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Will U.S. Gas Prices Rise Due to the Iraqi Oil Embargo?; Bush Means What he Says; Traficant Future in Hands of Federal Jury

Aired April 8, 2002 - 16:00   ET


JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Judy Woodruff in Washington. Iraq says it is suspending oil exports. Will rising U.S. gas prices climb even higher?

JOHN KING, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I'm John King at the White House. A frustrated President Bush is urging Israel to once again withdraw from the Palestinian territories, without delay.

KATE SNOW, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Kate Snow in Cleveland, Ohio, where the fate of colorful Congressman Jim Traficant is now in the hands of a federal jury.

WOODRUFF: Also ahead, the art of being a party animal.


WOODRUFF: Thank you for joining us. As Secretary of State Colin Powell begins his mission in the Middle East, we begin with the Bush administration's challenges, in the region and here in the United States. Our new poll shows about 2/3 of Americans support President Bush's handling of the situation in the Middle East so far. But they are divided over whether Mr. Bush has a clear Mideast policy, even after he laid out his more involved approach to the Israeli- Palestinian conflict last week.

Today, Mr. Bush sternly repeated the key conditions that he says he expects both sides to meet.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I meant what I said to the prime minister of Israel. I expect there to be a withdrawal without delay. And I also meant what I said to the Arab world, that in order for there to be peace, nations must stand up, leaders must stand up, and condemn terrorism and terrorist activity.


WOODRUFF: But Israel's military campaign in the Palestinian territories continues, despite Mr. Bush's repeated calls, and a personal appeal today to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon by U.S. envoy Anthony Zinni. In a bluntly-worded speech earlier today, Prime Minister Sharon said Israeli soldiers will stay in the West Bank until their mission is done.

In Morocco, Secretary of State Powell demanded a clear statement from Israel that it is beginning to withdraw from the Palestinian areas. Our new poll show most Americans do not think it is likely that Powell's mission to the region will be successful.

Our State Department correspondent Andrea Koppel is with Secretary Powell in Casablanca, and she joins us now via videophone. First of all, Andrea, what sort of reception did Secretary Powell receive there?

ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A very chilly one, Judy. This was the first meeting between Secretary of State Powell and Morocco's young new King Mohammed VI. And the king kept Powell cooling his heels for about two hours before their meeting finally did begin.

And then once it began, of course, there is the perfunctory camera spray at the beginning. We were all in the room, representatives of the American media and what not. And the Moroccan king turns to Secretary Powell and said, "Why didn't you go to Israel first? Why didn't you go to Jerusalem first?"

Of course, Powell isn't due there until later in the week. And the purpose of his mission is to try to drum up Arab support for additional pressure on Yasser Arafat, which is just not resonating in this part of the world right now -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Andrea, this poll that we've been citing, CNN-"USA Today"-Gallup, shows many Americans don't hold out much hope for success on the secretary's trip. What are the expectations among the people who are traveling with the secretary?

KOPPEL: I would say that the expectations are not high at all. No one is calling this mission impossible, at least publicly, but privately they acknowledge that this is a very, difficult mission. Secretary Powell, his two previous missions didn't go terribly well. Things have gotten much worse since he was last here in June.

We've heard both President Bush, Secretary of State Powell call on the Israeli government to withdraw. President Bush got an earful from Israel's prime minister, telling him basically, this is my country, and you're not going to tell me what to do there.

And so I think that among Secretary Powell's aides, there is frustration, but also a certain amount of resignation acknowledging, Judy, that if they didn't go, things could only get worse. And that this was a mission that had to happen. Many people, of course, at the State Department believe that it should have happened quite a while ago -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right, Andrea Koppel, travelling with Secretary of State Powell, now in Morocco. Thanks, Andrea.

And now we want to go to the White House, and to its focus on the Middle East crisis, even as the president is on a day trip to Knoxville, Tennessee. Joining us now, our senior White House correspondent, John King. John, this is something the administration really has not experienced before -- open defiance by the head of another government. The White House urging Mr. Sharon to get the troops out. Sharon saying we're not going to do it. What's the reaction there?

KING: Well, Judy, when it comes to the Middle East, they expect here at the White House, open defiance from someone like Saddam Hussein, not from the Israeli prime minister, someone the United States would say is the closest friend of the United States in the region, and has no closer friend than the president of the United States. Andrea used the word "frustration." Here at the White House, they are openly using the words "anger" and "irritation."

