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CNN INSIDE POLITICS

Bob Dole Talks About His Wife's Senate Bid; Tipper Gore May Run for Senate; Orrin Hatch Discusses Battle Over Pickering's Nomination

Aired March 15, 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.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Candy Crowley in Washington. I'll ask Former Senator Bob Dole about his wife's Senate bid. And he might have reason to offer Al Gore some advice.

BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Bruce Morton in Washington, where people are buzzing about the possibility that Tipper Gore may make the transition from political wife to candidate.

JONATHAN KARL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Jonathan Karl on the Capitol subway. Twenty-four hours after the demise of the Pickering nomination, the battle over the court shows signs of intensifying. I'll talk about that with top Republican.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: I'm Bill Schneider in suburban Washington. Find out why the play of the week gives my heavy metal friends here something to celebrate.

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

CROWLEY: Thanks for joining us. Judy is off today. We begin with an update on a breaking story. In Texas, a jury has sentenced Andrea Yates to life in prison for drowning her children. Yates will be eligible for parole in 40 years. The same jurors who found the Houston woman guilty of capital murder earlier this week took only 40 minutes to decide her fate.

Defense lawyers had argued against the death penalty citing Yates' mental illness, and saying there was no evidence she would pose any future danger. Here is what Yates husband, Russell, had to say a short while ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUSSELL YATES, HUSBAND: All of us, in our family, we all stand behind Andrea. None of us wanted her to be found guilty. All of us, in fact, most of us are offended that she was even prosecuted. Obviously, we're -- you know, it could be worse if she had been given the death penalty. But it wouldn't have been that much worse.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: After Andrea Yates' sentencing, prosecutors said they took no pleasure in the case and they believe justice was done today.

I want to bring in our legal adviser, Cynthia Alksne. Cynthia, tell me if there is any hope here for any kind of appeal or is this it?

CYNTHIA ALKSNE, FMR. FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, there will be an appeal. There is no question about that. That's always what happens in a case like this. Until someone actually goes over the transcript, you can't tell whether or not it will be successful.

The one issue that came up today had do with whether or not a prosecution expert had properly said there was a, you know, show "Law and Order" that came into the case. And a lot of people have been talking about that. My guess is that there is not grounds for appeal, and that will not be any reason for overturning this verdict.

CROWLEY: Let me ask you one more thing about something we heard from the husband, Russell. He said he was startled that they even brought this case against her. He didn't think there should be a case in the first place. Is there any question whether this should have been a case?

ALKSNE: Well, certainly, someone should have looked into this case. I was very disappointed they could never come up with a plea agreement in this case. It screamed for a plea. The other thing that he talked about was that there would be lawsuits against the medical community and perhaps insurance companies. And I'm sure that's the next legal step in this disaster.

CROWLEY: CNN legal analyst, Cynthia Alksne, thanks very much.

Now to our lead political story. A source close to Tipper Gore says the former second lady cutting short a trip to California, heading back to Tennessee this weekend to talk with family and friends about a possible Senate bid. It is further confirmation that Mrs. Gore is considering running for the seat now held by Republican Fred Thompson, who is retiring.

But is she a serious Senate prospect? We begin our coverage with CNN national correspondent, Bruce Morton.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MORTON (voice-over): She has a reputation for disliking politics, but she always seems to have a good time with the crowds and they like her. This was last month in Nashville.

TIPPER GORE, FMR. SECOND LADY: And it's a good night for the Tennessee Democratic Party.

MORTON: So will she run? Might she run? One Democratic Party source says no way. But others say she's giving it serious thought. There is precedent, for sure. A former first lady.

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, FMR. FIRST LADY: I am honored today to announce my candidacy for the United States Senate from New York. MORTON: The wife of the defeated presidential candidate.

ELIZABETH DOLE, SENATE CANDIDATE: I have decided to run for the United States Senate from the great state of North Carolina.

MORTON: How would she do? There's one potential Democratic rival. Congressman Bop Clement, a moderate, plans a Nashville news conference Monday to announce his plans. Democrat Congressman Harold Ford's name has been mentioned, but he hasn't said what he'll do. On the Republican side, former governor and twice-failed presidential candidate, Lamar Alexander and Congressman Ed Bryant, a strong conservative, are running.

How would Tipper Gore do?

GEOFF GARIN, DEMOCRATIC POLLSTER: She conveys a real strong sense of family and family values, that are important to independent voters and Republican voters, as well as Democrats. I think she's the kind of person who could do well for Democrats in a state like Tennessee.

MORTON: Most say she'd win the Democratic nomination and she'd raise plenty of money. But the state is increasingly Republican. The governor, the Congressional delegation, both senators are Republican. And George W. Bush beat Al Gore in Gore's home state 51-47 in the presidential election.

