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CNN INSIDE POLITICS

Janet Reno Trucks Along Campaign Trail; Election Reform Hits Wall

Aired February 27, 2002 - 16:00   ET

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


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Judy Woodruff in Washington.

As Janet Reno trucks along with a campaign for Florida governor, I'll ask her about her health and her sharp new criticism of Jeb Bush.

JONATHAN KARL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Jonathan Karl on Capitol Hill, where a reform drive that seemed like a sure thing after the 2000 election now appears to have hit a brick wall.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: I'm Bill Schneider in Washington, with a look at the political wrangling over Social Security, and how the Enron collapse figures in.

WOODRUFF: Also ahead, the Grammys and politics. Will pop music's big night have the feel of a feminist rally?

ANNOUNCER: Live from Washington, this is INSIDE POLITICS WITH JUDY WOODRUFF.

WOODRUFF: We begin today's INSIDE POLITICS by going to Houston, Texas for an update on the trial of Andrea Yates, accused in the murder of her five children. And for that let's go to our Ed Lavandera outside the courthouse -- Ed.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Judy, we're actually on the fifth floor of the Harris County courthouse, where court is taking a 10-minute recess. About an hour ago, Rusty Yates, Andrea Yates' husband, took the witness stand, and has been on the stand for the last hour. There is a little break going on. He will return.

What's been going on so far is that Rusty Yates is pretty much laying out a timeline of events. How when he met Andrea Yates, first started dating in 1989, got married three and half years later. Took us back through the birth of their first three children. And then started, after the birth of their fourth child, Luke, started laying out all of the problems with mental illness that Andrea Yates started battling.

When asked by her attorneys why they continued to have children, he says: We didn't see her as a danger. She was obviously very sick, but she was taking her medication. And we were waiting for the medication to kick in. And they said after a few months in 1999, that Andrea Yates was starting to do better. After some anti-psychotic medication, that Andrea -- Russell Yates says she was back to her old self. And at some point, they were having some of the best conversations that they had ever had.

Russell Yates is also walking the jury through some of the sessions that Andrea Yates had with her medical doctors, explaining how she took several doses of anti-psychotic medication, and how those treatments went. Described her -- some of the suicide attempts that Andrea Yates had in 1999. Andrea Yates was found in the bathroom of one of their homes looking at herself in the mirror, holding a knife to her throat, asking Russell Yates just to let her do it.

That's where we stand right now in the courthouse in Houston, Texas -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right, Ed Lavandera, as he said, inside the courthouse where the Yates trial is on a very brief recess. Ed, thanks very much. We will have updates as they become available.

Well, back in the days when this country was fixated on butterfly ballots, politicians were hopping on the bandwagon for election reform. But now, more than a year later, a bill designed to avoid a repeat of the 2000 presidential standoff may have hit a wall. Our Congressional correspondent, Jonathan Karl, is here to tell us what happened. Hi, Jon.

KARL: Hi, Judy. In fact, just yesterday election reform seemed to be a bipartisan slam dunk. But now one of the bill's authors, one of the co-authors, says the bill is not dead. It's being read last rights.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm not terribly optimistic, I must say, about the future of this bill.

SEN. TOM DASCHLE (D-SD), MAJORITY LEADER: We are at an impasse. And I don't know what else can be done.

KARL (voice-over): The bipartisan bill hit the rocks with the passage, largely along party lines, of a Democratic amendment removing the requirement that voters show a photo ID card.

DASCHLE: I can speak from experience in South Dakota. On our reservations, we have so many Native Americans who have no photo ID, have no driver's license, don't own a car, clearly. Have no ability really to self identify.

KARL: New York's Chuck Schumer said the requirement would also deprive many inner-city voters the right to vote. Others said it would make it impossible for states like Oregon to continue voting by mail. But Republicans said the requirement is needed to prevent vote fraud.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is Mabel Brisco, 82, and Holly Brisco, her terrier. They're both longtime voters in Maryland. Both Mabel and Holly have been voting for quite some time in Maryland. KARL: Without the photo ID requirement, Republicans say they have the votes to kill the bill.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(on camera): But, Judy, of course it's not over until it's over. And right now there is some last-minute negotiating going on between the two sides to try to come up with a compromise that will keep election reform alive -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: I think we need to try to find Mabel and Holly. All right. Jon Karl, thanks very much. Somebody has to be on the search.

Well, tensions from the 2000 presidential standoff remain very much alive in Florida, where Democrats are eager to unseat Governor Jeb Bush. Former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno has launched a new road trip as she tries to persuade members of her party that she can defeat Bush. Let's hear from Reno and from some of the reporters covering her as she travels the state in her red pickup truck.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Welcome to Florida.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you so much for coming.

