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Plane Crashes Into Italy's Tallest Building; Crash Evokes Images of September 11

Aired April 18, 2002 - 16:00   ET


JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Judy Woodruff in Washington. We're following today's big story: the small plane that crashed into the tallest building in Italy.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: I'm Bill Schneider in Washington. That crash appears to have been an accident, but it is evoking images and fears from September 11th.

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Deborah Feyerick in New York, where an explosive charge linked to September 11th has shaken up the governor's race.

JONATHAN KARL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Jonathan Karl on Capitol Hill, where a bipartisan team of senators wants to punish Yasser Arafat for supporting terrorism.


WOODRUFF: Thank you for joining us. Italian and U.S. officials now say they do not believe that that deadly plane crash into a Milan skyscraper was an act of terrorism. But the pictures were eerily familiar. At least four people were killed and dozens injured when the small plane slammed into the top floors of the building, causing a massive explosion.

There are reports the plane was on fire before the crash and the pilot issued an SOS. The Italian interior minister says it appears to have been an accident. Italian radio reports that 300 people were inside the building in downtown Milan when the plane hit just before 6:00 p.m. local time.

John Defterios of international "Herald Tribune" TV is on the phone with us now from Rome. John, why are they now so convinced that this was not an act of terrorism?

JOHN DEFTERIOS, IHT-TV: Basically, Judy, because of the latest reports that have come out. In fact, in the last 15 minutes, in terms of monitoring the story, there is a report that the pilot could have had gear problems because the cabin filled with smoke, which would probably account for the fact why he lost control and smashed into the building. But we have some conflicting reports when the accident happened. In fact, the president of the Senate was saying that it could have been an act of terrorism. And then about 20 minutes later the interior minister came out and said it was almost certainly an accident. And he has stuck to that.

But, as you note at the top of the program, witnesses say it was eerily similar to September 11th. One witness said that his head and his heart went to September 11th immediately. But apparently the evacuation was quite smooth. It was a smooth one. All were evacuated by 8:05 local time or 2:05 Washington time, which is just two and a quarter hours after the incident.

WOODRUFF: John, is it believed that Italy has pretty good measures in place to prevent terrorist acts? What's the sense there?

DEFTERIOS: Well, Judy, it's been a place of very high alert since September 11th. You should remember that this is the first week that we've had labor strikes in 20 years. So there was very high security surrounding that.

The former king of Afghanistan, as you know, left Rome yesterday for Kabul. And the last two months we've on and off threats to the U.S. embassy, which is nearby where I live. There were threats to the water supply and bomb threats.

So it's uncharacteristic for Italy to have very high security, as you know, because of the culture and the country. But that has changed dramatically since September 11th. And the country has been on high alert and security has been a top priority.

WOODRUFF: And, John, what is the latest that you have on the number of dead and injured?

DEFTERIOS: OK, in the last 15 minutes, ANSA, which is the national news agency, has reported that in fact perhaps five have been killed in this accident. That conflicts with reports of four confirmed dead. Apparently the pilot, two passers-by and two in the building. That again, according to ANSA, which came out in the last quarter-hours.

As we know, the plane struck between the 24th and 25th floors. There was apparently, Judy, damage to eight floors. But fire authorities in Milan have said that the building is indeed secure. It is the highest building in north of the country. It houses the regional offices of Lombardia in the north.

So that's the latest account, in terms of the official death toll of five right now. At least 56 injured is what they are saying.

WOODRUFF: All right. John Defterios of International Harold Tribune TV. Thank you, John, very much.

Well, some witnesses to the Milan crash have noted that the sky was clear blue, just as it was on September the 11th, when suddenly a plane appeared. A building was sliced apart, along with many people's sense of security.

Our Bill Schneider has also been thinking about the similarities -- Bill.

SCHNEIDER: "Not again." That was the first thing people said when they heard the news from Milan today.


(voice-over): April 18th, an image with a ghastly resonance appears on our TV screens. This time, terrorism was the first thought that came into our minds. The tallest skyscraper in Milan, Italy's financial center.

Don't U.S. investigators believe Milan is the European base of al Qaeda? A few weeks ago, the State Department issued a warning about possible threats from extremist groups to Americans traveling in several Italian cities. One of them was Milan.