We know she takes good photographs. We know she can play the drums. We'll know fairly soon whether she wants to run for the Senate. The filing deadline, the last day you can announce your candidacy, is April 4th. Bruce Morton, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY: As potential role model for Tipper Gore, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton tells us she is already reaching out.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: I talked to her early this morning as soon as I heard it, to just call and tell her that if she decided to do it, I'd sure be in her corner.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And what did she say?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: Well, she's going to give it careful consideration, which is exactly what she has do right now.

I think it's a change from the role that she's been playing. And just as I had to really think hard about whether that was something I wanted to do, she will as well. But she is a very deep and committed person, who cares so much about what happens in our country, who wants to help, you know, children and families have better chances. That if she decides to do it, I'm confident she would throw her whole heart into it. And she's got a big heart.

I think the people of Tennessee would be very fortunate to have someone like Tipper be their senator. She's passionate about the issues that she has fought for her whole adult life. And she's always loved Tennessee, something that I know from my many conversations with her.

I think she'd be a great senator. There's a lot of excitement among Democratic senators, about the possibility that, after careful consideration, she might decide do it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is this deja vu for you. A little bit of a whispering campaign and then, boom, you...

CLINTON: There's some similarity, because of our experiences and the fact that people would call up and say to Tipper, as they did to me, well, please consider this, I think it would be a great idea.

But I think she is someone who has a tremendous amount to contribute. She really has a great empathy and understanding of the struggles and challenges that people face. She connects well with people. She would just be a terrific, attractive candidate and a first-rate senator.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What advice did you give to Mrs. Gore? And what advice would you give to her?

CLINTON: You know, I just told her what I believe, which is that she has to make this decision and consultation with her family and friends in Tennessee. And it's a very personal decision. It certainly was a difficult one for me to make. So I understand what she's facing, as she tries to figure out what the right thing to do is.

But if at the end of that process she decides to run, I'm going to be her most enthusiastic supporter. I think she would be terrific.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: Until now, the "will Gore run" questions have been about Al, not Tipper. The former vice president already has said he is not interested in trying to reclaim the Tennessee Senate seat he once held. But if his wife were to run, political observers wonder how that might affect his musings about another race for the White House.

This much, we do know. Our new CNN "TIME" poll shows Al Gore's favorable rating has fallen 7 points since last summer to 39 percent. That is slightly lower than his unfavorable rating of 42 percent.

Now the political view from the Gores' home state. Tom Griscom, executive editor of the "Chattanooga Times Free Press" joins us on the phone. Tom, thank you for joining us.

TOM GRISCOM, "CHATTANOOGA TIMES FREE PRESS": Thank you, Candy. How are you today? CROWLEY: I'm good. So it looks to me like you have a little story down there. Is it playing seriously or not so?

GRISCOM: Well, for right now it's a great 12-hour story. I think we have to see how it plays out. You know, we do have a candidate on the Democratic side who is expected to enter the race on Monday, a sitting congressman.

I don't know what impact that has. We have Congressman Ford who today is in east Tennessee, talking to supporters and friends trying to make an assessment. And now you have Mrs. Gore. The big change here is that what looked like a sleepy Senate race clearly has changed within a week's time.

CROWLEY: It's given it a little juice down there, anyway, hasn't it?

GRISCOM: Yes it has, and working for a newspaper, if you like politics, it's great to see all of the interest in this race.

CROWLEY: Let me take it from a different angle. Even if Mrs. Gore decides not to run, this kind of buzz down there is probably helpful for Al Gore's, who's trying to kind of reconnect to Tennessee after losing it in 2000.

GRISCOM: Yeah, I think any time -- or anybody in politics, if you can get your name mentioned. A couple of Republicans, for example, were being mentioned before Lamar Alexander decided he was going to get in the race. And when Congressman Bryant got in, it gave them a chance to be talked about around the state.

And yes, I think any time that your name is out there and people are talking about it, that there is that at least visibility. And as you said, with the former vice president back in Tennessee, trying to mend fences as he's talked about, trying to keep the name out there, and keeping it out there in a political way, is plus.

CROWLEY: You can't see this, but right now, we just got finished looking at pictures of that famous convention kiss between Al Gore and his wife, that really kind of marked the beginning of the turnaround for the Gore campaign at the convention that summer. And I'm wondering if all this talk, and the remembrance of his wife as the one who really put some bounce in that campaign, also makes people in Tennessee look at him differently.

GRISCOM: I'm not sure. I think right now, Candy, everybody has -- you know, saw the story when they got up this morning, that Mrs. Gore was thinking about it. And is waiting to see if, you know, if she makes the decision to get in the race. And if so, I can tell you there's a lot of reporters in this state that would be, you know, watching that and you know -- because we know it's going to make a very interesting campaign this fall.

