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Landmark in Embryo Research Complicates Stem Cell Debate; D.C. Police Search Representative Gary Condit's Condo

Aired July 11, 2001 - 17:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: From Washington, this is INSIDE POLITICS with Judy Woodruff. A controversial landmark in embryo research. Is it complicating the stem cell debate at the White House?

A new glimpse of Congressman Gary Condit and the challenges he faces because of the Chandra Levy case.

And President Bush prepares to play a new card in the political match up over Medicare reform.

Now Judy Woodruff takes you INSIDE POLITICS.

JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you for joining us. Well, given the questions it raises about life and death, a debate over stem cell research already seemed as emotional and political as they come. But today's report of the first human embryos created specifically to harvest stem cells turns it up another notch, and that may factor into President Bush's thinking as he considers whether to green light federal funding for stem cell research.

Mr. Bush met with advisers on that issue today. Our Major Garrett joins us from the White House -- Major.

MAJOR GARRETT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Judy, the White House says the revelations today illustrate the deep complexities of the stem cell issue, but opponents say today's revelations are like pouring gasoline on a fire.


GARRETT (voice-over): The stem cell debate has President Bush in a vice, and the political and ethical pressure is building.

SEN. TOM DASCHLE (D-SD), MAJORITY LEADER: I hope that he authorizes stem cell research. I don't think there's anything more important to research and science than the promotion of stem cell. And I believe that there is overwhelming support in the country for taking this action.

DAVID O'STEEN, NATIONAL RIGHT TO LIFE COMMITTEE: It's morally, ethically and scientifically wrong to use tax funds to pay to deliberately kill human embryos for research purposes. GARRETT: The debate has divided a White House that prides itself on speaking with one voice, one camp pushing for federal funding, another for Mr. Bush to keep his campaign promise to oppose federal support for stem cell research. The lobbying is frantic and deeply personal. Senior advisers say friends call with heart wrenching stories of loved ones whose diseases might someday be cured through stem cell research.

As Mr. Bush nears a decision, questions even arise about how his personal faith will govern his decision.

ARI FLEISCHER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president approaches these decisions about all matters governmental on the basis of who he is and what he believes is best for the country. Who he is is shaped by a variety of factors, and that's background, as a governor, his faith.

GARRETT: The stem cell issue reminds many longtime Bush advisers of the Carla Faye Tucker case. The pope and conservative leader Jerry Falwell urged then Governor Bush to commute the sentence of the convicted killer. Media scrutiny was intense, history was being made. In the end, Mr. Bush OK'd tuckers execution.

Many difficult decisions test the president and his senior staff. One former chief of staff says the stem cell debate ranks among the toughest.

JOHN PODESTA, FORMER CLINTON CHIEF OF STAFF: You face him every day in the White House, and this is -- this one is like those. It really causes the people, I think, in the White House to really dig deep into their hearts and use their best judgment.


GARRETT: If Mr. Bush decides to rule against federal funds for stem cell research, Democrats and some Republicans have already threatened to override that decision with legislation. And that would only prolong White House agony over what one senior Bush adviser describes as the toughest decision of this young Bush presidency -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Major, for a time, it looked as if or at least the suspicion was the president was looking for some middle ground, a compromise. Is that still in the air?

GARRETT: It's still in the air. But as one senior adviser said to me today, "Look, a lot of people have accused us of politicizing this. If this had been a political decision, we'd have already made it. We'd have done the focus groups, run the polls and made our choice. The president, in the words of one adviser, is a real poker face on this, in a heavy listening mode, taking in as much information as possible and giving no hint whatsoever to senior advisers about what he'll ultimately decide -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right, Major Garrett at the White House. Well, now we take a closer look at the personal hopes, fears and beliefs that are driving the debate over stem cell research. Here's our senior political correspondent Candy Crowley.


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): We are talking about science that cannot be seen with the naked eye and ethics that require a search of the soul. We are talking about science that boggles the mind and politics that touch the heart.

SEN. GORDON SMITH (R), OREGON: Well, as a little boy, I watched my Grandmother Udall die of Parkinson's. I watched my cousin, Maurice Udall, die of Parkinson's. Last couple of months ago, my Uncle Addison Udall died of Parkinson's. And last weekend, my brother-in- law told me he had Parkinson's.

CROWLEY: We are talking about taking stem cells from embryos for research that scientists believe might lead to progress against some of life's cruelest diseases: Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, cancer and diabetes. But we are also talking about the destruction of the embryo.

RICHARD DOERFLINGER, U.S. CONFERENCE OF CATHOLIC BISHOPS: Take a look at any embryology textbook, it'll tell you that the life of each human being begins at fertilization. What we're debating now is whether the government should divide human life into different classes, some of which have value and should receive treatment, some of which are disposable and should be killed for treatment.

