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How 9/11 Shapes Campaigns; Bloomberg Goes on Record; Closure After 9/11?

Aired March 11, 2002 - 16:00   ET


JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Judy Woodruff in Washington. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg goes on the record about the city's recovery six months after the attacks on America.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Candy Crowley. I'll tell you how the September 11th experience is shaping political campaigns and candidates' resumes.

BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Bruce Morton with a snapshot of American life, public opinion and the search for closure after 9-11.

JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Jeff Greenfield. We said it on September 11th. This will change everything. But has it?


WOODRUFF: Thank you for joining us. It has been six months, a half of a year. In today's speeches, silent moments and memorials, we are reminded of the wounds that have begun to heal, and those still too fresh and too painful. At the former site of the World Trade Center, two columns of light will shoot into the sky this evening in honor of the fallen towers. That will cap a day dedicated to the memory of some 3,000 people who died there, at the Pentagon and in a field in rural Pennsylvania.

At the Pentagon, the focus today is on the September 11th victims, and on the servicemen and women who have put their lives on the line to fight the war on terror. At the White House, President Bush promised anew that the war will be won.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: September the 11th was not the beginning of global terror. But it was the beginning of the world's concerted response. History will know that day not only as a day of tragedy, but as a day of decision, when the civilized world was stirred to anger, and to action. And the terrorists will remember September 11th as the day their reckoning began.

(END VIDEO CLIP) WOODRUFF: A different kind of battle began on September 11th, for those who lost loved ones in the terrorist attacks. I spoke today with an Army chief warrant officer about his very personal battle, as we stood in the shadow of the Pentagon.


(voice-over): It is an amazing transformation from the smoke and ruin of 9-11 to today. In six months, the west front of the Pentagon has been largely rebuilt. Much slower, but no less miraculous, is the work of rebuilding the shattered hearts and lives of those who survived.

C.W.O. CRAIG SINCOCK, U.S. ARMY: I watched some of these families grow. I watched some of these people come from the real dark side, that absolute fear that we had the first days, those first weeks, even the first months. And now they're starting to feel happy. They're starting to remember. They're starting to get to that point I think we talked about way back last fall, early winter, of saying remembrance. Of saying, "I remember my wife, I remember how she used to talk to me, I remember her smile." It kind of puts a smile in your heart and you say, it's OK now.

WOODRUFF: Army Chief Warrant Officer Craig Sincock was away from the Pentagon that day, but his wife of 25 years, Cheryl, was at her desk. She was killed when American Airlines flight 77 hit the building. Sincock literally ran to the Pentagon and spent hours on the rescue effort. Then poured all of his energy into starting a support network for the survivors with the Web site, Among the hundreds of those he helped, Sincock found a new family.

SINCOCK: There was an interesting comment made way back in November sometime. Someone said, you know, this is a time when strangers become friends, and friends become strangers. Some of my friends have kind of distanced themselves. God bless them, they do the best they can, but it's awkward for them. Even at this late stage, it's awkward for them. And I understand that. But these new friends, these new family members, if you will, have become the dearest people I know.

WOODRUFF: How is everybody doing? How are you doing?

SINCOCK: I'm doing -- I feel blessed. I feel blessed every day. Every day I get up, and I'm able to work with somebody else. As I work with somebody else, I realize that what God has given me is a true gift. I still have that fear that if I don't use those gifts he has given me every day for the benefit of somebody else, he may take them away.

I would like to have a private life, but I still have to do something to be outside of myself, If I started thinking about me and all the problems that I have, then pretty soon all that grief that I had before and all my fears of before will come back to haunt me.

WOODRUFF: When you are near this place now, what do you feel? SINCOCK: I feel my wife. Because I know part of her is still in that building. Her spirit is certainly in that building. There's been a lot of people that she touched over the years she worked there. So I feel close to her when I come here. I don't feel the mourning, I don't feel the fear, I don't feel all those other ill feelings, the negative feelings. I feel really kind of serene. It's part of her and I can feel it.


WOODRUFF: Chief Warrant Officer Craig Sincock, whose wife, Cheryl, died on September 11th.

