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Fred Thompson Calls It Quits; Rough Politics in Chicago; Does the Country Still Need an Economic Stimulus Package?

Aired March 8, 2002 - 16:00   ET


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Candy Crowley in Washington. It's a very personal decision with big political ramifications. We'll focus on Senator Fred Thompson's announcement that he's calling it quits.

JONATHAN KARL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Jonathan Karl on Capitol Hill. The buzz on who will replace Fred Thompson has centered in part on two former presidential candidates. One is definitely not in the race, the other may be in.

JEFF FLOCK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Jeff Flock in Chicago, where a verbal attack on former Clinton aide Rahm Emanuel was so stunning, even his chief opponent of Congress has denounced it.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: I'm Bill Schneider in Washington with a two-fer. This week, the top political play is a double play.


CROWLEY: Thanks for joining us. Judy is off today.

Given the Democrats' razor-thin hold on the Senate, it would be big political news for any senator to announce his retirement. But Fred Thompson of Tennessee is one of the more prominent and most colorful Republicans on the Hill. He now is coping with a recent family tragedy. Here is our Congressional correspondent, Jonathan Karl.


KARL: The most successful actor-turned-politician since Ronald Reagan, Fred Thompson, here with Clint Eastwood in the movie "In the Line of Fire" called it quits with a simple written statement, concluding, "I simply do not have the heart for another 6-year term."

Those closest to Thompson say his decision stems from the unexpected death of his 38-year-old daughter, from a heart attack six weeks ago.

SEN. CHUCK HAGEL (R), NEBRASKA: His daughter left a 5-year-old son, a grandson for Fred. Fred has two sons. He has other family members that he needs to think about, worry about. And those are all part of the great responsibilities that each of us have, who are fathers, and have the privilege of having a family.

KARL: Thompson first came on the national political scene in 1973, when Senator Howard Baker named him the lead Republican counsel on the Senate Watergate committee. He didn't run for office for another 20 years, when he won Al Gore's old Senate seat. From the start, he was a GOP star. Two years ago, he was on George W. Bush's short list as a possible vice presidential candidate.

SEN. FRED THOMPSON (R), TENNESSEE: If I'm under consideration, I'm pleased and honored.

KARL: A solid conservative, Thompson earned a reputation as something of a maverick. He was one of four senators to endorse John McCain's presidential bid. And he (UNINTELLIGIBLE) his party to support the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform bill.

He took on the reform mantle after chairing the Senate hearings investigating the fundraising scandals of the 1996 presidential campaign. His decision not to run for reelection suddenly opens up what had been a safe Republican seat. The man in plaid, one-time presidential candidate, Lamar Alexander, is among the Republicans considering to run. Sources close to the former governor of Tennessee say he is leaning towards a run and will make an announcement in the next few days.

On the Democratic side, 31-year-old Harold Ford Jr., the keynote speaker at the 2000 Democratic convention, is meeting with advisers on Monday to discuss possible run.

(on camera): And then there's the question of former Vice President Al Gore. Al Gore, obviously a Tennessean, that was his Senate seat. He has put out a statement today saying that he will not be a candidate for that Senate seat, although he will work very hard to elect one of the other Democratic leaders to the Senate from Tennessee.

As for Lamar Alexander, Lamar also, just a short while ago, put out a statement saying -- quote -- "I will seriously consider being a candidate it succeed him," meaning Fred Thompson, "and will make a prompt decision." Sources close to Alexander tell CNN today that Alexander will make the announcement on Monday. And it will be an announcement that he is indeed going forward with candidacy, with a race for the Senate -- Candy.

CROWLEY: Jon, we know that this is going to be interesting on a national scene. But let's just look at the Senate itself. The loss of what is sometimes the moderate voice of Fred Thompson, what does that do to the balance inside the Republican Party in the Senate?

KARL: It's interesting. Fred Thompson was always seen as one of the few moderate voices. But if you looked at his voting record, he was really one of the most conservative members of the Senate. I just took a look at his voting record for last year. The American Conservative Union gave him a 92 percent rating. Contrast that with ratings that he got from the Americans for Democratic Action, a liberal group -- zero percent. And the League of Conservationist voters, the environmental group, 0 percent.

So, Fred Thompson was temperamentally one of those moderate voices. Someone willing to occasionally buck his party's leadership. And that will be a change. But in terms of actual politics, you know, he's very much in step with most of his party here on Capitol Hill.

CROWLEY: Capitol Hill correspondent, Jon Karl. Thanks very much, Jon.

We're joined now by Stu Rothenberg of "The Rothenberg Political Report" and Charlie Cook, of "The National Journal." OK. So, how upset are Republicans at this point? It seems to me they've got another seat to defend.