CROWLEY: The Catholic Church leadership and many abortion opponents are as opposed to the destruction of embryos for research as they are to abortion. Gordon Smith, a practicing Mormon, an abortion opponent, looked to his religion, his Bible and his life as he struggled with the issue.

SMITH: For me, it has forced the ultimate question: When does life begin? And I believe life begins in a mother's womb not in a petri dish of a scientist.

CROWLEY: Others departing from the fold on this one: the conservatives' conservative. Strom Thurmond also favors the use of federal funds. He has a daughter with juvenile diabetes. And Utah senator Orrin Hatch, who believes there may be enough senators who favor the idea to force the issue even if the president is opposed.

Smith recognizes that people he ordinarily stands with will find his position on stem cell research inconsistent with his anti-abortion views.

SMITH: But I ask them to go with me to a hospital and visit some of my relatives who are dying of Parkinson's and withhold that care and that hope.

CROWLEY: For Gordon Smith and some of his colleagues, this one is personal. Candy Crowley, CNN, Washington. (END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Well, as you heard in Candy's report, Senator Gordon Smith of Oregon supports stem cell research even though he is opposed to abortion, because, as you heard him say, he believes life begins in a mother's womb.

I also spoke with Senator Smith, and I asked him why it isn't satisfactory to do research on adult stem cells instead of those from embryos.


SMITH: Because I'm unwilling to close any scientific door that shows promise to ridding us of these hideous diseases like Parkinson's, AlS, MS, and perhaps even cancer or other kinds of thing. So while there's promise, there ought to be a commitment to keep open the doors of research.

WOODRUFF: Are you troubled by the disclosure today by scientists in Virginia that they are doing embryonic stem cell research using embryos created only for the purpose of the research?

SMITH: At the end of the day, really, you have to ask yourself: When does life begin? Is it two cells divided in the petri dish, which if you leave them there, in a hundred years, you'll still have two cells in a petri dish. Or is it when those cells are placed in a woman where they begin to gestate and quickly turn into human life? So while I'm somewhat troubled by that pro-active research in that sense rather than using the embryos from those that will be thrown away anyway, at the end of the day, it doesn't make a huge amount of difference. It's the same thing and for still a very worthy cause in my view at a time when you're not taking a human life.

WOODRUFF: You say you're somewhat troubled. Does this compromise in a serious way your argument here?

SMITH: I don't believe it does compromise my argument. Where I think it gets cloudy is when it gets closer to cloning, but that is an entirely different thing than this. I mean, in my view, stem cells are human cells, not that different, frankly, than cells of a cornea or a heart taken from someone who has died and used in the body of someone still alive for the betterment of their lives.

WOODRUFF: Senator, from a political standpoint, are you as a Republican concerned about Republicans and the Catholic vote in the next elections in 2002 and 2004 from Catholics who do feel strongly about this kind of research?

Well, of course, I'm concerned. I deeply respect the Catholic vote, and the vote of people of faith, but I think if you poll those people, they would agree more with my position than with a much narrower position, because I think they understand that being pro-life is about helping the living as well. So yeah, I'm concerned. But in the end, this isn't a question of politics, this is a question of what's the right thing? And I think there's so much upside to this research and so little downside to it that we would make a tremendous mistake to close any scientific doors at this point.

WOODRUFF: Do you have a sense of what President Bush will do?

SMITH: I do not. My friend, the president, has a terrible decision to make, but I hope he makes it on the side of hope and healing and health, because I think that's very much about being compassionate and being conservative.

WOODRUFF: A lot of talk that he could come up with a compromise somehow. Are you -- is that something that's workable, do you think?

SMITH: Well, I'm certainly open to exploring anything, but in the end, it really does come down to what you believe. And it seems to me that people of goodwill can differ on this question of whether or not life begins in mother or in a refrigerator. To me, it's pretty clear. And I think the American people overwhelmingly will support his decision if it's one of conscience in favor of this research.

WOODRUFF: All right, Senator Gordon Smith, thanks very much. We appreciate it. Good to see you.

SMITH: Thank you.


WOODRUFF: I also talked today with an opponent of stem cell research, Richard Doerflinger, of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. I asked him if it is his understanding that President Bush is looking for a compromise, a way to permit some stem cell research.


DOERFLINGER: I think some staff in the administration are looking for such a compromise. I don't think it's going to work for one reason -- one reason for that is that the idea of just using existing cell lines, the ones where the embryos have already been destroyed for their stem cells under the NIH guidelines are simply not going to be enough to meet what the researchers feel is their demand. They're finding out more and more that these cultures are not indefinitely prolonged. They don't survive indefinitely the way they once thought. They're going to need a great many more of these embryos and these cell lines in order to do their research. So I don't think it works even on practical grounds. And I think it would be a bad move in terms of policy because it would give up the principle and then try to limit it in what I think would be unconvincing way.

WOODRUFF: You mean, to try to find a compromise such as what you described?