President Bush, just back at the White House from that day trip, he is closely keeping track of the Powell mission. They believe here that the prime minister's actions have significantly at the beginning undermined the Powell venture. Because how can Secretary Powell tell the Arab countries to put more pressure on Mr. Arafat, publicly condemn terrorism, when they say does the United States have any influence over Prime Minister Sharon?

So a great sense of irritation here. The president giving voice to it today. U.S. officials making clear, look, Israel is our friend. The United States will stand with Israel. In the words of one official, though, right now, -- quote -- "our stars are just not in alignment" -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: And, John, to top all this off, you have the statement out of Iraq today from Saddam Hussein, that they're not going to export any more oil. It's as if they're throwing oil on top of an already burning situation.

KING: And U.S. officials view this as a publicity stunt from the Iraqi president. He says no exports until Israelis pull out of Palestinian territories, or at least for one month. In terms of world oil markets, prices did jump up in the market today. Not significant, in the sense that other OPEC nations, or other oil producers could easily make up the two million barrels a day that Iraq puts into the market.

This is viewed much more as psychological. On the one had, at a time of rising gas prices here in the United States, a political issue for the president here at home. The White House saying simply this is more proof to them, here at the White House, that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein is willing to punish his own people by cutting off a supply of money, for Iraq to make headlines and to stick his thumb in the eye of the United States yet again.

WOODRUFF: John King, reporting for us from the White House.

Well, Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham today voiced the Bush administration's concerns about those rising fuel prices, and the fallout for the economy. Abraham says tensions in the Middle East are causing greater volatile in gas prices, which as John said, have shot up 25 cents per gallon since early March. Let's turn now to energy industry analyst Daniel Yergin. And I just want to mention, Dan Yergin, as I come to you, your documentary on the global economy is airing this month on PBS. I want to talk to you about rising gas, energy prices. We've heard John report on what the White House says is behind this. Is that the whole picture, in what Spencer Abraham is saying? Is there more to this than what we're hearing?

DANIEL YERGIN, CAMBRIDGE ENERGY: Well, what's happened is of course, economic recovery. That's going to mean that oil and gas prices are going to be somewhat higher. But now you have a substantial increase in prices because of fears about the Middle East, because of what Saddam has said. And also, although people aren't focusing on it, the disorder if Venezuela, which is a major oil exporter to us.

WOODRUFF: What is it going to take, then, for these prices to settle down?

YERGIN: It's going to take some greater, basically, stability, in a sense that things are OK, or there's not going to be a disruption. Because a basic supply picture is still OK. But as long as you have a situation as volatile as this, there's always going to be fear of some kind of disruption, even though there are a lot of stabilizers in the system to help.

WOODRUFF: So you're really saying there's no way to predict right now how long these prices could continue to go up?

YERGIN: Well, or stay in this range. I think if they got over 30, it would be because things were getting more serious. But no more so than you can predict when stability is going to come to the Israeli-Arab situation. I think that's kind of the determinant.

But meanwhile, supplies will be coming into the market, and will be people -- the other reason prices are up is nobody in the oil business wants to be short of supplies, so everybody is buying now. At some point they do have -- they fill up their inventories and they can't buy any more.

WOODRUFF: How big a factor is this move by Saddam Hussein of Iraq, to say we're not going to export?

YERGIN: In itself, not very big. I mean, if there was not all this tension. But it obviously brings back the images of 1973, and that's what frightens people. But as long as he's doing it, he can draw upon money that's sequestered by the U.N. But in itself, there is plenty of other supply in the world to make up for it.

WOODRUFF: There are those who -- actually, there's some confusion out there. I think I've read some analysis that indicates this is a sign that the recovery is under way. This is a natural outcome of that. Other analysis, in effect saying, this is going to slow down, it's going to hurt the recovery.

YERGIN: The answer is both. It's both. Ie., this is a sign of recovery, because the OPEC countries have taken a lot of oil out of the system. And then recovery, suddenly demand stronger. But I think, as we saw in late 2000, if oil prices get up over $30 a barrel, then that's a negative for this economic recovery that we hope is here.

WOODRUFF: You've been covering the energy industry for many years, Dan Yergin. Domestic, political repercussions, how do you see those?

YERGIN: I think that because people can see this is attached to the Middle East crisis, it's not a partisan issue in the same way of accusations that you normally have. Often in the springtime, gas prices go up. Even if they go up a nickel sometimes, you get people very riled up about it.

