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CNN INSIDE POLITICS

What is the Status of Bush Administration Policy on Middle East? Who is Favored in the Upcoming Elections?

Aired April 1, 2002 - 16:00   ET

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


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Judy Woodruff in Washington. A new explosion rocks Jerusalem as Israel continues its military offensive in the West Bank.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: I'm Bill Schneider in Los Angeles. Expansion of Mideast violence is forcing the U.S. to walk a thin rhetorical line.

BROOKS JACKSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Brooks Jackson in Washington. The government is proposing a rule to reign in those annoying telemarketers. But the telemarketers say it violates their freedom of speech.

JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I'm Jeff Greenfield in New York. And it's baseball's opening day, and I'll have a look at the enduring attraction between presidents and the American pastime.

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

WOODRUFF: Thank you for joining us. After a weekend of suicide attacks and the expansion of Israeli military operations, Jerusalem was rocked today by Israel's sixth suicide bombing in six days. Just a few hours ago, a car bomb exploded at a police checkpoint near downtown Jerusalem. The police officer who stopped the car was seriously wounded. The bomber was killed.

Earlier, Israeli forces in Ramallah opened fire on a building using tanks and a vehicle-mounted anti-aircraft gun. Also on the West Bank, eight Israeli soldiers were injured while conducting house-to- house searches. Palestinian militants attacked and killed at least seven fellow Palestinians suspected of collaborating with the Israelis.

Here in Washington President Bush said he would like for Yasser Arafat to -- quote -- "denounce the terrorist activities." He also called on Israel to remain committed to the Tenet and Mitchell plans, two U.S.-backed proposals that Mr. Bush says Israel has already endorsed.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think it's very important for the prime minister to keep a pathway to peace open. To understand that, on the one hand, Israel should protect herself. And on the other hand, there ought to be a pathway, a capacity, to achieve a peaceful resolution to this issue. It's important for Israel to understand that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: As the violence intensifies, the White House faces a tough job, balancing its dual roles as Mideast peace broker and the leader in the war on terrorism. Our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider, is with me now from Los Angeles with more on this. Hello, Bill.

SCHNEIDER: Judy, to Arab leaders, the Israel-Palestinian crisis is not a sideshow. It's the main event. You want to fight a war on terrorism, Arabs are saying to the U.S., start by resolving the crisis between Israel and the Palestinians.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(voice-over): The suicide attacks have drawn the U.S. and Israel closer together.

ARIEL SHARON, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER (through translator): You cannot make any compromise with terrorism. You cannot compromise with people who are prepared, like the suicide bombers in Israel's street, or the Twin Towers in the U.S., to die simply in order to kill innocent people.

BUSH: I fully understand Israel's need to defend herself. I respect that. It's a country that has seen a wave of suicide bombers come into the hearts of their cities and kill innocent people.

SCHNEIDER: Was that a green light for Israel to make war on the Palestinian Authority, just as the U.S. did on the Taliban? The U.S. says no, it was more like a yellow light.

BUSH: I urge that their government, the Israeli government, make sure that there is a path to peace, as she secures her homeland.

SCHNEIDER: If the U.S. is at war with terrorists and those who harbor them, where does that leave Yasser Arafat? President Bush has stopped short of calling Arafat the enemy.

BUSH: Chairman Arafat has agreed to a peace process.

SCHNEIDER: Despite President Bush's effort to find a balance, the current crisis has made the U.S. a target of anger in the Arab world. To Arabs, the U.S. has shown itself to be both hypocritical and ineffectual.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

Hypocritical, because President Bush endorses the idea of a Palestinian state, but sides with Israel in the conflict. Ineffectual because the U.S. could not stop Israel's escalation, or even persuade Israel to allow Yasser Arafat to go to Beirut for the Arab League summit -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right, Bill Schneider, thanks very much.

The Middle East violence will be among the topics later tonight on CNN's new "CROSSFIRE." The expanded show, now a full hour, will debut from its new location at George Washington University. And joining me now from there, our new co-host, James Carville and Paul Begala on the left. And holding down the right, Tucker Carlson in Atlanta, Bob Novak. Gentlemen, good to see all of you.

James Carville, is the Bush administration doing the right thing by putting most of the pressure on Arafat and the Palestinians?

JAMES CARVILLE, CO-HOST, "CROSSFIRE": Well, first of all, this is going to turn out to be the biggest foreign policy debacle in the United States since Vietnam. This idea somehow or another we could disengage from Israeli-Palestinian conflict and concentrate on other things was stupid when it started. And this administration is paying the price.