DOERFLINGER: Well, I think it's more of a transitional step than a compromise. It's to say, "We're going to implement the Clinton plan but we're only going to implement it for a little while and then we're going to suddenly stop even though that would actually prevent the research from actually getting anywhere. It's going to be years before this embryonic stem cell research were to provide any benefit to humans if it ever were to provide such benefits.

WOODRUFF: Even if it's years away, Mr. Doerflinger, what do you say to the tens of hundreds of thousands of people in this country who are suffering from Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, juvenile diabetes, whatever it is, spinal cord injuries or who will be suffering, who are looking if not for a cure, for something to alleviate their suffering?

DOERFLINGER: I think there are great many treatments we can point to. The most promising treatment for diabetes right now, for juvenile diabetes, for example, is not embryonic stem cells. They've had mouse embryonic stem cells for 20 years and they still haven't figured out how to use them to cure mice of diabetes. What's happening in human patients today, right now, there are the 15 patients who are treated with adult pancreatic islet cell transplants have been greatly helped by these adult cells. Nine of the 15 patients remain insulin-free to this day up to two years later after the transplants, and people are now beginning to do more and more trials on this in the United States. There's use of islet cells from pigs even that can be modified a certain way that are curing this in animals. They talk about human trials in a year or two. The breaking treatments and cures for these diseases are not coming from embryonic stem cell. I think there's been an enormous amount of hype and some very unrealistic expectations built up about them.

WOODRUFF: Well, I know we're not going to resolve that now, but you are correct. There's been a great deal written and reported about the fact that most of the advances are expected to come from the embryonic stem cells, but I understand you have a different view here.

What about Senator Gordon Smith's comment that when it comes time to deciding where life begins, in his view, it's in the womb of the mother, and not as he put it, in a refrigerator, in a petri dish with two cells?

DOERFLINGER: Well, we're talking about embryos that are a week old and are about 200 cells. But setting that aside, life doesn't ever begin in the womb. It begins -- fertilization takes place in the fallopian tube ordinarily. It's been taking place in petri dishes in IVF clinics for a long time now. A lot of kids have been born that way. And until now, nobody's told me that they weren't just fully as human as everybody else.

I think this is a make weight argument to justify a position that people are taking for other reasons. Even our worst opponents, if you will, President Clinton own bioethics advisory commission, all of them had fully admitted that this is a form of human life in the laboratory. They just think that there are times when you can destroy human life for research, and I don't think you can.

WOODRUFF: And finally, Mr. Doerflinger, what about the comment by Senator Smith that, in his view of Catholics, a group you represent, many more of them agree with his position than with yours?

DOERFLINGER: Well, I don't think that's true. I think there are some polls that have been taken where Catholics and others were asked: Do you support stem cell research? I would say yes to that question. So the fact they got 70 percent is meaningless. When you ask people whether they support research that requires destroying human embryos for their stem cells, you get 70 percent against, not just Catholics but everyone else. And if you ask further about what we should do now when we don't really agree yet which of these approaches to research might be the most useful, a vast majority of people say, "Let's fund those morally acceptable alternatives, the adult stem cell research and other alternatives first, to see if we don't even need to go the way of killing embryos for their stem cells." I think that's going to be a widely supported position.


WOODRUFF: Richard Doerflinger of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The search for Chandra Levy and the investigation of Congressman Gary Condit. Up next. we will have the latest on the search of Condit's apartment and calls for him to submit to a polygraph test. Also ahead...


REP. RICHARD GEPHARDT (D), MISSOURI: Puts them first, not big givers, not special interest.


WOODRUFF: The House minority leader works to keep his troops in line just a day before debate begins on campaign finance reform.

Plus, the president prepares to take the offensive on prescription drugs for seniors. This is INSIDE POLITICS.


WOODRUFF: Police here in Washington today refused to say what they might have found in the overnight search of Congressman Gary Condit's apartment. Joining me now with the latest on Condit, and the overall Chandra Levy investigation, CNN national correspondent, Bob Franken -- Bob.

BOB FRANKEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Judy, it's amazing. Almost every day there's more high drama attached to this case, which is really a missing person case, talking about the disappearance of 24-year-old Chandra Levy. But as Congressman Condit left his apartment this morning, he entered a scene that was relatively normal, if you consider normal having a score of news cameras around. He walked past the cameras as he always does and had nothing to say. But this was relatively normal compared to what occurred overnight.

About 11:30 last night Eastern time, the police showed up, as they were expected to do, to conduct an intense search of the congressman's apartment. They had been brought there because Condit's attorneys said, "Sure, you can search the apartment," looking for clues. They left carrying pretty much the same material that they brought in. What other material they had said police officials will be looked at and see what has to go to the crime lab. And we've got a complete description of what they were looking for from the assistant police chief.