CROWLEY: Tom Griscom, executive editor of the "Chattanooga Times Free Press." Thank you very much.

GRISCOM: Thank you, Candy.

CROWLEY: On Capitol Hill, the partisan sniping continues. A day after Democrats on the Senate judiciary committee killed Charles Pickering's nomination to a federal appeals court, Senate minority leader Trent Lott is moving to block an aide of majority leader Tom Daschle from getting on the Federal Communications Commission. But Lott insists his decision is not in retaliation for the Pickering vote.

Meantime, Senate Democrat Harry Reid suggested Republicans are making too much about the first defeat of one of President Bush's judicial nominees.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HARRY REID (D), NEVADA: Mr. President, George W. Bush is president of the United States, not king of the United States. He is President Bush. He is President George. Not King George.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: We'll have more reaction to the Pickering vote later from the ranking Republican on the judiciary committee, Senator Orrin Hatch.

Another hot issue in the Senate this week has been energy. As Ron Brownstein of the "Los Angeles Times" explains, that debate has been colored by presidential politics.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RON BROWNSTEIN, "LOS ANGELES TIMES" (voice-over): The battle over energy unfolding this week in the Senate isn't just a confrontation between Republicans and Democrats. It's also a standoff between red states and blue states.

The biggest winners in the Bush administration's plan to increase domestic production of oil, coal and natural gas tend to be the red states the president already won in 2000. Twelve of the 15 states that mine the most coal are Bush states. So are 12 of the 15 states that produce the most oil. And almost all of the states that generate the most natural gas.

On the other hand, it's the blue states that voted for Al Gore, mostly along the coasts, where environmentalists are strongest and opposition to new drilling and mining is most powerful. That means the energy debate, like most of Bush's domestic agenda, could work to reinforce rather than reshape the stark lines of division evident in the 2000 election.

For Bush, the fight over energy is mostly an opportunity to strengthen his position in places where he's already strong: traditional Republican strongholds like mountain west and energy- producing swing states like Louisiana. West Virginia and Kentucky, that he pried back from the Democrats in 2000. The risk is deepening doubts about his domestic priorities in the Northeast and on the West Coast, where candidates who are on green are usually blue on election day. But that looks like an energy trade-off the White House is perfectly happy to risk, at a time when the broad support for Bush's performance as commander-in-chief is giving him popularity to burn. This is Ron Brownstein for INSIDE POLITICS.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY: I'll talk politics with former Senator Bob Dole when we return. Now that he's a political spouse, does Dole have any advice for Al Gore about how to act when your wife runs for the Senate?

And, amid all talk about Rosie O'Donnell's coming out, we'll find out who is taking issue with her support of gay adoptions.

And later...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The back of a pickup is the think tank of rural America.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: The forces driving the political play of the week.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(VIDEO GAP)

BOB DOLE, FMR. SENATOR: I was there Monday. I was in Durham, Monday. I met a lot of nice people. And I'll be there more and more as time goes on.

CROWLEY: And does she take your advice or does she give you orders?

DOLE: I don't think it's that kind of -- you know, she knows I know a little about the Senate. I don't know much. I know a little about the Senate, and about some of the issues. Maybe the health care, agriculture, taxes, some of those areas, foreign policy. Where she can bounce things off me and say, what do you think of this, what do you think of that?

But she has her own team. She's got a great team, and right now, a lot of it is North Carolina issues that I'm not too familiar with.

CROWLEY: And what do you make of the talk about Tipper Gore? And have you got some advice for the former vice president?

DOLE: Well, she's a very nice person, I know that. But whether that turns into being a very good candidate, it depends. I think it certainly made the news today. Apparently she's thinking about it. So I think it's her choice. Tennessee is turning more Republican. And former Governor Alexander and Ed Bryant are running on the Republican side. I don't know what happens to Harold Ford and Bob Clement, whether they bow out. So there will be a lot of -- a busy place this weekend.

CROWLEY: Lot of turmoil.

DOLE: What is it, April 2, the deadline for filing?

CROWLEY: Second or 4th, yeah. Let me move you on to the national stage, because I haven't heard you talk about a lot of these things and I'm really interested. I was in Austin listening to Carl Rove when he said that Republicans have a right, and that the war is going well, and they could run on that. You are a veteran, much decorated, of World War II. I wonder what you think about that mixing of politics and war?

DOLE: Well, I was very young then, but I always thought President Roosevelt was doing a great job. And of course, I probably wasn't a Democrat or Republican. I was just a soldier. And we all supported our president, most of us. World War II was a bit different. We knew where the enemy was. We knew what we had to do.

CROWLEY: Is it a good idea or a bad idea, for Republicans to run on the war?