We now see that they have -- on Saturday morning they vote to withdraw from Ramallah, and on Saturday afternoon we have the president saying that Israel ought to be able to defend itself. What this administration needs to do is develop some clarity to understand that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is central to the United States policy in the Middle East, and come with a clear, coherent policy which ought to encourage people to get back to the peace table.

We're not doing that and we're paying the price for it. We're paying the price for our earlier decision not to get involved in this. And we're going to continue to pay the price.

WOODRUFF: Tucker Carlson, is that what's going on? The United States is paying a price for the wrong decision made by the Bush administration?

TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST, "CROSSFIRE": That's, on its face, ludicrous. I mean, Bush is not in fact responsible for the suicide bombings. He's obviously doing all he can, and what he believes is right to get people back to the table.

That said, it does, I have to say, seem like yesterday's strategy to keep pointing the finger at Yasser Arafat, assuming, at least implicitly, that he's in control of the suicide bombers. He seems awfully isolated, unable to order a pizza. Had to believe that he's ordering all these bombings by himself.

So maybe the focus is a bit too narrow, but the idea that somehow American negligence is responsible for the war between the Palestinians and Israelis, ludicrous.

WOODRUFF: Paul Begala, would you make that point as well, that it's partly the fault of the Bush administration that this situation over there has degenerated?

PAUL BEGALA, CO-HOST, "CROSSFIRE": Well, let me be clear. I don't want to be like Ari Fleischer, who falsely tried to blame President Clinton for the violence that erupted under President Bush's watch. I don't want to falsely blame President Bush.

The United States is the indispensable nation. And when we withdraw, chaos ensues. And the Bushes came into office wanting to turn everything that Clinton did on its head -- the good, the bad, the in-between. And here we had the most successful Middle East policy under Bill Clinton that this country has ever had in its history. It brought the parties closer to peace than they've been in 5,000 years. Bush walks away from it. Chaos ensues.

And both sides, and both political parties here at home are calling on Bush to reengage. To get off his ranch in Crawford, Texas, and reengage in the Middle East. He has to do that. American leadership is indispensable here, and he has advocated that leadership.

WOODRUFF: Bob Novak, has President Bush abdicated his responsibility here?

BOB NOVAK, CO-HOST, "CROSSFIRE": Well, I don't think he's done a very good job. I have to say that Paul Begala was even worse than James Carville just now. They both want to rerun the election of 2000 that they lost. They're going to be doing that on "CROSSFIRE," if you enjoy that sort of thing. And it's very disappointing when these serious interests are at stake, to have to bring up Clinton versus Bush, Bush versus Clinton.

Having said that, there's no question there are people in the Bush administration who wanted to use September the 11th as a means of bonding with Israel. And the United States, against the entire Arab world, Secretary Powell opposing that.

But right now, there is some vacillation by President Bush. He sounded a little different today than he did on Saturday, because it was disaster for the United States to completely align itself with the militaristic policy of General Sharon, and engage in a jihad against the entire Muslim world.

WOODRUFF: Let me ask you all to address the question, what needs to happen now, whether it's on the part of the U.S., or the parties themselves?

CARVILLE: Well, first of all, I think Bob had too much to drink after the Maryland win Saturday, because (UNINTELLIGIBLE). I'm saying very clearly that that decision to disengage in the Middle East policy was a debacle. Now, if he wants to go ahead and argue over who won the 2000 election, I'll be glad to tell him that Al Gore won it.

But that's not the point that I was making, Mr. Novak. I was saying that this administration's policy to disengage and say the United States did have a strategic interest in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was the biggest foreign policy debacle since Vietnam. I'm going to be proven to be right.

And I hope that you get a lot more to drink tonight after Maryland wins, because if you keep making these kind of assertions, we're going to have a good time here.

(LAUGHTER)

NOVAK: Well, your little partner, Begala, just brought up President Clinton, what a wonderful job he did. I think...

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: Pardon?

BEGALA: Bill Clinton did a terrific job. He brought the parties to the brink of peace. And Bush decided to walk away from all that. That's abdication. See, he didn't discover terrorism until September 11th. He didn't discover the Middle East until this week.

NOVAK: Mr. Begala, I have to tell you something. You're not working for Bill Clinton anymore and you don't have go with all that kind of pandering about him.

BEGALA: No, I'm working for Ted Turner, by God!

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: I want to say one thing. I think when you watch this show -- and I think I speak for all of us -- you can feel the love. This is going to be the thing that's going to bring viewers back again and again, night after night, for a full hour.

