the beach.

ALFREDO DURAN, FORMER INVASION BRIGADE MEMBER: Very emotional, very intense to be standing here and discussing some of the battle strategies and things that happened on this beach where a lot of my friends died.

UTLEY: Why the invasion went so wrong for the Cuban exiles has been investigated and documented, and most of the blame placed on the CIA. It was a painful, but important lesson for President Kennedy two years later, during the nuclear missile crisis with Cuba.

SCHLESINGER: One reason for the brilliant way he handled the missile crisis was because he had no hesitation about rejecting the recommendations of the joint chiefs and the CIA.

UTLEY: Historians have called the Bay of Pigs invasion "a perfect failure." The beach where it all happened in 1961 today is being put to other uses.

Garrick Utley, CNN.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: A gateway to a new life goes online. When we return: years of hard work make the Ellis Island immigration records accessible to the world.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: There is more INSIDE POLITICS coming up. But first, let's go to Willow Bay for a preview of what's ahead at the bottom of the hour on "MONEYLINE."

WILLOW BAY, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, Judy. Well, coming up next on "MONEYLINE": Intel profits plunge, but the chip maker managed to squeak out better than expected earnings. We'll break down the numbers and we will talk live with Intel's CFO Andy Bryant. Texas Instruments also out with quarterly results and announcing job cuts. And the threat of more rolling blackouts in California may send some businesses running. We'll have those stories and more next on "MONEYLINE." INSIDE POLITICS continues right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Relatives can now trace the beginnings of life in the new land through ship passenger lists or manifests.

FELICITA GABBACCIA SALTO, IMMIGRANT: That was really when I got emotional, was when I saw that includes the whole family listed on there, the names, ages, where we were coming from, where we were going, did we have money, did we know how to read and write.

FEYERICK: The Family History Project was created by the Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island Foundation.

RUSSELL NELSON, PROJECT VOLUNTEER: It's an opportunity to bring the past together with the present.

FEYERICK: It took 12,000 volunteers seven years to transcribe all the names stored on microfilm.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The big challenge was just the enormity of the task and the painstaking labor that was required to decipher what was being written on the records.

FEYERICK (on camera): The original manifests were destroyed in the late '40s, early '50s, sold as paper pulp for $12,000. And while there are 22 million names in this database, millions of others are missing. Either the records were lost, the microfilm was too difficult to read, or they were ruined in a fire.

(voice-over): And while it may take several spellings to find a long-lost relative, the program is designed to be relatively easy.

EDWIN SCHLOSSBERG, DATABASE DESIGNER: We actually put together four different software packages that, in a sense, do similar-sounding names.

FEYERICK: Names that may have changed over time.

NELSON: It's a myth that names changed here. The fact is that when people changed their names, and they did it, it was when they were being naturalized as American citizens.

FEYERICK: Once the Web site is fully up and running, people will even be able to create their own family pages, to fill out the details of lives that began anew at the boat ride.

Deborah Feyerick, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: So exciting for those people whose names are there. Well, that's all -- or whose families' names are there.

That's all for this edition of INSIDE POLITICS, but of course, you can go online all the time at CNN's allpolitics.com, AOL keyword: "CNN." This programming note: tonight on "CROSSFIRE," former Assistant Defense Secretary Richard Perle and Steven Clemons of the New America Foundation will discuss tomorrow's meeting between the United States and China. That's at 7:30 p.m. Eastern.

I am Judy Woodruff. "MONEYLINE" is next.

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

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