THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: Live from Washington, this is INSIDE POLITICS with Judy Woodruff.
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GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A year ago, tax relief was said to be a political impossibility. Today it becomes reality.
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ANNOUNCER: President Bush signs a centerpiece of his agenda into law with a nod to bipartisanship. But some Democrats still aren't buying it.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This bill, in short, fails the American people.
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ANNOUNCER: The heat is on Mr. Bush to revise his stand on global warming.
Plus: Is British Prime Minister Tony Blair set to win a landmark second term? We'll have live election coverage from London.
Now Judy Woodruff takes you INSIDE POLITICS.
JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you for joining us. We begin in Britain, where polls are due to close in just a couple of minutes, in an election being watched around the world. At stake: nothing less than control of Parliament, and, in turn, the prime minister's post, where incumbent Tony Blair is hoping to do what no other Labour Party leader has done before, that is, win two full terms.
We know that he has, if he wins -- if his party wins, the Labour Party wins, he would run the country for the next five years. And now let's join CNN International's live coverage from London.
JUANITA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: The polls in the United Kingdom close just moments from now. Another landslide for Labour and Tony Blair? JONATHAN MANN, CNN ANCHOR: Will it be a mud slide for William Hague. Can he save his conservative party from disaster and can he save his job?
PHILLIPS: And where is Britain headed? Whoever wins will control the country, the currency and a list of mounting concerns.
Hello, and welcome to our special coverage of the British election. I'm Juanita Phillips in London.
MANN: And I'm Jonathan Mann at the CNN center.
Tony Blair campaigned against overconfidence. William Hague campaigned against being crushed. Now the voting is almost over. The counting is to begin, and in a moment, we'll see the first exit polls. The first real results from the 659 constituencies in the House of Commons will follow in the hours to come, but every survey until now has suggested an enormous victory Labour, and a respectable showing for the much smaller, left-leaning Liberal Democrat Party.
The Tories, under William Hague, appear to be headed for trouble, and the British pound has fallen to a 15-year low on election day, because the Tory's defeat may also help push Britain away from the pound and closer to adopting the Euro as its currency.
We're watching a signal from Britain's ITV network as it prepares for its Mori exit poll. We go there now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our prediction is that Labour will return to power with yet another landslide. An unprecedented achievement in British political history, and a result which makes Tony Blair the first prime minister to have the chance of serving two full terms in office.
If our Mori Exit Poll is right, Labour will have a majority of 175. The conservatives would only have about 154 MPs, the liberal Democrats about 58. That's a massive triumph for Labour and a disaster, once again, for the Conservatives. Our prediction, then is that Labour will return with a majority of 175 seats in this parliament.
This is lower by little of the last majority of 179, but it's close enough to that figure to go either way as the results themselves start to come in. In a few minutes we'll be going down to our result center for more detailed background to the exit poll prediction. So, we are confident that it's a Labour landslide, but at this stage we can't say for certain whether the majority will be smaller or greater than last time.
PHILLIPS: OK, so joining us once again is Robin Oakley. He's the European political editor. Robin, those first exit polls coming in indicating a majority of about 175. Any surprises here? What do you make of those figures?
ROBIN OAKLEY, EUROPEAN POLITICAL EDITOR: We've had very static opinion polls right through this election campaign, And the kind of prediction we are getting now from the exit polls is virtually no change in the British House of Commons. The Conservatives set to lose about 10 seats, Labour to lose a couple. The liberal Democrats in the third party a showing the significant gain of 11 seats, but overall it's not a huge change in the position. Those very static polls very much borne out. It will be a huge disappointment to the opposition Conservative Party and it will certainly bring into question the future of the William Hague, the opposition leader.
PHILLIPS: These are exit polls. We need to explain that they are not a particularly accurate prediction. How accurate are they?
OAKLEY: Well, indeed. We've all known of disasters in exit polls in the past. In 1992 for example the BBC exit poll suggested it was going to be a hung Parliament with nobody with a majority and John Major finished up with a conservative majority of 21. We always have to be a little bit careful about exit polls and there can be huge variations across the country in Britain because there will be considerably tactical voting this time around and there'll be regional issues that will play hard in some areas and not in other areas.
PHILLIPS: All right. Robin, stay with us. We'll be back with you later. Back now to John.
MANN: Our Fionnula Sweeney is at Labour Party headquarters. She joins us from there -- Fionnula.
FIONNULA SWEENEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Indeed, John, this is the Labour media center and behind us you can probably see some of the other journalists from the other British networks who have gathered here this evening to watch the votes and report the results. `
Good news for Labour. According to that exit poll. This is what Tony Blair had hoped. He had actually feared that voter apathy might mean less voters turning out convinced that Labour were going to win anyway and that Labour would not have that convincing mandate he wants to bring Britain into the Euro later on in the second first fall term of office.
These exit polls, if they hold up, will be very, very good news for Labour. Tony Blair, the prime minister, is at the moment at his Sedgefield constituency, and he's expected down here in London at about 6:00 local time this morning. That's in about eight hours from now. So it looks as though it's a repeat of the 1997 victory and a huge victory for Labour with their majority virtually unchanged in the House Of Commons -- John.
MANN: Fionnula Sweeney at Labour. Now for a sense of the mood at Conservative Party headquarters, we go to Richard Quest -- Richard.
RICHARD QUEST, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Jonathan. Yes, this result is exactly what the Conservatives had feared. Even late warnings in the campaign against a Labour landslide have clearly failed to have any affect. Tony Blair had got exactly the landslide that the Conservatives had worried about.
What will be of great interest to the Conservatives, and there's not going to be much interest overnight as the results come in, will be just how many of the target seats that they did manage to pick up. Robin was forecasting a gain of around 10 or 11 or so. Depends which ones they are and indeed whether any of the senior Tories have managed to lose their seats.
Also of importance, of course, will be just how did the Tory percentage of the vote hold up as the night wore on. We have seen figures of around 32 percent, 33 percent for the Tory vote, so the question is will be whether that is sufficient to keep William Hague in his current job. At the moment, though, clearly this has been the election result the Conservatives had feared most of all.
Throughout the entire campaign they never really shoved much beyond 30, 31, 32 percent. While Labour went down a bit, the lib Dems went up quite a lot. It was the Conservatives that just simply could not find the policies that resonated with the people -- whether it was Europe, whether it was their taxation cuts, whether it was their policies on the asylum. By and large, the British electorates have given their verdict and it's a resounding no, tonight.
I am Richard Quest reporting live from the Conservative Party headquarters.
WOODRUFF: And as you can see, that was CNN International's live coverage of the British election. And you can tell again, exit polling projecting a big win for Tony Blair's Labour Party, leading him to an historic second term -- consecutive term. We'll have an update on the vote and the message it may send to politicians in this country a little later on INSIDE POLITICS.
Here in the U.S., a key election issue for President Bush is now the law of the land.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Today is a great day for America. It's the first major achievement of a new era.
WOODRUFF: As the tax cut takes effect, we will talk with one of the president's top economic advisers, Larry Lindsey. Also ahead: New management at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and how it could impact White House policy.
And later: More scientists weigh in on the question of pollution and global warming just days before the president discusses climate change with European allies. This is INSIDE POLITICS.
WOODRUFF: President Bush today made a point of noting he now has something in common with two popular U.S. presidents, Ronald Reagan and John F. Kennedy. He, too, has signed sweeping tax cut legislation. The ceremony marked the fulfillment of a Bush campaign promise. But, as our John King explains, the president portrayed it as a new beginning.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) JOHN KING, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: The president's signature locked in the first major tax cut in 20 years and the first of what he hopes will be a string of legislative victories, even now that the Senate is in Democratic hands.
