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Democrats Mark Bush Administration Milestone With Attacks

Aired April 26, 2001 - 17:00   ET


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


SEN. TOM DASCHLE (D-SD), MINORITY LEADER: These first 100 days gives us real concern about the next 1,360.


ANNOUNCER: Democrats wage a ground and air war targeting President Bush's first 100 days.

Do you feel as though you're paying an arm and a leg for gas? We'll tell you if Congress is trying to do anything about it.



BOB KERREY (D), FORMER U.S. SENATOR: I don't think it's fair to say that I've kept a secret for 32 years.


ANNOUNCER: Former senator Bob Kerrey faces the fallout after revelations about his service in Vietnam.

Now Judy Woodruff takes you INSIDE POLITICS.

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

They may have lost the White House, but Democrats are not ceding the spotlight to President Bush as he prepares to mark his 100th day in office. In fact, members of the opposition party seem to think Mr. Bush's milestone offers a great opportunity to attack his record and to begin positioning themselves for the next election.

Here's our congressional correspondent, Jonathan Karl.


JONATHAN KARL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Bush has only been in office 97 days, but Democrats were out with an unflinchingly harsh assessment of his first 100.

REP. DICK GEPHARDT (D-MO), MINORITY LEADER: There's been no collaboration. There's been no negotiation. There's been no consensus building. There have been no bipartisan conclusions. It is "My way or the highway" every day.

SEN. TOM DASCHLE (D-SD), MINORITY LEADER: These first 100 days gives us real concern about the next 1,360.

KARL: Democrats were especially tough on Bush's environmental record. They put forth a woman whose son suffered from arsenic poisoning to highlight the Bush administration's backing away from the strict arsenic regulations proposed by President Clinton.

KATHRYN BURR, MOTHER: My son suffered immensely. He could have died. And I am here today because I don't want another child or another family to experience the pain -- excuse me, excuse me -- my family endured for the last 10 years. All drinking water should be safe.

KARL: The White House says arsenic standards are under review. At their joint press conference, Democratic leaders Dick Gephardt and Tom Daschle gave Bush a report card. On education, they gave him an incomplete, on military reform an F, also an F on Medicare reform, energy policy, campaign finance reform and on environmental protection an F-minus. The report card is much harsher than the grades Daschle gave the president just a few days ago.

DASCHLE (April 23, 2001): I guess I would give him an A-plus for his first 30 days, a B-plus for his second 30 days, and a C-minus for his third 30 days, and -- and probably a better grade his last 10, given the China situation.

KARL: Three days later, Daschle's A, B's and C's have apparently turned to F's.

SEN. KAY BAILEY HUTCHISON (R), TEXAS: They're giving F's and F- minuses on issues that the president is trying to bring forward. He has brought members of both parties to the White House many more times than President Clinton did in his first hundred days.

KARL: On that point, the president earlier this week announced plans to invite everybody in Congress over for lunch.

ARI FLEISCHER, WHITE HOUSE SPOKESMAN: On the 100th day, on Monday, in the White House the president will be hosting a lunch for all 535 members of Congress to come down.

KARL: Turns out many key members of Congress, including Democratic and Republican leaders, will be out of town on Monday.

HUTCHISON: I'm going to be in Texas.


KARL: Now, the Democratic National Committee is taking an unprecedented step against the president who has only been in office less than 100 days. They have launched an ad campaign criticizing President Bush. Here's an excerpt of one of the two ads they've put out.


UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: May I have please have some more arsenic in my water, Mommy?

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: More salmonella in my cheeseburger, please.

ANNOUNCER: George W. Bush tried to roll back protections against arsenic in drinking water and salmonella in school lunches.


KARL: Now, that -- that ad right now is only running in Washington, D.C., although Terry McAuliffe, the head of the Democratic National Committee, said they are considering a multi-million-dollar multi-state ad buy to attack President Bush over the airwaves throughout the United States.


WOODRUFF: Jonathan, we hear what the leadership is saying. What about among the other Democrats you're talking to? Are they giving the president as negative an assessment as the leadership is?

KARL: Well, certainly not as harsh as that assessment you saw, the straight F's. Many of the moderates in both the Senate and the House give the president mixed marks. They say that they look forward to working with him on a variety of issues, and they say that has done, you know, positive things in several areas. I just spoke with Senator Ben Nelson, who is working with the president on the tax cut issue, for instance, and expects there will ultimately be a deal with the White House on final passage of a tax cut somewhere in the neighborhood of $1.3 trillion.

So clearly, not all Democrats share the harsh assessment that you heard here today from the Democratic leaders.

WOODRUFF: All right, Jonathan Karl at the White House, thanks very much. I'm sorry! At the Capitol.

But joining us now from the White House, counselor to the president Karen Hughes.

Karen Hughes, I don't know how much of Jon Karl's report you were able to hear. He did begin by saying that the leadership in the House and the Senate, the Democratic leadership, are giving the president some pretty harsh reviews, failing grades on issues ranging from military reform to energy policy, the environment. What do you say to that?

KAREN HUGHES, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT: Well, Judy, I think it's maybe a measure of just how much progress President Bush has made in changing the tone in Washington to realize how harsh and strident that kind of old-style politics sounds. It's a discordant note, and I think the American people have become accustomed and are pleased with the new tone that's coming out of Washington, where most Democrats and -- are working with this Republican president and with Republican members in Congress to try to really accomplish some significant reforms.

And look at the progress. I noticed that one of -- Senator Daschle, I think, or Congressman Gephardt said that they had not seen the president working with Democrats. Well, I walked into the White House last week and saw Senator Ted Kennedy, a Democrat, huddled with our aides, talking about an education reform bill that is really going to change and improve America's public schools for our students. Yesterday, I saw five Democratic senators here talking with the president about budget and providing significant tax relief for the American people.

So I think that, you know, the Democrats seem to be having trouble getting some of the report cards straight. I noticed the early one they gave averaged a high B, and I think that's pretty good marks from the -- from the leaders of the -- of the other party for a new president.

But what really counts in the end is what the American -- getting results for the American people. And that's why the president has invited all the members of Congress, both Democrats and Republicans, to come to the White House to -- to work together and try to accomplish things to improve our schools and to provide tax relief for our citizens and to improve our citizens' health care and to reform Social Security and some of the other things he talked about throughout his campaign.

WOODRUFF: Well, now he's meeting with Democrats, or at least inviting them to the White House. But I think what some of the Democrats have been saying -- the president has chosen maybe an isolated Democrat or two to meet with. But for example, on the tax cut, he singled out a couple of Democrats and really didn't talk to the -- to the wider group of Democrats in the Senate. Their point being that he came to Washington saying there ought to be -- there ought to be talks across the aisle, but for the longest time there wasn't.

HUGHES: Well, Judy, I just don't think the facts would bear that out. President Bush has talked with, I think, some 200 -- almost 300 members of Congress since he's been here, and again, has invited every single member to lunch here on Monday. He clearly is reaching out to Democrats. He's met with a large number of Democrats. In fact, we had some Democrats joke to us that they were invited to the White House more frequently now, with President Bush, than they'd ever been with -- with President Clinton.