ASSISTANT CHIEF TERRANCE GAINER, D.C. METROPOLITAN POLICE: Any television show or book you might read, you're interested in fibers and hairs or blood evidence or body fluids, those type of thing. That's very standard things. It's not limited to that, and our search of that apartment was not based on some specific credible information that we had that made us look one place or for one thing more than another. It was an open-ended search of the apartment.


FRANKEN: And another facet of this open-ended, seemingly open- ended investigation was the appearance today at the U.S. attorney's office of Anne Marie Smith, the flight attendant. She's in the car you see leaving one of two meetings that she had there. There are questions that she has raised with investigators about whether Congressman Condit and his associates had tried to get her to lie in a sworn affidavit about her relationship with the congressman. She claims it was a romantic relationship.

All of this is just a growing investigation with its tentacles going just about everywhere. And Judy, we always have to point out that we almost lose sight of the fact that the investigation, the real one, is into the disappearance of Chandra Levy.

WOODRUFF: All right, thanks for reminding us, Bob Franken. Good to see you.

Well, the questions swirling around Gary Condit have led to some uneasy moments for his House colleagues. CNN congressional correspondent Jonathan Karl has more on how the investigation has affected Condit's ability to do his job.


JONATHAN KARL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As the search for Chandra Levy has intensified, Gary Condit has looked like a man on the run, skillfully dodging cameras attempting to stake out his every move. It's a hard way for a member of Congress to operate.

REP. DAVID DREIER (R), CALIFORNIA: Gary Condit is someone who has been there and done a good job, but these developments have led to a lot of questions being raised by his constituents. And I will tell you that the kind of public attention that is focused on this is amazingly high.

KARL: The controversy has forced Condit to duck out of high- profile public events like last weeks 4th of July parades back home in California and this week's energy press conference held by the conservative Blue Dog Democrats. The last time he spoke on the House floor was three months ago. But then again, Condit has always been a behind-the-scenes political player.

DREIER: This is not out of character for him not to be publicly doing a lot of things, so he can continue to do his work privately and continue to work with people on it.

KARL: In fact, Condit's spokeswoman says he rarely spoke on the House floor even before Chandra Levy disappeared. She points out that Condit has continued to show up for committee hearings and has made a point of not missing votes. During the July 4th recess, he even hosted a successful fund-raiser. And on Wednesday, Condit picked up some rare and emphatic public support from a fellow member of Congress.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), CALIFORNIA: I know one thing for sure, that Gary Condit did not have anything to do with the disappearance of Chandra Levy. I know, as a mother of five children, four daughters, one of whom lives in that neighborhood, that our major concern should be focused on finding Chandra Levy.

KARL: Representative Nancy Pelosi has known Condit since they both served in the California legislature in the 1980s. She insists he is still effectively doing his job despite the controversy.

PELOSI: I'm very sad about the course of events that have transpired, but that does not eliminate the fact that Gary is a good member of Congress, represents his district very well. And for those reasons, has the respect and concern of his colleagues right now.


KARL: But if and when the intense scrutiny subsides, some of those close to Condit say he will still face the tough task of restoring personal credibility among his colleagues. As his fellow California Democrat Amy Eshoo told CNN today, "He's still my friend, but I certainly don't condone his behavior." Judy.

WOODRUFF: Jon Karl at the Capitol.

Well, since his 1989 election, Gary Condit has been one of the most conservative Democrats in California's congressional delegation. And that record has helped him win reelection in a district that is moving to the political right.

CNN national correspondent Martin Savidge reports that Condit's current problems, however, have opened the door to some potential challengers.


MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With nearly nonstop images of California Democratic congressman Gary Condit hurrying past cameras, Republicans are picking up their own pace. They're running. BILL CONRAD (R), CALIFORNIA CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: Let me tell you, for my Republican friends back in D.C., wake up. This is going to be a Republican district with Republican leadership with Republican values and family values.

SAVIDGE: Sensing wavering support back home over Condit's relationship with missing intern Chandra Levy, party officials believe this could be their first chance to have a Republican represent the Modesto area since Dwight Eisenhower was president.

JIM DEMARTINI, STANISLAUS COUNTY GOP LEADER: His credibility is shot. He's been lying to the police and to his constituents for months.

SAVIDGE: Modesto City councilman Bill Conrad, the first Republican out of the gate, lost to Condit in 1996. He denies the Condit controversy hastened his decision to run again. But other Republicans admit Conrad could have waited, privately fearing he may look more like an opportunist than a valid opponent.

DEMARTINI: Well, every candidate that runs for office has to decide which is the best time to run. I suppose this is as good a time as any. There's a lot of press here and media, a lot of attention to this and speculation. Now is a good time, but three or four months from now would still be a good time.

SAVIDGE Republican and former state assemblyman George House says he also considering running but he says now's not the time to declare.

GEORGE HOUSE (R), FORMER CALIFORNIA ASSEMBLYMAN: I want to wait until this girl is found; hopefully she'll be found and found alive.