BUSH: Today is a great day for America. It is the first major achievement of a new era, an era of steady cooperation.
KING: The measure provides $1.3 trillion in tax relief over the next 10 years. This year, single taxpayers get a $300 rebate check, married couples, $600. Other major changes are phased in over the next decade. Lower marginal tax rates, including a drop from 39.6 percent to 35 percent in the rate paid by the wealthiest Americans.
The child credit goes from $500 to $600 next year, and to $1,000 by 2010. There is a gradual easing of the so-called marriage penalty on two-earner couples, a phase out of the estate tax, and new incentives to save for education costs and retirement.
BUSH: We recognize loud and clear the surplus is not the government's money. The surplus is the people's money, and we ought to trust them with their own money.
KING: Mr. Bush called it a bipartisan triumph, but only a modest number of Democrats voted yes, and the rest have a long list of complaints. To make it fit within budget projections, all the tax breaks expire in 2010, unless renewed by Congress.
Tax cuts leave the government with less money, forcing tough spending choices. And working class Americans in the 15 percent tax bracket get no rate reduction.
REP. RICHARD GEPHARDT (D), MINORITY LEADER: We want tax cuts that leave enough room in the budget for the priorities people most care about: health care, education, Social Security, energy, the environment. This bill does not do that.
KING: The tax cut is now law, but the debate over spending priorities will continue in a Congress where Democrats now have a greater voice, and already are predicting that sooner or later the Bush tax cut will have to be scaled back.
KING: Now the White House says it will paint any effort to trim the president's tax cut as an effort to raise taxes, but just the fact that this debate is taking place, a reminder that even as the president celebrates one major victory, the rise of the Democrats in the Senate makes the path to future celebrations much more uncertain -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: Well, now that this signing is behind him, John, the president has a couple of visitors at the White House this evening. The first one is Lincoln Chafee, the moderate Republican senator from Rhode Island. KING: That is right, Judy. He is sitting down with the president in the Oval Office right now. We are told that meeting is scheduled to run about 20 minutes. They took note, though, of an interview Senator Chafee did on INSIDE POLITICS just the other day. No one here is predicting any common ground here. They say the president hopes to develop a better personal relationship with Senator Chafee and other Republican moderates.
Some around here would call him a liberal. This is a senator who opposes the president. He thought that the tax cut was too big. He thinks the president is on the wrong side of the abortion debate. He has criticized the president on the environment. So, from a policy standpoint, don't look for any breakthroughs, but they do hope here -- and this is a part of an effort to reach out -- they do hope the two can develop at least the beginning of a better personal relationship.
WOODRUFF: And then, for dinner, the president is going to be hosting the new Democratic leader of the Senate, Tom Daschle.
KING: At 7:15, a one-on-one dinner in the White House residence behind me, but the man most would agree now has the single most power in Washington in any effort to block the Bush agenda, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle.
Again, the White House characterizing this more as a social visit. These two men have met before, but not in this capacity. Senator Daschle as the majority leader promising bipartisan cooperation, if the president extends his hand.
The president, we're told tonight, will promise he will do just that, but the president hopes to get out of this dinner a better personal relationship and a commitment from Senator Daschle to move as quickly as on the bill that the president would like to sign next after that tax cut today, his education proposal.
WOODRUFF: All right. John King at the White House.
I spoke a short while ago to an architect of the Bush tax cut plan, national Economic Council Director Larry Lindsey. I started by asking him if today marked a victory for Mr. Bush, since the tax cut he signed did not include everything the president had wanted.
LAWRENCE LINDSEY, WHITE HOUSE ECONOMIC ADVISER: Oh, I think so. As the president said today, it's a victory for a new tone in Washington. We had very broad, bipartisan support for this bill. It was something that four months ago, folks were saying couldn't get done at all. But I think that people saw the wisdom of putting more money into people's pockets, and that's why it passed both houses.
WOODRUFF: Well, let me quote something to you from Bob Reischauer, as you know, the former head of the Congressional Budget Office today writing in the "New York Times." He said: "This tax cut is not guaranteed." He said: "Later in the decade. much of the relief that it's promising is likely to be delayed, scaled back or repealed altogether." How do you respond?
LINDSEY: Well, of course, Congress can always do in the future whatever it wants. That's what we have the elections for. They change their minds all the time. Tax rates went down under Kennedy and up under Nixon and down under Reagan and up under Clinton, and now they are going down again, but that's a function of politics.
WOODRUFF: Does it discourage you when you look back to the '80s and think that one-third of the Reagan tax cut in 1981 was repealed over the subsequent three years?
LINDSEY: Well, I think the important thing to keep in mind, as Chairman Greenspan said, this is a very moderate size tax cut. It's about one-third the size of the Reagan tax cut, it's about one-half the size of the Kennedy tax cut.
It was designed with the budget of the United States in mind to easily fit within the budget constraints that we face, to allow us to continue to pay down the debt, to protect Social Security and to guarantee money for other programs. So, I think we have picked the right size for a tax cut.
WOODRUFF: Even with all of that, Bob Reischauer is predicting -- he says: "Barring any unexpected explosion in economic growth," he says, "The Treasury is going to have to dip into surpluses and Medicare and Social Security to pay for income tax cuts scheduled for '04 and '06, the marriage penalty relief in '05 and the elimination of the estate tax in 2010."
LINDSEY: Well, Mr. Reischauer's numbers are different from both of the numbers of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office and the OMB numbers, both of which say that that's not the case.
You know, we have over the next 10 years a $5.6 trillion surplus. That's after we spend a mere $22.4 trillion. The tax cut basically gives back less than a quarter of that surplus to the people who pay the bills in the first place. About half of it is allocated to protect Social Security, and the other quarter essentially goes for other programs that Congress and the president might choose.
WOODRUFF: Let me also ask you, Larry Lindsey, about the short- term aspects of this. The president today touted the short-term stimulus, the rebate the taxpayers are going to get this year, $600 for married couples, $300 for individuals.
And yet Citizens for Tax Justice is estimating that fully 51 million American people, 39 percent of American taxpayers are either going to get either no rebate or only a partial rebate, and that these folks are in the bottom three-fifth of all income tax recipients in the nation.
LINDSEY: Well, to get $600, you had to have paid $600 in taxes. If you paid $600 in taxes, you get it all back. Those are the facts of the matter. You can't give a tax cut to people that didn't pay taxes. That's what the numbers say. Now, going forward, a lot of the increase in the credit, the child credit is refundable, so that more and more Americans will be receiving a check.
As far as the stimulus goes, you know, I have been reading what all of the economists across the country go, and Judy, you know the old joke that between three economists you're going to get three opinions, but they are all saying the same thing. They are saying this was the best-timed tax cuts since the end of World War II. It is going to stimulate the economy to the tune of about 1 percent in the second half of this year and by about .6 to .7 of a percent next year.
This is something that the economy badly needs. So, I think if you read what the professional economists are saying, you will find that overwhelmingly they think that it's a very well-timed tax cut.
WOODRUFF: I hear you, but at the same time, you are not denying what the Citizens for Tax Justice are saying about the folks in the bottom three-fifth, the folks they say who needs rebates the most.
LINDSEY: Anyone who is paying taxes gets a tax cut under this proposal.
WOODRUFF: Let me also ask you, Larry Lindsey, about the notion that -- what is it -- nine out of 50 states in the nation subject any sort of rebate like this to state taxes. Is the president going to urge the governors of those nine states to not to tax those rebates?