DOLE: I don't think you run on the war itself. But you run on leadership, the broad sense, leadership. And you mix in with that the education bill he worked out with Senator Kennedy. And hopefully some other issues where they've some agreement. They just modified stimulus bills, unemployment benefits, which should have been done. And some tax breaks for small business.

I think you have to sort of talk about all of these things. I wouldn't go out and just say, here I am, I'm winning the war on terrorism and therefore vote for Republicans. I don't think that would work.

CROWLEY: Critique for me how you think President Bush 43 is doing? What have been his weak points, as far as you can see?

DOLE: Well, I think his strong point is that he stays focus. Something I always had trouble with. I can recognize it in somebody else. I always used to ramble. He's been focused and he's unrelenting. He's committed and he's got a lot of energy.

And he's out there, whatever it takes to keep the American people, remind the American people that it's not going to end very quickly. It's going to be a long, drawn-out process. We're going to have to spend money. We have to incur temporary deficits.

CROWLEY: Has he fallen short, as far as you're concerned, in any place? We had the in again, out again with the Middle East envoy. Domestic policy?

DOLE: Again, I don't know because I haven't discussed it. But I think they looked for a time when it was sort of critical. These people have to understand that this is what it's going to be like, or maybe even worse, unless you stop. I think they announced Zinni was going last week and then gave the Israelis and Palestinians about four or five days to think about it. And it got worse.

But once Zinni arrived, and I haven't seen today's news, things have gotten better. So it may have been a strategy. I don't know who else they plan on sending. Maybe no one. Maybe Zinni can do it himself. He knows the territory. He's trusted by both parties.

But I must say, just looking at it trying to be objective, I think President Bush has done quite well. The American people believe him. And I think it helps him on his domestic policies. Doesn't get Judge Pickering confirmed, but it helps him...

CROWLEY: I wanted to move you on to that. You heard the president come out and say this is ridiculous, and they're playing politics. You heard what the Democrats said. This is not a new argument to you. What's going on up there? Why did Pickering not get confirmed?

DOLE: I don't think it was Pickering himself. It was the people that knew him the best. The people in his hometown were -- most of them were foreign. And the people who didn't know him were against him. And I think they just thought -- I think the vote was 11-9 six months ago, whenever it started, three months, four months.

Now, if this is one exception, or is this going to be a pattern? So if I were President Bush, I'd try to get someone else up and see if they're going to do it again to that person. There are several circuit judges that haven't been confirmed. There are several judges haven't had a hearing in ten months. So I think he has to keep the pressure on them.

Will it be a national issue? Probably not. It will be an issue in the South, in Mississippi and southern states. In fact, I think Senator Zell Miller said today it's going to make it harder and harder for us in the south, Democrats in the south.

CROWLEY: We have less than a minute, but you have been in the same position as Senator Tom Daschle, the majority leader. How do you think he's doing?

DOLE: He's tough. A lot tougher than I was. I think he learned from my colleague, my friend George Mitchell. But, it's much more fun to be in the majority. And once you lose that, you lose all the committee chairmanships and you don't set the agenda. I could always tell when to turn off the lights and turn them on and all that.

But I think Senator Lott is doing well, too. And they get along. They're going to have these eruptions. Today I think Senator Lott was quoted as saying something. But you've got to get your work done. And I just hope that when Elizabeth is in the Senate next year, it'll be Republican majority.

CROWLEY: We'll leave it with that final plug. Senator Bob Dole, what a pleasure it is to see you. Thanks so much for joining us.

DOLE: Thank you.

CROWLEY: The INSIDE POLITICS "Newscycle" is straight ahead, including an update on President Bush's trip to North Carolina, home of the green berets.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: A quick look at the INSIDE POLITICS "Newscycle." Jurors in Texas today sentenced Andrea Yates to life in prison for drowning her five children. Yates will be eligible for parole in 40 years. She could have received the death penalty.

Tipper Gore is returning to Tennessee this weekend so she can consider a possible run for the Senate. A number of state Democratic leaders are said to be encouraging Mrs. Gore to run for Senate seat held by retiring Republican Fred Thompson.

President Bush travelled to Fayetteville, North Carolina and nearby Fort Bragg, to make the case for his defense budget. Mr. Bush thanked the soldiers for their service to country and called on Congress to approve his $48 billion military spending increase.

Joining me now to discuss other top stories of the day, Michelle Cottle of the "New Republic" is here in Washington and Rich Lowry is in New York. He's the editor of "National Review."

Let's go to some things we haven't yet discussed today. The first one I want to talk about is the debate within the Catholic Church, following a number of problems they have had with pedophilia. I wanted to bring up a quote that was in the church's paper up in Boston.