JANET RENO (D), FLORIDA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you, thank you, thank you. We are going to win, with the turnout and the feeling and the enthusiasm that's here today! Thank you!

(APPLAUSE)

RENO: We begin a journey, a journey for Florida's future across Florida to hear from all Floridians. I start in one of the most beautiful areas of the state, because I don't want to be governor of part of Florida. I want to be governor of all of Florida.

(APPLAUSE)

PETER WALLSTEN, "MIAMI HERALD": The crowds have been pretty small. The people who have shown up have been enthusiastic, but a lot of them have been people who are on vacation, and who aren't even voters here. And you don't hear a lot of music, you don't see a lot of enthusiasm of the big crowds you see when you travel with Jeb Bush.

RENO: I can't match Jeb's money, but I can get the message out. And we raised more than all three of the other candidates in the last quarter, so we're not our way.

QUESTION: Janet, will any health issues be an issue in this coming campaign?

RENO: I talked to my doctors. They said it shouldn't be a problem, and I'm raring to go.

(CHEERS) RENO: And I understand they read beautifully, too.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're working on it.

RENO: You are all very special. And I want to do everything I can to make sure you get the education you need to be whatever you want to be.

BRIAN CROWLEY, "PALM BEACH POST": What Republicans fear most about Janet Reno, what they tell me, is that they fear her becoming a cult figure. And I think what you're trying to see them build along here is that she's not just a Democrat, that she's this independent politician. She's Janet Reno, above and beyond the party recognition. And Republicans -- you know, senior advisers to Jeb Bush told me just last week that they think they can defeat her nine times out of 10. But if she takes off as a cult figure in the final weeks of the election, she could be unstoppable.

RENO: Sure is one of the most beautiful beaches in the world.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, it is.

ADAM SMITH, "ST. PETERSBURG TIMES": Her strength is just everybody knows her. She's got sort of a larger than life figure -- a celebrity. Wherever she shows up, people want autographs, they want pictures. Compared to other Democratic candidates, people hardly notice them when they're in the same room with Janet Reno.

Her weaknesses are a lot of people think she has too much baggage, particularly the Parkinson's disease. And she may be too liberal, and it may be tough for her to win a lot of swing and moderate voters.

RENO: If you can't hear, tell me to talk louder. OK! I am so glad to be here, because I care about this state.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think she's accomplished what she wanted to accomplish on the first day. But she has a lot to prove on this tour in order to convince a lot of Democrats who were skeptical about her chances of defeating Jeb Bush. There is some talk that she had some trouble winning the Democratic nomination. I don't think she faces a lot of trouble with that right now.

So then you move on to the general election. And all of the recent polls suggest that Jeb Bush is going to win easily. This tour really means a lot more than perhaps it did a few months ago when she first announced.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: I spoke with Janet Reno a short time ago, as she took time out from campaigning in Tallahassee. And before we talked politics, I asked her for the low down on her truck.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RENO: It's a '99 Ford Ranger.

WOODRUFF: And in good condition...

RENO: It's a wonderful truck. It's going to make it to the governor's mansion.

WOODRUFF: OK. You are taking Governor Bush on on a number of areas. You've been talking today and yesterday about everything from low teacher's salaries to children's health care to the state pension fund. The governor's office is saying all of this is unfair.

RENO: Well, I want to do everything I can to make the public school system of Florida the best in the country, with teacher's salaries that can attract and attain the best teachers. The governor has said that teachers' salaries are not his problem.

WOODRUFF: And your point is?

RENO: Teachers' salaries, if I'm governor, are my problem. And I'm going to do everything I can to be competitive with the rest of the states of this nation so we have the best teachers here in Florida.

WOODRUFF: Now, I have been told that you have not yet released your own policy proposals in this area, or how much they will cost. When will you do that?

RENO: I will do that when I know the circumstances that will apply when those policies are put into effect.

WOODRUFF: And when will that be?

RENO: Well, it depends. If the economy improves, that's one thing. If the economy doesn't improve, that's another thing. As we identify issues where waste has occurred, we will address those. When we identify priorities that are in the wrong place, we will make -- take steps to change that.

WOODRUFF: One of your opponents in the Democratic primary, Ms. Reno, Bill McBride, has received endorsements, I'm told, from four state labor unions. Some are saying he's the one with the momentum now. How do you respond to these endorsements?

RENO: The one poll last summer and poll now, has shown my increase in the Democratic primary vote from 47 percent to 56 percent in January. I think that's where the momentum is.