LINDSEY: Well, those nine states give deductions for federal taxes paid. If you paid us federal taxes, then you have a smaller deduction. That's what's going on here. You know, that's the matter for the state legislators of those states to enact. A typical amount of money is like $15 or $18, is what we are talking about.
WOODRUFF: So, you are saying it's a not a big deal?
LINDSEY: Well, I don't think it is, but I think it's a matter for the state legislators of those nine states. If they choose to have a deduction for federal income taxes paid, then if people pay less federal income taxes, there is a smaller deduction there, of course.
WOODRUFF: All right. Larry Lindsey, you have this behind you, the president signed this today into law. What is your next priority?
LINDSEY: Well, we have a lot of things that the president has been working on, as you know. The Social Security commission is going to have its first meeting on Monday. We have a continuing problem with energy. We are hoping that the Congress will enact the energy plan.
We have -- I am sure Medicare reform, and the president's education bill is also going through Congress. So, we had a celebration today, and then we got back to work.
WOODRUFF: All right. Well, Larry Lindsey, we appreciate you're being with us.
LINDSEY: My pleasure, Judy. Thanks for having me. WOODRUFF: Thank you. Good to see you.
WOODRUFF: The power shift in the Senate could have an impact far beyond Washington. Next on INSIDE POLITICS: the changing of the guard on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and how the passing of the gavel may affect U.S. policies.
WOODRUFF: Some of the more dramatic examples of the change in Senate power this week can be seen in the new committee chairmen. Among the largest swings in philosophy will be on the Foreign Relations Committee, where two senators elected the same year are swapping roles. Here's CNN Congressional correspondent Kate Snow.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I must tell you, Mr. Chairman, it brings back the good old days when I was a chairman.
KATE SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): That was January. Now Senator Joseph Biden is getting his wish. With the Senate changeover, Biden takes the helm of the Foreign Relations Committee from Senator Jesse Helms, a staunch conservative known for his dislike of the United Nations and opposition to international arms control treaties.
Helms has opposed international treaties and is cautious about U.S. aid, once saying, it was like "pouring money down a foreign rat hole."
SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D-DE), FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: On substance we are very different -- fundamentally different. For example, Senator Helms always quotes Will Rogers, who said, we never lost a war or won a treaty. I think treaties are very important.
SNOW: Biden sees himself as a centrist.
BIDEN: If I had to capsulize it, I think we have a responsibility in the world that requires us to engage the world. I'm an internationalist.
SNOW: Analysts say Biden's views could help the president, giving the White House more flexibility than it had when the Foreign Relations Committee was controlled by Senator Helms.
ALTON FRYE, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: The administration has room to maneuver now, on issues in foreign policy, as well as in domestic policy that it didn't have, paradoxically, when it had a nominal Republican majority.
SNOW: But there will be conflicts between the committee and the White House, and Senator Biden won't hold back when he disagrees. He's pledged to fight President Bush's proposal to build a missile defense system accusing the administration of alienating Russia and European allies by promoting its plan.
BIDEN: I would call a shield of dreams approach. In other words, build it and they will come along with our ideas.
SEN. CHUCK HAGEL (R), NEBRASKA: The president is not going to be able to advance his missile defense plan, unless he gets a bipartisan effort honest, in order to achieve it.
SNOW: Biden says that the U.S. should keep the troops in the Balkans, despite the questions raised by the administration. He's encouraged by the president's plan to open talks with North Korea again. But he says the administration needs to focus its china policy.
WOODRUFF: Biden acknowledges that he will not be able to dictate U.S. policy from his perch on the Foreign Relations Committee, but he says that he will use that position to make a lot of noise to draw attention to issues and to hold hearings, the first hearing plan, Judy, within the next couple of weeks is a hearing on U.S. involvement in the Balkans -- Judy?
WOODRUFF: Kate, tell us, what is the latest on the negotiations between the Democrats and Republicans on reorganizing the Senate?
SNOW: I just ran into Senator Pete Domenici, and he was talking about that. He is one of the five men that have been appointed by Senator Trent Lott to sort of spearhead the effort and negotiate with Senator Daschle.
He tells me that they are making progress and they're set to meet again tomorrow morning with Senator Lott. He says they're working out the language now of their written principles. What they are going to turn over to Senator Daschle. He tells me that it will emphasize, they want to emphasize that nominees from the president should be treated fairly, that they should be treated in a timely way, and that a good-faith effort should be made to try to ensure they get a hearing before the full Senate.
He says that they are not demanding, however, a change in the Senate rules to dictate that nominees get a hearing before the full Senate. I asked him, why not?
And he said, well, for one thing, it's cumbersome to try to change the Senate rules. He said that he acknowledges that it could also potentially put the shoe on the other foot if they ever had a Democratic president to deal with. They may not want to live under those rules themselves.
And finally, he says he doesn't see the need to polarize the issue right now. Doesn't want to distance themselves from the Democrats that much. They want to work with the Democrats to work out a solution, and they hope perhaps to potentially turnover their principles, the Republicans, to the Democrat Tom Daschle as early as tomorrow -- Judy? WOODRUFF: All right, Kate Snow, reporting from the Capitol.
For more on how the Senate power shift will affect the president, Senate Republicans and the overall agenda, I'm joined by Tennessee Senator Bill Frist. Senator Frist is the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, whose mission is to elect a Republican majority in the Senate.
Senator, thank you for being with us. Now that you have a Democratic-controlled Senate, how much harder is your job to get more Republicans elected to the Senate?
SEN. BILL FRIST (R), TENNESSEE: Judy, it's been a major switch, obviously, but in truth, our strategy doesn't change at all. Our message, if anything -- we're trying to either recruit candidates, ask for resources, your message has got to be simple, and our message's gotten to be very simple in the last week and a half.
Before it was a fragile majority, 50/50, 51-voting majority, and our goal is to maintain it, all of that is vague. Today, it's three words: regain the majority. Retake the Senate. And that very specific message is something is that activating our grassroots and energizing them in a way they at least I have not seen in the last several months.
WOODRUFF: But doesn't having a Democratic majority in the Senate now make it harder to enact the Republican priorities that you must have been hoping to hold up to point to as accomplishments on the part of the Republicans?
FRIST: Well I think that you strike it, an important point. And that is, how successful is the Republican agenda? And just earlier today, a huge success in the passage and the ultimate signing of a tax package, which I am quite certain will be a major, major play, a major role in this next election.
Today, we spent all day on the floor of the United States Senate on the second most important thing of the president and after taxes and that's education. In about 10 days, that will leave the floor of the U.S. Senate. Another success for the president of the United States and the Republican agenda.
Following that, patients' bill of rights, again, part of the president's agenda and we'll have an enforceable strong patients' bill of rights. And after that, prescription drug for Medicare. Again, something this president campaigned on, something that I as a physician -- as a United States senator feel strongly about and our seniors deserve, So the agenda itself really does not change very much.
WOODRUFF: But clearly, very different views on something like patients' bill of rights and prescription drugs between the two parties?
FRIST: It does. Patients' bill of rights will be focusing on patients and physicians and doctor/patient relationships and making the decisions and they likely will be focusing on trial lawyers and lawsuits and the courts that have delivered the care.
WOODRUFF: Let's talk numbers, Senator. The spokesman for the Republican Senatorial Committee was quoted just this week, and his name is Dan Allen, telling a newspaper in Nebraska, that he thinks -- we think that we will be able to pick up 8 to 12 Senate seats next year. Are you that optimistic?
