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CNN INSIDE POLITICS

Optimism in Washington for Patients' Rights

Aired July 31, 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, HOST: I'm Judy Woodruff on Capitol Hill. This is INSIDE POLITICS. Former President Jimmy Carter talks election reform and his recent criticism of President Bush.

JOHN KING, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I'm John King at the White House. Could the president be close to a compromise on the Patients' Bill of Rights?

JONATHAN KARL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Jonathan Karl on Capitol Hill, where the House is considering a vote to ban human cloning and the issue is getting entangled in the politics of stem cell research.

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Susan Candiotti in Miami. The National Commission on Election Reform releases its proposals, including a plan to make Election Day a holiday.

ANNOUNCER: Now, Judy Woodruff takes you INSIDE POLITICS.

WOODRUFF: Thank you for joining us. Lawmakers from both parties favor so-called Patients' Bill of Rights legislation, but key differences especially the extent of patient access to the courts have kept the latest versions of health care reform from becoming law. Now with the August recess fast approaching, there are signs of movement in Congress and optimistic words from the White House. With the very latest, let's join CNN senior White House correspondent John King.

John, what's the latest there?

KING: Well, Judy, a sudden burst of optimism here at the White House. The source of that optimism: negotiations with the key Republican sponsor of the HMO Patients' Bill of Rights in the House. He is Georgia Republican Charlie Norwood, who has worked with Democrat John Dingell for the past few years. The version they now support is one President Bush says he would have to veto because President Bush believes it is too generous in allowing people to sue their HMO. But Mr. Bush and his staff have been in negotiations with Representative Norwood. Those negotiations went late into the night last night, we are told. They are continuing today at the staff level.

We are told, indeed, the White House and Congressman Norwood discussing specific language that the Congressman is then taking to his colleagues on Capitol Hill to see if they can reach a compromise on this issue of liability: How could you sue your HMO? Where would do you it? In state court or federal court? Would there be caps on the punitive damages? Those negotiations continuing.

Mr. Bush speaking to reporters earlier today suddenly optimistic. He says he believes the key to the breakthrough, at least in the negotiations -- remember, there's no deal yet -- is his being firm and saying he would veto the Senate-passed version but that he would very much like to reach a compromise on a bill he could sign.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm offering to sign a bill and not veto it. And that's a pretty powerful incentive for someone to try to come up with an agreement. I will not sign a bill that I think will end up tossing people off of -- out of health insurance. And if we have too much litigation, if we encourage lawsuits, costly lawsuits, it could drive up the health care for people. It will drive people off the health care rolls, and it will make it very difficult for small business people to afford health care. And I'm deeply concerned about that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Now Mr. Bush was actually on Capitol Hill earlier today on the Senate side. The Senate has already passed a patients' bill of rights. Again, that's a version the president says is unacceptable. But he went to the Senate Republican policy lunch today to meet with the now minority Republicans on the Senates side. Mr. Bush hoping when Congress returns from an August recess and he returns from an August vacation, he'll be dealing in compromise negotiations with the Senate.

But again, to get to that point, the White House needs to reach a deal with the House. And still plans are for a bill on Thursday -- a vote on Thursday, excuse me. White House officials say they expect the negotiations to go right up until late tomorrow afternoon. That's when the House would have to meet to have a rule for that debate on the floor on Thursday. So high-stakes negotiations continuing. This is a very big one for the president. The first big test of his personal lobbying skills with moderate Republicans in the House since the Democrats took over the Senate -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: John, do we know any specifics on where the White House has given ground here or where the Norwood-Ganske-Dingell folks have given ground?

KING: Well, you'll get a chance to ask Congressman Ganske yourself in a minute. We do know the president is giving ground on the idea of where you could sue. At the beginning of this debate, the president was saying he believed all suits should be in federal courts. Then he was saying he would allow some states in state courts but using the rules of the federal court system.

Now, we are told he is negotiating with Congressman Norwood to be more generous, if you will, in allowing some states -- some suits, excuse me, in the state courts, but we don't know the specific language right now. Administration officials saying this is very fluid, that the specific language goes back and forth. The president floats a proposal to Congressman Norwood. He checks it out with key lawmakers in the House. He comes back with an alternative of his own.

So there's a back and forth right now. The president directly involved at sometimes. His domestic policy staff at others. But the White House saying it is suddenly optimistic that a breakthrough will be reached in time for a vote Thursday in the House. Again, though, a night of negotiations ahead here today and most people here at the White House believe another full day of negotiations tomorrow.

WOODRUFF: All right, John King at the White House.

And now we do turn to a key Republican House member on this issue. He is Congressman Greg Ganske. He is, of course ,a co-sponsor of the bipartisan bill but is opposed by the president.

Congressman Ganske, we just heard John King say the White House is suddenly optimistic, there's going to be a breakthrough. Are you?

REP. GREG GANSKE (R), IOWA: Well, Judy, the ball is now in the president's court. This morning, the authors of the bill, the Ganske- Dingell-Norwood bill and the McCain-Edwards-Kennedy bill met, the six of us. And we've made a real overture to the president. The president has been concerned about a couple of issues. He doesn't want to see employers unfairly held liable. And he wants some uniformity for certain types of employers that operate their businesses across many state lines.