This was like the American Airlines crash at Kennedy airport on November 12. Then, too, the first thought that crossed their minds was, "not again." People actually felt relieved when they heard that the New York plane crash was an accident. That's part of the tragedy.

Today, people feel relieved to hear that no terrorist links have been established to the plane crash in Milan. And that the pilot had reported engine trouble. People died in Milan, and many were injured. But since September 11th, our scale of alarm has changed.


One other irony: the Milan disaster happened just when family members of those killed on United Airlines flight 93, the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania on September 11th, were hearing the cockpit voice recordings from that flight for the first time -- Judy.

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

Even before the Milan crash there were echoes of September 11th in New York today. At issue, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Cuomo's stunning comments about Governor George Pataki's leadership after the attacks. CNN's Deborah Feyerick has more from New York -- Deborah.

FEYERICK: Judy, it was a comment made on a bus in upstate New York. Andrew Cuomo, hoping to become the Democrat's choice for governor, telling reporters George Pataki didn't deserve credit for leading New York during the 9-11 tragedy. Saying there was only one leader, Rudy Giuliani, and that Pataki was only riding his coattails.


(voice-over): Governor George Pataki choosing the high road after being attacked for playing a secondary role in response to the World Trade Center attacks. (on camera): What do you think about Andrew Cuomo saying you were on Rudy's coattails?

GOV. GEORGE PATAKI (R), NEW YORK: I'm just so proud of the way New Yorkers came together and stood together in a time of unbelievable crisis. And there was no city, no state, no Democrats, no Republicans. We were all New Yorkers. And we were all just committed to working together, and providing the type of response this horrible emergency called for.

FEYERICK (voice-over): Two days after officially saying he's running for governor, Democrat Andrew Cuomo doing some major spin control.

ANDREW CUOMO, DEMOCRAT CANDIDATE FOR GOVERNOR: George Pataki is not a bad man. That's not what this is about. I don't think campaigns have to demonize. I'm not saying he's a bad man. Just that he's not a good governor. Look at the results. Look at the leadership.

FEYERICK: The leadership Cuomo had been criticizing, Pataki's handling of September 11th. Cuomo telling reporters there was only one leader, New York City's mayor, who summed up Cuomo's remarks.

(on camera): You say you think this is a political mistake. Do you think this is going to backfire on Mr. Cuomo in a way he did not anticipate?

RUDY GIULIANI, FMR. MAYOR OF NEW YORK CITY: Yes, I do. The reason is because it's not true. And everybody knows that it isn't.

Had we not broken down all of the different barriers that sometimes exist between different officials and their bureaucracies, I think neither the city nor the state would have emerged as strong as it has.

FEYERICK (voice-over): Cuomo ahead of his Democratic opponent, 51-34, striking a nerve he likely hadn't planned on.

(on camera): All of a sudden he's in somewhat of a freefall. What's your reaction?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, this is not the argument he wanted to make. You want to bring Pataki into this. he's a popular governor. But to politicize the World Trade Center issue is probably not the way to go. And I suspect if he had it to do over he would take it back.

FEYERICK (voice-over): New Yorkers surprised Cuomo would try to score political points off 9-11.

(on camera): Did you ever get the feeling that Governor Pataki was just there for a press op?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, no, no, I never got that impression at all. I felt that he lent an appropriate level of support to the guy whose political role in the crisis was more significant than his. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's such a sensitive issue for the country. I mean, you know, if you want to run for election, fine. But that's such a touchy thing, why dis someone on that?

FEYERICK: So basically, Cuomo took a gamble by saying something like this...


FEYERICK: And it backfired.


FEYERICK: So you think Giuliani did what he had to do and the governor did what he had to do?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think they both did what they had to do.


Giuliani praised Pataki, saying the governor could have put himself first at any time but chose not to. Saying Pataki let the mayor stand front and center because that's what he believed was good for the city. Andrew Cuomo says he was just stating the facts -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right, Deborah, thanks. Certainly it's brought some attention to that New York governor's race. Thank you very much.

And now we turn to the search for peace in the Middle East. The commander of Israeli troops in and around Jenin says his forces will complete their withdrawal from the area tonight. Here in Washington today, Secretary of State Colin Powell briefed President Bush on his mission to the region. Mr. Bush told reporters that he was satisfied with the pace of Israel withdrawal from Palestinian areas.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Israel started withdrawing quickly after our call, from smaller cities on the West Bank. History will show that they have responded. And as the prime minister said, told me, he gave me a timetable. And he's met the timetable.