But I think people can see that this is being driven, No. 1, by what's happening in the Middle East. And I think that makes it less of a political issue. Although we'll hear all the familiar concerns about price gouging and so forth, that go whenever gas prices shoot up like this.

WOODRUFF: So, even though the recent history has been when prices go up, people point to the government and say, why aren't you doing something about this, you're saying people are able to make a distinction.

YERGIN: I think so. And we can see that the administration recognizes the risk and is trying to get out in front of it, in showing their own concern about it, and being on top of it. But I think that's why this time it's different, because it's part of this larger crisis.

WOODRUFF: All right. Daniel Yergin, we thank you very much. Good to see you. We appreciate your coming in.

YERGIN: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: We appreciate it.

Iraq's suspension of those oil exports is not the only move by Saddam Hussein making waves around the world. CNN's Jane Arraf reports from Baghdad on the Iraqi president's growing effort to reward suicide bombers in the Middle East.


JANE ARRAF, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's rare to find President Saddam Hussein sharing the spotlight. In fact, in this country it's nearly impossible to find a photo of any other leader but the Iraqi president. At this Baghdad demonstration, though, Yasser Arafat's image was paraded alongside the Iraqi leader's. The rally, in support of Palestinian suicide bombers, was organized by the government. But the rage against Israel and the United States was real.

"Paradise," they chant, "opens its gates only for martyrs." For nearly two years, as the latest Palestinian uprising sparked and burned, Saddam Hussein sent financial support to the families of the suicide bombers.

Then last month, news spread that the Iraqi leader had ordered the payments to be more than doubled. Now $25,000 for each family of a suicide bomber, $1,000 to each Palestinian wounded in the uprising, and another $5,000 to each family whose home was destroyed by Israeli forces. Iraq, like other Arab countries, doesn't consider the suicide bombers terrorists, as long as Israel occupies Palestinian land.

(on camera): In the space of just two weeks, Yasser Arafat has become so popular the Iraqi government has named a major street in Baghdad after him.

(voice-over): "He's a hero because he's willing to die," says 15-year-old Mahmoud. "They asked him, 'what do you want, to be a prisoner of war, or a martyr?' He told them three times, 'I want to be a martyr.'"

Despite years of veiled threats, Iraq has either been unwilling or unable to launch a direct, sustained attack on Israel. For the Iraqi president, supporting the Palestinians is a way of trying to prove he's fighting for all Moslems and Arabs, not just for himself. Jane Arraf, CNN, Baghdad.


WOODRUFF: And we'll talk more about the Middle East crisis next on INSIDE POLITICS with a former U.S. ambassador who's just returned from the region, Richard Murphy.

In our "Taking Issue," segment, the next political head butting on Capital Hill over energy.

And Sir Elton goes to Washington. We'll have the "Inside Buzz."


WOODRUFF: For more on the Mideast crisis and the diplomatic challenges awaiting Secretary of State Powell, we turn to Richard Murphy in New York. He is a former U.S. assistant secretary of state, and he is former ambassador to both Syria and Saudi Arabia.

Richard Murphy, you just came back from a tour of a number of Arab countries. First I want to ask you about the resistance on the part of the Sharon government, to request -- ever stronger requests from the U.S., that they pull their troops out of the Palestinian areas. To what extent does this undermine U.S. credibility and authority in that part of the world?

RICHARD MURPHY, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO SAUDI ARABIA: Well, I think, in a curious way, it might help a little more the understanding of the American relationship with Israel, that they're not jumping, saluting, immediately doing what President Bush asked.

Prime Minister Sharon is riding on a wave of popularity at the moment. I don't think it's going in the right direction, but if you look just at the polls, he's well vis-a-vis the Israeli people, in saying we're going to route out that terrorist infrastructure.

WOODRUFF: We know that Secretary Powell, when he arrived in Morocco today, the first question from the king -- we don't know whether it was intended to be public or not -- was "why didn't you go to Israel first?" Is the administration doing the right thing by having the secretary make a tour of these other countries in Europe and the Arab countries, before he goes to Israel later in the week?

MURPHY: I assume the administration's hope, Judy, is to get some greater support from the moderate Arabs, the Egyptians, the Jordanians, specifically and from Europeans on the way, to support their position that Arafat still can do more to condemn terrorism.

Now, I think that's going to be a very hard uphill fight, because in the moderate Arab countries, they just don't equate what's going on from the Palestinian side as terrorism. That's an argument Secretary Powell has faced many times before, but it's a much harder sell today, with the level of violence directed at the Palestinians.

