Skip to main content /transcript



Politicians Grappling With the Issue of Human Cloning

Aired August 7, 2001 - 17:00   ET


JEANNE MESERVE, CNN ANCHOR: This is INSIDE POLITICS. I'm Jeanne Meserve in Washington where a plan to clone humans is at the center of scientific, ethical and political debate.

JOHN KING, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I'm John King at the White House. The president is adamant in his opposition to cloning, but he's still debating a related issue: embryonic stem cell research.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I'm Bill Schneider in Los Angeles. As Al Gore prepares to raise his profile, how much have things changed for him politically?

HOWARD KURTZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Howard Kurtz in Washington. The White House cries foul as a new magazine spread mocks the Bush daughters. Is it proof the media are piling on?

ANNOUNCER: Now, Judy Woodruff takes you INSIDE POLITICS.

MESERVE: Thanks for joining us. Judy is off this week.

A team of reproductive specialists today denied suggestions that they are mad scientists. But their plan to clone up to 200 babies came under sharp attack at a scientific conference here in Washington just days after the House of Representatives voted to ban human cloning.

A doctor behind the new cloning plan says he knows most people in the United States do not welcome his experiment, but he says he welcomes input from his medical colleagues.


PANOS ZAVOS, THE ANDROLOGY INSTITUTE: It's better that you can play with us and help us develop this technology and provide guidelines for the dissemination of this technology.

QUESTION: Banned or not, is it going ahead?

ZAVOS: Banning or not, sure, of course. We're not doing it in the U.S.

QUESTION: Where are you doing it? I mean, you're...

ZAVOS: We're doing it in the world somewhere. We're not going to do it in the U.S. The U.S. is not the proper place to do this.


MESERVE: This summer, the nation's capital and the entire country have been forced to confront issues that once seemed like science fiction: from cloning to stem cell research, issues that are weighing on President Bush as he vacations at his Texas ranch.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As you know, I supported the anti-cloning legislation in the Congress. And I'll be making a statement about my views on how life and science should interface when I'm ready.


MESERVE: To sort through the medical and political implications of all this, we're joined by CNN medical correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen, and our White House correspondent, John King.

First to you, Elizabeth. There are men of science who disagree and disagree deeply over human cloning. Tell us a little bit about the tone and temper of this conference today.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, Jeanne, I've been in many scientific and medical conferences, and I've never seen the kind of bitterness, the kind of hostility that happened here. On the one hand, you have two groups that say that they want to clone a human being. On the other side, you have scientists, mostly animal researchers, who say, "You know what? When we tried to clone animals, it worked. But for every healthy animal clone, we got like Dolly. We got many, many, many deformed cloned babies," and the say, "How in the world, can you do that to human babies?" So it's been very bitter, very heated both in the actual meeting room. And out in the hallways even there have been arguments.

MESERVE: The discussion today, Elizabeth, of course, was about human cloning. Make the connection for us. How does this debate relate to stem cell research?

COHEN: You know, Jeanne, as if cloning is not complicated enough, now it gets really complicated. There are two different kinds of cloning. The first is the kind that was discussed in the meeting today, which is where is the end result of the clone is a born baby who is a clone of someone else in this world. And that's human reproductive cloning. The other kind is called therapeutic cloning. And that is where you would take an embryo and you would clone it in order to do research on it. For example, if you had a cell that was or an embryo that was of particular scientific importance because of its particular DNA, then scientists might want to clone it so that they could give it to other people and they could study it as well.

Now cloning then would be useful in stem cell research, and stem cells can then lead to cures theoretically for all sorts of diseases. So therapeutic cloning is useful for stem cells. However, researchers have told me it's not absolutely necessary. They do not need to clone to do stem cell research.

MESERVE: Elizabeth Cohen, thanks for drawing the scientific connection.

Now to John King at the White House.

John, draw for us the political connection between cloning and stem cell research.

KING: Well, the White House on the one hand, Jeanne, saying there is no connection. Cloning not controversial here at all. The president and his senior aides all opposed to it, as you heard from the president in the opening of the show. The administration supported legislation in the House to outlaw human cloning in the United States. The administration expects that legislation to clear the Senate and to be signed into law by the president. But this whole debate -- Where are the lines between morals and ethics and science? -- remind us that the president is nearing a decision on stem cell research, a related ethical and moral political dilemma.


KING: Soon but not today.

BUSH: I'll be making that decision -- I'll be making that announcement when I'm ready to make the announcement.