And so this morning we made a good-faith offer to the president. We said that for those employers who are self-insured and self- administered, the ones that weren't taken care of in the Snowe amendment in the Senate, that we would allow them to continue the jurisdiction, to continue in the federal courts. That is a major concession on our part.

Congressman Norwood took that message to the speaker of the House. And, and the word has been sent to the White House. Congressman Norwood is waiting to hear from the White House.

WOODRUFF: So would this be the final breakthrough if the White House agrees to this language? Are we talking about agreement here?

GANSKE: Yeah, Judy, when the Senate did the bill, they provided protections for almost -- for 95 percent of employers. In other words, if you can designate the HMO as the decision maker or you are not liable unless you directly participate. It's just a small group, about six percent of employers that are self-insured, self- administered that needed some help. We've made that step to the president. That is the big issue. The president could claim he's gotten some uniformity, he's gotten some federal jurisdiction. All of those companies that are involved, companies such as Caterpillar, 3M, Wal-Mart, I think they're very...

WOODRUFF: These big employers?

GANSKE: Yeah, they're very enthusiastic about this proposal that we've made this morning. We think that this is, you know -- would be very beneficial for the president to accept. He could claim a lot of credit for that, and we could get this bill signed.

So as far as -- again, just as far as you're saying, if the president were to go along with that, you're saying this could be resolved?

GANSKE: Absolutely.

WOODRUFF: Now what about -- we heard John referring to expanded or narrowing, I should say, the right to sue, the ability to sue, the circumstances under which one could sue in state court. Is that part of this or is that behind you?

GANSKE: That is behind us.

WOODRUFF: OK.

GANSKE: The White House proposed some idea of writing a federal cause of action that would apply to states. The practicality of that is that it's almost -- would be almost impossible to write that kind of legislation, and it would actually end up taking away jurisdiction from states. The 10th Amendment of the Constitution I think would argue against that. So we've been searching for a way to make an accommodation with the president. All six of us uniformly together thought that this would be a very good-faith effort.

WOODRUFF: And what time did this go to the White House? How many hours have they been looking at this?

GANSKE: Mr. Norwood went to the speaker about 10:00 and the word then went down to the White House shortly after that. So we've been waiting to hear from the White House since, you know, a little bit before noon.

WOODRUFF: And any word back at all as far as you know?

GANSKE: Congressman Norwood is sitting in his office waiting for a phone call from the White House.

WOODRUFF: Now let me just ask you this. Why was your group willing to make the gesture that you did? What -- was it because of ground given by the White House?

GANSKE: It's basically because we want to put forth a good-faith effort to try to come to a compromise on this with the president. We understand that he has certain things that he's been concerned about. This gives him those things. We think it brings the bill into conformity with the principles that he's talked about. He's talked frequently about -- for those employers that have businesses in many different states needing to have some uniformity for how they administer their health plans.

WOODRUFF: And as far as you're concerned, you've taken care of that?

GANSKE: This is it. This is it. And so this could be -- we could get an agreement from the White House tonight. We could bring this to the floor tomorrow. We could affect a bipartisan agreement. And if the White House would just agree with this, I think it would make everybody happy on both sides.

WOODRUFF: Congressman Ganske, do you take the president at his word when he says he will veto a bill not to his liking?

GANSKE: Well I think that, yes, I take him at his word for that. But the question is: What is not to his liking? And I think the president appropriately has given himself some flexibility on this when he said, you know, "I would veto a bad bill, but I would sign a good bill."

We think that this makes this a good bill and we hope that the White House would agree with that. We've certainly walked the extra step and gone the extra mile on this. We hope that the White House will do the same thing.

WOODRUFF: All right. Well, Representative Greg Ganske, who is one of the co-sponsors of this bipartisan bill that has been the subject of all of these negotiations.

Congressman, thank you very much for joining us.

GANSKE: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: Good to see you. Thanks very much.

And now let's go back to the White House. As we've been saying, this Patients' Bill of Rights represents perhaps the best example yet of George W. Bush's personal style of lobbying members of Congress. So let's go back to John now.

John, talk about just what the president has been doing in these private sessions with members.

KING: Well, Judy, this is the first big test of the president in this new environment. The Democrats controlling the Senate. It was the Democrats who brought this issue to the fore here in Washington, and once that happened, President Bush had to concentrate on 68 House Republicans, unlike the tax cut debate when they were voting on a key Bush campaign proposal. Sixty-eight House Republicans already on record supporting the right to sue very much like the Senate version of the bill.

So in an effort to get a bill to his liking, in an effort to avoid a very politically risky veto, this for the first time we are seeing the president in one-on-one lobbying directly with the key constituency now in Washington: moderate House Republicans.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

J. KING (voice-over): The White House photo is part of the personal touch, small talk included.

REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: He makes a point of greeting everyone personally. He seems to find something to say, like one of the nicknames I've gotten is "Pedro," or "Big Pedro," that type -- you know, you heard about the nicknames.

