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Influential Republican Senators Encourage President Bush to Support Federal Funding of Embryonic Stem Cell Research

Aired July 18, 2001 - 17:00   ET


JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: This is INSIDE POLITICS. I'm Judy Woodruff in Washington, where key GOP senators stepped up to urge public funding of embryonic stem cell research. We will talk to Senator Bill Frist and to a Republican opponent, Senator Sam Brownback.

KATE SNOW, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Kate Snow on Capitol Hill where the Frist announcement dominated a Senate hearing on this controversial issue.

MAJOR GARRETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I'm Major Garrett at the White House with more on the stem cell question and whether President Bush is any closer to taking a stand.

BOB FRANKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Bob Franken. Did Chandra Levy leave behind a cyber trail when she disappeared.

ANNOUNCER: Now Judy Woodruff takes you INSIDE POLITICS.

WOODRUFF: Thank you for joining us.

With President Bush said to be wrestling with whether to allow federal funding of embryonic stem cell research, each new development in the debate over the issue is seen as potentially crucial to this thinking. Two such developments happened today, both of which favors support for the funding. One was a report from the National Institutes of Health recommending further stem cell research. And on the political side, a key endorsement from the only physician in the U.S. Senate: Republican Bill Frist of Tennessee.


SEN. BILL FRIST (R), TENNESSEE: I am absolutely convinced, based on the knowledge and the experience but also what we as policy-makers can do, that we can address the use of living tissue, of living cells that otherwise would not be used, that otherwise would not be used. The words are tough but discarded, disposed of. Of that particular subset of tissues, I believe with an appropriate ethical construct, we can use that tissue to the benefit of hundreds of others, thousands of others, maybe millions of others.

(END VIDEO CLIP) WOODRUFF: Senator Frist will join us a little later in the program. Now we have several reports starting with Kate Snow here on Capitol Hill and Major Garrett at the White House.

Kate, starting with you, what does the announcement by Senator Frist mean to this whole contentious debate?

SNOW: Well, they won't go unnoticed, that's for sure. And that is because, as you point out, he is the only physician in the U.S. Senate. He's a heart surgeon by training. But more so, more importantly, he is politically someone who a lot of Republicans listen to on healthcare issues. The White House listens to him on healthcare issues as well. And earlier today, he carefully laid out his position.


FRIST: I think we should today -- because there is so much uncertainty -- limit the research to the use of those cells similar to transplantation -- that otherwise absolutely with full public disclosure, full transparency, full oversight by the federal government is going to be discarded and not used.

SNOW (voice-over): His words were chosen carefully. For weeks, Frist said he wrestled with his decision to come out in favor of federal funding for embryonic stem cell research.

FRIST: I, too, am pro-life, oppose abortion. I mention that philosophy because all -- in every one of our cases, we're going to come back, and what we ultimately decide is going to be colored on our own spiritual beliefs.

SNOW: Frist did put conditions on his support. He would want rigorous oversight and strict rules requiring donors to give consent before embryos are used for research. He said researchers should not be allowed to create embryos just for studies, and he would not allow federal money to pay for deriving stem cells from embryos; private clinics would have to do that. Others said that provision was too restrictive.

SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (R), PENNSYLVANIA: I'm not prepared to leave it to the private sector to attract the stem cells from the embryos. I think that's where we have our disagreement.


SNOW: Still, some on the other side acknowledge that Senator Frist's words will carry weight in this whole debate. In fact, one senator saying that his support for embryonic stem cell research will make it all that much harder for opponents to fight it.


SEN. RICK SANTORUM (R), PENNSYLVANIA: I think, you know, it obviously makes the argument a little tougher to make. Senator Frist is obviously an expert in the area of healthcare and an expert in the area of science, and he's come out with a position; I don't agree with it. I think he's tried to take a middle ground. And I think in this case, that's a very difficult thing to do.


SNOW: The Senate at this point and the House, indeed, waiting for President Bush to make a decision on this. The consensus here on Capitol Hill that the president will likely make a decision after returning from his trip overseas to Europe -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right, Kate, stay with us.

But now, we want to go to our White House correspondent, Major Garrett.

Major, what does all this mean for the president, as he weighs a decision about what to do about funding stem cell research?

GARRETT: Well, the public posture of the White House, Judy, is this is just another piece of an elaborate, complex puzzle the president is studying as he approaches that decision on whether or not to provide federal funding for stem cell research. That only tells about half the story.