And I think, again, the proof is in the results. Both house of Congress, both -- both the Senate and the House, have passed a budget far earlier than is usual in this budget process. And in the Senate, it was passed with the support of 15 Democrats, a 65-35 vote. That is a huge vote to pass a budget framework. And again, it's a budget framework that provides almost $1.3 trillion in tax relief to the American people.

So the president is interested in focusing on results and on -- on being able to help American people who are facing right now high energy prices, who need some money back in their pockets. And he wants to focus on getting tax relief back to people, improving our schools and -- and focusing on that agenda that he campaigned on.

WOODRUFF: Well, speaking of tax cuts, the president has been saying to audiences of citizens around the country that he wants that $1.6 trillion over the next 10 years, but he's also been telling people in Washington now in the last few days that he knows he's going to have to settle for less than that, Senator Trent Lott saying today at the Capitol that it's going to have to be several hundred billion less than that. Were does that stand?

HUGHES: Well -- well, Judy, we're continuing to talk with members of Congress, and as I just noted, the -- the House has passed a tax relief package of $1.6 trillion, the Senate of a little less than $1.3 trillion. So we think that's great news for the American people. They're going to get significant tax relief this year. The president is committed to working with Democrats and Republicans to make sure they -- the American people do, in fact, get significant tax relief this year. And we feel very, very good about the progress we're making.

WOODRUFF: Karen Hughes, as I talk to you, we're looking at pictures over your shoulder, and now over my shoulder, of the president arriving on Air Force One in Houston. He's going to be there for a visit.

Let me change the subject, if you don't mind, to China. After the president's statements yesterday about Taiwan and -- and the president said "whatever it took" the United States would do that, to defend Taiwan -- today the Chinese officials, Chinese spokesmen, are saying that the Chinese people are strongly indignant and, quote, "opposed" to the president's remarks.

What did the president mean to say?

HUGHES: Well, he meant to say exactly what he did say. And in fact, he said -- one of the things that I think the American people are finding so refreshing about this president is that he says what he means, and then he does what he says. And what he said yesterday and the day before yesterday is exactly the same as what he said during the presidential campaign and what's been the policy of our government for a number of years, and that is that he would uphold the Taiwan Relations Act, which -- which -- the Taiwan Relations Act has been the policy of this country for a number of years, which says that our -- the United States will help Taiwan defend herself and...

WOODRUFF: But a number...

HUGHES: ... and we are interested in working for peace in that area, and the president said exactly what he meant to say.

WOODRUFF: Well, let me ask you, because a number of China experts, as I'm sure you know, are saying that the words the president used represent a change in policy. Did the president intend to change the policy?

HUGHES: No, again, Judy, the president said exactly what he meant to say. The president said that we will help Taiwan defend herself. The president also supports a one-China policy, and that's about as clear as I can make it. And I think he was about as clear as he could be.

WOODRUFF: So when the Chinese come back and say they're angry and that this shows the U.S. has drifted further down a dangerous road...

HUGHES: Well, again, I -- I understand China's is a nation that is -- is a powerful nation. The president views China as a strategic competitor. There are issues about which we are going to disagree with China, and Taiwan is one of them. But President Bush believes we can work in a constructive way with China on issues about which we agree, such as free trade, which -- which he thinks both helps American farmers and American business people and also helps -- helps support the cause of freedom in China, as we have more open trade with that country.

WOODRUFF: So if he had the opportunity, he would use the same words again.

HUGHES: Yes, Judy. Again, the president says what he means and means what he says.

WOODRUFF: All right, Karen Hughes, counselor to the president, thank you very much for joining us.

HUGHES: Thank you, Judy.

WOODRUFF: We appreciate it.

While President Bush's first 100 days have been getting a great deal of media attention, a former public official has managed to create quite a stir in this town and across the nation. Recently retired Democratic senator Bob Kerrey spoke out again today about his disclosure that he led a Navy SEAL team that killed women and children during the Vietnam war.

Let's bring back our Jonathan Karl, who's been covering the Bob Kerrey story.


KARL: Well, Judy, Bob Kerrey came out today in a Sheraton hotel in mid-town Manhattan to talk more and for the first time hold a press conference about what happened on that night, that moonless night on the Mekong Delta in Vietnam some 32 years ago. Here's some of what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) KERREY: The operation I led in February, 1969, was in a free- fire zone where there was a high probability of our making contact with enemy soldiers. We had reliable intelligence both that a significant military meeting was taking place in the village that was our destination and that there were not civilians in the area. And when we fired, we fired because we were fired upon. In short, we did not go out on a mission with the intent of killing innocent people.

I feel guilty because of what happened, not because of what we intended to do. I mean, it may be that I did nothing wrong, but I feel like I did something wrong. I've not been able to justify it either militarily or morally. And part of the reason I want to talk about it is to tell that story, to be able to say, "Here's what happened, and I can't -- I cannot justify it."


KARL: Kerrey won a Bronze Star for what happened on that night, but it's something he has just never talked about publicly or, as far as we can tell, even privately. His friends up her eon Capitol Hill, including John Kerry, his close friend and fellow Vietnam war hero, said that they didn't even know -- Kerry -- John Kerry said that he didn't even know that Bob Kerrey had ever won a Bronze Star in Vietnam. Kerrey also made it clear at the press conference today that this is a secret he also kept from his family.


KERREY: I, like most men who have done something they regret in war, have not discussed this tragedy before. Not even my children knew. Well, now they do. I told them what I did, and they told me that they still love me. Their love heals and makes me glad that I've begun to tell this story.


KARL: When one reporter referred to Kerrey as a potential future commander-in-chief, he said point-blank, "I am not a potential future commander-in-chief," and he was asked point-blank, "Are you ruling out a future run for president?" At that point, he turned to his wife, who was behind him, and he said, "Sweetheart, are we ruling it out?" She said yes, and he turned to the mike and said "Yes, we're ruling it out."


WOODRUFF: Jonathan, why did this come out now?

KARL: Well, "The New York Times" and CBS News have jointly been working on an expose for now some two years on this subject. They first approached Kerrey about this back in 1998 when he was then considering a run for president in the year 2000. So this has been a story that's been in the works for some time. "The New York Times" magazine was to be coming up this upcoming Sunday. CBS was to be going forward with the story on Tuesday. So Kerrey started talking about it. And he actually first talked about it in a little-noted speech at the Virginia Military Institute 11, 12 days ago, first talking about this experience. So he knew it was coming out.

What happened was, this reporter who'd been working on this spoke to a member of Kerrey's SEAL team, who told them a different version of events, who actually said that Kerrey's SEAL team intentionally rounded up and killed civilians. So Kerrey wanted to come out with this, for one, to correct that account, say this was an accidental killing of civilians, but something he regretted nonetheless.

WOODRUFF: All right, Jonathan Karl at the Capitol, thanks.