J. KING: Congressman King left his first meeting with the president on the Patients' Bill of Rights unimpressed. It was a crowded session in the Cabinet room.

P. KING: It was sort of unwieldy, and I felt that -- the impression I got as a politician was he was going through the motions.

J. KING: But the president changed King's mind and his vote at a smaller follow-up session.

P. KING: No sense of arm-twisting, no sense of pressure, but basically saying, "I'm your president. I need this. It's up to you," and almost letting you feel that if you don't go his way, then maybe the whole administration could collapse.

J. KING: Others lobbied by Mr. Bush of late say he knows where the line is.

REP. BOB BARR (R), GEORGIA: He'll push up to a point, but he doesn't try and make a member feel so uncomfortable that they feel they have to go with him even at the expense of hurting their base back home. And that's a sign of a very good president.

J. KING: The courting of Georgia Republican Saxby Chambliss included a round of golf and a White House meeting Tuesday to talk about defense issues critical back home. But Mr. Bush worked in another plug for his version of the Patients' Bill of Rights.

(on-camera): What is the president like when he does these kinds of things? Is he an arm-twister? Is he a charmer? A combination of the two?

REP. SAXBY CHAMBLISS (R), GEORGIA: He's very businesslike. He's very professional. He doesn't grab you by the arm and say, "We're going to twist until you do what we want to do." I'm impressed with the guy's approach to this.

J. KING (voice-over): Impressed but still undecided. Even many staunch allies say the president was initially caught flat-footed. The HMO reform debate was forced on the White House when Democrats took control of the Senate and the president failed in an effort to shape the Senate version to his liking. So the effort shifted to the House, and meetings and calls to all 68 of the Republicans on record in support of legislation very similar to the Senate version Mr. Bush has promised to veto.

Georgia Republican Charlie Norwood is a lead sponsor of the House version and by far getting the most attention from the president.

JOHN PODESTA, FORMER CLINTON CHIEF OF STAFF: You can't threaten him. You can't bribe him. He probably knows more about it than most of the people in the White House so you probably can't persuade him. So you're really left, I think, saying, that, you know, "My presidency is at stake. I can't veto this bill. You've got to give me some way to save face on this and provide me with a way out." (END VIDEOTAPE)

J. KING: And as those negotiations with Congressman Norwood and other House Republicans continue, the White House again, voicing some optimism and senior Bush aides know this is about much more than just the Patients' Bill of Rights. That in and of itself a very big political issue, but with the Senate now in Democratic hands, Democrats promising to turn to a prescription drug benefit, an effort to raise the minimum wage. The president knows his relations with Republicans in the House on this debate, the Patients' Bill of Rights, will carry over into those debates as well -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right, once again John King at the White House.

Well, someone else who's kept a close eye on the president's lobbying efforts and the impact that a legislative win or loss on this issue could affect how it could affect other White House priorities, "TIME" magazine's John Dickerson.

John, why is this one so hard for the president?

JOHN DICKERSON, "TIME" MAGAZINE: Well, it's hard because he had 68 votes against him when he came into office. This was a bill that had a lot of Republicans in support, the bill that George Bush said he wanted to veto. And in part, he had trouble because they didn't trust him when he said he was going to veto it. They didn't believe him. And he's having to prove to them that he is going to veto this bill, the bill that Congressman Ganske was out here pushing, and that other -- if he's going to veto it, they have to go onto another bill or they are out of luck.

WOODRUFF: Is he prepared to veto it? Isn't that something he would really much rather avoid having to do?

DICKERSON: Sure. He would like to avoid this whole fight from the beginning. And the White House has been working on this from almost the day they got into office to try and find a neat way out of this. But a lot of things have gone wrong for them. So, yes, he wouldn't -- he doesn't want to veto this, but he will. And it's a question each congressman almost asks when they come into these private meetings with him because they want to test his mettle. They want to know if he's for real. And he seems to be making the case.

WOODRUFF: How is he coming across? You talked to a number of members. You talk to a lot of people who have been talking to him. What are the various tactics he's using?

DICKERSON: Well, he's is using all of his charms. Remember, when he came to Washington, his advisers said, "You haven't seen anything yet." In Texas legislature, he could cajole, he could charm, he could put a little bit of pressure on them. And he's trying all of these tricks with these folks. At first, some said he was a little distracted; he seemed to be reading from the talking points. But now he is fully engaged.

And there was a report today that he might have told Charlie Norwood, "Look, this is a test of party loyalty." The White House said, no, he's not that ham handed. He's putting pressure but he's not putting too much pressure on.

WOODRUFF: Based on what you know, John, we just heard Congressman Ganske say that it's his sense that the issues in the state courts are behind him. The issue now is those employers who employ people across many, many states it's dealing with their problems. Is that something, I mean, based on what you're hearing that they're going to be able to work this out over?

DICKERSON: It depends. What Congressman Ganske is doing is what the White House is doing, which is, "We've offered something. Now it's in the White House's court. And if the White House would just be reasonable, we could be done with this." Well, the White House is saying the same thing about Congressman Ganske. And so there's a little more to work out here about the state court versus the federal court and there's the other big issue: Are they going to cap damages here? Ganske and his folks want a $5 million cap. The White House wants $500,000. That's quite a big difference.