KING: Whether to support federal funding for embryonic stem cell research is a question the president has grappled with for months now. Administration and other sources familiar with the president's deliberations say it is clear Mr. Bush opposes creating embryos in laboratories specifically for medical research and developing embryos by cloning human cells.

At issue is whether to support stem cell research on leftover embryos developed during fertility treatments, embryos that otherwise would be discarded. A majority of Americans support stem cell research in that case: on embryos left over in fertility clinics. But support is weaker among key Bush constituency. Forty-five percent of self-described conservatives support this type of stem cell research, 42 percent of weekly churchgoers, and 35 percent of those who oppose abortion rights. Mr. Bush calls it an agonizing moral question and insists politics will play no part in his decision. Yet the longer he takes, the higher the political stakes.

BILL MCINTURFF, GOP POLLSTER: That is a consequence of the administration's attempt to deal with this issue and to be as thoughtful as possible. It has probably unfortunately helped contribute to making this an even bigger deal than it might have been.

KING: This public lecture from the Pope John Paul II will be remembered as a signature moment in the stem cell debate and in the debate over the president's handling of the issue.

JOHN PODESTA, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: That's just not a position you want to put the president into. So I kind of scratch my head and wonder, you know, how they got themselves put into that. I think it would have been a lot better if he had just made the decision before he went to Rome.

KING: But others see virtue in the president's indecision.

REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: Several times in meetings, for instance, even on the Patients' Bill of Rights, he'll make a reference to stem cell research, so you can tell this is really on his mind, and it's something that, in many ways, it may define his presidency, but also it will show, I think, the intensity and thought that he puts into a decision such as this.

KING: Mr. Bush promises a decision before Congress returns to work in September.


KING: And as that political deadline approaches, the lobbying only intensifying. Many moderates advocates of funding stem cell research are telling the White House, the president if he reversed course could boost his standing dramatically among moderates and independents, among suburban women. But cultural conservatives very influential in the Republican Party reminding this White House as recently as today that this president is on record opposing federal funding. And they say if he changes course, they will consider it tantamount to his father's breaking that no new taxes pledge -- Jeanne.

MESERVE: John King at the White House, thank you.

And now let's bring in our senior political analyst Bill Schneider in Los Angeles.

Bill, we've heard where the scientists are drawing the lines, where the politicians are drawing the lines. What about the public? Where do they draw the lines on cloning and stem cell?

SCHNEIDER: Well, Jeanne, the public draws a very sharp and clear line between two different kinds of research. Federal funding for stem cell research involving embryos that would otherwise be discarded, most Americans say yes. Forty percent say no. But research involving cloned embryos, that's a solid no. Sixty-six percent oppose federal funding for that.

Now what's behind the difference? The answer is religion. There's a big difference between churchgoers and non-churchgoers over stem cell research. Religious Americans want to ban it, and less religious Americans do not want to ban it. Opposition to cloning, however, is not religious. Both religious Americans and non-religious Americans alike oppose cloning research.

MESERVE: Bill, of course, we've seen the vote in the House of Representatives banning cloning. Tie this in politically, if you would, in terms of public opinion to this stem cell decision.

SCHNEIDER: Well, the two issues are really politically linked. A lot of conservatives rushed the vote on the -- in the House floor last week because they thought they would stop the momentum that was building in favor of stem cell research. But you know they might have outsmarted themselves, because most Americans who support stem cell research also want to ban cloning research. A lot of House members voted to ban funds for cloning last week because they were giving themselves political cover. They can support stem cell research and say to their voters, to their constituents, "I do have moral concerns about this issue and that's why I voted to ban cloning." Jeanne.

MESERVE: Bill Schneider, thanks so much.

And when we return, two members of Congress will debate a ban on cloning and its implications for stem cell research. Stay with us. This is INSIDE POLITICS.

ANNOUNCER: Guns, God and the future of the Democratic Party. Coming up, straight shooting from our Candy Crowley.


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Once upon a time, Democrats figured the key to America's bedroom communities was firm, up front, visible support of more gun control. Oops.


ANNOUNCER: Also ahead: What if a Bush-Gore presidential rematch were held today? And the "Talk" of the town. A debate about a new magazine parody and the media's treatment of the Bush daughters. Live from Washington, there's more of INSIDE POLITICS with Judy Woodruff straight ahead.