FRIST: You know, I am not going to be looking too much into the crystal ball. I will stay on message, we're going to have a strategy, which really has not altered very much. We're going to be on offense this time around. And that was not the case six months ago, or even two and a half years ago.
Where these races are located, for the most part, are in pro-Bush territory. It allows us to be very aggressive. Clearly, I want us to be in the majority. Not just a voting majority, a real majority. That means we absolutely must pick up net two seats, and that's a minimum for me. My goals are higher. If we do this thing very well, and President Bush continues to pass his agenda, we will have something very strong to run on, and I suspect we will be successful.
WOODRUFF: But you know, you are returning against the historical trend. When a president of one party is in the White House, it's his party that historically has lost seats in the next midterm congressional election.
FRIST: The midterm election is an interesting phenomenon. If you look back over the last 40 years, you are exactly right, that the power of the party of the president, whoever is in charge, you typically lose seats. If you peel that onion just a little bit further though, and you look at Republican first term midterm elections and you average those, we net very positively.
I don't mind the low expectations that people talk about conventional wisdom and midterm election and increased exposure, but if you peel that onion further, you will see that three-quarters of the 20 Republican seats up are in states that President Bush won by 5 percentage points or more, and that was just not true a few months ago in the elections of the last cycle.
WOODRUFF: Senator Frist, which states in your mind present the most vulnerable Democratic incumbent?
FRIST: Well, I am just going to say we are going to be on offense, and that's very different than in the past. And as I go through and start looking at those states, you are going to start with the states where the incumbents are vulnerable simply because George W. Bush won by 20 points, or 22 points, or 24 points.
So, if you look at those states, you would say Montana clearly gives us great opportunity, South Dakota -- George W. Bush won by greater than 22 percentage points there. Coming on further South, you are going to look at Missouri, you are going to look in Georgia, you are going to look in Louisiana, all of which have very vulnerable incumbents. After that, I would clearly look in Iowa, right now we have a very, very attractive challenger there and a very attractive candidate in Minnesota against the incumbent Democratic senator there.
WOODRUFF: So, I talked last weak, senator, to your Democratic counterpart, Senator Patty Murray, who said the fact that her base now, Democratic base is now energized by the Senate shift, the fact that the Democrats don't have to defend any open seats and the fact that she said the number of Republican Senate incumbents who are in tight races, she thinks advantages her party. What do you say to that?
FRIST: Well, I don't mind the expectations and sort of this conventional wisdom and exposure of sort of being on the other side. We are going to run our races with surgical precision, with a lot of discipline, with a very simple message of retaking the United States Senate and fulfilling the Bush agenda by regaining the Senate. With that, I'm confident we are going to do very well.
We will get the resources to do it. We are having great success in terms of candidate recruitment, and you put those three things together with good execution and again, surgical precision, we are going to be able to do very, very well in these elections.
WOODRUFF: Surgical precision, spoken like a surgeon, which you are. Senator Bill Frist, thank you very much for joining us.
FRIST: Good to be with you, Judy.
WOODRUFF: We appreciate it.
Appealing to a higher court, will Timothy McVeigh find legal recourse before his time runs out? The latest on that and some other top stories, just ahead.
WOODRUFF: We will have more of the day's political news coming up, but now a look at some other top stories.
With four days left to the scheduled execution of Timothy McVeigh, a federal appeals court is considering whether to grant his request for a stay. The petition was filed today with the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver by lawyers for the convicted Oklahoma City bomber.
CNN's Susan Candiotti is in Denver, and she joins us with the latest -- Susan.
SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Judy. This court of appeals has had the briefs for more than six-and-a-half hours now, but we don't even know if the judges reviewing it are here, because they work -- their work takes them to six different states. All of this, as McVeigh lawyers are pursuing a dwindling number of legal options.
The briefs were filed first thing this morning, the defense lawyers hanging their hopes on the question of time and fairness, arguing in effect, that the lower court made a mistake when it said that even if the defense had found credible evidence among all those FBI documents, that it would not have mattered to a jury deciding between life and death for Timothy McVeigh.
In its brief, the defense summed it up this way, quote: "We believe the district courts succumbed to the human tragedy of this case and lost the sight of the demand of fairness. We pray that this court not do the same."
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CHRISTOPHER TRITICO, MCVEIGH ATTORNEY: If at the conclusion of the process, after we get the time, Mr. McVeigh is still executed, then we know the system worked. If at the conclusion of the process Mr. McVeigh is given relief in the form of a new punishment hearing, then the system still worked, and that's all we have been asking for since this started.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CANDIOTTI: Three judges on this court are reviewing the case. Again, we do not know which ones, because the court will not tell us. Two of the eight have recused themselves, those two are from Oklahoma. Also available to judges, those sealed FBI documents, which have also been made available to the U.S. Supreme Court, in the event the case goes there.
Timothy McVeigh has also been kept abreast of what is happening. In fact, he got a visit today from one of his four attorneys, on death row in Terre Haute, Indiana, and in fact, he will also be deciding what to do next in the event he loses his case here. That lawyer will stay in place until they get a decision here, or until the execution, whichever happens first -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: Susan, you said it is not known whether the judges are actually there at the courthouse in Denver. How late is the court expected to stay at work tonight on this issue?
CANDIOTTI: The clerk of the court tell us that the judges will be working wherever they happen to be until about 7:00 Eastern time. At that point, we will get an update from the court as to whether the work will continue this night, or whether they will end for the day.
WOODRUFF: All right. CNN's Susan Candiotti in Denver. Thanks.
The federal inmate scheduled to die after Timothy McVeigh is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to delay his execution. Juan Raul Garza is scheduled to be executed at Terre Haute June 19. In his request for a stay today, Garza said he was denied a fair chance to fight his death sentence. Garza was convicted of murder and drug charges in Texas in 1993.
A lighting strike started this fire at an oil refinery outside New Orleans. Fire is still burning, and people who live nearby are urged to stay indoors. Louisiana state police say lightening hit fuel that had been leaking out of a tank because of a heavy rain.
Heating up the environmental debate: why a new report is putting the Bush administration on the hot seat, when INSIDE POLITICS returns.
WOODRUFF: As President Bush struggles, you might say with his environmental image, a new report adds to what may already be a political hurdle. The report, requested by the White House, finds global warming and the emission of so-called greenhouse gasses is a problem. But the White House is using the scientific uncertainties in the report to justify the president's position against emission controls.
CNN's Kelly Wallace takes a closer look at the issue.
KELLY WALLACE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Bush administration, facing mounting criticism for not supporting a global warming treaty, turned to a scientific group for some answers. The Nonpartisan National Academy of Sciences concluded:
"We know that greenhouse gasses are accumulating in Earth's atmosphere, causing surface temperatures to rise. We don't know precisely how much of this rise to date is from human activities."
The White House seized on that last point, remaining skeptical on the cause of the problem.
ARI FLEISCHER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: There's no question that part of the cause is human activity. The question is how much of the cause is human activity?
WALLACE: But environments say the report confirms that global warming is a big problem and is only getting worse and accused the Bush administration of being unrealistic in claiming the evidence still isn't there.
DAVID HAWKINS, NATURAL RESOURCES DEFENSE COUNCIL: They are still looking for the source of problem. That's like somebody saying, I'm out there looking for the real killers. No, the problem is clear. The problem is pollution from burning coal, from burning gasoline.
