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President Bush Submits List of Judicial Nominees; House Passes Budget Framework

Aired May 9, 2001 - 17:00   ET



GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I urge senators of both parties to rise above the bitterness of the past.


ANNOUNCER: President Bush suggests his first judicial nominees may help deliver a verdict on the confirmation process. In the campaign finance reform debate racial politics enters the picture.

Plus: Changes in the physical and political health of the nation's first pregnant governor.

And: E.T. believers hope to send a message to the White House that we are not alone.

Now Judy Woodruff takes you INSIDE POLITICS:

FRANK SESNO, CNN ANCHOR: And thanks very much for joining us. Judy is on assignment. I'm Frank Sesno here in Washington.

In announcing his first round of judicial nominees, President Bush appears to be sticking with a familiar strategy: Try to please conservatives and limit the fallout from the left, in part, by putting an emphasis on diversity.

But as CNN's Major Garrett explains, and predictably enough, some Democrats aren't buying Mr. Bush's tactics or his call to take the partisanship out of the confirmation process.


MAJOR GARRETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The president's asking a lot of his first batch of judicial nominees: Win confirmation and help end years of partisan bloodletting over the federal bench.

BUSH: I urge senators of both parties to rise above the bitterness of the past to provide a fair hearing and a prompt vote to every nominee.

GARRETT: To underscore the importance of the moment, Mr. Bush treated the ceremony as if it were a Supreme Court nomination, East Room setting, each nominee present, numerous senators invited.

CLINT BOLICK, INSTITUTE FOR JUSTICE: This is an attempt to humanize the process, and I think that's a very good thing. Its easier to hurl accusations at nameless, faceless people and quite another when you've got a real human being attached to it.

GARRETT: The White House hopes the group will draw minimum fire. Two, Roger Gregory and Barrington D. Parker Jr., are former Clinton appointees, a move the White House hopes will defang critics. But the early forecast calls for more partisan strife.

RALPH NEAS, PEOPLE FOR THE AMERICAN WAY: It appears to be bipartisan. It appears to be more moderate than expected. It appears to be a compromise. It really is none of the above. This is the first step in the Bush administration's attempt to pack the federal judiciary with right-wing ideologues.

GARRETT: Critics point to Jeffrey Sutton, nominated to serve on the 6th Circuit. He represented the tobacco industry in trying to block new advertising restrictions on cigarettes. He also argued to protect states from lawsuits if they discriminated against disabled workers. And Miguel Estrada, nominated to serve on the D.C. Court of Appeals, which has produced three current justices on the Supreme Court. Estrada argued in favor of random drug searches in Indianapolis, which the high court ruled were an unconstitutional invasion of privacy.

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D), VERMONT: He can nominate an ultra-right- wing ideologue if he wants, but the Senate will not confirm.


GARRETT: The president's push for bipartisanship is about more than changing the tone in Washington. It's about changing the face of justice. The president has 100 vacancies to fill, some of them held open by Republicans awaiting a Bush presidency. With this as a historical backdrop, Democrats say it's too early to negotiate a truce -- Frank.

SESNO: And 11 today, Major, but as you say, many more to go to fill those 100 or so vacancies. Anything known of where the president is heading with those other ones?

GARRETT: Well, he's trying to head in a direction of consultation with Senate Democrats in particular. When the White House was drawing this list up originally, about a month ago, the number was 40 and then it shrunk to 30, and then to 20, and then down to 14, and at the last minute, let's say it was in the last 48 hours, three names were dropped off.

Three nominees, potential nominees, that Senate Democrats said, we're not going to object to them, we're not going to block them necessarily, but we'd like more time to think about them. The White House, in a tactical move, White House aides concede, decided to take those three names, one of them, Chris Cox, a conservative Republican congressman from California, off of the list in order to keep a dialogue open with Senate Democrats.

They hope that move and dialogue in the future will minimize confrontations, but this White House knows one thing for sure, Frank: These lower federal bench appointees are one fight, filling a Supreme Court vacancy sometime in the future will be a whole other matter, and they are girding for that -- Frank.

SESNO: Major Garrett at the White House, thanks. There may be a separation of powers, but politics transcends the branches of government, so for Senate reaction to Mr. Bush's nominee, we -- nominees, rather -- we go to our congressional correspondent, Jonathan Karl. Jonathan on Capitol Hill, to you.

JONATHAN KARL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Frank, Republicans are concerned privately about some of those names that Major Garrett referred to that have been left off the list. Some of those conservatives left off the list because of strong Democratic objections. But publicly, Republicans are ecstatic about the names that have been included on the list, especially Senate Judiciary Chairman Orrin Hatch, very happy with this list. This is what we he had to say.


SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R-UT), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: I'd be shocked if anybody tries to fight those quality nominees. These are people with great integrity, great legal ability, good demeanor and good temperament, I mean, just about anything you'd want in a circuit court judge.


KARL: Now Democrats are reacting cautiously to this first list of judicial nominees with one major exception. They are not attacking Bush's nominees, but they are saying that they will fight to make sure that they look over every one of these nominees very carefully, take their time, look at their qualifications, look at their ideology.


SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D-NY), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: What we've made clear today is that the Democrats in the Senate will not be railroaded into rubber-stamping a group of judges, over the course of the next year, who may have a very hard ideological cast to them.


KARL: The only one of this first group of 11 that the Democrats have targeted so far is Terrence Boyle, who is nominated for the North Carolina seat on the Fourth Circuit Court in Virginia. They are targeting Boyle because Boyle has been objected to by the Democratic senator from North Carolina, John Edwards. Edwards saying he wants to make sure that there is a balanced Fourth Circuit. He's not necessarily against Boyle in the end, but he wants to be sure there is another perhaps more liberal nominee or less conservative nominee also nominated to that court. So, that's the only nominee that they are targeting immediately. But Frank, this really is setting the stage for future battles. As you heard Major Garrett say, we expect more nominees to come from the White House and of course, all sides see this as kind of a pre-game show for an eventual nomination that the president might be able to make to the U.S. Supreme Court.

SESNO: United States Supreme Court, and all of it too, Jonathan, certainly about what kind of ideological cast there may be to this judicial branch that is filled out by this administration. Another name, Theodore Olson, and what happens there? That's not as a judge, or a justice but as the solicitor general, the person who is going to argue before the Supreme Court on behalf of this government. Where is that nomination?

KARL: Yes, and Ted Olson also, of course that argued before the Supreme Court on behalf of the Bush campaign in the Florida election case. Ted Olson was supposed to be voted on last Thursday. Democrats walked out of the hearing, making it impossible to hold a vote on the nomination because of disputes over these judicial nominations.

Well, now Orrin Hatch, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, saying basically that no matter what, he wants to have a vote on the Olson nomination tomorrow. Democrats saying they may go along with that but they're uncertain now, and by the way, Democrats have a very interesting power on this judiciary committee: A vote cannot be held on any nomination -- a judicial nomination or a nomination to a post in the Justice President -- unless there is a quorum present. A quorum means 10 senators.

Well, there are only nine Republicans on that committee, so if all nine Democrats walk off there is no quorum, no vote can be held. That is a power that they have, that they will wield if they find somebody truly objectionable.

SESNO: All right, Jonathan Karl on Capitol Hill. Thanks very much.

For more viewpoints on Mr. Bush's judicial nominees, and what's at stake here, let's bring in Todd Gaziano. He's director of the Center for Legal Studies at the Heritage Foundation, and Marcia Kuntz, she's director of the Judicial Selection Project at the Alliance for Justice. And we should say that there has been some informal communication between the Heritage Foundation on this subject, and the Bush Administration.

