Skip to main content
CNN.com /transcript
CNN TV
EDITIONS

CNN INSIDE POLITICS

Gary Condit's Personal Life Casting Shadow on the Search for Chandra Levy

Aired July 5, 2001 - 17:00   ET

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


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

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VINCE FLAMMINI, FORMER DRIVER FOR REP. GARY CONDIT: They asked me: What do you think happened to Chandra? Did Gary kill her?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: Congressman Gary Condit's former driver talks to us about his talks with D.C. police as Condit's personal life casts a growing shadow on the search for Chandra Levy.

President Bush taps a new director to help repair the FBI's image.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT CARO, HISTORIAN: The most you can say about Lyndon Johnson and his Silver Star is that it's surely one of the most undeserved silver stars in history.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: Questions about a military medal proudly worn by LBJ. An exclusive report from CNN's Jamie McIntyre tries to separate fact from fiction.

Now Judy Woodruff takes you INSIDE POLITICS.

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks for joining us. Judy is off. I'm Jeanne Meserve.

We are expecting a new statement from Congressman Gary Condit about half-an-hour from now. That is one of several late-breaking developments in the Chandra Levy investigation.

Our Bob Franken is covering the search for the missing intern, former intern, and how Congressman Condit figures in it. Fill us in on today's developments, Bob.

BOB FRANKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, first of all, the wife of Congressman Gary Condit was secreted to Washington where she did her interview with FBI agents and Washington, D.C. police in suburban Washington at an FBI office, an interview that concerned questions about the time period she was in Washington, which coincides with the period of time when Chandra Levy disappeared. Of course, there has been speculation that Chandra Levy and Congressman Condit had a romantic relationship, which up until now the congressman has denied.

Also, the private investigators hired by the Levy family have turned up a videotape of Chandra Levy at a 7-Eleven store in suburban Washington in Arlington, Virginia, a videotape that shows on April 29th, a day or two before Chandra Levy disappeared, that she went to the store. She purchased a couple of routine items, and had a very pleasant, happy conversation with the clerk there about her impending return to California. Of course, she disappeared before she showed up in California.

Now, much of this investigation has concerned allegations of various romantic relations that Congressman Condit had with people, like flight attendant Anne Marie Smith. Now, his former driver, a man who was let go by Congressman Condit -- and there is a tense relationship -- says that he has, in fact, been interviewed by the FBI about his contention that he saw Anne Marie Smith together with Congressman Condit.

The FBI would not in fact talk about the contents of that interview, but Vince Flammini had his version of it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VINCE FLAMMINI, FORMER DRIVER FOR REP. GARY CONDIT: I even told the FBI that. I said I -- they asked me: What do you think happened to Chandra? Did Gary kill her? I said, no, Gary wouldn't kill her. I said not in a million years. I says but he would drive her to the brink of making her think that he loved her so much that she couldn't handle it. She might have been a little weaker than people think.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FRANKEN: Of course, this investigation has gone far afield, and the man who is leading it, the Washington police chief, says that in fact all this publicity, all this talk about relations that the congressman had or did not have has provided a huge distraction to the investigation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHIEF CHARLES RAMSEY, D.C. METROPOLITAN POLICE: It's a heck of a leap, in my opinion, to move from a relationship that one may or may not have had with someone else to a disappearance of a specific person. I'm not trying to find a flight attendant. I'm trying to find Chandra Levy. They're two different people.

And I just can't go in there and try -- we're not the sex police here. We're trying to investigate a missing person.

(END VIDEO CLIP) FRANKEN: And through all this distraction, Jeanne, Chandra Levy has been missing for nine weeks, no clue yet to her whereabouts.

MESERVE: D.C. Police said today they've interviewed about a hundred people in connection with this case. Do we know who else? Do we know if they've gotten any hot leads?

FRANKEN: Well, they say that they've talked to some people who they consider more strong witnesses than Congressman Condit: among them people like those at the health club who saw her, friends of hers, that type of thing.

