Skip to main content /TRANSCRIPTS



Olympic Officials Award Gold Medal to Canadian Pair; Bush Sparks Political Firestorm From Nevada Politicians; Dodd May Run for President

Aired February 15, 2002 - 16:00   ET


JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Judy Woodruff in Washington. Olympic officials try to resolve the questions surrounding the pair's skating competition. A complete look at the controversy, and my interview with skier, Picabo Street.

RUSTY DORNIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Rusty Dornin in Salt Lake City, where the International Olympic Committee moved to dispel "Skategate." Looks like the Canadian skaters will also have the gold.

MAJOR GARRETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I'm Major Garrett at the White House. President Bush makes a decision on nuclear waste disposal, and sparks a political firestorm from Nevada politicians.

JONATHAN KARL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Jonathan Karl on Capitol Hill, where you can add another name to the list of Democratic senators considering the run for the White House.


WOODRUFF: Thank you for joining us. Olympics officials took steps today to end the controversy swirling around the pair's skating competition. Just a few hours ago, world skating officials announced the suspension of a judge, and Olympic officials said they will award gold medals to the pair skaters from Canada. CNN's Rusty Dornin is in Salt Lake City with the latest. Hi, Rusty.

DORNIN: Well, Judy, things unfolded very quickly this morning. We had first heard that the Canadian skaters had applied to this court of arbitration for sports, pushing these judges to testify, and to also ask for another gold medal. Very soon after that, we heard that the International Olympic Committee and the International National Skating Union were holding a joint press conference. And that is when they announced that another gold medal will be given to Jamie Sale and David Pelletier.

Now apparently, this is being given on equal footing. They are throwing out the French judge's marks for misconduct, and so it is a 4-4 split by the judges on equal footing, for both pairs. Now, the Canadian skaters held a press conference shortly after that, and talked about how they felt about the decision.


DAVID PELLETIER, CANADIAN OLYMPIC FIGURE SKATER: We are happy that justice was done. And it doesn't take away anything from Elena and Anton. This was not something against them. It was something against the system. And we also hope that the inquiries won't stop here, but they'll keep on going.


DORNIN: Apparently the investigation will continue, and the only thing the IOC and the ISU would say is that there was misconduct on the part of the French judge. She has been suspended indefinitely, and there is no word whether she has left Salt Lake City or not.

Now, as far as the Canadian skaters, they will be given a gold medal, apparently right before or directly after the women's figure skating competition on the 18th of February. So, a very quick resolution which was somewhat unexpected, to what was a rapidly increasing controversy -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Certainly had us all riveted. Rusty Dornin, thanks very much.

Well, the Canadian skaters of course received public support from all across Canada. But other Olympic athletes have also weighed in. Before today's decision was announced, I had a chance to ask American skier, Picabo Street, what she thought about the pair's skating controversy.


PICABO STREET, AMERICAN OLYMPIC SKIER: The Olympics is a business, and unfortunately, a lot of times business and corruption go hand in hand.


WOODRUFF: My extended interview with Picabo Street is coming up, just minutes from now.

Here in Washington, the White House today tried to defuse any perceived differences between the president and Secretary of State Colin Powell, on the issue of condom use by young people. The questions began after comments that Powell made yesterday in a global forum on MTV.


COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: It is part of the solution to the HIV-AIDS crisis, and I encourage their use by young people who are sexually active. You've got to protect yourself. If you don't protect yourself, who is going to protect you?


WOODRUFF: White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said today the president and Powell are -- quote -- "shoulder to shoulder" on the importance of abstinence, as well as sex education.


ARI FLEISCHER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think the secretary made it perfectly plain, and so did the questioner. The question was in the context of for people who practice sex. It was not a question about everybody in our society. It was a question just those who were sexually active. So obviously, if someone is sexually active, they already made a decision not to practice abstinance.


WOODRUFF: We'll have more on this issue and the policy questions it raises a little later this hour, on INSIDE POLITICS.

Separately today, President Bush endorsed a plan to store 77,000 metric tons of high-level nuclear waste in an underground facility in Yucca Mountain, Nevada. Joining me now with more on this decision and the early reaction to it, CNN's White House correspondent, Major Garrett.

GARRETT: Hi, Judy. The White House statement announcing this endorsement will come out shortly. And in it, the president will say he is making this decision for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, it's safer to store high-level nuclear waste beneath the ground than at the various facilities around the country where it's stored on a temporary basis, above ground.

He will also say, over the long haul, it will increase national confidence in nuclear waste storage, and that will enhance confidence in the nuclear industry generally, and make nuclear power more a part of the United States energy matrix, making the nation less dependent on other outside sources of energy.