Senator Frist is not just another senator, particularly to this Bush White House. The president turns to Senator Frist on many matters dealing with health: on Medicare, on prescription drugs, and on all matters of medical research. And up until this point, though this is a young presidency, he's never disagreed with Senator Frist. I'm talking about the president. Not only that, the president's top healthcare adviser used to work on Senator Frist's staff. They're very close. So this piece of -- this information, this development from Senator Frist arrives as a very big one here at the White House. The president is weighing this, studying this. Many people watching the deliberations from the outside have come to the conclusion that the president will try to find some middle ground. That's exactly what Senator Frist has tried to stake out giving people on the outside at least all the more sense that that may be where President Bush ends up, too.

WOODRUFF: All right, Major.

Kate, I want to come back to you with a question. What does it mean -- I mean, you've been talking to so many of these people here on the Hill. These opponents feel very, very strongly. What is Frist's decision going to mean for them?

SNOW: They do. They feel very strongly. And I've talked with several of the leading opponents today, among them some of the key Republican House leaders: Armey, Watts, DeLay, the whip. They all feel very strongly about this and all say that they're sticking to their positions on this. But they also feel that the president needs to make up his own mind, and they say it's up to the president. They feel he's got a very difficult decision to make. They're going to stand back and let him make that decision. One other point. In publicly coming out, those three in particular, those House members, and also Senate Minority Leader Lott the other day came out against this research. I'm told by many Republican aides that the White House was not all together happy with that, because it felt that they have less room to maneuver now with some people coming out so forcefully against this research.

WOODRUFF: Less political one. All right, Kate Snow and Major Garrett.

And now we want to talk with CNN medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen about that new report that we mentioned on stem cell research that came from the National Institutes of Health.

Elizabeth, tell us what the report said.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Judy, what the report basically did was it looked at all the different kinds of stem cell research and which could be valuable, which could lead to medical treatments. Now the folks who were against embryonic stem cell research are in favor, instead of something called adult stem cell research. And what that means is that means stem cells that are derived from bone marrow or umbilical cords; in other words, something other than an embryo. Now this -- so they want to do away with the embryonic stem cell research instead of the -- and use instead the adult stem cell research.

However, scientists have always said that both are very valuable. And the NIH report concurred. They said that, really, both need to be done. In fact, to quote, they said, "To date, it's impossible to predict which stem cells: those derived from the embryo, the fetus or the adult will best meet the needs of basic research and clinical applications. The answers clearly lie in conducting more research."

Now then the NIH report went on to say that, in fact, adult stem cells have some serious drawbacks. They said adult stem cells often are difficult to identify, isolate and purify. There are insufficient numbers of cells available for transplantation, and adult stem cells do not replicate indefinitely in culture.

So, in other words, what they're saying is that embryonic stem cells, you can replicate those on and on. You can put them in a petri dish and get lots and lots of them to use for all sorts of research. Adult stem cells don't seem to do that. So again, the bottom line of the NIH report is that both kinds of research are important and should continue -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Elizabeth Cohen is our medical correspondent.

Now I want to bring back our White House correspondent, Major Garrett.

Major, is there any reaction yet from the White House on how this report that Elizabeth was describing from the NIH how it might affect the president's decision? GARRETT: Well, the White House calls it -- and you'll remember I used this phrase just a moment ago -- another piece of evidence in the ongoing search this president is undergoing to collect all the information possible on this issue as the president prepares to make his decision.

The Department of Health and Human Services requested this report to provide the president with just that added bit of information. The president's also consulting with theologians, with bioethicists, with medical professionals. He had a senior staff meeting here at the White House with some people from the medical profession on Monday. Constantly gathering new information, obviously conferring with his friends and colleagues and allies on Capitol Hill. Among them, Senator Frist and others.

The White House says it's all part of a rather complex and lengthy process the president is going through, one that they say he is keeping a; very quiet and sometimes lonely counsel on tipping no one off to exactly what he's thinking -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: And Major, one other point here. Last year during the presidential campaign, then Governor George W. Bush wrote a letter to something called the Culture of Life Foundation. And in that letter, he wrote, quote, "I oppose federal funding for stem cell research that involves destroying living human embryos." Now that statement's on the record. Is that going to have bearing on what the president decides to do?

GARRETT: Well, of course, it's going to have bearing, because if, in fact, the president decides to support federal funding even with some very strict conditions, he's going to have to explain this reversal. I can tell you many in the community who oppose federal funding for embryonic stem cell research have come to the conclusion -- though they haven't stated it so publicly -- that perhaps the most important day in this entire debate was the first day that President Bush fully took office, because as you recall, he made some crucial decisions that were greeted warmly by those who oppose abortion rights.