WALLACE: In March, President Bush outraged environmentalists and European allies when he confirmed he would not support the global warming treaty, known as the Kyoto Protocol. The president expressed concerns about the impact the agreement could have in the U.S.
BUSH: I will not accept a plan that will harm our economy and hurt American workers.
WALLACE: But now, senior Bush advisers can see, perhaps they could have done a better job tipping off European allies about the administration's opposition to the treaty. CONDOLEEZZA RICE, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: In retrospect, perhaps the fact that we understood that we had already said this was not immediately observable to everybody and it might have been better to let people know, again.
WALLACE: The president has ordered a cabinet level group to deal with global warming. One proposal the White House is considering is a market driven system rewarding industries which meet emission targets, but environments say mandatory targets for industries to reduce pollution are the only answer.
(on camera): The president is not expected to unveil any specific proposals during next week's trip to Europe but the pressure is to provide at least some ideas to U.S. allies who are in major disagreement with Mr. Bush over the global warming issue.
Kelly Wallace, CNN, the White House.
WOODRUFF: That report Kelly referred to is just the latest in a long scientific debate over the existence of global warming.
CNN's environment correspondent Natalie Pawelski explains.
NATALIE PAWELSKI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The idea that human activity could be warming the planet isn't new. The first scientific paper on global warming was published 105 years ago. But a national academy of sciences panel took a big step toward confirming that global warming theory is potentially dangerous fact.
JOHN WALLACE, UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON: We certainly do know that the earth is warming and that that warming has been particularly dramatic during the past 20 years. We certainly know that greenhouse gases cause the earth to be warmer than it would otherwise be.
PAWELSKI: An increase in the amount of carbon dioxide and other atmospheric gases traps heat near the earth's surface, warming the air and water, and potentially changing weather patterns, raising sea levels and altering forests and crop lands.
Other risks could include wider ranging tropical diseases, more frequent and intense storms, and flooding of low-lying coastal areas from Florida to Bangladesh. The NAS report stops short of endorsing the alarming numbers cited in a United Nations-sponsored report last year. The U.N.'s intergovernmental panel on climate change said human activity could warm the earth by up to 10 degrees Fahrenheit in the next century.
To put that into perspective, the last ice age was only nine degrees less than current temperatures. Worth noting: among the 11 scientists signing the report is MIT's Richard Lindzen, considered the most prominent scientific skeptic on global warming's potential harm. The scientific debate on global warming is winding down, leaving the spotlight on the quest for political remedies for what many call the biggest environmental challenge of the 21st century.
Natalie Pawelski, CNN.
WOODRUFF: Straight ahead: we take a look at several campaigns taking shape across the nation, including Andrew Cuomo's first step into the race for New York governor.
WOODRUFF: Republican Congressman Steve Largent today announced that he will resign his seat to run for Governor of Oklahoma. Largent has been considering the decision for some time now. In a statement on his Web site he said he expects the race to become what he called a full-time endeavor in the months ahead. His resignation will become effective on November 29. Largent was first elected in 1994, and he is well known for his earlier career as a professional football player -- the Seattle Seahawks as Novak was just reminding us.
And joining us now with his reporter's notebook: Bob Novak of the "Chicago Sun-Times." Bob, the president signed his tax cut bill today into law, but you're learning that it's still being debated in the Senate?
ROBERT NOVAK, "CHICAGO SUN-TIMES": Well, Senator Phil Gramm had a meeting with some of his supporters, financial supporters, this morning, a private meeting. And he he's unhappy with the fact that it expires in ten years. And he wants to make these changes permanent so there is no sundown as they say, and he and I think maybe his sidekick the Democratic Senator Zell Miller of Georgia are going to put in amendments to every bill to make the tax cut permanent.
Senator Gram is also very interested in this supplemental appropriations bill which is -- this when you go down all the money to try to trim that down and another Republican senator, Senator George Voinovich of Ohio is collecting signatures of a letter to President Bush which says that they will support a veto of the supplemental appropriations bill.
They want to get 34 signatures. I think they're going to get it by tomorrow.
WOODRUFF: It will be interesting how the Democratic majority responds to all this.
NOVAK: Republicans are being a little feisty, I think, now that they are in the minority.
WOODRUFF: In the early days. All right, you are also picking up separately from this, Bob, some unhappiness with Senator Patty Murray.
NOVAK: Democratic sources tell me that Senator Murray, she ran a number of years ago, I think eight years ago, first time as the lady in tennis shoes, mom in tennis shoes. She is a lousy fund-raiser and you have got to raise money. She is following a super fund-raiser by the name of Robert Torricelli of New Jersey. He was the chairman of the Campaign Committee.
But the Democrats feel that now that they are in the majority, and the lobbyists who may have been holding back a little bit are going to be kicking in more money to the Democrats, that Patty Murray will do a little better on bringing in the bacon.
WOODRUFF: But they are not talking about replacing her?
WOODRUFF: All right, speaking of Senator Torricelli you are hearing Republicans targeting in and they have somebody in mind.
NOVAK: They have targeted that race in New Jersey in 2002 as a first-tier race. It had been considered no the best chance to beat Torricelli very popular. But as we all know that it's been reported that he's under Justice Department investigation. His lawyers have asked for a special prosecutor, and the Republicans have taken a poll, this is a Republican poll, and it shows that Steve Forbes is competitive with Torricelli but what's really interesting is former Governor Tom Kean -- remember him -- liberal Republican, is 16 points ahead of Torricelli.
NOVAK: Right now. A lot people feel if Tom Kean decides to run, and he is reconsidering it -- he said he wasn't going to be he's reconsidering it -- that race is over. Tom Kean is the kind of liberal republican that gets elected in New Jersey.
WOODRUFF: All right. Two more items: first, Senator Jeffords and his pages. What is that all about?
NOVAK: Senator Jeffords, there's only a couple days left for his page. You know, these pages, I didn't realize that they have Democratic pages and Republican pages. They live together, they do things together.
WOODRUFF: These are students who come to work with the staffs.
NOVAK: Yes, but they're very much segregated by party, and he says as long as he's going to the Democratic caucus his page had to go into the Democratic side. I think the pages all graduated today. But this created a stir in the Senate. They never heard of forcing a young kid, as a Republican from Vermont, and he isn't changing parties.
WOODRUFF: All right, finally, a special Congressional race in Virginia's 4th district. What have you found there?
NOVAK: This is a very hot race. It's on June 19. The late Norm Sisisky who was a very moderate middle of the road Democrat died and they are having a fierce race for this, and a mailing came out from the Democratic candidate, Senator Louise Lucas who is a African- American, and the picture of this African-American child says 12 million of us will be left behind.
That, the Republicans claim, Randy Forbes, a state legislator who is running against her, is playing the race card. This district is 38 percent black. They've never had a black representative. A white Republican, black Democrat, and she is saying that the election of, it says right here, there's no doubt who the Bush Republican will help, who it will hurt -- six million minority families and 12 million children will be left behind.
And Randy Forbes is the chosen Republican candidate. So this is rough stuff and it's going to be a very interesting which INSIDE POLITICS I'm sure will keep close track of.
WOODRUFF: We've had one reporter out there and we're going to send a reporter back at least...
NOVAK: I may even go down there.
WOODRUFF: You can be a reporter. This is a mass mailing?
NOVAK: Mass mailing in that district.
WOODRUFF: In that district. All right, Robert Novak, thanks again, good to see you.
Later this evening in New York, former Clinton Cabinet member Andrew Cuomo will hold a kickoff celebration for his campaign to become New York governor. While the event is not an official announcement, it marks the starting point for a man who's no stranger to New York politics.