The president, however, is receiving tremendous criticism from Nevada politicians, in part because of what he said while in Nevada in May of 2000. Let me read a quote when the president was in Lake Tahoe, Nevada, about this subject. The president said -- quote -- "as president, I would not sign legislation that would send nuclear waste to any proposed site unless it's been deemed scientifically safe." Well, Harry Reid, the Democrat from Nevada, said today the president did just the opposite. And he said so in the strongest words possible.


SEN. HARRY REID (D), NEVADA: One recourse we have is to show that the president of the United States would not be president of the United States had he not come to Nevada and told the big lie over and over again. What is that big lie? The big lie is that he would not allow nuclear waste to come to Nevada unless the science were good. The science is lacking. It is inadequate. It is lousy.


GARRETT: Judy, Nevada will formally veto the president's decision. But it will only stand if Congress agrees to sympathize and side with Nevada in this dispute. It is not expected to happen, so the president's decision will stand, it is believed. And the largest public works project in the history of the country will be set in motion. All of that nuclear waste will then have to travel from the various sites around the country, by truck or by train, to Nevada. That will be a concern to many voters across the country -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Sure to hear more about this. Major Garrett at the White House, thanks.

On Capitol Hill today, CNN's Jonathan Karl caught up with Connecticut Senator Christopher Dodd. Jonathan joins me now with a bit of news on the senator, and some intriguing comments Dodd shared about his political future -- Jon.

KARL: Well, Judy, I caught up with Senator Dodd down in the capital subway, where he talked about his thoughts on the 2004 presidential race. Here's what he said.


Would you run for president? Your name keeps coming up on these lists of Democrats that might run for president. Will you run?

SEN. CHRISTOPHER DODD (D), CONNECTICUT: I've certainly thought about it. I've considered it. But I haven't done anything much more than that at this point. I have a new baby, new family.

KARL: But you don't rule it out?

DODD: I don't rule it out at this point. I'd have to look at it over the next number of weeks. I'm thinking about. That's the first time I've ever done that. And we'll see what happens over the next few weeks.


KARL: Now, Senator Dodd's office is downplaying the significance of those remarks, saying that he has said before that he would consider a run, but he hasn't done any of the things that he would normally do to prepare for a run. That said, Judy, that is further than any of the known candidates for 2004, the people like John Kerry and John Edwards, Joe Lieberman, even Al Gore, for that matter, have said. They usually try to do everything they can to downplay the possibility that they're even thinking about running, saying that's a question for a future date.

Dodd seems to be saying it's a question for the next few weeks. And furthermore, I spoke to a senior Democratic operative with experience on the last four presidential campaigns, who said that Dodd has spoken to him about this, and that Dodd is seriously considering running for president. So, Judy, there you have it.

WOODRUFF: Well, that's quite a story, Jon. By the way, we're going to carry that entire interview you did with Senator Dodd on Monday, on INSIDE POLITICS. Thank you, Jon. An American Olympian, who says she has skied her last race. Up next on INSIDE POLITICS, I will go on the record with Picabo Street about the Olympics, her career and her future plans.

Down to the wire in the race for Dallas mayor. We head to Texas for the inside buzz on the issues and personalities on the line in tomorrow's runoff.

Plus, Gary Condit's race for reelection. A report from California on his campaign and his leading opponent. This is INSIDE POLITICS.


WOODRUFF: Before the pairs figure skating controversy began making headlines, Picabo Street's retirement was among the most prominent story lines to come out of the Winter Olympics. I had a chance to sit down with Picabo the day after her last race, and I asked her on the record, how she felt then about her decision to leave competitive skiing.


STREET: I feel so great. I feel so relieved, Judy. It's really been incredible. The Olympic experience has been wonderful for me, and I've have gotten to feel it from all of the different perspectives that you can feel it from. Being a gold medalist, being a silver medalist, and now being a torch bearer and, you know, a teammate with a big strong American team. Such a patriotic Olympics. IT's really been more than a dream come true.

WOODRUFF: You came in 16th in the women's downhill, but you were only 1.5 seconds behind the gold medal winner. You know, for a layperson, it's very hard to comprehend...

STREET: It is, it is.

WOODRUFF: ... how such little bit of time could make such a difference.

STREET: Sometimes I think that that's part of the reason why my sport isn't more popular. Because when people watch, they don't really understand why someone else is faster than someone else. I think that it's a duty that I have, actually, to go commentate and explain to the people watching why Carol Montiller was faster than I was, down off the pitch yesterday.

