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Al Gore Voices Criticism of President Bush; Ariel Sharon Expects Troop Pullout by End of Week

Aired April 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.
JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Judy Woodruff in Washington. Now that Al Gore says he's had it, we'll hear his sharpened criticism of President Bush at length.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Wolf Blitzer in Jerusalem with insights from my interview today with the Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

JONATHAN KARL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Jonathan Karl on Capitol Hill where a pro-Israel rally underscores pressure on the Bush administration, from Republicans as well as Democrats.

WOODRUFF: Also ahead, I'll ask actor and political activist Alec Baldwin if he plans to try his hand at another job: candidate.

Thank you for joining us. We begin with new word from Israeli on a timetable for withdrawing its troops from the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon tells CNN that he expects to pull his forces out of Jenin and Nablus in less than a week.

But, in his interview with our Wolf Blitzer, Sharon said Israeli forces would remain in Bethlehem and Ramallah for now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ARIEL SHARON, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: Altogether, we are on our way out. And that's what is happening. That's exactly what I have said. When I was asked in the past, I said when we have accomplished, we will be leaving.

BLITZER: Excuse me, maybe I'm misunderstanding, but I may still be confused. You say within a week you will be out of all these areas, with the exception of Bethlehem, unless there's a resolution of that issue?

SHARON: And Ramallah.

BLITZER: And Ramallah. You won't be out within a week, of Ramallah.

SHARON: Unless we'll be able -- if those terrorists will be handed over to us, we'll leave there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat tells CNN that Sharon is defying the United States and the international community by not immediately withdrawing from all of the West Bank.

Meantime, after talks with Syrian and Lebanese officials today, Secretary of State Colin Powell does plan to meet with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat again tomorrow. Powell says the United States is exploring Israel's proposal for a Mideast peace conference that might not include Palestinian leader Arafat.

Amid the diplomatic maneuvering, the secretary-general of Yasser Arafat's fatah movement was arrested by Israeli forces near Ramallah today. Marwan Barghouti has been accused by Israel of having links to a number of attacks on Israelis.

Let's talk more now about the CNN interview with Ariel Sharon. My colleague, Wolf Blitzer, is with us from Jerusalem. Wolf, how much pressure do you sense the prime minister and the people around him are feeling from the United States right now?

BLITZER: I think they're feeling some pressure, because they recognize that Israel is heavily dependent on the U.S. for economic and military and political support. But at the same time, I didn't get a sense that they were overly concerned about the U.S.-Israeli relationship.

They know they're not getting a lot of support in Europe, that the European governments are angry at Israel. But they sense that the U.S., by and large, supports Israel and they're not overly concerned that the president and the secretary of state are going to squeeze Israel too hard.

One thing that they appreciate very much going for them is the strong support they feel they have in the U.S. Congress among Democrats and Republicans. They see that as sort of Israel's reserve force, a backup, if you will, to make sure that the executive branch, the Bush administration, in this particular case, doesn't squeeze the Israelis too hard.

So my sense is they're not overly concerned.

WOODRUFF: Wolf, you've covered Ariel Sharon for many years. Does he seem any different to you right now, given the situation there? And different, I mean in a way that would affect the outcome.

BLITZER: I basically this is the same Ariel Sharon. And I've covered him now for many, many years. I was in Beirut in the early '80s when the Israelis invaded Lebanon. I was there in Beirut in 1982 when they expelled Arafat from Beirut.

He's mellowed to a certain degree. He's learned some lessons from the past. But this is still a very determined. fiery ex-general who believes that in this part of the world, if you don't get tough with your adversary, they're simply going to take advantage of you. The only thing his enemies, he believes, understands, is might. And if you show weakness, they're going to take advantage of that and not understand that you're looking to make concessions. So it's basically, in my opinion, the same Ariel Sharon I've known for many years. I've covered him for many years. He's a little bit older, a little bit more mellow. But I don't see a fundamental change.

WOODRUFF: All right, Wolf Blitzer reporting from Jerusalem after an important interview from the Israeli prime mister. Thank you, Wolf.