WOODRUFF: Harder sell -- is it a hopeless mission?

MURPHY: Well, we'll see. The secretary said on taking off he wasn't -- suggest he was coming back with a peace treaty, perhaps even a cease-fire, but with a lower level of violence, so that some talks could be started.

And I think he's going to have to be weighing now what's going to be possible. Is it step by step, as we've argued for years? Or does it have to be a larger vision, communicated to both sides, than this administration has done?

WOODRUFF: What would you consider a successful mission, on the part of the secretary?

MURPHY: I would guess, I would hope for a commitment on the Israelis to get back to the September 2000 lines, withdrawal from the West Bank and Gaza.


MURPHY: Well, we keep saying now. And now can be said just so often before it stops meaning anything. But, very, very quickly. There have been a lot of deaths, a lot of destruction. I don't know what, as I say, Sharon is aiming at in talking about undermining or uprooting the terrorist infrastructure. There are a lot of militants who are dead today. Maybe that's what he had in mind.

WOODRUFF: Does it make it any more difficult, Ambassador Murphy, to win the support from the Arab nations, to put -- to denounce terrorism and to ask Mr. Arafat to clamp down on terrorists? The fact that this poll, CNN-"USA Today" poll, showing something like 59 percent of Americans view Yasser Arafat as an enemy of the United States. He's seen by 60 percent, almost 2/3 of the American people, as someone we don't want to do business with.

MURPHY: Well, that's unfortunate. And the secretary is not going to be driven by those polls, in my opinion, because the other Palestinians around Arafat have said, if you don't talk to Arafat, you don't talk to us. There is no one else as our interlocutor. He was the elected leader, and he remains. However blemished his career may be, he remains the leader.

WOODRUFF: How important is it for Colin Powell to talk with Yasser Arafat in person on this trip?

MURPHY: Personally, I think it's essential that they meet and they talk. This is going to be very hard for Prime Minister Sharon to accept. He, in effect, ordered the Europeans to stay away. They left the country. The were not allowed to talk to Arafat.

I think that for the American secretary of state not to meet with him would be a serious mistake if he wants to calm the situation, not just on the West Bank and Gaza and in Israel, but in the broader region, where our vital interests are very much involved.

WOODRUFF: And if that doesn't happen?

MURPHY: I'm not going to predict beyond that, Judy. I think it would be a mistake if he doesn't meet, if Prime Minister Sharon blocks that meeting. I think the level of irritation, frustration in the White House is going to grow. That's not in the interest of Israel or the United States.

WOODRUFF: All right. Former U.S. assistant secretary of state Richard Murphy, we thank you very much for joining us. We appreciate it.

MURPHY: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: Ahead here, a complete update on Middle East developments in our "Newscycle." The latest on strikes across the West Bank.

Plus, Laura Ingraham and Ruben Navarrette, in our "Taking Issue" segment.


WOODRUFF: A quick check of the INSIDE POLITICS "Newscycle." Secretary of State Colin Powell met today with Morocco's King Mohammed, and had a later meeting planned with Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Abdullah. Powell once again called on Israel to pull its troops out of the West Bank. In Israel, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon told parliament that Israeli troops will remain in the West Bank until their mission is complete.

Fighting was reported across the West Bank, including in the Jenin refugee camp, where Israeli troops fired more than a dozen missiles and carried out house by house searches. While on a visit to Tennessee today, President Bush said he expects an Israeli withdrawal -- quote -- "without delay." He also repeated his demand that the Arab world condemn terrorist activities. And here now to discuss some of the top issues of the day: talk show host, Laura Ingraham of Westwood One Radio and syndicated columnist, Ruben Navarrette. Ruben, to you first. I was just talking with former assistant secretary state Richard Murphy about what constitutes success on Secretary Powell's trip. What is it, in your mind? Is it getting the Israelis to pullback? Is it getting a meeting with Yasser Arafat? How do you define success here?

RUBEN NAVARRETTE, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: I think if there was an Israeli withdrawal, it would be, of course a huge success. I don't -- I'm not optimistic that will happen, in response to the Powell visit. It's a great thing that Powell is going. He should have been there by now. He should have been their two weeks ago, in fact. But it's a positive move, a positive development.

What I worry about is, with the heat turned up on Israel -- there was this vote last week, as you know, in the United Nations, 15-0 in a Security Council, demanding that the Israelis withdraw. I have a feeling they're going to dig in their heels now, and that withdrawal is going to become very doubtful.

