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CNN INSIDE POLITICS

U.S. Scholar Released From Chinese Prison; Bush Takes Personal Approach to Patients' Rights; More Accusations, Denials in Levy Case

Aired July 26, 2001 - 17:00   ET

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


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: This is INSIDE POLITICS. I'm Judy Woodruff on Capitol Hill. Homecoming for a U.S.-based scholar detained by China. We will examine the politics driving the policy on U.S.-China relations.

MAJOR GARRETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I'm Major Garrett at the White House where President Bush is taking an intensely personal approach in lobbying for a patients' bill of rights.

BOB FRANKEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Bob Franken in Washington. More accusations and denials in the Chandra Levy case.

JONATHAN KARL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Jonathan Karl, on Capitol Hill where we're launching a new subway series -- Washington style.

ANNOUNCER: Now Judy Woodruff takes you INSIDE POLITICS.

WOODRUFF: The American-based scholar Gao Zhan returned to the United States today, just days after she was convicted of spying in China. Gao's plane first arrived in Detroit and then she flew on to Washington, arriving here just a little while ago for a reunion with her 5-year-old son.

She is one of three U.S. residents released this week, (AUDIO GAP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GAO ZHAN, FREED SCHOLAR: Before I departed Beijing I was warned not to talk about anything, not to talk about my time, my experience in China in any form, which includes meeting you guys here, writing articles, writing books in the future.

But with America standing behind me, with these fine people standing behind me, I am not scared.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I spoke directly to Jiang Zemin on this very subject, about the humane treatment of U.S. citizens and/or legal residents, and perhaps China is beginning to realize that as she begins to deal with Western nations she's going to have to make better decisions on human rights.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: At the White House, President Bush said he was pleased by the news, and said he hoped U.S. policies played a role in recent events.

And I guess that is what we just heard, so my apologies. We are going to have more on U.S.-China relations a little later in this hour, when we are joined by human rights activist Harry Wu, and Siva Yam of the U.S.-China Chamber of Commerce.

Meanwhile here on Capitol Hill, the debate over a patients' bill of rights has taken a personal turn, with President Bush meeting face to face with lawmakers trying to gain their support. This lobbying effort represents a new level of personal involvement by the president, including extended talks with a key Republican who is at odds with the White House. For the latest, let's go to the White House and join CNN's Major Garrett -- Major.

GARRETT: Judy, this is a story about a big issue, a patients' bill of rights, it could change health care coverage for 250 million Americans. It's also a story about two very interesting characters: One, a new president coming to Washington trying to break old logjams, another, a Republican from Georgia, Charlie Norwood, once considered a renegade in his own party because he pushed so hard on a patients' bill of rights.

For the first time these two characters came together today to see if they could strike a deal.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(voice-over): After weeks of trying to outflank him, President Bush invited to the White House Georgia Republican and dentist Charlie Norwood, the one man in Congress who can deliver new health care rights to 250 million Americans.

After the 30-minute meeting, smiles and waves. Behind the scenes, intense negotiations. The president wants Norwood, to scale back the liability section of his bill. As he left the White House, Norwood appeared torn by loyalty to his bill and the certainty that Mr. Bush will veto it in its current form.

REP. CHARLES NORWOOD (R), GEORGIA: We're not changing anything. We're talking toward a package that we have been talking about for five months. None of this is any good unless we can get a signature, and we are moving, I think, in the right direction.

GARRETT: Mr. Bush agreed, but repeated his argument that Norwood's current bill will unleash a wave of lawsuits and could force insurers to drop health coverage. BUSH: I am deeply worried about any legislation that'll cause people to have less health insurance. I refuse to accept that legislation. Now, having said that, I've been in some serious discussions today. We're trying to find some common ground on getting a bill that I can sign, and I believe we're making progress.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

GARRETT: Senior administration officials tell CNN that much progress was made in that face-to-face meeting in the Oval Office between the president and Mr. Norwood. But there is a second track strategy going on as well. The White House is continuing to meet with other House Republicans to see if they might support an alternative bill, those two tracks are still working.

Overall, the White House is somewhat hopeful that by the end of next week, before Congress leaves for its recess, this matter will be resolved in the house. Said one senior adviser, if this happens it will be because the president dragged it across the finish line and I hope he does because we need it -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: So, Major, is most of the focus now on getting Congressman Norwood to move, or on the White House itself making some movement?