CHARLES COOK, "NATIONAL JOURNAL": I don't think it's quite as big a deal. Because first of all, Fred Thompson was ambivalent about running last fall prior to September 11, that kind of tipped him over into running. But the thing about it is, the biggest problems that Republicans have are -- even before today and after today -- are still going to be Senate seats in Arkansas and New Hampshire, not this seat.

I think Lamar Alexander would be difficult for anyone to beat in a primary. And to be honest, I think he would be the front runner at general election. He'd have a million dollars in the bank inside of a week. He's a proven campaigner, statewide name recognition, knows how to run campaigns. I think he'd be a very formidable opponent.

CROWLEY: So, Stu, no big deal here, in the general national mix of things?

STU ROTHENBERG, ROTHENBERG POLITICAL REPORT: Well, Candy, I say that any open seat is certainly more competitive than Fred Thompson running for reelection. But we have to remember this. While we think of Tennessee as a classic border, swing state, in fact, only two Democrats have gotten majority of votes in presidential contests since World War II: Jimmy Carter and Lyndon Johnson. Bill Clinton carried the state twice, but he didn't get a majority of votes passed.

The state is clearly trending Republican. If the Republicans get a top-tier candidate, such as Lamar Alexander, not only does he likely clear the Republican field, but he makes Democrats think twice about whether to run.

Now, there's no doubt in my mind that Harold Ford is interested. He was interested months ago, or at least passing the word. He wants to be mentioned. He sees himself as a statewide figure. But I'm not sure that Harold Ford is in the same ballpark as Lamar Alexander, in terms of electability in Tennessee.

COOK: You look back to the presidential race, Gore lost it by 4 points. If you had two identical candidates, one Democrat, one Republican, the Republican would have a little bit of advantage. And then factor in on top of that, someone -- we're running half a campaign. We're already halfway through the campaign season. Filing deadline is in less than a month.

Someone that's got a big donor list all over the country of contributors, and someone who's been around the track as much as Lamar Alexander, has, I just think he's a -- I wouldn't say prohibitive, but in very strong favor.

ROTHENBERG: He has the stature that no one else has. Obviously, the former Vice President Al Gore would have had that stature. But he's taken himself out of the race. Possibly, unwisely. And I think that gives the Republicans some advantage. It's not a slam dunk. IT's not safe. Not the way it was, with Fred Thompson.


CROWLEY: So, they pay attention to it now. They have to maybe put some money in it...

ROTHENBERG: And now you have four Republican open seats. And of course we think of these open seats as more competitive. At least the Democrats have some more races in the mix, where they can try to put together a seat or two victory, maybe to offset a Republican advantage in either South Dakota or Minnesota.

COOK: I would still put maybe North Carolina or Texas, as potentially more competitive than Tennessee would be. Even after this...

ROTHENBERG: I would agree. As long as it's Lamar Alexander.

COOK: Yeah.

CROWLEY: If you're a Democrat and you're looking at this race now, and you're thinking, OK, who can we recruit -- who is your best candidate, here?

ROTHENBERG: Well, after Gore, I think you'll look at the Congressional delegation and that leaves Bob Clement, John Tanner, Harold Ford. I don't know who the best one is. But you have to have someone already with a political base, with some fund-raising ability. And Charlie is right. We're talking about less than eight months to put together a U.S. Senate campaign. Some people have been taking two years to put together races like that.

COOK: Ford would be the most aggressive, the most ambitious. I think he'd be the most likely one to pull the trigger. Whether he is the best candidate or not, we have to wait and see.

CROWLEY: You go with that?

ROTHENBERG: I think I'd agree, sure.

CROWLEY: OK. Stu Rothenberg, Charlie Cook, thank you very much.


CROWLEY: The Senate has given a final approval to a stripped- down economic stimulus package. Its centerpiece is a 13-week extension of unemployment benefits. President Bush plans to sign the measure, even as new figures show the nation's unemployment rate dropped to 5.5 percent last month. Some are calling it the strongest sign yet the recession is over.

In Florida, Mr. Bush welcomed the latest economic news. He suggested once again that his tax cuts helped ease the recession, and promised to keep working to help Americans still in a pinch.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As far as I'm concerned, the economy is not strong enough. As far as I'm concerned, when people are looking for work and can't find it, I'm going to keep focused on jobs. I'm not going to let the numbers lull me to sleep.

We cut taxes at exactly the right time. And I can't tell you, I'm going to mightily resist anybody who tries to undo the tax relief for the American people.



CROWLEY: The administration is urging Republicans to echo Mr. Bush's words. CNN's Major Garrett tells us the White House is irked at Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill, for his comments overseas questioning whether the U.S. was ever really in a recession.