CNN's Jason Carroll has more on Andrew Cuomo and his plans for election success.
JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He looks like a man New Yorkers know, and his voice sounds familiar.
ANDREW CUOMO (D), NEW YORK GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: There are essential areas of this state where the governor and his people have just been asleep at the switch.
CARROLL: But it's the name that gets people talking: Andrew Cuomo, son of former three-term New York Governor Mario Cuomo. And like another famous political son, George W. Bush, Andrew Cuomo is trying to unseat the man who ousted his father from office, Governor George Pataki.
MARIO CUOMO (D), FORMER NEW YORK GOVERNOR: He has the advantage of coming behind me. He was a very young fellow. I was doing it for the first time and he has learned from my mistakes, and all by itself that's a terrific education. CARROLL: There will be little room for mistakes during the Democratic primary. Early polls show Cuomo in a tight race with State Comptroller Carl McCall.
LEE MIRINGOFF, MARIST COLLEGE POLL: Right now, Cuomo runs stronger against Pataki than McCall does. I think strategically we'll have to look at it closer down the road a little bit more.
CARROLL: Pollster Lee Miringoff says Andrew Cuomo will be challenged for his lack of experience, ironically, in New York. Cuomo spent the past eight years in Washington, most recently heading the Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development. Before that, he worked as his father's campaign manger. But the younger Cuomo has never held elective office. McCall has been reelected by solid margins to the office of comptroller, but some question his ability to win the governor's seat.
MIRINGOFF: Look, this is the Big Apple. This is where Broadway is, and the light shines down on this race. The pressure cooker is going to turn up a little bit already, much more so down the line as this thing really does heat up.
CARROLL: And then there's the race factor. McCall has strong support from African-Americans. Cuomo has to be tough on McCall, but can't afford to alienate the black vote. Democratic leaders don't want their nominee to so bruised from the primary that he can't beat Pataki in the general election.
JUDITH HOPE, N.Y. STATE DEMOCRATIC CHAIRWOMAN: They know that we expect them to run disciplined, positive, issue-oriented campaigns.
M. CUOMO: This is not going to be a black-white thing. This is going to be two good Democrats making the case as to who can best make the case against Pataki.
CARROLL: Mario Cuomo said that the biggest obstacle for the Democratic nominee is going to be money. He says that Pataki is expected to raise about $30 million. It's going to be very tough, Judy, for the Democrats to raise that kind of money but Andrew Cuomo is going to make a good start of it today. He plans on raising about $1.5 million at tonight's event -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: All right, Jason Carroll reporting in New York.
In New York City, former Congressman Herman Badillo announced today that he will challenge billionaire Michael Bloomberg in the Republican primary for mayor. Badillo said state party leaders tried to discourage him from running, but he said Bloomberg does not have the skills needed to run the city.
Michael Bloomberg is expected to finance his campaign with his personal fortune. And a new poll shows he has a great deal of ground to cover. A new Quinnipiac College survey shows all four of the Democratic candidates lead Bloomberg by a better than two-to-one margin. In the Democratic primary race, the poll showed public advocate Mark Green leading with 32 percent, followed by Bronx Burrough President Fernando Ferrer.
City controller Alan Hevesi and city council speaker Peter Vallone were close behind.
Further north in New Hampshire there's new evidence Republican John Sununu could make a strong candidate if he decides to challenge incumbent Republican Senator Bob Smith. In a theoretical Senate race between Smith and Governor Jeanne Shaheen, a likely Democratic candidate, the race is even, with 17 percent of voters undecided. In a Senate match-up between Shaheen and Representative Sununu, the congressman has a 16-point advantage, with 14 percent undecided.
Reopening the diplomatic dialogue, the White House's new position on North Korea, and the impact on South Korea. My interview with the South Korean foreign minister is just ahead, in the next 30 minutes of INSIDE POLITICS.
WOODRUFF: With an eye toward North Korea's military power, the Bush administration says it is ready to talk. Has that new policy eased concerns in Washington about the president's global agenda?
And later: is there a message for Mr. Bush in the apparent re- election of Britain's Tony Blair?
Welcome back to INSIDE POLITICS. It was exactly three months ago that President Bush refused to immediately pursue talks with North Korea. Secretary of State Colin Powell now says the United States now is ready to move forward with a dialogue. Today, Powell outlined the administration's new policy, and some of the implications for both North and South Korea. Details now from CNN's David Ensor.
DAVID ENSOR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): After meeting with South Korea's foreign minister, Secretary of State Powell said the Bush administration wants a broad agenda for talks with the communist North.
COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: I think we've expanded the areas of dialogue by putting conventional forces on the agenda and by making it clear to the North Koreans that we want to talk about missiles, and missile technology, and missile sales, and nuclear weapons programs, but also we want to talk about humanitarian issues.
ENSOR: It has long been a U.S. goal to reduce North Korea's massive force along the demilitarized zone dividing the two Koreas, but whether Pyongyang is even willing to discuss troop levels is an open question. Powell said such willingness is not a U.S. precondition for talks.
For South Korean President Kim Dae-Jung, the U.S. announcement comes as a relief, a chance he can get his stalled efforts to improve ties with the North back on track, a chance North Korean leader Kim Jong Il may now be willing to make a long-delayed visit to South Korea.
HAN SEUNG-SOO, SOUTH KOREAN FOREIGN MINISTER: We hope that U.S. will engage North Korea in a very meaningful and useful dialog.
ENSOR: When then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright visited North Korea, the Clinton administration still had hopes of doing a deal on missile program restraint, a deal it could not complete before leaving office.
Bush administration officials say they will make no appearances at Pyongyang rallies and that progress will depend on North Korean concessions, but some experts wonder whether those concessions will be forthcoming.
ROBERT MANNING, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: At the end of the day, if the North Koreans decides that they want rather keep all of their military goodies than movement in the direction we think is in their best interest, there's nothing you can do about that.
ENSOR (on camera): Still, it is worth a try. U.S. officials say it is now up to the North Koreans to take up the American offer for talks.
David Ensor, CNN, Washington.
WOODRUFF: As David reported, South Korea's foreign minister is here in Washington for talks with the Bush administration. I also spoke with Han Seung-Soo, who says he is pleased by the United States' decision to resume contact with North Korea. I went on to ask him if he has any doubt that officials in Pyongyang will agree to the talks.
HAN: Well, I hope they agree to resume the dialogue, because U.S., after a long period of review, they are proposing a serious discussion with the North Korea, and therefore I am sure that North Korea will respond positively to the overture.
WOODRUFF: I ask because, as you know, President Bush has made some very strong statements about North Korea and its leader, President Kim Jong Il. Among other things, President Bush said that his was a failed regime, that he said you couldn't rely on the word of President Kim of North Korea. How can be you be so confident the North will just forget and forgive, and just go back to business?
HAN: Well, I think, you know, in a nation's national policy you have to have a priority. Private sentiments they may be, but I think in order to develop the economy, North Korea has to come out to talk to the United States.
WOODRUFF: With no hard feelings?
HAN: Well, I don't know their feelings, but I think personal feelings and national priorities are different things.
WOODRUFF: What about your own government? As you know, there was much written and said at the time the Bush administration said in March, we're going to conduct this policy review. There was much written and said about whether the South Korean government had been damaged, politically and policy-wise, because your president, President Kim, has made it a priority to work toward a reconciliation?