Among those decisions was not dealing with embryonic stem cell research. And those who oppose funding at the federal level thought that would have been the best and most politically opportune time to ban federal funding, because it would have been lost, or if not lost, at least overshadowed like so many other issues accompanying the arrival of this new president. The fact that it wasn't made then signaled to them that this was under very serious review, and that campaign promise might not be as hard and fast as it sounded at the time it was given -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right, Major Garrett reporting along with Kate Snow and Elizabeth Cohen. Stay with us. This is INSIDE POLITICS.

ANNOUNCER: One complex issue and two Republicans with two very different viewpoints. More on the stem cell debate with Senators Bill Frist and Sam Brownback next. Also...


DR. ROBERT LEVY, CHANDRA LEVY'S FATHER: I think they're doing everything they're able to right now. Now we're just trying to keep our hope up.


ANNOUNCER: The latest on the police effort to find Chandra Levy. And will allegations of adultery hurt Gary Condit's career? Candy Crowley checks the lessons of scandals past. And later, the president wings his way to Europe and the issues waiting there. Former ambassador Richard Holbrooke will give us his G-8 perspective. Live from Washington, Judy Woodruff brings you more of INSIDE POLITICS straight ahead.


WOODRUFF: Republican senator Bill Frist of Tennessee is a heart surgeon by profession. And as you've been hearing, when he came out in favor of embryonic stem cell research today, it attracted a great deal of attention. Senator Frist joins us now.

Senator, if you believe that life begins at conception, how you can then favor research on embryonic stem cells?

FRIST: Well, I did today say that we ought to ban human cloning, we ought to ban the creation of embryos for research purposes. But I do think we ought to continue to find in an increased way adult stem cells and open the door to embryonic stem cell federal funding. But only -- and this is the point I made today -- only in a carefully regulated, highly accountable, highly transparent environment, ethical environment. Why? Because this tissue today or these cells today, these blastocysts, these 20 or 30 cells otherwise are going to be thrown away, are going to be discarded. That's why we have to have a careful consent process. I simply feel that a better use of those cells is the potential to cure Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, spinal cord injuries, but only under the strict ethical construct.

WOODRUFF: Well, senator, I know you're aware that those who disagree with you say if there's any chance those embryos could survive, they potentially are human beings. And to treat them as anything other than that is just immoral?

FRIST: Well, you know, I think they have a very, very good point. And I am pro-life. I give moral significance to the egg and sperm after they fertilize, to the embryo, to the blastocyst, to the fetus, to the child to the adult, to he adult. I am pro-life. What's important for people to understand, however, that we are only going to use or I recommend that we only use tissue that otherwise would be discarded, thrown away. How can I say that? Because today, there are thousands, tens of thousands of blastocysts or embryos that are frozen that ultimately will be thrown away, that ultimately will be discarded. If we have an appropriate consent process put in place, and formed consent, we will indeed be able to have an ethically and morally justifiable research effort under way. WOODRUFF: And senator, what are the argument made by opponents of this, that so far, no experiment on human or animal embryonic stem cells has been successful?

FRIST: You know it's a very important point. The potential for this research is huge, in terms of cure, in terms of therapy, for heart disease and lung disease and kidney disease, but it's just potential. It is promising. It is hope for so many people who are listening today. What's important is that we do no harm as we go forth and do the research, because the potential because it is not entirely predictable for harm is there. And that's why you have to have a strong federal oversight policy. You should have a presidential commission on bioethic studying every move. You should have the Institute of Medicine doing an annual review of the number of studies that underway, and you should have an informed consent process, today totally inadequate that looks at that whole question of what the ultimate destiny of those in vitro fertilized blastocysts might be.

WOODRUFF: Have you made the arguments or shared your thoughts with President Bush?

FRIST: I've not talked in a substantive way with the president of the United States about my proposal. My proposal are 10 points of comprehensive ethical construct that does allow this research, that bans human cloning absolutely, that bans the creation of embryos for research purposes. I look forward to being able to discuss with him. I have not talked to the administration about my proposal yet. I've had no substantive discussions with him.

WOODRUFF: And senator, why is it, again, as some on the other side of this are arguing, why isn't it sufficient just to use adult stem cells? You would avoid this whole argument?

FRIST: You know, the adult stem cells have huge promise, and we've seen that really in the last six months to a year. Basically, the stem cell opens up the potential for development. You have an embryonic stem cell and you have an adult stem cell. We ought to have research in both of those issues. Both hold promise. The embryonic stem cell, because it's earlier in development, is more versatile. You can send it in thousands of different directions where the adult stem cell you can send in two or three or four or five directions. The potential for the embryonic stem cell -- and there's general consensus on this -- far outweighs that of just the adult stem cell.

WOODRUFF: Finally, senator, what do you think the president will do?