WOODRUFF: So if it's so -- if there is so much difference -- I mean, I'm listening between the lines, but it sounds like they're still very far apart.

DICKERSON: Well, it does seem that way. One thing we've also heard, the speaker's office just told me they're going to schedule a vote on Thursday. This is another tactic: You guys -- everybody better get their act together because a vote's coming. This is to pressure Ganske and his people to come along to the White House.. But there's a lot more to do. They've been there until midnight and they will be for the next couple of nights.

WOODRUFF: Who has more to lose here? The president or the bipartisan group working with Dingell-Ganske-Norwood?

DICKERSON: Well, this is the great question. And it's unclear. Polls show that people do care about HMO, but the White House will say, you know, it's not at the top of their list. And so the president will look like he's standing on principle, he's standing for what he believes in. And they believe that in the end, if he has to veto this bill, that that will benefit him.

WOODRUFF: All right, John Dickerson, "TIME" magazine. Thanks very much. Good to see you again. I appreciate it.

Well, George W. Bush has often used, as John said, a congenial approach with members of Congress while trying to win support for his legislative programs. Another Texan who occupied the Oval Office took a different tact. Lyndon Johnson was known for doing a lot of arm twisting on Capitol Hill. Take Johnson's anti-poverty bill, for example. As audio tapes show, the late president used arm twisting with House minority leader Charles Halleck when the bill was stuck in committee in June 1964.

(BEGIN AUDIO TAPE) LYNDON BAINES JOHNSON, 36TH PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You ought not hold up my poverty bill. That's a good bill. There's no reason why you ought to keep a majority from beating it. If you can beat it, go on and beat it, but you ought not hold it up. You ought to give me a fair shake and give me a chance to vote on it.

REP. CHARLES HALLECK: Look, you got a tax bill, you got a civil rights bill, you got a hell of a lot of other things coming along. Don't press us too goddamn hard. I'll do just about anything I can for you.

JOHNSON: Well, go on and report my poverty bill and quit holding it up in that damn rules committee.

HALLECK: Wait just a minute. We'll get that.

JOHNSON: They've had that all debated. They've debated it, they've delayed it.

HALLECK: If you try to shove that...

JOHNSON: I'm not trying to shove that. I've been trying for six months to even get a vote on it.

(END AUDIO TAPE)

WOODRUFF: Well, Senate Republican leader Everett Dirksen called the next day, and Johnson pleaded for mercy on an excise tax vote.

(BEGIN AUDIO TAPE)

JOHNSON: You going to take all your Republicans? Give me one or two of them and let them be prudent. You've got people on there that can...

SEN. EVERETT DIRKSEN: Well, you've got enough votes to beat...

JOHNSON: No, I haven't. I haven't. If you can beat me, you ought not to do it. And you see how you're going to let me win by one vote in there and I'll call you back in a little bit on this.

DIRKSEN: You never talked that way when you were sitting in that front seat.

JOHNSON: Yeah, well, I did if my country's involved. I voted for Ike one time when Noland (ph) voted against him, and I cast the vote on his foreign aid and brought it out of committee.

DIRKSEN: You're a hard bargainer.

(END AUDIO TAPE)

WOODRUFF: Well, Johnson's first-year successes helped Democrats win that November. His party won two-thirds of the seats in Congress. And Johnson, of course, was elected in a landslide. For more information on the debate over patients' rights legislation, log on to our Web site. The address: cnn.com/allpolitics. You'll find the latest stories on the debate, as well as information comparing the bills and how they might affect you.

Stay with us. This is INSIDE POLITICS.

ANNOUNCER: New recommendations to reform U.S. elections. A commission presents its plan to the president including the call for election night restraint by the news media. Also ahead, a conversation with former president Jimmy Carter on the election commission he co-chaired and his policy differences with the current president. Plus...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KOFI ANNAN, U.N. SECRETARY GENERAL: And I think it just is very, very important that this check be released as soon as possible for the credibility of the U.S. and for its own relations with the other member states.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan on U.S. dues, global warming and the possible U.S. boycott of a global conference on racism. Live from Washington, Judy Woodruff brings you more of INSIDE POLITICS straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: President Bush is endorsing the key principles of a new report on election reform issued by a commission headed by former presidents Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter. CNN's Susan Candiotti has more on what the commission recommended and reaction to it.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President of the United States.

CANDIOTTI (voice-over): A bipartisan commission led by former presidents Carter and Ford presented its election reform proposals at a White House ceremony. While President Bush praised its work, he stopped short of a full-fledged endorsement, instead calling them guidelines.

BUSH: They have risen above partisan emotions to put forth practical suggestions for improving democracy. And the United States Congress should listen to them and follow their lead.

CANDIOTTI: Among the recommendations: asking news organizations to refrain from projecting winners while polls remain open.