While some Americans' lives changed dramatically on September the 11th, how deeply does the country as a whole still feel the effects of that day? Our Bruce Morton has been looking at our latest poll numbers to get a sense of where we are six months later.


BUSH: This conflict was begun on the timing and terms of others. It will end in a way and an hour of our choosing.

MORTON (voice-over): It's been six months and a majority, 55 percent, of the people we polled say September 11th has permanently changed the way Americans live. Though three out of four say they haven't changed, it's everybody else.

Still, 45 percent say they are more suspicious of strangers now. Two-thirds say they're more aware of things that affect their safety than they used to be. Forty-five percent of us are less willing to travel overseas, a third, less willing to fly on airplanes, less willing to attend big events where there are thousands of people.

Right after the attacks, 3/4 of those surveyed said they were praying more than usual. More than a third say that's still true. Right after the attacks, 70 percent said they cried. A quarter of the people in our polls say they've cried because of the attack within the last two weeks. About half say they show more affection for their loved ones than they used to. And more than 2/3 say they're showing an American flag.

Has time healed the wounds of September 11th? Three-quarters of our sample say no, the wounds remain unhealed. Is the country back to normal? Somewhat, say 60 percent, but a third say no. Have you personally come to terms with the attack, come to closure? For almost half our sample, the answer is yes. A third say no, but that time will come, while 1 in 5 says it'll never come for me.

It's been six months. Bruce Morton, CNN, Washington.


WOODRUFF: We are joined now by our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley. Candy, this program is INSIDE POLITICS and I want to talk to you about how politics has changed, about how some people running for political office are putting forward different things now.

CROWLEY: Yeah, I think we've sort of seen the end of that sort of bipartisanship that we saw at the beginning, when people were hugging each other -- talking about the federal level in Congress. It's an election year, after all. And we're beginning to see the same splits in domestic agendas, that kind of thing.

But what I'm told by people on both sides is that the dialogue has changed for those who are running for office. So you have someone like senator -- who wants to be senator, Elizabeth Dole, down in North Carolina. She's down there emphasizing her Red Cross experience -- you know, her ability to deal with disasters and what she has done in the past.

You have others, Sue Collins, who's in a tight race in Maine. She was over in Afghanistan, expressing her foreign policy credentials. Experience is very in. Foreign policy and disaster experience very in. So, it's not a matter of people changing, but they are emphasizing different things in their resumes, as they run for office.

WOODRUFF: And there are some people running who are civil servants, something we haven't seen so much of in modern political history in this country.

CROWLEY: Two quick stories. One is that of a woman named Ellie Kurkewski (ph), who is a flight attendant. She in fact was on a flight from Sidney to LAX on September 11, and landed in a very empty LAX. She watched the disaster. She lost some people that she knew on the flights. And she in fact decided that if she was going to get involved, now is the time to get involved. And she is running for Mary Bono's seat in California. Said that the thing that tipped it over for here was 9/11 and if not now, when?

One other man, named Fred Maxey. He is in Maryland. He is running for the state assembly. He's Republican. He's a firefighter. Here is some of what he told us.


FRED MAXEY, FIREFIGHTER: I'm running as a -- telling people I'm a firefighter, but I'm not running on the events of September 11th. I certainly want to separate myself. I don't want to capitalize on any of the tragedy for my own benefit, or for my campaign. I think that favorability of firefighters will certainly be an advantage to me in the campaign.


So a firefighter and a flight attendant prompted to move into public office. I think we have to wait a little while to see if there is a trend here. But certainly, in terms of popularity, firefighters are way up there now.

WOODRUFF: Very much. Right at the top of the list. All right, Candy Crowley, thanks very much. CROWLEY: Sure.

WOODRUFF: New York's new mayor remembers September 11th. Next on INSIDE POLITICS, does Michael Bloomberg think there is too much hype surrounding today's six-month milestone?

Also ahead, they were headliners before the attacks in New York and Washington. Has journalism changed much since then?

And new "Inside Buzz" on Senator Fred Thompson's decision to retire. Why are some of his fellow Republicans so angry?