The White House is being careful not to sound too upbeat about the economy, mindful that some Americans are still hurting. How much will the newly passed economic stimulus package help? Brooks Jackson takes on that question.


BROOKS JACKSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Jobs growing, stock market rising. The recession, over, according leading economists. So, now Washington gives us a stimulus package? Who needs it? Well, laid-off telecom worker Angela Green, for one.

ANGELA GREEN, LAID-OFF WORKER: It would mean a roof over my head. It would mean my car could stay in my life. I can continue my education. Put food on the table.

JACKSON: Like an estimated 2 million Americans, her six months of unemployment insurance benefits were set to run out soon. The stimulus bill provides 13 additional weeks of aid. The economy is growing, but economists say not fast enough to keep pace with expected growth in people seeking work.

LAWRENCE MISHEL, ECONOMIC POLICY INST.: Even when we have small but positive growth, we're going to see unemployment rise throughout the rest of the year, to perhaps 6, 6.5 percent, on average.

JACKSON: In fact, in most recessions, unemployment continues to get worse after they're over. An extreme case was the last recession, which ended officially in March '91, with unemployment at 6.8 percent. But for another 15 months it kept rising, peaking at 7.8 percent in June '92. And stayed above 6.8 percent for another 14 months after that -- a jobless recovery. So, extending benefits now will help the economy, as even business economists agree.

MARTIN REGALIA, CHIEF ECONOMIST, U.S. CHAMBER OF COMMERCE: Well, it provides spendable income to those people that otherwise wouldn't have it. And people that have lost their jobs, that are pretty much living from hand to mouth, generally spend all of the assistance they get.

JACKSON: Extended benefits also will buy more time for people like Zahir Ahmed. This unemployed restaurant executive's bills are piling up, and few New York restaurants are hiring.

ZAHIR AHMED, UNEMPLOYED RESTAURANT EXEC.: I have been going to interviews a lot of places. But, for one job, is almost 1,000, 2,000 people that are applying.

JACKSON: His last job ended six months ago, September 11th, at Windows on the World, the restaurant atop the World Trade Center.


So, a stimulus can still help millions of Americans and the economy. And politically, it will prevent Congress from being embarrassed by letting September 11th victims go begging -- Candy.

CROWLEY: Brooks, I saw somewhere that basically this is the ultimate compromise. Somebody called it kissing your sister. You know, that Republicans got half the tax cuts they wanted. Democrats got half the spending that they wanted. How do you put it together, to who won and who lost?

JACKSON: Well, if you measure it by dollars, Republicans won big time, Candy. They didn't get all the tax cuts they wanted, but look at what they got. They got a depreciation acceleration that's going to be worth, over three years, something like $90 billion. The unemployment insurance benefits, that were primarily what the Democrats wanted, that's about $14 billion over one year. So that's about a 7-1 Republican win.

CROWLEY: Brooks, thanks very much. Always put it in perspective for us.

Illinois Governor George Ryan goes "On the Record," next on INSIDE POLITICS. I'll ask him if he's seriously thinking about commuting the sentences of everyone on death row in his state.

Our Jonathan Karl will be back with the subway series. He'll talk war and politics with Senator John Kerry.

And, it wasn't like this when Ronald Reagan was president -- of the Screen Actor's Guild, that is. Jeff Greenfield will offer his take on today's SAG election saga. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: Governor George Ryan imposed a moratorium on executions in Illinois two years ago. Recently he said he would consider commuting the sentences of all 163 inmates now on death row in his state. "On the Record" this Friday, Governor Ryan tells me why he is considering such an option, and shares his concerns about capital punishment.

GOV. GEORGE RYAN (R), ILLINOIS: Well, I haven't really said I was going to do that. What I said was, when asked by a reporter of the press conference in Oregon this last weekend, I said that -- he said to me, if you're so serious about the death penalty, why don't you commute all of the people that are there? And I said, well, it was something I would certainly look at.

As a matter of fact, I have called for the files of all 163 people that are on death row in Illinois. And I plan on taking a look at that situation to see if it warrants it or not.

CROWLEY: But it's a possibility. That's all you were saying in that.

RYAN: That's all I'm saying. And I said at the time that I have a commission that's studying the death penalty now. And their mission is to get back to me with a report. I look for that report within any day now, frankly. It could be the next few days or another week. But I look for it to come. And when it does, that's what's going to guide my decision about the death penalty, pretty much.

CROWLEY: Let me ask you. I was looking at some of your words on the death penalty. I just wanted to repeat one particular sentence that caught my eye back to you. "When it comes to capital punishment, no margin for error is acceptable."