GARRETT: Well, senior administration officials say that both options are on the table. The president moving a little bit on the liability question, but administration officials are adamant that Mr. Norwood also has to show some level of compromise on this question of whether you can sue in federal court, state courts, whether the liability damage awards ultimately for the lawsuit.

They want to see movement from Mr. Norwood. They believe they made a considerable amount of progress on that topic this morning, but it's yet to be resolved. As one senior administration official said, a lot of progress, but we're not quite there yet -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Major, are they giving you any specifics on exactly how far and what subject the congressman is giving on?

GARRETT: No specifics. And as the administration so often points out, the president is not going to negotiate with himself. But this meeting is a crucial turning point. For several weeks now, the White House has tried to talk to Mr. Norwood but also work around him, to outflank him, as we suggested in our package.

That now has been set aside, the outflanking strategy, and trying to work with Mr. Norwood face to face, because the White House believes if they win Mr. Norwood's endorsement not only do they win the endorsement of all Republicans but dozens and dozens and dozens of Democrats creating a strong bipartisan majority in the House, and strong position once that House bill is negotiated with the Senate bill to get something the president can ultimately sign which the White House and Mr. Norwood has said all along is their ultimate goal.

WOODRUFF: Major Garrett at the White House. Now joining me near the Capitol CNN's congressional correspondent Kate Snow. Kate, you have been reporting on the meeting the president had today here at the Capitol with House Speaker Dennis Hastert. What progress came out of this that?

KATE SNOW, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That followed the meeting that Major Garrett just mentioned. So he's had two meetings today with some key pivotal Republicans. The one that was here on Capitol Hill was simply because the president happened to be here for another event.

He slipped into one of the private offices of House Speaker Dennis Hastert meeting along with five Republicans, all from the state of New Jersey, all who have been key players in this, because four of those five are completely undecided on whether to back the White House on this bill. The White House trying to convince them of course now to come over to their side.

Whether that's going to be a compromise with Charlie Norwood or whether they are going to still keep pushing for their own version of a patients' bill of rights is unclear, but that's what they're trying it do, more pressure.

WOODRUFF: You have also talked to the people around Congressman Norwood. What are they telling you?

SNOW: Congressman Norwood came back from his meetings this morning that Major described at the White House, and has basically spent the afternoon trying to catch up with his colleagues here in order to brief them on what he learned from the president.

So he's simply running around, I am told he's trying to get with them either on the House floor or in separate meetings. Some of his cosponsors, John Dingell, he needs to speak with, Greg Ganske he needs to speak with. He needs to get them in line to see if they are willing to compromise with the White House. He doesn't want to speak just for himself.

WOODRUFF: Kate Snow, here at the Capitol. Thank you very much.

There were developments today in both Washington and California in the case of missing Washington intern Chandra Levy. For more on that investigation, we join CNN national correspondent BOB FRANKEN -- Bob.

FRANKEN: We're waiting to see, Judy, if Joleen Argentini McKay is going to put out a statement in response to the "USA Today" article. "USA Today," claiming that they did some interviews with her over a period of time, says that one of the staff members of Congressman Gary Condit, his chief of staff, Mike Dayton, here in Washington was a high school acquaintance of hers and asked her not to tell the police about his romantic relationship, the romantic relationship that Congressman Condit had with her back in 1994 when she was on the staff here in Washington, D.C.

Now, according to the staff member, Mike Dayton, there is quote, "absolutely not true." This did not happen, according to Mike Dayton, but the article says she claims that it did. The woman is known by law enforcement authorities as the watch woman.

She is the one, according to the sources who talked to CNN who gave a watch to Congressman Gary Condit, the watch case, according to the same sources, is what Condit threw away on July 10 right before his apartment was searched when he dumped a garbage bag in Alexandria, Virginia. The dumping was spotted by someone who called the police. The police want to ask him about that when they interview him.

There is an effort to set up a fourth interview between Condit and the police. He has already agreed to speak to FBI profilers about his knowledge about the way that Chandra Levy was thinking based on the fact that he has admitted to investigators according to sources, that he had the romantic relationship with Chandra Levy.