FRIST: Don't know what the president will do. I really admire the way he is thoughtfully talking to bioethicists, he's talking to medical researchers, he's talking to parents and to families. He's talking to people and I know this for a fact, in terms of his personal involvement, and I applaud. I applaud the fact that he is spending as much time thinking about an issue, which heretofore mankind has never had to address. And that is the affect on stem cells and the impact that they can have on disease, but also the potential harm such research might have, if we don't address it in ethical construct.

WOODRUFF: All right, Senator Bill Frist, we thank you very much for joining us. It's good to see you.

Now as we've been saying, the senator's support coming out today in favor of stem cell research on embryos does put I mean at odds with many members of his own party including Senator Brownback. And Senator Brownback also joins us now.

Senator, I know you've been listening, you've been standing there next to Senator Frist. What of his argument that -- or the point that he was making that this is a promise, it holds out the promise of a cure, of a better life where people with these terrible diseases.

Support for embryonic stem cell research puts him at odds with many members of his own party, including Senator Sam Brownback. Senator Brownback joins us now. I know you've been listening, standing there next to Senator Frist. What of his argument that or the point that he was making that this is a promise. It holds out the promise of a cure, of a better life for people with the terrible diseases?

SEN. SAM BROWNBACK (R), KANSAS: Well, I think that's the reason the president struggles with the issue, even though he's articulated previously in May of this year he's opposed to embryonic stem cell research but that he's looking and saying, well, what if the promise is here of this?

Still, I think what it begs is us to look at the central issue here. We all agree that this young human, this embryo is alive. And the question is: Is it a life? Is it something that we should afford human dignity to? And my deep feeling on this is that any time you attack that human dignity any point in the spectrum of life, you attack all of human dignity. And it's not the route we need to go when we're seeing so much happening positively in the adult stem cell area. We've got a good alternative here that we should pursue increasing the funding substantially for it because we've got real promise and real answers already occurring there.

WOODRUFF: Well, let me ask you about two different aspects of what you just said. The first part about -- that it does represent life. But the point that Senator Frist was making is that he's only talking about doing this sort of research on the embryos, those of tens of thousands of embryos that would otherwise be discarded.

BROWNBACK: Well, we had testimony yesterday in the House of a couple of children here that were in IVF clinics in a frozen state and were adopted outside of that. And then they were here now as children who had been adopted out of an IVF clinic. You can throw them away or is there another alternative here of beautiful children that are coming out of this potential situation? Plus, you still beg the basic question: Are they people or is this property? We should decide that first before we pursue the use of taxpayer dollars. That's what we're talking about here, not about a ban. We're talking about taxpayer dollars for using this type of research that's shown quite a bit of problem in its early use. WOODRUFF: But senator, I know you're aware of Senator Frist and others who have said they favor research on these embryos, say that it's the embryonic stem cells that offer much more flexibility, much more possibility for research, for scientific development than do the adult stem cells.

BROWNBACK: Well, that's what's being said, but Dr. Frist also said, don't hold the promise out too much, and he said that in testifying today. We know already from embryonic stem cell work. Two weeks ago, a science magazine report out saying they are unstable. We also know that they're having difficulty in many places finding any sort of clinical application for the embryonic stem cell route. And then there's a third problem in a number of cases they're growing tumors out of these embryonic stem cells. Why go there when the adult route we already have clinical applications of cornea stem cells being grown outside and made into a new cornea? It's working.

WOODRUFF: Two other points, senator: Senator Frist's point that you need federal funding in order to provide federal oversight to make sure this is done properly?

BROWNBACK: Well, I think that's an important point. And I have a great deal of respect for Dr. Frist. He is a wonderful man, and we need to have oversight. But when you pay taxpayer dollars into an issue, you put the stamp of approval of the federal government and the people of the United States on it. And on an issue which has such a deep ethical and division in this country, I don't think we ought to be doing that.

WOODRUFF: And senator, we heard a little earlier in the program comments from Senator Santorum of Pennsylvania who agrees with you on the substance of this issue, but said with Senator Frist coming out with this position today, it does make your argument more difficult to make.

It does. Bill Frist is a respected member of this body. His comments, as any member of the Senate, carries weight. But I still think you've got to back up and deal with the fundamental issue. Plus, following right onto this will be the issue of human cloning, because the researchers have already testified, "Yes, we want those embryonic stem cells, but we want them to genetically match up. We're going to need to clone young humans for a short period of time to get that genetic material to match up. American people don't want to go there on human cloning.

WOODRUFF: What do you think the president will do?