WOODRUFF: The president says that progress is being made toward the U.S. vision for peace in the Middle East, even though Secretary Powell was not able to secure a cease-fire.

Let's bring in now our White House correspondent, Major Garrett. So, Major, what's the next step for the Bush administration over there?

MAJOR GARRETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Judy, there are a lot of options on the table. And as yet, no firm decisions. What are some of the options? Well, the president is going to sit down tomorrow with his national security team and Secretary of State Powell, and they're going to go over a long list of things that they might choose to do.

One of them, of course, is sending the CIA director George Tenet back to the region. That's under very active consideration. He's the author of a security plan that the Israelis and Palestinians have committed to in word, but fallen far short of enacting indeed.

A couple of other things also on the table. There is some debate within the White House of moving beyond Tenet and Mitchell, which is a security arrangement and then a political framework, in pursuit of a complete compromise. There is some talk -- I won't say it's at the highest levels or very active.

But going beyond that, there have been calls in the Arab world and some in European capitals for the Bush administration to do something much more bold. Maybe offer its own particular package of dealing with the facts on the ground and a peace proposal for both sides to sort of look at. Put it on the table and say the U.S. endorses this, we want you to do so as well. That will be under consideration.

Also a good deal of talk about maybe putting some U.S. dollars on the ground to assist the Palestinians in the aftermath of Israeli incursions. Tremendous damage in many of these West Bank cities. The administration actively thinking about ways to address those concerns, both with U.S. dollars, international dollars. But again ,all these are options right now, Judy. No hard decisions yet.

WOODRUFF: All right, Major Garrett reporting from the White House. Thanks, Major.

Meantime in the Senate today, Democrat Dianne Feinstein and Republican Mitch McConnell introduced a measure to harshly criticism Yasser Arafat and to impose sanctions on the Palestinian Authority. Let's bring in our congressional correspondent, Jonathan Karl.

Jonathan, I understand there's some discomfort among Republicans who support this measure, about taking on the administration in this regard.

KARL: Well, yes, and for good reason. The White House is adamantly opposed to this resolution and other resolutions of the kind. They simply do not believe that it will be helpful, as Colin Powell and the administration tries to pursue the peace process. They don't want Congress weighing in on this.

As a result, when Mitch McConnell, the Republican, came out and announced this today, he said very clearly he's sending a message to Yasser Arafat, not sending a message to the president, not sending a message to the White House. And making it sure -- making it clear that while they are introducing this bill now, they will not push for any passage immediately or any time soon. They're going to let the administration work through this process. You have a similar thing going on over in the House of Representatives, where Tom DeLay is working -- Republican Tom DeLay is working with Democrat Tom Lantos on a resolution that would also be harshly critical of Yasser Arafat and the PLO, and express very strong support for Israel. But that resolution also includes, interestingly, Judy, language commending the president, praising the president's leadership for his handling of this crisis.

Because here you have Republicans on the Hill, conservative Republicans, who quite frankly, would like to see the administration take a harder line against Yasser Arafat. But they don't want to come out and appear to be second-guessing the administration. So you have a very delicate dance here. Standing up for what they believe in, but not trying to undercut the president on this.

And in the meantime, in a third development up here, Dick Armey, the majority leader, Republican leader in the House, is pursuing a sanctions bill against Syria. So you see a very strongly pro-Israel and anti-Israel's enemies up here on Capitol Hill.

WOODRUFF: All right. Well, Jon, on another topic -- and this is a priority of the president's -- drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. This went down in defeat today in the Senate. But before the vote, we got some indication about just how strongly Senator Daschle feels about the issue. Let's listen.


SEN. TOM DASCHLE (D-SD), MAJORITY LEADER: I think it's fair to say that as long as the Democrats are in control of the Senate, it won't happen. We believe that this is a dividing line between Republicans and Democrats. And we're willing to take it anywhere in the country.


WOODRUFF: Jon, I think it's fair to say the Republicans thought they were going to do better than this 54-46 vote. What was their reaction?

KARL: This was really a stunning defeat. The Republicans on this really thought they were going to get more than 50 votes for drilling in ANWR. They knew they weren't going to get the 60 they needed to actually prevail here. But getting only 46 votes was a serious defeat.