If that's the case, I'm reminded of one of our forefathers who said, "I'll believe in the death penalty when I believe in the infallibility of a jury." Nothing is foolproof, is it, Governor? Why not just say, I'm against the death penalty, and move on that?

RYAN: Well, because I asked a panel of very distinguished jurors, prosecutors and defenders, to look at the death penalty in Illinois after we had executed 12 out of 25 people. That meant 13 were innocent and 12 were executed. We put a stop to it and said, let's find out what is wrong with the system.

You may recall that there was a series done by a local newspaper, that found that there were several errors with prosecutors, defenders, with judges, with the entire system. So we said, let's stop the executions, have somebody study it and get back to us. We're waiting for them to get back to us.

CROWLEY: I guess my question, though, is if your philosophy is that it is unacceptable to have any margin of error when it comes to a sentence of the death penalty, then haven't you just set the bar so high, wouldn't it just be better to say, my position has evolved, I'm against the death penalty, we can't make it foolproof and take that stance, rather than the sort of edging up to it?

RYAN: Well, because I have asked a group, as I said, to study the situation. And if they come back to me and say it is foolproof, and here's how we can make it foolproof -- I don't know if they can do that or not. But let's assume, if they make that report to me. Then I have to look at that report a little harder and determine what I'm going to do.

CROWLEY: So you're open to the possibility that you might just cross that line at some point?

RYAN: Those are all possibilities.

CROWLEY: OK. I'm curious, have you heard from the families of some of the victims of those on death row? What's that kind of reaction been like?

RYAN: Well, look, I certainly sympathize with the families, the people I have had -- since I made this statement a few days ago, I've gotten one letter on my desk, from a parent that was very upset about a child that had been murdered. And I can certainly understand that and sympathize with it.

By the same token, I don't think that even the victims, or the families of the victims, want to put an innocent person to death. I don't know of anyone that wants to do that. If we're going to have a system, it's got to be a system that works, and works properly.

CROWLEY: Let me quickly switch gears to Illinois politics, and something else that caught my eye. "I haven't seen anybody on the Republican side, especially who's qualified to be governor." That from you, Governor Ryan, a Republican. What's going on out there?

RYAN: Well, we got a very hotly contested primary, both in the Democrat Party and the Republican Party. And we'll have the answers to that, I suppose, a week from Tuesday.

CROWLEY: Governor George Ryan of Illinois, we thank you for your time.

RYAN: Thanks, Candy.

CROWLEY: The new U.S. effort to curb violence in the Middle East -- one of the points up for debate next in our "Taking Issue" segment.

Plus, an emotional President Bush tries to comfort the families of two U.S. soldiers killed in Afghanistan.


CROWLEY: Time for an update on the INSIDE POLITICS "Newscycle." Tennessee Republican Fred Thompson has decided to retire from the Senate. Thompson said he does not, in his words, "have the heart for another six-year term." Fred Thompson was first elected in 1994 to fill the remaining two years of Al Gore's term. Military officials leading Operation Anaconda say the U.S.-led coalition now controls much of the high ground in eastern Afghanistan. A Pentagon spokesman says U.S. planes have flown 200 sorties over Afghanistan today, dropping 75 bombs on al Qaeda targets. He estimated a couple hundred al Qaeda fighters remain hold-up in the mountainous region.

In Florida today, President Bush repeated his vow to do whatever is necessary to defeat terrorism. During his speech, he struggled to contain his emotions when he recognized the relatives of two U.S. soldiers killed in battle.


BUSH: We'll be relentless and determined to do what is right, and we will take a loss of life. And I'm sad for loss of life. And today we've got the mom and dad of a brave soldier who lost his life. And a brother -- God bless you.



CROWLEY: Joining us now to discuss some of the top issues of the day, Genevieve Wood of the Family Research Council. And political commentator, Carl Jeffers, whose columns appear in "The Seattle Times." Thank you both.

In that speech that we just heard, where the president got so emotional, he also talked about the economy. And that's where I'd like to go first. Genevieve, it seems to me that the Democrats have now lost the economy as a campaign issue. Is that so?

GENEVIEVE WOOD, FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL: Well, Candy, I think you're right. Their kind of ace in the hole, if you will, doesn't appear to be there right now. And I'm thinking of what's bad news for the Democratic Party is very good news for Americans and American families. That, being that overall, taxes are down. This upcoming year, Americans are going to see on average -- the American average taxpayer -- $2,000 back in their taxes. And that's up over 10, 12 percent from what it was just last year.

Consumer spending is up. People seem to be confident in the economy. And apparently, the recession that people say we're not even sure we had -- it seems that we're strongly coming out of. Jobs are there, I think, 60-something-thousand were created just last month.


WOOD: It may be bad news for them, good news for Americans.