One of the questions: should celibacy continue to be a normative condition for the diocesan priesthood in the Latin church? So, Michelle, it seems to me that maybe they're missing the point. Is the question whether priests should be celibate, or is the question whether the church hierarchy ought to have been tougher on pedophilia?

MICHELLE COTTLE, "NEW REPUBLIC": Well, they're two separate questions. I mean, obviously the church has taken a lot of hits lately about the fact that it covered these incidents up over the years. But I think it is important for them to start thinking about, especially with all of the problems the church is having with losing its nuns and priests and bishops, whether or not they need to rethink the celibacy issue, and let priests marry.

CROWLEY: Rich, is this a valid debate at this point? Should the church be looking at the actions of the hierarchy?

RICH LOWRY, "NATIONAL REVIEW": I think it's certainly a valid debate. To say it's not would be, in effect, to try to be more Catholic than a Catholic organ. You know, this is a real stunner, Candy, because it's a Catholic paper that is bringing this up. So obviously, this debate is wide open.

But I agree with Michelle. It's two, I think, basically, separate issues. I think there's no defending the way the hierarchy has treated these pedophilia cases over the years. It's just shameful and scandalous. Celibacy is a more difficult and fraught question.

It seems to me the problem is not too much celibacy in the church at the moment. The problem is not enough.

CROWLEY: Let me also throw up here a CNN "TIME" poll recently taken, asking those we polled whether Catholic priests accused of sexually abusing children are isolated cases, 38 percent said yes, or part of a larger pattern. Fifty percent said no. Has the Catholic Church got a political problem, Michelle?

COTTLE: Well, obviously the problem here is hat no one knows because the church has been protecting these people for years, if not centuries. People are worried about things that they have suspected all along, or that have been accused in the past, and the priests have just been shuttled off to different diocese, or whatever. And now there's just no way to have a rational discussion about this. Because for too long this has been kept under cover and the authorities weren't brought in, and nobody was told what was happening.

CROWLEY: Rich, let me move you along to another subject that's been in the news, and that is whether or not gays should be allowed to adopt children or take in foster children, not allowed in either Florida or Louisiana.

Where is this debate going? And has it changed significantly?

LOWRY: It has changed.

Rosie O'Donnell is a major entry into the debate, obviously. She is one of the most beloved figures in America. And they have a great test case down there in Florida. And the fact is, conservatives over the last 10 or 15 years have been steadily losing ground on gay- related issues.

Now, all that said, I think there should still be a bias toward ordinary two-parent families with mothers and fathers. The bias should be it should be easier for them to adopt children. But that doesn't mean, in certain special cases, that gay parents shouldn't be allowed to adopt.

CROWLEY: And, Michelle, is that really the issue? These children have no choice. And there are plenty of children that need adopting. What is the issue here?

COTTLE: Yes.

Over the years, gay couples have actually been encouraged to be foster parents for children who nobody else seem to want. But then, when it would come time for them to actually try and adopt, states would get all pious and righteous and say, "No, no, it is bad for children to have gay parents," which is absolutely ridiculous.

I can understand if you want to have some kind of a preference because there's a social norm, but for this ban to continue is outright immoral.

CROWLEY: Yes or no from each of you: Do you think Florida and Louisiana will change their laws banning gay couples from adopting children?

LOWRY: I think they eventually will. I wouldn't want to be on the wrong side of Rosie on this one at the moment, unfortunately.

CROWLEY: Michelle.

COTTLE: I don't know. Florida, yes. Louisiana, probably not.

CROWLEY: OK, thanks so much. Michelle Cottle of "The New Republic," Rich Lowry of "The National Review," we thank you for your time.

COTTLE: Thanks, Candy.

LOWRY: Thanks, Candy.

CROWLEY: Up next: "Inside Buzz" on Tom Ridge's refusal to testify before Congress. Plus, Senator Orrin Hatch talks about the Pickering nomination and future judicial nominees ahead in our "Subway Series."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: Now we have more on our lead story: the possibility that Tipper Gore may run for the Senate.

I spoke earlier with Stu Rothenberg of "The Rothenberg Political Report" and Ed Henry, editor of "Roll Call Daily."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY: Ed Henry, Stu Rothenberg, two of the most astute Capitol Hill reporters, we're at the Reflection Pool, a great place to have you reflect on the possibility of a Tipper Gore Senate race in Tennessee. Do you think this is real?

ED HENRY, "ROLL CALL DAILY": I think Tipper Gore got a very interesting phone call this morning. My understanding is Hillary Clinton phoned Tipper Gore and basically encouraged her to run and said, "I think you would make a very good candidate."