The Israelis have proven again and again, they down take orders well. And as people begin to escalate this and raise the stakes on Israel, I'm not optimistic about a withdrawal.

WOODRUFF: Ruben, I just want to interrupt just a second, to say that the wires are reporting -- and I can't give credit just yet -- but we're told the Israelis are saying, Israeli army sources are saying that there will be a pullout, pullback, beginning from two cities in the West Bank, within hours. Now, we don't know what cities they are, at this point. As soon as we get that information we'll of course bring it to you.

But, Laura, this does seem to indicate that maybe there's beginning to be a change of heart, on the part of the Israelis.

INGRAHAM: This is a significant military operation, Judy.

And, even as Colin Powell has said, it is not going to happen overnight. There is not going to be a withdrawal overnight. Israel has detained 1,500 individuals, 500-600 fugitives, 70-80 individuals who were actively involved in planning the suicide attacks.

Maybe in these next few days, before Powell arrives on the scene, they will have detained more people who might be right now planning attacks before Colin Powell gets there. This is a serious operation. They needed to do this. I think they understood that Washington was serious. But there might have been a bit of a wink and a nod here between Washington and Israel. They know that Israel has to move.

But Israel is not going to be able to do this overnight. And they have made major inroads into stopping some of this terrorist activity and suicide bombings over the next few days.

WOODRUFF: Let me move you both to a related issue. And that is Congress coming back this week. The president's energy plan is moving through. We do not know the schedule on it yet.

But, Ruben, to you. Does this recent spike in gas prices argue more for the president's plan? Does it have any effect at all? What do you think?

NAVARRETTE: I think it does have an effect.

I think, if nothing else, this news by Iraq, the idea that Saddam Hussein is threatening to freeze oil exports for 30 days, or at least until Israel withdraws, I think is a good indicator for the problem. And that is that we need a coherent energy policy in this country that is not dictated by either the environmentalists, on the one hand, or, more importantly, by Bush and Cheney's powerful energy buddies, including those from Texas.

So, I think it important that we keep focused on the fact that we need a coherent energy policy. And Saddam Hussein is doing us a favor in one regard by highlighting this in an indisputable way. It becomes clear that Saddam has us over a barrel. It's a bad joke, but it's true.

WOODRUFF: So, the president is in a stronger position here, Laura?

INGRAHAM: I think so, Judy.

First of all, the whole Texas-oil-buddy thing, that is so old, I can't believe, Ruben, you are going back to that at this point.

But, look, Conrad Burns, the senator, wrote a piece in "The Wall Street Journal" a few weeks ago. And he said, why are we importing oil from countries that export terrorism? We have to reduce our reliance on these countries. Rogue nations, we're getting oil from today. There is no reason for that, although I don't think there's a lot of hope for increasing exploration in the Senate, even with increasing gas prices.

WOODRUFF: All right, we are going to have to leave it there. Laura Ingraham, Ruben Navarrette, thank you both. We appreciate it.

And, as I was staying just a moment ago, as soon as when we get more information about the plans on the part of the Israel army, we'll pass those along. That information just coming in that they are announcing that a pullout will begin in some cities in the West Bank within hours.

You can give us your opinions on all of these topics and more at Plus, don't forget to e-mail Bill Schneider with your ideas for this week's "Political Play of the Week."

Bob Novak will tell us why he wants to be a fly on Karl Rove's wall later this week. Also ahead: the bribery and corruption trial of Congressman James Traficant. As the jury, deliberates, we'll go live to Cleveland.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) WOODRUFF: Now the "Inside Buzz" on a legendary rock star moonlighting as a lobbyist on Capitol Hill: No, it's not U2 lead singer Bono. It is Sir Elton John.

Our Capitol Hill producer, Dana Bash, says John is scheduled to appear as a witness at a Senate hearing on the global AIDS crisis on Thursday. The longtime AIDS activist was invited by Senator Edward Kennedy. John will urge the U.S. government to devote more resources to fighting the disease around the world.

And with us now with some "Inside Buzz": our Bob Novak.

First of all, I understand that the California Republican gubernatorial nominee, Bill Simon, is in Washington this week. And what is this, some disagreement among Republicans about what is going on?


He has been in a feud with Gerry Parsky, who is the venture capitalist who has been President Bush's main man in California for a couple of years now.