CROWLEY: It's not just some people. It's the treasury secretary, who thinks there perhaps wasn't a recession at all. Carl Jeffers, let me just ask you. Do you see the economy now, taken away as an issue for Democrats, assuming it goes the way the predictions now seem to be going? CARL JEFFERS, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, just a couple quick points, Candy. First of all, we're all happy to see the economy reviving. But to suggest that what's bad news for Democrats is good news for America may be a bit too optimistic for conservatives.

I would suggest a couple of things. On balance, there's no question. If the economy is bad, the president, any president, has to take the blame. So if the economy is good, on balance, the president does get the lion's share of the credit. And so therefore, if you want to score this, there is a net plus for the president.

But the economy issue doesn't go away because the Democrats will certainly be able to argue that, No. 1, one of the reasons why the economy is reviving so quickly is because they blocked the kinds of tax cuts and the benefits that the Republicans were instituting in the proposal, the so-called economic stimulus package. And in fact, they blocked the tax benefits for the top 1 to 2 percent of the country.


WOOD: I think they're going to have a tough time making that argument. The fact is, i think Americans know President Bush ran on giving a tax cut back to American families. He got into office, it was the first thing he did when he got there. The fact that he got almost everything he wanted in it, and it -- now we see, was a good thing. I mean, it spurred the economy on. It is not the only thing that spurred it on, but it certainly had a significant impact.

And just last month, we saw that the income that Americans got after taxes were taken out was higher for the first time. And why is that? Because the president's tax cuts just kicked into place in January.


WOOD: So I think it's going to be tough for the other side to make that argument.

JEFFERS: I think there will be much a stronger argument that the Democrats will be able to make, that in fact they were able to block the kinds of benefits that the Republicans and the president were instituting in the original stimulus package that really wasn't going to benefit the kinds of Americans that she is referring to.


CROWLEY: Wait. Well, let me just jump in here, because we could go on forever about the economy.

But I wanted to move over to the Middle East, because, it seems to me, what we have seen here is an administration that was reluctant to get into the Middle East while there was violence going on. So they brought back the U.S. envoy. Then the violence got worse and now they are sending him back.

Where do you see this hurting the administration, or do you? Carl, let's start with you.

JEFFERS: Oh, I think it is a plus for the administration any time they actively engage themselves in trying to solve the problems of the Middle East.

I think where the quagmire will be is that, at this stage now, we have a couple of things we have to remember. The accords that President Clinton, with Prime Minister Barak and Yasser Arafat, reached were in fact an accord that could have worked out a peace plan for the Middle East. It was not Israel that balked; it was Arafat.

So, what we have to start with is that Israel has, at one point, agreed to a plan that could have worked. Arafat -- and we all know now -- regrets having not gone along with that plan, not agreed to it, but he will never get it back. But we should at least go back it that.

CROWLEY: Genevieve, we don't have much time, but I'm assuming you agree.

WOOD: I do agree.

And I think, look, there are two things here. One, we shouldn't be putting any U.S. soldiers over there until we have a cease-fire and some sort of peace agreement. And then, secondly, let's do what we have done with the war on terrorism. We've said to a lot of countries, "Hey, you can't fund terrorist organizations." And we ought to be stepping up the pressure on some of these other Arab countries that are funding groups like Hamas, have given Yasser Arafat a lot of support in the past, and saying, "You better cut that out," because that's what is funding this.

CROWLEY: Genevieve Wood, Carl Jeffers, thank you both so much for joining us on INSIDE POLITICS.

JEFFERS: Thank you, Candy.

CROWLEY: As always, if you have a question or a comment, we would love to hear from you. You can e-mail us with your ideas and opinions at POLITICS.

Politics is a tough business, whether you are in Washington or Hollywood. The votes are being counted in the bitter battle for the presidency of the Screen Actors Guild. And the results will be announced later today.

The contest seems to have inspired our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider -- Bill.


WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Candy, listen, I can't talk to you right now. I've got Hollywood on the line. Steven Spielberg and I are taking a meeting. He and I go way back. Steve, buddy, it's Bill Schneider in Washington. Schneider, Schneider, Schneider, S-C-H-N-E-I-D-E-R. You know, CNN, exit polls? Right. That's me. He and I go way back. I told you.

Anyway, I've been working on this screenplay, you know, kind of in my spare time. It's like an election drama. OK, picture this. You've got these two sort of washed-up former TV stars, one a simple farm girl, Melissa Gilbert, from "Little House on the Prairie." She appeals to the red state audiences. She is the moderate. Then you've got a brassy big city girl, Valerie Harper. Remember Rhoda from "The Mary Tyler Moore Show"? She's the radical. That will work in the blue states.