HAN: Well, at the at time of the summit meeting between President Kim Dae-Jung and President Bush in early March, although the press coverage was critical, if you read the joint statement of the meeting, you will see that President Bush supported President Kim Dae- Jung's policy, and he endorsed President Kim Dae-Jung's leading role in the resolution of the inter-Korean issues. Therefore, I think the gist of what they have announced yesterday was already there.
WOODRUFF: So, the speculation that the South politically was set back, and that president, your president, Kim, was hurt politically -- what do you say to that?
HAN: Well, as I said, that was the press coverage, but U.S. press at later times returned to the normalcy, so although there was initially some damage, I think that his policy of reconciliation and call for cooperation with the North Korea, was not harmed, as evidenced by the statement last night.
WOODRUFF: What is your understanding after your meeting today with Secretary of State Colin Powell, in terms of how the administration came to this conclusion?
HAN: Well, you know, Secretary Powell was chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff when I was ambassador in Washington, so I came to renew my acquaintance with him. We had a good lunch, a good talk. I think he is a man for -- whom many of us respect, and I think his policy toward the North Korean no doubt will succeed, and we will get much support from every corner of the United States.
WOODRUFF: As you know, there were conservative groups pressuring the president, President Bush, to take a much harder line toward North Korea, not to resume these contacts. What did Secretary Powell say about that?
HAN: Well, he didn't say anything about the conservative faction of the Republican Party, but he was very pleased that the president was able to announce that statement last night, and in line with Kim Dae-Jung's policy of reconciliation and cooperation with North Korea. And of course, we are very delighted to hear that news last night.
WOODRUFF: Let me also ask you, Minister Han, about the Bush administration desire to move ahead with national missile defense system. Your government has been briefed on this. And I am interested to know, what your reaction is, especially now because, much of the rationale for this system was for so-called rogue states like North Korea. Is there a reason?
HAN: Because the global security environment is fundamentally different than during the Cold War. Newer types of threats requires newer approaches to deterrence and defense. And countering these threats needs variety of measures, including nonproliferation, counterproliferation, and missile defense.
And as you may know, Judy, the summit meeting in March, President Bush and President Kim Dae-Jung agreed and conquered on the importance of a close consultation between the allies and what is happening.
WOODRUFF: So, is this a good thing that the administration is pushing ahead with this?
HAN: I cannot say that it's a good thing. But what I am trying to say is that we are fully concerned on this issue. At the moment.
WOODRUFF: Do you agree with the administration that North Korea is one of the so-called rogue states they have identified?
HAN: Well, there are many other countries that can be designated as a rogue country, apart from North Korea.
WOODRUFF: Is North Korea among that group?
HAN: Well, that is what the U.S. government said.
WOODRUFF: Does your government agree with that characterization?
HAN: Well, we have national priority. National priorities to engage in North Korea and to provide -- to the policy of reconciliation cooperation, and peaceful coexistence in Korean peninsula is the priority that we set first.
WOODRUFF: Let me finally ask you, Mr. Minister, about the Bush administration relations with China. Particularly, in the aftermath of the downing of the reconnaissance plane, the EP-3. How has all of this been received by your country, by your government?
HAN: Well, we think that the relationship between United States and China affects not only bilateral relations between the United States and China, but also affects the whole region in Northeast Asia. So we sincerely hope that the United States will maintain good relationship with China for various reasons.
WOODRUFF: And is that the case right now? Would you say the United States has good relations with China now, or have they been hurt, damaged by this incident, do you think?
HAN: Well, I think, compared to with the pre-EP-3 instance, I think that the relationship is a little bit unsettling, but with a longtime view, I am sure that both governments will try to mend their relationships and try to have good neighboring relationship in the future.
WOODRUFF: All right. Well, Mr. Minister Han Seung-Soo, the foreign minister of South Korea, we thank you very much for being with us today.
HAN: Thank you, Judy.
WOODRUFF: Now, let's bring in our Washington bureau chief, Frank Sesno.
Frank, you've been doing some thinking about this -- does the Bush administration's decision on dealing with North Korea say something about the administration's larger strategic thinking?
FRANK SESNO, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF: In a word, yes. What we are now seeing is that the foreign policy community and the diplomatic community have the Bush administration under a microscope, and the administration is starting to respond, in not surprising ways, if you think about it.
In the early days, there was a tremendous amount of criticism, there is still is, in fact, in many parts of the world -- that the Bush administration was going its own way, it was retreating, it was withdrawing or it was acting unilaterally. What we now see -- and in your interview with the South Korean foreign minister there and indicates that David Ensor's piece laying out -- this engagement with North Korea underscores it.
Stories today and words today from the administration about engaging more on the subject of global warming climate change, suggested that there is more of an engagement moving forward. It's not surprising, but if you look at North Korea and Israel where -- in the Middle East, where you have the CIA director, he's over there, and you have Ambassador Burns, he's engaging.
If you look at Russia, where President Putin and President Bush are soon to meet, if you look at connections with Europe, the president has a trip to Europe. There is a new level of engagement that we will see that will be much more telling of this administration's commitment and policy toward the world in what we saw in the first 100 days.
WOODRUFF: Some parallels here, Frank, with previous former governors who came to the White House.
SESNO: Well, it's interesting. That's what you get. And much of the world which builds around parliamentary democracies or hereditary leaderships, are not accustomed to this. But in this country, we have a tradition in recent times, of electing governors. Governors tend not do very much foreign policy.
And we remember well, for example, when Ronald Reagan was elected, he was virtually derided in much of Europe and in many capitals of the world for his lack of a world view, a trigger-happy cowboy. Early summits, he was lectured by not knowing the role of interest rates and deficits. And in the end, he established a very good working relationship with everybody from Margaret Thatcher to Mikhail Gorbachev, the then-Soviet leader.
WOODRUFF: Nothing but governors since Jimmy Carter, except for the first George Bush.
SESNO: That's right. And one thing that we have heard and we hear it is a lot. As I say, this is under a microscope.
We had a meeting here today, you were part of it, with Jim Zogbe of the Arab American Institute. He says the trip he just took to the Middle East, he's hearing from a lot of Arab capitals real rage at the behavior of the United States, and they'll be watching very closely.
WOODRUFF: Something I know we'll want to get to very soon. All right. Frank Sesno, thank you very much.
We will continue our focus on international politics in just a moment, including the latest on the British elections, and what is shaping up to be a landslide victory for the Labour Party, and Prime Minister Tony Blair.
WOODRUFF: Breaking news, we go to Denver, where there apparently has been a decision by the Federal Appeals Court in the attempt by lawyers for Timothy McVeigh to seek a stay of his execution. CNN's Susan Candiotti joining us now -- Susan?
CANDIOTTI: Hello, Judy.
Here is the order in judgment just received now. It's a stay -- it's a denial of the stay. It says that Judge Matsch of the U.S. District Court denied a stay of execution, and in fact this court agrees with that. The court says that it has denied a stay of execution for Timothy McVeigh, this court has been reviewing this brief, three judges on this panel for more than seven hours this date after it was filed first thing in the morning.
And then the next step would be for Timothy McVeigh's lawyers to move on to the U.S. Supreme Court if in fact Timothy McVeigh wants to do that. We do know that McVeigh's lawyers have been working on their brief already for the U.S. Supreme Court. In fact, that highest court of the land has a copy of the FBI records that are in dispute, already in the hands of the U.S. Supreme Court.
So now, that an attorney will recall, one of the lawyers is already in Terre Haute, Indiana, has already visited with Timothy McVeigh this day, and now, that he will be receiving this news shortly. And also, that lawyer will make his way most likely over to the prison -- that was the plan anyway -- to brief Timothy McVeigh personally and find out exactly whether he wants to go to the highest court of the land -- Judy?