MESERVE: Ethics, science, politics all coming together in the debate over human cloning. We're joined now by Representative Dennis Kucinich, Democrat of Ohio, who supports the cloning ban passed by the House, and Representative Jim Greenwood, Republican of Pennsylvania. He introduced an alternative bill to bar only reproductive cloning, not therapeutic cloning for research.

Thank you both for joining us.

REP. JIM GREENWOOD (R), PENNSYLVANIA: Good to be with you.

MESERVE: Congressman Kucinich, let me start with you. You went for the more restrictive ban on human cloning. Where would you come down on federal funding for stem cell research?

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH (D), OHIO: Well, there is a similar issue, and that is if you're destroying a human embryo, it raises ethical questions. It still gets to the issue of the comodification of life and whether or not this embryo is simply another product for use by the corporation. I think we have to be very careful.

MESERVE: So does that that mean you'd be against stem cell? Does that mean you would be against stem cell research funding?

KUCINICH: Well, I think that there's reason to oppose it on ethical grounds because what you're really talking about is the destruction of an embryo in order to save something. We very -- you have to be very compassionate about people who are suffering from illness, but the only choice is not to destroy an embryo. You can use adult stem cells, you can reprogram cells so that they can be like embryonic stem cells without the cloning step or without destruction of the embryo. And I think we need to encourage science that goes in the direction of protecting that embryo without -- and not destroying it.

MESERVE: Congressman Greenwood, let's clarify where you are on the issue of stem cell research. Can you support federal funding for it?

GREENWOOD: Absolutely. I favor embryonic stem cell research as I favor therapeutic cloning. I am opposed to cloning human beings for reproductive cloning, but the fact of the matter is that there is tremendous hope for people who have diabetes, people who have Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, people with spinal cord injury, coma, head injury, the list of childhood diseases that plague so many Americans. The real hope of the future is in cell therapy, and the way you're going to learn how to use the DNA of our own bodies to cure what is plaguing us is through this kind of research. And the bottom line is you can call it an ethical issue. And, of course, we have to be ethical about the way we make these decisions, but it is also a religious issue. And there are some people who believe that cells in the petri dish once they have divided are endowed with a soul. And I commend them for their belief in that, but they don't have the right to use the federal law to impose that set of beliefs on the rest of Americans, many of whom who are waiting desperately for these cures.

MESERVE: Congressmen, it is also a political issue, so let me ask you a couple of questions specifically about that. If a conservative member of Congress voted for the more restrictive ban on human cloning, does that give him or her some cover to then vote for federal funding for stem cell research?

Well, I think frankly, many members ever Congress are viewing it that way. I believe the administration is viewing it that way. It's not the worst news in the world because I think the good side of this story is that there now seems to be a growing majority in the House, in the Senate for federal funds for research on embryos stem cells. Those are the leftover embryos from the in vitro fertilization and I think that to do some extent the issue therapeutic cloning has been positive, as the new boogie man if you will, the new taboo so that perhaps the president, I am hopeful other and others can come out in favor of embryonic stem cell research.

MESERVE: Congressman Kucinich, could it have the opposite effect. Could it be that the debate on human cloning has upped the temperature and made it more difficult for the president to make a decision in favor of federal fund for stem cell research? GREENWOOD: Well, I think, frankly, many members of Congress are viewing it that way. I believe the administration is viewing that way. It's not the worst news in the world, because I think the good side of this story is that there now seems to be a growing majority in the House, in the Senate for federal funds for research on embryo stem cells. Those are the left over embryos from in vitro fertilization. And I think to some extent, this issue of therapeutic cloning has been posited as the new boogie man, if you will, the new taboo so that perhaps the president, I am hopeful, and others can come out in favor or embryonic stem cell research.

MESERVE: Congressman Kucinich, could it have the opposite effect? Could it be that this debate on human cloning has upped the temperature and made it more difficult for the president to make a decision on favor of federal funding on stem cell research?

KUCINICH: Well, I'm hopeful the president will make a decision against federal funding of stem cell research, and here's why. It's very clear that today, we can -- we have technology where adult stem cells can help to cure many diseases right now. However, there are those who want to promote embryonic stem cell use. That's a whole different issue and it should not be confused. And so that's why I say that we need to do everything we can to stop the comodification of life because the people are promoting embryonic stem cell use while there are some people who sincerely want to help to cure disease, there's others who are just looking at a human embryo as being a product. And that takes this down a very slippery slope.

MESERVE: Well, talk to me about the political realities, congressmen.