Straight ahead on INSIDE POLITICS, our senior analyst, Jeff Greenfield, shares his thoughts on former senator Bob Kerrey and the political legacies of war.

Also ahead: The House minority leader and the Senate majority leader stop by to talk about the president's first 100 days and to preview what's next on their competing agendas.

And later: gas prices soaring again. Will Congress try to stop the price hike?



WOODRUFF: CNN senior analyst Jeff Greenfield is among those following the revelations concerning former senator Bob Kerrey's service in Vietnam. Jeff Greenfield joins us now from New York.

Jeff, we just heard it reported by Jon Karl that the senator is saying that, as of now, he doesn't plan a political future. Having said that, though, is there political liability in what we're learning now about his service?

JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SENIOR ANALYST: I think -- I think even asking the question answers it. Senator Kerrey has made the point that, you know, he didn't run as a hero when he entered public life. But the fact is that anyone who comes out of combat with a Congressman Medal of Honor or a Silver Star, as Senator John Kerry has, or a Bronze Star, and goes into public life, people take that into account.

You know, if you come back and oppose the war in Vietnam, the fact that you were a combat hero gives you enormous cover with people who ordinarily might not have liked that position. And I think there's no question that it changes people's understanding of who this person was, even as Senator Kerrey is saying he, himself, is wrestling with trying to figure out why he did what he did and the fact that he found it indefensible.

So I think -- I think if you just think back to would he have had the political career he had, had we known this, I think you see how -- how potent politically that kind of revelation can be.

WOODRUFF: So you're saying there was -- you know, we heard him talk about who knew and who didn't know about the Bronze Star, but how much political strength is there for a politician in having military service behind him?

GREENFIELD: Well, it's enormous. In fact, it's very interesting to me that, if you think just recently, the Vietnam war by its conclusion and the years since has pretty much gone down in history as a terribly unpopular war, a war that most Americans probably think should never have been fought. And yet you look at the reaction to, for instance, Senator McCain's presidential run among people who didn't share his political views. The fact that he underwent what he underwent, five-and-a-half years of imprisonment and torture at the hands of the North Vietnamese, I think was an incredibly important part of his persona, even among those who don't -- who by no means share his political views.

And if you put it in that context, then I think you can see politically the fall-out. If John McCain were not -- had not behaved as he -- as he did, if there had been some weird thing or untoward thing that happened during his confinement or during his military career, it would have made the whole campaign different. And I -- by the way, that's been true since the start of the republic. I mean, we used to elect presidents about every 20 years or so because they'd led Americans successfully in battle. So it has a tremendous political importance even among those who we don't think of as, quote, "pro- military."

WOODRUFF: So just quickly, Jeff, where would you say his political future stands now?

GREENFIELD: You know, one of the things about Bob Kerrey that has made him one of the more compelling public figures of our time is this is not a guy who I think -- many of us think sits down and necessarily calculates very far in advance what he does politically. He quit the governorship after one term. He entered the presidential race in 1992, actually in '91, almost without calculation.

The fact that he's just -- he's newly married, his wife is expecting a child, he's moved to New York -- I'm not sure he thought much -- that much about running anyway. And actually, I tend to take him at his word that right now, he's got a lot more -- a lot more on his mind than his political future. I mean, he's wrestling with something that I think any of us could -- could understand would be just a monumental, emotionally powerful and difficult time.

WOODRUFF: All right, Jeff Greenfield, talking to us from New York. Thank you, Jeff.

Coming up on INSIDE POLITICS: Capitol Hill reviews of the president's first 100 days. We'll talk with party leaders Senator Trent Lott and Congressman Richard Gephardt about the Bush agenda thus far.


WOODRUFF: Now a look at the first 100 days as seen from Capitol Hill.

In a moment, we will hear from House minority leader Richard Gephardt, but we begin with the GOP perspective and the Senate majority leader, Trent Lott.

Senator Lott, let me just begin, though, with a question about the Bob Kerrey story, the former Democratic senator from Nebraska. He's still in the news today in the aftermath of revelations that his unit, Navy SEALs unit, involved in killing civilians, women and children, in Vietnam. What comment would you have about that?

SEN. TRENT LOTT (R-MS), MAJORITY LEADER: Well, first, Judy, thanks for allowing me to be on your show this afternoon.

And my comments now are not the comments just of a fellow former senator, a colleague. Bob Kerrey was a Democrat. We disagreed on a lot of subjects. But Bob Kerrey always was known for being blunt, honest, even if you -- to the point of your not liking it.

But I don't understand what all the hoopla is about here. Maybe it's because he is revealing this now and it hadn't been talked about in the past. But I view Bob Kerrey as a genuine American war hero. He did his duty. He did it well enough to win the Congressman Medal of Honor. I don't know what happened in that particular incident, but I'd be willing to place my life in the hands of Bob Kerrey, calling for the right kind of action.

War is hell, from what I understand. I didn't serve there, but people like Bob Kerrey did do that. They had to give orders. They had to deal with all kinds of confusion. And frankly, I'm very much distressed that -- it's almost like his patriotism is being questioned now, and that should he have had the Bronze Star and -- and what about, you know, killing innocent people? You know, in a war situation, when you're fired upon, there can quite often be collateral damage.

And people are saying, "Well, why is he doing this? Is he running for president?" Bob Kerrey is not thinking that way. So I hope we can put this behind us and he can put it behind him and we can move on.

WOODRUFF: All right. Well, Senator Lott, we thank you for...

LOTT: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: ... for your comments about that. And now to turn to the -- the -- President Bush's first 100 days. Senator, you were quoted today as saying that it now appears the president is not going to get the full $1.6 trillion tax cut that he had wanted. It's going to be something closer to $1.3 trillion, at best. Why isn't he going to get what he wants?

LOTT: Well, I don't think I said it would be $1.3 trillion "at best." That may be what some are saying. I think it needs to be more than that, too. You know, what happens in a legislative process, the Senate will pass one number, in this case a lower number, the House passes a higher number. You go to conference, and you come to an agreement on a number between the two. That's the way it usually works. The president understands that. The president could not agree to a lower number while the process is going forward. But now we're to the point where we have to make some final calls, and we have to look and make sure that the number is enough for us to do the things we want to do. And I want to emphasize that. It's not just about a number of cutting tax relief, it's about doing some things to help the economy and help make the tax code fairer. It's about doubling the child tax credit. It's about phasing down the marriage penalty tax. It's about making the death tax fairer by phasing it out.

But most importantly, it's about rate cuts for working Americans. Some people say, well, it doesn't do enough in the middle-income area, for instance. Once we get an agreement on the budget, then we go tot he Finance Committee and Ways and Means Committee, and you -- you can make adjustments. The president understands that. And so while it may not be the full $1.6 trillion, I hope it'll be enough to do the fundamentals that he has asked us to day.

WOODRUFF: Senator Lott, let me ask you -- a moment ago, Karen Hughes, counselor to the president, said the president has been talking to Democrats all along.