And there's tiny little things that happen, but when you're talking about world class competition, that's the beauty of the Olympics. It's little, minute, fine-tuning, that can separate a gold, silver, bronze, to last place in the race.

WOODRUFF: How did you feel yesterday when you realized what your time was?

STREET: You know, when I first saw my time, I thought, wow, I didn't think that I had skied that badly. And then I thought, you know what, this is my one chance to be in front of this crowd, this is what they all came to see, and I'm not going to go let the moment be ruined by me scratching my head about my time and my placing. So I went out and I waved goodbye, basically, to the largest crowd in American skiing history. So that was really special for me.

Needless to say, I got over it really quickly. A minute and a half is, you know, not a whole lot of time in the big pictures.

WOODRUFF: Second and a half.

STREET: A second and half, or a minute and a half. A minute and a half is how long we get to race a downhill, you know? Then we have the rest of our lives to live.

WOODRUFF: Did you know all along that you were going to quit?

STREET: I did. I had been bouncing back and forth this season, having kind of a tough time, not knowing for sure what I would do. But when I came into the Games, I knew that it would be my last race. And then I knew, just by how big the stands were, how many people they were going to be able to put in there, that skiing into a crowd of 26,000 was going to be enough to complete my Olympic dreams. And once I was chosen to carry the torch, that was pretty much it for me. I thought, wow, no matter what happens on race day and what kind of result I have, my Olympic dreams have been fulfilled already.

WOODRUFF: You know, Picabo Street, people think about your injuries, horrific injuries. You broke your thigh bone in how many places, four places or something like that. You did terrible things to your knees, and you kept at it. How? Why?

STREET: You know, I think that God tests us in ways that we can handle and ways that are going to teach us the most. I think that's why I have endured some of the physical setbacks and obstacles that I have. I've grown and learned so much more about myself, and about the world, and about the people in the world, through my injuries, that they've been blessings in disguise.

And for me, the one thing that I learned that I want to pass on is, when you're in those times, when you're in the down and out, that's when you learn the most about yourself. And that's when you grow the most. And if you've got something like a dream or a goal to put out there on the horizon and shoot for, it's going to help you get not only through those hard times, but learn the lessons you're supposed to learn that God had in store for you.

And when you come out the other side, really, you can do whatever you want. And for me it was just competing in the Olympics.

WOODRUFF: Any advice for young women athletes, trying to decide whether to -- you know, although I know it starts very, very young. It's not as if one can decide on the spur of the moment to do this. You were in training for many, many years. But what do you say to young women, thinking about sports and whether to compete and keep at it? STREET: I think that, regardless of whether or not you actually can picture yourself and dream about yourself being on the top step hearing the national anthem played for yourself, or if you're just looking for the experiences that being an athlete gives you, I think whatever your motivation is, it doesn't matter. It's that you get out there and you try.

Because being an athlete can teach you some of the most priceless, and really, some things that you can't learn anywhere else about yourself. It will you confidence and strength, and motivation and desire and passion, to go do all kinds of different things with your life. So, even if it's just something you want to do for fun and you don't want to make it a career, athletics has a lot to offer.

And for young ladies, especially, it can really teach you a lot about who you are and how to believe in yourself, which is really -- that's going to get you the man you want, it's going to get you the job you want, it's going to bring you happiness in your life. It really is.


WOODRUFF: Picabo Street, who this week, announced she is retiring from competitive skiing.

For more on the skating controversy at the Olympics, join Wolf Blitzer at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. Former Olympic ice skater, Debbie Thomas, joins Wolf to talk about the sport and what damage may have been done by this scandal.

Should Colin Powell have abstained from talking about condoms? That debate, after the break.


WOODRUFF: In Texas, tomorrow's run-off election for Dallas mayor features two candidates with very different political styles. CNN's Ed Lavandera reports the race may turn on the politics of personality.


ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Style and attitude: that's what the Dallas mayor's race boils down to.

Laura Miller, a former city hall journalist-turned-council- member, who say some say can throw political punches like a heavyweight fighter.

LAURA MILLER, DALLAS MAYORAL CANDIDATE: ... needs to read the ethics code. I'll send him a copy -- autographed.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you can't stand the heat, get out of the room, but close the door.

TOM DUNNING, DALLAS MAYORAL CANDIDATE: Is there anything that I needed to sign here? LAVANDERA: Tom Dunning is a businessman who wants voters to appreciate his less confrontational style.

DUNNING: That's why I have not only the business leaders in this city, but the top African-American, Hispanic leaders. The top Republican and Democratic leaders, who are supporting me for mayor.

LAVANDERA: When Miller first joined the council in 1998, she'd show up at meetings with reporter notebooks. A meticulous fiscal watchdog, she makes no apologies about her political style.