WOODRUFF: My "On the Record" guest this Monday is New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. He succeeded Rudy Giuliani just months after the September 11th attacks. Earlier today I asked Michael Bloomberg if Americans should be marking this day in this way six months after the attacks, or if perhaps less should be made of this.


MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, NEW YORK CITY: Well, we lost 2,800-odd people, and I think that we have to make sure that we remember them, although it's their families that really have the deepest emotions, obviously. What we have to do is to make sure that we tell the terrorists that they have not won, that America will come out of this stronger than ever. New York will. And we have to both remember and look to the future.

WOODRUFF: I know you've spoken of this a thousand times at least, but where were you on the morning of September 11th? It was primary election day in New York City, as we know.

BLOOMBERG: I had voted in the morning early and then walked down to my campaign headquarters. And I was getting ready for a day of anticipation of the ongoing election, when somebody said, "look, a plane has hit the World Trade Center," and there was something on television. Then your whole world changed, obviously.

WOODRUFF: What do you remember most about that morning, about that day?

BLOOMBERG: Well, we had, in my company, we thought we'd lost five people. In fact we had lost three people who were on the 106th floor of the North Tower and are, of course, missing. And I think the most difficult thing was I went back to my company, which I hadn't been in for months, and I called the parents to tell them.

WOODRUFF: Mayor Bloomberg, it's six months later. How well has New York recovered?

BLOOMBERG: Well, New York was being hurt by a national economic slow down before September 11th. September 11th exacerbated that and also created real problems in any industry in New York that was dependent on people flying. But since then, New York really has started to come back. The stock market is higher today than it was before September 11th. Real estate prices, which took a dip, are going back up.

This part of the city has some real economic problems, and in the retail businesses. But the rest of the city is not back to where it was, but people are optimistic and are coming out. We've lost 125,000-odd jobs and those people we obviously have to help. But I do think the best is yet to come for New York City.

WOODRUFF: How fast should plans move forward to put a memorial at the site of the World Trade Center? Because some are saying, move slowly, there are still human remains there. Others are saying let's move fast and show the terrorist they didn't defeat us. What is the right speed?

BLOOMBERG: Well, we are going to dedicate this morning and this evening to temporary memorials so that we won't forget the people we lost. There is an ongoing process that a lot of people can give their views, and lots of different architects and city planners are thinking about what we should do.

But our first priority is to make sure we finish the recovery effort in a safe manner -- I don't want to lose any more lives. And then six months, a year from now, we'll be building.

WOODRUFF: Mayor Michael Bloomberg, we thank you very much for joining us.

BLOOMBERG: Thank you for having me.

WOODRUFF: Good to see you.



WOODRUFF: The painful images and personal losses are not the only side of September the 11th. There are also inspiring stories of courage and survival. One of these stories comes from Roy Bell, a consultant who was on the 78th floor of Tower One when the building was hit. We recently talked about how he escaped and how his life has changed.


ROY BELL, SURVIVED WTC ATTACK: It was huge. It was very loud. It was very violent. I was standing on the north wall of the elevator, the north side. And the plane hit the building on the north side. Well, I was immediately on the south side of the elevator. And after a couple of days, I noticed that there was a huge cut, welt on my right elbow from the impact of the wall of the elevator hitting me.

These two fingers broke, just from the impact -- again the wall of the elevator hitting me. And there were five people in that elevator car. And I don't recall, but only one other person survived. Three other people in that elevator car died. And I just ran. I took off. And instinct just drove me away from where I was standing.

And the people who were in the elevator car, they just froze. And that's -- you don't know what's going to happen. That's they way their instincts kicked in: don't move, let's try to figure this out. And the elevator shaft was just, you know, just raining down on everybody.

You know that hell's breaking loose upstairs, and all you can hear is the click-clack of the feet running through the garage. It was just -- it's like a dream sequence. And I remember coming up the ramp and seeing the light. And someone noticed me coming up right away and took me by the arm and put me in the back of an ambulance.

Lately I've been very, very angry. It's getting increasingly worse. As a matter of fact, I'm resuming therapy. I wake up in the morning and it takes a few seconds before you realize that it's not the same. Things are different.