JIMMY CARTER, 39TH PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If they don't do it, then we recommend that Congress take action. We recognize that there are First Amendment principles involved, but we think this is an important one. CANDIOTTI: Other recommendations: Increase in federal support for state and local governments to purchase new vote counting equipment. Consider restoring voting rights of convicted felons once jail time and parole or probation are completed. To improve voter turnout, the commission suggests moving Veterans Day to coincide with Election Day, making it a national holiday, an idea whose popularity appears to be growing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A lot of people do procrastinate. They say, "Oh, I'll go after work." And then they go and the polls are long and the lines are long, and at that point, they just give up and they don't vote. I think that we've learned that it's very important that every vote does count.

CANDIOTTI: Democrats quickly criticized the president for failing, in their view, to take a leadership role in election reform. House and Senate Democrats are co-sponsoring a bill mandating change.

REP. SHEILA JACKSON LEE (D), TEXAS: This is a civil rights issue, and the only way that it will be solved is if the federal government stands up and be counted for national standards to ensure that democracy is in the 21st century.

CANDIOTTI: But at today's White House ceremony, former GOP House minority leader Bob Michel said states rights cannot be forgotten.

ROBERT MICHEL (R), FORMER HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: That principle of conditionality versus mandating the states to do things is a very key one, I know, for many members of the Congress who will eventually have to act on this.

CANDIOTTI: In Florida, ground zero for election controversy, editorial writers wonder whether national reform will pass.

TOM FIEDLER, "MIAMI HERALD": You could make a strong argument that if these recommendations had been in place last November 7th, that the president would now be Al Gore and not George W. Bush.

CANDIOTTI (on-camera): In Florida, Governor Jeb Bush has thrown his support behind a recently passed massive reform package. So far in Washington, the president has not done the same on a national level nor allocated any money for reform in his budget. Susan Candiotti, CNN, Miami.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Regarding election projection, this network has issued a statement saying, quote, "CNN will not project the winner in a state until all the polls are closed within that state. CNN supports the adoption of uniform poll closing legislation by Congress. If so adopted, CNN will not make any projections until all the polls are closed nationwide."

Well, as we said, former president Jimmy Carter co-chaired the election reform commission. I sat down with Mr. Carter today to ask him about a number of issues. And I began by asking him what is the most important part of the commission's report?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CARTER: Well, I think the most important thing was we had 20 highly diverse people deeply committed to election processes and with strongly different points of view. And after five months of intense studying, we have reached a consensus on what ought to be done in this country to elect presidents and members of Congress.

The most important -- it's hard to single out which is the most important, but I would say one of them is to have each state have a uniform and carefully controlled voters list. Now each county has a different voters list and they have more than 4,000 counties. So the uniformity of that would also permit us to have a much more effective and fair system of letting people vote overseas, military persons and Americans living overseas, because they would just have to deal with one site in a state instead of, in the case of Georgia, 159 different polling places.

Another thing that's very important is that in the last election, and Florida particularly, people came to the polls and were excluded from voting even if they were fully qualified because either there was a mistake on the voters list or someone in the voting place thought they had voted absentee. In this way, a provisional ballot would be given to each person who claims to have a right to vote there, and they would cast their provisional ballot. It would be put in an envelope, sealed up. And then the voting people would decide later: Is this person qualified to vote? If so, the vote would be counted.

WOODRUFF: Realistically -- you know politics in this country. Realistically, how much of this do you think will be enacted?

CARTER: I think all of it. There has already been intense bipartisan debate on each one of these major issues. And President Bush in effect this morning endorsed the entire report. Senator Chris Dodd from the Senate who's been in charge of the Democratic side and John Conyers from the House who's been in charge of the Democratic side have both said it's a good, sound approach. And I think because the Congress has been so divided on it -- I may be presumptuous in saying this, but I think they're looking for a common ground on which everybody can correct the mistakes of the past.

WOODRUFF: One of the things you recommend is that broadcasters and cable networks not announce any results until the polls have closed in all 48 states, the continental U.S.

CARTER: That's right.

WOODRUFF: As you know, the networks have not been willing to go along with this voluntarily until now. If that remains the case, what should happen?

CARTER: Well, my hope is that the networks and the cable organizations will be just as patriotic as the Congress and the rest of the people and will not only refrain from giving preliminary results, which quite often affect the outcome of the election, but we also recommend that every one of the major networks and major cable companies give five minutes of free time the last 30 days of the campaign to any presidential candidate who's qualified for matching funds. So this would give the candidates a chance to present their points of view in an uninterrupted way. So those are the two things that are really requested from the networks and also the cable companies.

WOODRUFF: But you're -- and you're urging legislation if the...

CARTER: If they don't do it voluntarily, our group was unanimous in saying the Congress should take mandatory action, yes.

WOODRUFF: Let me turn to a different subject, President Carter. You gave an interview a couple of weeks ago to the Columbus, Georgia newspaper in which you said you were disappointed in almost everything President Bush has done so far. And you cited human rights, and you cited the Middle East, and you cited the ballistic missile defense system the president's talking about. Do you stand by those comments?

CARTER: Well, let me say first of all, I did not give an interview to the "Columbus Enquirer." I gave an interview to a Bangladesh professor who claimed to be writing a book about me, who now teaches in Houston. And my understanding was that that interview, which was like an hour and a half long and covered a multitudes of issues, would be published at the time his book came out eventually.