Talk to me about the political realities of the situation, Congressman Kucinich. of this position. I know that you don't want to see the embryonic stem cell research, but what I'm asking is: Is it more likely that you may see some action in favor of that because now some people have gotten cover by voting against the human cloning measure?

KUCINICH: I don't think that members of Congress -- I don't think members of Congress are cynical about this. I think that the 265 members of Congress who voted to ban human cloning are also very sensitive to the fact that the embryonic stem cell research means the destruction of a human embryo, the comodification of life making the embryo into a product for corporate use.

By the way, there is no proof whatsoever that this embryonic stem cell technology has benefited a single human being or that it could. The research with animals has been -- the results have been very scary actually where the animals have had various defects. And you know, if you have a defect with something that is cloned and becomes -- and is human, then what do you do? Do you destroy it? I say that we have to guard human life not destroy it. That's why I oppose both the cloning of human life and also stem cell research.

MESERVE: Congressman Greenwood, you refer during the cloning debate to flat earth thinking on Capitol Hill. I'm wondering if you think members of Congress have the sort of scientific expertise they need to make intelligent judgments about some of these issues.

GREENWOOD: Well, clearly, they don't. And in all due respect to my colleague, who talked about not confusing the issue, he then proceeded to confuse stem cell --adult stem cell research with therapeutic cloning with reproductive cloning. And I don't blame people for finding this confusing. It is confusing. What I think is unfortunate is that leadership decided to bring this bill to the floor when members were totally unprepared on this science.

And they're making judgments that are unbased in science. You just need to know that you can't do the things that Represent Kucinich wants to do with adult stem cells unless you understand how the cells are going from a cell from my skin, my cheek, turning into a stem cell and then turning back into a specialty cell. And you have to do the research in order to do that. When that's finished, the day will come when any of us who are in the hospital with something wrong with our organs, our brain, our spine, our liver, our heart will be able to have doctors take our own DNA from our own cells, no more embryos, no cloning, but just using the proteins that they discovered in this research to change those cells into the cells that we need. And that will indeed be a miracle.

And if politicians, for what I think are fundamentally religious- based purposes, kill this research, they will have done a terrible thing to the people who are waiting for these cures, not only those who are living now but those who are yet to be born in generations to come.

MESERVE: And we have to leave it there, unfortunately. The debate will continue however. Congressman Kucinich and Congressman Greenwood, thank you both very much.

GREENWOOD: Thank you.

MESERVE: And CNN will focus on human cloning for a full hour tonight. A CNN special report, "Human Cloning: Science or Sacrilege," will air at 10:00 p.m. Eastern. CNN's Jeff Greenfield will continue the discussion on "Greenfield at Large" at 10:30 p.m. Eastern.

The Democrats assess their political future. Will it include Al Gore? Coming up, the former presidential nominee has been sporting a new look. We will gauge his standing with the public and with party activists.


MESERVE: Democrats assess what went wrong in 2000 and how to broaden their appeal to voters.


REP. DICK GEPHARDT (D-MO), MINORITY LEADER: I had a man come to the door and he said, "I like you, I'm with you on all the issues, but I'm going to vote against you this time." And I said why. He said, "You want to take my gun away."


MESERVE: Winning support in the so-called "red states," the Democratic strategy and the challenge of making it reality.


MESERVE: Former presidential candidate Al Gore plans to host a political workshop this weekend in Tennessee, one of his first public events since losing the election to President Bush. Gore has not indicated if he will make a second run for the White House, but new poll numbers shed some light on his standing among democrats and the American people. For more, we turn once again to our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider. Bill, what do the numbers tell you?

SCHNEIDER: Well, you know, it's being reported, Jeanne, that a lot of Democratic activists don't want to hear from Al Gore. They think he blew it last year.

Well, that message has not gotten through to rank-and-file Democrats because, guess what, Al Gore is still their first choice for the nomination in 2004. Now, I wouldn't call Gore the prohibitive favorite; one-third of Democrats favor Gore followed by Hillary Clinton, Bill Bradley, Joe Lieberman, and Dick Gephardt.

Well, you might say Democrats are asking for trouble if they choose Gore again, because history is not kind to losers. Adelaide Stevenson did worse when he was nominated for a second time. But history is not kind to presidents who have a taint of illegitimacy. All three presidents who lost the popular vote were one term presidents. You have your John Quincey Adams, your Rutherford B. Hayes, and your Benjamin Harrison.