WOODRUFF: And what about the labor endorsements?

RENO: I'm seeking the votes of the people of the state of Florida, and I will appreciate any labor endorsement. But I want most the votes of the people of the state of Florida.

WOODRUFF: Your health, even the incumbent Democratic senator there, Bob Graham, is saying this is a legitimate issue. Other Democrats are saying it's a greater concern, after the fainting episode last month. What are you saying about this?

RENO: I'm saying what my doctor said, which was originally that my health was fine and it wouldn't impact my ability to be governor. After I fainted, which they said was from a simple fainting spell caused by the heat, I have had more tests than probably most people. And I'm probably healthier than most people, based on the tests.

WOODRUFF: Are these questions fair, do you think, about your health?

RENO: I think everything is fair in politics these days. But I try to respond, whether they are fair or not.

WOODRUFF: But do you think there is too much emphasis on that?

RENO: I think people kind of get concerned a little bit too much. I wonder what would have happened in November of 1932 when Franklin Roosevelt ran for office, if the press and others had questioned his 10 pounds of steel in his legs.

WOODRUFF: Well, let me ask you another poll question. I looked at one that said if you were the Democratic nominee right now, Governor Bush is something like 22 points ahead of you. I guess this is an "Orlando Sentinel" poll. This is a head-to-head match-up. How do you hope to narrow such a wide gap when you already have great name recognition in the state?

RENO: I think the best way to do it is to address the issues with the people, discuss Governor Bush's performance, and compare it to what I think can be done for the people of the state of Florida.

WOODRUFF: It's as simple as that?

RENO: Basically, politics is explaining and talking about issues, and talking about what you have done that would demonstrate to the people of the state of Florida that you can fulfill your promises. The people of the state know that I tell it like it is, that what you see is what you get. That I try to deliver on what I do, and I've been working for the people for 15 years as state attorney, for another seven and a half for all of the people of this nation.

I've watched crime go down eight years in a row while I served as attorney general, because of efforts that we instituted to get people working together. I think I talk to the people in the state of Florida about a record of public service, not just talk.

WOODRUFF: All right. Well, Janet Reno, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for governor of the state of Florida, on a truck, her red truck tour across the state. Thank you very much for joining us. We appreciate it.

RENO: Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Next time we'll out whether it's an automatic or a stick shift.

But another marquee name in the 2002 elections got an assist today from President Bush. Elizabeth Dole's Senate campaign says that a GOP fund-raiser in Charlotte brought in about $900,000 to a million dollars. Dole and the president were clearly the headliners, but en route back to Washington our Major Garrett called and said the fund- raiser was as much about the reelection campaign of Congressman Robin Hayes as it was about Dole.

Major says that Hayes is in some political trouble, so Mr. Bush took pains to emphasize his lobbying efforts on behalf of North Carolina's textile industry.

The House majority leader goes on the record when we return. I will ask Dick Armey about his push on Social Security, and his disagreement with the president's plan to promote volunteerism.

And later, they're calling it Grammy Girl power. Does it echo themes in the political world? This is INSIDE POLITICS.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: We go on the record today with a politically volatile issue of Social Security reform. I'll discuss the issue with House majority leader, Dick Armey, in a moment. But first I'm joined by CNN's senior political analyst, Bill Schneider.

All right, Bill. Tell us about what some are calling the Enronization of Social Security.

SCHNEIDER: Well, the issue is: what lesson should Americans learn from Enron? And the No. 1 answer, according recent Pew poll, is that retirement accounts are not as safe as many people think. Thirty-five percent said they were more worried about their own retirement savings because of the Enron controversy.

In fact, concern is strongest, we see here, among Americans age 50 to 64 -- people nearing retirement age. They hear what happened to Enron employees and they say, "uh-oh, I may be more dependent on Social Security than I expected to be."

WOODRUFF: What are the politics of the Social Security issue?

SCHNEIDER: Well, we all remember President Bush ran for president on a promise to allow workers to invest some of their Social Security tax money in private retirement accounts. And the idea was surprisingly popular. He was not instantly annihilated.

Well, here's another surprise. Enron has not changed that. Its current retirees, who don't like the idea of privatizing Social Security investments. They don't think Social Security is broke, and therefore they don't want to fix it. That's why Republican leaders want to give retirees a written guarantee that their benefits will never be cut. Once retirees are reassured, Republicans believe they can begin to make the case for reform.

WOODRUFF: And we'll see where that goes. Bill Schneider, thanks very much.