As a result, Republicans agree with Tom Daschle on that, which is that they're not going to get drilling in ANWR until there is a Republican Senate. So you see the movement now going towards the campaign.

They held out some hope that when they got to the situation -- the House, of course, passed ANWR. They thought they would be able to get something out of conference with the House. Now that looks extremely unlikely. But it was very interesting, Judy. You had the Teamsters representatives up here saying today that they will remember the Democrats that voted against this. The Teamsters, of course, were very much with the Republicans on this. And they're saying that this will be an issue that they won't forget. The Democrats that voted against them on this are not their friends. That was an exact quote from Teamsters representative up here.

WOODRUFF: All right, and, Jon, just to clarify again, the Republicans got 46 votes for drilling. But it went down to defeat 46 to 54.

KARL: That's exactly right. So, four votes shy of 50. Just a couple days ago, Judy, some Republicans working on this predicted they would get as many as 55 votes going their way. So they clearly did not get the support they thought they had for it.

WOODRUFF: And they would have needed 60 to beat a filibuster, but of course they didn't get close to that. All right, Jon Karl, thanks very much.

KARL: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: Still ahead on INSIDE POLITICS, we'll discuss that Senate proposal to sanction Yasser Arafat with a sponsor of the measure, Senator Mitch McConnell and a Palestinian representative to the United States.

Is John McCain thinking of quitting the GOP? Our Jeff Greenfield will take on the subject of party switches.

And later, we'll consider the wisdom of the new political push to promote marriage.


WOODRUFF: Senate legislation calling for tough new sanctions against the Palestinian Authority is sparking strong reaction. In a moment I'll go "On the Record" with Hasan Abdel Rahman. He is the Palestinian representative to the United States.

But first let's discuss the legislation with one of its sponsors, Republican Senator Mitch McConnell. Senator, the president and the secretary of state, Secretary Powell, have said they have to deal with Yasser Arafat. That he is the person chosen by the Palestinian people, and you can't get to peace without dealing with him. How do you help them then by imposing sanctions on them?

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), KENTUCKY: Well, it's a shame the Palestinians are so poorly led, Judy. I understand that the president and the secretary of state have to deal with Yasser Arafat. But we think it's important for the Senate to have an opportunity, through the acquisition of cosponsorships of the bill that Senator Feinstein and I are introducing today, to send a message that we understand what Arafat is. We've seen that demonstrated over and over and over again. Clearly, the Palestinians are led by a terrorist. It's a shame that the Palestinians are led by a terrorist. But I think it is important for us to make clear that Arafat should be held accountable. We have a number of different ways to achieve that.

WOODRUFF: But how do you get to peace without dealing with the person who is the leader of the Palestinians?

MCCONNELL: Well, the president and the secretary of state are going to have to deal with this man. But we think it's important for the Senate to have an opportunity to go on the record, as understanding exactly who he is, what he is, and how poor this leadership has been. This is a man who has ordered, Judy, himself, young people to go out with bombs on their backs to kill not only themselves, but innocent civilians.

WOODRUFF: But doesn't the United States, Senator, have to remain -- whatever anyone thinks of Yasser Arafat -- doesn't the United States have to remain evenhanded in order to have any hope of finding a solution?

MCCONNELL: It's very hard to be evenhanded when you have a man ordering homicide bombers on the one hand and the Israelis on the other hand reacting in exactly the same way that we did after the terrorist strike on us in September, of sending our military out to try to get the leadership.

The Senate, in this legislation, Judy, does give the president flexibility. If he's making progress towards peace, we give him the opportunity to waive these sanctions against Arafat and the PLO.

WOODRUFF: Senator, we are going to have to leave it there. Senator Mitch McConnell, thank you very much for joining us.

And joining us now is Hasan Abdel Rahman. He is the Palestinian representative to the United States. Mr. Rahman, you heard what Senator McConnell said, that they want to go on record as saying that Yasser Arafat is not somebody who should be leading the Palestinian people.

HASAN ABDEL RAHMAN, PALESTINIAN REPRESENTATIVE TO THE U.S.: I'm really disappointed to hear the senator making those accusations about Yasser Arafat, and adopting exactly what the Israelis are saying about Yasser Arafat, without really verifying whether what he is saying is accurate or inaccurate.