Now, I understand that Karl Rove, the president's political aide, has made some calls out to California to try to get them together. The official position of White House is, everything has been settled. But I can tell you that the Simon people are not happy with Parsky. They are going to meet with Karl Rove on Wednesday. I asked one of them, "Is Parsky still the president's man in California?" The answer was, "We'll find out Wednesday." Wouldn't you like to be a fly on the wall in Karl Rove's office on Wednesday?

WOODRUFF: Maybe we can get a camera in that meeting. What you do think? We'll wait for that.

The secretary of the Army, Thomas White, in some difficulty over his Enron stock and Enron relations. What is going on with that?

NOVAK: It's no surprise that he is in trouble. He was a little slow in selling the stock, too much connection with Enron, his critics claim.

But what I find is really interesting is that Secretary White's friends say that the poison is being put in the well by people inside the Pentagon. Now, that is really interesting. There's more trouble and feuding in the Pentagon than you would think at a time of war. And White's people feel that the water is being poisoned on Capitol Hill by some of White's colleagues in the Pentagon.

WOODRUFF: All right, moving along, we've got the House Judiciary Committing holding hearings this week on border parole reorganization. Now, this was something the White House didn't want to have come up this soon.

NOVAK: That's right. Chairman James Sensenbrenner has scheduled action. They will start on that this week. The White House wanted them to wait until the president's immigration reform was ready, make a big rollout. Sensenbrenner says, "I am going ahead." That is a hot issue -- so much for the presidential power in the Republican-controlled House.

WOODRUFF: And one other issue on the Hill: The anti-cloning bill passed the House. It's coming up in the Senate. What are we expecting?

NOVAK: The president is going to have a big rollout, I think it's Wednesday, pushing for Senate action.

But what interests me is the fact that Tim Johnson, the senator from South Dakota, who is one of the main Republican targets -- he's a Democrat -- is really undecided on this. Now, his colleague from South Dakota is the majority leader, Tom Daschle. And the Democratic leadership is whipping this issue. They are making it a party issue to oppose the anti-human-cloning bill.

And, in South Dakota, which has a very active Catholic Church, a lot of social conservatives, they are pushing Tim Johnson to vote for it. What is Mr. Johnson going to do? And that is what makes politics fun, because these people who have tough races have tough decisions to make.

WOODRUFF: And I have a feeling you are going to be watching it very closely.

NOVAK: That's right.

WOODRUFF: Bob Novak, a look in your "Reporter's Notebook." Thanks very much.

NOVAK: Thank you, Judy.


And now let's turn to the bribery and corruption trial of Congressman James Traficant. The case went to the jury after the outspoken Ohio Democrat delivered a 90-minute closing argument in his own defense.

CNN's Kate Snow is covering this federal trial in Cleveland -- Kate, it must have been something to behold.


You sort of have to be here to really be able to appreciate the power of Jim Traficant. He has said over and over again that the courtroom, in his view, is just a theater. And he made it a theater again today. The contrast between him and the prosecutors is quite stark: the prosecutors presenting a very straightforward case, very on the level. They are very calm about the case -- Traficant, on the other hand, rambling with his long closing argument. About 90 minutes he went on, complaining that several prosecution witnesses were witnesses that had gotten plea bargains and he says, therefore, not credible witnesses. He also complained that the case against him was based largely on hearsay. And he questions why investigators have never tried to wire him on tried to get him on tape, either audio or video surveillance tape. He said -- quote -- "They don't a damn thing against me."

He also made a big deal about fingerprints: Congressman Traficant bringing a roll of toilet paper in front of the juror and saying: "This toilet paper would not be very easy to collect fingerprints off of." But his point was, it would be easy to take fingerprints off of papers and envelopes and other things that they have brought into evidence. And yet the FBI has no such fingerprints of Jim Traficant. That was his point.

Now, prosecutors disputed that. But he went on, Traficant went on to his old refrain that the FBI is out to get him, that there is a government vendetta against him. Here's a quote from something he said inside the courtroom -- quote -- "They have gotten powerful" -- referring to the FBI -- "They can put a case up and scare you and scare your wife and scare your kids and take your property. My response" he yelled, "take this. This is one American who doesn't want to hear it."

Now, prosecutors countered by saying that Traficant is living in a different world. They say he is living in a world of circumstance. They said: "It can't just be a circumstance or a coincidence that Traficant had his aides, his congressional aides, work for him on his horse farm or on his houseboat in Washington, D.C." They said, "Is it a coincidence that he asked business colleagues to do things for him like build construction on his farm in exchange for political favors?" They say they thought not.