So how would Gore do today in a rematch with George W. Bush? The answer is Bush 49, Gore 48. Another virtual tie. Oh my God!

MESERVE: Not another. But, Bill, explain to us the reason for this. Why is Gore still as popular as he is with Democrat rank-and- file?

SCHNEIDER: Well, I'd say two reasons. One is Clinton. Democratic activists believe that Gore lost the election last year because he tried to distance himself from Bill Clinton. The truth is, he lost because he couldn't distance himself from Clinton, even though he tried. That's what the selection of Joe Lieberman was all about.

Think of it this way: if there had been no Clinton scandals, can you image Gore losing that race last year? Well, the second reason Gore is still very popular is very simple: injustice! Gore carried the popular vote! He deserves a second chance, Democrats say. Well, that argument will be very, very powerful if President Bush is in trouble, say, like his father was in 1992.

A lot of voters, and not just Democrats, will want to say, oops, we made a bit mistake. But, if Bush is successful and popular, I think Gore will be much less attractive. Jeanne.

MESERVE: Bill Schneider, thanks so much.

President Bush's razor-thin victory over Al Gore illustrated the narrow divide among American voters. But, among certain voter groups, Bush defeated Gore handily. One reason some top Democrats say it's time to modify their parties message. In the second of two reports, our senior political correspondent Candy Crowley takes a look at the Democratic party and its political appeal.


CROWLEY (voice-over): Presidential possible John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat, hunter, gun owner.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: I think sometimes the perception is that every time there's an issue, Democrats blame it on guns rather than on human behavior.

CROWLEY: Whoa, can anybody else hear the echo of the NRA's "Guns Don't Kill People, People Kill People"?

There is a seat change underway at the Democratic party, a seat change born of the grassroots.

GEPHARDT: Let me just tell you a story. I go door-to-door in my district, still do today, all the time. And I had a man come to the door. He said, "I like you. I'm with you on all the issues, but I'm going to vote against you this time."

I said, "Why"? He said, "You want to take my gun away."

CROWLEY: Once upon a time, Democrats figured the key to Americas bedroom communities was firm, up-front, visible support of more gun control. Oops.

TERRY MCAULIFFE, DNC CHAIRMAN: I've been all over the south. I've been out to all the western states. And they tell me the same thing, that they get killed out there because our view on guns gets distorted, and it scares people.

CROWLEY: 52 percent of voters last year were gun owners. 61 percent of them voted for George Bush. Look at the presidential map to areas with deep cultural roots in hunting and recreational gun use. The south, the heartland, the interior west, a political gun belt, if you will.

A single state in that wash of red Republican territory would have given Al Gore the Oval Office. A single state like, say, West Virginia, which last year went Bush, the first time it has picked a nonincumbent Republican president in 72 years.

At the same time, West Virginians replaced their current Republican governor with a Democrat. The gun issue was never an issue.

GOV. BOB WISE (D), WEST VIRGINIA: In a state that has a high percentage of gun ownership, probably the highest in the country, and I have consistently voted against gun control, and I think the message is quite clear. We're not out to take your guns. Too often it's been like the crazy aunt up in the attic, you don't want to talk about her. Democrats have to be willing to talk about this issue.

CROWLEY: Point taken. Still some Democrats believe guns are part of a gaping cultural divide that has created a kind of bicoastal national party. Beyond guns, they think the party needs to get more vocal about the role God plays in the life of many Americans, and maybe have to lighten up on the populous scripts.

AL GORE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Because I'm for the people and not the powerful.

CROWLEY: It is classic Democratic rhetoric. The debate is whether it fits the times, which without debate have changed.

SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN (D), CONNECTICUT: We were in a firehouse in Florida and we were having breakfast with the firefighters, and we said to them, on a typical morning here, when you're having breakfast, what do you talk about? And the answer was not sports, not family, not fire-fighting. The answer was, on a typical morning we talk about the stock market. Well, that's a revolution in American life.

CROWLEY: Unions versus business. Blue collar versus white collar. Urban versus rural. Those classic fault lines no longer hold.

SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D), NORTH CAROLINA: As we move forward, as we go into the future, it's very important for us to realize as Democrats that these people in small town America, in rural America, in the Midwestern states and south, these are people who we need to attract.

CROWLEY: If it occurs to you that a new approach to guns, God and economic growth sounds vaguely, well, Republican, you have fit on a fear at the base of the party.

KWEISI MFUME, NAACP PRESIDENT: It can't try to out-republican the Republican party, that's not going to work. And it can't be the party of all people for all things, because that's not going to work.