SAVIDGE: Local Condit staffers say the 18th congressional district is the most Republican district held by a Democrat in all of California. In the last presidential election, George W. Bush won with 52 percent of the vote. In his last election, Democrat Condit won with 67 percent of the vote, which is why Democrats say reports of Condit's political demise are greatly exaggerated.

SANDRA LUCAS, STANISLAUS COUNTY DEMOCRATIC LEADER: I don't feel he's weak. Is there a blip in the road? Yes. But he still will win this election in November of 2002.

SAVIDGE (on-camera): Democrats describe the known challengers so far as B-grade candidates. Even so, others suggest the battle for Condit country could be huge, attracting national interest and money.

Condit's staff says the reason the congressman's success in conservative country is that voters here pay less attention to party affiliation and more to the issues and in particular the candidates themselves. With controversy swirling all around Gary Condit, that's exactly what the Republicans are counting on. Martin Savidge, CNN, Modesto, California.

(END VIDEOTAPE) WOODRUFF: For much more on the Chandra Levy case, including reaction from Congressman Condit's home state, you can visit By the way, if you're a regular visitor, you'll notice a bit of a new look and new features to help you navigate the site.

On the eve of a showdown, the last minute lobbying over campaign finance reform. That story coming up on INSIDE POLITICS. Later, what does President Bush have in store for older Americans facing higher prices for prescription drugs?

And only presidents and a select few get this kind of inside view of Air Force One. Now, you can too.


WOODRUFF: On Capitol Hill, the House is nearing a make-or-break moment for campaign finance reform, and supporters of a soft-money ban are using nearly every minute before tomorrow's debate to reach out to wavering members, especially black and Hispanic Democrats. Supporters of a rival measure also are conducting a full-court press.

CNN's Patty Davis is following the maneuvering on the Hill.


PATTY DAVIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With House action on campaign finance set to begin Thursday, supporters of a virtual ban on unlimited donations to political parties are fighting to keep their coalition together.

REP. MARTY MEEHAN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: And I believe that we are going to be able to pass this bill by the end of the week. We don't have the votes yet, but we're working diligently to get the votes.

DAVIS: House Democratic leader Dick Gephardt is heading up the last-minute lobbying, campaign finance seen as a major test of his leadership.

REP. RICHARD GEPHARDT (D-MO), MINORITY LEADER: In the next 48 hours, we're not going to stop fighting for Shays-Meehan. We will talk to every member, and we'll work for every vote in favor of real campaign finance reform.

DAVIS: Gephardt along with the bill's Republican sponsor, Christopher Shays, made last-minute appeals to Congressional Black Caucus members to head off support for a competing measure. That bill, which limits but doesn't ban soft money, has already won the backing of some caucus members.

REP. CHRISTOPHER SHAYS (R), CONNECTICUT: They're a major force. They're almost 50 members, and their opposition could mean the defeat of campaign finance reform.

DAVIS: In last-minute enticements to the caucus, Gephardt pledged to try to dedicate more party money to help voter registration and grassroots efforts, and promised changes in the bill making it easier for state and local parties to raise as much as $10,000 in soft-money a year for get-out-the-vote efforts.

REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D), MARYLAND: The caucus is right now I think quite divided.


DAVIS: Now ironically, just next door to that Congressional Black Caucus meeting, House moderates, House GOP moderates were meeting. Shays separately from Bob Ney, the Republican who is sponsoring the competing version of campaign finance, took turns going from meeting to meeting, making their pitch. Now Ney came out of that meeting with the moderate Republicans, and said, in fact, Judy, that he has gained six votes just today. But according to House Speaker Dennis Hastert's office tonight, that vote still too close to call -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: And they're going to be counting every single one of them. All right, Patty Davis.

There is a lot of political history behind the coming House showdown over campaign finance reform, and some take the measure very personally.

Our Bruce Morton has been thinking about what's at stake.


BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was John McCain's main theme in last year's primaries. He and Bill Bradley shook hands on it in New Hampshire, though of course neither got to be president.

McCain dominated the stage when the Senate began its debate last March, but now the House must vote, and its members realize, hey, this thing could become law. Some are having second thoughts.

One rule: Any time you propose change you are asking members of Congress to vote against the system they used to get elected.

Second, all politics is local. The Senate bill increased the amount of hard money a person can give, and that worries some Democrats, especially members of the Black Caucus, who may not have as many rich contributors. And banning the so-called "unregulated soft money"? Democrats are good at soft money, sometimes better than Republicans. Hard money? In campaign 2000, the Dems raised $270 million of hard money. The Republicans, 447 million.

So we're banning soft and keeping hard? Hmmm, some Democrats are thinking.

And the McCain bill restricts advertising by issue groups -- Handgun Control, the National Rifle Association and so on. Some claim that goes against the First Amendment's free speech guarantee.