And there is an empty feeling that, you know, you get in the shower and you just push those feelings away and say, you're going to charge. You're going to go out there, you're going to have a good time. You're going to sell stuff, you're going to be successful. You're going to have a great dinner someplace tonight.

And maybe there is no tomorrow. That's how I'm living right now, like there's no tomorrow. More terrorist attacks, you know, the threat of living day to day in a place like New York. But I'm just letting that go. I'm leaving that alone right now. I'm not paying it much attention. Focuses on the Yankees.

That's a good thing to focus on. Basketball and my job, my wife, my dog, my beach house. Surfing, playing golf, living, having fun.


WOODRUFF: Roy Bell had a meeting scheduled on the 102nd floor the morning of the attack. But the meeting had been pushed back several minutes and that gave him time to stop for coffee. He says that that delay probably saved his life.

Breaking developments in the Andrea Yates murder trial next in our "Newscycle."

Plus, the vice president begins his overseas trip in London. We'll have the latest on the weekend report about potential scenarios for the use of nuclear weapons.


WOODRUFF: A quick update now on the INSIDE POLITICS "Newscycle." This story just in to CNN from the Middle East. Fifty Israeli tanks have launched an incursion Monday, we have learned, into self-rule areas in the northern Gaza Strip. They've taken up positions outside the Jabaliya refugee camp, which has been a source of militant uprisings and militant activity. We're told that fighting has broken out -- some of this, according to Palestinian security sources. We're also told that some 2,000 Israeli tanks are surrounding Jabaliya. Two thousand troops, I'm sorry, and some 50 Israeli tanks are involved. We'll bring you more on the story just as soon as we have it.

Here in the United States within the last hour, a leaking gas line exploded outside of Cleveland, Ohio, sending flames hundreds of feet into the air.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look at. Oh, my God! Look at -- oh, my God.


WOODRUFF: The explosion happened in the suburb of Maple Heights. There is no word if anyone was injured.

The prosecution and the defense have rested in the Texas murder trial of Andrea Yates. She faces a possible death penalty if convicted of drowning her children in a bathtub. Both sides will present closing arguments before this case goes to the jury.

In London, Vice President Cheney met today with Prime Minister Tony Blair. Cheney downplayed a weekend news media report detailing a Pentagon study on the possible use of nuclear weapons against countries considered a threat to the United States.

And for more on that nuclear weapons report and another top story, I'm joined from Los Angeles by CNN contributor, Tavis Smiley. And here in Washington, Terry Jeffrey of "Human Events." Tavis Smiley, what about this report that the Bush administration has come up with a new set of guidelines for using nuclear weapons, which might make it more likely that they be used, although in a different form, against a number of different countries?

TAVIS SMILEY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I find it interesting that Vice President Dick Cheney tries to downplay this. I don't know how one downplays any kind of report that suggests that our military is looking once again at using nuclear versus nuclear as a strategy. I think it's important to note that, as far as I'm concerned, at least, this, Judy, could lead to further destabilization of our world relation with other countries -- indeed, I think, encouraging others go about the business of trying to produce weapons of mass destruction themselves.

I think it is interesting, while we have this conversation about nuclear weaponry and about biological and chemical attacks on this country, we've lost sight apparently very quickly here, that anthrax was homegrown. I think finally, it's going to be fascinating at the Republican convention a few years from now, when I suspect President Bush is renominated for the highest office in the land, that he ask that infamous question: are you safer today than you were four years ago? The answer, I think, will be a resounding no.

WOODRUFF: Terry Jeffrey, is this a wise policy for the administration to be pursuing?

TERRY JEFFREY, "HUMAN EVENTS": Well, I think it is, Judy. In a typically brilliant performance yesterday in "MEET THE PRESS," National Security adviser Condoleeza Rice said this report really isn't so much about using nuclear weapons, but deterring the use of not only nuclear weapons, but other weapons of mass destruction. And indeed, I think we've already had concrete evidence of how that can work.

In the original Persian Gulf war, Saddam Hussein already had chemical and biological weapons, including anthrax. He had used chemical weapons against Kurdish people in his north.