LOTT: Sure.

WOODRUFF: You and others have just -- have been making the point that he couldn't have or shouldn't have talked to Democrats earlier. Which was it?

LOTT: As a matter of fact, that's inaccurate. You know, we did encourage him at various times to talk to Democrats, some Democrats...

WOODRUFF: I mean to negotiate, is what I mean.

LOTT: You don't -- you don't negotiate when you come out the barnyard door. You wait till you get out into the corral, and you see what the lay of the land is. If he had said, "OK, well, gee, I think we really need $1.6 trillion to do this job, but I can live with $1.3 trillion," you know what we'd be talking about now, a $750 billion, which would not have been enough to cut the rates, get rid of the marriage penalty tax or phase it down and to deal with the death tax. He had to hold out and say, "This is the right number."

And by the way, I think his number is closer to being right than what we're going to wind up with. In fact, I don't think it's enough because there may not be enough for us to do what we need to do on capital gains tax rate and encouraging people to have IRAs and 401(k) improvements. So I think he was right to hold to that number. But now we're to the point here in the next few days where we've got to come to an agreement. I hope that agreement will be somewhere in the range of $1.4 trillion, and even that may not be enough.

WOODRUFF: Senator, with regard to education, reform, you're now saying today you're going to try to get that to the floor.

LOTT: No...

WOODRUFF: ... next week?

LOTT: I'm saying that we will get it to the floor.

WOODRUFF: You will get it to the floor. There's still a significant difference, though, between most Democrats and most Republicans on the amount of the money -- the Democrats saying the president's plan is imposing certain things they may agree with, but there's not enough money in there to pay for it.

LOTT: Well, Democrats always want more money, no matter what the amount is. That's how they think you solve every problem. If money alone would have solved the problem, we'd have every child highly educated now. But money is a part of the solution. The president's asked for more money for the reading program. He's willing to go for more money in the Title I area.

But it also has to have some other things we haven't had before: Accountability, more teaching training, options to get assistance if you need more help -- outside help, supplemental training is what we call it. A number of the other bilingual education. This is -- we made a lot of progress, and I think we should not take away from what has already been done in the Senate committee by Republicans and by Democrats and by the president.

The point is: If we can come together and get a major educational reform package with more money, this will be good, not only for what the president wants to do and the Congress needs to do, but for the children we're trying to help. And we shouldn't lose sight of that.

WOODRUFF: So, quickly, Senator, if the Democrats are giving him failing grades, what would you give him for the first 100 days?

LOTT: I think he's done a marvelous job. I'd give him the highest grades, I don't want to put a letter grade on it because I'm sure it's not perfect, but I have really enjoyed working with him. He's reaching out. He's showing a lot of maturity and prudence in the way he's doing the job, and so -- I'd give him an A.

WOODRUFF: All right. Good. We've got you down on that.


WOODRUFF: Senator Trent Lott, the Senate majority leader, thank you very much for joining us.

LOTT: Thank you, Judy.

WOODRUFF: We're going to take a break, and when we come back, we're going to hear the Democratic side of this. We'll talk with House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt. We'll be right back.


WOODRUFF: Joining us now with a Democratic perspective on Mr. Bush's first 100 days: House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt. Congressman Gephardt, we just heard from Senator Lott, who said he'd give the president an A. He said it hasn't been perfect, but he think s he's gotten off to a good start, he's matured. You have a different perspective.

REP. RICHARD GEPHARDT (D-MO), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: I don't think he's lived up to his own standards. He said during the campaign that he had certain goals, certain themes, and I don't think he's lived up to those, by his own standards.

Let's take one, he wanted to be a compassionate conservative, a reformer with results. Yet in the first days of this administration he has unwound a lot of actions that were taken over the last eight years that I think were very positive.

Standards on arsenic in drinking water were taken away in one signature of his name. We had reached an agreement on international family planning help that he took out in one day. It was very hard to reach, and I think very important, not only for us but for the entire world.

The Kyoto Treaty, which was an attempt to get international standards on CO2 to stop global warming -- he just walked away from it without as much as a real explanation, or going back to the bargaining table to get something done.

In addition to that, he said he doesn't want to leave any child behind, which we all obviously agree with. But when you get to this education bill, there's very little money there for elementary and secondary area education to repair school buildings, to hire teachers -- yet he finds $70 billion in the first year for a tax break, most of which goes to the wealthiest Americans.

We don't think those are the right priorities, and we don't think he's living up to his standards.

WOODRUFF: Well, Representative Gephardt, let me ask you about that, because with regard to environmental questions, arsenic, the White House now saying they're taking another look at that.

When it comes to education, we just heard Senator Lott say Democrats always want more money, that money is not going be the answer here.

GEPHARDT: On the education front, we're as much for standards and accountability as the president is. In fact, right now he's having some trouble on the right side of his own party in the House with being for standards and accountability. Yes, money is not the only thing in this picture. But Trent Lott also said money is part of the picture.

We live in a new world today. Families have less time with children. Schools have to fill a lot of time holes they didn't have to fill before. And even though the federal government is not going to be the major player in education, never will be, never should be, we've got to help local schools get this job done. And that's why we been for spending some more money, for school buildings, for teachers, for preschool, for after school, for summer school. These are very important programs that the local schools know they need. And yet we're spending 70 billion on a tax break, two billion on elementary and secondary education. We don't think those are the right priorities.

And we think, rather than leaving no child behind, what we're really doing is leaving no special interest behind.

WOODRUFF: Congressman, let me ask you about the discrepancy between the portrait that you and Senator Daschle were painting today of thigh president and what we're hearing from, for example, Karen Hughes at the White House. You all portray him as someone who has not reached out to Democrats at all.

She said he's met with -- she said there have been dozens of Democrats, he's invited all the members of Congress to the White House this coming Monday -- that he is trying to reach out. Why two such divergent views of a president?

GEPHARDT: Well, Judy, again, he said in the campaign he wanted to be the uniter, not the divider, he wanted to change the tone in Washington. Now, he has reached out. I would say that first. He has talked to people.

But there is a difference between having meetings with people and talking to people, and actually trying to meet in the middle and get things done, negotiate, collaborate, work together to try to find a consensus. That has not happened. It's not happened here on the Hill, and it's not happened between Democrats and Republicans and the president.

The Republicans, when they marked up the budget, the tax bill here in the House, there was no collaboration with Democrats at any time. The president didn't get into the process and start a negotiation. It's my way or the highway every day on every issue. That's not changed.

WOODRUFF: But hasn't there been negotiation on education, for example?

GEPHARDT: There have been a lot of meetings on education. But we're not negotiating now on how much money should be spent and what the actual standards and accountability should be.

There's got to be leadership from the president, not only in talking to us, but in leading his own party in the Congress to be more collaborative, to try to work to find common-sense, middle-ground solutions. I think we can do this. I still hope we can.