REP. RICHARD ARMEY (R-TX), MAJORITY LEADER: There's not much accountability on soft money. We want to get to that properly, but we don't want to violate First Amendment rights like we think the Senate bill will do.

MORTON: McCain and Bradley and others argue that progress on other issues, like a patients' bill of rights, is slowed because of the influence of money from the industries involved.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: The big money and the special interests that would lose their influence in Washington are doing everything they can to stop it at this point, because they know that if it passes the House again, that it's -- it's going to become law and this would deprive them of their influence.

MORTON: He may be right, but there is no evidence the public has made a connection between campaign finance laws and these other issues. A CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup poll last month asked voters what issues they thought were extremely important. Education was first: 61 percent mentioned it. Prescription drugs for the elderly: 49 percent and so on. Campaign finance? Only 18 percent cited it, dead last among the nine issues mentioned in the poll.

(on camera): Anyway, changing the law isn't just rhetoric anymore. They could actually do it.

Debate starts Thursday.

Bruce Morton, CNN, Washington.


WOODRUFF: A pharmacy discount card courtesy of the federal government. Up next, President Bush tries to get a start on the future debate over Medicare reform.


WOODRUFF: President Bush plans to announce a new program tomorrow designed to help seniors buy prescription drugs, a move also designed to seize the high ground in the future debate over Medicare reform.

CNN White House correspondent Kelly Wallace has the story.


KELLY WALLACE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Bush's latest prescription for seniors coping with high drug costs is to offer discount cards. The program would rely on the private sector. Seniors would get discounts of anywhere from 15 to 30 percent on their prescriptions. The plan does not need congressional approval or federal money, and could be implemented by January of next year.

Here's how it works. Companies would provide drug benefits, buy prescription drugs in bulk, and provide cards to Medicare beneficiaries for a maximum fee of $25.

ARI FLEISCHER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: It's part of combining the power of group purchasing in a manner that lowers prices.

WALLACE: But Democrats say groups like the AARP already offer discount cards to their members, and say Mr. Bush's initiative is a Band-Aid solution.

SEN. TOM DASCHLE (D-SD), MAJORITY LEADER: We're talking here about the difference between a small discount and the ability to allow those seniors who have prescription drug bills to be able to pay for them at all.

WALLACE: But the White House says it is the Democrats who are short-sighted, that they want the politically popular issue, but don't want to tackle the more difficult issue of comprehensive Medicare reform. Thursday, the president will unveil proposals he touted during the presidential campaign: providing seniors with more insurance options, improving coverage for preventative care, placing Medicare on stronger financial footing, and providing a voluntary drug benefit.

There are rival plans in the Senate. The most expensive version would cover drug benefits for all seniors regardless of income. Its sponsor, Florida Senator Bob Graham, worries the president's discount card proposal will provide cover to those who don't want a government prescription drug benefit.

SEN. BOB GRAHAM (D), FLORIDA: I think there are going to be some people who will see this as an opportunity for further delay, for further confusion as to what kind of a prescription drug benefit Americans need.


WALLACE: The White House disagrees. Still, though, the president's plan means he can get some credit for helping seniors with their prescription drug costs even if Congress doesn't pass a measure this year he can sign -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Kelly, we know the president met earlier today at the Capitol with House Speaker Hastert. He's been meeting at the White House this afternoon with Senate Republican Leader Trent Lott. Do we know what's going on in these conversations?

WALLACE: Well, Judy, this is really part of the president's pushing forward, trying to build some momentum for his legislative agenda: education reform, his faith-based plan allowing religious groups to obtain tax dollars to provide social services, and also patients' -- a patients' bill of rights.

Just a short time ago, the president met with a group of House Republicans on this issue. Earlier this afternoon, he held an event with some health care professionals who support the president's ideas restricting a patients' right to sue his or her HMO.

The president is banking on a plan coming out of the House of Representatives that he can sign, that would serve as a basis for compromise with the Senate. But to do that, Judy, he needs the support of all Republicans in the House. That's what he's doing, meeting with Republicans, holding events, heading to Capitol Hill to get a bill he can sign.

Judy, back to you.

WOODRUFF: All right, Kelly Wallace, as the wind kicks up at the White House.

The president's top economic adviser says he expects economic growth to remain sluggish through the third quarter this year. In an interview today with CNN, Lawrence Lindsey also suggested the nation's unemployment rate could rise to at least 5 percent before an economic turnaround occurs. The jobless rate is currently at 4.5 percent.

For the long term, Lindsey said interest rates cuts and the new tax cut plan should spur economic growth early next year.

And you're all familiar with the -- of Air Force One touching down. Ahead, the inside view on what it's like to fly on the world's most exclusive plane.


GEORGE BUSH, 41ST PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The thing I miss about Air Force One is, I don't lose my luggage.



WILLIAM J. CLINTON, 42ND PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The phone's not ringing unless it's some really important call, and you don't have people who are coming in.