TODD GAZIANO, HERITAGE FOUNDATION: Not the Heritage Foundation but me personally.

SESNO: All right.

GAZIANO: I've certainly provided my thoughts and while I -- this is certainly a very, very distinguished group of people, highly qualified for the court. Although I am a little disappointed that the president has nominated two Democrats. This is really an unprecedented step of bipartisanship. SESNO: You're disappointed that he's nominated two Democrats, why?

GAZIANO: Yes, well, for one of them, accepted a recess appointment by Clinton when Clinton had promised not to make a recess appointment. This is obviously an unprecedented step of bipartisanship on behalf of President Bush, that I don't think was necessary, but the accusation that these are all far-right judges, or even a majority of them is laughable. Several of the...

SESNO: That's what Chuck Schumer said.

GAZIANO: Yes, several of the Democratic senators and the group that Marcia represents said they were going to attack judges before they knew who they were. This is not about issues and it's not about who the judges are. It's about politicizing the courts, and filling their coffers.

SESNO: Marcia Kuntz, your response?

MARCIA KUNTZ, ALLIANCE FOR JUSTICE: Well we disagree about the issue of whether we were prepared to attack the judicial nominations before they occur. We take the position that no nominee is presumptively entitled to a seat on the federal judiciary. Nominees have the burden of establishing that they meet the very high standards that the Senate should apply in filling their own co-equal role in the Constitutional process of confirming judges.

SESNO: Well, let me hold to you account here. What, in this group of potential judges, of nominees, do you or does your group see as particularly objectionable? Specifically on which issues?

KUNTZ: Well we are reviewing the nominees' records. We've only begun doing that and we are not going to take a position yet on any particular nominees. There are aspects of their records do raise red flags for us.

SESNO: For example?

KUNTZ: For example, Jeffrey Sutton was mentioned in the initial broadcast.

SESNO: Who has argued on behalf of the tobacco industry.

KUNTZ: And who is a lead counsel in the ADA, in the Americans With Disabilities Act case, in which the Supreme Court majority found that disabled people cannot sue their state employers.

SESNO: What is wrong for those positions for him to have taken?

KUNTZ: Well, those positions are basically conservative activists' positions. What is involved is a somewhat tortured reading of the Constitution that results in the severe restriction on the ability of Congress to enact legislation protecting people against discrimination, to enact legislation protecting the environment, and these are issues about which there is broad consensus in this country. SESNO: Conservative activists' position?

GAZIANO: Jeff Sutton was defending free speech. He was defending individual liberty and the right of us to engage in free speech, which are civil libertarian positions that we should all respect in the tobacco case.

In the ADA case, he was not attacking the entire law. This is the kind of misrepresentation that I know gets money for the Alliance for Justice. And it is consistent with their press releases that they were going to attack these nominees no matter what.

So, I am sure that they were thrown a little bit for a loop, when the president nominated such a distinguished group and including, two of the Clinton nominees, I wonder if they are going to continue to attack them, but they have to find something to misrepresent.

SESNO: Why don't you respond?

KUNTZ: We are pleased that the president included the two Democratic nominees. But I don't think we should lose sight of the fact that a number of these nominees do have very conservative credentials.

SESNO: What is wrong with that though? What is wrong with having conservative credentials? There are plenty of nominees from President Clinton's time who had liberal credentials?

KUNTZ: Well, that is actually not true. Clinton almost uniformly nominated moderate, well-qualified people. The problem is that -- and again, we have not taken the position on any one candidate. But the problem with conservative activism comes in -- in that -- and the Supreme Court has well illustrated this in the last four months with cases that I think go very far against -- on issues about which there is broad consensus on the ability...


GAZIANO: ... of these judges are conservative activists. Let's be very clear. Alliance for Justice is for a type for liberal judicial activism. These people were selected, as the president said, today at the White House, because of their judicial restraint. And I don't think that anyone challenged their decisions.

SESNO: Did the president, in effect, outmaneuver you and other critics by picking a group of 11 fairly moderate nominees here to include these two members of the Clinton bench?

KUNTZ: I think that after the preliminary review, it is a mischaracterization to call them fairly moderate. Again, we don't want to pass judgment yet. But to presume that they're fairly moderate is to, I think misjudge their records.

And again, the key point here is that these candidates have the burden of proving that they meet the highest standards that the Senate should be established. SESNO: What is at stake here?

KUNTZ: What is at stake here: The circuit courts are very powerful courts. What's at stake here is -- is whether these courts will continue the regressive actions that the Supreme Court has undertaken with regard to Congress' ability to protect against discrimination, to protect the environment. It's -- what's at stake is corporate interests versus the interests of average, ordinary Americans. There is a huge amount at stake, and now with the Supreme Court's reduced case load, the impact of the circuit courts becomes all of the greater.

SESNO: Todd Gaziano, what is at stake here?

GAZIANO: What's at stake is whether the Democrats will give them a fair hearing, because if they do, they will confirm them -- or whether will try to politicize the courts, or shut the judiciary down. If the Democrats attempt to shut the government down, they will do, you know, far worse than anything they accused Gingrich of doing. If they do engage in a fair hearing, then all of these judges will be confirmed.

SESNO: All right. Todd Gaziano with the Heritage Foundation and Marcia Kuntz from the Alliance for Justice. Thank you very much.

I think some thing that we'd all agree on is, the debate over the nominations process and what happens to the bench is just getting started.

KUNTZ: Thank you, Frank.

SESNO: Thank you. I appreciate your time.

Well, Republicans pushed the 2000 federal budget outline through the House Of Representatives today. A major step toward enacting tax cuts and spending restraint favored by President Bush. Something that he ran on. The 221-207 vote fell mostly along party lines. Mr. Bush called it "a victory for fairness and the American people."

A Senate vote on the measure is expected tomorrow.

Now, for a look at what's ahead, here's our congressional correspondent Kate Snow.

Kate, big day for the budget.

KATE SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That is right, big day. And it sets up what's going to happen next, Frank, which is the battle over the tax cut. Already the two Senate finance committee, the chairman, and the ranking Democrat have been talking.

In fact, they have been meeting daily for the last several days; they have met for hours. Senator Max Baucus, the Democrat from Montana, and the chairman of the committee, Senator Chuck Grassley from Iowa, Republican. They met this morning, they are meeting tonight. Both men agreeing now that what needs to be in this first budget bill that comes out of the Senate Finance Committee, are the four key provisions to the tax cut proposed by the president. That is, marriage penalty relief, the estate tax, a child tax credit increase, along with across-the-board rate reductions. But the question now: is exactly what those rate reductions will look like.


SEN. MAX BAUCUS (D), MONTANA: Because we have about 25 percent less total dollars to work with, it's hard to pass rates which are along the lines the president suggested. Frankly, and then we are working towards the compromises and that is kind of trite, but it's the legislative process.

Work this out; there are a hundred senators, each with a different point of view, and it's a matter of just putting it altogether. And I think that the rates -- they'll be across-the-board rate reductions and the amount will be a compromise.


SNOW: Now, here's what they have generally agreed to, what is likely to be the bill to the Senate Finance Committee will be: a smaller cut for the top tax rate of 39 percent than what the president had asked for -- probably putting it down to somewhere around 36 percent, rather than the 33 percent called on by President Bush.