MESERVE: OK, Bob Franken, thank you so much.

Rusty Dornin is out in Congressman Condit's home district. She joins us now from Modesto, California.

Rusty, have you learned anything about the statement that we expect from the congressman in a half hour or so?

RUSTY DORNIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Jeanne, all we know now is that it will be coming out of this office here in about a half an hour. It does sort of clear up a little bit of a mystery about why Congressman Condit was not in the district for the 4th of July festivities. There was a little bit of confusion about his excuses for why he did not show up at these parades. Originally, he had told a few of the parade organizers, or his office had, that he had some -- he wanted to spend the time with his family. He did not want to be a distraction.

Then later we heard from his chief of staff that there was some kind of obligation that he had to attend to, and that is why he could not attend the parade, and that has all become clear now. As we know, the congressman did go back to Washington, D.C. and was present for those interviews with the FBI this morning.

So we do not know what is going to be on, once again, another written statement out of Congressman Condit's office, but it should be coming at any moment -- Jeanne.

MESERVE: OK, Rusty Dornin in Modesto, thank you, and we will be back to you when that statement is issued.

And now we shift gears to a former president and a question of honor.

If you look up Lyndon Baines Johnson in the Compton's Encyclopedia, you will read that the day after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor Johnson became the first member of Congress to enter active duty in World War II as a lieutenant commander in the Navy. And you'll read that General Douglas Macarthur decorated him with the Silver Star for gallantry in action on a flight over enemy territory. And that's all true.

But as is often the case with the history we are taught in school, the real story is not so clear-cut, and as it turns out, not nearly so flattering to the former president. We have an exclusive report now from CNN military affairs correspondent Jamie McIntyre, who researched the events surrounding the award of the Silver Star, along with CNN producer Jim Barnett.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For most of his life as a politician, Lyndon Johnson proudly wore a pin that symbolized this Silver Star identifying him as a hero of World War II.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I do solemnly swear...

LYNDON BAINES JOHNSON, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I do solemnly swear...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... that I will faithfully execute...

JOHNSON: ... that I will faithfully execute...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MCINTYRE: The small lapel pin can be seen in the famous photograph of Johnson taking the Oath of Office aboard Air Force One following the assassination of John F. Kennedy in November of 1963.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHNSON: Now at this moment of achievement and great hope...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MCINTYRE: For three decades, on occasions both mundane and momentous, the small red, white and blue badge of courage was often visible on Johnson's suit coat.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHNSON: I shall not seek...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARO: He wore the silver star in his lapel all his life, up to and through the presidency. When he was campaigning in Texas and he wanted to draw people's attention to it, he would actually do this with the lapel -- this was in his 1948 election campaign -- to show that he had won the Silver Star.

MCINTYRE: Texas newspaper clippings from the time reflect Johnson's account that he "was under fire." "Thrilling Experiences Recounted Before Local Friends," shouted "The Brenham Banner Press" on July 28, 1942. Whether Johnson truly rated the Army's third-highest combat award, seen on his official portrait, is a question his biographers have long debated.

CARO: The most you can say about Lyndon Johnson and his Silver Star is that it surely is one of the most undeserved silver stars in history, because if you accept everything that he said, he was still in action for no more than 13 minutes and only as an observer. Men who flew many missions, brave men, never got a Silver Star.

MCINTYRE: In an effort to clarify the historical record, CNN has re-examined previously published documents about LBJ's wartime service and conducted fresh interviews with the few eyewitnesses who are still alive. While not conclusive, the available evidence raises questions not only about whether the Silver Star -- seen here on display at the LBJ Library -- was undeserved, but also whether it was awarded based on a battle report that was inaccurate and incomplete.

December 7, 1941.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: ... a date which will live in infamy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MCINTYRE: Japan's sneak attack on Pearl Harbor galvanized the nation. Lyndon Johnson, a lanky congressman from Texas, became the first member of Congress to enter active duty.