CROWLEY: This is beyond the party's standard philosophical debate between liberals and moderates, this is reality-based politics. If there is any clear signal from election 2000, it's that the country is split down the middle. There are two ways to break the tie; steal voters from the other side or find more of your own.

MCAULIFFE: 23 percent of the voting electorate were single women, yet only 19 percent of those turned up at the polls. That four percent is the difference why Dick Gephardt is probably not Speaker of the United States today. So, we have to make sure that we go back to our folks, get them excited, and make sure that missing four percent of single women do come out and vote in the next election.

CROWLEY: "We'd love some of those Republican votes," explained one Democrat. "But if we have to, we can win without them by finding new votes." Still, party loyalists turned out at in record numbers here, managing only to keep Al Gore afloat. What's needed to break the tie, argue some Democrats, is to round out the edges of the party's message is a direct appeal to Bush voters. Still, it's a dangerous balancing act, sometimes in reaching out you can fall over.

Candy Crowley, CNN, Washington.


MESERVE: Another sign Democrats are rethinking their appeal to voters. Sources tell our John King that Democratic party chairman Terry McAuliffe will meet tomorrow with a group of pollsters and strategists to discuss so-called values issues. The sources say McAuliffe is mindful of the success President Bush had using those issues last year. The meeting will address ways Democrats can improve their standing, especially in rural areas, heading into mid-term elections.

And an anti-tax rally in the latest battle over state budget in Tennessee. Up next, protesters once again set up shop outside the State House to keep the pressure on lawmakers.


MESERVE: With protesters gathered outside the State House, the Tennessee state Senate has convened to consider a vote to override the governor's veto of the state budget and the state House overrode the veto by a wide margin just a few hours ago.

Earlier, police circled the capital as the protesters gathered outside. At issue was a standoff over deep budget cuts and a proposed new state income tax. Governor John Sundquist vetoed the budget lawmakers passed last month because he said spending cuts went too far and because he wanted new revenue sources.

During the floor debate last month, anti-tax protesters held a raucous rally outside the capital and several windows were broken.

In New Jersey, Democrat James McGreevey has widened his lead in the state's gubernatorial race, according to a new Quinnipiac University poll. McGreevey got 49 percent to 30 percent for Republican Bret Schundler, with the election now three months away. Last month, McGreevey led Schundler by 13 points in a Quinnipiac poll taken shortly after Schundler's victory in the GOP primary.

Prosecutors in Miami have dropped a misdemeanor battery charge against Mayor Joe Carollo. The Mayor was arrested last February following a 9-1-1 call made by his 12-year-old daughter. Police say Carollo hit his wife with a tea container causing a golf ball-sized lump on her head. Prosecutors decided to drop the charge after Carollo completed a counseling program for first-time offenders.

The Bush daughters are making another splash in the presidential fish bowl.


HOWARD KURTZ, HOST, CNN'S "RELIABLE SOURCES": From "The New York Post" to "People" magazine to dozens of television talk shows, journalists got downright tipsy covering the alcohol stories.


MESERVE: Howard Kurtz on media coverage of the first daughters and whether a new magazine spread goes too far, up next on INSIDE POLITICS.



GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Washington, D.C. is a fine place and I'm honored to be working in the Oval Office and staying in the compound there, but I'm the kind of person that needs to get outdoors. I like to be outdoors, I like to work outdoors. It keeps my mind whole, it keeps my spirits up.


MESERVE: President Bush on the golf course today explaining why he's spending a month at his ranch in the searing heat of a Texas summer, away from the political heat here in Washington.

The president has found that the media scrutiny he receives in this city, and everywhere he goes, has extended to some degree to his daughters. Now, a new magazine spread is reviving the debate about news coverage of Jenna and Barbara Bush.

Howard Kurtz of CNN's "RELIABLE SOURCES" tells us what's at issue.


KURTZ (voice-over): President Bush's daughters may have celebrated at their dad's inauguration, but he's always tried to keep them out of the media spotlight. Their cherished privacy evaporated, though, when they were cited for underage drinking; twice for Jenna Bush, once for Barbara.

Almost overnight, the media declared them fair game and the White House was outraged.

ARI FLEISCHER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think you really want to ask yourself these questions about do you want the American people to know that you're asking about private conversations that took place between the president of the United States and his child.