MILLER: As a journalist, I could get all the details and I could write the stories, and I could rail about what was wrong with the system. But I could never change the system. And if no one was listening to me or no one cared, then everyone just ignored what I wrote.

LAVANDERA: Dunning has hammered away at the style issue to help narrow a 10 percent gap in the polls. But both candidates agree style is a major issue, partly because of one man -- the Rudy Giuliani effect. They say it's changed what voters expect from their mayor.

DUNNING: Since September the 11th, everybody has looked to the power of a mayor, because of what Giuliani did. So I think people are more focused on really how important is a mayor.

MILLER: I think people want to see the same thing here, and they want to have a politician who not only says, "I'm going to do these things," but who they feel like on the first day that they're in office, is going to go out there and, god darn it, get it done.

LAVANDERA: Giuliani's name doesn't get mentioned much in this campaign, but both Tom Dunning and Laura Miller know, popularity is often a matter of style over substance. Ed Lavandera, CNN, Dallas.


WOODRUFF: We will of course report on the results on Monday's INSIDE POLITICS.

Checking now the headlines in our campaign news daily, several Democrats with eyes on the White House will attend this weekend's California Democratic convention. Senators Tom Daschle, John Kerry and John Edwards are all expected to address the gathering. CNN's Candy Crowley will have a full report on Monday's INSIDE POLITICS.

The Reverend Al Sharpton is headed to New Hampshire, home to the first-in-the-nation presidential primary. Dartmouth College and Keene State College are among Sharpton's planned stops this weekend. He, too, will join me live on Monday's INSIDE POLITICS.

Joining me now with some "Inside Buzz," our Bob Novak. All right, I understand first of all, you have a little bit of news with regard to campaign finance reform.

BOB NOVAK, "CHICAGO SUN-TIMES": No sooner had the House passed the campaign finance reform bill, than several Republican members were off, supposedly to their home districts, but some of them were off to Florida. About 20 of them, I think -- Speaker Hastert included, at least, he's on the list -- went to the Turnberry Resort in Fort Lauderdale, where there is a soft money festival of people who have given soft money to the national Republican Congressional committee.

But the big deal is in Naples, Florida, at the Ritz Carlton hotel. You've been there. You know how fancy that is. And this is the club 1,000. This is the big givers. They give between 100,000 and $250,000. They have down there the secretary of commerce, Don Evans, several senators, including Republican leader Trent Lott. And -- this is the one I love -- my friend, Lindsey Graham, of South Carolina. He had an passionate speech on the floor against soft money. He's running for the Senate in South Carolina, and he is there. too.

What they go down there for is to drink, to play golf, to have a good time. And the big givers of the party, the givers get to meet these people. But what are they going to do? Who is going to pay for this, Judy, when there is no more soft money? Doesn't that worry you?

WOODRUFF: It has me very worried, Bob.

NOVAK: They all have secret meetings, and they don't like to hear this, either.

WOODRUFF: But you're right. I like only those fancy hotels. What about -- what are lobbyists saying about this new increase in the amount of hard money?

NOVAK: They hate that. See, the increase in the hard money goes from 1,000 to 2,000. They put that in on the House floor on Wednesday night. Now, these lobbyists who have to go to the offices of the senators and congressmen, they are hit, whether these people have raises or not, to give them the maximum, $1,000. That means that their obligations to pay for access are now double for all those Congressmen. So this was a big hit for the lobbyist, taking out of their pocket not just $1,000 a Congressional source, but $2,000.

WOODRUFF: Very quickly, Fred Thompson has stopped doing what?

NOVAK: Fred Thompson has, temporarily, I'm told, halted his fund-raising for his reelection in Tennessee. He had a very tragic death in his family -- I think you know that. His daughter died, and he has stopped that. Now, his office says this doesn't mean the campaign is over, but a lot of Republicans are very worried that Senator Thompson, who is a lock to be reelected -- it has come to question whether he was going to run, anyway -- may drop out.

In that case, Judy, this would be a wide-open race in Tennessee. But of course all our sympathy goes out to Fred. And I can understand why, even if temporarily, he has stopped the fund raising for the moment.

WOODRUFF: For sure. All right, Bob Novak, thanks very much. We'll see you later. And INSIDE POLITICS will be right back.


WOODRUFF: Time now for a quick look at the INSIDE POLITICS news cycle.

The International Olympic Committee today awarded gold medals to Canadian figure skaters Jamie Sale and David Pelletier. The Russian team, which won the contest amid controversy, will be allowed to keep their gold medals. The French judge at the center of the scandal has been suspended for misconduct.