WOODRUFF: Well, someone who has never shied away from the issue of Social Security is House majority leader Dick Armey, an economist by trade. Earlier I talked about the issue of Social Security in his office on Capitol Hill.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

Mr. Armey, thank you very much for joining us. Let me ask you about your remarks today. Among other things, you said it's time to dare to be bold. So I want to ask you, will there be a bill on the floor of the House this year to move the Social Security system from what it is right now to a system of personal accounts?

REP. RICHARD ARMEY (R-TX), MAJORITY LEADER: No, I don't think there will be this year. I think we have one bill that could get ready for that. That will be a big mark-up process. We have three or four bills in the House already. We have one that I think is the right bill. The committee will have to start holding hearings on the subject, and will have to mark it up. But it is time for us to discuss this openly and responsibly in the national policy discourse.

WOODRUFF: But you're saying no bill on the floor this year.

ARMEY: No, not likely to be a bill on the floor.

WOODRUFF: Let's talk, though, about how you pay for this. You have a recession under way now. You have tax revenues down. The budget has gone from surplus to deficit. We're told it's going to cost something like a trillion dollars over 10 years in so-called transition costs, as you move from payroll to personal accounts. How do you pay for that in this current, or even the economic environment down the road?

ARMEY: The first job for any domestic policy initiative is to restore the growth of the economy. But when it comes to Social Security transition costs, you're going to have them, whether you do nothing or not. The difference is, if we do nothing, we will have to have a general revenue transfer to Social Security after the year 2038, I think it is. That will be larger than it will be necessary if we make responsible reforms.

WOODRUFF: So you're saying it's coming anyway.

ARMEY: That's right.

WOODRUFF: But you want to do it sooner rather than later.

ARMEY: That's right. The longer it takes us to make a responsible reform of Social Security, the greater it is going to be this enormous general revenue of tax burden that's going to fall on our children.

WOODRUFF: And to the chorus of doubts and criticisms coming from the other party, from the Democrats -- that putting money in personal accounts is like riding on a roller coaster, you don't know where, whether you can count on this money or not -- what do you say?

ARMEY: Well, I ask them what are they counting on? Every one of these voices that were is talking about their own retirement when they sit at the kitchen table with their wife or husband. And what they're counting is what they've got in the private capital marks. I guarantee you that's what they're counting on.

But the fact of the matter is that the Democrats in particular are stuck in a political mold. I'm not sure they're willing to talk about Social Security as a serious policy opportunity and responsibility. They are still doing the politics of despair, the politics of fear, that's worked for them since '64.

WOODRUFF: You're talking about the Democrats. But let me ask you about the Republicans, and whether the atmosphere hasn't changed in your party in the last six months, in large part because of Enron. I counted up the number of sentences in the president's State of Union. Two sentences on Social Security, compared to 15 in last year's speech to the joint session.

You've got Congressman Tom Davis, who's in charge of seeing as many Republicans as possible, elected to the House. He's been saying for months that he's worried the Democrats are going to beat up the Republicans, as you just said, on the issue of Social Security. Aren't you swimming upstream here, in your own party?

ARMEY: To some extent. But first of all, the president has a State of the Union issue that relates to all that we're doing to overcome the enormous catastrophe of September 11th and this war against terrorism. So, his State of the Union speech is going to be different. The Democrats have beaten up the Republicans on Social Security since they discovered that cudgel in 1964, and used it so effectively on Barry Goldwater.

WOODRUFF: One other thing I want to bring up with you is Americorps. President Bush is renaming it U.S.A. Freedom Corps. He talks about in the aftermath of 9/11, Americans need to contribute something to their neighbors, to their country. You call the whole idea, the framework of it, obnoxious, and you said you would like to make sure it doesn't go anywhere. What do you think will happen?

ARMEY: I've always said Americorps, ever since -- before Bill Clinton signed it into law. It's been obnoxious. The idea of paying people a salary to teach them volunteerism is absurd. The president is trying to reform this, and bless his heart for that. His spirit of giving that he put into his faith-based initiatives is being transferred here.

But with reforms, let's say, let's make this more an exercise in American volunteerism, and less an exercise and just crude political manipulation, which is what the old Americorps was. So, if you can't end it, maybe you can improve it. And I appreciate the president's efforts to do that.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: House majority leader Dick Armey just a little while ago.

Joining me now from the White House with more on this, CNN's Kelly Wallace. Kelly, what are you hearing there about Mr. Armey's opposition to the president's Americorps idea?