WOODRUFF: Let me interrupt.

(CROSSTALK)

CARVILLE: You see, he is pretty, he is smart...

CARLSON: You're making me nervous, James.

WOODRUFF: You're already anticipating my last question to all four of you. How is the new "CROSSFIRE" different from the old one, other than the fact that we have Mr. Begala and Mr. Carville involved?

NOVAK: I'll give you one answer. When you've got Carville and Begala on the program, all reason has fled.

(LAUGHTER)

CARVILLE: Well, sometimes "CROSSFIRE" (UNINTELLIGIBLE) been a reason anyway. I tell you what I think. I think we have a great set. I actually do, although they're dead wrong about everything, I actually have a lot of respect for Bob and Tucker. You know how much I love Paul, and I think it's going to be fun. And you know what? We're going to let people hear both sides and let them make up their mind. CARLSON: And we think, being reasonable, they'll make the obvious choice.

(LAUGHTER)

BEGALA: We also have a live audience, which we've never had before, Judy, which I can't wait for, being a populist myself.

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: You mean the people in the audience are going to be live? I didn't know that. Nobody told me that.

BEGALA: We'll be chasing Novak and Carlson out of here like scalded dogs.

CARVILLE: Cue ball will be rolling tonight.

WOODRUFF: If you're all wearing tinted glasses like James Carville, it's bound to be a winner. Good to see you all. We appreciate it. We'll all be glued to the sets tonight at 7:00. Thanks.

And just a reminder, that expanded one-hour "CROSSFIRE" will kick off its new look tonight from George Washington University. Tune in at 7:00 p.m. Eastern.

The Middle East violence as seen from the Senate. Up next, my conversation with Senator Joe Lieberman on U.S. policy towards the region and big issues here at home.

Plus, should Al Gore reenter the arena. Joe Klein explains why another Gore run would be good for Democrats.

And later, Jeff Greenfield on presidents, politics and the history of opening day.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: "On the Record" today, Senator Joseph Lieberman. The Connecticut Democrat is among the members of Congress calling on President Bush to do more to try to end the bloodshed in the Middle East. Earlier today I asked Senator Lieberman what exactly more should the administration do.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (D), CONNECTICUT: This is not an easy situation by any means. And whether a state craft alone can bring an end to the violence in the Middle East, we don't really know. But if we don't try, we'll never know.

I personally believe that the administration made a mistake last year when it disengaged itself from the Middle East peace process, on the hope or the theory that the Israelis and the Palestinians should be able to do it themselves. Unfortunately, history has shown us that they shouldn't, they can't, and we shouldn't stand back.

Now, as the violence escalates every day, as difficult and risky as it is to get involved, I really believe that the president ought to dispatch Secretary Powell, or some high-level individual or delegation, to go over and convene all of our allies in the Arab world, and Israel, around the Saudi peace proposal that was adopted in Beirut last we.

I know people question the Saudis' motives. I know the plan is full of problems. But at least it is a path to peace and recognition by the Arabs of Israel's right to exist, which a lot of Israelis are now wondering whether the Palestinians accept. So I think this is a moment to take a risk, in the interest of peace.

WOODRUFF: Senator, you're calling for more U.S. engagement. There are those in the administration who say even when Former President Clinton was very, very involved in this, you still didn't get a peaceful agreement. So if -- what makes you think that now would be any more productive?

LIEBERMAN: Two things. One is, I think that the record shows that when the United States has been involved actively as a mediator, going way back, including, for instance, the Nixon administration, Secretary Kissinger and after that, but particularly through President Clinton, when the United States is more involved, there tends to be less violence.

Secondly, President Clinton made a noble effort to try to achieve peace. And this all turned sour when Chairman Arafat rejected the extraordinary offer that Prime Minister Barak made for a Palestinian state with the Palestinian flag flying over East Jerusalem. And it just has gone down since then.

So I don't know that there's any surefire way to stop the violence, to take back the initiative from these suicide bombers, extremists, who have hijacked the legitimate cause of Palestinian nationalism. But nothing good is going to happen unless the other countries of the world and the region, led by the United States, step in and say to everybody there, let's start talking and stop killing each other.

WOODRUFF: Senator, to Enron now. You made an address today at New York's university business school about the aftermath of Enron. Most everybody agrees that there were clearly severe ethical and probably even legal lapses at Enron. But are you saying that there are -- that the entire corporate world is riddled with this kind of ethical lapse or behavior?