There will not be a tax rebate check coming in the mail -- instead what they are talking about is withholding more money from people's paychecks starting immediately.

The bill likely to include a repeal of the estate tax, not just a reduction, a repeal; an expansion of the 15 percent tax rate to help middle-income workers; and also an expansion of the child tax credit, not only what the president wanted, but also extending it, so that even those who do not pay taxes and don't owe taxes would benefit from that tax credit.

Chairman Chuck Grassley says that the biggest sticking point today is actually about how fast the rate reductions are going to take place. One of the things that they're thinking about is in order to fit all of this into that $1.35 trillion that they've got laid out in the budget, they think that maybe they can make some of those higher tax-rate reductions happen a little later on. Chairman Grassley says that is something that many Republicans may not like.


SEN. CHARLES GRASSLEY (R), IOWA: Within the Republican caucus, we have differences of opinions between a very conservative and more moderate members. On the other hand, you want to remember that the agreements in our caucus are much greater than the disagreements. And so, in further negotiations, I think I'd classify it as a fine-tuning and small points. Not big points.


SNOW: Both Chairman Grassley and Senator Baucus agree that they think that they will have this all worked out, all of the details ironed out, within the next couple of days. And Frank, that could mean that the Senate Finance Committee takes it up next week and possibly on the Senate floor next week -- Frank.

SESNO: Your tax dollars at work. Kate Snow, thank you very much.

Passing a budget and appointing judges are just two of the challenges facing the president on Capitol Hill. What about education?

Mr. Bush is taking hits from the left and the right for his classroom efforts and reforms. We will talk with one of his key domestic advisers.

Also: the major players in the Florida recount, together again. Why is Jeb Bush in Palm Beach County?

And later: the acting governor of Massachusetts governs from a hospital, and prepares to make history.

We'll tell you all about it on INSIDE POLITICS.



SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: And we challenge the president, we call on the president, if this is his first priority, at least indicate where you are going to find the funds to invest in the children, which are our future.


SESNO: Senator Edward Kennedy voicing his concern over what some Democrats see as a shortage in education funding in the current version of the Bush budget.

Well, joining us now to talk more about the Bush administration's education proposals, the president domestic policy adviser, Margaret LaMontagne. Great to have you with us. Thanks so much for coming over.


SESNO: Let's start with a response to Senator Edward Kennedy. He says flatly, there's not enough money there. You have increased education spending in the budget by $6.6 billion less than the Democrats want, but it's still up nearly #5 billion. What's next?

LAMONTAGNE: Well, we, obviously, are having active negotiations with members of Congress on budget issues, but I think one of the things that we know is that money does not necessarily equal enhanced results, and money without reform, what the president has advocated, really is the ingredient for success.

SESNO: But the way the Democrats tell it, anyway, and certainly what they say publicly is, with all due respect, Miss LaMontagne, we disagree you. You have to have the dollars and you have to pony up to get the progress that we're talking about.

LAMONTAGNE: And the president has supported major increases for public education and will continue to...

SESNO: Will there be more?

LAMONTAGNE: There will be more.

SESNO: So, there's compromise somewhere in here for...

LAMONTAGNE: Somewhere in the middle, we will, I am confident, find a way to reach consensus around the budget issues.

SESNO: So, another $3 or $4 billion dollars and call it a deal?

LAMONTAGNE: Well, I'm not going to say that but, we are -- we'll get there.

SESNO: All right. Now, on the other hand, you're feeling some heat from the left -- I'm sorry, from the right precisely because of the signals you are now sending to the left. Here is what Bill Bennett, former education secretary, had to say about the Bush education on this program just the other day.


WILLIAM BENNETT, EMPOWER AMERICA: On the education issue, I'm very disappointed. What I'm disappointed is that this president has deviated from his own plan. He sent up a proposal to the Hill which was very strong. I supported every major piece of it, and the three major pieces were educational choice, giving the kids an option to leave bad schools; second, accountability, real assessment -- meaning national assessment -- of educational progress; and third, flexibility. Those three major sinews of this proposals have been eviscerated. They're gone.


SESNO: Eviscerated, they're gone. Strong stuff, what do you say?

LAMONTAGNE: They are not gone. I mean, this bill, both of these bills adhere strongly to the president's principles, and for accountability, we've got lots of that: annual assessments for kids every year in grades three through eight, vast amounts of local control and flexibility, more authority for states, and a lot of parent options, more choices for parents as well.

SESNO: What would you say to the conservative critics and to the very parents that the president invoked when he was campaigning who say that without vouchers, without a way to get the kid, especially inner city kids, out of the failing schools and into public schools, if that's what parents so choose; that you don't have real choice here.

LAMONTAGNE: Well, obviously, the president is committed to choice and to Title I portability, and we're disappointed that it didn't come out of the house or at this moment Senate, but we expect those issues to be debated on the floor of both chambers, and we welcome Bill Bennett's help in getting us the votes to pass that.

But let me just say that we are very pleased that we have taken some steps toward that. We have options for parents to use Title I funds for supplemental services, to going to Sylvan Learning Center or Kumon Math and also to use those funds to provide transportation for public school choice, which is going to make public school choice real and meaningful for the parents.

So we have two-thirds of the loaf, shall we say.

SESNO: There's another program that many cite, and that is what was called the Straight A's program, I think Bill Bennett referred to. It's a funding program that gives states great flexibility, certainly greater flexibility to take the money they get from the federal government and use it as they see fit?


SESNO: Others would tie many more strings to those dollars. Where does it stand, and what do you say to those who would suggest that by having to compromise on that one, that you will walk away from, again, one of the core principles of what the president wanted to accomplished?

LAMONTAGNE: Well, we're a strong supporter of that concept, and it is embodied in both the House and the Senate version. We have conservatives in the House who are seeking the Ted Kennedy version of the Straight A's plan and are going to have amendments to that effect. And obviously, we're supportive of that, and are confident that at end of the day, we will end up with more latitude for the states to use money as they see fit.

SESNO: Next, Senator Trent Lott, the Republican majority leader, the Senate majority leader complained today that on this -- I suppose on every one in a 50/50 Senate, every senator is king.


SESNO: Any senator, really, can hold this up, something this close. How do you work around that? How do you get that? Or is there no way to do that?

LAMONTAGNE: I think you keep taking your message to the American people, and I think the president -- I mean, I am impressed how far we have come here in 100-some odd days with really setting the agenda on public education, things like annual assessment of all kids, massive consolidation, more flexibility for states, lots of options, a commitment to reading instruction; and so, we look at the glass half full and what we have accomplished and how the American people are so supportive that the things that the president is talking about, and we will have a bill here shortly.

SESNO: Let me come back to Bill Bennett's criticism a moment ago, when he says this is a Teddy Kennedy-Al Gore kind of bill. Now, how do you respond to criticism like that?

LAMONTAGNE: Well, we just respectfully disagree, and we look for Bill Bennett to help us get the pieces restored that he's disappointed about, as are we -- Title I portability and the choice options for the parents. We would love to see that in the bill, but we're also realists about, you know, the two-thirds of the loaf.

SESNO: Predictions in the United States Senate, for the Senate?

LAMONTAGNE: On this bill?


LAMONTAGNE: I think we'll pass it with very strong bipartisan support.

SESNO: Finally, before you leave, I can't let a domestic policy adviser on the day that House of Representatives passes a budget for this president walk out without addressing some of that. The president called it a very good judgment. Clearly, there are people on both sides of the aisle who expressed disappointment: Tax cut not big enough, too big; spending going too fast, not fast enough. Exactly where is, as far as you are concerned, the main flash point right now?