And the question was: Why did he not use them against U.S. forces when they kicked him out of Kuwait? I think that reason was, he was deterred. He was deterred by the possibility that the United States may use nuclear weapons in retaliation against him if he used chemical or biological weapons against us.

So, what Condoleezza Rice explained yesterday is, we want to continue this policy of deterrence. I think the administration is sending signal to people like Saddam: If you use biological or chemical weapons against the United States, its forces, or its allies, you may very well become the target of nuclear weapons by the United States. This is about to deterring using weapons of mass destruction, not using them.

WOODRUFF: I hate to change the subject, knowing our time is limited, but let me quickly come back to you, Tavis.

In the wake of 9/11, the administration has been accused by some of going too far when it comes to tampering with civil liberties, whether it's these military tribunals, whether it's tapping phones, and a number of other things.

In your view, has the administration gone too far?

SMILEY: The answer, very quickly, is yes.

I think President Bush deserves high marks, Judy, for providing some good stewardship after 9/11. He has risen to the occasion. And I think, all things considered, he has been a good president leading this country after 9/11. Having said that, we have now returned to politics as usual. And I think the administration has clearly overreached when it comes to issues like racial profiling and civil liberties.

Interestingly, 30 years ago, the Justice Department, the FBI, the CIA lost many of these tools that Mr. Ashcroft is now asking for because they misused these tools on things like COINTELPRO, going after the Black Panthers, tapping Dr. King's phone. They lost these privileges because they mistreated them -- misused them, rather, in the mistreatment of African-Americans. And now here they come back asking for these privileges once again. And I think that we use them first on Muslims and then everybody else.

WOODRUFF: Let me give Terry Jeffrey a chance to respond on this civil liberties question.

JEFFREY: Judy, a few weeks ago on this network, Senate Intelligence Chairman Bob Graham told Al Hunt that he believes there are now still 100 al Qaeda sleepers still in United States. Senate Shelby, the Republican leader on the Intelligence Committee, has backed that up. And these are the most probable sources of future September 11ths in United States.

We need to use every tool at our disposal to make sure that these 100 al Qaeda sleepers do not kill thousands of Americans in the future. We have not violated the rights of any American so far. We have deterred future terrorism. We have got to keep on the watch.

WOODRUFF: Gentlemen, we're going to leave it there.

Terry Jeffrey with "Human Events," and Tavis Smiley, CNN contributor, he is in Los Angeles. We thank you both. Good to see you.

JEFFREY: Thank you.

SMILEY: Thank you, Judy.

WOODRUFF: We appreciate it.

Well, you can get out your exclamation points. When we return, Lamar Alexander's political future: What did he know that some others did not?


WOODRUFF: Checking the Monday headlines in our "Campaign News Daily": Tomorrow's Texas primary includes two hard-fought statewide races among Democrats. And in the campaign for governor, businessman Tony Sanchez has 44 percent in a "Dallas Morning News" poll of likely Democratic voters. Former Texas Attorney General Dan Morales has 30 percent. In the Senate primary, former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk and schoolteacher Victor Morales both pick up 25 percent. Congressman Ken Bentsen has 17 percent. And it is possible both of these races could end in a runoff.

In Tennessee, Lamar Alexander is jumping back into politics. The former Republican presidential candidate and former governor said today that he will run for the Senate seat held by the retiring Republican Fred Thompson.

We have more on Lamar Alexander and the race to replace Senator Thompson in our "Inside Buzz" segment. I spoke with our Bob Novak at his office today.


WOODRUFF: Thank you for joining us.

Fred Thompson is not running for reelection, but who is unhappy about the way this was handled? ROBERT NOVAK, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Congressman Ed Bryant is unhappy. He wanted to run. And I think he suspects it was an inside deal. He was surprised that Thompson is not running.

But, Judy, I got a tip several weeks ago that he wasn't going to run. He is grieving over the death of his daughter, not interested in the Senate, and that his great friend, former Governor Lamar Alexander, was going to run.

So, Alexander knew about this weeks ago. And, as you know, today he announced that he will run to succeed his friend Fred Thompson.

WOODRUFF: That is right.

What is this about Republicans having trouble with the whole Alaska drilling?