But I have to say that all the quotes in there were accurate. The problem was that they just selected a few of the negative things that I said about President Bush, didn't put in the positive things.

WOODRUFF: Just like the press.

CARTER: Just like the press often does, and I've issued -- they have since then published almost all of the actual interview in the Columbus paper, and also a statement that I have great respect for President Bush and so forth. And he understands that. And we had a very harmonious, I would say, effusive meeting this morning, and that was just a transient thing where a mistake was made by me and the press in distorting what was said.

WOODRUFF: Did he mention it today, or did you...

CARTER: No, I brought it up. I brought it up. By the way, all the things that I said were quoted accurately, and I do disagree with many of the things that have been done by the Bush administration, including drilling oil in the Alaska wildlife area and abandoning the Kyoto Treaty on CO2, and the national missile defense. I disagreed on those things, but I have said that in many forums.

WOODRUFF: Well, speaking of ANWR, the Alaska drilling, energy -- I have to ask you about this, because the administration was telling us in the spring that we were in the middle of the most serious energy crisis in three decades. Here we are, though, now at the end of July -- gasoline prices are down, the price of natural gas is way down, California has a surplus. Do we have an energy shortage, or a surplus, or what's going on? CARTER: Well, I issued a press release back then, I think there was an op-ed piece in the "New York Times," and I pointed out that this was no energy crisis, and this was probably in January when I said this. The crisis took place when I was in the White House, when -- and when President Nixon was in the white House. Those two times have been real crises, but there is no crisis now and there wasn't earlier this year either.

And I don't think we should do drastic things, like destroying the wildlife refuge in Alaska, in order to correct what is not really a crisis. I think we should have a very strong emphasis, though, on conservation and also increase the production of oil and natural gas in this country, provided it doesn't destroy the environment.

WOODRUFF: So, is the administration basically on the right track, or not? Or -- they want to drill in Alaska?

CARTER: Well, that's the main thing I'm against. But I think in general, if they do eventually settle on a balanced approach of increased production and protection of the environment and conservation of waste of energy, then I would certainly agree.

WOODRUFF: How do you get the American people to pay attention though? I mean, people might have been paying attention when gasoline was over $2 a gallon, and there was a shortage in California, blackouts, rolling blackouts, but right now?

CARTER: Well, let's talk about the four years, as you remember, from my administration, and eventually we passed a comprehensive energy package that did increase production, it did protect the environment, and it did increase conservation. And those laws are still on the books, and that's been one reason why we haven't had another crisis, in my opinion.

But I think that the Congress is going to very carefully consider the recommendations made, and will make their decisions in an environment when the so-called crisis has been disproved, and we just have a normal cycle of increases and decreases in price, which don't create any need to destroy our environment.

WOODRUFF: Finally, a question about yesterday, former President Clinton had what you almost would call a coming-out party in New York City. He opened up these new offices in Harlem, and there was a big street celebration. Was this an appropriate thing, do you think, for a former president to do? Was it a little over the top? What was your reaction?

CARTER: Well, I think so, I think it was a good thing to do. It think it publicized a solution to a problem when the first choice of a place to have an office was too expensive. I think he made a very wise decision to go to Harlem.

And the leaders of both political and I think the social leaders of Harlem have welcomed President Clinton, and I think he'll add a lot to the future of that community and has been received very well. So I think it was a very fine solution to a choice of where to go. I chose to go back home. Since President Clinton didn't decide to go back to Arkansas, I think that's a very fine secondary choice.

WOODRUFF: Has he in any way sought your advice on being a former president and the life of a former president?

CARTER: Well, he came to (UNINTELLIGIBLE) several times before he left office, and his staff has been there as well. And two, three weeks ago he called me on the phone. We had a very pleasant conversation. One of the things that he asked me to do is to join the other former presidents in mounting a campaign to raise funds for the AIDS program in Africa, from private contributors.

So I imagine that former President Bush and former President Ford and I and former President Clinton will join forces in the future to comply with the request from Kofi Annan that we add our influence to encourage people let's do something great about the AIDS problem in Africa from private contributors, so we'll do that.

WOODRUFF: President Carter, we thank you very much. We appreciate your joining us.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: And now we have a breaking news story coming out of New York City. There are several men who are stranded out on the seashore off of Queens at a place called Breezy Point. The men had apparently walked out -- these are live pictures -- had walked out to the cement channel marker at Breezy Point on rocks, but then the tide came in and the men now are stranded on the jetty.

As you can see, there is a police helicopter trying to lower a basket -- has been trying to lower a basket to the men. There was one rescuer who swam out to where the men were to try to help them load the men in and get them to safety. There were rescuers saying they were working frantically, because there were high waves -- as you can see here -- from the rising tide, threatening to sweep the men off of this concrete structure that they were clinging to.

Again, three men, stranded out there in the surf off of Queen's Breezy Point in New York City. These are live pictures of a rescue effort under way at this hour. CNN will let you know what we find out, as this effort continues. These pictures courtesy of WCBS Television in New York.

The controversy over human cloning moves here to Capitol Hill. We'll get the latest on the cloning debate from CNN congressional correspondent Jonathan Karl.