Lawyers are talking to see just how much further that interview would go. As you can see, Condit came back to the House Agriculture Committee meeting today to do, as he says all the time through his staff that he does do, and that is to continue his normal congressional business in spite of all the controversy swirling around -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right, Bob, I want you to stay with us; but we want to bring in CNN's congressional correspondent Jonathan Karl, who's also following this story.

And, Jon, you've been talking to one of the players that Bob was just mentioning.

KARL: That's right; you heard Bob mention that Mike Dayton, who is the Washington chief of staff for Gary Condit, absolutely denies that he, in any way, told this woman McKay to lie or not to cooperate with law enforcement authorities.

What Mike Dayton has told us, and by the way, he has been under, you know, strict orders not to speak to the press, and has not spoken to the press about this, but feels that this is a case where he wanted to come out and, in his words, set the record straight.

He said that he did speak with McKay about four times or so, but way back in May. And he said that when he spoke with her it was so early in this whole investigation that, as far as he knew, there was no effort by law enforcement officials to speak with any of Condit's rumored girlfriends at the time. So that there was not even any discussion between he and McKay about whether or not to cooperate with law enforcement on this question at all. He says they simply talked about the situation.

He also added -- and added a little twist to this, that McKay is actually a former girlfriend of Mike Dayton's from back during that time. So he was quite miffed; thought he was talking to her as a friend, and now questions her motives in going forward with this.

But says absolutely that he did not talk with her in any way whether or not to cooperate or not to cooperate with law enforcement. The subject simply did not come up when they had those discussions.

WOODRUFF: John, seems to be no end to the threads to this story.

Bob, just quickly back to you, with the police looking through the parks here in Washington, where does that stand?

FRANKEN: Well, they've apparently not been able to find anything in Rock Creek Park, which is the park near Chandra Levy's apartment. But there are other areas in Washington, D.C. and, of course, the police are hoping that they don't find anything, because what they're looking for is the body of Chandra Levy.

WOODRUFF: All right, Bob Franken and Jon Karl, thank you both.

Stay with us; this is INSIDE POLITICS.

ANNOUNCER: Soft money lives, at least for now. And Democrats see an opportunity to fund a new headquarters with a little help from a former president. Keeping Social Security reform on the right track: Climb aboard the subway for a conversation with Louisiana Senator John Breaux.

And later:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COLIN POWELL, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: And just to see the paddies, beautiful, green. And then to hear the voice of the air traffic controller in the tower greeting our pilot, and hear that voice and the accent again, it brought back lots of memories of years ago.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: Colin Powell returns to Vietnam decades after his wartime service.

Live from Washington: Judy Woodruff brings you more of INSIDE POLITICS straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: What started out as any other day at the office turned it into -- turned into an impromptu pep rally today for staffers at the Democratic National Headquarters here in Washington. Former President Bill Clinton decided to drop by unannounced. One staffer told us the former president gave a pep talk and that the DNC workers were, quote, "fired up" to see him. The former president will host a fund-raiser tonight at the Clinton's home here in Washington, and the money will go toward building a new party headquarters, which is expected to cost several million dollars.

One strategist said the former president has made it clear to party insiders that he wants to be much more involved in partisan politics than previous ex-presidents.

And joining us now with his "Reporter's Notebook" back there at the CNN bureau in Washington, Bob Novak of the "Chicago Sun-Times." Bob, first of all, I understand there's concern among Republicans that the education bill has lost momentum?

ROBERT NOVAK, "CHICAGO SUN-TIMES": Yes, it's passed both Houses; it's in conference, but there's not much enthusiasm from Republicans. And the blame by the House Republican leadership is on conservatives, who really don't write the bill. They really believe that the president gave too much away.

So J.C. Watts, the chairman of the House Republican Conference, is going to have a little private session with some of the bill's biggest Republican conservative critics on Monday and tell them: If you can't think of anything good to say about the bill, don't say anything at all -- but try to find something good to say about the bill so that we have a little upbeat before the August recess -- before the September recess, but -- I'm sorry, the August recess. But they are really concerned about the loss of momentum here, Judy.

WOODRUFF: And Bob, what's this about Pennsylvania Republican Senator Arlen Specter and the nominee to head the FBI?

NOVAK: The -- Senator Specter has been a very severe critic of the Justice Department and of the FBI. And just because the Republicans are in doesn't mean he is changing. He's a Republican, but not very partisan.