KURTZ: From "The New York Post" to "People" magazine to dozens of television talk shows, journalists got downright tipsy covering the alcohol stories. Now Tina Brown's "Talk" magazine is going a step further, depicting Jenna and Barbara as party girls and jailbirds in a fashion spread on girls behaving badly, complete with such mocking headlines as "Compassionate Conservatism? You're Grounded."

White House officials are furious and have vowed not to cooperate with any reporter writing for "Talk."

(on camera): Has the whiff of alcohol prompted journalists to more aggressively cover the Bush twins compared to other presidential offspring? And why are the gloves coming off when a Republican happens to occupy the Oval Office?

(voice-over): The press largely stayed away from awkward Amy Carter and showed rare restraint when Chelsea Clinton was growing up. One exception, a "People" cover story on how Chelsea was coping at Stanford in the aftermath of the Monica Lewinsky scandal, despite a personal appeal by her parents.

"We deeply regret and are profoundly saddened by the decision of "People" magazine to print a cover story featuring our daughter, Chelsea" the first couple said.

But news organizations provided little coverage last August when Vice President Al Gore's 17-year-old son Albert was arrested and charged with driving 97 miles an hour. "The New York Times" ran eight sentences. "The Washington Post," eight sentences. "USA Today," three sentences, all on inside pages. CNN also provided brief coverage.

And nearly six years ago, Gore's daughter Sarah, then 16, was cited by police for holding an open can of beer outside a party. Most of the press looked the other way.

Now that it's the Bush daughters coming under the media microscope, the first lady is crying foul.

LAURA BUSH, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: I think that our children ought to be totally left alone, and allowed to have a totally private life. They are not public citizens. They didn't run for office.

KURTZ (voice-over): "Talk's" editorial director, Maer Roshan, defends the photo shoot, calling it cheeky and in good fun. The administration, he says, ought to get a sense of humor.

MAER ROSHAN, "TALK" MAGAZINE: I think at 19 you can go to war, George Bush Sr. went to war at 19. You could vote. I feel that you also can take a little slight lampooning.

KURTZ (on camera): So is the press being rougher on the Bush daughters than on previous presidential kids? Probably. They did get into trouble with the law, not a brilliant idea if your father is the leader of the free world.

But in the post-Lewinsky era, journalists don't need much justification to turn anyone, even teenagers, into talk or talk show fodder.


MESERVE: And joining us now in New York, Maer Roshan, editorial director for "Talk" magazine and, here in Washington, Rich Noyes at the Media Research Center.

Mr. Roshan, let me start with you. White House press person Dan Bartlett called this photo spread disrespectful, says it mocks the Bush family, and there will be no more administration report for "so- called reporting from "Talk" magazine." Your reaction to that?

ROSHAN: I was surprised to hear that they would take such a stand. We weren't disrespectful. Anyone -- most people who have seen the spread, and I take it that the White House has not actually seen the spread, have found it pretty fun and in good taste. And I was shocked that they would take advantage of the situation to cut off all ties with a member of the press.

MESERVE: Mr. Noyes, do you feel that they stepped over a line?

RICH NOYES, MEDIA RESEARCH CENTER: "Talk" magazine? Yeah. I mean, it's not in good fun to lampoon the president's daughters, show them dressed up in outlandish clothes, put them in a jail cell. I mean, that's parody, and you know, these are not people who put themselves in the public light. They've been dragged in the public light by "Talk" magazine, "People" magazine and others like that.

MESERVE: And what about the point that these are young women who did break the law, however?

NOYES: And that was news and that was covered. But "Talk" magazine is not trying to report the news. They're trying to have some fun here and create a controversy and sell their magazine.

ROSHAN: There is a long tradition -- there is a long tradition of satire in the American media and I feel that this was within the tradition of satire in the American media. Outlandish clothes, what your guest called outlandish clothes are actually couture clothes that many women love to wear and I feel that he doesn't have it right.

NOYES: Right. Well, I mean, satire is fine. But these are not people who put themselves in the public light. They're not trying to profit in any way from this presidency. I mean, they've been dragged into the public spotlight and "Talk" magazine is trying...

ROSHAN: If they were dragged by anyone, they were dragged by their parents. I think everyone -- there are many perks that come with being the offspring of a president, and some responsibilities as well. We're not talking about 12-year-old girls or 13-year-old girls, we're talking about 19-year-old girls.