WOODRUFF: Let me just finally ask you about the harshness of your and Senator Daschle's comments today, giving him straight Fs just a few days after Senator Daschle he'd give him an A for the first 50 days and a B and a C for the succeeding days. Do you run the risk of alienating some people out there who are saying why are the Democrats being so tough on this new president?

GEPHARDT: Well, I think we've got to be honest. And we have tried, believe me, we have enjoyed going to these meetings. We want to reach out to him. We want to collaborate with him. We want a second 100 days that is very different from the first 100 days.

But you've also got to be straightforward and you have to make an evaluation. And the truth is, that the real bipartisan efforts that we really need here and hope we can have, have not happened. We hope they will. They haven't happened up to now. And the president's tone of leaving no child behind, being a reformer with results -- he's not reached those standards. I hope he can. We will try to help do that.

WOODRUFF: All right, House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt, thank you so much.

GEPHARDT: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: We appreciate it.

Coming up next: what is going on in New Jersey? A Republican free-for-all in the race for governor, a Democratic senator under investigation.

And that's not all. We travel to a state in political turmoil when we return.


WOODRUFF: Two upcoming elections in New Jersey have sparked the usual political maneuvering. But claims of ethical misconduct and party infighting are hampering early efforts by both sides, making Garden State politics anything but a bed of roses.

Here's CNN's Deborah Feyerick.


BOB FRANKS, GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE, NEW JERSEY: Today I'm proud to announce my candidacy for governor of our great state.


DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Bob Franks' announcement was yet one more surprise to New Jersey's shaken political scene, as leaders from both parties, one by one by one, try to dodge career-ending bullets.

The former GOP Congressman stepped in to bail out the state's latest casualty, acting Governor Donald DiFrancesco. The Republican quit the governor's race Wednesday, three days after announcing he was running. Allegations of ethics violations and questionable business dealings seemingly too much to bare.

GOV. DONALD DIFRANCESCO (R), NEW JERSEY: These past several weeks have really dealt a blow to me and my family, and I think it has been too difficult.

FEYERICK: DiFrancesco, a 25 year political veteran, was state Senate president when he took over for Christie Whitman. She left New Jersey for Washington to head the Environmental Protection Agency.

FRANKS: This November we are going to win.

FEYERICK: Franks appeared to really want to be a senator. He lost his election bid last November to high spending multimillionaire Jon Corzine, but planned to run in 2002 against Democrat Robert Torricelli. A long-time New Jersey political powerhouse, Torricelli is now under federal investigation for allegedly taking illegal gifts and donations. That's made him a top GOP target.

SEN. ROBERT TORRICELLI (D), NEW JERSEY: I do not deserve this treatment, and I will fight for my reputation with every ounce of strength in my body.

FEYERICK: Franks was seen as Torricelli's strongest GOP challenger. In the governor's race, Franks faces a June primary against Jersey City Mayor Bret Schundler. The winner will face a tough race in November against Democrat Jim McGreevey, who almost ousted Christie Whitman back in 1997.

Even New Jersey's judges haven't been immune from controversy. State Supreme Court Justice Peter Veniero just avoided being impeached over New Jersey's most politically charged issue: racial profiling.

PETER VENIERO, NEW JERSEY SUPREME COURT: I am aware that there are those who have questioned my actions, my judgment, and my motives.

FEYERICK: Veniero could still face disciplinary hearings or criminal penalties for what he knew about state troopers profiling blacks and Latinos on state highways.

So what's the public to think about all this?

PROF. FRANK ASKIN, RUTGERS UNIVERSITY: The public is aghast at it. But we all know that it's a dreadful system. But a lot of it is not illegal. It's just inappropriate, but perfectly within the rules of the game as it's now being played.


FEYERICK: And the rules of that game likely to be a very hot campaign issue come November when the politicians still left standing look to rebuild what is now a very fragile public trust -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right, what an incredible story there in New Jersey. Deborah Feyerick, thanks very much.

When we return, energy issues and the Senate, from the hearings on the high prices at the pumps, to legislating a solution for the California power crisis. A look at fuel and energy issues around the country, when we return.


WOODRUFF: The rising cost of gasoline at the pump is attracting some attention on Capitol Hill. Today, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a hearing to ask why prices are so high, and what can be done to help American consumers. Kate Snow takes a look.


KATE SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): $2.19 for premium unleaded in Chicago, 10 cents more in San Francisco, and in Madison, Wisconsin it's simply an arm and a leg. In Washington predictions of a hard summer.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is going to be worse, there's no question about it. And we just don't know how bad it will be. You might see $3 a gallon.

SNOW: But what can Congress do?

CRAIG MOYER, WESTERN INDEPENDENT REFINERS ASSOCIATION: We have a refining industry strained to capacity.

SNOW: Representatives of that industry asked the Senate Energy Committee to get rid of a law that requires compounds called oxygenates in gasoline to make it cleaner-burning. The industry says the standard is outmoded and expensive.

DON DAIGLE, EXXONMOBIL REFINING AND SUPPLY: Tell the industry what spec to make, but don't tell the industry the recipe.

SNOW: But that option is politically difficult. Ethanol made from corn is one oxygenate that's commonly added to gas, and lawmakers from corn-growing states will fight to keep it in.

Another option: get rid of the patchwork of different additive requirements for gasoline sold in different parts of the country. One uniform standard sounds likes an easy solution.

PETER VANDOREN, CATO INSTITUTE: That would make the U.S. gasoline supply and demand situation much easier to manage from the refinery's point of view, because small supply and demand changes in the country, you could get extra supply from where they had gluts and you can put it to where they had shortages.

SNOW: But what standard would it be? The industry worries the strictest standards in Chicago or California would be the common denominator, putting some refineries out of business. Congress could cut the gas tax, in an effort to cut the price at the pump, but analysts say that wouldn't help.

VANDOREN: If you reduce the federal or state taxes on gasoline, it wouldn't change the retail price of gasoline at all. Instead, it would just change the profits that companies now make. In fact, it would increase them.

SNOW: In the end, lawmakers may do better looking for long-term solutions.

SEN. FRANK MURKOWSKI (R), ALASKA: We can perhaps put in place some efforts to encourage conservation, to encourage people to drive less and use their more efficient vehicle if they have got a couple of cars.


SNOW: Now, other senators are using this gas price crisis to step off and talk more about the broader energy picture. Charles Schumer, a Democrat from New York, along with Susan Collins, a Republican, got together today and put out a report that says that they believe that energy prices could increase to the tune of $2,000 more per year for families in energy costs by the year 2010.

They're proposing increased fuel efficiency standard, also improving distribution for electricity and drilling for oil and gas in some areas of federal land that have already been approved but just hung up now in the paperwork. They're saying speed up those applications as well -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right, Kate Snow. And Kate, I do want to ask you about a different topic, and that is today an unborn -- legislation titled Unborn Victims of Violence Act passed. Was can you tell us about that?