LIEBERMAN: No, Enron clearly was an extreme of unethical behavior, yielding to greed. But I do think, as Arthur Levitt, the former chairman of the SEC, has said, that there are warnings here from the Enron scandal, of a lot of other questionable behavior that's happening in a lot of other companies.

And we can't tolerate it anymore. The government will step in by law to protect the economy and employees and retirees and investors from other Enrons. But ultimately, what I try to say to these business and law students here at NYU today, is that it's up to business people to make the right decisions between right and wrong, to not yield to greed. Because in the end, that's a disaster, for their company and for the economy.

WOODRUFF: But you're also calling for some government action, too. Some government regulation. And among others, Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan said last week that there is no need for that. That we're already seeing corporate America police itself. We're seeing investors paying less for stocks and bonds.

LIEBERMAN: Yes. I -- it's always dangerous to disagree at all with Alan Greenspan. But I think that there are two dangers here, in Congress' reaction to Enron. One is that we will do too much. The other is that we will do too little.

As you look back at our history of fair labor laws and child labor laws and environmental protection laws and fair investment laws, they all have followed abuses and scandals, for which we have learned and taken those lessons and put them in the law to try to make sure it didn't happen again. I think we've got to do some of that here.

WOODRUFF: Senator Lieberman, we're going to have to leave it there. Thank you very much for joining us.

LIEBERMAN: Thank you, Judy. Always good to be with you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: And coming up, Rich Lowry and Julio Noboa will way weigh in on the spiraling violence in the Middle East, and on the efforts under way to stop the bloodshed.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Checking our INSIDE POLITICS "Newscycle," violence continued to flare today in the Middle East. In Jerusalem, an Israeli policeman was among those injured when a car bomb exploded at a busy intersection. The bomber was killed. It was the sixth suicide bombing in six days and the 35th since late January.

A high-level government source tells CNN that Pakistan has turned over to the United States a man believed to be Abu Zubaydah. If it is Zubaydah, he would be the highest level al Qaeda member captured since the September 11th attacks.

And in California, mourners gather today for the funeral of Milton Berle. The 93-year-old comedian died last week at his home in Beverly Hills. Known to his fans as Uncle Miltie, Berle was considered television's first superstar.

Well, with us now with their takes on some of the top issues of the day, Julio Noboa of the "San Antonio Express-News" and Rich Lowry of "The National Review."

Gentlemen, there have been a lot of terms thrown around in the last few days about the Middle East. We've had President Bush not call Yasser Arafat a terrorist and there have been questions raised about that. We've had Prime Minister Sharon say that Israel and the Palestinians are at war.

Mr. Noboa, to you first. To what extent does the rhetoric, does the language, really matter right now?

JULIO NOBOA "SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS": I think the rhetoric is very important, because if you don't define what you mean by terrorism, it's going to be very difficult to have anybody actually be on our side and serve as our allies. We need allies in this war against terrorism. And if the rhetoric is such that we're defining terrorism in one way, and not actually looking at the true definition of it, then we need to be clear on what this definition is.

WOODRUFF: Rich, I just want to ask Rich Lowry on that point. Rich, you know, does it really matter at this point, when events of -- in the view of many, just completely gotten out of control, whether you use the word terrorist, or whether you say we're at war or not?

RICH LOWRY "NATIONAL REVIEW": Well, I think it's very clear. A couple of things: one, there is terrorism at play here. The Palestinians are obviously using it as a tactic -- a very effective tactic. And that's why Yasser Arafat is using it as a tool in the first place.

And that's why the administration, at some point, I think, is going to have to give up the sort of sort of pathetic begging of Arafat to eschew terrorism. Because it's clear that he thinks it works for him. And it's not going to stop working for him until the Israelis really hit back hard that. And that means, in effect, waging war.

The fact is, there's been a war going on in the region for about 18 months. And Yasser Arafat has been waging it and get getting hit back hard enough for it.

WOODRUFF: Let me just ask you both quickly, Senator Arlen Specter said over the weekend that he believes General Zinni has a plan to send in U.S. peacekeepers into the region. Julio Noboa, does that make sense? Given the current state of affairs, would sending in U.S. peacekeepers, any time soon, make sense?

NOBOA: Well, actually, what really would have made sense some time ago is to send in U.N. peacekeepers. The U.N. and the world community have asked for this to happen. And several times the United States and Israel have vetoed that movement, that measure.

In fact, if we had U.S. peacekeepers there, it would only be effective if it was part of an international peacekeeping force. What you really need there is an objective peacekeeping force, someone from the U.N. and the international force, that can stop the terrorism that's occurring on both sides.