Anyway, they run against each other for president of the Screen Actors Guild. Gilbert wins a close election. So what do you think happens? They discover irregularities. Some members get extra time to vote or something. So, this union election committee is stacked with Harper supporters. And what do they do? They call for a new vote.

Anyway, the race is too close to call. And it starts to get really nasty: vicious e-mails, inflammatory charges. We can even bring in the art house crowd with highbrow dialogue like, "Does art supersede politics?" I'm thinking Academy Award here. How does it turn out? I don't know. I will let you know tomorrow.

So tell me, sweety baby honey cookie, you with me on this? What do you think? It's been done? What do you mean it's been done? By who? Bush and Gore? The Supreme Court? OK, OK. I can deal with this. Let's call the picture "Florida II: The Sequel." Don't you just love it? Steve? Steve? Mr. Spielberg?

Oh, God, Candy, I think he just hung up. Waiter, bring me a double martini.


CROWLEY: Sasha, get me rewrite.

In his unique way, Bill has set stage for our Jeff Greenfield. Next, Jeff gives us his interpretation of the SAG contest and its made-for-TV political themes.


CROWLEY: On to New York, where our Jeff Greenfield has been following the Screen Actors Guild election and noticed some missed opportunities.

JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SR. ANALYST: All too often, we journalists focus on the sizzle of the campaign: the charge and countercharge, the negative personal attacks, the accusations of voter fraud. But there is a subtler, more intriguing aspect to the latest of these campaigns to draw the media spotlight. I'm talking, of course, about the battle for the presidency of the Screen Actors Guild.


(voice-over): The fight, you may know, is between Melissa Gilbert...

MELISSA GILBERT, ACTRESS: Still think that I am 12.

GREENFIELD: ... best known for her role as Laura on "Little House on the Prairie," and Valerie Harper...

VALERIE HARPER, ACTRESS: A performer that's been around a long time.

GREENFIELD: ... best known for her role as Rhoda on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show."

Both are stressing union issues.

GILBERT: So the business has changed. It really is show business now.

GREENFIELD: Neither are putting any emphasis at all on the roles that made them famous.

HARPER: Because that is the meaning of union.

GREENFIELD: This is a huge, monumental mistake.

Consider, what, after all, does Laura Ingalls symbolize? Only the most potent of all political themes: family values. She was raised in a close two-parent family, where love and discipline governed.

Well, OK, maybe some people in show business aren't exactly drawn to family values. But remember, her character went on to become...




GREENFIELD: ... a teacher. And every recent poll says that education is the No. 1 issue in California and America.


HARPER: OK, where is it?


GREENFIELD: Now, look at Rhoda Morgenstern: like Mary Tyler Moore herself, a pioneering television figure, a single career woman looking for professional and personal fulfillment; moreover, a constant loyal friend.

But there is more. If Ms. Harper decided to identify more closely with her famous TV role, she could claim experience by association.


ED ASNER, ACTOR: Mary, would you come here?


GREENFIELD: Her TV buddy, Lou Grant, was played by Ed Asner, who himself is a former president of the Screen Actors Guild.

These movie and TV roles don't matter, you think? Well, do you think the voters who elected Clint Eastwood mayor of Carmel didn't remember this Clint Eastwood?


CLINT EASTWOOD, ACTOR: ... and would blow your head clean off.


GREENFIELD: And, by the way, if you think it isn't worth it for these candidates to capitalize on why they are well remembered, just think of what happened to other past presidents of the Screen Actors Guild.

Song and dance man George Murphy...


GEORGE MURPHY: I feel safe coming out here today.


GREENFIELD: Became A United States senator.


CHARLTON HESTON, ACTOR: You maniacs! You blew it up!


GREENFIELD: Charlton Heston went from playing Moses, Michelangelo and a highly intelligent mammal...

HESTON: Every man's birthright.

GREENFIELD: ... to president of the National Rifle Association.


RONALD REAGAN: To say that I'm speaking to you from the heart of Hollywood.


GREENFIELD: And, as for one other former president of the guild -- well, you get the point.


CROWLEY: Back here in Washington, the president of the United States has returned home. This is following a trip to Florida, which was a little bit policy, a little bit politics (AUDIO GAP) He has been in Florida eight times.

He also delivered a written statement about Senator Fred Thompson, who, as we've reported, is retiring. Senator Fred Thompson said, "The president has served the people of Tennessee with honor, distinction and class." The president went on to say, "Thompson has worked tirelessly for Tennessee's interests as well as for the national interests." "While I will miss him," said the president, "Fred's service in the Senate, I wish him all the best and will always call him a friend."

INSIDE POLITICS will be right back.


CROWLEY: Most observers agree Chicago's 5th Congressional District is safely in the hands of Democrats. But it is the fight over which Democrat will win the upcoming primary that has the local party so bitterly divided.