KELLY WALLACE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, the end of the majority leader's answers, really what officials here are pointing towards. They say that the congressman has long been opposed to Americorps, as he just told you. And aides to the majority leader say he's been opposed to the system as it's worked in the past. And you heard the majority leader say he is willing to see if the president can reform the system. He's willing to kind of see what the president sends up to Capitol Hill. So aides feel very good about that.

You know, there was quite a lot of fuss made when the majority leader came out with those very strong comments, Judy, calling the whole framework obnoxious. The president on the same day defended his proposal, saying Congress needs to give Americans the opportunity, the framework, the mechanism to serve. And White House officials say the response so far has been enormous. They say there's been a 50-percent increase in the number of applications to the Americorps program, and over 29 million hits just to the Peace Corps Web site.

So White House aides feel very confident they'll have the support from the Republicans and Democrats. And majority leader Armey clearly is saying he is willing to look at the specifics before deciding if it's something he can support in the end -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Right, it does sound like he softened up a bit saying, saying he -- if you can't end it, let's see what we can do to fix it.

WALLACE: Absolutely.

WOODRUFF: All right, Kelly Wallace at the White House. Thanks.

INSIDE POLITICS, more, coming up after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Checking the INSIDE POLITICS "Newscycle": A car bomb exploded today at an Israeli military checkpoint on the West Bank, wounding at least two Israeli police. The car's driver is believed to have been a woman. It is not clear if she was killed in the blast.

New York Hotel security guard Ronald Ferry has pleaded guilty to making false statements to the FBI about a pilot radio found in a hotel across from ground zero. Ferry claimed that the radio was in the room of an Egyptian student who was later detained for a month. The student was cleared of any role in the September 11 attacks.

On Capitol Hill, election reform legislation has stalled in the Senate. Republicans delayed action on the bill because it does not include stiff identification requirements for a first-time voter. The Republicans say the bill encourages fraud. Democrats argue it protects the rights of all voters. Well, joining us now to discuss some of this day's top issues: Margaret Carlson of "TIME" magazine and Ramesh Ponnuru of "The National Journal."

Margaret, to you first -- campaign finance reform looking more and more like it is going to get through the Congress completely. It's going to land on the president's desk. It looks like he is going to sign it. Is there going to be any backlash for him to do this?

MARGARET CARLSON, "TIME": Well, there are those who say, during the campaign, he said there wouldn't be campaign finance reform. But he didn't say, "over my dead body." So I don't think he really has to stick with that.

And the Zeitgeist changed on the issue. And to get clean on Enron, it is important for Republicans and for the president to be on the right side on campaign finance reform, which happens to be in favor of passing it.

WOODRUFF: It the opposition, Ramesh, just going to disappear here?

RAMESH PONNURU, "THE NATIONAL REVIEW": Well, I mean, as you know, Judy, the two biggest grassroots groups in the Republican Party -- or allied with the Republican Party, the National Rifle Association and the National Right to Life Committee, have been dead set against this bill from beginning.

And now you've got the three most influential voices in American conservatism, "The Wall Street Journal" editorial page, "National Review," and Rush Limbaugh, have all said President Bush ought to veto this. And it not just that he made a campaign promise on it. Over the inaugural weekend, he said he thought the bill was unconstitutional. That is a pretty strong statement for him to flip- flop on that, when the only real change that happened is, he has gotten 35 points extra in the polls since then.

A lot of conservatives are going to wonder, why can't he veto it?

WOODRUFF: So, Margaret?

CARLSON: Well, Republicans who are against it are still hoping there is a way to get it in conference committee, where they can kill it in the middle of the night.

But Bush does not want to be seen as being against campaign finance reform. It is rolling down the track. And he will find a way to sign it if it comes. I think he would like it to pass by him. It's not going to. When it comes to him, he will sign it.

WOODRUFF: Quickly, Ramesh, will he suffer political consequence if he signs it?

PONNURU: I think that people's trust in his word will decline.

WOODRUFF: All right, clearly spoken. Let's move on to the Office of Strategic -- the former Office of Strategic Influence.

CARLSON: The shortest life of any office

(CROSSTALK)

WOODRUFF: It was there and now it is gone.

CARLSON: It wasn't there and now it is gone.

WOODRUFF: Well, it was there for a moment.

CARLSON: According to Secretary Rumsfeld, it never really came into being. And the person who leaked it, who I think was in the Public Information Office, never wanted it to see the light of day.

Disinformation has a place. But, in this day and age, it doesn't have a place in the media. And there is no way to get a story planted in the foreign press and not have it be here in the next news cycle.

WOODRUFF: But, Ramesh, some are saying maybe they moved too quickly to shut this down. Is that possible, that they overreacted?