And Wolf will be back in the next hour with his full interview with Prime Minister Sharon. That will be a special edition of "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS" live from Jerusalem, at 5:00 p.m. Eastern.

Here in Washington, tens of thousands of people rallied on Capitol Hill today to show their support for Israel during this time of crisis. A number of speakers, including former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, drew parallels between the September 11th attacks and the wave of suicide bombings in Israel. The rally was organized by various American Jewish groups.

And now let's bring in our Congressional correspondent Jonathan Karl, who has been watching that rally and tracking the sentiment on the Hill. Jonathan, first of all, give us a sense of any criticism the Bush administration is facing for the way it's been approaching the Middle East.

KARL: Well, representing the Bush administration at this rally was Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, who went to great lengths to say that the administration supports Israel, is a friend of Israel. But also said that it is important to recognize -- quote -- "that innocent Palestinians are suffering and dying in great numbers as well."

That line, along with other lines by Wolfowitz, drew some boos in this crown and some chanting. Some heckling, in fact. People saying "No more Arafat," "No more double standards." Clearly upset that the administration is going forward and still meeting with Yasser Arafat through Colin Powell, and also pressuring Israel to withdraw from those recently occupied territories.

That sentiment shared obviously in this pro-Israeli crowd, but also increasingly on Capitol Hill. Obviously, Judy, this is a very pro-Israel Congress, especially among conservative Republicans. The president's strongest allies here on Capitol Hill, many of them are very concerned about the continued dealing with Yasser Arafat. Many of them think the PLO should simply be declared a terrorist organization and that Yasser Arafat is not someone to deal with.

And also many of them concerned with the administration criticizing Israel for what they believe is exactly what the United States did after September 11th, going out and rooting out the terrorists -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right, Jon Karl covering that pro-Israel rally at Capitol Hill. Thank you, Jon.

Well, on this April 15th, President Bush is taking the opportunity to focus on a timely domestic issue. Mr. Bush is promoting legislation that would extend the tax cuts approved last year and make them permanent. He made the pitch a short while ago in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where he first unveiled his tax cut plan in December 1999, during his run for the White House.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: These tax relief plans were fair. To me that's really important. It wasn't one of these targeted deals where some get it and some don't. We basically said if you pay taxes, you get relief. It was straightforward. Everybody understood it. And it's going to be around for a long time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: The president is defending his tax cut plan even as potential Democratic presidential candidates have launched new attacks on his domestic agenda. Leading the outcry, Al Gore, who was the star attraction at a gathering of would-be Democratic presidential candidates in Florida this weekend.

I was in Florida for the event. And here now are some of the highlights of Gore's appearance, and my chat with him.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want us now all, as Florida Democrats, to show our gratitude and to give a hearty return welcome. The man who won the popular vote for president! Let's welcome Al and Tipper Gore!

(APPLAUSE)

AL GORE, FMR. VICE PRESIDENT: It's great to be back in Florida. Thank you for the warm welcome. It is great to feel your friendship.

Now, here in America, patriotism does not mean keeping quiet. It means speaking up. It means speaking out. It means exercising our freedom of speech. It means drawing the line where we have strong differences.

America's economy is suffering unnecessarily. Important American values are being trampled. Special interests are calling the shots. And it sometimes seems as if, in the words of the poet, "the best lack all conviction and the worst are full of passionate intensity." If you agree with me, then stand up with conviction for what we believe in, and fight for it!

You know the story. We put America's financial house back in order and created millions of jobs and balanced the budget, and then ran up surpluses. We made major investments in what people need. I don't care what anybody says. You know, I think Bill Clinton and I did a damn good job on America's economy. What do you think?

(APPLAUSE)

GORE: When we left office, we were looking at trillions of dollars of surpluses projected in the future. And it's hard to remember now, but some people were actually expressing concern that we might pay down the national debt too fast. Well, they don't have to worry about that any longer.

Incidentally, where did all that surplus go to? Where did it go? What is the reason for this? You earned those -- you earned that money. Now, did they use it to build a brighter future for our children?

AUDIENCE: No!

GORE: Did they use it to care for our parents and their retirement?

AUDIENCE: No!

GORE: Did they use it to increase our national defense spending when we needed it more?