CNN Chicago bureau chief Jeff Flock has the story.


JEFF FLOCK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Clinton adviser turned congressional candidate works the bowling ally on Chicago's Northwest side and watches the campaign, like his ill-aimed ball, veer toward the gutter.

ED MOSKAL, CHICAGO POLISH LEADER: This millionaire carpetbagger who knows nothing about our values, our causes...

FLOCK: This Chicago Polish leader attacked Emanuel for essentially being Jewish, which he is.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was a citizen of another country and served in their armed forces for two years.

FLOCK: But that part is not true.

(on camera): You are not an Israeli citizen, not that it is any sin if you were.


FLOCK (voice-over): Hardball politics, Chicago style.

EMANUEL: Ed Moskal does not speak for the Polish Americans that I have met.

NANCY KASZAK (D), ILLINOIS CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: Hi, Nancy Kaszak. I'm running for Congress..

FLOCK: Emanuel's opponent in the March 19 primary does not hide her Polish roots.

KASZAK: In English, you say Kaszak. In Polish, it is Kaszak.

FLOCK: But immediately denounced the remarks, crashing an Emanuel press conference to make sure she was heard.

KASZAK: And I think Mr. Emanuel and I are united in this front. I think we're united against anti-Semitism and other forms of discrimination.

FLOCK: We caught up with the former state legislator and veteran of rough Chicago campaigns on the Chicago El tracks.

(on camera): Is this any more dirty than the ones you have been through before?

KASZAK: Oh, I have been through tough battles. But the issue is: Will the people of 5th Congressional District be bought? And they won't.

FLOCK (voice-over): Other groups, like EMILY's List, are running attack ads on that subject.


ANNOUNCER: And Emanuel brokered the ComEd utility merger that made his investment banking firm $10 million, while over 2,500 Illinois workers lost their jobs.


FLOCK (on camera): "The New York Times" said you made $7 million in 2001. If true, that's pretty good.

EMANUEL: I have done well. And I have done well enough that my family is taken care of so I can go back to doing what has been my life passion: public service.

FLOCK (voice-over): Unlike other members of the Clinton White House now running for office, Emanuel has included the former president in both his campaign and campaign ads.


ANNOUNCER: The senior adviser to the president...


FLOCK: But when I said he seemed like a tireless campaigner, just like his old boss.

(on camera): And that's what you are doing.

EMANUEL: Exactly like Mayor Daley.

FLOCK (voice-over): His way of making sure we remember he worked for a Chicago mayor before a U.S. president, which in the bungalows and bowling allies of Dan Rostenkowski old district, carries a lot more weight.

Oh, on his fourth try by the way, Emanuel finally nailed one. He doesn't figure to get that many chances with the voters.

I'm Jeff Flock, CNN, in Chicago.


CROWLEY: Traveling with Senator John Kerry, that's coming up next. Our Jonathan Karl asked the Democrat about the political turf he has been testing and his charge that some Republicans are trying to silence debate about the war.


CROWLEY: Time for another installment of the "Subway Series." Today we hit the rails with one of the Democrats considering a presidential bid in 2004: Senator John Kerry.

Here again, congressional correspondent Jonathan Karl.


JONATHAN KARL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Senator Kerry, welcome to the "Subway Series."

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Delighted to be here.

KARL: And speaking of transportation -- we are on a subway here -- I have got a list of your travels over the last year. And I see several trips to California, New Hampshire, Georgia, Colorado, Washington state. This doesn't look like the schedule of somebody who is running for reelection in Massachusetts.

KERRY: Absolutely. I will bet you that any other colleague who is running for reelection has been to every one of those cities.

KARL: So, none of this is about preparing to run for president?

KERRY: The raising of the money, Jon, is for my reelection.

But, obviously -- and I have said this publicly -- I'm looking very seriously at the question. I'm going to look at it.

KARL: Now, switching gears, you were up in New Hampshire and you had some strong words of criticism for Republicans on how they have handled criticism of the war. You basically accused these guys of -- I assume the president is...

KERRY: No, I didn't accuse -- I didn't accuse anybody of anything except hiding, wanting to hide the scrutiny of the war itself under what I thought sort of an artificially trumped-up patriotic argument.

KARL: Were you implying that, because of your Vietnam experience, that you have perhaps a different perspective, maybe a better perspective on this, than some of those Republicans?

KERRY: No, I don't make that judgment, Jon. That is not a judgment for me to make.


KERRY: Here is the judgment I make. My judgment is very simple. And a lot of veterans feel this way. Because of my service and what I went through in the Vietnam experience, where I learned people weren't asking questions, people weren't standing up for what I thought were the interests of the grunt, the fighting person over there, I learned that, if I ever was in a position of responsibility, I was always going to remember that, and I would ask the questions.