ROBERT DALLEK, HISTORIAN: The minute World War II began -- he was a very ambitious politician, and he understood that if he was going to run for some higher office down the road, he needed to have some kind of military service. So he volunteered and became a naval officer.

And so he's in Washington, and he goes to see Roosevelt and convinces him to send him on an inspection tour of the Southwest Pacific.

MCINTYRE: These rare home movies, from a camera Congressman Johnson carried on that tour, showed the young protege of President Franklin Roosevelt in Australia, where he met General Douglas Macarthur, who allowed him to go on a single bombing mission as an observer. It was that one combat mission on June 9th, 1942, a bombing run in which 11 American B-26s, similar to these, attacked a Japanese base in Lae, New Guinea for which Johnson was awarded his Silver Star.

The source for most historical accounts of what happened that day is a book entitled "The Mission," published in 1964 after Johnson became president. The authors, Martin Caidin and Edward Hymoff, both dead now, painted a vivid picture based on the crew's first-hand account of how the B-26 bomber, hobbled by a failed generator, limped back to base, fending off attacking Japanese fighters, using its crippled guns and evasive maneuvers. In the book, Johnson is described as "cool as ice" and "laughing" in the face of a withering attack by Japanese zeros.

"Bullets were singing through the plane all about us," the authors quote waist gunner Lillis Walker as saying. "We were being hit by those cannon shells, and he was, well, just calm and watching everything."

CARO: The thing about the mission that convinces me that it was attacked is that five members of the crew are quoted saying that it is attacked, and they never denied the quotes. They had plenty of opportunity to do so. So what we have is five people on the same plane saying the same thing.

MCINTYRE: It was a gripping account of courage under fire, except -- according to the sole surviving crew member -- it's pure fiction.

RET. STAFF SGT. BOB MARSHALL, U.S. ARMY: No way. No, that story was made up and put in there by, I think in my mind, by the author of the book because we had never seen a Zero. It was never attacked. Nothing.

MCINTYRE: Robert Marshall was a 19-year old gunner on Johnson's plane. He's portrayed by the "The Mission's" authors as overcoming the loss of electrical power by using brute strength to aim his guns against the attacking Japanese zeros.

MARSHALL: No, never happened. That was something I would never forget if I had to do that. We never got attacked. I had no reason to swing my guns, my turret. No, them -- them was built up stories.

MCINTYRE: Marshall remembers meeting the young Navy officer who flew along on his plane that day, but didn't know who he was at the time and didn't learn until years later that Johnson was given the Silver Star for the flight. He says for years he quietly disputed the published account in private conversations, even occasionally in public, but almost no one paid much attention.

MARSHALL: If that so-called "observer" -- LBJ that day -- he got it, the whole crew should have got it. And that's the third-highest award you can get.

MCINTYRE (on camera): Is it important for a story like this to get straightened out, for history's sake?

BARRETT TILLMAN, HISTORIAN: I certainly think it is, not only for history's sake, but for the sake of the men who actually flew the combat missions and received not one shred of credit or recognition.

MCINTYRE (voice-over): Barrett Tillman is a historian and aviation writer who has long contended that Johnson's plane turned back well before it could have engaged the enemy.

TILLMAN: Johnson, I think to his credit, was willing to put himself in harm's way for whatever reason, but about 80 miles southwest of the target, his aircraft developed generator trouble and was forced to turn back.

MCINTYRE: Tillman, along with researcher Henry Sakaida, first published that version of events in 1993, and have updated their argument in an article in a recent issue of "Naval History" magazine.

TILLMAN: The citation as written for the Silver Star was completely erroneous.

MCINTYRE: The criteria for the Silver Star, established by law in 1932, state that it is "for gallantry in action against an enemy of the United States" and specifies that the required gallantry "must have been performed with marked distinction."