WOODRUFF: A sanctuary in the sky. Next on INSIDE POLITICS.


WOODRUFF: A rare treat for anyone interested in politics and presidential history tonight. Tonight, as PBS airs a "National Geographic" documentary on what must be one of the most impressive planes on earth, Air Force One.

I sat down recently with the program's executive producer, Michael Rosenfeld, and asked him what drew him to the plane and its story.


MICHAEL ROSENFELD, EXECUTIVE PRODUCER, "AIR FORCE ONE": Air Force One has an enormous aura about it. It's one of those great American institutions that people don't normally get to see and yet everyone wants to see it. People want to know what it looks like on the inside. And people very rarely have that opportunity.

No documentary crew has ever been allowed to go aboard Air Force One and have free reign on the plane. That's essentially what we got. We were able to go aboard and have free access, from the cockpit to the president's office. And we were also allowed to film at the White House, with the military office and at Andrews in the days leading up to a mission.

WOODRUFF: How is it different from all the other airplanes flying important people around the world? What makes it so special?

ROSENFELD: There's an aura about the plane, and I think it has to do with the fact that it has become a symbol of the presidency. The plane is a symbol, especially abroad. When that plane lands, it's -- it's become symbolic of the United States.

WOODRUFF: In a way like a -- almost like a traveling White House in a way?

ROSENFELD: It is a traveling White House, it has all the tools aboard that allow the president to do his job anywhere in the world. And until Air Force One came along, the presidency was -- it wasn't isolationist necessarily but Air Force One allowed the presidency to become a global office. Suddenly with this jet, the president could go anywhere, at any time, and take American politics to the front line. And that changed -- it really changed the world.

WOODRUFF: So it had an effect on diplomacy, on international relations, but also in domestic politics, because presidents use Air Force One for every sort of trip, even when they're campaigning for reelection. And you're out there with Bill Clinton, I guess reminiscing about some of his own campaign trips.

ROSENFELD: Yeah, we were with Bill Clinton on a three-day trip just before the end of his term and were able to go with the new president, President Bush, as well.

And I will tell you that one of the things that struck me is that the plane is a kind of a sanctuary for these presidents. When they are aboard, they can reach out to the world, but the world has a very hard time tracking them down, and you can really sense that.

We were able to film in a very intimate scenes with President Clinton in his office getting ready to land and get off the plane, and you could see that the closer he got to landing and getting off the plane, the closer he got to being again in the public eye. And he was going to give up this sanctuary that he had in the sky.

One of those tools, like a magic tool that you get when you get the job, and I think most presidents, including Bush, it's -- it's a chance to project your authority as president. And, of course, it's great for inviting congressmen and senators along, anyone you want to influence in any way.

Someone says in the film, it's more -- has more impact when you invite someone aboard Air Force One than it does when you invite them into the Oval Office.

WOODRUFF: So they really are impressed by being on this airplane?

ROSENFELD: There is something about being on the plane that just has been impact on people.


WOODRUFF: Well, that is just a quick taste. The interior of the plane is something behold and Rosenfeld and his crew interviewed four presidents for the documentary as well as the pilot and many others. "Air Force One" runs at 8:00 p.m. Eastern on PBS, so set your VCRs, because, of course, we know you'll be watching WOLF BLITZER REPORTS live here on CNN.

Now with a look ahead at what's coming up on "LOU DOBBS MONEYLINE," here's Jan Hopkins.

Hi, Jan.


Coming up, we'll talk about a blue chip rebound, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 65 points. The Nasdaq was up as well, but investors seem to like those blue chips, they want a safe haven from what's going on in technology. We'll take a look at this with Mark Herscovitz. He's a tech-fund manager with Dreyfus.

And tech funds including Yahoo! and Motorola and also some news from Microsoft, a huge writeoff on investments that went bad, but also sales are higher than expected. So a mixed picture. Susan Byrne, who manages about $4 million at Westwood Management, will join us to talk about what's going on in the market.

And global strategist Nick Sergeant will talk about what's going on in overseas markets, we have a problem in Argentina. He'll talk about that.

Judy, back to you.

WOODRUFF: All right, Jan Hopkins, we'll be watching.

And we will be talking politics and policy with Margaret Carlson and Ramesh Ponnuru in just a moment. We'll be back.


WOODRUFF: At the Justice Department, officials are dismissing as insignificant a report out today that the agency is formally changing the view that it has held for three decades, that it is organizations and not individuals who have a constitutional right to have a gun.

Under Attorney General John Ashcroft, the department will now declare that individuals as well have a constitutional right to own a gun. A spokesman for the office of the legal counsel at the Justice Department says the attorney general has already enunciated his views on this on official letterhead and they said it is not going to change materially our position to put it out under the office as well. So that is from the Justice Department this afternoon.