And he has made it known that when the FBI director's confirmation hearings come up, he is going to have some very tough and biting questions to ask. And Arlen Specter, as a former district attorney, can ask biting questions.

WOODRUFF: All right, now on to the other Pennsylvania senator, Rick Santorum has something to say about some lobbyists?

NOVAK: He -- there was a lot of business lobbyists who had a session with Rick Santorum, who's chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, and he gave them holy hell for not being supportive of the president's proposals. A lot of people referred to it as a diatribe. Now, some people said this is going to have an affect on the lobbyists, but some of these business lobbyists went away with their feelings hurt. They don't like to be talked to that way by a senator.

WOODRUFF: And some kind words for President Bush's secretary of housing and urban development?

NOVAK: Mel Martinez is coming up as one of the unsung stars of this Cabinet. Some of these Cabinet members have been very disappointing, but not Martinez. He's a Floridian, a Cuban immigrant, and everybody thinks he is a coming superstar. And Judy, there is talk, way in advance, of running him as the Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate from Florida in 2004, when Bob Graham is up. Senator Graham has not indicated whether he will or will not seek reelection.

WOODRUFF: And finally, you're picking up some -- I guess you would say pieces of information about the 2002 Senate races in a couple of states? NOVAK: Of course, the Senate is just about even, it's 50-49 right now. One of the big projects by President Bush is to get Congressman John Thune to run in South Dakota for the Senate against Democratic Senator Tim Johnson instead of running for governor. Thune would rather run for governor.

But now -- it's been on-again/off-again, but now the last I heard is Thune may run for -- is more likely to run for the Senate. That's bad news for Johnson. Thune is a very strong candidate.

That puts South Dakota in play. The good news for the Democrat, though, is that two senators from states where President Bush ran well and where they ought to be the -- the Democrats ought to be vulnerable -- that is Max Baucus in Montana and Mary Landrieu in Louisiana.

They are looking a lot better because the Republicans just have so far not been able to find a strong candidate against either one of them and time is running out.

WOODRUFF: All right, Bob Novak "Chicago Sun-Times," one of these days we are going to get to you hold up that notebook that you are talking about there.

NOVAK: Just like that.

(LAUGHTER)

WOODRUFF: Bob Novak, thanks.

The Republican candidate who lost the U.S. Senate race in Connecticut last year was arrested today. Federal agents say Philip Giordano is charged with using an interstate facility to entice a minor to engage in sexual activity, and with conspiracy to commit that act.

If convicted, he could face up to 10 years in prison. Giordano has served as Mayor of Waterbury, Connecticut since 1996. He lost by a wide margin last fall in a bid to unseat Senator Joe Lieberman.

Two key Democrats take on the attorney general over a gun control measure. But next, a sentencing hearing for a young teenager convicted of killing his teacher.

And a government thank you for some unsung heroes from World War II. Some of the day's other top stories, when INSIDE POLITICS returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: You can just call it a subway series with a political bent. Our congressional correspondent Jonathan Karl rides the rails under the Capitol with a man on a mission. Plus, an emotional visit for the secretary of state. Colin Powell, the former soldier, returns to Vietnam.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) WOODRUFF: One of the beautiful domes here at the United States Capitol. The FBI presently keeps a record of all gun purchases on file for three months. Attorney General John Ashcroft says one day is long enough. And that puts him at odds with not only gun control advocates, but some lawmakers as well.

Our Justice Department correspondent Kelli Arena joins us now with the very latest -- Kelli.

KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: Judy, two key senators today have accused the attorney general of kowtowing to the National Rifle Association. And they say that they will do all they can to stop him.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(voice-over): Two top Democrats are vowing to stop the attorney general's plan to shorten the time the FBI must keep records on gun purchases from 90 days to just one.

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: Purging these files after 24 hours is, at best, a reckless policy. At worst, it's the Bush administration's way of saying thank you for the NRA's get-out-the- vote records last fall. Either way, this decision corrupts the government's ability to fight crime.

ARENA: Gun control advocates contend the longer the records are kept, the easier for law enforcement to root out illegal gun trafficking and fraud. But the Justice Department says 24 hours is enough to ensure there are no problems. And the National Rifle Association argues that keeping the records any longer invades privacy and announced to a national gun registry.