And, some new developments today in the Chandra Levy case. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Again, pictures from New York City of a rescue effort under way as we speak. This is the seashore at Breezy Point in Queens, New York City. They are just now bringing the second of three men who have been stranded on a concrete structure out beyond where the tide was coming in.

We're told they did get one of the three men to safety. They just now lifted up the second man to safety. There is still a third man. The three men had walked out using concrete or cement steps out over the water, and then the tide came in, and they were stranded. And this police helicopter and perhaps others have been working frantically against the clock as the tide continues to come in to save the lives of these men.

Again, two of the men have now been rescued. There is still one man out there, and they are trying to save his life, to get him in. You can see him there on that structure out beyond where the tide is coming in. Again, this is Breezy Point, Queens, in New York City.

Science and ethics back here in Washington clashed on Capitol Hill today as the House took up the controversial issue of human cloning. Let's check in now with CNN congressional correspondent Jonathan Karl for more on the story -- Jonathan?

KARL: Well, Judy, as a matter of fact, right now on the floor of the House of Representatives they're having a vote on this issue.

There are two competing bills out there. Both are billed as bans -- complete bans on human cloning, but one has an exception, a significant exception. It would allow the use of cloning technology to clone human embryos for the purpose of research, scientific research. The proponents say it would be promising in terms of finding cures for certain diseases. As the debate over the last couple hours unfolded, it is often sounded a little bit like a philosophy class there on the floor of the House.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(voice-over): Nobody in Congress proposes allowing the science that made Dolly the cloned sheep famous to be used to clone people. But Congressman Jim Greenwood says cloning a human embryo is different than cloning a person.

REP. JIM GREENWOOD (R), PENNSYLVANIA: That's the metaphysical question here. Do we have a soul there? Now, I would be mightily surprised if, when you took my cheek cell and put it in the petri dish and it divided, that God would choose that moment to put a soul on it. Say, Mr. Greenwood's cheek cell is dividing -- quick, give it a soul!

KARL: Greenwood sees limited cloning of embryos for research as a key to scientific breakthroughs, possibility leading to cures for diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. Opponents see something quite different.

REP. TOM DELAY (R), MAJORITY WHIP: We shouldn't draw medical solutions from the unwholesome well of an ungoverned monstrous science that lacks any reasonable consideration for the sanctity of human life. KARL: The arguments echo the debate over federal funding of stem cell research, with one significant difference. That debate is over research on excess embryos at fertility clinics, embryos likely to be destroyed anyway. This is about using the science of cloning to create new embryos for research.

REP. DAVID WU (D), OREGON: I have always been a strong supporter of embryonic stem cell research. I've always been strongly pro- choice. I've been a believer, I guess, that we would know where to draw a line in the sand when we had to, and I think that for me this is a place where we draw a line in the sand.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KARL: Now, if the more extensive ban on human cloning, the one proposed by conservative Republican Dave Weldon passes the House, it would still also need to pass in the Senate. But interesting here, Judy, is that the Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle actually agrees with Republicans like Tom Delay on this issue. Daschle, who is in favor of embryonic stem cell research, is adamantly opposed to any kind of human cloning, including the kind of cloning on embryos for use in research.

Judy, back to you.

WOODRUFF: All right, Jon Karl, who's also here at the Capitol.

Now checking some new developments in the Chandra Levy case. Washington police and the FBI today interviewed a man who says he saw the missing intern after April 30th, the day that she was last seen at her health club. The man says that Levy came to the hardware store where he works to have some keys made. He was not sure of the exact date, but he said it was at least one day after Levy was last seen.

Also, Washington police today wrapped up an intensive search of parks and wooded areas. The search for clues in Levy's disappearance has gone on for more than two weeks. And this program note: the gentleman who works at the hardware store, the key maker, will be a guest tonight on "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS" at 8:00 Eastern.

Secretary General Kofi Annan shares his thoughts on the U.S. debt to the United Nations, on the Bush administration pulling out of international treaties and the upcoming world conference on racism. When we return, my interview with the secretary general.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan says the global war against AIDS will not be easy or inexpensive. Earlier, as part of an extensive interview, he told me he expects the U.S. to make a substantial contribution to the fight, beyond the $200 million the U.S. has already pledged.

I began our interview by asking him about the $582 million in back dues that the United States owes the United Nations which has gotten caught up in a procedural fight in the House. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KOFI ANNAN, U.N. SECRETARY-GENERAL: I think this is something that the foreign ambassadors, the ambassador to New York are often baffled by it, particularly those who have recently arrived. They don't understand how it happens, why the delays? Why, once a decision has been taken -- well, most of them expected the check to come in the beginning of the year.

I think what I should say is that we have the General Assembly coming up in September. The president is also coming, and I think it would be very good for the U.S. that the check has already been released before the president gets there, because if it has not been, I think the member states will ask lots of questions. And I think it is a very, very important that this check be released as soon as possible for the credibility of the U.S. and for his own relations with the other member states.

WOODRUFF: You had spoken in the past about U.N. dues with, for example, Senator Jesse Helms.