Johnson's Silver Star citation says, "As our planes neared the target area, they were intercepted by eight hostile fighters."

While implying that Johnson's plane is among them, the citation doesn't actually say Johnson's B-26 came under fire. The citation reads in part: "The plane in which Lieutenant Commander Johnson was an observer developed mechanical trouble and was forced to turn back alone, presenting a favorable target to the enemy fighter. He evidence marked coolness in spite of the hazard involved. His gallant action enabled him to obtain and return with valuable information."

TILLMAN: He may have well brought back valuable information to Washington, D.C., but it was not, definitely not, in context of direct combat.

MCINTYRE: Johnson was given the Silver Star by General Douglas Macarthur, who also awarded a Distinguished Service Cross -- an even higher award -- posthumously to another member of Johnson's inspection team. Lieutenant Colonel Francis Stevens died in the one B-26 that was shot down that day. In a twist of fate, it was that B-26 Johnson originally boarded, but after a bathroom break, Johnson got on a different plane, nicknamed the Heckling Hare.

According to flight records, on June 9th, 1942, the bombers took off at 8:51 for the 2-hour-and-20-minute round trip to Lae, New Guinea. The attack was set for about 10 o'clock in the morning.

(on camera): Given what we know about when Johnson's plane took off and when it came back, what can we tell about how far, how close it got?

TILLMAN: Jamie, the time-distance equation, as can be seen on this chart of eastern New Guinea, leaves absolutely no doubt as to what happened, even without the testimony of the people who flew the mission. Now based on the known cruising speed of a B-26 and the time that's involved, the mathematics shake out to a point just about 80 statute miles south of the target area -- that would be roughly here -- at which point the Heckling Hare turned around, jettisoned its bombs in order to lighten the load, and returned to Port Moresby.

MCINTYRE (voice-over): When we come back, the account in LBJ's diary, a letter he apparently never sent, and what a radio operator in another B-26 saw.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(AUDIO GAP)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MCINTYRE: But the diary, like the citation, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and open to interpretation. What appears to be an account of what happened to Johnson's plane, again, might simply refer to what happened to the other 10 (UNINTELLIGIBLE) bombing run.

(AUDIO GAP)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MCINTYRE: ... medal in the Army for riding along as an observer on the plane, and the clearest evidence of that is that none of the other members of the crew got any similar decoration.

MESERVE: OK, Jamie McIntyre, thank you, and thank you to Jim Barnett for a very intriguing report.

MCINTYRE: Quite welcome.

MESERVE: And in other news, news that a paper statement from Congressman Gary Condit is being issued as we speak. We'll be back to you with details. That, of course, is in connection with the Chandra Levy investigation. We'll have that breaking story. More about it straight ahead. Plus the files on President Bush's new nominee to head the FBI. This is INSIDE POLITICS.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MESERVE: And this news just in, Congressman Gary Condit's office has now issued that written statement we've been waiting for in connection with the Chandra Levy case. Bob Franken is here with some of the details.

Bob, what does the statement say?

FRANKEN: Well, first of all, it essentially confirms what we've already reported, that the congressman, and his wife, Carolyn Condit, flew back to Washington in some secrecy..

(AUDIO GAP)

... Congressman Condit. Chandra Levy has been missing for nine weeks. Congressman Condit says that his going any further in making statements on a regular basis would just compromise an investigation that has thus far been unsuccessful.

He has hired a public relations specialist, who's going to be handling media inquiries, another effort on the part of the congressman to try and tamp down the publicity that thus far, Jeanne, has gotten more intense as other facets of the congressman's private life, real or imagined, have come out. But the congressman is saying that the media risks losing perspective and compromising the investigation.

MESERVE: Did he once again deny any involvement in her disappearance? FRANKEN: That part was not in there. There has been an absence in the last couple of days of the congressman talking about the private relationship that he had with Chandra Levy. Some have taken note of that, because in the past, there had been an aggressive effort every time it came up for a denial. But that is an interpretation, and there is no possibility that you can read into that that he has now changed tacks or in any way admitted that he had a relationship with her.