A trial date has been set for the American accused of fighting with the Taliban. Jury selection in the case against John Walker Lindh will begin August 26, meaning the new trial -- the trial, rather, will likely be under way on the first anniversary of the terrorist attacks.

Afghanistan's interim leader says a member of his government who died yesterday was assassinated. Officials originally said Abdul Rahman, the minister of civil aviation and tourism, was killed by a crowd of angry pilgrims upset about travel delays. But Hamid Karzai says Rahman's death was politically motivated, and that members of his own government are suspects.

Well, Secretary of State Colin Powell's comments yesterday at a global MTV forum on the use of condoms to prevent AIDS have raised the ire of many conservatives who see abstinence as the first line of defense.

Here's what Secretary Powell said.


COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: It is important that the whole international community come together, speak candidly about it, forget about taboos, forget about conservative ideas with respect to what you should tell young people about. It's the lives of young people that are put at risk by unsafe sex, and therefore, protect yourself.


WOODRUFF: Joining me now are Ken Connor of the Family Research Council and syndicated columnist Arianna Huffington.

Ken Connor, today at the White House Ari Fleischer, the spokesman, said the president and Secretary Powell are shoulder to shoulder when it comes to abstinence and sex education. The two speaking with the same voice?

KEN CONNOR, FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL: Well, they are indeed, and sadly they're misrepresenting the facts, because even the National Institutes of Health and the Department of HHS have affirmed that condoms don't equate with safe sex. And yet Secretary Powell has put his seal of approval on it. Now, apparently the president's doing likewise, and you've got all these millions of young children who look up to these great role models and who now think that if they have sex with a condom, they'll be safe. We know that's not the case. We know that there are many sexually transmitted diseases that are not protected against by condoms, which explains in no small part why there's an epidemic of sexually transmitted diseases in this country and around the world.

WOODRUFF: So Arianna Huffington, a mistake on the part of Secretary Powell and the White House?

ARIANNA HUFFINGTON, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Absolutely not, Judy. There is no question that the efficacy of condoms has been proved again and again. Sure, there are instances where they don't work, but overwhelmingly they do work.

And for James Dobson, the head of the Focus on the Family, to say today that Colin Powell is the secretary of state, not the secretary of health, and therefore should not be speaking on this matter or doesn't understand the matter is truly absurd. I mean, it's as though we are saying that only Tommy Thompson can speak about this issue that every parent in America is speaking to their children about.

And we're facing a major epidemic that has left 3 million people dead of AIDS alone. And in Africa alone, 13 million children left orphans already because of the disease. So I think it's very irresponsible...

CONNOR: And those facts alone -- those, those facts alone bespeak the myth of safe, of safe sex. What Secretary Powell should have said, in my judgment, is to say, Now, look, if you want my advice, reserve sex for marriage. That's the only sure way to prevent against sexually transmitted diseases. But if you're not inclined to take my advice, for goodness' sakes, don't operate under the illusion that condoms equate with safe sex.

They don't. There are many diseases they don't protect against. And there are, as Arianna has just pointed out, millions of people around the world who have learned that fact, sadly, after the fact.

WOODRUFF: Arianna Huffington, today...

HUFFINGTON: But you're not...

WOODRUFF: Arianna, I just wanted to ask -- Arianna...

HUFFINGTON: Sorry. I was just going to say that this is like assuming that the people who are dying of AIDS have used condoms, which is a very irresponsible assumption. On top of it, Colin Powell has been very involved in Washington with a program called Best Friends that his wife in on the board of, that Elaine Bennett started. So he's not saying that abstinence is not to be recommended. He is not saying, Go out and have sex.

He's saying, If you are having sex, be responsible about it. CONNOR: No, he didn't say that. What he said, in effect, was that condoms equate with safe sex, and that's false. And these young people are suffering under this delusion that if they engage in sex with a condom, they'll be OK. And what the evidence is showing, as evidenced by the increasing rate of victims of sexually transmitted diseases, is that condoms don't provide for safe sex at all, only the illusion of safe sex.

WOODRUFF: Let me ask you both just quickly, how does this affect the White House from a political standpoint? Arianna Huffington, does this make it harder for the president to pull conservative support? Or will it be a factor?

HUFFINGTON: Well, as Ari Fleischer said today, Judy, in trying to not show any kind of rift between the president and Colin Powell, he said that Colin Powell was speaking in a theological way, not a political way, when he talked about forgetting about taboos and conservative ideas.