They also accused Traficant of taking kickbacks from many of his aides, money every month. And they say they have six large binders worth of evidence to prove that. Now, Traficant counters that he thinks it is all of bunch of malarkey. Only, he uses a little bit stronger language. We caught up with him outside the courtroom.


REP. JAMES TRAFICANT (D), OHIO: Everybody has a style. I am just the son of a truck driver. And, quite frankly, I am tired of the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) and they brought it forward.


SNOW: I asked Traficant, Judy, if he would resign if he is convicted on any one of these felony counts. And said he didn't know yet what he was going to do. But I can tell you, from Capitol Hill, there are Democrats and Republicans who say it very likely that, if he is convicted on any of these counts, someone, some other member, mostly likely a Democrat, will try to get him expelled from Congress and probably bring up that motion rather quickly if that happens -- Judy. WOODRUFF: All right, Kate Snow, reporting from Cleveland.

And if the congressman is convicted, I think he is looking at potentially more than 40 years in prison.

Meantime, we want to turn to a shuttle launch. NASA is preparing to launch the space shuttle Atlantis on a mission to the International Space Station.

For the very latest, let's go to our John Zarrella down at the Kennedy Space Station -- hi, John.


About a minute and 15 seconds now to liftoff of the shuttle Atlantis. and it's seven-member crew on the mission to the International Space Station.

Some tense moments a few minutes ago, as they had to halt the count at T-minus 5, hold the court while they reloaded some software data. The computer apparently just lost all the data. They had to reload it. And they only had about 50 seconds before the end of the start of the launch window in order to restart the count. So, it was quite tight -- now 50 seconds before liftoff of Atlantis.

The weather has cleared up nicely here. Concerns over clouds and high winds, both at the launch pad and at the return-to-launch site in case they had to have an emergency abort and return here, all of those constraints no longer there. The weather is, as NASA calls it, green for liftoff, now a go for auto-sequence start.

Let's listen to Bruce Buckingham, voice of NASA, as we get these final 20 second to the liftoff of Atlantis.

BRUCE BUCKINGHAM, NASA: T-minus 15 seconds, 12, 11, 10, nine, eight. We have a go for main engine start, six, five, four, three, two, one. We have booster ignition and liftoff of the space shuttle Atlantis, setting in place the keystone to the space station's backbone.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Roger roll, Atlantis.

BUCKINGHAM: Houston is now controlling, Atlantis rolling on course toward the International Space Station. Atlantis already traveling more than 300 miles per hour. The altitude now 2 miles, down range, about 1 mile from the launch pad. The three engines on board Atlantis have throttled back to two-thirds throttle to prepare the spacecraft to pass through the area of maximum air pressure and go supersonic.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Atlantis, Houston, go at throttle up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go at throttle up.

BUCKINGHAM: Three engines on board back at full throttle. Atlantis now traveling more than 1,000 miles per hour. One minute, 10 seconds since launch, Atlantis has already consumed more than one million tons of propellant. Altitude now 12 miles, speed 1,700 miles per hour, 10 miles down range from the launch pad.

A minute and 45 seconds since launch. Flight control will be standing by for burnout to jettison of the twin solid rockets, that coming up in just about 10 seconds. Solid rocket booster jettisoned. Altitude now 30 miles, speed 3,070 miles per hour.


WOODRUFF: Checking the headlines in our "Campaign News Daily": In Massachusetts, Mitt Romney claimed the GOP nomination for governor over the weekend, but his choice of a running mate fell short. Party activists turned back Kerry Murphy Healey's bid to be lieutenant governor. She was Romney's hand-picked choice for the nomination. Healey will now face businessman James Rappaport in a potentially divisive party primary. Rappaport received 55 percent of the vote from party activists.

In Texas, Democrats head to the polls tomorrow to choose their Senate nominee. Schoolteacher Victor Morales has a slight edge over former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk in a weekend poll previewing tomorrow's runoff.

In Tennessee, Republican Senate hopefuls Lamar Alexander and Ed Bryant attended President Bush's speech today in Knoxville. White House officials have quietly encouraged businessman Bryant to step aside in favor of Alexander, who is the former governor. But Bryant has so far refused. The two men, who sat one seat apart on the front row, are vying to succeed retiring Republican Fred Thompson.