We need to be clear that the terrorism is of two kinds. There is a state terrorism happening, as well as a terrorism that people blame Arafat for -- a terrorism that Arafat cannot control himself. And it's rather clear that if he's by himself, locked up in Ramallah, there's no way that he can have any influence over what happens in the West Bank.

WOODRUFF: Rich, excuse me. I just want to give Rich Lowry a chance to respond to the question about peacekeepers.

LOWRY: Well, I think that's a real nonstarter. We had an unhappy experience concerning U.S. troops, in a Middle East dispute burning hot in the early '80s in Beirut. Hezbollah will be licking their chops over there because there would be so many American targets.

If we insert American troops there, what are they going to have to do, in effect? They're going to have to chase down the terrorists -- Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad and the others. And that's really the Israelis' job, and our policy should be to let them actually finish that job off.

WOODRUFF: All right, gentlemen, we're going to have to leave it there. Rich Lowry of the "National Review," Julio Noboa of the "San Antonio Express-News." Good to see you both.

Coming up, President Bush takes it on the chin from some conservative commentators. Find out what's causing the criticism in our "Inside Buzz" when we return.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: In our Inside Buzz, some conservative commentators are criticizing the Bush Administration over its handling of the Middle East crisis. Here with more, Howard Kurtz, of CNN's RELIABLE SOURCES.

Howard, people were very reluctant to criticize the president over Afghanistan. What is different with the Middle East?

HOWARD KURTZ, HOST, "RELIABLE SOURCES": The solid wall of support that conservative journalists have given the Bush Administration since 9/11 is now fracturing in pretty dramatic fashion. I wrote down a couple of comments: George Will, the columnist calling the Middle East policy incoherent.

Bill Crystal, the editor of "The Weekly Standard" saying that Vice President Cheney religitimized Yasser Arafat by dangling the possibility of meeting with him and compromised the war on terror. You heard Bob Novak earlier say this was a disaster for the White House. I think what is happening is the White House feels that it is getting hit from both sides when the president was personally very much engaged in the Middle East, they were criticized for that hands off approach.

Now that the Bush Administration is more engaged, it doesn't seem to working very well given the continuing level of violence.

WOODRUFF: They certainly are more vocal about it. Different story. Very interesting. What is this in some Republican circles they are talking about whom to replace Dick Cheney on the ticket with the president in 2004?

KURTZ: Conde in '04. They have all but printed up the bumper stickers. A lot of conservative intellectuals and writers talking about Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser, would make a great running mate for George W.

You might say of course the job is not open at the moment, but this is all kind of like a fantasy baseball league based on speculation that Vice President Cheney may not run again for health reasons. And on the plus side a lot of people are saying that boy, she would had add a lot of pizzazz to the ticket, allow the Republican ticket to make some inroads into the black vote, help close the gender gap. I just seems like a home run in many ways.

But on the other hand in this fantasy debate, some conservatives are saying what is Condoleezza Rice's position on domestic issues? She did tell the "National Review" back in 1999 that she is mildly pro choice on abortion, which is not the position of the Bush Administration.

The only thing we know for sure is that only job that Condoleezza Rice lusts after openly after the White House is football commissioner. So I don't even know whether she is interested in this but it is gaining steam.

WOODRUFF: She has talked about that. Do we know where this came from or is that too hard to pin down?

KURTZ: It started on one Web site, then another one had a comment. And it just kind of took off in a way that things on the Internet sometimes do.

WOODRUFF: Now we have find out what she says. All right. Last but not least -- Congress 2002, even some commentators on the left, Howard, are already writing off the Democrats for this year.

KURTZ: A lot of advance obituaries seven months before the election. Here is the cover of "Washington Monthly," "Why can't the Democrats get tough?" With a very tough looking Joe Lieberman, George Stephanopolis and so forth wielding weapons that they don't usually wield. That piece says that Republicans are hitting to all fields. Democrats are trembling at the plate. Franc Rich in the "New York Times" says Democrats are intimidated by Bush's high poll numbers and the Dems need a spine transplant -- pretty tough words there.

And Ron Brownstein "Los Angeles Times" said that Republicans are swaggering, Democrats look lost. The only thing that troubles me is we do have 7 months to go and the press sometimes can't figure out who won the election even after the votes are counted as we saw last time. So a lot could change between now and then, but Democrats are not getting good press right now.

The pundits have concluded they do not have many issues to run on.

WOODRUFF: Well, maybe the Middle East will change that. All right, Howard Kurtz thank you for coming by. Appreciate it.