PONNURU: No, I think this was a significant public affairs blunder by the Pentagon, not the first one -- the other one being that Guantanamo Bay picture that caused that incredible reaction overseas.

And I think they did have to pull back. But the thing is, for a disinformation campaign, it's hard to tell how much disinformation there has been about it. It has been very hard in talking to people at the Pentagon to figure out exactly what was meant here. I mean, Secretary Rumsfeld has made it pretty clear that he is not disavowing the idea that, under some circumstances, disinformation would be a totally acceptable weapon of war. And I think that is a totally reasonable view.

CARLSON: Yes. I just think it is not it is not going to be through journalists, because, then what's disinformation and what isn't?

PONNURU: You can't announce you're going to run a disinformation campaign.

CARLSON: Yes. And, anyway, we should be, as journalists, more concerned about having an office of information out of the Pentagon. There has been a shortage.

WOODRUFF: We try to provide information here.

Margaret Carlson of "TIME" magazine...

CARLSON: Thanks, Judy.

WOODRUFF: ... Ramesh Ponnuru of "The National Review," thank you both. PONNURU: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: Good to see you. Thank you.

A good example of what can go wrong when an elected official meets an open mike: That's just ahead. Plus, our Jonathan Karl takes a ride with a man who single-handily changed control of the Senate.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Vermont Senator Jim Jeffords changed the balance of power on Capitol Hill last year when he left the Republican Party to become an independent.

Our Jonathan Karl caught up with the senator earlier today: the latest installment in our "Subway Series."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JONATHAN KARL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Welcome to the "Subway Series." We have had Republicans here. We have had Democrats. You're the first independent.

SEN. JIM JEFFORDS (I), VERMONT: Well, probably the last, yes.

(LAUGHTER)

KARL: The big news tonight is that you are going to be headlining a Democratic fund-raiser for the Democratic Senatorial Committee.

JEFFORDS: Yes, I'm looking forward to it. It's going to be fun. I understand, when I have an audience, it probably will be one that will be responsive to me.

KARL: Now, when you switched, you had said that you were never going to campaign against incumbent Republicans, your friends, your former colleagues. But you know that some of this money is going to be used to run attack ads against even some people you are very close to, like Susan Collins, perhaps. Does that give you pause?

JEFFORDS: A little bit, but I had to draw the line somewhere. I can't try to dictate how the money is being spent. I think that would be a little crass. So I have to expect that that will cause some consternation. But I feel very strongly I don't want to personally campaign against them. What happens indirectly, there is not much I can do about.

KARL: Tom Daschle frequently ends his speech by saying, "I have got to go now to mow Jim Jeffords' lawn." So, has he been over to mow the lawn?

JEFFORDS: Well, somehow, we haven't seemed to be able to coordinate the times for the mowing.

(LAUGHTER) KARL: Now, I remember you were also famous way back when for the Singing Senators, you and John Ashcroft and Trent Lott. I guess that group is disbanded.

JEFFORDS: Yes. A little bit interesting story of how I found that out, at the inauguration. And one of the parties, the inauguration parties, up on the stage the four Oak Ridge Boys and three senators. So my daughter-in-law said, "You get up there." So she pushed me through the crowd. I jumped up on the stage. And the Oaks all came running over to me and embracing me. And I saw three very upset senators staring at me like I ought to be dead.

And then I knew that, one, the Singing Senators were gone, and, two, they weren't very happy with me.

KARL: We're on the subway here. Is there any chance that we can get you to sing a little bit for us? You earned fame as a member of the Singing Senators. We haven't seen you out there with that group for a while.

JEFFORDS: Yes, the one song that I would like to sing with them again is, "My Baby is American Made."

KARL: Now, how does that song go?

JEFFORDS (singing): My baby is American made, born and bred in the USA.

KARL: You always had a low-key approach in the Senate. And now you have become a major national figure. Does that feel kind of strange, to all of the sudden be...

JEFFORDS: Yes, it is. But I'm very pleased and proud of where I am at and what I have done. And I hope to be able to live up to the expectations people have for me to make things a little bit better.

KARL: Your favorite president was George Bush the first. Why is that?

JEFFORDS: To have the guts to fight the Republicans on the tax increase, which is the thing that really saved us and gave us these huge surpluses.

KARL: And the son is just not quite following in the footsteps of his father.

JEFFORDS: Yes.