JAMES JAY BAKER, NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION: We don't think that the federal government over the FBI or anybody else should be keeping records on the law-abiding citizens who choose to exercise their rights.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ARENA: This battle is expected to rage on for some time. The attorney general has said his focus is on enforcing existing gun laws but his opponents say they think they'll have to fight just to keep those laws on the books -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Now, Kelli, this is not the first that the gun control advocates have had a run-in, if you will, with the attorney general; right?

ARENA: That's right. Back in May, he wrote a letter right to the National Rifle Association saying that his belief is that the Constitution protected the right of the individuals to keep and bear firearms, which is a direct contradiction of a longstanding Justice Department position that it's a collective right. The right of militias.

So opponents believe that will open up a big can of worms legally for many of the law guns on the books.

WOODRUFF: All right, Kelli Arena, Justice correspondent. Thanks.

And now, for some inside information from our Senate producer, Dana Bash. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld got a lesson on the care and feeding of U.S. Senators. The secretary, who is running into some opposition and as he tries to restructure the military, met with a group of GOP senators today -- or rather, late yesterday -- in Trent Lott's office.

Now one Republican senator told Dana, quote, "he needs to understand that things have changed since the 1970s." That's a reference to Rumsfeld's last tour of duty as defense secretary. And again, quoting that GOP senator, "we require more baby-sitting and hand holding and engagement on issues."

Rumsfeld has his own gripes. He complained to the senators that he had inherited a mess at the Pentagon and that it was costing a lot to fix it.

On the subject of military money, as senior aide to Majority Leader Tom Daschle says that his boss is "perplexed." It seems that Vice President Cheney called Daschle last Friday with an urgent request for $5 billion emergency dollars from the Pentagon before the weekend.

According to the aide, Cheney implied that important weekend training exercises were at stake. The Senate passed the bill, but instead of signing it immediately, President Bush waited until Tuesday, when he visited the troops in Kosovo.

We have a call in from the vice president's office for comment. And while our producer Dana Bash was digging, our correspondent Jonathan Karl also spent some time underground. Literally.

It's well known that Hill correspondents do some of their best reporting in transit, talking to senators and House members in the hallways on elevators and -- on the special subway that connects the office buildings and the Capitol. We are at one of those office buildings right now. That subway is where Jon talked about Social Security with Senator John Breaux of Louisiana, who is the only Democrat in the Senate who supported the findings of the president's commission on Social Security.

Breaux says that the commission is backed by the report from the bipartisan Social Security trustees themselves.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. JOHN BREAUX (D), LOUISIANA: See, you see, this is the thing, I mean, this is the thing that we have to go by. That -- that tells the honest, nonpolitical story about this Social Security program. This is a paper that is put out by the Social Security trustees and this is the thing that the Congress has to go by. We can have all of the political rhetoric that we want. But this is the Bible, when it comes to Social Security.

KARL: And this says exactly what the president's commission says, which is, Social Security is in trouble in the long term.

What about the reaction that you saw from -- from every member of your party up here on Capitol Hill. Except for you, the Republican commission, it's scare tactics, and it's an effort, part of a 66-year drive by Republicans to destroy Social Security. I mean, what -- what did you think of that reaction?

BREAUX: Because fortunately, or more unfortunately, Social Security is a great political issue. For years, Democrats have said that Republicans are trying to destroy Social Security. And Republicans have accused Democrats of not being willing to fix Social Security. So it's great politics. But we can't let politics drive what we're going to do about this very important program. We will have to find a common ground; otherwise, we will not get anything done.

KARL: Why is it you have not been able yet to convince a single Democrat in the U.S. Senate to at least talk about the private accounts? Why are you the only person out there on the Democrat side?

BREAUX: Actually, I think that there is more common ground the\an we are willing to recognize. I said that as one of the best- kept secrets in Washington that both political parties actually have some common agreement about what has to be done.

Al Gore and Joe Lieberman and Bill Clinton actually supported the concept of private accounts, as well as I and some of my Republican colleagues, thinks that it's a good idea. The question is where does the money come to establish these accounts? And the Republicans will say, it should come from the existing tax that you pay or your payroll every month. And Democrats say, no, it should be extra money given by the federal government.

KARL: Social Security plus?

BREAUX: Social Security plus. But both sides have agreed and that's the biggest secret that private accounts are a good way to go.