LAMONTAGNE: Well, I don't think I'd want to talk about a flash point. I mean, I think we are pleased, and this is true of the education issue as well, that this is about a deliberative process, and the fact that we have Ted Kennedy and Bill Bennett on either side of us on education, I guess that's true of the budget discussion as well.

But the fact is we're going to have a conservative budget deal, we're going to have a strong tax cut, and I think the president has accomplished a lot here in the 110 days that he's been here and we are pleased of that.

SESNO: So close that Dick Cheney's vote will be needed to break the tie in the Senate?

LAMONTAGNE: We'll see.

SESNO: We will. Margaret LaMontagne, thanks very much. Give us some suspense to look forward to.


SESNO: We appreciate it. Well, from education to the other end of the spectrum, school violence, and the case of the teenager on trial for the shooting of his teacher. We'll have the very latest from Florida, plus other top stories when we return.


SESNO: And we'll have more of the day's political news for you coming up, but now a look at some of our other top stories.

Dramatic testimony was heard today from the Florida middle school student charged with shooting to death his teacher. Without emotion, 14-year-old Nathaniel Brazill showed jurors how he held the palm-sized gun just before shooting his teacher Barry Grunow last year. Brazill then demonstrated how he loaded a bullet in the gun's chamber. Brazill, who was 13 at the time of the shooting, said it was an accident, that he never meant to harm Grunow.

Brazill's attorney says his client's testimony is the key to the outcome of the trial.


ROBERT UDELL, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: We think Nathaniel came out all right. We'll see what the jury thinks.

QUESTION: Is there a reason you called him first?

UDELL: Yeah. The case stands or falls on Nathaniel. You either believe him or you don't. I said that from day one.

If the state can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he's lying, then they'll convict him. Otherwise they should find him not guilty.


SESNO: Brazill is charged as an adult with first-degree murder. He faces life in prison if convicted.

The White House nominated Asa Hutchinson today to head the Drug Enforcement Administration. The Arkansas Republican is best-known as one of the House managers who prosecuted President Bill Clinton in his trial before the Senate. To head the Office of Drug Control Policy Mr. Bush is expected to nominate John Walters. He's a former deputy to an earlier drug czar, William Bennett.

As CNN's Kelli Arena reports, there may be opposition.


KELLI ARENA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The man sources say will be picked to spearhead the nation's anti-drug policy has firmly held and well-known views, especially his emphasis on fighting the drug war abroad.

JOHN WALTERS: You want to make treatment work better, cut down the supply. I said to people before, it's common sense. If you wanted people who are overweight to work out on their weight problem, you wouldn't put them in a room full of pizzas.

ARENA: John Walters' position has critics up in arms.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's an old-fashioned drug warrior. He really believes that we can solve the U.S. drug problem by fighting the drug war in other countries. We've proved over and over again that that doesn't work and that it can have tragic consequences.

ARENA: Falco and others point to the downing of a plane carrying missionaries in Peru, mistakenly identified as a drug runner. Walters, who was top deputy to drug policy director William Bennett in the first Bush administration, also supports tough sentences for drug offenders.

WILLIAM BENNETT, FORMER DRUG POLICY CHIEF: What our critics took issue with is the fact that we took a tough line on law enforcement, a tough line on the use of drugs, a tough line on the casual use of drugs. And critics can say what they want: They're absolutely right we were tough on it, but we were glad we were and we got results.

ARENA: But that's causing concern Walters wouldn't put enough emphasis on treatment.

GEN. BARRY MCCAFFREY, DRUG POLICY CHIEF: It appeared that he had taken a very skeptical stance toward the efficacy of science-based drug treatment.

ARENA: If confirmed, the biggest challenge Walters will face is how to reverse the sharp rise in young people using drugs, especially so-called "club drugs," such as ecstasy.

(on camera): While that trend seems to have tapered off recently, in the last eight years, drug use among eighth-graders has nearly doubled.

Kelli Arena, CNN, Washington.


SESNO: A new law to prevent a repeat of the Florida recount. The price: $32 million. We head back to Palm Beach County when INSIDE POLITICS returns.


SESNO: Florida Governor Jeb Bush today signed new election law reforms into law. And always mindful of history, Bush signed that legislation -- where else? -- but in Palm Beach County. He was joined by some of the people made famous by the Florida recount, including Secretary of State Katherine Harris and Palm Beach elections supervisor Teresa LePore.

The $32 million package eliminates punchcard and paper ballots and requires optical scan ballot systems to be in place across the state by the 2002 elections.


GOV. JEB BUSH (R), FLORIDA: Floridians that go to vote in 2002 will have a clear guidelines on what their rights and responsibilities are. There'll be well-trained volunteer precinct workers. They'll have the greatest technology, the newest technology: the touch screen here in Palm Beach County, or in most places, the optical-scanning -- precinct-based optical scanning machines.

They will know that if there's a close election there will be a standardized process to recount the ballots firs by machine and then by manual recount.


SESNO: Teresa LePore, you'll recall, designed the now infamous butterfly ballot used in Palm Beach County -- we mentioned she was on hand -- a ballot which Democrats claimed confused voters and cost votes for Al Gore. Well, the criticism apparently took its toll, and LePore now says she's changed her voter registration from Democrat to independent. LePore says she switched because the elections supervisor job should be nonpartisan and because she was disappointed, quote, "in the way the Democrats have treated me."

The executive director of the county Democratic Party called LePore's decision "a good thing," saying election supervisors should be independent.

And Al Gore is back in the sunshine state. He delivered a speech to several thousand people today at a travel industry conference in -- where else? -- Orlando. Gore said he's happy to see Florida passing election law reforms. And bringing laughter from his audience, he said he especially likes the part of the law that requires ballots in dispute to be counted by hand.

Well, the campaign finance reform effort that gained momentum coming out of last year's elections has run into some potential opposition of late from an unexpected quarter. Some members of the Congressional Black Caucus are concerned the Senate's McCain-Feingold bill will make it harder to fund get-out-the-vote efforts and voter education, especially in minority communities.

The sentiment is hardly unanimous. The Congressional Black Caucus faces many members who agree with the current election reform efforts. Leading the discussion and the opposition, Albert Wynn. He's a Democratic of Maryland.

And one more election note for you: The Democrats will have to keep searching for a candidate to run for the Senate seat held by North Carolina Republican Jesse Helms. Former Clinton White House chief of staff Erskine Bowles says he will not run for the seat in 2002 despite strong encouragement from national party activists.

Helms has not officially announced plans to run for a sixth term. That's what it would be. But he has commissioned a statewide poll and shown signs he's leaning toward a run for re-election. The chief executive of Massachusetts gets a change of scenery. As the expectant mother checks into the hospital, our Bill Delaney checks Jane Swift's political standing.


SESNO: Acting Massachusetts Governor Jane Swift is keeping in touch with staff and conducting state business from her hospital bed for now. Swift, who is pregnant with twins, was admitted after having contractions yesterday.

Bill Delaney has more on the governor's medical and political condition.


BILL DELANEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Under wraps these days for reconstruction, the Massachusetts Statehouse. Under wraps, too, at Boston hospital the building's normally No. 1 tenant, acting Governor Jane Swift, ordered now to restrict herself to bed rest with her twins expected within 10 days: her chief of staff urging let's not make too big a deal of all this.