And that is very interesting on a lot of levels. First of all, there is supposedly a lot of frost between the Clintons and the Gores. And I think that entree from the Clinton family to say, "Hey, you might be able to do this" and a little bit of a nudge, might actually make her think that this could be a serious run. And, obviously, a lot of people laughed when Hillary Clinton said she was going to run. Everybody said there was no way she was going to do it. And she did it. And she won. And she is now becoming a force in the Senate already. The same thing could happen with Tipper Gore.

CROWLEY: Stu, scale of one 10, is she going to do this? STUART ROTHENBERG, "ROTHENBERG POLITICAL REPORT": About a minus- three, I'd say, Candy. Pardon me if this looks a little artificial to me, the whole buzz about the former second lady, and now she is going to talk to her family, I hear, over the weekend and make a decision.

You have to remember that there is actually a real politician who is going to be in this race, Bob Clement. The congressman from the Nashville area, son of a former three-term governor, has decided to run. Does Tipper Gore really want to run in a Democratic primary and then against a credible Republican? I'm not sure she is really ready to jump in with both feet.

I would say she is personable. She is friendly. She is outgoing. Those are all big pluses for a politician. But she is not like Hillary Clinton, the way Mrs. Clinton was, somebody who had a reputation for policy and seriousness. So I think she would have to convince an awful lot of people that she was ready for the Senate. And not only that, is she really ready go through a campaign? It is not like being the wife of a candidate. A candidate is very different.

CROWLEY: But you can understand, can't you, why the Democrats down there would like a big-pop wow? You've got Lamar Alexander -- see if there is an approval rating or whatever.

HENRY: Everybody is talking about the name.

I think, also, just think about the possibility of who can be in the Senate in 2003. You would have Elizabeth Dole, possibly, Hillary Clinton and Tipper Gore all together. And the Senate spouse's club, with Bob Dole, Bill Clinton and Al Gore, all the washed-up people, is becoming the new status symbol for the Washington wife to now jump into politics.

ROTHENBERG: I think this is about political celebrity. And we all get excited when a big name, whether it is an athlete or the wife of somebody, is mentioned. And that is what is going on now. But I think both Ed and I are rather skeptical.

CROWLEY: Go north, New Jersey race: Robert Ray, who took over for the Starr investigation, is going to run against Robert Torricelli. Why?

HENRY: I think Ray has taken a lot of heat already for taking a long time on the Clinton, wrapping up the independent counsel report. And I Torricelli was somebody who was very close to the Clintons in the '96 race and was able to win despite that.

And so I don't see that hurting him, the Clinton issue. The ethics issue for Torricelli, however, the Senate Ethics Committee is still looking at this whole case of David Chang and whether or not Torricelli had any wrongdoing. Most people expect that that case will get buried at some point, because senators don't usually take on their own. But that case is still kicking around.

CROWLEY: Stu, quickly, does he got a shot? ROTHENBERG: Probably not. He is he politically ambitious. He has no roots in the state. And Republicans insiders tell me they think the best shot at going against Senator Torricelli, who has bad approval numbers, is with a candidate who is more white bread, not really controversial.

It seems to me that, if Ray were the Republican nominee, the race could be as much about him and Clinton as Bob Torricelli. That's not what the Republican insiders want.

CROWLEY: Stu Rothenberg, Ed Henry, thank you so much. It was fun.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY: Some "Inside Buzz" from Capitol Hill: CNN producer Dana Bash reports Senators Robert Byrd and Ted Stevens have written a letter to President Bush. The two requested a meeting to discuss the refusal of Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge to testify before Congress. The senators say Ridge's testimony before the Appropriations Committee is vital if Congress is to carry out its oversight functions. The White House argues Ridge is a White House adviser and therefore not required to testify before Congress.

The defeat of the Pickering nomination in the Senate Judiciary Committee has reopened old wounds surrounding the nominating process. Some say it foretells future battles over nominees to the Supreme Court.

Earlier, as part of our "Subway Series," Jonathan Karl discussed this and other issues with Utah Republican Senator Orrin Hatch.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KARL: I want to start right off with the Pickering nomination.

You have been through some major battles in your career here, major battles over nominations. Is this really anything new or is this just the latest installment?

SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R), UTAH: It's the latest installment.

But they are trying to protect their -- perfect their ability to smear these people. And I'm talking about these outside groups. You'll notice, it started off with they were trying to brand him as a racist. Well, you saw the backpedaling yesterday by all the Democrats. They know he is not a racist.

KARL: But what does this battle over the Pickering nomination say for future battles? The president's got, what, about 50 nominations pending?

HATCH: What it means is that they are trying to send the message to the president that they don't want any conservatives on the Supreme Court and they certainly don't want any conservatives on the circuit courts of appeals. KARL: Your name has came up regularly as a possible Supreme Court nominee. What kind of treatment do you think you would get if you got nominated to the Supreme Court?

HATCH: Oh, I'm not going to talk about that, because I never pay any attention to that stuff.