AUDIENCE: No!

GORE: No, you're right. The largest single factor of course, was that they wanted to shovel it out to the wealthiest tax brackets in the form of tax relief for those who need it least. And the rest of the country got peanuts. And the American people got stuck with the bill. The bottom line is, the Republicans want to cut funds for new police. Cut funds to stem high school dropout rates. Cut back protections for seniors and the environment.

You know, I may have been using my razor lately, but they have been using a meat cleaver on the priorities that are important for the American people.

(APPLAUSE)

GORE: Let me see that sign language for meat cleaver again.

BOB GRIZZARD, FLORIDA CONVENTION DELEGATE: He was upbeat. He was forward. He very politely pointed out things that are not right in Washington. Humorously, even.

ELEANOR ALBERTS, FLORIDA CONVENTION DELEGATE: He brought up Clinton, which he didn't do before. And that was, as far as I was concerned, his biggest mistake. Now he's got everyone. Everyone I've spoken to said, we will go with Gore. We'll go with Gore.

STELLA WILLIAMS, FLORIDA CONVENTION DELEGATE: I like Gore. And Gore gave a great speech today. But until I hear other the candidates, then I can say who I'm going to put my name next to, who I'll vote for.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're hoping that somewhere along the line you can (UNINTELLIGIBLE). GORE: I appreciate the encouragement.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you.

GORE: Hey, Judy, how are you?

WOODRUFF: Mr. Vice President, hello, how are you?

GORE: Fine. Nice to see you, too.

WOODRUFF: Is this the new Al Gore that we're seeing today in Orlando?

GORE: You know, I am who I am.

WOODRUFF: You seem more comfortable up there.

GORE: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: What do you attribute that to?

GORE: What is a Janis Joplin saying, "freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose"? Maybe that's it.

WOODRUFF: What did you think about the reception?

GORE: I thought it was great. I was really happy with it. It was just great to see so many friends and people who had worked real hard. I made a lot of close relationships here in this state.

WOODRUFF: Are you more inclined to run again?

GORE: I haven't made a decision on that. I really have not. You know, it's always encouraging to have this kind of response. But I'm going to wait before I make a decision on that.

WOODRUFF: But you sounded pretty -- you threw out some red meat, if you will, to the delegates.

GORE: Well, they feel strongly and I feel strongly about what's going on in our country, what's going on in Florida. And we're going to work together to change it.

WOODRUFF: And why did you feel that now is the right time to do this? To come out?

GORE: Well, they invited me to their convention. I made a speech in Tennessee a few weeks back to a gathering there. And I'm going to be out, as I pledge to do, out on the trail to try to help the members of my party in this 2002 election.

WOODRUFF: More from now on?

GORE: Yes. And you know, a lot of people are saying that we really do need to make the checks and balances work and make sure that there's a strong voice in the Congress and the House and the Senate, from a majority, that will keep the White House from doing the wrong thing, as much as I think they are. I'm going to have to go now. Thank you.

WOODRUFF: We appreciate it. Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

Al Gore talking to us in Florida on Saturday.

We'll hear from some of the other Democrats eying the White House. Next on INSIDE POLITICS, find out who went on the offensive and who got a good reception in Florida.

Also ahead, my conversation with another featured speaker down there. actor Alec Baldwin. Is Baldwin as critical of President Bush as he is reported to be?

And in our "Newscycle," the latest video to emerge of Osama bin Laden.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: The Florida state Democratic convention was an unofficial coming out party, you might say, for most of the Democrats 2004 presidential contenders. In addition to Al Gore, I had a chance to speak "On the Record" with all of the other potential White House hopefuls.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator John Kerry!

(APPLAUSE)

WOODRUFF (voice-over): The major theme this weekend, that when Democrats disagree with the Bush White House, they have a duty to speak out.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Make no mistake about it, we are united as never before as a nation in our commitment to win the war abroad. But we cannot permit Republicans to pretend that the war is the only issue before our country. Patriotism is not defined by avoidance of issues at home. Patriotism is the courage to fight for those things that strengthen and defend our nation.