Al Gore has returned to the political scene, and Joe Klein, of the "New Yorker" magazine, has written that another Gore presidential campaign would be good for the Democrats. Joe Klein joins us now from New York.

Hello to you Joe Klein. What is the theory working here that this is good for Democrats? We know a number have said he should not run again.

JOE KLEIN, "THE NEW YORKER": Democrats are beside themselves with fear that he is actually going to do it. But he will probably do it. Politicians hate messy primaries. Only we love messy primaries. They think that it weakens the candidate for the fall and wastes a lot of money that they have to reraise. But I think a pretty good argument can be made for the fact that it toughens up whoever the eventual nominee is. And in this case Gore was such a dreadful candidate in 2000 that beating him would lend some stature to the Democrat who does it in 2004, who is going to have to go up against an incumbent president.

WOODRUFF: What is the theory about why his campaigning style would be different from what it was in 2000?

KLEIN: Well, it could not be much worse. That was one of the worst presidential campaigns that I have ever covered. And you know perhaps he learned from his mistakes. Perhaps he learned that occasionally it is OK to take a position that is unpopular with public. For example. he had this great environmental record. It just disappeared in the 2000 campaign.

He was very much opposed to -- he wanted to limit guns -- license them, and that disappeared during the debates. It a completely consultant-driven kind of cowardly campaign and maybe this time he will say, what the hell, I'll do it my way.

WOODRUFF: Let's talk right now about the man Al Gore served with in the White House, Bill Clinton. We know you have just written a book about the former president Clinton. The misunderstood presidency of Bill Clinton, The Natural, you called him. Bill Clinton did an interview with "Newsweek" magazine over the last few days, Joe Klein, in which he said that the Marc Rich pardon was something he would not do over again. Should we be surprised by those remarks? You spent some time with the former president. What do you think?

KLEIN: He said that, but it was kind of dreadful the way he said it. He said he wouldn't give the pardon for political reasons, not because it was substantively wrong. It was substantially wrong, the notion of giving all those pardons on the last night of his presidency when he was exhausted, was on the face of it substantively wrong. Clinton said it was wrong for political reasons.

WOODRUFF: Well, talk about for a minute not only about the theory in your book but about the Bill Clinton that we are now seeing emerge post-presidency. How is he doing as a former president? KLEIN: I think way too soon to tell. And he has been admirable restrained for the last six months since September 11. Although the notion that you can try and spin your legacy is ridiculous. The interesting thing to me, having gotten in the middle of the Clinton debate for this last month since "The Natural" came out is that, you know, he has been given over to the comics.

Most people's view of Bill Clinton is now formed by David Letterman and the other late night comics and a lot of the substantive stuff that he did on the domestic side has been forgotten. Maybe not so much a misunderstood presidency as an insufficiently understood presidency, but it's hard to put that on a book jacket.

WOODRUFF: Are you talking to him regularly these days?

KLEIN: Every once in a while he calls me up. Not too often though. He has not called me since the book came out. I don't think he likes the fact that it is so balanced. I had some pretty awful things to say about him and also some pretty positive things.

WOODRUFF: That's what I wanted to ask you. What all in all was his reaction to the book?

KLEIN: In 15 years of covering this guy, he has never told me once what he thought of anything I had written about him. He's talked about things that I had written about other people, but he remains pretty mysterious in that regard, but I imagine he is not too pleased with the way I handled his foreign policy.

I think he could have done far better in responding to the bin Laden threat, for example, the FBI, it was pretty clear by the mid '90s that the FBI wasn't doing its job very well. Sandy Berger, the national security adviser wanted to fire Louis Freeh and I think Clinton did to, but they couldn't do it because of the Lewinsky scandal.

WOODRUFF: A lot to talk about, Joe Klein. I hate to interrupt you. We will have you back to talk some more about the book.

KLEIN: OK, fine.

WOODRUFF: Good to see you. Thank you very much.

And among the headlines in today's campaign news daily: A new poll shows Florida Governor Jeb Bush is holding his lead over his potential opponents, including Janet Reno. A survey of registered voters finds Bush leads Reno 54 percent to 37 percent in a head-to- head match-up.

In the Democratic primary race, the poll shows Reno with 48 percent, Bill McBride with 18 percent, and two other candidates trailing in single digits.

Democrats running for Massachusetts governor get a chance to air their differences later tonight. The five major candidates will square off in a debate just a few hours from now. It will be broadcast by radio statewide.