KARL: Well, what would your friend Chairman Leahy say about a Hatch nomination?

HATCH: Well, I think you would have to ask him. But we will just have to see. It would cause them a lot of angst, I'm sure.

(LAUGHTER)

KARL: But you have a add tougher time dealing with Pat Leahy than you did with Joe Biden, haven't you?

HATCH: Let's put it this way. I want to get along with all my colleagues. I like Patrick. I do respect him. I respect his position. But if you ask me if the committee is doing a good job, I have to tell you they're not.

I have to admit I'm pretty irritated with this Pickering matter, because I think he was smeared. I think he was mistreated. I think a very, very good man and his family have been treated like dirt. And I think it's been done for political reasons.

KARL: The Judiciary Committee is an incredible committee. Sometimes it looks like the '04 caucus. You have potential presidential candidates in Joe Biden, Russ Feingold, John Edwards. How did that dynamic affect this, the fact that you had so many potential presidential candidates on the Democratic side?

HATCH: It's a great committee. It's one of the toughest committees ever on Capitol Hill. You've got to be good to be on it. And you've got to be good to be effective on it.

But, look, if you think presidential politics doesn't influence some of the votes, then I think you better get into another business. And I know that you know.

KARL: Some Republicans are talking about what they are calling Operation Anaconda Senate style, in terms of blocking action on the Senate floor of other agenda items until the Democratic Senate moves forward on the president's nominations. What do you think of that? How far should you guys push? Because you could stop everything in its tracks on the Senate floor until you had action on these nominees.

HATCH: I'm not going to call the Democrats on the committee the Taliban.

(LAUGHTER)

HATCH: I have wondered about it every once in a while.

No, I have to admit, we did much better job than they are doing. And we had much better results.

KARL: But how hard will you push? Will you stop action on the Senate floor of other agenda items until you get action?

HATCH: What I'm worried about is when they get the presidency and we have control of the committee. And, if I'm chairman, do I have to follow a process of payback? I don't want to do that. I want to do the best job for America that I can do.

KARL: There is going to be pressure from your party to do payback?

HATCH: That's the nature of this beast around here. And I think we ought to get away from that.

KARL: Senator Hatch, we are at the end of the ride. And I want to thank you very much for joining us on the subway.

HATCH: Thank you. Great to be with you.

KARL: Take care, sir.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY: Checking the headlines now in "Campaign News Daily": House Minority leader and potential presidential candidate Dick Gephardt will spend part of this weekend in South Carolina. He's in Orangeburg today with Congressman Jim Clyburn. Tomorrow, Gephardt meets with longshoremen in Charleston.

South Carolina Republicans are launching a new effort to attract African-American voters. The state party has created this Web site along with a new radio ad to promote a statewide listening tour of Africa-American communities.

And, in Arkansas, another wife of an elected official is considering a run for office. Janet Huckabee, wife of Republican Governor Mike Huckabee, may make a run for secretary of state. She is expected to announce her decision tomorrow at the state capitol.

It sometimes seems like news from the Middle East never changes. Just ahead: the latest attempts to end violence, and thoughts from our senior analyst, Jeff Greenfield.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: U.S. Envoy Anthony Zinni met today with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. Afterwards, Zinni said he think both Israelis and Palestinians are committed to ending what he called the "terrible situation in the region." Zinni met with Arafat following earlier talks with Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres.

Here in the U.S., a new CNN/"TIME" poll finds most Americans are pessimistic about the Middle East: 65 percent said they don't believe peace can be achieved in the region.

Our senior analyst, Jeff Greenfield, shares his thoughts on the issue in today's "Bite of the Apple."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SR. ANALYST: So you pick up today's newspaper and you could swear you read that same headline a month ago, a year ago, a generation ago: "New Violence Flares in Middle East. Hopes for Peace Dim."

And you ask yourself: Is this going to go on forever? So, to cheer yourself up, maybe you start thinking about other ills that once tormented the world, ills that once seemed insoluble, but that have gone away. You might even permit yourself a dash of optimism, until you realize why they went away.

(voice-over): Our World War II enemies, Germany and Japan, are now staple democracies, stalwart allies. Of course, that happened after they were conquered and occupied.

America's longtime nuclear adversary, the Soviet Union, no longer threatens us. Russia and the U.S. are, more or less, allies now. Of course, that was after the foundations of communism collapsed, taking the Soviet Union with them. The European empires no longer rule over distant lands in Africa and Asia. Colonialism is dead. Of course, that was after Britain and France and the others gave up their empires and went back home.

South Africa went from an oppressive, racialist government to black majority rule in relative peace.

NELSON MANDELA: Democracy and freedom for all.

GREENFIELD: Of course, that was after the white minority gave up its hold on power.