MESERVE: So what do you make of this strategy, Bob?

FRANKEN: Well, the congressman is trying to figure out some way to quiet things down. This has gotten just out-of-control by everybody's account. Every day now we're hearing new allegations that are peripheral to this, and they gain quite a bit of credibility. And the congressman is trying to say, let's focus on what we have to do here, and that is to assist in the investigation to find Chandra Levy, who has been missing for nine weeks.

MESERVE: Now, as you say, this statement confirms that his wife has been interviewed by the authorities. Have we gleaned anything about the substance of that interview, any of the details?

FRANKEN: Well, what we have been told is what we had been told to expect. It was a surprise to investigators when Congressman Levy, one of his attorneys -- Congressman Condit, one of his attorneys, said that his wife had been here during the period of time when Chandra Levy disappeared, because in the first interview that the congressman had with the investigators he failed to bring that up.

So they wanted to ask about that. They wanted to ask Mrs. Condit if there was anything that she spotted that might be a clue to the whereabouts of Chandra Levy. We don't have the specific questions. We certainly don't have the specific answers. The normal police sources have sort of clamped down a little bit.

There has been a real effort on the part of everybody, including the investigators, to try and quiet things down a little bit. By all accounts, all this speculation, all this publicity is getting in the way of the investigation.

MESERVE: But they haven't quieted it down much, at least not yet.

FRANKEN: And don't expect it to quiet down.

MESERVE: OK, Bob Franken, thanks so much for that late-breaking news. And we'll be back with more INSIDE POLITICS in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MESERVE: At the White House today, President Bush named his choice to be the next FBI director, longtime Justice official Robert Mueller. Mueller's nomination to replace Louis Freeh, who retired last month, was no surprise. Our justice correspondent, Kelli Arena, has more on Mueller, his chances for confirmation, and why the president took his time before making this announcement.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KELLI ARENA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He's been the only horse in the race for weeks, but administration sources say President Bush took extra time to be sure Robert Mueller had the necessary stature to head the FBI.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Bob Mueller's term in office will last longer than my own. And the next 10 years will bring new forms of crime, new threats of terror from beyond our borders and within them.

ARENA: While not a household name, Mueller has directed some high-profile investigations, including the Pan Am 103 bombing while he headed the Justice Department's criminal division during the fist Bush administration. He was named to his current post as U.S. attorney in San Francisco by former President Clinton.

ROBERT MUELLER, FBI DIRECTOR NOMINEE: The FBI is the foremost law enforcement agency in the world. I look forward to the confirmation process.

ARENA: Mueller's nomination must be approved by the Senate, and he enjoys bipartisan support. But one longtime FBI critic, Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, did express some caution, saying, quote: "I want to make sure he's equipped to take on the serious problems facing new leadership at the FBI. There's a management culture with an air about it that the FBI can do no wrong."

In the wake of a series of problems, including the mishandling of documents in the Timothy McVeigh case and the espionage charges brought against veteran FBI agent Robert Hanssen, the Bureau is under intense scrutiny.

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D-NY), CHAIRMAN, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: They've become so big and have so many responsibilities, with terrorism, with drugs, with spying, that I think they've lost a little bit of their edge in management.

ARENA: Former colleagues say Mueller is well-equipped to deal with the challenge.

WILLIAM WELD, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: One thing about Bob Mueller is he's full-speed-ahead. He's a real Marine, and he is not going to trim or shade any decision that he would make because of a political consideration.

ARENA: And Mueller's commitment to public service, dating back to the '70s, is unquestioned.

ERIC HOLDER, FORMER DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: He was in a private practice, great, prestigious law firm, making substantial amounts of money, and called me up when I was the U.S. attorney and said that he wanted to come back to the U.S. attorney's office here in Washington, D.C. and try homicide cases.