Second, the message that he is sending is absolutely the wrong message. It is a message to Sharon, who defied the president of the United States, and who defied the Security Council resolution 1402, which the United States was a cosponsor -- a man who is responsible for war crimes in Jenin.

The senator should really have sent a different message if he wanted the credibility of the Congress and of the United States to be enhanced in our region. WOODRUFF: But they were also saying that it is Yasser Arafat and there's proof. They say there are documents that have been found that show his involvement. And, in the words of Senator McConnell, he has, in effect, ordered young people to strap these bombs on their backs and blow themselves up.

RAHMAN: That's absolutely untrue. And had the senator took the time to verify those misinformations that he is receiving from Netanyahu and the likes, from those who support Israel, who made a career of distorting the Palestinian position, he would have a totally different position.

But let me say to the Congress of the United States, to the senator, that really, you are not serving the interest of America by siding with a man like Sharon, who is responsible for the massacres of Sabra and Shatila.

WOODRUFF: They are...

RAHMAN: And who was destroying refugee camps in Jenin, and who is defying your own president and defying the international community, as represented by the Security Council.

WOODRUFF: They're also saying, Mr. Rahman, that they're not going to push this bill for a vote. They're going to wait to see what happens. If that's the case, do you really have a real worry about it?

RAHMAN: Then what is the purpose? Is it to please the pro- Israeli lobby? Is it profitable to be anti-Palestinian in the United States? I'm asking the senator, how does this kind of resolutions, that are immoral, in my views, and inaccurate, serve the interest of the United States? How can this advance relations of the United States with the Arab world?

WOODRUFF: Hasan Abdel Rahman, the representative of the Palestinian Authority to the United States, thank you very much for joining us.

RAHMAN: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: Good to see you sir.

We now turn our attention back to Italy. Next in our "Newscycle," the frightening images from today's plane crash in Milan. And the latest on the investigation into what really happened.


WOODRUFF: A quick check now of the INSIDE POLITICS "Newscycle": A single-engine private plane crashed into Italy's tallest building today in Milan, causing a massive explosion and killing five people. Italian officials say the crash appears to be an accident. Italian aviation officials say the pilot who was the only one on board the plane. The Italian News Agency reports that he issued a distress call before the crash. Dozens of people were reported injured at the scene. The incident happened after normal business hours. And many of the workers normally in the government office building had gone home for the day.

A dramatic scene this afternoon at the University of Texas medical branch campus in Galveston. An incinerator smokestack caught fire, sending huge plumes of smoke into the sky. Firefighters quickly contained the blaze. A spokeswoman says some patients at the facility had to be relocated, but that no injuries were reported.

With me now: Bay Buchanan, president of American Cause, and Donna Brazile. She chairs the Voting Rights Institute at the Democratic National Committee.

Let'S talk first about this move in the House of Representatives today to make the president's 10-year tax cuts permanent. The Republicans pushed this through. The president is very much for it.

Donna, the Democrats say it is going to drastically undermine Social Security. Who is right here?


Well, I think the Democrats are right on this one here. Look, after all -- well, surprise, surprise, surprise.


BRAZILE: But, shame on the Republicans for once again just raiding the Social Security lock box, of taking almost $5 trillion of surplus and giving it the most wealthiest of Americans. So I think the Democrats did the right thing in opposing it. And, unfortunately, they didn't have the votes in the House. And perhaps Senator Daschle will block this one in the Senate.

BAY BUCHANAN, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN CAUSE: Well, we know that Senator Daschle is going to block it. He says there won't even be a vote for six months.

What is happening here, Judy, it's politics. What the Republicans want to do is make certain they can define themselves for the elections that are coming up in the fall. And so what they are saying is, look -- to the American people -- "We are for tax cuts. We want to continue these tax cuts." And what the Democrats are saying is, they're going to raise them after a few years. "We are not going to keep these cuts in. We want to see them go up after a few years."

And I believe that the Republicans are very wise to make this definition now and be able to use this in the fall.

BRAZILE: It is not about raising taxes. It is about preserving Social Security, so 40 million Americans nine years from now, this present table excluded, who will face retirement need money, need their Social Security check. And where will it be?