PETER FORMAN, SWIFT'S CHIEF OF STAFF: We have a woman governor who is giving birth, no different than woman executives and women all over the world who give birth and have some disruption to the daily routine.

The question really comes down to this: Do reasonable people want to deal with a somewhat unusual problem, but not insurmountable?

DELANEY: Well, already the Republican governor's all Democratic executive council has asked the state Supreme Court to rule whether Swift can now legally conduct meetings via telephone. The governor thinks yes.

GOV. JANE SWIFT (R), MASSACHUSETTS: The governor is not out of state and legally is not incapacitated.

DELANEY: Contention not unusual for Swift. Pregnant and popular when she ran for lieutenant governor in 1998, then pregnant again when Massachusetts Governor Paul Cellucci resigned to become ambassador to Canada several week ago. Swift has struggled with an image problem since her first child for, among other things, having aides baby-sit her first born.

SHARLENE HESSE-BIBER, BOSTON COLLEGE: It's a very, very difficult kind of path that both men who want to be fathers and women who want to be mothers have to traverse in corporate America. It's very, very difficult going. And it's very difficult to be taken seriously, to be a wife, a mother, and to really be, you know, a serious player within the corporate world.

DELANEY: Not to mention in politics: So far, many opponents have shied from roughing up a high-profile mother. MARY ANNE MARSH, DEMOCRATIC CONSULTANT: Many politicians haven't been willing to take her on, on the issues, like you would with any governor. So in some respects, she's gotten a free pass already.

DELANEY: Not likely to last into the 2002 Massachusetts governor's race.

(on camera): So far, having more real authority as acting as opposed to lieutenant governor has worked for Jane Swift. Approval ratings that long languished as low as below 20 percent have gone up at least 15 percent to a favorability rating in the 40 percent rage.

(voice-over): Acting Governor Swift plans to conduct business from her home in western Massachusetts after giving birth, returning to Boston some time in late summer, right as the real politicking to choose the next governor is expected to kick in.

Bill Delaney, CNN, Boston.


SESNO: The president's choices: Will his judicial nominees pass muster in the Senate? At stake, just about everything that touches your life. We're going to ask Margaret Carlson and Tucker Carlson for their perspectives -- after the break.


SESNO: We are having too much fun now. Joining us now, Margaret Carlson of "TIME" magazine, Tucker Carlson, co-host of CNN's "SPIN ROOM."

Should we start at the beginning, always a good place to start?


SESNO: Yeah, OK.

M. CARLSON: On the first day, God created...

SESNO: Eleven nominees -- well, he did that, too, but today, 11 nominees, judicial nominees from President Bush to the U.S. Senate with love. How is it going to be received by conservatives, Democrats, Republicans, you name it? -- Tucker.

TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST, CNN'S "THE SPIN ROOM": Well, I mean, the whole idea. Two of them have already been appointed by Clinton. Some, including Chris Cox, have been withheld until a later date. So the whole idea is to put forth a batch acceptable to Democrats. The idea is, you know, Democrats have been gearing up to bat down nominees, and the Bush administration figures if they ease in gently the can get, you know, nominees they want more later.

The question is, is this a good strategy in general, or is it a sign of weakness, the Democrats will pounce on them in the future?

SESNO: And? Your thoughts?

T. CARLSON: I would say the latter. Look, if you start out, if you put forth 11 members of the Federalist Society right upfront, it would be much more difficult for the Democrats to bat them all down. Why not start strong?

M. CARLSON: So we have nine of them.

T. CARLSON: Well, we...

M. CARLSON: We have two former Clinton appointees and then, this nine.

It's interesting; there's a lot of racial and sexual diversity in Bush's appointees, both to the cabinet, and to here, but not a lot of ideological diversity. Because you do have nine conservatives being appointed.

You know, one of the things that's interesting; we do -- we no longer have the ABA to tell us at least whether they meet some minimum level of competence. This is like the witness is gone. We no longer have the impartial witness telling us whether they were competent or not. And you know, the judicial is the one part of government that is supposed to be pure, or tries to be.

SESNO: If you keep going, he'll just explode.

T. CARLSON: Well, the idea that we are at sea without the American Bar Association's stamp of approval, I'm sure you literally are a member. I am not, and I can say that with pride. I don't know; I think we will be fine without that.

SESNO: What about the point that Margaret made? Let's just look at this seriously for just a moment. The concept here was, there was some sort of an outside group, whether you liked it or not, there was an outside group that attempted to bring what passed for some kind of outside bar for these judicial nominees to meet.

T. CARLSON: Sure. And that's a terrific idea. Perhaps, it would be nice to have a group to vet each one, and say he's not an alcoholic, he doesn't have any extensive criminal record, or whatever.

But once the currency itself has been devalued, once the ABA, fair or not, has been labeled an ideological group, then what is worth? Nothing. All -- unless we can all agree that the stamp of approval is worth something, then it isn't worth anything.

M. CARLSON: The group at the ABA that did this was not one that was involved in politics at all, and was composed of your intellectual jurists.

SESNO: Let's go back to the campaign and the debates and the questions that were posed to George W. Bush about his judicial nominees, to wit -- you like that -- to wit --

M. CARLSON: Comma. SESNO: Abortion and other such issues will not be used as a litmus test; can we derive anything from today's announcement?

M. CARLSON: It may not be spoken, but I would guess that all nine of these are pro-life -- the nine are pro-life. It may not be put forward in a totally -- you know, a -- what word am I looking for here?

T. CARLSON: They may not have asked the question directly.

M. CARLSON: Thank you, Tucker. But it was there. And I think we will find that all nine are pro-life.

T. CARLSON: I don't know. We're getting echoes of David Souter, well -- he didn't say he was against abortion, but we trust he was. It's one of the subjects you can't know the answer to, unless you ask about it directly. I'd bet anything that none of them have been asked it directly, and I've never heard anybody make a strong case for why you shouldn't ask it directly; it's an issue like any other.

M. CARLSON: Frank, just one more thing. Before -- now that Bush is doing this, Republicans were much more open about their agenda. Remember Hatch and Sessions and a number of them were blocking the Clinton nomination, saying, listen, just hold on here. Wait until we have a Republican and then we will stack the court with conservatives. Now, they are quietly...

SESNO: Margaret, I don't understand what is so out of bounds about that? For eight years, there was a Democrat in the White House and his judicial nominees were certainly acceptable to him and Democrats. Isn't this just a normal cycle of things? Now there's a Republican, he's going to pick the nominees he chooses.

M. CARLSON: Clinton's appointees were not all that liberal. The bulk of them were former prosecutors, who were not politically active at all.

SESNO: Let's change the subject: let's go to energy. Next week, we will have the president laying out his energy policy. We got a taste of that with our interview this week with Vice President Cheney. What's teeing up here, Tucker, in your view?

T. CARLSON: Well, nobody wants to be blamed for California. You already -- you heard Gray Davis, basically, it's all, now, Pete Wilson's fault. As if people can even remember who Pete Wilson was -- the governor of California once upon a time, failed presidential candidate.

And he's the one who instituted deregulation, so it's either his fault or the president's fault. Tom Daschle had this amazing quote the other day -- yesterday, I think, saying, gee, if only Bush had done something about California -- this about a President who's been there about 20 minutes, as if it's his fault. So, everyone wants to avoid being blamed that.

M. CARLSON: And it's a good thing to avoid blame for, because wait until gas is $2.99 with that little nine up there -- I wonder if we will finally go to $3.00.