MESERVE: But isn't it also true that what you're doing in your magazine isn't having a serious debate about the issue at hand, which might mean teenage drinking. Instead, what you're doing is sexualizing and sensationalizing the Bush twins. ROSHAN: That -- I think that if you look at the fashion spread within the context of the other articles that were around it, and once again, these decisions and judgments are made without anyone having seen the whole magazine, you'll see it's within the context of the story about young women in our culture acting up in all kinds of ways. In music and in fashion and in all kinds of art, and this was part of a larger spread on this idea.

MESERVE: Mr. Roshan, as you know, there are people who are raising the suggestion that the Democratic ties of your magazine might have something to do with the decision to run this photo spread. Is there any connection?

ROSHAN: The decision to run this was made by me. I've been here for six weeks and my boss is, who OK'ed this idea, but it was my idea. I have never and -- have never acted with any consideration of any supposed ties.

I'll also point out that "Talk" books was the one that purchased Giuliani's book for lots of money and we have ties to Republicans as well as to Democrats. I think that's not true.

MESERVE: Mr. Noyes, I'm curious if whether you think the administration risks looking petty here by saying we're not going to cooperate because we didn't like this bad publicity.

NOYES: No, I think, you know, people don't rely on "Talk" magazine for their news about politics, for their news about government, or the news about the Bush family. I mean, "Talk" magazine...

ROSHAN: Maybe people like you don't. Many, many, many, readers, we have 700,000 readers who do.

NOYES: Right. Well, I mean, I don't think "Talk" magazine would have picked this fight if there were somebody named Clinton sitting in the White House. They wouldn't have done a sacrilegious photo spread like this just to get a fight going.

ROSHAN: I feel that if it was the Gore girls who were arrested for drinking and were in the same situation, we certainly would have.

NOYES: Well...

MESERVE: Mr. Roshan, does this put a crimp on "Talk" magazine at all? To have the administration say, uh-uh, we're just not going to cooperate with you any more.

ROSHAN: We've relied on our reporters, many of them from the right, many of them from the left, who stood us in good stead for the two years we've been around. They're great reporters. We have great sources throughout Washington. We'll continue to get the story. We'll continue to report it and to report it fairly. So, will it be a little bit, you know, daunting at times? Maybe. But I think we'll get the job done, as we always have. MESERVE: Mr. Noyes, I'm curious if whether you think the White House perhaps missed an opportunity when the Bush twins were involved, when they were picked up on alcohol charges, to perhaps education the public about teenage drinking, to take this incident, as unfortunate as it may have been, as embarrassing as it might have been, and spur some public debate about an important issue.

NOYES: Well, I think if the White House had done that, they would have then opened a door -- you know, if they had introduced the two Bush daughters as public people like that they would have opened the door for this kind of stuff.

I think, you know, what "Talk" magazine is trying to do, which is say that only if your underage are you not fair game. I think, you know, if people don't put themselves forward in any way to the media scrutiny, why should the media, you know, take them and do with them what they will? I mean, they are appropriating their private lives to do whatever they want with and I don't -- you know, they haven't done anything to earn this kind of coverage.

MESERVE: And we have to leave it there, I'm afraid. Rich Noyes and Maer Roshan, thank you both for joining us on this very hot afternoon.

ROSHAN: Thanks for having me.

MESERVE: And now two former presidents, two big book deals, up next, surprising similarities between Bill Clinton and Ulysses S. Grant.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president is going to write a memoir of his life. He has had some amazing experiences over the course of his almost 55 years, just about a week short of 55 years, in Arkansas, in Washington, on the world stage. And he'll write about the key events, he'll write about the people he met, and the book hasn't been written yet, but I can tell you it will be a comprehensive and candid book.


MESERVE: Whatever the content, former President Clinton is getting some rave reviews for the business side of his book deal. Sources say he's getting at least $10 million. But at least one of his predecessors gave Clinton a run for his money. We checked in with Marshall University professor Gene Edward Smith, author of Grant.

Smith tells us that Ulysses S. Grant raked in an estimated $450,000 for his 1885 memoirs. In today's dollars, that would be approximately $8.3 million. So, Clinton's $10 million beats Grant's $8.3 million, right? Well, not really. While Clinton will pay a chunk of his royalties to the IRS, the Grant family paid no federal taxes on the royalty. Sadly, Grant died before the book was published, proving the old adage about death and taxes was at least half right.

And every Friday our Bill Schneider awards a political play of the week and we want your nominations. E-mail your ideas to and tune in on Fridays to see if you picked the play of the week.



4:30pm ET, 4/16

Back to the top