BUCHANAN: Let's look at some other places for it. But there is no question there was a surplus and that that's the time to give tax cuts. And you all want to blame everything on this former tax cut from last year. But you know, the honest truth is, you all will not roll it back. You want nothing to do with rolling it back, right? So you want to talk about the one in eight years from now. This is bogus, Donna. It's totally bogus.

BRAZILE: It is bogus, because it is irresponsible. And the Republicans should take the leadership role in that.

WOODRUFF: Very different question here: a federal court overruling an effort to overturn -- overruling an effort to overturn an Oregon state law allowing...

BUCHANAN: Double negative there.


WOODRUFF: Double negative -- the state law that would allow, would permit doctor-assisted suicide.

The question I have: Is this, Donna, a setback -- how big a setback to the attorney general?

BRAZILE: Well, first of all, he should be focusing on the war on terrorism.

Whatever happened to trust the people, Bay? The people of Oregon twice voted for this provision in their law. And now the Bush administration wants to turn it over. So, I keep saying, trust the people. Trust the voters. They made the decision. They support it. And the administration should butt out.

BUCHANAN: What we need is some facts on the table here, introduce it in this debate.

First of all, this was no attempt whatsoever, and would not, if it was upheld, overturn the law. What this is about is controlled substances. The federal government has the right to control and regulate certain substances, narcotics in particular. This does not in any way alter the licenses of these doctors or their license to prescribe things such as penicillin, antibiotics, insulin.

What it says is, the federal government has the right to regulate controlled substances. And they have said these doctors that have a license to prescribe these federally controlled substances have to do it by the rules of the federal government. All 49 states do it. And now Oregon says, "It shouldn't apply to us."

BRAZILE: Bay, that was a line that the administration used...

BUCHANAN: It's not a line.

BRAZILE: ... to go out and try to undermine a law that the people of Oregon had voted for twice -- twice. BUCHANAN: Eight to zero is what they voted on in the Supreme Court when California tried to do the same thing with marijuana. They said: "Well, we in California are going to do this just a little bit differently. We don't care what the federal government says about this controlled substance."

And the Supreme Court, all the liberals -- your buddies over there, as well as mine -- said no go, that's not going to happen. This is a federal law. We regulate marijuana. And California can vote any way they want. It will not


BRAZILE: I still believe, trust the people. If the people of Oregon want it, let them have it.

BUCHANAN: The people are not -- It's the federal government's law. In 1970, it decided


BRAZILE: What happened to state's rights? I thought the Republicans supported state rights.

BUCHANAN: It has nothing to do with state rights. It's federal rights.


WOODRUFF: We trust both of you.


WOODRUFF: Donna Brazile, Bay Buchanan, thank you both.

BUCHANAN: You're welcome.

WOODRUFF: All right, we will get the "Inside Buzz" next on the ANWR defeat. When we return, our Bob Novak considers which lobbyists were left in the wilderness.


WOODRUFF: And now some "Inside Buzz" from Capitol Hill on strategy for this year's elections.

Our congressional correspondent, Kate Snear -- Kate Snow is here with us now -- Snow.




WOODRUFF: .. you sat down today with Tom Davis, who is in charge of making sure Republicans get elected in the House, and lots of them.

SNOW: Exactly.

WOODRUFF: What are they saying right now about their chances of reclaiming -- Democrats' chances of reclaiming?

SNOW: Right.

And, as you might expect, the Republicans have a very optimistic view. And they say that it is going to be very difficult for the Democrats. Tom Davis adds up the numbers in his own way, including redistricting. And he said today that he thinks the Democrats are going to need to win 10 new seats in order to take back the House. He calls that a mighty mountain to climb.

Now, on the other hand, Democrats say he's doing a little bit of fuzzy math there -- for example, including Jim Traficant of Ohio as a loss for Democrats, even though Traficant, as we all know, usually votes with Republicans and voted for a Republican speaker. Democrats also say you shouldn't count on all of those Republican incumbents to keep their jobs, because they point out that nine Democratic challengers have already raised more money than the Republicans who currently hold those seats.

WOODRUFF: Now, the other thing I want to ask you about is today this vote in the House to make the president's 10-year tax cuts permanent. The Republicans got their wish, but the Democrats, on the other hand, are bringing up an issue the Republicans are a little nervous about.