NOVAK: They were hoping to really hand a setback to the Democrats, pass the ANWR drilling in the Arctic Wildlife Refuge in Alaska in the Senate this week. But they don't have 60 votes to apply cloture to it. They down even have 51 votes for a majority.

The environmentalist have outlobbied the Teamsters and the other unions. No Democrat has defected on that issue in weeks. And several Republicans are defecting, Mike DeWine of Ohio, Gordon Smith of Oregon. They don't even have Richard Lugar of Indiana on board.

WOODRUFF: Now, one of your favorite topics: the debt sealing. What is going on there?

NOVAK: The House Republicans don't want to pass the debt ceiling without some kind of a conservative amendment. The Republicans -- the White House wants it to go through clean.

But the Treasury, I have learned today, the experts there say that the tax revenues are coming in so heavy they might not have to increase the debt ceiling. The current debt ceiling may be enough. But Tom Daschle, the Democratic Senate leader, may go for an increase in the debt sealing anyway just to kind of embarrass the Republicans.

WOODRUFF: And, finally, some lobbyists who were, as you put it, asleep at the switch?

NOVAK: This is just a wonderful little story. Last week, suddenly, they passed through the Congress, signed by the president, unemployment compensation extension. This is the kind of bill they like to make into a Christmas tree with all kinds of tax benefits. But it went through so fast that a lot of lobbyists were asleep at the switch. They could not get their pet amendments in on the bill.

And now there may not be another train coming through. That may be the last tax bill of the year. What are they going to tell their clients who pay them mega bucks just to keep tracks of bills like that?

WOODRUFF: This kind of thing doesn't happen very often. NOVAK: Not very.

WOODRUFF: All right, Bob Novak, good to see you. Thanks.

NOVAK: Thank you, Judy.


WOODRUFF: I'll let you in on a secret. That not really Bob's office. We'll tell you another day whose office it is.

We will turn our attention back to September 11 next on INSIDE POLITICS. How much have things changed for President Bush politically six months after the attacks? Our Jeff Greenfield will share his view from New York.


WOODRUFF: The gaping hole where the World Trade Center once stood is the most devastating example of changes wrought on September the 11th.

Let's go to New York now for our Jeff Greenfield's take on change and today's six-month milestone -- hello, Jeff.


You know, Attorney General Ashcroft said it when he got the news: "Our world has changed forever." And a lot of us said it on the air that day: "Nothing will be the same."

Just for minute, let's just take a slightly different tack. Let's focus on one key question, the public's appetite for hard, serious information, and ask if all that much really has changed.


(voice-over): Have we lost our appetite for light entertainment? Of course not. The hit TV shows of last year are, by and large, this year's hits. If we thought that a show like "Survivor" would seem ridiculously trivial in the face of real stories of real survivors, that show is still doing well.

This is probably a good thing. A country no longer willing to be diverted would be a grim place, indeed. The broadcast network evening news shows now are pretty much where they were a year ago at this time. The cable news networks are all doing better, which means the relatively small audience that wants a lot news in its TV diet has gone up.

Is there a new engagement with our public life? Not if you judge by what happened last week in California. The turnout for the primary there may have set a record low. And voters in California put terrorism and security near the bottom of their concerns.

Now, remember the question we were all asking during the State of the Union address? Could the president use his huge job approval ratings to help with his domestic battles? Well, so far the answer seems to be no. The House passed a campaign finance bill the president campaigned against. The Congress passed an economic stimulus bill with almost none of his proposals in it. And he seems about to lose his first fight over a major judicial appointment.


GREENFIELD: But all this may well have less to do with the president's political clout than with a curious kind of disconnection between the public and the whole business of public policy. We may all tell ourselves we're all in this together, but, unlike World War II, there's not much in our daily life to pound that message home. There's no draft, no economic mobilization, no rationing.

Yes, we here in New York still live with the scars, physical and psychological, of what happened six months ago. But is that really true of most of America? Maybe not, Judy.

WOODRUFF: Well, you are right, not that many visible signs around.

Jeff Greenfield, thanks very much.

GREENFIELD: OK, see you.