BROWNBACK: Well, he stated previously his opposition to this as recently as May of this year of his opposition. I think he struggles with it because of the compassion that he has in seeing: Is this a possibility? I think the longer he waits, the more he will see the wisdom of this adult stem cell route and the more the problems we'll see continuing to come up in the embryonic stem cell route.

WOODRUFF: Senator Sam Brownback, thank you very much. We appreciate you joining us. BROWNBACK: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: Good to see you, too.

BROWNBACK: Good to see you.

WOODRUFF: You can add your voice to this growing debate. Just log on to our Web site, at There, you can learn more about what's involved in adult stem cell research and who decides who pays.

A congressman under scrutiny as the search for Chandra Levy continues. The latest on the investigation and the news media attention surrounding Gary Condit. Plus, adultery and political survival, why some politicians weather the storm and others end packing their bags.


WOODRUFF: Washington D.C. police expanded their search for clues in the disappearance of Chandra Levy scouring four area parks. Meantime, the congressman romantically linked to Levy attended a second day of hearings here on the Hill under the glare of media cameras. Bob Franken joins us now.

Bob, tell us, are the reporters letting Congressman Condit go about his work?

FRANKEN: Not by any stretch of the imagination. Anywhere he goes, he is surrounded by cameras. And it's just being something that he's had to live with. However, there is a belief among some of the members of Congress that in fact a line might have been crossed. You can see that he's walking into the committee hearing now, and you can see now where there was quite a bit of chasing on the Capitol plaza as he walks across the way. There's actually a rule against the news cameras shooting on the Capitol plaza as they're moving. It's rarely enforced but it's still a rule that is because of safety of the tourists and the cameramen themselves is there on the books. And some of the members of Congress have complained, to say nothing of Condit's staff and the sergeant at arms that, in fact, in this particular case, the organization that regulates the movement of TV cameras on Capitol Hill may have to take some steps. That could be decided by the end of the week.

WOODRUFF: Bob, what about -- we know that police have been looking at Chandra Levy's computer, looking at the Web sites she was visiting just before she disappeared. Do we know if they've learned anything from all this?

FRANKEN: Well, they did learn about Rock Creek Park as a possible place to look again. They learned that on this last day, May 1st, when she got into her computer for several hours, she checked in several Web sites. She checked various organizations like Southwest Airlines and Amtrak. Of course, she was heading back to California. Looked at several newspapers, perhaps a restaurant or two. We were supposed to get a list of these places today, but the police department had some internal problems that caused them to be delayed for a day. We now expect release tomorrow at the earliest.

One of the places she did look was the web site for the House Agriculture Committee. Of course, we know that is the committee whose members include Congressman Gary Condit.

WOODRUFF: All right, Bob Franken. Thank you very much.

As Congressman Condit deals with the attention over his relationship with Levy, the question of his future in Washington looms large. But if history is any guide, his political survival may not hinge on the issue of infidelity. Candy Crowley explains.


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): There are whispers his career is over, signs of displeasure at home, sporadic suggestions he resign, but listen closely.

REP. BOB BARR (R), GEORGIA: He did not come clean with them about the extent and nature of his relationship with Ms. Levy at a crucial time of the investigation of a missing persons case.

CROWLEY: The discussion is nuance, the discomfort and disapproval is not largely about adultery as a matter unto itself. The scarlet A has never had much bearing on the ballot box.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Whether what has been in the paper is true or not true, does not necessarily affect my opinion about him as a congressman. Does it change my opinion as to whether he makes good choices? Maybe, yes.

CROWLEY: It is an attitude reflected in the Clinton-Lewinsky era, when public approval of the president's job performance stayed high and his personal approval ratings took a dive. It is an attitude reflected in the polls.

As far back as 1973, 69 percent of Americans thought adultery was always wrong. This year, the number was 79 percent.

But asked in early 1999 if it was necessary to know if a presidential candidate had an extramarital affair, 65 percent of Americans said no. So while they do not approve, Americans do not see adultery in politicians as a political question. An attitude reflected in history.

Rumors about Thomas Jefferson's affair with a slave were printed during his time. He was re-elected. Grover Cleveland admitted he had an out of wedlock child, but won the presidency twice. Both Congressman Henry Hyde and Dan Burton fessed up to extramarital affairs during the Clinton impeachment, and both were re-elected.

When careers do fall, adultery may start the process, but something else completes it. Wilbur Mills' political career hit the skids, not because he was caught with a stripper, but because he later showed up drunk on stage with her. Bob Packwood resigned just ahead of expulsion, but the issue was not sex with consenting adults, but sexual harassment. When presidential candidate Gary Hart got caught with a mistress after daring reporters to follow him, the story fed into larger questions about Hart's character and recklessness. He pulled out of the race.