And now, joining us to talk about matters political and policy, Margaret Carlson of "TIME" magazine, and Ramesh Ponnuru, who's with us as well of the "National Review." Let me ask you both first about, putting the Justice Department aside, about Gary Condit. Today, California Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, Democrat, came out and flat-out said that she knows that Gary Condit had nothing to do with the disappearance of this young woman. Margaret, could it be that the tide is turning here?

MARGARET CARLSON, "TIME" MAGAZINE: Well, he has told people all along that he didn't do anything. So I don't know if this really changes it, because now, finally the D.C. Police Department seems to be doing the basic things that many police departments would have done two months ago, which is to question him hard.

They were grateful on Saturday when he answered their questions after, you know, 10 weeks of not answering their questions. And now they are proceeding very quickly. I don't think it matters so much -- it may matter for his career on the Hill -- but I don't think it matters right now as far as Condit being in the spotlight of this investigation.

WOODRUFF: What do we look for next, Ramesh? Is a situation where we just wait for the police to make the next announcement?

RAMESH PONNURU, "NATIONAL REVIEW": I don't think the Levys are waiting for the police to make the next announcement. I think they are going to continue the pressure on Condit because what we've seen so far, although the Levys have been criticized for this PR campaign they've run, it's been absolutely necessary to keep the congressman from stonewalling not only the media, but also the police.

And I think they are just going to keep pushing because we don't know whether there is something more that he has to say that he hasn't disclosed yet.

WOODRUFF: In the meantime we just keep reporting every little thread of the story.

CARLSON: Right, but that is such an important point. The media in some ways has pressed the police in a good way to move ahead. But he does have no obligation to talk to the media but he has had one all along to talk to the police.

And this distinction that he's not a suspect doesn't mean that when the police question you, you don't have an obligation as a citizen, much less a public official, to say everything you knew, which obviously he did not do.

WOODRUFF: Turning the corner, stem cell research, embryonic stem cell research. Ramesh, what do you believe the president is going to do on this? PONNURU: I think what the president wants to do is honor his campaign pledge, and not fund embryonic stem cell research, research that involves the destruction of embryos, human embryos. Of course he's under a lot of pressure and it's not just from outside the administration and the media, also people inside the administration like the secretary of Health And Human Services, Tommy Thompson as you know. This is going to be a really tough political decision, but I think in the end he is going to stick with his campaign pledge.

WOODRUFF: Margaret?

CARLSON: I agree. I think he is, after yesterday, when he reiterated his belief that life begins at conception and did not take advantage of, say, Senator Orrin Hatch's belief it begins somewhat later in implantation.

If life begins in a petri dish, then George Bush has put himself in a box where he has to vote against embryonic stem cell research. He doesn't have a way out if that's his belief. But it's excruciating because lots of people who share parts of his belief about life think you can do it. And for them it looks like he's a captive of the right wing of his party.

WOODRUFF: And looks like he's making this decision hearing some truly heart-wrenching stories from people he knows very well. Just quickly to campaign finance reform, Ramesh, tomorrow, debate in the House, a vote on Friday. What are we looking for?

PONNURU: Well, it's a situation where people don't know what to expect because this is the first time people are voting on campaign finance in the House with the real expectation it might pass, and they might have to live with the consequences.

But I do think in the end it's likely to pass and I think the president is likely to sign it, and then the question becomes for people like John McCain, what's the new issue that they come up with.

WOODRUFF: In other words, Shays-Meehan you think is going to pass?

PONNURU: Right, I do.

CARLSON: I agree with Ramesh, in that it is the first time the vote counts. They've had all these free passes up until now. I'm beginning to think it's not going to pass, that the Black Caucus and the Hispanic Caucus are going to vote against Shays-Meehan, and you know, Gephardt is not going to be able to deliver Democrats to the extent they were delivered before.

And Tom Daschle was able to do it in the Senate in part because he didn't have a Black Caucus or a Hispanic Caucus or people who were feeling vulnerable. And I think it's a mistake on the part of blacks and Hispanics. They don't get that much soft money. But on the other hand, I think they have left the reservation.

WOODRUFF: We are going to have to leave it there. Ramesh, you are on the record predicting passage. Margaret says no. We're going to remember this!


WOODRUFF: Ramesh Ponnuru, Margaret Carlson, thank you both.

CARLSON: Thanks, Judy.

WOODRUFF: We appreciate it, good to see you.

INSIDE POLITICS will be right back.


WOODRUFF: As you must know, every Friday, our Bill Schneider awards a political play of the week. Now, we want your nominations for the weekly play. You can e-mail your ideas to: And tune in on Fridays to see if you picked the play of the week. We may even mention your name.

That's all for this edition of INSIDE POLITICS. But, of course, you can go online all the time at CNN's, AOL keyword, CNN. Our e-mail address is: You got that? I'm Judy Woodruff. "FIRST EVENING NEWS" is next.



4:30pm ET, 4/16

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