But the truth is, Judy, that he was speaking in a political way. What he said does have public policy implications. It is clearly, as we see here on the show, upsetting conservatives, who are (UNINTELLIGIBLE) to misrepresent scientific truth when it comes to the efficacy of condoms, in order to put forward their own religious beliefs.

And what Colin Powell said very clearly...

CONNOR: Oh, no, that -- (UNINTELLIGIBLE) -- look...

HUFFINGTON: ... that he respects -- he said (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

CONNOR: As recently as June of 2000...

HUFFINGTON: ... he was very, very gracious, he was very gracious about other people's religious beliefs, including what the pope has been saying. But he said...

CONNOR: But we're not talking about religion, we're talking about...

HUFFINGTON: ... that in practice, we need to protect the health of children.

CONNOR: ... a disease. We're talking about a disease. And if we want to protect the health of children, we ought to revert back to what the -- what candidate Bush said in 1999 when he told a teen abstinence group that abstinence before marriage was the only surefire way to protect against sexually transmitted diseases. What's happened...


CONNOR: ... I think, frankly, is, we've seen a reaction from the so-called safe-sex crowd to the president's proposed budget on abstinence education, and now... (CROSSTALK)

CONNOR: ... apparently they decided that they need to politically accommodate the howls of indignation that are coming from that part of the left side of the arena.

WOODRUFF: Well, we've only heard at this point from Secretary Powell and from the White House, but we know that we're going to continue to talk about this.

Ken Connor, thank you very much for joining us.

CONNOR: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: Arianna Huffington, thank you. We appreciate it.

Gary Condit wants to spend two more years in Washington, but will the Chandra Levy story cost him a seventh term? When we come back, we'll catch up with his primary campaign and sit down with one of his challengers. Stay with us.


WOODRUFF: On the campaign trail in California, Congressman Gary Condit is shaking every hand he can reach less than three weeks before Democratic primary voters decide his political fate.

But as CNN's Frank Buckley reports, Condit's battle to win reelection remains uphill because of the Chandra Levy case.



REP. GARY CONDIT (D), CALIFORNIA: Hey, be careful.


FRANK BUCKLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Gary Condit who once careened around a press corps that dogged his every move now campaigns...

CONDIT: (UNINTELLIGIBLE), I'm good, how are you doing?

BUCKLEY: ... like any other candidate, working a doughnut shop for votes. But even here, even now, he can't shake the questions about the still-missing Chandra Levy, about the scandal, about the investigation.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Is there anything you want to set the record straight on that investigation?

CONDIT: Listen, I'm here, I'm here today in Yum Yum Donut to talk about the election.

BUCKLEY: But Condit does acknowledge the scandal in radio ads. (BEGIN AUDIO CLIP, CONDIT RADIO AD)

CONDIT: I can't expect people to ignore the negative that's been said and written about me. All I can hope and pray for is that they'll take a look at the good things that I've done and then make their decision. That's all I can hope for.


BUCKLEY: And while campaigning in Modesto on Sunday, Condit told CNN he intends to fight to retain his seat.

CONDIT: People ought not to be offended by that. Matter of fact, they ought to be emboldened by that not to let people push you around and tell you what you should or shouldn't do. The voters of this district are smart. They'll decide.

BUCKLEY: But in the conservative-leaning Central Valley of California, that was the inspiration for the film "American Graffiti," at least 70 percent of voters are telling pollsters that they have a negative opinion of Condit, the astounding negatives even coming from fellow Democrats.

BEN TULCHIN, DEMOCRATIC POLLSTER: He is universally disliked at this point by voters, Democrat, Republican, or independent.

BUCKLEY: This for a man who was once so revered in this region that they called it Condit Country.

Then the scandal came to town, and Condit's political fortunes took a turn.

(on camera): Today the scene is very different outside of the congressman's Modesto office. Gone are the camera crews and the reporters that were once stationed right here. Gone are the headlines and the stories that dominated the news. Gone too, it turns out, are many of Gary Condit's long-time friends and supporters.

(voice-over): From California's governor, Democrat Gray Davis, to the chair of the local Democratic Committee, Sandy Lucas.

GOV. GRAY DAVIS (D), CALIFORNIA: Will you vote for Gary Condit?


BUCKLEY: Condit has lost faith.

ADAM CHRISTIANSON, DEPUTY SHERIFFS' ASSOCIATION: It's obvious that Congressman Condit eroded that trust with the people he serves because of the conduct and behavior that has been shown.

BUCKLEY: Community leaders telling us Condit's chances are slim.

MAYOR CARMEN SABATINO, MODESTO, CALIFORNIA: There is now this feeling that, how can we possibly elect him to Congress?

LUCAS: See this man who was so well respected having to be at this level, I think, is tragic.