(APPLAUSE)

WOODRUFF: John Kerry got a good reception here, especially when he brought up a key figure in the 2000 recount.

KERRY: That if Katherine Harris ever leaves politics, she will make one hell of a fine Arthur Andersen auditor.

(APPLAUSE)

WOODRUFF (on camera): You and other Democrats here, you know who else was here, Senator Edwards, Senator Lieberman and others. All of you, to some degree, though, overshadowed by Al Gore. Because he chose this event as his coming out. Do you feel you were overshadowed?

KERRY: Not in the least. I never saw him. He wasn't here when I was here. I had a fabulous reception. A huge number of people have come up here and told me they are with me, they'd like me to run. So I don't feel any shadow at all.

WOODRUFF: Will his decision have any bearing on what you do?

KERRY: No. No.

WOODRUFF: Al Gore's 2000 running mate, Joe Lieberman, went farther than anyone else in criticizing the president on foreign policy.

SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN (D), CONNECTICUT: Now, here I'm sorry to say -- and I say it respectfully -- that the Bush administration has recently muddled our moral clarity. Our closest ally in the Middle East and fellow democracy, Israel, has been forced to defend itself against a relentless campaign of suicide bombers. Killers with the same disregard for human life as those who attacked us on September 11th.

Yet the Bush administration has publicly and persistently pressured Israel not to do exactly what we have rightly done to fight the terrorists who struck us on September 11th.

WOODRUFF: And as for his presidential ambitions, Lieberman told me Gore is the front runner, at least for now.

LIEBERMAN: Probably. Just by virtue of the fact that he ran last time. But I think this is a wide open race. It's a new contest. And of course it's extremely early. But you know, 2003 is a short time away, and then we're into 2004.

SEN. JOHN EDWARDS, (D), NORTH CAROLINA: So I want to say this. Listen to me. I want to say this in language the Bushes will understand. Here in the state of Florida, we are drawing a line in the sand on the beaches. Read my lips. No new oil rigs off these shores!

John Edwards, new face in the potential 2004 field, said George W. Bush may look strong at this point. But he suggested the president's approval ratings are already starting to slip.

EDWARDS: And there has been change for President Bush since 9- 11. He was enormously popular. We've seen some receding of those numbers over time. Not surprisingly, they'll continue to go down, I think, naturally.

But the most important thing is when the campaign is engaged in 2004 people are going to make a comparison between President George Bush and the Democratic message and messenger. I think they are going to be enormous and clear differences between the two. And people have a clear choice.

WOODRUFF: A consistent line of attack voiced by Senator Chris Dodd was on the Bush administration's refusal to give Congress its energy task force documents, which Democrats say could reveal close coordination with the energy industry, including Enron.

SEN. CHRIS DODD (D), CONNECTICUT: I haven't forgotten that this administration, or rather, its supporters, spent $60 million of your money to chase Bill Clinton over Whitewater. Well, how about turning over -- how about turning over those documents from Enron?

WOODRUFF (on camera): So you think a corner has been turned, in effect, so that it's now all right to have this debate? Because for a while there clearly was a period of quiet. People were just not...

DODD: No question. And if the preoccupation was totally on that issue. But obviously we need to come back. Because there are other issues that need to be addressed -- security issues. The security of a good education, decent health care program. A minimum wage for working people. Environmental issues. These are issues in which there are clear differences in public policy. And to somehow carry over this quiet period and allow these issues to go undebated would be, I think, a huge mistake.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Senator Chris Dodd, one of the five talking us to over the weekend.

Well, one man conspicuous by his absence at the Florida convention, House speaker Dick Gephardt. He was in Iowa most of the weekend campaigning on behalf of state congressional candidates. Iowa of course is also home to the first in the nation presidential caucuses.

Well, first quarter fund raising reports are due today for political action committees belonging to the potential 2004 candidates. The only report made public so far belongs to Democrat Joe Lieberman's pack. In the first quarter of this year, Lieberman's Responsibility, Opportunity Community pack raised $640,000. The pack has $678,000 in cash on hand. We'll have details on the other candidates' packs tomorrow on INSIDE POLITICS.

New developments in Colin Powell's search for Middle East peace straight ahead in the "Newscycle."