KARL: Is this harder for you to make the argument now that Bob Kerrey is out of the Senate. Chuck Robb is out of the Senate. Daniel Patrick Moynihan. The Democrats that you were able to work with this are gone; does that make it harder?

BREAUX: I miss those guys very much; I think that they were really courageous. They stood up for what they thought was right. And it was sort of damn the politics, I will do what is right! And it's not easy. And I recognize that. It's a great political issue but it's a difficult policy issue.

KARL: Realistically, ant prospects of this getting done anytime soon?

BREAUX: It depends on what we mean by soon. It will not happen this year and I guarantee you it's not going to happen in an election year.

I think we are at our stop. We are here. OK. Let me see what I am doing.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: We're going to have more of Jonathan Karl's conversations with members of Congress as part of his subway series coming up on INSIDE POLITICS.

And now, a response to a story that we reported just a moment ago, as we reported Senator Majority Leader Tom Daschle has been wondering why Vice President Cheney requested emergency funding for the Pentagon on Friday. But then, waited until Tuesday to have the president sign it.

The answer now from Cheney's office -- that just called us. They say the president signed it at the first possible moment. He was, they remind us, after all, on an international trip.

Some context behind China's conviction and release of three U.S. residents. Up next, we will discuss Gao Zhan's return to freedom and the larger debate over U.S. engagement with China.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: The release of three U.S. residents who were detained and then convicted by Chinese courts happened just days before Secretary of State Colin Powell arrives in China for talks this weekend. The convictions were the latest incidents to spotlight the debate over the risks and the benefits of diplomatic and business engagement with China.

For more now, I am joined here in Washington by activist Harry Wu, who served almost two decades in a Chinese prison camp. And in Chicago, Siva Yam. He is president of the U.S.-China Chamber of Commerce.

Mr. Wu, to you first. Should we in the United States be thrilled that these people have been released? Gratified, or should the United States be outraged that these people were picked up and arrested and charged with spying in the first place?

HARRY WU, LAOGAI RESEARCH FOUNDATION: First of all, I see the Gao family. I feel for the boy and for the husband. I think it's a great deal, and I think this is a victory for humanity and justice. But we should not applaud the act. I don't think it's a kind of improvement of human rights records. I don't think this is a good thing that we're going to say, well, it's a kind of, you know, our diplomat development or victory.

And I want to say, use of the hostage is a basic violation of human rights.

WOODRUFF: Mr. Yam, would you agree with Mr. Wu, this is -- it's good of course for the family, but just a continuation of human rights abuses?

(AUDIO GAP)

WOODRUFF: Mr. Yam, are you able...

SIVA YAM, U.S.-CHINA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE: Yes. First, I do not know in great details about how they got arrested. But the action taken by China's is a big improvement in the U.S.-China relations, although the conviction and the release of the three scholars were highly expected. But I think, at least a sign that China's trying to improve the U.S.-China relations. And I think China's had viewed Secretary of State General Powell as a moderate, as one of the key person that can enhance the U.S.-China relations, and that they certainly would like to do something to make his trip to China more positive.

So regardless about how and why they were arrested, I think the action taken by China is a positive sign to the fact that they have an intention in improvement the U.S.-China relations.

WOODRUFF: Mr. Wu, were these three people spies, do you think?

WU: Well, even this some called spy, how many hours for the trial? Is there any evidence or whatever, this witness from -- from the defendant's eyes? Nothing. And this is repeated again, again story: capture someone for a political interest. They do it all the time.

For example, my case in 1995, they charged me a 15-year sentence because I spying and because I testified before the Congress. And then they kicked me out, because they want Hillary Clinton to go to Beijing to attend a conference, attend a woman conference over there. So, don't tell me about so-called this improvement of human rights and improve the relations with the United States. China today needs the United States, need a profit, because their Congress system is heavily dependent on the Western investment and trade.

WOODRUFF: Mr. Yam, you hear Mr. Wu saying don't tell us this is an improvement. These people were not spies, I think in effect is what he's saying.

YAM: Well, in first, I do not know whether they are actually spying or not, so I do not want to make any comments from their perspective.

WOODRUFF: So you think it's a possibility that they were spying?

YAM: Well, I don't know. I think there's a possibility that they were spying or they were not. And I just don't want to make any comment, because I just don't have sufficient evidence to make such a comment on that.