SNOW: Well, that's title of the legislation. It was sponsored by Representative Lindsey Graham, a Republican. There was a long debate, Judy, about four hours of very emotional and quite heated debate on the House floor about the bill, but the outcome in the end was really no surprise. Everyone expected that given the number of House members who support pro -- anti-abortion stance would probably favor this bill, although Lindsey Graham and others have said it was not an abortion bill, it was an effort to protect pregnant women.

What the bill does is if a pregnant woman is assaulted, it would treat that assault a crime as a separate crime for the woman and the fetus inside of her -- would be treated as two separate individuals. So, they said it was a crime bill. Abortion rights advocates said that that they thought it was the beginning of anti-abortion legislation. They saw it as a part of a larger abortion fight.

That bill did pass. It's going to have a much tougher time, though, Judy, in the Senate, where things are a little bit more closely split on some of those issues -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right, Kate Snow, reporting from the Capitol. Thank you.

Now, to a different piece, if you will, of the energy story. Starting on May 1, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission will institute limited price caps to stem the rising costs of electric power in California. The White House today criticized the use of price caps, with Ari Fleischer telling reporters that the president believes price caps do not work. The action also falls short of legislation introduced by a bipartisan group of senators, that would call for price caps in California and in neighboring states as well. One of the senators behind that legislation, California Senator Dianne Feinstein, joins us now.

Senator, we thank you for being with us, and I want to ask you about the view that this action by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC, doesn't go far enough, because the reports I have read indicate that if it had been in place in the last few weeks and months, it would have saved Californians billions of dollars.

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, of course, that's hard to tell. But essentially, it's a mixed bag. The good news is that it requires generators to sell, once you go into this alert status of stage one, two or three. They can't withhold their power to jack up the prices.

The bad news is, I think that it creates a lot of problems, because it essentially sets a rate at the least efficiently produced megawatt, which is substantially above what an even cost base rate would be.

Secondly, it doesn't involve natural gas. Natural gas today is selling at $15 in California, which -- Southern California, which is over $10 more than in other states. If you have a $15 price of natural gas, which generates the electricity, you have got rates of about $400, $500 a megawatt hour. And you have to realize that in 1999, those rates were $30 a megawatt hour, so you have rates that are over 10 times higher than they were three years ago.

What Senator Smith of Oregon and I want to do is say, for all of the 11 Western states within 60 days, there are cost based rates on electricity, provided you pass that through so that you don't have a broken market. And I am very hopeful that we will have the votes in the Senate to produce a bill along though lines.

WOODRUFF: But is what you are saying with the federal -- FERC, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has done is just a halfway measure...

FEINSTEIN: That's correct.

WOODRUFF: ... put in so many words.

FEINSTEIN: That's right. That's exactly what I'm saying.

WOODRUFF: And when -- to the president's argument that price caps, period, don't work, what do you say to that?

FEINSTEIN: Well, you see, I wish that I could sit down with the president and just talk to him about it. Because I would agree with him if we had a healthy market. The fact is, we have a broken market in that we don't have enough supply. And California will have a new supply of 20,000 megawatts -- that's enough for 20 million households -- by 2004. The problem is for the next two summers. And if we could have price stability over the next two summers, then the market works, because you have got demand, and you have got supply. And you have a competitive, open marketplace.

WOODRUFF: Senator, let me just finally ask you, so, with regard to California's overall energy difficulty, does this help the state or set it back?

FEINSTEIN: Well, I think you have to say fairly it's better than nothing at all. Having said that, it doesn't solve the problem. Additionally, for the Pacific Northwest this summer, it requires the hydro projects to sell into California. That means less power for the Pacific Northwest. They are not going to like that.

So, I think it's fraught with problems. At best, as Commissioner Massey said, it's a half-loaf.

WOODRUFF: And senator, based on your new -- perhaps you were already an exert on this, but you certainly had to become one.

FEINSTEIN: Well, I don't know about that.

WOODRUFF: ... in recent months. Is this something that the rest of country you foresee having to deal within the next -- in the coming year?

FEINSTEIN: Yes. I think it is. I think there is a real probability or possibility that New York could be in a fairly similar situation. As a matter of fact, the mayor of New York City has come out for cost-based rates. There are other places in the West and the Midwest that could be in a similar situation.

This is a crisis that for California could well be a disaster. And that's what we are trying to avoid. The good news is, I think we have got the attention of the FERC now. The challenge is to get them to do the whole job.

WOODRUFF: All right, Senator Dianne Feinstein, thank you very much.

FEINSTEIN: Thank you, Judy.

WOODRUFF: We appreciate it. Good to see you.

FEINSTEIN: Good to see you.

WOODRUFF: There is much more ahead at the top of the hour, including the view from China on President Bush's comments about Taiwan.

Plus: new developments in the legal battle over the Navy's use of a Puerto Rican island for shelling exercises.


A judge refuses to block Navy training exercises being protested by Puerto Rico. When will the shelling resume?

Against the backdrop of Iowa's floodwaters, two feuding political figures meet face-to-face.

And: as President Bush keeps pushing for education reform, are Democrats trying to teach him a lesson, or Republicans?


On the Puerto Rican island of Vieques, people are bracing for Navy bombing exercises to begin again this weekend, or perhaps as early as tomorrow. A federal judge in Washington today rejected Puerto Rico's request to temporarily block those shelling drills, while lawsuits filed to stop the bombing are pending. Puerto Rico charges that the exercises cause health problems and violate a newly enacted anti-noise law.


REP. ANIBAL ACEVADO-VILA, PUERTO RICAN REPRESENTATIVE: We want to find a solution through dialogue, and the administration knows that. And -- and I'm confident that, when President Bush has all of the elements, all the facts, he will do the right thing. And the right thing is to stop the bombing of Vieques as soon as possible.


WOODRUFF: A number of celebrities, including singing star Ricky Martin and actor Benicio Del Toro, appeared in a full page ad in "The New York Times" and "Washington Post" today, urging President Bush to "stop the bombing of Vieques now."

Over at the Pentagon, officials are welcoming the judge's ruling that the shelling exercises can resume.


REAR ADM. CRAIG QUIGLEY, DEFENSE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: The training down there is -- is very, very important. Realistic training is one of the reasons that the United States military is as effective as it is around the world. And Vieques is a superb training range, the best in the entire Atlantic.


WOODRUFF: Now, let's bring in our military affairs correspondent Jamie Mcintyre.

Jamie, it's pretty clear that once those exercises begin again, there will be protest, how likely is it that any protest would affect or even stop the shelling?

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, that is what stopped it of course before, when protesters got out on the range and then the Navy couldn't use it and they had to have federal marshals go down and clear them out. The Pentagon says they have a very -- what they call -- "robust" security arrangement in effect. They are expecting large group of protesters to arrive at the main gate, which is some distance away from where the actual bombing practice takes place.

And they will also have a substantial force out in the water to try to prevent any boats from getting on the range. And the Pentagon points out that this range -- this bombing is being done under the agreement negotiated with the previous governor, and it requires that they use nonexplosive dummy bombs, so they are not using any live ordinance in these exercises, just practice bombs that are inert.