KARL: Well, Senator, thank you very much for taking a ride with us.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: And, of course, that is Jim Jeffords with our Jon Karl. In Wisconsin, Democrats are having a field day with an on-air gaffe by Republican Governor Scott McCallum, the latest politician to be caught cursing in front of an open microphone. During a satellite interview yesterday, a reporter repeatedly asked the governor about his plan to cut state aid to cities to reduce a budget deficit. A miffed McCallum kept on smiling until the interview was over.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. SCOTT MCCALLUM (R), WISCONSIN: We are going to be able to move ahead to continue to build the state of Wisconsin. Very good. Thank you. Sure. Thank you.

That son of a bitch.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: We caught that.

McCallum later called the reporter to apologize.

And we will head to California next on INSIDE POLITICS. Our Jeff Greenfield surveys the political landscape there, the issues, and a surprising nonissue for voters.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: And now to California and a look beyond that tightening GOP primary race for governor.

Our Jeff Greenfield is in Santa Barbara today, thinking more about the people than the politicians.

JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SR. ANALYST: You know, when a major primary is less than a week away, we journalists are drawn to poll numbers like moths to a flame, like lemmings to the sea, like journalists to clumsy metaphors.

For me, the most important number from one poll is not the horse race, but what it tells us about what voters out here are and are not thinking about.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(voice-over): The top issue on people's minds, according to an extensive poll by the Public Policy Institute of California: education; 19 percent say it is the big issue.

One note: People almost always point to education, because A, it is important, and, B, it sounds like a socially responsible answer. Second on the list: energy; 12 percent point to this issue. This makes a lot of sense also since a year or so ago California was living with rolling blackouts and the specter of $3-a-gallon gasoline.

In fact, Governor Gray Davis is now trying to back the state out of long-term electricity contracts he arranged just last year because the cost of electricity has dropped so much since then. Tied with energy at 12 percent and tied in with energy is the state of the economy. California has been on a decade-long roller-coaster: a major recession in the early '90s, followed by a new-economy dot-com boom in late '90s, followed by a dot-com collapse and recession at century's end.

But here is what almost nobody is thinking about: terrorism. The most shocking event of our lifetimes, the September 11 attack, and the sudden plunge of the nation into a wartime mode is listed by exactly 2 percent of California adults as the issue they most want to hear candidates for governor talk about. Barely three months ago, in mid- November, terrorism and security issues ranked only behind the economy as the top issue in California.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

GREENFIELD: So what's going on here? Well, for one thing, governors obviously have a lot less to do with terrorism than, say, presidents.

But there is something else. September 11 happened almost six months ago, a continent away from California. And with no second attack to refocus their attention, Californians are doing what any group of voters would do. They are turning toward home, to ordinary but very important matters. Will the lights stay on? Will my kids have a shot at a better life than I have? Will I be able to provide for my family?

Some issues, you know, Judy, never go out of fashion.

And a footnote, one quick correction: I said yesterday I remembered S.I. Hayakawa beating Pete Wilson in a 1976 Senate race. Misremembered. It was Robert Finch Hayakawa beat. Welcome to senioritis, Judy.

WOODRUFF: And we want to give credit to Ken Rudin at National Public Radio, because he is the one who watches us and listens all the time and catches us when we make mistakes -- very, very rarely.

And, Jeff, we like that red chair. Are you going to be sitting in that from now on?

GREENFIELD: Only until I get back from California. I kind of feel like John Beresford Tipton on "The Millionaire Show" back in the 1950s.

(LAUGHTER)

WOODRUFF: John Beresford Tipton.

GREENFIELD: You'll look it up.

(LAUGHTER)

WOODRUFF: Jeff Greenfield, thanks. We'll see you tomorrow. Well, INSIDE POLITICS is going to rock. Straight ahead, we'll set the stage for tonight's Grammy awards by talking music and politics with a writer for "Rolling Stone."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: The recording industry honors its best at the Grammy Awards tonight. U2 leads the pack with eight nominations. But the group could face stiff competition from some new and popular female artists.

CNN's Jodi Ross reports on Grammy girl power.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JODI ROSS, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They're sisters and ladies. The queens are king. This year the "G" in Grammy could stand for girl.

EMIL WILBEKIN, "VIBE": There were a lot more women coming out on the scene in 2001, and the music that they were making was much more soulful, much more heartfelt, and extremely popular.

ROSS: So popular that females dominate top categories like best new artist, song of the year, and the R&B field.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Women, definitely.

ROSS: Leading the pack are newcomers Nelly Furtado, Alicia Keys, and India.Arie with 17 nods among them.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Last year I couldn't get in, see what I am saying?

ROSS: The trio posed for a recent cover of "Entertainment Weekly," headlining the musical story of the year.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I would say it's a girl's world.