And during the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal, even Republicans said adultery was not impeachable. The problem, they said, was lying under oath.

(on camera): In short, while Americans say they don't need or want to know about the private lives of their public officials, once that knowledge is out, voters tend to weigh it as only part of a larger picture.

Candy Crowley, CNN, Washington.


WOODRUFF: Some people visiting a Texas amusement park got a thrill they didn't want. We'll have that along with some of the day's other news coming up.

Also, President Bush begins his European tour, and we'll discuss the challenges with former U.N. Ambassador Richard Holbrooke.


WOODRUFF: President Bush has arrived in Europe to talk about trade and other matters. Will Alan Greenspan's latest comments be a factor? When we return, we will tell what you he said.

And also, the vice president's electric bill. Is it really that shocking? The Carlsons, Margaret and Tucker, will be here to try to shed some light.


WOODRUFF: Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan is hinting that the Fed may cut interest rates again. Testifying before Congress today, Greenspan declared the U.S. Economy generally appears to be heading in the right direction. But he added this.


ALAN GREENSPAN, FEDERAL RESERVE CHAIRMAN: The period of subpar economic performance, however, is not yet over. We are not free of the risk that economic weakness will be greater than currently anticipated, and require further policy response.


WOODRUFF: Greenspan says that efforts to keep U.S. expansion going had been complicated by soft economies in Asia, Latin America, and Europe. His remarks came as President Bush began a six-day tour of Europe, aimed at promoting international trade. Mr. Bush arrived at his first stop, London, less than two hours ago. After London, he heads on to Italy for this year's G8 summit for industrialized nations. The other stops on the tour will be Rome and Kosovo.

In addition to matters of trade, the president is expected to discuss: a controversial missile defense plan; global warming and the Kyoto Treaty; fighting AIDS; and world poverty.

Richard Holbrooke was U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations during the Clinton administration and he joins us now from New York.

Ambassador Holbrooke, how important is this trip?

RICHARD HOLBROOKE, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO U.N.: I think that it's very important. Anytime that our president goes overseas, he carries with him the entire nation, and after the first trip to Europe, which left mixed signals, I think that Europeans and world will be watching this one with particular attention.

WOODRUFF: Well, now the president said yesterday that he now wants to make global poverty a priority of his foreign policy. How does that square with -- with the other issues, policy statements that we have been hearing from this president? -- his strong views on missile defense and strong views against moving in the direction that Europe wants to on global warming?

HOLBROOKE: I read his speech very carefully. And if that speech is an actual statement of the administration intention and commitment, if they they are going to deliver the resources that they are pledging, I'd say it's a step in the right direction.

But I must confess, Judy, that, unless the Republican leadership in the Hill endorses it, he's offering aid. He won't be able to get appropriated by his own party, that opposes these things and which, even as we speak, is dragging its feet on some critical funding commitments to reform the U.N., in which we agreed to last -- at the beginning of this year. Chairman Hyde of the House International Relations Committee is sitting on a vital, critical $582 million, which Senator Helms and Biden unlocked after the reform agreements.

And so those words yesterday were not very expensive. But the bill must be paid. I have great sympathy for Jim Wolfowitz's views and his speech, in which he said, that trade is the way to improve the country's trade economic problems.

WOODRUFF: The position on missile defense, he says that it hasn't changed at all. Do you believe that it's anymore palatable now to the European allies?

HOLBROOKE: No, on the contrary, I think that concern is rising, after President Bush had his meeting in Slovenia with President Putin of Russia, and after he said all of those nice things of Putin, Putin went off first to the Balkans and attacked American policy in Kosovo and Bosnia and now he went and Jiang Zemin of China have just signed a new agreement pledging that they will stand firm against the administration.

Congressional support is eroding because the administration has very publicly spoken with three different voices on missile defense, in just the last month, Senator Levin, chairman of Arms Services has shown unusual anger. He a very moderate man.

Republicans I know privately are equally confused, and I think that there will be a lot of questions as to what the policy is, and the president will have to make clear whether he supports the secretary of state or his secretary of defense on, not on missile defense, but on the whole host of areas in which the State Department and the Pentagon are in now open disagreement. This kind of disarray is not healthy for American foreign policy.

WOODRUFF: But back on the question of Russia, the president's meeting with Vladimir Putin in a few days. Why should the administration be concerned about Russia getting closer with the Chinese?

HOLBROOKE: I have no problems with Sino -- excuse me, Sino- Russian relationships, because reducing tensions is healthy in the world. But they got together and pledged that they would jointly oppose the United States government.

That is -- that is a symbol that he will have a hard sell on his hands.