WOODRUFF: Well, what do you think the Chinese are trying to accomplish by doing this? By arresting these people and then releasing them? YAM: Well, first, I think the Chinese government does not anything that would embarrass the Chinese government or to destabilize the society. So if they see something that has such a potential, then they will take certain action against that. And with respect to releasing the people, I think, in this -- in a country that is so concerned about symbolism, and I think by convicting them first, and after they got arrested, we know that they will be convicted, because symbolism is so important and they don't want to be embarrassed. And by releasing them, and it's just very routine, and you see it happen again and again. They arrest people, they will convict them and they will release them.

And I think by releasing them, it's a sign. And they would show that they are trying to do something on an international basis to improve the image of the human rights.

WOODRUFF: So Mr. Wu, just finally, question quickly to both of you: Should China pay a price? Should the United States exact a price from China for this, or just move on and get back to the business as usual?

WU: Well, if we all the time put business, put the financial interests on the table and forget about human rights, and that only award the communist regime. We have to know, these three people today is American citizen, American green card holders. There are thousands, maybe millions of innocent people still in the jail. If these people are still in the jail, it means, tell us the country's to remain under the communist control, I don't think the relation between a democratic country and a communist country can be improved at all. I don't think so.

WOODRUFF: Mr. Yam, you get the last word. Should China -- go ahead.

YAM: Well, I think any economic sanction against China would be counterproductive. I think the force to improve the human rights abuse in China should not come from our side. Should be coming from inside. In order to create a force from inside China, we need to engage them from an economic, socially and also from a political perspective. By improving the living standards of the people in China, by continuing to engage with them economically, I think that would benefit Chinese people. Not just the government, but the Chinese people.

WOODRUFF: All right.

WU: Can I say afterwards.

WOODRUFF: Very quickly. We're going to have to go.

WU: Yes. The money is not only the benefit of the people. The money to basically benefit the government. That's why the government have such a big money, upgrade their military system, maintain their control, political control.

WOODRUFF: All right. Harry Wu, Siva Yam. Thank you both, we appreciate you joining us.

YAM: Thank you very much, Judy.

WOODRUFF: We appreciate it.

WU: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: Thirty years ago, he was a soldier, fighting in a war many did not understand. This week, Colin Powell, in a far different role, back in Vietnam, a far different country. His impressions, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: For Secretary of State Colin Powell, it is a new mission to Vietnam. He has been there twice before, as a soldier. He is back there now as a statesman. CNN State Department correspondent Andrea Koppel is traveling with him.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The ceremony was simple and brief. But for the first time since he arrived in Hanoi, Secretary Of State Colin Powell took a break from focusing on Vietnam's present and future, and paid his respects to the past. A tragic accident this spring took the lives of a group dedicated to finding and bringing back the remains of those American soldiers still missing in action from the Vietnam War.

POWELL: I noted that I first came here 39 years ago, before most of these kids were born. And they are doing something that is very important.

KOPPEL: Thirty-nine years ago, Secretary Powell was a young captain serving in the Au Shau Valley in the highlands of South Vietnam. His arrival in Hanoi on Tuesday was his first trip back in more than 30 years. POWELL: I was in the cockpit as we landed and I just kind of wanted to see, and just to see the paddies, and beautiful green. And then to hear the voice of the air traffic controller in the tower greeting our pilot and giving instructions and to hear that voice and the accent again, it brought back lots of memories of years ago.

KOPPEL: But the Vietnam that greeted Secretary Powell once he landed was far from the enemy he once knew.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Vietnam and U.S. very good. Now friendship.

KOPPEL (on camera): More than half the population is now under the age of 25, and wasn't born when the war ended. And according to the now-thriving American chamber of commerce here in Hanoi, last year U.S.-Vietnam trade was at $1.2 billion. That's a 500 percent increase in only six years.

(voice-over): Vietnam's Communist Party may still run the country, but Western culture has captured the imagination of many of its people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am studying international relations.

KOPPEL: for secretary Powell, his quick tour of central Hanoi brought back a flood of memories.

POWELL: It reminded me of my days in Hue and Quang Tri. Same kinds of shops, smiling people, happy people. They wanted to talk.

KOPPEL: But before long, duty called for this former U.S. soldier turned top U.S. diplomat. His time here in Vietnam now focused on a new mission: To work with Vietnam's leaders to resolve the issues of the past, and move forward.