Plus, a new videotape of Osama bin Laden with more evidence linking him to the September terror attacks.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Checking the INSIDE POLITICS "Newscycle." A U.S. official tells CNN that Secretary of State Colin Powell will meet tomorrow with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. This word comes several hours after Powell met with Syrian and Lebanese officials in Damascus. Also today, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon told CNN's Wolf Blitzer that Israeli troops will withdraw from all West Bank cities except Ramallah and Bethlehem, within a week.

A newly-released video of Osama bin Laden shows the al Qaeda network clearly claiming responsibility for the September 11th attacks. The tape, aired today by Al-Jazeera, shows bin Laden sitting next to his chief deputy. It is not clear when the tape was made. Al-Jazeera says the tape is from a documentary by a pro-al Qaeda group.

Also in the documentary: a statement from a man identified as one of the Flight 93 hijackers. He talks about attacks on America's heartland in what he calls a message to the world. Al Jazeera says the statement was taped about six months before the attacks. The image of the World Trade Center, they say, was added later by the documentary company.

Just a moment ago -- by way of fixing a mistake -- I referred to House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt as House speaker. Of course that was wrong. My apologies.

And moving on now, for more of the day's top stories, let's turn to Laura Ingraham -- she's here in Washington -- and Tavis Smiley in Los Angeles.

To both of you, up until now, looking at what the Democrats did over the weekend, the Democrats had been pretty reluctant to criticize the president when it comes to foreign policy. But this weekend down in Florida, we had Joe Lieberman, John Kerry, John Edwards, all of them bringing it up.

And, just as one example, Kerry took the Bush administration to task for, in his words, not staying engaged in the search for peace in the Middle East from the very beginning of the administration.

Here's what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: But for 14 months, this administration was unwilling to take that responsibility to heart. A great nation, a great nation, a great nation like ours should never be dragged kicking and resisting, should not have to be pressured to the task of finding peace.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: Laura Ingraham, John Kerry is saying it is the responsibility of the United States to take the lead in a situation like this.

LAURA INGRAHAM, WESTWOOD ONE RADIO: Well, it's not all that surprising.

The Democrats need an issue, Judy. They need something to try to at least chip away at Bush's popularity. It's still up around 75 percent, according to the latest poll. And I think they think it is safe now to criticize Bush on foreign policy.

That is a difficult terrain for Democrats, however, because, really, between 1968 and 1992, there's only four years in that whole time period where Americans trusted a Democrat with foreign policy and military affairs. And that was President Carter. That did not work out quite so well for the United States.

And I think Republicans still feel, and Americans -- so far, at least -- still feel that Republicans do a good job in dealing with these issues. The war against terror, the economy, all that was going on while this Israeli situation was heating up. So I don't think, at least right now, the public really is buying that Bush is falling down on his job.

WOODRUFF: Tavis, are the Democrats on solid ground here?

TAVIS SMILEY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I think they are.

First of all, Judy, if you makes you feel any better, I don't think Dick Gephardt minded you calling him the speaker, first of all.

(LAUGHTER)

SMILEY: He's comfortable with that.

I think the Democrats are on sure footing here. But I agree with Laura in this regard: that they do have to be careful how they approach this particular issue. I think that most Americans think that President Bush has done a good job of stewarding our country and certainly handling the crisis that grew out of 9/11.

On the other hand, I think John Kerry is right. We ought not to be dragged kicking and screaming and resisting to playing the role in the world that we have to play. I think what you see very clearly now is that, when they took over at the White House, Bush and Cheney and Rice and Rumsfeld were all lined up, quite frankly, as unilateralists.

And Colin Powell, quite frankly, was the only one suggesting that Americans have to engage the world. We have got to have a multilateral approach, not this John Wayne, my-way-or-the-highway kind of attitude. And I think the White House now, Bush and everybody else, are coming along with a kind of advocacy that Colin Powell pushed for many, many months ago.

WOODRUFF: Let me ask you to turn to something, a domestic matter. And that is tax cuts. Today, of course, is tax day. The president is in Iowa touting his tax cuts, saying let's make them permanent.