WOODRUFF: We'll take a closer look at how much journalism has changed when we return. As serious as the news became on September 11, have the media lightened up too much since -- months later?


WOODRUFF: On the "Back Page" today: a focus on President Bush, his campaign for president and how the public views Mr. Bush since September the 11th.

Frank Bruni covered the George Bush campaign for "The New York Times." He has just published a book called "Ambling Into History" about what he saw and heard.

Candy Crowley talked with Frank Bruni about his book.


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Frank, let's do some full disclosure here. You and I spent more than a year and a half together: same plane, same buses, same hotel rooms -- separate but equal rooms.


CROWLEY: All of that. So, anyway, it's great to see you again.

FRANK BRUNI, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": It's great to see you, Candy.

CROWLEY: Let's talk about the one thing in your book that you think people who didn't watch George Bush every day for a year and a half will take away from this book. What do you think that is?

BRUNI: I think it will be the way in which he developed over time. I think back to one of the first times I met him in watching him at a public memorial service in Fort Worth, where he was actually turning around at this very somber event and making little funny faces to me and other reporters, wiggling his eyebrows. And it was very close to the line of inappropriate, if not over it.

And then you fast forward two years and he's standing, almost two years to the day later, at the National Cathedral for that incredibly moving memorial service after September 11. And he had found a kind of seriousness, or at least a way to convey a kind of seriousness that was not at all evident two years earlier.

CROWLEY: And, given the George Bush that you first saw and then watched evolve first as a candidate and then a president, what do you find most surprising about that person today?

BRUNI: That person today? I think it is that seriousness.

He is so fundamentally lighthearted. And I don't think that has gone away yet. But he is able to, I think, convey a gravity or demeanor at times that he never was before. And it suggests to me that he takes more seriously the responsibilities that he has.

You were with me on that campaign. There were times when you almost wondered whether he had fully come to terms with what he was pursuing and whether he really wanted it that badly. I don't have those questions about him in that way today.

CROWLEY: Let's talk about the politics of writing a book about politics.

BRUNI: Yes, let's.

CROWLEY: This had to be -- were you surprised? Even before the book was out, we began to hear, "Well, the White House is worried about this." We began to hear, "Oh, he is going to do this kind of job. He is going to that kind of job."

What that has this been like?

BRUNI: Well, that have been very strange, because it seems like people, even before they had any material from the book to read, wanted to immediately decide: This is pro or this is con. This is bashing or this is bolstering. Is he coming from the right or is he coming from the left?

And it is sort of the paradigm of political debate today, with the sort of he said/she said news programs. And the truth is, there is no agenda in this book. This book simply is an attempt, with a lot of detail, some colorful, fun anecdotes, some moving anecdotes, I hope, to answer the question you and I during the campaign I'm sure got at all the cocktail parties, family reunions we went to, which is: What is George W. Bush like up close and personal? And I think that one of the sad things about journalism today is that cynicism is the stock and trade. And everybody is trying to be more cynical than the next person. The book has plenty of material in it that will please liberals, please the left, because they will look at it and say, "Well, this absolutely validates every misgiving we have about George W. Bush."

I don't want to be cynical. And I think, if the book betrays a little bit of affection for Bush, well, I have a little bit of affection for him. He is a very warm guy in person. And that is a sentiment that exists apart from whatever I think of him politically or whatever I think he has done in White House.

CROWLEY: Frank Bruni, author of "Ambling Into History," thank you. It was good to see you again.

BRUNI: It was great to see you again, Candy.


WOODRUFF: That was nice.

In the weeks and months before September the 11th, critics of the news media complained that traditional back-page stories had too often become front-page material.

Well, six months after the attacks on America, Howard Kurtz of CNN's "RELIABLE SOURCES" tells us if that criticism rings true again.


HOWARD KURTZ, "RELIABLE SOURCES": September 11 was the day that changed the world and, many said, changed the media as well.

(voice-over): Throughout the '90s, all of the press, from the lowly "National Enquirer" to the mighty "New York Times," seemed to be gorging on celebrities and gossip. It was one feeding frenzy after another: Gennifer Flowers; Tonya Harding; the endless O.J. case; Princess Di in life and in death; the Elian uproar; Monica Lewinsky and her Oval Office friend; Gary Condit dodging reporters.