And, in the U.S., our version of apartheid, state-sanctioned segregation, is gone. Of course, that was after the federal government, in the form of armed troops, told the South that official racism was over.

(on camera): Can the lesson be any clearer? All those once- insoluble problems went away because somebody gave up. So now turn back to the Middle East and ask yourself: Who is ready to give up? And if you can't answer that question, don't be surprised to be seeing those same dispiriting headlines a month from now, a year from now, a generation from now.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY: It has been a busy week in the worlds of diplomacy and politics. Up next: Is there a play to get really pumped up about? Bill Schneider thinks so.

Stay tuned.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: One of the main topics of debate in the Senate this week left our Bill Schneider surprisingly energized.

Bill, do tell.

SCHNEIDER: Well, how's this for dry and boring? A debate about fuel economy standards for motor vehicles.

But, you know, something happened to turn that debate into a colorful cultural confrontation -- that's fun to say -- and the "Political Play of the Week."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Environmentalists favor higher fuel- economy standards as a way to reduce air pollution and combat global warming. September 11 gives them an even stronger argument.

SEN. TOM DASCHLE (D-SD), MAJORITY LEADER: We can completely rid ourselves of all of the dependence that we have on the oil in Saudi Arabia that we import an annual basis.

SCHNEIDER: Opponents of raising fuel-efficiency standards can talk about how many jobs it might cost and how it might discriminate against U.S. automakers. Instead, when the issue came before the Senate this week, they turned it into an attack on the American way of life.

SEN. TRENT LOTT (R-MS), MINORITY LEADER: We shouldn't have the federal government saying, "You are going to drive the Purple People Eater here."

SCHNEIDER: Nonsense, said liberals. This is not a matter of lifestyle; it is a matter of technology.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Here is the truth. This is Ford Motor Company's own advertisement. And they advertise an SUV, a vehicle that gives you all of the room and power you want, but uses half the gasoline.

SCHNEIDER: The auto industry rallied rural America to the theme: Save our pickups.

SEN. ZELL MILLER (D), GEORGIA: I submit to you, the back of a pickup is the think tank of rural America.

SCHNEIDER: Well, it sure helped Fred Thompson in Tennessee and Victor Morales in Texas and Janet Reno in Florida.

Wednesday's Senate vote became a cultural showdown. Look at the map. Support for tougher fuel standards was concentrated on the coasts. The Heartland didn't like the idea. It sort of looks like the 2000 election map. But this vote was not close. The Senate rejected higher mileage standards 62-38. That's because opponents stole a constituency away from Al Gore: women.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP, AD)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The government wants to take away my SUV.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

SCHNEIDER: Why do soccer moms like to take ferry their kids around the suburbs in what look like armor personnel carriers? Safety is a big reason.

SEN. BARBARA MIKULSKI (D), MARYLAND: We face big trucks. We face road rage. Mothers want to be in the functional civilian equivalent of a Humvee. And why? Because they are scared.

SCHNEIDER: In the end, an economic issue became a cultural issue. Environmentalists got killed by a powerful alliance between rural America and the suburbs. The SUVs and pickup trucks ran over their opponents.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP, AD)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): So please don't make my pickup truck an endangered species.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

SCHNEIDER: And picked up the "Political Play of the Week."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER: Now, what about that national security argument? Well, there's an answer to that, too: If Americans have to drive smaller cars, the terrorists will have won.

CROWLEY: Thanks, Bill.

For all of you who would like to read more about the think tanks of rural America, you can read Bill's "Play of the Week" online. And you can e-mail us with your ideas and opinions at CNN.com/INSIDE POLITICS.

Are members of Congress planning to be asleep at the switch? That story is coming up.

But, first, Kate Snow is here to tell us what is ahead on "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS,"

KATE SNOW, "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS": Thanks, Candy.

Ahead at the top of the hour: the big factor in the sentencing of Andrea Yates. Also, the machine that can see right through your clothes, will it help airport screeners or will it hurt your right to privacy? And Dear Abby talks to us about the letter that made her go to the police. Those stories coming up right after INSIDE POLITICS.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: Looking ahead to what's in the works for Monday's INSIDE POLITICS: Our Bill Schneider is headed to Boston. He will have a full report on the political side of St. Patrick's Day -- plus, an extended interview with Mexico's president, Vicente Fox.

The Senate plans to begin debate on campaign finance reform next week. And Democratic leaders are getting ready for possible all- nighters. A dozen cots were delivered to the Hill today. Tom Daschle's office says the bedding is proof the Senate majority leader is serious about holding round-the-clock sessions if that is what is needed to win final congressional approval for the legislation before Easter recess. You always knew the Senate was a snooze fest.

CNN's coverage continues now with "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS." I'm Candy Crowley.

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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