ARENA (on camera): FBI sources describe Mueller as, quote, "a known quantity," someone they're comfortable working with. But they point out, unlike Louis Freeh, Mueller is not a former agent, and that means he'll have an uphill battle in terms of gaining their complete trust.

Kelli Arena, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MESERVE: And straight ahead, the evolving U.S. relationship with China. President Bush makes a call to Beijing seeking fair treatment for four U.S.-based academics accused of spying.

This is INSIDE POLITICS.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MESERVE: The complex U.S. relationship with China evolved on several fronts today. Just as the chapter closed in the rift over a surveillance plane, a potential new issue involving U.S.-based academics rose to the forefront. We get more from CNN senior White House correspondent John King.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The return of the last pieces of the U.S. EP-3 surveillance plane aboard this giant cargo jet removed one major irritant in U.S.-China relations and there was word of possible movement in another.

RICHARD BOUCHER, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: The Chinese government has confirmed to us that the trials for Li Shaomin and Gao Zhan are under way. As you know, in the case of the detainees, we've consistently urged the Chinese government to resolve these cases as soon as possible.

KING: Li and Gao are two of four U.S.-based academics being held in China on espionage charges. China's critics say the arrests and trials are part of a crack down on dissent in advance of next year's transfer of power. But there could be a silver lining: conviction followed by expulsion from China.

MIK JENDRZEJCZYK, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH: It really allows the Chinese leadership to have it both ways, to pacify more hardline elements within the government bureaucracy while at the same time trying to dampen a growing source of tension in U.S.-China relations.

KING: Li's wife and daughter have been in Washington appealing for help and say what they want most of all is for him to be released.

LIU YINGLI, WIFE OF LI SHAOMIN: I do believe that my husband has done nothing wrong, so if China says China is a country of rule of law, they should let my husband come home.

KING: China's critics in Congress have been urging the president to intervene. The White House says Mr. Bush spoke to Chinese President Jiang Zemin Thursday and urged that the academics be treated fairly and their cases resolved swiftly. Officials say Mr. Bush also stressed the importance of building constructive bilateral relations.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: And senior U.S. officials are voicing new confidence that U.S.-China relations are on the upswing and suggest that putting the academics on trial could be part of a plan by Beijing to resolve all these cases before the president visits Shanghai and then Beijing in the fall -- Jeanne.

MESERVE: John, the president is enjoying some vacation time in vacation land, the state of Maine. But what's on his agenda when he gets back?

KING: Well, when he gets back, item No. 1 will be education. Both the House and the Senate have passed their versions of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Next to tax cuts, that was president's biggest legislative priority in his early months in office. It is held up, however, because neither the House nor the Senate have appointed the members of the so-called "conference committee." There are major differences between these two pieces of legislation. Chief among them, the Senate bill spends a lot more money. The president had hoped to get that bill to his desk before this, the July 4th, congressional recess.

His message now to Congress is please get it here by August recess. This all part of the administration's effort to try to move on and get things done.

As we've seen in recent days, the president's poll numbers slipping a little bit. The administration wants Congress to get it here when it comes back from recess -- Jeanne.

MESERVE: John King at the White House, thanks.

Well, White House worries about the budget and Democrats prepare for a Golden State fund-raiser. Those details ahead on INSIDE POLITICS when we delve into Robert Novak's "Reporter's Notebook."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MESERVE: And Bob Novak of "The Chicago Sun-Times" joins us now with his "Reporter's Notebook." Thanks for joining us.

First, you're hearing some concerns from the White House about the budget. Fill us in.

ROBERT NOVAK, "CHICAGO SUN-TIMES": There certainly are concerns there. There was a secret emergency meeting at the White House today, because when Congress comes back next week, the Democrats are going to be loaded for bear on the budget, saying that the tax cut was so large that they have left room for no spending on anything.