T. CARLSON: I think it is a bold move of Bush to say, there is nothing we can do about gas prices.

M. CARLSON: Well, there may not be something you can do about gas prices, but there is certainly something you can do about the future of gas prices.

SESNO: There are actually some, Margaret, on the more liberal side, who would say, let the prices go up, because that's the only thing that will bring up conservation and let market forces work.

M. CARLSON: The Bush solution is, let's drill, and there is a limit. And in fact...

SESNO: What do you mean there is a limit?

M. CARLSON: To how much fossil fuel there's left to drill.

SESNO: There's a lot of fossil fuel out there...

M. CARLSON: How long we can go at the current rate of consumption. And there are studies which show, if we went back to some of the mileage standards that were about to be put into effect at the end of the Carter administration, we would saving more than you could ever get from drilling in the Arctic.

SESNO: Go ahead, Tucker.

T. CARLSON: I don't know. People still have to pay for their gas. There's a certain group of people who just is offended by the idea of an SUV, is offended by the idea of people running the air conditioner all day. Offended by civilization.

People pay for their energy. They pay for their gasoline. they pay for their natural gas. They pay for their electricity. I'm not sure it's a moral question. If you want to drive a car with bad mileage, ought not you be allowed to?

M. CARLSON: I don't think it's a moral question, but you're using up more than your share of the country's nature resources.

T. CARLSON: Who's to say what your share is? You're paying for it.

M. CARLSON: If you're gobbling with the...

SESNO: Doesn't that set up Dick Cheney's point rather perfectly, then, Margaret, talk about your share: renewables, fossil fuels, on the subject of nuclear, OK, that's not a fossil fuel, that doesn't contribute to greenhouse gases that may warm the environment.

M. CARLSON: I don't know the answer to that question because I haven't thought about nuclear energy for a long time.

SESNO: You think you'll saying -- James Carville says, go ahead, build more nuclear power plants.

M. CARLSON: There's been this period of time in which perhaps nuclear energy, since the time of Three Mile Island and Chernobyl has improved vastly in its safety; let's look at it.

T. CARLSON: I do think Russian power plants are still probably pretty dangerous, but you are going to hear I think say, hey, American nuclear power plants are not -- the argument against them is so remarkable -- it's nuclear power is too expensive. Why? Because people keep suing nuclear power plants. So, it's the very same people who are making it expensive, claiming it's expense is a reason not to use it?

M. CARLSON: I grew up near Three Mile Island, so when it goes bad, you know, it's very scary.

T. CARLSON: Is that what..

M. CARLSON: That's what's responsible, yes, for me. It is scary.

SESNO: The president's spending initiatives and tax initiatives passed the House today -- we call it the budget. It's a lot more than just the budget. It's really about the direction of where things are going. Harbinger of things to come, Tucker?

M. CARLSON: Well, conservatives who, to this point, have just been really, amazingly behind the president, and reluctant to criticize him in any way, are still that way, making the argument, gee, the tax cut is not as big as we would have liked it to be, but it's that much bigger than it would have been under Al Gore. Three cheers for George W. Bush.

SESNO: Margaret, the president has his budget moving through, he's laying out his missile defense program, they are talking about re-examining the entire defense posture of the country. These are not small steps; this is not a limited agenda that many columnists once wrote about.


M. CARLSON: Well, Tucker said the House conservative are behind it; the House conservatives who can't add. Over in the Senate, they can add. There's not enough money with the tax cut, there is just not enough money for this, which is one reason why Bush is putting the defense request in a lot later, because he doesn't want that to be exposed at the moment, even though anybody who looks at it certainly knows that there's not enough money for half of these in there.

SESNO: Margaret Carlson, great to see you as always. Tucker, thanks.

M. CARLSON: Thanks.

SESNO: A rare site today, speaking of rare sites. This one in the Minnesota state capital. The Dalai Lama spoke to state lawmakers there for about 25 minutes. In only his second speech ever to a state legislature, the Buddhist leader spoke about compassion and tolerance, and he said he was optimistic about the future of human rights in his native Tibet, which has been occupied by China since 1959.

The Dalai Lama also met privately with Governor Jesse Ventura, who plans a trade mission to China later this year.

Congress considers retaliation, but would withholding back dues buy votes at the United Nations?

Another half-hour of INSIDE POLITICS is still ahead.


SESNO: President Bush faces more political heat over the California energy crisis.

Also ahead: Cold War flashbacks help put a new era of terror in perspective.

And on the subject of UFOs, former government personnel are urging political powers to find the truth out there.

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

SESNO: And welcome back to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm Frank Sesno. Judy is on assignment much of this week. She'll be back with you tomorrow.

After two days of rolling blackouts, Californians are bracing for the possibility or more power cut-offs in the coming hours. Meantime, the state's public utilities commission is pressing customers to conserve. A plan proposed today calls for residential customers of California's two largest utilities to face average rate hikes of 35 to 40 percent if they don't reduce their use of electricity.

And here in Washington, well, members of California's congressional delegation discuss their power woes with House Democratic leader Dick Gephardt. They are once again urging Bush administration to do more to help California, including dropping its opposition to price caps.


REP. RICHARD GEPHARDT (D-MO), MINORITY LEADER: The president's do nothing response begs the question: Is the Republican answer to our energy crisis letting the energy companies dictate our energy policy?


SESNO: A coalition of environmental groups also took aim at the Bush White House as it prepares to unveil an energy policy that is expected to placed more emphasis on increasing supply than on conservation. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PHIL CLAPP, NATIONAL ENVIRONMENTAL TRUST: We don't have an energy crisis. What we do have is a crisis of misplaced priorities, and a lack of political will to do what is best for the country rather than the powerful special interests.


SESNO: Amid the growing concern, there has been more focus on energy in this country of late, and renewed focus on whether the government should step in and raise fuel efficiency standards for cars and SUVs, sports utility vehicles.

CNN's Kelly Wallace has been looking into those standards and how they're helping drive the energy debate.


KELLY WALLACE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Rick Clemons, a financial adviser, pays about $75 a week for gas. But with prices at the pump climbing, he is considering giving up his SUV, which only gets 13 miles to the gallon in the city.

RICK CLEMONS, SUV OWNER: Gas prices are supposed to go up to $3. If it got that high, I would definitely have to sell this.

WALLACE: SUVs like Rick's, minivans and other light trucks now account for half the vehicles on the roads in the United States; a huge leap from 1975, when faced with an energy crisis caused by the OPEC oil embargo, Congress first order the auto industry to make more gasoline-efficient cars.

The so-called fuel economy standard for passenger cars is now 27.5 miles per gallon, but for light trucks, such as SUVs, it remains 20.7 miles per gallon. A bipartisan Senate bill calls for raising that standard to equal that of passenger cars by 2007.

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: There is no earthly reason why SUVs and light trucks shouldn't be as fuel efficient as sedans. We're giving them six years to do it, and the bang for the buck is enormous.

WALLACE: The proposal, supporters say, would translate into a savings of more than $300 for the average motorist paying $1.50 per gallon of gas; reduce carbon dioxide emissions, and slash oil imports by 10 percent.

But auto-makers say more fuel efficient cars would be more lightweight, and possibly not as safe, and more expensive to produce, meaning higher sticker prices for consumers.