Laura, the Democrats, among others things this weekend, said the president's tax cut proposal not only ballooned the deficit, but it gave breaks to the wealthy. Now, this is a theme we've heard from them before, but they hammered away at it this weekend. INGRAHAM: Right. I felt like I was watching The History Channel at certain junctures during this weekend on C-SPAN and also on CNN. We were watching this Democrat conference. They were trying to rally the troops. And it is not really working on the war against for terror. Bush is handling that fairly well.

On the domestic front, the Democrats did not even submit a budget. And, Judy, they either have to raise taxes or cut defense spending right now. The Democrats are not going to propose either. They know that. We know that. But they have to engage in this type of demagoguery. And that is what Democrats do. They are for tax increases and Republicans for tax cuts. I'll take that.

WOODRUFF: Tavis.

SMILEY: I don't think it is demagoguery at all.

I think that, when you are the president, you have got to take the good and the bad. And certainly, Laura, you are right. President Bush gets credit for how well he has done with the war on terrorism. And the numbers, his popularity numbers, indicate that.

On the other hand, it's not just about international policy. It is about a domestic agenda. And if the president does not know that, he ought to remind himself of what happened to his dad some years ago when all he was running on was an international agenda after the Gulf War and did not have a domestic agenda. So, I don't think the Democrats are being demagogues at all. I think they are reminding the White House that there is a domestic agenda. And the president has got to run on both, not just one.

WOODRUFF: All right, we got a lesson on current events and on history from both of you today.

Laura Ingraham, Tavis Smiley, thank you both. Good to see.

INGRAHAM: Thanks.

SMILEY: Thank you, Judy.

WOODRUFF: Well, we want to hear your opinion on these issues and hear your thoughts about our show. You can e-mail us with your ideas and opinions at CNN.com/INSIDEPOLITICS.

What are Republicans saying about Al Gore's political performance in Florida this weekend? Up next, we'll get the "Inside Buzz" on Gore's reviews and more from our Bob Novak.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Some "Inside Buzz" from Capitol Hill related to the looming vote on oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

CNN's Capitol Hill Producer Dana Bash reports that a top aide to Democratic Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia says the senator will oppose a Republican offer to use potential ANWR royalties to pay health benefits for retired steel workers. Rockefeller's decision deals a blow to GOP attempts to win votes for ANWR drilling.

Our Bob Novak is here now with some more "Inside Buzz."

All right, Bob, you have been talking to some Republicans about what they thought about Al Gore and the rest of this convention. What are they are saying?

ROBERT NOVAK, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I have also talked with some Democrats. And they were the kind of same old/same old on Al Gore. He did fine, but they are not excited about him.

But I talked with some pretty high-level Republican operatives. And they were very impressed with Al Gore. They thought he was very well organized. They thought that that was the tone the Democrats have to take. That might be just putting the world on about Al Gore. But I think Republicans are a little more worried about the political situation than they let on.

WOODRUFF: Than they let on. Well, very interesting.

Last week's -- we talked about Bill Simon, the Republican governor candidate, in California having a meeting with Karl Rove. You said you wanted to be a fly on the wall.

NOVAK: Well, I wasn't, but I did do a little reporting on that meeting that was held on Wednesday.

The Californians say it was a pretty heated meeting. The White House said it wasn't. But the one thing they do agree with is that Karl Rove laid down the line. He said Gerald Parsky, the venture capitalist out in California, is the president's man in California. He is going to stay the same. He has been a little crosswise with the Simon people.

One other thing I find, that there was a little trouble on picture-taking in the Oval Office, how much of a picture they wanted the president to have with Bill Simon. They finally got one still picture. The message that was sent was, the president doesn't want to get too close to Simon. That may not be fair, but, believe me, that is what is being said out in California.

WOODRUFF: Of course, the White House originally was with Dick Riordan. And, of course, he lost to Bill Simon.

Netanyahu: some fallout from the former Israel prime minister being asked to speak here in Washington.

NOVAK: He spoke to some senators. And I get the bipartisan criticism -- more from Democrats than Republicans -- that it is not right for a foreign official to be criticizing foreign policy when there is a mission by the secretary of state.