Senator Conrad, the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, Democrat of North Dakota, is going to take the Senate floor, I understand, and say that the tax cuts are -- have eaten up the surplus entirely.

The plan of the Democrats in the Senate is to keep the defense bill to last and say there's no money for defense. And on top of that, there's a page one story in today's "Washington Post" about earmark spending, pork-barrel spending by Republicans. So there's a big budget headache for President Bush.

MESERVE: You mentioned defense spending. Members of the Hill applying some heat to a member of the administration. Who's getting that heat?

NOVAK: There's a lot of distress, Jeanne, about Don Rumsfeld, the secretary of defense. He's an old Washington hand, but in this latest incarnation, he is operating very secretively, very low profile, not letting Congress in on anything.

And the Republicans from Georgia and Kansas, where they build B-1 bombers, were outraged when he announced without alerting them first there was going to be a cutback in the B-1 bomber.

Pat Roberts, senator -- Republican senator from Kansas, influential member of the Armed Services Committee, gave Rumsfeld a tongue-lashing in a committee hearing. The question is on this big defense readjustment and reconsideration, does he have more unpleasant surprises that he hasn't informed members of Congress about?

MESERVE: Moving along, Eugene Scalia, the son of the Supreme Court justice, has been nominated to be solicitor-general at the Labor Department. What's the latest on that?

NOVAK: I am told that organized labor and the Senate Labor Committee chairman, the new Senate Labor Committee chairman, Ted Kennedy, are loaded for bear against Mr. Scalia. Now, that may have something to do with the fact that his father is a very controversial conservative justice. But really, even if his name was Smith he might be in trouble, because he is opposed to the labor-Kennedy position on ergonomics, motion disease by workers -- big, big issue today in the workplace. And the people who are familiar with the confirmation situation in the White House tell me now that young Mr. Scalia is one of the most endangered nominees of the president.

MESERVE: Campaign finance being taken up by the House next week -- meanwhile the parties are raking in the money.

NOVAK: They are in an orgy of trying to get soft money. The Democrats -- we talked a lot about the Republicans and their big dinner last week. The Democrats are putting the hit on lobbyists for $50,000 a corporate client for a July 22nd musical dinner at -- in Bel Air, California at the home of the Motown impresario Barry Gordy, and have some of his clients singing. But I thought that was interesting, that they are going to big corporate clients, who aren't necessarily Democrats, asking them $50,000 on the barrel head.

MESERVE: Wow. Energy, of course, has been a huge topic in the Congress. What's up with that next week?

NOVAK: Senator Bingaman is going to start on energy, and he has scheduled, kind of below the radar, he has scheduled 11 days of hearings: one on the road, 10 in Washington. That is a lot of hearings.

MESERVE: It is.

NOVAK: It's very interesting that the Democrats taking over the Senate took the patients' bill of rights and put it on the floor without a day of hearing, but the president's energy bill is going to get very careful scrutiny: 11 days of hearings. Do you think we'll be covering every minute of those 11 days?

MESERVE: I doubt that, but some of it I promise.

Bob Novak, thanks so much.

NOVAK: Have a good vacation, Jeanne.

MESERVE: Hey, thank you. I will.

And every Friday, our Bill Schneider awards a "Political Play of the Week." Now, we want your nominations for the weekly play. E-mail your ideas to insidepolitics@cnn.com and tune in on Fridays to see if you picked "The Play of the Week."

And INSIDE POLITICS will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MESERVE: And that's all for this edition of INSIDE POLITICS, but of course, you can go online all the time at CNN's allpolitics.com. AOL keyword, CNN. Our e-mail address is insidepolitics@cnn.com.

I'm Jeanne Meserve. "FIRST EVENING NEWS" starts right now.

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

 Search   




MARKETS
4:30pm ET, 4/16
144.70
8257.60
3.71
1394.72
10.90
879.91
 














Back to the top