CHAD CONDIT, CAMPAIGN MANAGER: I can't really speak to Sandy Lucas, you know. She made her fame off of this tragedy and got herself on TV.

BUCKLEY: Chad Condit, the congressman's son, and Cadee, his daughter, are now running their father's campaign against a challenger who is the front-runner, State Assemblyman Dennis Cardoza, who was once a protege of Gary Condit.

CHAD CONDIT: And his candidacy is based and built on tragedy. How shameful is that?

BUCKLEY: Cardoza, whose fund-raising dwarfed the incumbent Condit in the most recent reporting period, appeared with his former mentor at a candidates' forum on Sunday.

CONDIT: I've been in public service for 30 years...

BUCKLEY: There were no fireworks, but Condit did leave the stage with a bang.

CONDIT: A nation is watching this district. You elect Gary Condit, you will rock this nation.

BUCKLEY: Frank Buckley, CNN, Modesto, California.


WOODRUFF: And now let's hear from Condit's leading Democratic challenger. I spoke recently with State Assemblyman Dennis Cardoza, and I asked him if he would be in the race if it weren't for the Chandra Levy case.

DENNIS CARDOZA (D) CALIFORNIA STATE ASSEMBLY: Probably not. Mr. Condit had executed his responsibilities well in the Congress, and we're personal friends. But I don't think he can effectively represent the district any more based on, you know, his relationships in Congress being damaged.

And this area has incredible unemployment and poverty levels that are high. We have air pollution, some of the worst in the country, health care crisis going on. We have a lot of issues that need to be taken care of, and...

WOODRUFF: But he can't talk about those issues?

CARDOZA: Well, sure he can. But it's about working with your colleagues and being there as effective as you can be and not being distracted. This is a terrible distraction.

We were -- in many ways he's been distracted by his personal events, and we need a full-time congressman working on our problems in the Central Valley.

WOODRUFF: How embarrassed has your district been by this whole Chandra Levy...

CARDOZA: That's probably the most devastating thing about all this. We have such economic development problems and things that we need to be focused on that the citizens, when I went home after the legislative session, it really sort of hit me in the face how badly they felt about this, how embarrassed they were by the attention that they were getting from the national media.

We're not New York City, we're a place that knows your neighbor and feels very proud of our area -- not that New York City doesn't. But this is a place where you talk to your neighbor over the fence, where you know your congressman. I have 80 percent name recognition. I know most of my constituents by their first names. And they're really personally hurt by a lot of this.

WOODRUFF: How do you feel toward Gary Condit right now?

CARDOZA: I have a number of mixed emotions. You know, I have a long-term friendship with him that doesn't just stop because I decided to run against him.

WOODRUFF: You've known him for a long time.

CARDOZA: Twenty years, 20.

WOODRUFF: You worked for him for a while.

CARDOZA: Sure. And you don't quit caring about someone because of that. At the same time, you know, there are new issues that are in this relationship that make it more difficult.

And so, you know, it's a very tough situation. It's like having a -- almost like a divorce in the family, you know, his staff was very close to me. Some of them have said, you know, When do we get visitation rights to come back and see you? You know, and we still get along.

But it is a very difficult thing, a very difficult process, and as it is for the entire district, all the people in the community.

WOODRUFF: Have you talked to him personally about this?

CARDOZA: Sure, I run into him occasionally. I've talked to him about it, and...

WOODRUFF: And what does he say about your running against him?

CARDOZA: He wasn't happy about it. But I told him I didn't think he could win, I didn't think he could be effective for our district any more. And that it was something that I had to do.

WOODRUFF: Dennis Cardoza challenging Gary Condit.

Georgia's governor is turning to an old pizza promotion as he tries to solve a lingering problem. Our Bill Schneider will explain why when we come back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: You might say Georgia Governor Roy Barnes is trying to use a pizza-maker's promotion to make things better for Georgia drivers.

Well, our Bill Schneider joins us now to explain the governor's strategy -- Bill.

BILL SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, this week campaign finance reform really is a significant achievement, but it doesn't touch the lives of most ordinary Americans. If you can find the place where citizens have their most common and often most frustrating interaction with government, and then work to improve it, you just might earn yourself the political play of the week.


(voice-over): What's most people's worst experience with government? How about the Department of Motor Vehicles? Endless lines, irritating paperwork, annoying fees, rude personnel. And did we mention endless lines?

Particularly in states like Georgia that are experiencing a population boom.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I pulled a receipt this morning at 11:08, and the waiting time was four hours and 52 minutes.