Now, the only person who has gone public on that is Senator Joe Biden of the Foreign Relations Committee, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committees, who on the "NOVAK, HUNT & SHIELDS" program over the weekend said that he had turned down an invitation for Mr. Netanyahu to testify before the committee. He thought it was wrong. He thought the invitation was wrong.

So what happened was that Senator Joe Lieberman, Democrat of Connecticut, and Jon Kyl Republican of Arizona, invited him anyway. Netanyahu is very popular with the Republicans, by the way.

WOODRUFF: All right, Bob Novak, a peek in the notebook. Thank you for joining us. Good to see you. We'll see you later this week.

Well, Senate campaign cash is the focus on our Monday edition of "Campaign News Daily": New filings with the Federal Election Commission show Elizabeth Dole has a solid fund-raising advantage over Erskine Bowles in North Carolina. Dole brought in more than $2 million in the first quarter of the year. She has more than $2.5 million in cash on hand. Bowles, who is the former chief of staff to President Clinton, raised $1.4 million from January through March. He has roughly the same amount as she does in cash on hand -- or, sorry, the same amount as he brought in in cash on hand.

In South Dakota, incumbent Democrat Tim Johnson has a financial edge over Republican challenger John Thune. Senator Johnson raised more than $737,000 in the first quarter. He has almost $1 million in cash on hand. Congressman Thune has raised close to $500,000 since January. And he has more than $600,000 in cash on hand.

We'll give you a quiz on all this in just a moment.

Politics goes Hollywood. When we return, actor Alec Baldwin talks to us about his campaign to help the Democrats and whether he has any plans to run for office himself.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: It was the would-be presidential candidates who got top billing at the Florida Democratic Convention in Orlando over the weekend. But Alec Baldwin also had a starring role. He spoke to the delegates as well and he took time out to chat with me.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ALEC BALDWIN, ACTOR: Because I am a hope-to-die, carry-me-out- in-a-box Democrat.

WOODRUFF (voice-over): When they needed a little extra fire in their convention, Florida Democrats turned to actor Alec Baldwin.

BALDWIN: You Floridians are in a dilemma unlike any other state. You're getting Bush-whacked on both ends.

WOODRUFF: Ever since the recount war, Baldwin has been the Democrats' go-to guy in Hollywood and a favorite target for Republicans, who bought him a one-way bus ticket to help Baldwin make good on his reported threat to leave George Bush's America for Canada. Baldwin says he never said that.

I caught up with Baldwin shortly before his Saturday night keynote speech. (on camera): People look at you and they say: "Successful actor, successful figure in Hollywood -- why do you need to get involved in politics?"

What do you say to that?

BALDWIN: That's a good question.

Well, I think that, sometimes, for many, many people I know, the answer is really very simple. And that is that so much of work that they do now in entertainment might not be as gratifying as it could be. It doesn't really engage your passions as much as it could. The movie business -- and I don't want to go into a big diatribe about that -- but the movie business has evolved. And there's event films and sequel films. And there's a big, big pressure to sell tickets and produce a kind of homogenized product for mass audiences. And then independent films are risky thematically.

And I find that more and more people that I know who have any kind of passion, they go outside of that work to engage themselves in something. For me, it really is about issues and it really is about, in this particular case, making sure that Governor Bush makes good on the promise that he made in 2000 about amending the problems with the election process in Florida.

WOODRUFF: You were telling me something about your decision to come. And it sounded as if some of the people who were talking to you believe that some of the elected Democrats have been too timid and have not been willing enough to openly criticize President Bush and the Republicans. Is that the case?

BALDWIN: I think that, no matter what the period of history or wherever America is engaged militarily around the world, it is always perceived as potentially dangerous or ill-advised to criticize the president during wartime.

But the rhetoric of this administration might work against them, in this case, because they have been advertising lately that this conflict might go on for years to come. I think Cheney made a reference today in the news -- or yesterday -- that it might go on forever in terms of combating terrorism around the world.

If that's the case, we can't remain mute about the problems faced domestically and internally in this country forever, or for years, for that matter. When do we engage in the debate about energy policy in this country, which might have led us into this conflict in the first place? There is an inward-looking journey that this country needs to go on in the wake of the attack.