And the public was holding its nose. Two-thirds of those in a Pew Research survey said news coverage was often inaccurate and excessive. Six months ago, the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon delivered a harsh wakeup call. The broadcast networks stayed on the air for days, Rather, Jennings, Brokaw comforting the country. Even veteran journalists seemed to acquire a new sense of purpose.

Serious news became the new mantra. You saw it everywhere. Katie Couric, Diane Sawyer and Bryant Gumbel got more serious. Martha Stewart was out. Coverage of war, terrorism and international affairs was in. Geraldo Rivera gave up punditry and headed for Afghanistan.

Overseas correspondent risking their lives were the new stars. And the public took note: 89 percent approving of the media's performance after 9/11. But the awful memories faded. Soon the news seemed to be about Connie's new home, and Monica's new documentary, and Greta's new face.

And one of the programs that covered the war aggressively, that had immersed itself in Washington news and international news for 21 years, was no longer important, at least in the eyes of Disney and ABC executives who decided to topple Koppel for someone younger and funnier.


DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST: And, apparently, Mullah Omar and Osama bin Laden have escaped together on motorcycles. And they're going to make a movie about it called "Easy Qaeda."


KURTZ (on camera): Replacing "Nightline" with top-10 lists and stupid pet tricks? In the awful days after September 11, that would have been unthinkable. But now it's back to business as usual in the media world, where the news isn't quite entertaining enough and profitable enough to compete with late-night comics. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is no joke.

This is Howard Kurtz of CNN's "RELIABLE SOURCES."


WOODRUFF: Indeed it is not.

The latest from New York after a quick break. We'll join my colleague Aaron Brown for a look back at the events of September the 11th and a look ahead at tonight's "NEWSNIGHT."

But first let's check in with Wolf for a preview of "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS."

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

We're just outside the Pentagon, where the construction effort continues around the clock. We'll speak with the man in charge of a remarkable rebuilding effort. Also: an exclusive look at how members of al Qaeda escaped from Afghanistan and a side of the September 11 story you won't see on any other network. It's all right at the top of the hour right after INSIDE POLITICS.


BLITZER: My colleague Aaron Brown spent his very first days and weeks on the air here at CNN covering the September 11 attacks. He joins me now from New York.

Hello, Aaron. I know that you and I worked together on September the 11th. You were in New York. I was in Washington. But tonight, you are going to look back at all that.

AARON BROWN, "NEWSNIGHT": Yes, you know, it's interesting.

To me, the days are so oddly similar, except for the temperature here in New York. It is yet again one of those perfect days, the sky, all of it. And you look behind me, as we did so often that day six months ago, and you see that hole in the skyline.

I can't tell you how many times I have come up here since and, in that weird way that your mind works, expecting to see those towers, expecting that it really didn't happy. Six months later -- and six months is not much time -- the pain is not as sharp, I guess, as it was for so many people then. But it's this kind of dull constant pain. And six months is not nearly long enough to take that away. I doubt six years is.

WOODRUFF: Dull and constant is the right way to put it.

Aaron, I know you have spent some time looking at ground zero with the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, FEMA, Joe Allbaugh. Tell us about that.

BROWN: I want to talk about that and a couple things.

Yesterday, Mr. Allbaugh and I walked into the pit. It's one of those places that we show a lot, but almost never see. We tend to see it as a construction site. But when you look around the edges of it, you see the jaggedness of the edges, the danger that is still there, and the work, the meticulous effort to find bodies, you are reminded it's not a construction site at all.

We flew over the area the other day. We spent time with firefighters late last week to talk about their experiences. Mary Tyler Moore will read a poem on the program tonight that I promise you will stop it dead. It's just a terrific night, I think, on "NEWSNIGHT." I hope you will join us at 10 Eastern time.

WOODRUFF: It is sacred ground.

Aaron Brown, thanks very much. And we'll be watching tonight.

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

Thank you for joining us. I'm Judy Woodruff.


Closure After 9/11?>



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