JO COOPER, ALLIANCE OF AUTOMOBILE MANUFACTURERS: The challenge for auto-makers when you mandate a requirement is that you can't mandate that people buy whatever it is you force them to make. WALLACE: Cost and safety concerns prompted Congress in 1995 to impose a moratorium on raising on raising Corporate Average fuel economy, or so called CAFE standards. But last year, lawmakers for a non-partisan study. Vice President Cheney said the White House is waiting for that report.

RICHARD CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What we'll recommend is taking a look at the results of that study, and then deciding whether or not we want to go forward with some change in the CAFE standards as well.

WALLACE (on camera): That report is due out in July, the height of the summer travel season, and if drivers continue to see higher prices at the pump, pressure may grow on the administration to increase standards for fuel efficiency.

Kelly Wallace, CNN, Washington.


SESNO: Now, let's talk about energy policy other items on President Bush's agenda. Ron Brownstein of "The Los Angeles Times" is here. Let's start with energy and this very interesting, complex, and very carefully calibrated energy policy the administration is getting ready to unveil.

RON BROWNSTEIN, "LOS ANGELES TIMES": It follows, as your suggestion in the conversation before, a series of major policies they have unveiled in the last two weeks on Social Security reform, putting out his commission; national missile defense; and the finish of the budget and the education plan.

To me, the first point is that this president is very much committed to maintaining control of the agenda. Very different than his father, who is reviled in some instances as inbox president. That was the critique of him. This president is showing that he is willing to take the risk of putting out confrontational, polarizing ideas of it means he maintains control of the agenda.

Energy is a perfect example of that. He is putting a lot of ideas on the table that are going to generate a lot of heat and sparks (UNINTELLIGIBLE) is another question, but he wants to make sure that the debate is on his terms, and I would say that's the greatest success he's had as president is pushing these debates on his turns.

SESNO: It's also an ocean liner of a country in terms of what people are actually talking about.

BROWNSTEIN: Yes, absolutely. I mean, look, this is -- this is would be forced forward if for no other reason of the fact of rolling blackouts in California and higher energy prices are pushing it into the front page. But you are right, Frank. This is an issue that people have not thought about for 20 years in America.

Opinion is remarkably unformed in this area. I talked to pollsters in both parties this week who say that really, of all the major issues we're dealing, the most amorphous and sort of untethered public opinion that we have, simply because abundant energy has been something people have grown up; really an entire generation since we've had the gas line.

So the debate on this is going to matter more than most political debates because the opinion is so unformed.

SESNO: So you go out there and you make the case that technology allows better, safer, more efficient, drilling, power plant, cars, you name it. Do people buy onto that? Is that the big key to this thing, the technology allows you to do more, more safely and more environmental.

BROWNSTEIN: Well, it probably is a key on two ends because you have a point of unlikely convergence here where both sides, both the Bush administration and the environmentalists are basically saying that the extent of conservationist is part of the answer. It is something done for consumers and rather than by the consumers. Very different than the Jimmy Carter era.

They're talking about technology making cars more fuel efficient or SUVs more fuel efficient, not anything to discourage people from buying them in the first places or these very large homes. What the Bush administration, I think, is hoping is that you can make the case that you can, in effect, have your cake and eat it too, or that it's a false choice to choose between energy and the environment.

You can drill safely. You can build nuclear power plants more safely, and to the extent that there has to be conservation as part of the mix, which I think that message has gotten across them after some early missteps, that, too, is going to be technology driven.

I still think that they face an uphill climb in certainly areas. There is a lot of resistance and a lot of sense of environmental protection being really internalized as a core American value after 30 years, and to the extent that opponents can present their plan as a risk to that, they will have problems.

SESNO: And what the Democrats are going to do, because they have said so, is not only focus on the environmental and conservation aspects of this to drum up opposition, but also on their contention that this administration essentially is doing the bidding of industry.


BROWNSTEIN: Absolutely, you saw that Dick Gephardt's quote a few moments ago. They want to point the finger at auto companies for not making cars efficient enough, energy companies for allegedly manipulating the market. They want to make it more of a populist argument rather than simply competing technocratic alternatives to soling the problems. They want to make it a who's side are you on question.

SESNO: Now, here's another question in terms of the politics of all of this -- energy, in particular, I'm talking about here. Short term, people are going to the pumps. They are, as we heard a moment ago, some people are spending $75 a week to put gasoline in their sport utility vehicle. Some people are being the victim of -- subject to these rolling blackouts in California. There may be more in Long Island and elsewhere this summer is. Is there a short-term political price here?

BROWNSTEIN: You bet. You get the sense that House Republicans are quoting John Maynard Keynes to the White House: "In the long run, Mr. President, we will all be dead." So you have a process here similar to the tax debate where the Bush administration has put forward, on the tax side, a long-term, sort of policy response that had little very little short-term impact.

What Congress did was modify it in a way on the tax side to have more short-term bang. Can they find an equivalent on the energy side, because a lot of Republicans are nervous that whatever the fate of the Bush plan is, it's not going to mean much at the pump, it's not going to mean in California and it's not going to mean much to them before they have to face the voters in 2002?

SESNO: And in the short term, we have to go.

BROWNSTEIN: We have to go.

SESNO: Ron Brownstein, thanks very much. I appreciate it.

The Bush administration sent a warning to Congress that a vote to withhold back dues from the United Nations would be extremely damaging. But some lawmakers are moving ahead to do just that unless the United States regains its seat on the U.N. Human Rights Commission. For more on the dispute, here is CNN's Richard Roth who is at the United Nations.


RICHARD ROTH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They were climbing up the walls of the United Nations. No, not commandos from a furious U.S. Congress, just the window washers. But the windows on the world may be fogging up again in a replay of the years of deadlock between the U.S. and the United Nations.

There are renewed threats by U.S. legislators to withhold millions of dollars in back dues after member states failed to reelect the U.S. to the Human Rights Commission. U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan says he viewed last week's U.S. loss with shock and dismay, but says the U.S. should not retaliate.

KOFI ANNAN, U.N. SECRETARY-GENERAL: I think to extend the frustration beyond that, and punish the entire membership will be wrong, and I think IT would be counterproductive.

ROTH: But in Washington, some leading congressmen want revenge since U.S. foes such as Sudan were voted on the human rights panel.

REP. RICHARD ARMEY (R-TX), MAJORITY LEADER: When they expelled the champion of human rights and leave on the most villainous nation in the world, how is anybody supposed to take the U.N. seriously? RICHARD BOUCHER, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: We don't think that linking our obligations and payments to the United Nations, to the outcome of that particular vote, is a good idea.

ROTH: The U.S. does intend to pay $582 overdue million. But the next round of late payments may be held up.

JEREMY GREENSTOCK, BRITISH AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: The United Kingdom has made its position quite clear that everyone should be paying on time and up front as we do. I think the point could be made in other ways by the United States and I hope that is the decision that will come out on this.

ROTH: U.N. officials call this latest flap with the U.S. a temporary setback, but remain concerned.

(on camera): Any financial freeze by Washington to the United Nations is symbolic. Barring any more political surprises, the late stage money would be withheld until the U.S. is reinstated on the human rights commission, which seems highly likely next year.

Richard Roth, CNN, United Nations.


SESNO: The growing rift between the United States and the U.N. is the topic in the "CROSSFIRE" tonight. House Majority Leader Dick Armey and former U.N. Ambassador Richard Holbrooke will be discussing the U.S. relationship with the United Nations. That's takes place at 7:30 p.m. Eastern time.

Terrorism here and at home, day two of the hearings on Capitol Hill, and some thoughts from our Bruce Morton on what it means when the enemy is so hard to see.