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton is headed west to lend a hand to California Governor Gray Davis. Senator Clinton will be in San Francisco Thursday to help launch a women for Davis group. She will also attend several fundraisers to help the Davis re-election campaign.

Well, from presidential politics to America's pastimes: Jeff Greenfield shares his thoughts on the new baseball season and why presidents can't resist a visit to the ballpark.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Major league baseball games are underway around the country this afternoon. A sign that summer is not far away. And historically a good place to catch sight of an American president.

Our Jeff Greenfield has more in today's bite of the apple.

JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Judy, as the baseball season opened today, the nation's capital was not be part of the celebration. It has not had a major league team for 30 years, a lot of people think it didn't have a major league team when the Washington Senators did play there. But American presidents have had a very long link to America's pastime, in fact and in fiction.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(voice-over): Millions of Americans learned that Abe Lincoln, on his death bead, summoned General Abner Doublai (ph) to his side, and whispered don't let baseball die; great story, never happened. What is true is that President William Howard Taft was first chief executive to throw out the first ball of the baseball season. And it may be true that when he left game in the seventh inning and fans stood out of respect, or to see him, or see a round 300 pound president, "The Seventh Inning Stretch" was born.

That first ball tradition was followed by every president since. Excepting only Lyndon Johnson and Jimmy Carter. And for last three Republicans the ties to baseball are especially strong.

Ronald Reagan's very first show business job was in Des Moines, Iowa where he re-created Chicago cubs baseball games complete with sound effects.

And Reagan played the great pitcher Grover Cleveland Alexander, who was himself named for a president in "The Winning Team." Reagan used a line from that movie, "honey I forgot to duck when he was shot."

The first George Bush was a star player for the Yale baseball team. And George W. Bush came to prominence in Texas as the principal owner of the Texas Rangers. He often says the biggest mistake he ever made in his life was trading away slugger Sammy Sosa. And Bush's appearance at Yankee stadium in last year's World Series was a powerful post-September 11 moment. (END VIDEO CLIP)

Now Judy, I have my own presidential baseball moment. This is true. Back in 1994, during the baseball strike, I suggested to President Clinton, tongue in cheek, that he invoke the Taft-Hartley law to end the strike, since the absence of baseball was clearly a national emergency. He looked at me as if I had lost my mind. All I can say is, maybe if he'd listened, the Democrats would not have lost both houses of the Congress that November. We take baseball very seriously -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Yes. What if, Jeff?

GREENFIELD: You never know.

WOODRUFF: What if he had done that? Jeff Greenfield, thanks very much.

GREENFIELD: OK.

WOODRUFF: Coming up, the federal government is kicking around an idea that could stop many of those annoying phone calls that many Americans get. But tele-marketers are asking, is it legal? The story when we return.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: A new proposal by the Federal Trade Commission might eliminate those annoying calls by tele-marketers during the dinner hour. The plan would allow people to put their phone numbers on a special list designed to block such calls, which many consider a nuisance. While the idea is resonating with the pubic, tele-marketers say it has an illegal ring to it. Our Brooks Jackson has more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(PHONE RINGING)

CHRISTA HARDEN: Hello.

BROOKS JACKSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Christa Harden isn't buying, but the tele-marketers just keep calling anyway.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We can lower your rate for $37.99...

JACKSON: As many as 10 per day, morning to night, so many, she kept a log.

HARDEN: Already, one, two, three, four, five, six of 'em today!

JACKSON: Tele-marketers may be the most despised industry in America, judging by the public response to a plan to block their calls. The Federal Trade Commission says it has received more than 32,000 comments on its proposal for a national do not call registry, and still counting, overwhelmingly in favor. Where do I sign up? It would be wonderful.

Finally, an equivalent of a no solicitors sign, but for my phone! Tele-marketers say the proposal would cramp their freedom of speech.

JERRY CERASALE, DIRECT MARKETING ASSN.: The FTC do not call list, proposed do not call list, is more restrictive than necessary to meet the government needs. And therefore, it violates the First Amendment.

JACKSON: But consumers say their right to privacy is more important. Example: The Constitution doesn't say anything about anyone having the right to invade my home, and talk to me just because he wants to, lots like that. Tele-marketers are orchestrating opposing comments, 973 mostly identical messages from this one Oklahoma firm's workers alone.

This new rule will impact my job goes the script. But consumers bristle at that: "Those people need to get real jobs."

The tele-marketers' boilerplate says consumers like their services: The people we call are pleasant. "I am proud of what I do. But consumers say the tele-marketers should be ashamed.