WOODRUFF: Susan, refresh us, if you will, on the reasons that the federal district judge, Judge Richard Matsch gave for initially turning down McVeigh's attorneys' request for a stay?
CANDIOTTI: Yes, the reason that Judge Matsch turned down his original request for a stay of execution is that in the view of Judge Matsch, he felt that the attorneys had had enough time to review the materials, he himself reviewed the FBI documents in record. And the judge said, that the evidence was so overwhelming against Timothy McVeigh, and that because he himself had admitted guilt in the Oklahoma City bombing, the judge felt as though, even if you considered all of these additional FBI documents, that no reasonable juror would change their mind when it came to deciding on a death sentence -- life or death for Timothy McVeigh. The judge said that all the additional information simply wouldn't have mattered.
So the defense attorneys appealed that decision, saying that, your honors, before this court, we simply didn't have enough time, and it's not fair for you not to give us enough time to review all these materials and present a case before the court.
But evidently, the three judges on the Circuit Court of Appeals agree with Judge Matsch, and has upheld his decision.
And we might also point out that this court has never reversed one of Judge Matsch's decisions in the past.
WOODRUFF: Susan, how could there be such a discrepancy between McVeigh's attorneys saying they haven't had time to go through these documents, and then Judge Matsch, the Federal District Judge, and now the Appeals Court judges apparently saying they've looked at it all, and there's not enough there to change anything?
CANDIOTTI: Well, that is a question for the judges to elaborate upon, and so far we haven't had a chance to read this order.
We do know that Judge Matsch felt as though, from his review of the documents, obviously he has a different opinion than the defense attorneys do. They felt as though -- and they tried to make this argument to the court -- that in looking at these documents for 30 days, they wanted to have more time to interview some of the witnesses mentioned in the reports.
Judge Matsch, after looking at their names, apparently wasn't impressed by that, and that's why he ruled the way that he did.
WOODRUFF: And Susan, you said earlier that McVeigh's attorneys have already started putting together their appeal to the United States Supreme Court. Does that mean that they anticipated losing here in the Federal Appeals Court in Denver?
CANDIOTTI: I think what it means, Judy, is that that is what any lawyer would do. They don't wait until the last possible moment to put together their briefs. They must prepare for any eventuality.
And so it is one of those lawyers, Richard Burr, who has been working on this aspect of the case. And frankly, he told me late last night, after their brief that was presented this morning was finished, that he intend, if they lost here, to go back to Houston to put the finishing touched on the brief, and that that brief would be delivered by someone else in Washington to the U.S. Supreme Court if Timothy McVeigh agrees that that's what he wants to do.
And quite frankly, some of his former defense attorneys have said that they're not sure what Timothy McVeigh will do. You know, he has these options before him, but they said they could also foresee a scenario where he might want to give himself enough time to prepare himself for Monday's execution, and might not want to proceed.
But president ultimate decision, of course, is with him.
WOODRUFF: You mean, might not want to proceed with an appeal to the Supreme Court?
CANDIOTTI: That is correct. And...
CANDIOTTI: ... frankly -- yes?
WOODRUFF: Go ahead, finish your thought.
CANDIOTTI: No, I was just going to say, above and beyond that, we haven't really had a time to study this order. It was literally just handed to us. So we hope to learn more details it after reading the material in its entirety.
WOODRUFF: Well, Susan, we can appreciate that, and we want to give you time to do that.
Just to reiterate to our audience: Susan was just handed the documents, along with others there at the Federal Appeals Court in Denver. The -- three of the judges on that appeals court have decided to deny the request by Timothy McVeigh's attorneys that his execution be stayed, be delayed.
In doing so, these appeals court judges are upholding the decision by a lower federal district judge, Judge Richard Matsch, who ruled just a matter of days ago that the execution should go ahead, that despite this new flood, if you will, of documents that the FBI just turned over years after the McVeigh trial -- despite these new documents, there was nothing in there that, in effect, would change the guilt, in their view, of Timothy McVeigh.
Joining us now, our Supreme Court correspondent -- Washington correspondent Charles Bierbauer.
Charles, if McVeigh's attorneys go ahead and appeal to the Supreme Court, what are the procedures there? What can we expect there?
CHARLES BIERBAUER, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: The procedures are pretty well spelled out. The appeal would go initially to Justice Stephen Breyer, who bears the oversight responsibility for the 10th Circuit Court. Each of the justices is assigned certain circuits.
Justice Breyer could act on his own to grant or deny a stay, but because of the prominence of this particular case, Justice Breyer is certain to circle -- circulate the petition to all of the justices. They do not have to actually meet. They can confer by phone. He would take a poll of the justices. It would require five of the justices to agree to a stay for a stay to be granted for Mr. McVeigh. They are certainly cognizant of the timetable under which they are working.
There are certain criteria laid out under which a stay may be granted, and spelled out in the order -- in the rules of the court. One is that there is a reasonable probability of a review. That is to say, not just of this current petition, but of a review of the whole trial and sentencing. Two: that there is a fair prospect that the decision would be found to be erroneous. Three: that there would be irreparable harm from denying a stay. And fourth: a kind of balancing test that takes into consideration the interests of the public at large.
So those are the criteria that Justice Breyer and his colleagues would have to consider. They can work through the weekend of course, too. We do not have a sense of timing at this point -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: So, Charles, just quickly, you're saying those criteria are different from the ones that have been used by the appeals court judges and the district judge -- federal district judge?
BIERBAUER: No, I'm not saying that. I'm saying that those are the criteria spelled out in the procedures for the court -- things that a justice would take into consideration.
Obviously, they will take into consideration all that pertains to the law here -- excuse me -- and will start with Judge Matsch's ruling. And certainly the track record is such that, if the district judge, Judge Matsch, and the circuit courts deny the appeal, it's a very slim probability that the Supreme Court itself would grant a stay at this point.
WOODRUFF: All right. We're talking with Charles Bierbauer here in our studio.
Also joining us in the Washington studio, CNN's justice correspondent Kelli Arena.
Kelli, this has to be considered good news for the Justice Department who, after all, have been pushing the -- for the execution of Timothy McVeigh on time.
KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right, Judy.
All along, as you know, Justice has said that there's nothing in the documents that were recently turned over that would have reversed a verdict of guilty, or would have reversed a sentence of death for Timothy McVeigh.
Justice, though, has been pretty mum today. They said -- Attorney General John Ashcroft said what he had to say yesterday after the stay was denied. Of course, we heard from the attorney general, he basically said just what I said, that there was no evidence of any innocence here, that the verdict would not have been overturned and so, therefore, it was a good day for Justice.
Business as usual. Attorney general is headed home to Missouri. They are -- Justice is just -- was waiting. They either would have had to present a reply to the court today -- that didn't happen. There was a judgment, and now we wait to see what happens at the Supreme Court level -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: And Kelli, in just a matter of a few second, the view inside the Justice Department that this McVeigh appeal was something serious that had serious merit, or just something that was a desperate last attempt?
ARENA: Well, they take everything seriously, Judy. But there was -- I think I could describe it as confidence, at least today, that that decision would be upheld.
WOODRUFF: All right. CNN justice correspondent Kelli Arena, our Washington correspondent Charles Bierbauer.
That is it. And to recap, a federal appeals court in the Denver has turned down Timothy McVeigh's appeal for a stay of execution. I'm Judy Woodruff In Washington. "LOU DOBBS MONEYLINE" is next.
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