And that's what I was saying about my experience. I lost a lot of friends over there in Vietnam, because people didn't stand up for what was common sense. And there were times in this country that people should have been asking questions and looking for the truth. And now we know, historically, that the truth was hidden for a long period of time.

I never want to be part of allowing that to happen. We're not going to be silenced. And I did think -- and I said this -- I thought they were trying to silence people.

KARL: Who, President Bush?

KERRY: I thought the administration -- no, not President Bush.

I thought that Trent Lott and Tom DeLay and their answers -- and I specifically named them -- I thought they were trying to silence the debate.

KARL: If President Bush is going to be defeated in 2004, doesn't...

KERRY: You guys are so far ahead of life.

KARL: We're not that far ahead. You were the one in New Hampshire last weekend.

KERRY: Well, I was helping people who are running for election now. That's my neighbor.

KARL: But if he is to be defeated, it can't just be on economy. Aren't Democrats going to have to raise some question about the handling of the war on terrorism, or show that they have got either an equally strong approach to it or a perhaps a better approach?

KERRY: Jon, I think that all of that is so far in the future, I wouldn't even venture near that.

KARL: All right, well, Senator, we have reached the end of the road.

KERRY: You are going to jump out?

KARL: Yes. Thank you for riding the subway with us.

KERRY: Thank you. It's the longest ride I ever had.



CROWLEY: Just ahead: Political victories are always sweet, but some victory celebrations can be painful to watch. Bill Schneider is next with the "Political Play of the Week."

But, first, let's join Wolf for a preview of "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS."

WOLF BLITZER, "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS": Thank you very much, Candy.

I spent much of the morning over at the Pentagon interviewing the defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld. I will tell what you what he said about Operation Anaconda. And will the escalating Israeli-Palestinian violence lead to an all-out war? I will ask Israeli and Palestinian officials, as well as Saudi Arabia Crown Prince Abdullah's national security adviser. And a Catholic bishop with a stunning admission -- all that coming up at the top of the hour right after INSIDE POLITICS.


CROWLEY: A quick preview of what's in the works for Monday's INSIDE POLITICS. We will have a special look back at the events of September 11 six months after the attacks. As part of our coverage, Judy Woodruff will interview New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Every time we follow a campaign, it seems like we learn new ways to win elections.

With more on that, I'm joined by our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider -- Bill.

SCHNEIDER: You know, winning one primary is an achievement. Winning two on primaries on the same day, well, that is the "Political Play of the Week."


CROWD: Four more years!

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): On Tuesday, Gray Davis won the Democratic nomination for a second term as governor of California. Big deal. He was virtually unopposed. The big deal was that Davis spent $10 million running ads in the Republican primary against Dick Riordan...


ANNOUNCER: Riordan, is this a record we can trust?


SCHNEIDER: ... the early front-runner and the White House favorite.

RICHARD RIORDAN (R), CALIFORNIA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: Gray Davis, we have a simple message for you: The Republican primary is not for sale.

SCHNEIDER: Really? On Tuesday, Riordan got his head handed to him and Davis got the opponent he wanted: Bill Simon, a staunch conservative in a state that's been moving to the left for the past decade.

Davis's game plan is to make the November election a referendum on his opponent.

GOV. GRAY DAVIS (D), CALIFORNIA: Bill Simon is a true-blue, think-tank conservative.


DAVIS: That's all right.


DAVIS: I am a practical problem-solver.


SCHNEIDER: But Simon has another idea: Remember who is governor.

BILL SIMON (R), CALIFORNIA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: The issue in this election is really going to be Gray Davis' leadership.

SCHNEIDER: So far, it's working according to Davis' plan. He got to pick his opponent and embarrass the White House. How neat is that? Neat enough for the "Political Play of the Week."


SCHNEIDER: Governor Davis got just what he wished for: a right- wing opponent. But you know the old saying: Be careful what you wish for because you just might get it.

CROWLEY: So there is hope for Republicans in California?

SCHNEIDER: Well, they like to remind themselves of way back in 1966, when Ronald Reagan beat the moderate mayor of San Francisco and went on to defeat the Democratic incumbent, Pat Brown. Brown was in deep trouble after Watts and Berkeley. But two questions: One, is Gray Davis in that much trouble? And two, is Bill Simon another Ronald Reagan?

What do you think, sweety baby honey cookie?

CROWLEY: OK, Bill, we have already been through that.


CROWLEY: You have been a busy man today. Have a good weekend.

CNN's coverage continues now with "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS." Judy is back on Monday. I'm Candy Crowley.


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