"I feel I am being stalked by these people."

"In the name of a suffering humanity, make it stop."

The proposal would let consumers list their phone numbers on a national do not call list maintained by the FTC. Tele-marketers calling those numbers anyway could be fined up to $11,000 per call. But many tele-marketers would not be covered, including the phone company salesman pressuring Christa Harden.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) you first month (UNINTELLIGIBLE) charge.

JACKSON: Others not covered: National banks, non profits such as colleges, state-regulated insurance companies, local businesses calling within a state, political candidates and parties -- all fall outside the FTC's jurisdiction. The industry says that means the rule won't work.

CERASALE: You are looking at least, probably 50 percent of the calls aren't even covered by it.

JACKSON: And many consumers agree, but they would like even stronger action. "Tele-marketing should be illegal," said many, outlawed completely.

You can already sign up for an industry-sponsored don't call list. Send a letter or pay $5 at their Web site.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

But the complaints keep coming, consumers calling tele-marketers a plague and a curse. More than 90 percent of the commenters say they want a do not call list, and the rest nearly all work for tele- marketers -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: I keep thinking about those lonely people living alone at home, and who like the phone to ring. Oh, well. We've not heard from them.

JACKSON: Well, you have heard from some.

WOODRUFF: Brooks Jackson, thanks very much.

And if you would like to weigh in on the issue of tele-marketing calls, you have until April 15 to do so. You can voice your opinion at www.ftc.gov. To sign up for the industry's current do not call list, you can go to www.the-dma.org. We hope you got that.

A look at political wagering and big time sporting events after a break. But first, let's go to Andrea Koppel for a preview of what's ahead at the top of the hour on "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS." Hello Andrea.

ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Judy. Thank you. A big catch in the U.S. terror hunt. Will this man in custody know where Osama bin Laden is?

Terror strikes again in Israel: How is the country responding? And was John Walker Lindh tortured in U.S. custody? Those stories and more on "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Here what's in "The Works" this week on INSIDE POLITICS: Tomorrow, the subway series heads out of Washington and rolls into New York. Our John Karl will talk with Governor George Pataki.

On Wednesday, he'll talk with one of Pataki's main rivals in the governor's race Carl McCall. And then on Thursday, he will talk with Karenna Gore-Schiff(ph).

Well, the men's college basketball championship will be decided tonight in Atlanta. And while we don't know yet whether it will be Indiana or Maryland emerging as the winner, we do know the game will be followed by the public payoff of one of those political wagers that we've come to know so well. Our Bruce Morton has more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: Once upon a midnight dreary.

BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Usually it's food, and there was food there time, but poetry too. When the Baltimore Ravens beat the New York Giants in 2001 Super Bowl. New York senators agreed to read Edgar Allen Poe, a Baltimore poet's, "The Raven."

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: Distinctly I remember, it was in the bleak December. MORTON: Well, you get the idea. If New York had won Barbara Mikulski and Paul Sarbanes would have had to sing "New York, New York." Wow. Then there was this year's Super Bowl New England vs. St. Louis Rams.

REP. MARTY MEEHAN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: I am holding up a case of Sam Adams beer, as well as some New England clam chowder from Legal Seafood.

REP. DICK GEPHARDT (D), MISSOURI: I am going to put on the line, toasted ravioli, which is a unique product, it only comes if St. Louis. And I am also going to have Gus's pretzels, which is another unique product made in my district.

MORTON: New England won, of course, the clam chowder got to stay home, the ravioli and pretzels visited Boston. It isn't just congressman, Massachusetts Governor Jane Swift won with the Patriots, too.

And listen to then New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani describing what Seattle's mayor would have to pony up if the Yankees beat the Mariners, as they did, in last fall's baseball playoffs.

RUDY GIULIANI (R), FMR NEW YORK CITY MAYOR: He is going to get ready to send me one fresh king salmon, one large box -- live? Yes.

(LAUGHTER)

One fresh king salmon I don't know if they come live or dead. One large box of Washington apples.

MORTON: So now it's basketball, and are they betting you? You bet. Congressman Steny Hoyer of Maryland will get to keep his 2 pounds of Maryland crabs and Congressman Dennis Moore of Kansas will sending, may have already sent 2 pounds of Kansas City ribs. And the big game tonight? Well, Steny Hoyer is putting up those crabs again, and Barron Hill from Indiana's ninth district is putting up black angus beef. May the best cow or crustacean win.

Bruce Morton, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Key, of course, is not to eat it all in one sitting.

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

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com



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