We need to fight terrorism. We need to have homeland security. We need many of the components that they have spoken about and that they have proposed. But, at the same time, there is some self- criticism we have to engage in this country. And how can you do that when you have an administration saying, "Don't criticize us at all right now"? WOODRUFF: You have not only been critical at points. You said some pretty tough things about George W. Bush. And the Republicans have made note of this. At one point, you were quoted as saying that you would leave the country if George Bush were elected.

BALDWIN: Right. And I am glad you asked that question, because, you know, to this day, I have never seen one person produce one audio clip or one video clip or one piece of evidence that I ever made that statement, because I never made that statement, never.

WOODRUFF: You were a major supporter, obviously, of Bill Clinton and Al Gore in 2000. Does Al Gore now have the obvious advantage going into '04?

BALDWIN: I think that Gore has the advantage among Democratic candidates, especially from the reception that I heard that he got here today at the lunch. But anybody that goes up against Bush in 2004 is going to have a tough time, because this situation in the Middle East is not going to end any time soon.

WOODRUFF: One final question, speculation -- I think you have even suggested you have given thought to running for office yourself. Is that...

BALDWIN: No.

Well, you know, you can get involved in politics on an issue- oriented level or you get involved on a candidacy-oriented level, on someone else's candidacy. But to run yourself, it seems like -- it's something that is more and more unappetizing as years go by. I will let better men and women than me run for office. And I will help them raise money.

WOODRUFF: Alec Baldwin, thank you very much for talking to us.

BALDWIN: My pleasure.

WOODRUFF: We appreciate it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Alec Baldwin talking to us over the weekend in Florida.

Well, it is a shared experience most Americans would prefer to avoid, but up next: The deadline has arrived. Our Bruce Morton takes a look at tax day 2002.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Post offices are open late around the country tonight, as usual, to help all those Americans who waited until the last minute to file their tax returns.

CNN's Bruce Morton has more on one of life's unpleasant realities. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Taxes? They suck. I pay taxes all the time.

BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's a point of view.

President Bush campaigned for and the Congress passed a big tax cut. Has that helped?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's too high. It's too high. It's way too high. It is like half of my life goes to my taxes. So what's the answer to that? It's half my life.

MORTON: In fact, only about a third of the people in a CNN/"USA Today/Gallup poll this month think the tax cut actually lowered their taxes; 50 percent say it didn't. Are taxes fair?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not happy.

QUESTION: No happy. Do you think that your taxes are fair?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.

MORTON: But not everyone agrees.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is fair? I mean, we live in a safe, protected society. We benefit certainly, to a degree. But how do you put a value on that?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I love it. It's the greatest country in the world. And I'm happy to pay them.

MORTON: Fifty-eight percent of the people we polled thought their taxes were fair, up from 51 percent in 2001, perhaps -- polls don't give reasons -- because the terrorist attacks last September showed people that government really is necessary.

Our poll shows Americans don't worry about getting audited, though more low-income taxpayers will be audited this year. And experts say it takes longer to do taxes than it used to. Benjamin Franklin probably had it about right: "Nothing can be said to be certain except death and taxes," though, nowadays, he would probably add "and turmoil in the Middle East."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, nobody likes to pay taxes. But you have to. It's part of life.

MORTON: Just so.

Bruce Morton, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: It's one of those things that will never change. More INSIDE POLITICS in just a moment, but first let's check in in Jerusalem for a preview of what's ahead on "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS" -- Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS": Judy, we're going to have a special edition from "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS" live from Jerusalem.

I spent much of today speaking with the Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon. My interview -- the complete interview will air at the top of the hour. We'll also have other news, including the decision by the pope to summon all the American cardinals to Rome next week. We'll have details. We'll explain what is going on, all that, plus much more on our special edition of "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS" right after INSIDE POLITICS.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: CNN's coverage will continue now with a special edition of "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS" live from Jerusalem. Wolf will go one-on-one with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

Thank you for joining us. I'm Judy Woodruff. I'll be away tomorrow, John King filling in for me here.

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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