Andrea Koppel, CNN, Hanoi.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: It has to be a visit full of emotions.

Well, you might think most young people only tune in to politics if they have to, say, for a school assignment. You are about to meet a young man who views our world a bit differently. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Both in the nation's capital and beyond the beltway, many people, young and old, are fascinated with politics. We found out just how young, earlier this year. Remember Praveen Polamraju, an 8-year-old from Virginia?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

What would you like to be when you grow up? Do you have any idea, yet, Praveen?

PRAVEEN POLAMRAJU: A president.

WOODRUFF: You want to be president?

POLAMRAJU: And then a dentist.

WOODRUFF: And then a dentist, I see. Now what -- why president first?

PRAVEEN POLAMRAJU: Because I can get more money.

WOODRUFF: Uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huh. And then what about as a dentist? Why would you want to be a dentist?

PRAVEEN POLAMRAJU: To make people's teeth clean.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: Praveen was a whiz kid who could name every president and the years he was in office and a lot more. He amazed us all. Now Praveen has some competition from another young man with political aspirations. And guess what program he never misses?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

What in the world made you want to come to Washington and made you want to call my office and say you wanted to come by and see INSIDE POLITICS?

DANIEL BONNER, POLITICAL ENTHUSIAST: Well, a while ago, it was actually at the election time I began to get real interested in politics, and I started reading and watching INSIDE POLITICS everyday, and then I don't know, I was calling the different senators and congressmen that I'm meeting in Washington, and I decided I was going to try and meet a CNN news anchor, and I thought, yeah, Judy Woodruff is the INSIDE POLITICS reporter, so I'd like to meet her.

WOODRUFF: Well, I'm really honored that you did. Tell me about what you thought about the election. What -- why do you think it captured your interest?

BONNER: Well, I think the way that the courts, I enjoyed the part where they were the last 36 days, I think it's 36...

WOODRUFF: The recount.

BONNER: Yes, the recount. That captured my attention I think because there was suspense. You always wanted to know what was going to happen.

WOODRUFF: But wait a minute. When you came home from school you would actually turn on the TV to watch INSIDE POLITICS?

BONNER: Yes.

WOODRUFF: Now what about your homework?

BONNER: I do that afterwards.

WOODRUFF: Oh, OK.

BONNER: INSIDE POLITICS comes first. Homework comes second.

WOODRUFF: But now that the election is over and Bush is in the White House, is it still as interesting?

BONNER: When the bills are being debated like the tax cut and the education bill and the patients' bill of rights, which is being debated now, that's still interesting, not as interesting as the election, that was the best part, but it is still interesting.

WOODRUFF: Daniel, tell me this: how many of your friends do you think pay as close attention as you do?

BONNER: None of them.

WOODRUFF: Is that is right?

BONNER: Yes.

WOODRUFF: Darn, because we'd love to have some more viewers your age. So who do you talk to about politics?

BONNER: Well, my dad, and my mom. I talk to them about it. And then during school I talk to my teachers, and my second grade teacher who my family is now like friends with, I talk to her about it, and I just talk to people that my mom knows and my dad knows and they tell me what I should go see in Washington, and they ask me questions about politics and what I think about different issues.

WOODRUFF: What do you say to other kids your age, Daniel, who really don't have a lot of time, even my children are not that interested in politics. What do you say to other kids who are saying, well, why should I pay any attention to that?

BONNER: Well, they watch type things as wrestling. I'm not as interested in that, but I just say well, that's my interest and I'll do that at home, but at school I try to keep it at a low profile with my friends.

WOODRUFF: Now are you thinking already about what you want to do -- when you grow up or...

BONNER: Yes.

WOODRUFF: What are you thinking?

BONNER: Everybody thinks it's a little early, but I want to be a politician.

WOODRUFF: You do?

BONNER: But I wasn't born in America, so I'd like to be a Senator and then a cabinet secretary.

WOODRUFF: That's right, you couldn't be president, if you are not born -- you were born in South Africa which we should have said initially. You were born in South Africa and you lived there until four years ago...

BONNER: Yes, and then I moved to Dallas.

WOODRUFF: Your family moved to Dallas, Texas. So you couldn't be president but you could always change the Constitution, maybe.

BONNER: I'd love to do that.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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