But still, the current governor of Puerto Rico is not happy about that. They are trying everything they can to stop the Navy from doing it.

WOODRUFF: And so, maybe in connection of that, Jamie, when the judge said it would be wise for the military to hold off until the federal Department of Health and Human Services has a chance to study the health affect, how does the Pentagon respond to that?

MCINTYRE: Well, publicly, the Pentagon simply says that they welcome these health studies and they are supportive of them, but they will go ahead with the bombing.

Privately, Pentagon officials don't put much stock in those health studies at all: they don't think that there is really any science that links the noise from the bombing with any health effects on the island. They are pretty confident that once the health reviews are done and scrutinized by the medical experts, that there won't be any evidence that there is any health link involved there.

So, they say that the training is critical and is the only place to do it, and they plan to go ahead under the agreement that they negotiated with the previous government.

WOODRUFF: All right, Jamie McIntyre at the Pentagon.

In this country, and around the world, officials still are absorbing President Bush's remarks yesterday about how far the United States would go to defend Taiwan. Perhaps nowhere is the reaction more intense than in China. CNN's Rebecca MacKinnon has that story from Beijing.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have said I will do what it takes to help Taiwan defend herself, and the Chinese must understand that.

REBECCA MACKINNON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): China's reaction? Outrage.

ZHANG QIYUE, FOREIGN MIN. SPOKESWOMAN (through translator): The U.S. issued erroneous remarks after its decision to sell sophisticated arms to Taiwan. This shows that it has drifted further down a dangerous road. MACKINNON: President Bush did qualify his remarks by repeating the U.S. commitment to a "one-China policy," that Taiwan should be considered part of China and should not declare independence. But from Beijing's point of view, Bush's decision this week to sell the island a substantial weapons package proves that Bush is reversing promises made by previous presidents.

ZHANG (through translator): We hope the U.S. side will recognize the seriousness of arms sales to Taiwan and honor the promises it made in three Sino-U.S. joint communiques. Any consequences will be the responsibility of the U.S., and China reserves the right to take further actions.

MACKINNON: Observers say there's growing internal pressure on the Chinese government to act.

YAN XUETONG, TSINGHUA UNIVERSITY: One thing is clear: we must take some military action.

MACKINNON: What can China do? Beijing has already hinted it may go back on agreements made with the Clinton administration not to sell arms to certain countries. Analysts say China could also blockade or board and search ships on their way to Taiwan.

YAN: We need to check all this suspect ships which are possibly, illegally, proliferate arms to Taiwan,

MACKINNON: When Bush was elected, diplomats here say they were bracing for a few stormy months in U.S.-China relationship, but most in the Chinese government believed that in the end, Bush would stick to his father's policies. Now, many fear that the relationship maybe sailing into uncharted territory.

Rebecca MacKinnon, CNN, Beijing.


WOODRUFF: Today, President Bush is on the road, and trying to focus on domestic matters. Our White House correspondent Kelly Wallace is with Mr. Bush in Houston, Texas -- Kelly.

KELLY WALLACE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Judy, President and mrs. Bush are here in Houston, joining the former first lady, Barbara Bush, and former President Bush for an event expected to bring in about $2 million for the Barbara Bush Foundation For Family Literacy. Mr. Bush started off his presidency putting the spotlight on education and the Senate is expected to begin debate on education reform next week.

But the White House is still negotiating with Senate Democrats over dollars. Meantime, Mr. Bush could face some trouble within his own party in the House Of Representatives.


WALLACE (voice-over): President Bush touting his domestic agenda in New Orleans Wednesday, reporting he and Democrats are making progress on what he calls his top priority: improving the nation's schools.

BUSH: I refuse to accept a system that will not hold people accountable, a system that would shuffle through children through the system, without regard to their knowledge base.


WALLACE: But Senate Democrats are refusing to accept Mr. Bush's current bottom line for school funding: the president and Republicans offering a $2.6 billion increase over this year's federal spending on education, Democrats holding firm for an additional $8.8 billion.

SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: If the administration says that education is the most important priority for the nation, we don't think it ought to have a third or fourth-rate priority in terms of investment in the future.

WALLACE: In his interview with CNN Wednesday, the president signaled he is poised to compromise.

BUSH: John, we're going to get a good bill. I mean, one of the things I've learned is not to try to negotiate with you or me on national TV.

WALLACE: But Mr. Bush's faces a potential rebellion, in his own party.

REP. BOB SCHAFFER (R), COLORADO: This bill is looking like something President Clinton might have proposed, rather than something you would expect out of a conservative Republican administration and a Republican Congress.

WALLACE: Conservatives have long been concerned about required annual national testing of students, but are also angry the Senate bill won't include vouchers, federal dollars to allow students in failing public schools to attend private schools.


And so the challenge now facing the White House is winning the support of Democrats who want more money to pay for the president's accountability measures while at same time preventing conservatives from not backing Mr. Bush's first priority -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right. Kelly Wallace on the road with the president in Houston. Thanks.

The man in charge of federal disaster aid gets a first hand look at the Mississippi. When we return: The people of Davenport, Iowa brace for the rising waters and prepare to assess the damage.


WOODRUFF: Parts of the Upper Midwest are still under siege from the swollen Mississippi River, including the city of Davenport, Iowa. CNN national correspondent Bob Franken reports that top federal officials arrived there today to survey the damage and to perform some political repair work as well.


BOB FRANKEN (voice-over): It looked almost like Federal Emergency Management Agency director Joe Allbaugh and Davenport Mayor Phillip Yerington were new best buddies.


PHILLIP YERINGTON, MAYOR, DAVENPORT, IOWA: Actually, this would be a good press shot.

FRANKEN: They were meeting face-to face after their public spat over the lack of a permanent river wall here. Allbaugh came to inspect flood damage. Before Davenport, he had stopped on the other side of the raging Mississippi in Keithsburg, Illinois.

ALLBAUGH: Keep up the good work. Keep up the fight.

FRANKEN: But in Davenport, Iowa, he saw the sights that he had seen for days on television: The flooded out baseball stadium, the wall of sandbags keeping the river out of the business district, where city officials have battled so hard. They are now calling this section Gettysburg.

Allbaugh said he was here to take a firsthand look, not to discuss that feud over his comments about floodwalls. He wasn't given much choice.

(on camera): Do you wish that you hadn't said that?


FRANKEN: You feel that it was the appropriate thing to say?

ALLBAUGH: Yes, but you took it out of context.

FRANKEN: How so?

ALLBAUGH: Because I was talking about everything across the country.

FRANKEN (voice-over): The governors of Illinois and Iowa are asking that their flooded counties be declared disaster areas, and eligible for federal money, directed by the president. That decision will depend on Allbaugh's recommendation to the president. For now, he was unwilling to make any promises.

ALLBAUGH: I don't know. I need to see the requests.

FRANKEN: And as for the mayor...

YERINGTON: We're not asking for anything more than our fair share when it comes to damages and cleanup.