SESNO: British politics can sometimes seem more like spectator sports than affairs of state, especially when it comes to the rhetorical showdowns in Parliament. But if recent polls hold true, the upcoming election for prime minister may have trouble attracting public attention.

CNN London bureau chief Tom Mintier has the story.


TOM MINTIER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Question time is a weekly event when the British House of Commons is sitting.

TONY BLAIR, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: First of all we will start -- with the economy.

MINTIER: It is here where the current government of Tony Blair's Labor Party and the opposition Conservatives trade verbal jabs. WILLIAM HAGUE, CONSERVATIVE PARTY LEADER: Will he now come clean with the people of this country and say he wants to ditch the pound at the earliest opportunity?

BLAIR: In principle we are in favor, in practice the economic conditions have to be met.

MINTIER: This is as close to what the American's call a formal political debate as these two candidates will ever come. There are no face-to-face debates here and with Parliament now dissolved to make way for elections June 7, no more parliamentary question time. While all polls seem to indicate a strong lead for Mr. Blair's party, the election may be about control of the opposition Conservative party.

ADAM RAPHAEL, "THE ECONOMIST": For Mr. Hague and the conservative party, if he does as badly as the polls are predicting, then his leadership is finished.

MINTIER: Mr. Hague is seen by many analysts as being like a contestant on British political reality show. The question: Will he be the survivor?

HUGO YOUNG, "THE GUARDIAN": He's very good in the jousting with Blair, which everybody all around the world seems to see on prime minister's questions. Unfortunately, this skill is completely irrelevant.

MINTIER: The verbal jousting may be over, but the political posturing is just getting underway. Positions on taxes, health care, immigration and the economy.

(on camera): If indeed it is the economy that voters relate to, Mr. Blair may have the advantage. Falling unemployment, low inflation and a strong economic growth seem to favor the party in power, and may provide the political insurance to keep Labor Party in the driver's seat.

Tom Mintier, CNN, London.


SESNO: Back in the U.S., in Washington to be specific, a Senate committee spent a second day on the issue of domestic terrorism. Attorney General John Ashcroft called America "the target of the choice," his words, for international terrorists. And he said the new office proposed by President Bush to combat domestic terrorism will compliment efforts by the Justice Department. Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson also appeared at that hearing. He said the threat of a biological attack is real and must be addressed.


TOMMY THOMPSON, HHS SECRETARY: Bioterrorism presents unique challenges since it differs dramatically from the other forms of terrorism in national emergencies. When an explosion or a chemical attack causes immediate and visible casualties, an international release of a biological weapon would truly unfold over the course of days or weeks, much difference in a chemical or other kind of national emergency.


SESNO: Thompson said he plans to hire a special assistant very soon who'll coordinate a response plan to potential biological attacks.

Well as the testimony on Capitol Hill shows, the terrorist threat is not what it used to be. It takes different forms, uses different methods and comes from different places than in the past. And as our Bruce Morton points out, the situation was much different not so long ago.


BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: "Hey," a young CNN employee asked a couple of years ago, "When was the Cold War?" If you were 40 or older, you were shocked. It lasted for almost half a century, from the end of World War II to the end of the Soviet Union in 1991. A couple of generations of U.S. schoolchildren learned a song about what to do when an atomic bomb hit the neighborhood.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Duck and cover, that's the first thing to do, duck and cover.


MORTON: Two alliances: the free world, as the West called itself, and the communist bloc, each with enough nuclear bombs to destroy the planet, literally blow it away. The acronym was MAD for mutual assured destruction, and maybe because the planet really was at stake, the two sides kept the peace.

Now, in a way, life seems more dangerous, because there is no deterrent which will guarantee the peace. The enemy is not an alliance as big as our own. The enemy might be one country with a grudge against the United States: an Iraq, maybe, an Iran, or even one individual: an Osama bin Laden, a Timothy McVeigh.

The United States has been lucky so far, comparatively speaking. Terror, yes: the bomb at the World Trade Center, the bomb in Oklahoma City. But bad as those were, they were attacks with conventional explosives.

Experts worry now about more lethal weapons: biological, chemical, nuclear and so on: a nuclear missile from a freighter, perhaps, hard to track all of those. Or the terrorist slouching into a bus station with a small nuclear bomb in his suitcase.

(on camera): How to deal with these new enemies? Should the United States, one question goes, be allowed to recruit informers with records of human rights abuse? A generation ago, in Vietnam, the United States itself ran an assassination program, Operation Phoenix. What rules now for dealing with terrorists whose aim is to kill the innocent? Should there be a new agency, a kind of anti-terrorism czar?

(voice-over): The United States has had several anti-drug czars and none of them has won that war.

Clearly, the Bush administration wants to go in new directions, away from the ABM Treaty, which was fashioned to fit the Cold War, work on an anti-missile defense, though one does not now exist, a new look at the role of the military. Government spending on supposedly anti-terrorist programs has gone up and will surely go up more. And in the meantime, try to come to terms with this new world: not one big enemy alliance, but a world full of shadows -- maybe friendly, maybe not.

Bruce Morton, CNN, Washington.


SESNO: Here's a question: Should UFOs become a congressional concern? We'll tell you why one group says extraterrestrials should be on the White House agenda as well. Why not?


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

Hello, Willow.


Coming up next on "MONEYLINE, " a victory today for President Bush as the House passes the budget, laying the groundwork for a tax cut. California residents who use more electricity will pay more. Energy regulators detail their plan to hike rates. And students who make a habit of plagiarizing may want to think twice. We'll have those stories and more next on "MONEYLINE." INSIDE POLITICS continues right after this.



DR. STEVEN GREER, THE DISCLOSURE PROJECT: ... that these objects of extraterrestrial origin have been tracked on radar going thousands of miles per hour, stopping and making right-hand turns.

ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Since 1993, Dr. Greer says he has videotaped testimony from more than 100 people about what they say are close encounters, people like retired Navy commander pilot Graham Bethune, who believes he saw a UFO 50 years ago while flying to Newfoundland. GRAHAM BETHUNE, RETIRED NAVY PILOT: Then it appeared over to the right and moved out slowly and flew with us. It was still not at our altitude, but we could see the shape of it. It had a dome.

QUIJANO: In addition, The Disclosure Project says it has documents supporting its case, including FAA records and CIA memos.

(on camera): What do members plan to do with their information? They hope Congress and President Bush take notice. They want to see congressional hearings into the matter, despite criticism from skeptics.

JOHN CALLAHAN, FORMER FAA INVESTIGATOR: Those that don't want to believe you will never believe you anyway. So it doesn't matter. It doesn't change the truth.

QUIJANO (voice-over): A spokesperson for the Senate Science, Technology and Space Committee says no congressional hearings are planned right now.

Elaine Quijano, CNN, Washington.


SESNO: Keep a look out on the skies.

That's if for this edition of INSIDE POLITICS, but of course, you can go online all the time at CNN's AOL keyword is, of course, CNN.

Judy Woodruff will be back from California tomorrow. She'll have a report on the future of the Washington-Silicon Valley connection, now that hard times have hit the high-tech industry. And this reminder: Tonight on "CROSSFIRE," House Majority Leader Dick Armey and former U.N. Ambassador Richard Holbrooke will grapple with the U.S. relationship with the U.N.: back dues, the U.N. High Commission on Refugees and human rights and much more. That's at 7:30 p.m. Eastern Time.

I'm Frank Sesno. "MONEYLINE" is up next.



4:30pm ET, 4/16

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