WOODRUFF: And quickly, finally, the trip to Kosovo. Significance of that?

HOLBROOKE: It's very important that the commander in chief visit the troops in the field, when they are in the front lines and reassure them that he has their support. In that sense, this is the most important part of the trip from my point of view.

However, and I want to stress this, the administration's position has been, we'll go into -- we went in together, we will go out together. I must say that, for the world's leading nation, we should be much more assertive than that. I would be much more comfortable if, when President Bush talks to the troops, he tells them they are doing something of vital importance to American national security, and then he says, we went in together, we will succeed together with the European allies and then we'll leave.

American leadership in Kosovo, Macedonia, Bosnia is indispensable to a stable Europe and a stable Europe is indispensable to our national security and I would look for more sessions of American leadership, quickly, to reassure the world that the U.S. is not in the process of withdrawing from its global leadership commitments and responsibilities.

WOODRUFF: All right. Richard Holbrooke, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. Thank you very much.

HOLBROOKE: My pleasure.

WOODRUFF: I appreciate you joining us.

And joining us now here on Capitol Hill, Margaret Carlson of "TIME" Magazine and Tucker Carlson of CNN's "CROSSFIRE." I know that you were not able to hear everything that the ambassador was saying. But what should the expectations be, Tucker, for the president on this trip to Europe?

TUCKER CARLSON, CNN'S "CROSSFIRE": Well, the headline that the White House has put out there, wanted to get out there is, is Bush Fights World Poverty. And it's amazingly at odds with this image of Bush as the bellicose America "firster," and it's also enormous and in its ambition; it's almost really a second-term idea.

You know, the president achieves his foreign policy goals, then he goes out and pressures the World Bank to provide no interest loans or grants. It's amazingly out of character I think of the public perception of Bush.

MARGARET CARLSON, "TIME": It's in character for the secretary of state, Colin Powell, I think that he might have whispered in his ear. But what Bush needs to do is a better job this time than in last time in Europe, which is to grow a bit on the world stage. His popularity ratings began to drop right at that moment, because -- it worried people and what you need is not particularly charm. But you need the negotiating skills of Richard Holbrooke, whom we just saw, and the brain of Henry Kissinger and the sense of history of David McCullough to go toe to toe on the world stage.

WOODRUFF: Does he have a little more latitude on this trip, Tucker? The first trip is behind him; this is the next one. He can get away with it.

T. CARLSON: Absolutely. This is the kinder, gentler trip. He is meeting the queen and the pope. Absolutely, it will be interesting to see his reactions to Vladimir Putin, the second time. You know, enormous headlines the first time when he made the snapped judgment and I think that the reporters will be watching carefully to see his second perceptions.

M. CARLSON: It would be something to deal with other than his soul this time, I think we would be ahead of time. Now when he goes to see the pope, because the pope does have a soul, I worry what it might do for stem cell research, because we know the pope's position and it could really push him in one direction.

WOODRUFF: Speaking of that, we have Senator Bill Frist today, coming out, a conservative Republican, a pro-life Republican saying that he is in favor of this with various specific restrictions, Margaret. How does this change the debate?

M. CARLSON: Well, I think that Frist's proposal was good; it had all of the ethical safeguards in there and it gives Bush the comfort that he needs to do it if he can just get himself over there. And it shouldn't be a political issue, and he's done enough for his base. He should use this as a way to move back to the -- to the broad middle, where people like Bill Frist and the Orrin Hatch are on this issue.

WOODRUFF: Is that likely? What is the...


T. CARLSON: First of all, of course it should be a political issue. It's federal money we're talking about. Stem cell research is not in jeopardy. The question whether it ought to be federally funded, is. Everybody id for it with restrictions. Clinton, of course, had guidelines that said federally-funded researchers cannot cause the death of a human embryo so in fact Clinton was not even that far away.

Bush could have saved himself a lot of heartache by just making good on the campaign promise early in his tenure as president, not allowing federally funded research to kill embryos and it would have been over.

M. CARLSON: But he took the time to look at it and to study it and to listen and maybe a man can grow in the presidency.

T. CARLSON: Oh, no, that's a bad sign. No growing, Margaret!

WOODRUFF: On the serious subject of stem cell research to the electric bill at the vice president's house. Margaret, the vice president is now asking the Navy to pick up something like $142,000 a year of electric. Is this something that the Navy should do for him?

M. CARLSON: First of all, I was kind of surprised that the Navy didn't pick up the bill.

WOODRUFF: It is the Naval Observatory, right.

M. CARLSON: Everyone gets their bills for that level of the government. But it's wonderful to find out that these guys put their pants on one leg at a time and the hypocrisy of the energy plan, and not bailing out California and not helping, and then yourself, and asking for help. It's just delicious.