Straight ahead, leadership and character: our Jeff Greenfield on leaders and history's lesson in today's "Bite of the Apple."


WOODRUFF: Recent events have given our senior analyst, Jeff Greenfield, pause, his thoughts turning to the past. In today's "Bite of the Apple," Jeff examines the relationship between character and leadership.


JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SR. ANALYST: Maybe it's because the news of the day is so troublesome, but I've been spending a lot of time reading history, recent and not so recent. And I've been struck by the fact that three current biographies all argue the same point about their subjects: Their flaws and their achievements were larger than life.

(voice-over): Joe Klein's "The Natural" is about Bill Clinton's presidency. He argues in part that the press was so focused on Clinton's personal shortcomings that we missed his considerable accomplishments on the domestic front.

In fact, Klein argues, while Clinton did often try to be all things to all people, he was also willing to stand up to his own party on issues like free trade, crime, welfare reform.

Well, maybe it's too soon to judge the most recent ex-president, so let's go back 40-plus years to the U.S. Senate under Lyndon Johnson. In his third volume on LBJ, Robert Caro paints a picture of an overweening, boundlessly ambitious, sometimes venal, often cruel, bullying politician who also broke a near century-old logjam on civil rights and wound up doing more for the cause of racial justice than anyone since Lincoln.

Now look across the Atlantic to Roy Jenkins' massive biography of Winston Churchill. What's his view? That Churchill was consumed by ambition, often acted impulsively, helped lead his nation into more than one military disaster, was often deaf to criticism, and probably saved Britain and the West from annihilation when he was Britain's prime minister during World War II.

(on camera): What is the point of this history? Well, for more than a quarter-century, the American political press has been fixated on questions of character, usually focusing on a politician's sexual life, sometimes trying to ask whether they have been good parents or friends.

Yet all three of these books make a different argument: that there may be no necessary link between a good, decent human being and a leader who accomplishes great things.


WOODRUFF: More for us who care about politics to think about. Thank you, Jeff.

Washington's own party animals take over the streets -- next on INSIDE POLITICS.

But, first, let's join Wolf for a preview of "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS" at the top of hour -- Wolf.

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

We'll have in-depth coverage of the fighting in the Middle East. Could those suicide bombing attacks spread to the United States? I'll ask the former CIA director, James Woolsey. And how angry is President Bush with the Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon? I'll ask our senior White House correspondent, John King -- all that, plus a special interview with Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta on aviation security. It's all coming up right at the top of the hour right after INSIDE POLITICS.


WOODRUFF: The city of Washington is preparing for the arrival of elephants and donkeys, but we aren't talking about the circus or the zoo. The party symbols will be decorated and they will be displayed this month in prominent areas of the city as public art, and then later auctioned as a fund-raiser for the D.C. Arts Commission.


LOU STAVOL, D.C. COMMISSION ON THE ARTS: We have 100 elephants and 100 donkeys. We're going to place them throughout the city. There is going to be some along Pennsylvania Avenue. That's our favorite site right now.

They are molded, with a three-eighth inch urethane resin. And then they are filled with an insulating foam which helps to keep their shape and form. They weigh about 150 pounds each. They are roughly 5 feet tall and almost 6 feet long.

Thank you for coming and joining us. Did you choose the elephant yourself?


STAVOL: That means you're a Republican?

NAY: Well, I kind of lean that way, yes.

STAVOL: OK. Because we've found that there are a few turncoat Democrats who decided that the larger surface is what they wanted.

NAY: Oh, really?

STAVOL: So they said, the donkey's too small -- elephant.

BYRON BLOCH, ARTIST: We've become so attached to our donkey and elephant that we have given them nicknames. So the donkey is, this is Stars. And this is Stripes. So we hope they will always be here together in D.C., Stars and Stripes forever.

STAVOL: How many feet have you already wrapped?

JOSEPH BARBACCIA, ARTIST: So far, probably about 2,000 feet. There will be another 2,000 of the white base and then probably another 1,200 of the red and white.

STAVOL: We thought party animals because this is political Washington. And it's also the nation's office.


WOODRUFF: And this is Washington, after all, so this art exhibit is not going unchallenged. The local branch of the Green Party has filed a lawsuit to block this display. They are arguing that it's unfair to other political parties. They want their symbol, the sunflower, included in the display. There is a hearing scheduled later this month.

Hmm. As we said, it's Washington.

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


Bush Means What he Says; Traficant Future in Hands of Federal Jury>



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