SNOW: Yes, the Democrats think they got have a winner if they say: Look, by making these tax cuts permanent, what you've really done is jeopardize Social Security. Dick Gephardt said today they are going to use that in the election. He said if you're an endangered Republican, you better watch out, because those ads are going to start running saying that you voted against saving Social Security.

Now, to counter that, Republicans have been looking into Social Security a little bit, doing their homework. They have in fact spent, the NRCC and the White House together spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to do focus groups all over the U.S. talking to people about Social Security. And they found a couple things.

One, you shouldn't use the word -- if you're a Republican, the word privatization. It rings very, very badly out there in the real world. They don't like that word. They are scared of it. They also found that they should just reassure people they are not going to lose their benefits and, furthermore, go head to head with the Democrats, go ahead and take them on Social Security. As one aide said to me: "Don't hide under the desk and get into the fetal position. Go ahead and take them on on that."

And they think if they do that, they can battle back against the Democratic arguments, which are certainly going to be strong, because, again, they think this is a really good issue for them. People are really concerned about Social Security. WOODRUFF: Well, it is only April, but it already feels like it is election time. Kate Snow, thanks very much.

All right, more "Inside Buzz." And let's turn to our Bob Novak.

Bob, ANWR, there was a vote today in the Senate and the Republicans were not happy. What happened?

ROBERT NOVAK, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: That was a disaster for the pro-crowd who wanted to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. They just got beat badly.

And, quite apart from the merits, Judy, this was a case of one lobbying group just absolutely outdoing the other. The environmentalists creamed organized labor, the Teamsters, the machinists, the other blue-collar unions. They had a much better job -- they did a much better job in focusing communications to members of the Senate. The environmentalist lobby has to go right up now as one of the most powerful pressure groups on Capitol Hill.

WOODRUFF: Another subject: Jeb Bush. He's the governor of Florida, but he was in Washington the other day. What was he doing here?

NOVAK: He was dialing for dollars.

He came away from Washington last week with about $400,000 He had a fund-raiser at the mansion in the observatory section of Washington of Wayne Berman, a big Republican lobbyist. To sit down at the table, you needed a $10,000 ticket. Now, there's a $500 limit on contributions in Florida. So, how do you do this? Well, the drill was that, if you could get 10 people for $500 a piece, you could get in. Or you could give $10,000 in soft money to the Florida party.

Incidentally, Wayne Berman's next-door neighbor is a good friend of Janet Reno, who is a candidate against Jeb Bush. And that next- door neighbor is Senator Hillary Clinton of New York.

WOODRUFF: Five thousand dollars a ticket, sounds like a bargain to me.

NOVAK: Ten thousand dollars, I'm sorry, $10,000

WOODRUFF: OK, $10,000.

Finally, what's this about Marc Racicot, who is the chairman of the Republican Party?

NOVAK: A source who is close to Racicot says that he is really considering not seeking a full two-year term when his present term expires next January. He's just serving out the last year of former Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore's two-year term, which he only spent one year at.

Now, Judy, if Marc Racicot leaves after one year, that will mean four Republican national chairmen in four years. I don't think that's what the White House wanted. Now, the White House says it is news to them if Racicot is leaving. But these sources say he is somewhat less than delighted by the job and would like to go back practicing law full-time here in Washington.

WOODRUFF: All right, we always learn a lot of new stuff from Bob Novak, who joins us tonight from the "CROSSFIRE" set. Thank you, Bob.

NOVAK: Thank you, Judy.

WOODRUFF: Well, we kick off our "Campaign News Daily" with headlines from California. Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Simon says he is not going to release his tax returns and he's not sure if he paid any state income taxes last year. Simon's November opponent, incumbent Democrat Gray Davis, has called on Simon to prove that he paid -- quote -- "his fair share." Simon said that his taxes are private. He compared Davis' comments to the rhetoric of Karl Marx.

Actor Arnold Schwarzenegger has turned in the required signatures to get his after-school initiative placed on the California ballot. Schwarzenegger personally delivered almost twice as many signatures as needed. The measure, if approved, increases state spending on after- school programs.

Back East in Pennsylvania, a new poll finds the Democratic primary race for governor growing tighter. A new Keystone poll shows 38 percent of registered Democrats support Bob Casey; 37 percent support Ed Rendell. And 25 percent remain undecided.

Well, we'll look ahead to 2004 next on INSIDE POLITICS, as talk swirls about John McCain's future and his party...



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