T. CARLSON: Oh, people put their pants at the Naval Observatory, but it's also a place where business is done. It's a federal office building really and it's totally normal that they big electric bill and the Navy -- I mean, the Clinton administration asked the Navy to pick it up before -- I don't know -- in fact, it's interesting, the Bush people are saying...

WOODRUFF: So there's no question that the Navy should pick it up?

T. CARLSON: Or if it even matters, it's an accounting question. But it's interesting, the Bush administration is saying, well, Cheney uses one-third electricity than Al Gore did last year, which is a wonderful counterpoint.

M. CARLSON: There's no advantage to small, though.

T. CARLSON: I think that's a great talking point.

M. CARLSON: Yeah, Dick Cheney turns the lights off when he leaves the room. WOODRUFF: Well, we have lights on here, and we also have a little bit of sunshine.

M. CARLSON: Yeah, finally.

WOODRUFF: Margaret Carlson and Tucker Carlson, who always bring sunshine to INSIDE POLITICS.

M. CARLSON: But it's true.

WOODRUFF: Will Congress give the president what he wants? The fate of faith-based initiative. Stay with us, because we will look at why the Bush plan is struggling on the Hill.


WOODRUFF: And now we have a couple of notes from our Sources Say department. CNN Congressional correspondent Jonathan Karl has been told that former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan is calling Californian Republicans on Capitol Hill saying that he definitely plans to run for governor next year. The White House has been urging Riordan to challenge the current governor Democrat Gray Davis.

And this from Jonathan Karl and Kate Snow. GOP Congressman Chris Shays will meet this evening with House Speaker Dennis Hastert to urge Hastert to schedule a vote on campaign finance reform. Hastert sidelined the bill last week that was co-sponsored by Shays that would eliminate so-called soft money from the political process.

And that bill closely mirrors the McCain-Feingold legislation, which has cleared the Senate. McCain has gotten a commitment from Senate Majority Leader Daschle to force the vote if necessary by attaching the bill to must-pass legislation that the Senate will be sending to the House.

Well to another matter on the minds of many here on Capitol Hill at this hour, the fate of the president's so-called faith-initiative is not clear. Republican leaders delayed action on a scaled back version of the plan, as they search for the votes to pass the measure, and joining me once again, Kate Snow.

Kate, tell us what is behind the delay?

SNOW: Well, the bill's Republican sponsors says that he certainly didn't expect this, but the Republicans are saying, look, this is not that big a deal that this is more of a procedural delay than anything else.

But let me tell what you has happened. They had planned to pass this bill at some point today. They planned to take it up on the House floor. The question that came up was this morning, in a GOP conference meeting with all of the GOP House members. Some of the members raised questions about part of the language of this bill, it gets a bit tricky.

But the bill itself has language that allows religious groups to avoid state and local anti-discrimination laws. And some Republicans are saying, a group of up to about 16 Republican moderates are saying that they have trouble with that language, potentially, because then, religious groups would be able to discriminate against gays and other groups.

They said this morning that they might support a Democratic alternative, that would change that language. One senior Republican aide said that they certainly do have the votes, though, to defeat that Democratic alternative. But other Republicans are acknowledging that they may not have the votes and that apparently is why we are having this delay.

And just to add one thing, Judy: Vice President Cheney has been working the phones this afternoon, J.C. Watts, the sponsor of this bill, said he will be talking with his colleagues all night tonight and they are planning to have a vote in the morning.

WOODRUFF: Tomorrow morning.

SNOW: Tomorrow morning.

WOODRUFF: Not today?

SNOW: That's right.

WOODRUFF: All right. Kate Snow, thank you very much. And we'll be going back to Kate tomorrow for the latest on that.

Tomorrow, Senator Joe Lieberman will be our guest to talk about environmental issues and other political matters right here on INSIDE POLITICS.

INSIDE POLITICS will be right back.


WILLIAM J. CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Tomorrow's our last day here, and we are moving up to Harlem and I just wanted to thank all of the volunteers, all of the people who worked here, I wanted to have a chance to tell them how much I appreciate what they have done in the last six months.


WOODRUFF: Well, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton joined the former president today, as he closed up his transitional office here in Washington.

Mr. Clinton will now work from his new office in New York City in Harlem. You can bet the cameras will be there, too.

That's all for this edition of INSIDE POLITICS. But of course you can go on-line all of the time at CNN's AOL key word: cnn.

Our e-mail address, where you can write, it's inside

I'm Judy Woodruff. "FIRST EVENING NEWS" is next.



4:30pm ET, 4/16

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