FRANKEN: All agree that before anyone can decide on a fair share they'll have to wait until the water recedes.


An left behind will be millions in damage and also left behind, new pressure to construct a seawall that the advocates believe will make sure that there is less damage in the future -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Bob, how was there such a misunderstanding, or whatever you want to call it, going on between the director of FEMA, and the local people there in Davenport?

FRANKEN: Well, let's see, the director's version is, is that we took it out of context. We being the media. And when he said that he glared at me. But the other point of view is, is that he did mean that but when there was quite a political uproar when the mayor, in fact, said what he said, somebody decided it was bad PR to have this kind of flap. So they got on the phone, they made nice, and then they went out of their way today to walk around arm in arm.

WOODRUFF: Well, we were glad to have those pictures. Bob Franken, thank you very much.

Coming up next: A close-up look at the president's faith-based initiative. A lot of people support the idea in principle, but not everyone wants certain groups to receive taxpayer money. The views for and against, when INSIDE POLITICS returns.


WOODRUFF: Democrats in Congress pressed the Bush Administration today to preserve and fully fund a federal lawsuit against the tobacco industry. The U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft testifying before a Senate panel said that he would wait for preliminary court rulings before deciding whether to drop the case.


JOHN ASHCROFT, ATTORNEY GENERAL: I have not made any indication about any reassignment of attorneys. I have not made a decision about the case. The department has a position in this case and I believe that, if we were to reevaluate that position, it should be based upon what the courts do in response to the matters that are pending in the court.


WOODRUFF: Ashcroft said he does not plan to ask for extra money support the government's lawsuit against the tobacco companies. Justice department lawyers reportedly have said that they need more than 57 million additional dollars this year to keep working on the case.

Republican members of Congress this week hosted a summit of religious leaders to promote the president's faith-based initiative legislation. The measure would allow government assistance to religious groups that perform social services. Polls show the idea is a popular one, but support declines when certain groups are mentioned as possible recipients of government funds. From Boston, here's CNN bureau chief Bill Delaney.


BILL DELANEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The spirit at large, Good Friday night at Pleasant Hill Baptist Church in Boston's inner city. Old-time religion where believers like Reverend Alex Hurt have a lot of faith, too, in President Bush's new-fashioned faith- based initiative.

REV. ALEX HURT, PLEASANT HILL BAPTIST CHURCH: My first reaction was, "Praise God." It seems like there was someone who actually gets it -- who, one, more than anything else, recognizes the work that the church has done.

DELANEY: The faith-based initiative, now pending before Congress, would help support religious organizations' charitable work, an idea 75 percent of the country supports, according to a poll by the Pew Forum.

Things get complicated, though, quickly.

When the same Pew poll asked supporters of the faith-based initiative who should receive federal money, 62 percent either opposed or weren't sure about funding any religious organization not rooted in the Judeo-Christian tradition.

So, what about good works by Islamic groups, many of which inhabit the same inner-city as a place like Pleasant Hill Baptist? What would the status be of a Buddhist charity? What about the Church of Scientology?

Or the Unification Church of Reverend Sun Myung Moon? The Moon Church, though often branded a cult, a charge the group strongly denies, is currently leading a 50-state family values crusade supported by several more mainstream Christian clergy. The Unification Church, while strongly supporting the faith-based initiative, doesn't want federal money. Reverend Michael Jenkins does say the group does want much more interaction between church and state.

REV. MICHAEL JENKINS, UNIFICATION CHURCH: We feel that that wall has to come down. Government and the church have a very clear, distinct role, but there's a need to tear down the wall, and that they must cooperate.

DELANEY: Which chills cult expert, Steven Hassan. He says beware of groups he considers fringe, gaining credibility if they become eligible for federal funds.

STEVE HASSAN, CULT EXPERT: I see a legitimization of these organizations that are pretty much dedicated to their vision of reality, that will not afford us our human rights, nor a division between church and state. DELANEY: The White House office of faith-based initiatives has repeatedly said bright lines will be drawn to prevent too much church- state coziness, to assure for one thing, funding charity doesn't fund the effort to win converts, too.

What worries others in the faith community, though, like United Church of Christ Minister Mary Luti, not so much church-state coziness, as the government stepping too far back from the needy.

REV. MARY LUTI, UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST: The fear is that this is another step in the gradual abandonment of the government's role in social welfare solutions.

DELANEY: As the country's more than 350,000 churches, synagogues, and mosques, and its multitude of other religious groups now decide how much faith to put in the president's faith-based idea.

Bill Delaney, CNN, Boston.


WOODRUFF: And more INSIDE POLITICS in just a moment.


WOODRUFF: As Congress deals with the president's education plan, Mr. Bush continues to repeat his mantra, leave no child behind. But as our Bruce Morton points out, at the local level, paying for education is often easier said than done.



BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The White House and the Democrats in Congress are negotiating about education, and they agree on some things: it needs to be bette. There ought to be testing of some kind so we know if it's getting better. There ought to be help for kids in failing schools.

They don't agree about money. The Democrats want to spend more than the president does. But, in fact, federal programs account for only about 7 cents on the elementary and secondary education dollar. The rest is state and local money, and a lot of states are in trouble.

Local property tax used to pay most of the bills, but that's unfair. Affluent suburbs with rich tax bases will spend more than poor, inner-city neighborhoods, and disadvantaged children may actually need more help.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1968 that equal education was not a right guaranteed by the Constitution. But many state courts have ruled since then that states must provide an adequate education. What's adequate? Wisconsin's Supreme Court says, "an education that will allow children to succeed economically and personally," noting that states must "take into account districts with disproportionate numbers of disadvantaged students and students with limited English language skills."

How? Kentucky's court ruled its schools unconstitutional in 1989. The state raised sales and business taxes, decreased the gap between rich and poor districts -- and the state's national ranking in education went up.

But in Alabama, anti-tax forces won the day. Texas, the president's home state, requires affluent school districts to give some of their school money to poorer districts. But some of the affluent districts are suing, saying: "Hey, the state wants us to give so much money, our schools will be hurt."

In New Hampshire, they went to a statewide property tax, which a judge has ruled unconstitutional. Governor Jeanne Shaheen has proposed a state sales tax, but New Hampshire has never had one of those. Stay tuned. Ohio uses state funds to narrow the gap from district to district. No one suggests spending more guarantees a good education, but spending less probably does guarantee a bad one.

And while Congress debates the relatively small federal role in education, the states are saying: "How can we raise the money?" "Leave no child behind" is a good slogan -- getting there is more a state problem than a federal one. Maybe it won't be easy.

Bruce Morton, CNN, Washington.


WOODRUFF: And that is all for this edition of INSIDE POLITICS, but of course, you can go on-line all the time at CNN's The AOL keyword: CNN.

And this programming note: Larry King conducts the first live prime time interview with Submarine Commander Scott Waddle. That's beginning at 9:00 Eastern.

I'm Judy Woodruff. "MONEYLINE" is next.



4:30pm ET, 4/16

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