SCHNEIDER (on camera): Markeesha McWilliams of Atlanta shares a horror story with CNN about waiting in line at the DMV. Now, she saw a guy behind her get pulled out of line to get his license reinstated after telling the clerk he had a driving-under-the-influence conviction. Twenty minutes later, the guy emerged with his license in hand. Meanwhile, Ms. McWilliams was still waiting in line, way back in line.

(voice-over): "Moral of the story?" Ms. McWilliams writes. "If you get a DUI, you can get a driver's license quicker in Georgia."

Well, Governor Roy Barnes heard you, Ms. McWilliams. He believes government should be run like a business with good customer service. You know those pizza parlors that promise delivery within 30 minutes or the pizza's free? Governor Barnes thinks that's a pretty good model for government.

GOV. ROY BARNES (D), GEORGIA: If by January the 1st 2003, you have to wait longer than 30 minutes to get your license renewed, it'll be free.

SCHNEIDER: So hold the anchovies and serve up the political play of the week.


After 30 minutes, you can take your $15 fee and go buy yourself a pizza if you want, with everything. The state will pay for it.

Now, if they can just figure out a way to get your tax refund delivered with your pizza.

WOODRUFF: Have you told the governor this?

SCHNEIDER: It's an idea. I might get the play of the week.

WOODRUFF: You deserve it. All right. Well, you can find out about this week's political play of the week on our Web site, that's Take a look. You're going to be look -- we'll be looking for your feedback and your ideas. Bill will be looking for the political play of the week next week and every week thereafter.

Coming up next, Jeff Greenfield with some very special words.


WOODRUFF: This week saw the House pass what could become land -- what -- become landmark changes in the nation's campaign finance laws.

CNN's senior analyst Jeff Greenfield joins me now with his thoughts on all this.

Jeff, all right, we've already heard so much about campaign finance reform. Surely there's something we've overlooked.

JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SENIOR ANALYST: I think it's the degree to which political operatives actually would welcome the chance not to have to suck up to rich people so much. When I worked in politics several decades ago, I remember a very wealthy guy, heir to a fortune. And when he would give his money, he didn't want special favors or tax breaks. You had to listen to him on his often-loony ideas about, you know, We got to convert to the metric system, or currency reform.

And I'm sure there are aides today that have to deal with extremely wealthy people willing to give unlimited soft money if only they can pitch their, you know -- America should, like, find out what really happened to the Roswell aliens, or refloat Atlantis.

So I think they'll be -- whatever they say, I think there are some political insiders who just be -- who'll be just as happy if they can hang up on people with access to a lot of money. And we don't talk much about that.

WOODRUFF: More seriously, Jeff, we know this is something generally associated with liberal reformers. Any second thoughts?

GREENFIELD: Well, you know that there are some unions that have broken ranks on this because they -- you know, they like to put on issue ads that would be banned under some circumstances by this law. The American Civil Liberties Union, which in the main is a group on the left, on civil liberties kind of breaks ranks because they think that those restrictions are free speech problems. And I actually have talked to some people who remember all the way back to 1968 who've been musing about the fact that had these rules been in effect, indeed, had campaign contribution limits been in effect, the antiwar campaign of Eugene McCarthy would never have happened, because a few wealthy individuals wrote checks that would -- are illegal even now, would be certainly illegal under the new bill, to float the McCarthy campaign.

The only way a Gene McCarthy today could do that kind of campaign is if he had enough money -- as Ross Perot did or Mike Bloomberg in New York or Senator Corzine -- to write himself a check.

So there -- I think are there a little bit of kind of second- guessing about that. But certainly in the main, the liberal reformers are with the bill.

WOODRUFF: Some -- I actually have a dim memory of 1968, Jeff.

All right. Last question. Tonight is the last "GREENFIELD AT LARGE." Any political connection there?

GREENFIELD: Well, I thought back to all the concession speeches that we all have witnessed over the years, and I decided not to emulate Richard Nixon and declare that you won't have Greenfield to kick around any more. I'm not even going to use my favorite concession speech. Dick Tuck, you remember, the prankster, he actually ran and lost a race for state senate. And he said, "The people have spoken, the bastards."

I'm just going to thank the audience for giving me a chance to do the show. I'm very happy to have had that chance. And I'll be around here with you, among other places.

WOODRUFF: Well, we just want you to know, not that we had to remind you, but you've always got a home on INSIDE POLITICS. So we'll be looking for you every day, Monday through Friday, from her on out.

GREENFIELD: Appreciate it.

WOODRUFF: Jeff Greenfield. And we'll be watching tonight.

CNN's coverage continues now with "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS." Thank you for joining us. Have a good weekend. I'm Judy Woodruff.




Back to the top