ANNAN: That's correct.

WOODRUFF: In this instance, we're talking about Congressman Henry Hyde, who is the chairman of the House International Relations Committee. Would you call him?

ANNAN: Yes, I've met with him. I've met with Congressman Hyde, and we've also talked about the AIDS issue and what the U.S. can do to help, And I hope that whatever it is that has held it up can be sorted out, and then the check will come very quickly. But we do get messages to those concerned. We do get in touch with them.

WOODRUFF: And you mentioned others are frustrated or baffled by this. How much damage does this do to the U.S.?

ANNAN: It doesn't help that a country in a leadership position, a country that has an important role to play and would want other countries and allies to work with them and to agree with them on certain issues, doesn't pay its debt. This undermines U.S. leadership, U.S.'s effectiveness, and the U.N. And I'm really hopeful that once this is sorted out, that the U.S. can work more effectively with other like-minded countries to get the U.N. moving in the direction that we should.

WOODRUFF: Another matter with regard to the United States and the U.N.: As you know, the Bush administration is now making it known that they will not participate in the upcoming world conference on racism in Durbin, South Africa, if two particular issues are brought up: Zionism and slave reparations. Do you feel that these are issues that must be part of this conference?

ANNAN: It is already on the table. The issues are on the table, the language that is currently in the document is a language that quite lot of governments are not comfortable with. Beginning today, there is a 10-day preparatory commission meeting in Geneva to try and clean up the language.

WOODRUFF: So you'd be comfortable if that language were dispensed with?

ANNAN: Yes, I think the language as it stands poses a problem for quite a lot of governments, and it will be divisive. When we thought of these -- perceived of this conference, we thought we all agreed that racism and intolerance and xenophobia are ills that we should deal with and that we should bring governments together to share experiences, because it's not one a situation where (UNINTELLIGIBLE), and come up with a declaration and a document that can help us as we move into the future.

WOODRUFF: How do you feel about the U.S. threat to actually boycott this conference?

ANNAN: I hope it will not happen, and I think U.S. has an important role to play right now at the negotiating table in Geneva. All of the governments who are uncomfortable with the text should be there.

WOODRUFF: Is the U.S. there?

ANNAN: They are there, they are there, and they should really work hard to get the appropriate language and achieve common ground.

WOODRUFF: Under this new president of the United States, Mr. Bush, we find the administration rejecting or trying to change a number of international treaties, from the ABM, Antiballistic Missile Treaty, the Kyoto Treaty on global warming, germ warfare, and just recently, small arms control. How do you think this attitude toward these international treaties affects the role of the United States in the world and how the United States is seen?

ANNAN: I think some of the allies in the foreign countries are a bit baffled by the new approach, and they do not really quite understand how this is going to -- where this is going to lead. I think when President Bush was in Genoa, he heard a lot from them. I was particular on the climate change.

But I think that if we all accept that we live in a globalized world, we live in an inter-department world, there is no way we can move away from further development of international laws. Nations do look up to the U.S. and do expect the U.S., as the only superpower, to be part of all this. And I hope that the signals that are coming out would not lead to a sense by the others that the U.S. is not interested in others.

WOODRUFF: But on this broader question of these treaties, do you think there is give in the position of the Bush administration? They seem pretty firm.

ANNAN: It does seem pretty firm. I hope there will be a give. I've seen a healthy shift on the issue of climate change, for example. On the climate change, the administration's position has evolved. Originally they felt the Kyoto agreement was flawed, and that one needed more scientific evidence that climate change was (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

Now what I'm hearing is, look, we except the climate change, we accept we have a danger here. What we do not accept is Kyoto as a vehicle and we will think through and come up with how we join you in meeting that objective. If once you have that sort of open approach in this evolvement I hope there will be a meeting of minds somewhere, and that is sometime in the future the U.S. will join.

This is not first time. Look at the genocide convention, it took U.S. 30 years to come onboard. So I wouldn't give up.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Interview yesterday with Secretary-General Annan. As for the future he told me he hopes to continue reforms inside the United Nations to make that organization more effective.

This programming note: Secretary of State Colin Powell will be with us tomorrow here on INSIDE POLITICS to discuss his just-completed trip to China and other Asia-Pacific countries.

Finally, this news from the House floor in a debate over human cloning, the Greenwood amendment has failed. This is the amendment that would have permitted the cloning of embryos for purposes of research.

INSIDE POLITICS will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: An item dealing with the "West Wing" -- the Hollywood version that is. Sources tell our Jonathan Karl that the show has added two more Washington insiders as consultants for the coming season. Clinton economics adviser Gene Sperling and GOP pollster Frank Luntz joins former White House press secretaries Dee Dee Myers and Marlin Fitzwater and former speech writer Peggy Noonan on the payroll.

And in case you're wondering, they get between $2,000 and $5,000 an episode, depending on the time they put in.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: That's all for this edition of INSIDE POLITICS. Tomorrow, Secretary of State Colin Powell will be with us. But, of course, you can go on-line all the time at CNN's allpolitics.com. AOL keyword, cnn. Our e-mail address is: insidepolitics@cnn.com.

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

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

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