WILBEKIN: It's new, it's hip-hop, it's urban. These women have dreadlocks, or braids, and they wear really funky clothes, and it's very artistic. It's not, kind of, this cookie cutter "sex bomb" image that we're used to females having to wear in the music industry. These women are very powerful and strong.

ROSS: In both lyrics and attitude. An eye for an eye is Blu Cantrell's empowering message. Rapper Eve is making no apologies, and Mary J. Blige is taking command of her life.

MARY J. BLIGE, SINGER: I'm not perfect, and there will be drama, but there will be no more negative drama, because I know, you know, the secret to keeping it under control, and that is controlling my emotions.

WILBEKIN: I think we're seeing a change of, not just packaged, glossy bling bling, but actually substance, soul, and real music. ROSS: That's an encouraging trend for nominees and veteran singer/songwriters like Tori Amos, Melissa Etheridge, and Stevie Nicks.

STEVIE NICKS, SINGER: I would say it is probably all about song writing, you know, and that is what I love about this year, is that there really are some wonderful song writers.

MICHAEL GREENE, PRESIDENT, RECORDING ACADEMY: This crop of nominees should make us all very optimistic, that our membership really took the time to look deeply and acknowledge that, wow, here's power, here's prowess.

ROSS: As for Alicia, Nelly, and India, they are just proud to be front and center on a Grammy evening which could become lady's night.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is a beautiful thing to see.

ROSS: Jodi Ross, CNN Entertainment News, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Anthony DeCurtis of "Rolling Stone" joins us to talk about all this rather after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Joining us now: Anthony DeCurtis of "Rolling Stone" magazine.

Anthony DeCurtis, last year the Grammys were all about Eminem. What are they going to be about this year?

ANTHONY DECURTIS, "ROLLING STONE": I think, partly in a reaction to that and partly as a result of September 11, the Grammys this year are very much going to be about tradition and substance.

I think there's a sense in which honoring U2 and artists like Alicia Keys and India.Arie, it is a desire to really have people come in contact with the best and highest things that music can represent.

WOODRUFF: How much of that has to do with what happened on September 11?

DECURTIS: I think a good deal of it. The music industry was very, very affected by that event, as we all were, of course.

And, in terms of the benefit concerts and the kind of activity to raise awareness that many, many artists engaged in, it was on everybody's mind. And it certainly was on the Grammy voters' mind, I think. And that's why the nominations have taken on the kind of cast that they have. These are very substantive artists with a kind of spiritual aspect. And I think that's an important part of, I guess, the legacy of what September 11 has been.

WOODRUFF: We just ran a report just a moment ago about the large number of young women who are up for Grammys this year.

DECURTIS: Absolutely.

WOODRUFF: Is there something different going on this year with regard to women?

DECURTIS: Yes, I think that women really have stepped forward, particularly in the R&B field, the leaders of the pack this year being India.Arie and Alicia Keys, both of them young, kind of hip. They are conscious of what hip-hop has been. On the other hand, they are very connected to a kind of tradition of what rhythm and blues and soul music has been in America.

So they take things the best of what has existed and connect it with things that are very contemporary. And it is probably the most exciting development in popular music right now.

WOODRUFF: If you had to make predictions -- and I guess you're in the business of doing this all the time -- Anthony DeCurtis, what are you predicting is going to happen tonight?

DECURTIS: Well, I think it's going to be -- these are the feel- good Grammys. I think that's what tonight is going to be about. And I think everybody is going to go away a winner.

I think U2 is obviously going to have a big night. They have got eight nominations. They are going to win four or five awards. But, you know, the Grammys are so fragmented that it is possible for them to do that and for an artist like Alicia Keys to also have a big night. And I think that's where the energy is going to be. That's what we are going to see tonight.

WOODRUFF: Why are you so confident about U2?

DECURTIS: Oh, U2 really has emerged in the wake of September 11, I think for a couple reasons. One is, they are a long-standing, established act with tremendous creditability, with a kind of spiritual ambition.

They have had a big successful record that everyone has felt good about. And, also, Bono, their lead singer, has emerged as an artist with a real political and social vision. He has been very, very active in his efforts to relieve debt in Third World countries. And he may be going to Africa with Paul O'Neill later this year. That's the latest rumor that's circulating. And I think people feel that they could vote for U2 and really feel good about it.

WOODRUFF: Well, he's certainly come on our radar screen.

Anthony DeCurtis of "Rolling Stone," we appreciate it. Good to see you. And thanks.

CNN's coverage continues now with "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS."

Thanks for joining us. I'm Judy Woodruff.

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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