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CNN INSIDE POLITICS

Interview with Karen Hughes; Ashcroft Says Zero Tolerance; Meeting Begins at Vatican

Aired April 23, 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. Presidential counselor Karen Hughes talks to me at length about her decision to return to Texas.

JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm John King at the White House. I will tell you how the president is reacting to Hughes' decision and what if anything he might do to fill the void.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Candy Crowley with a look at Hughes' history with the president and why she is to important to him.

JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I am Jeff Greenfield in New York. I'll talk about why a top aide might voluntarily step back from power and what that means and may not mean for a presidency.

ANNOUNCER: Live from Washington, this in INSIDE POLITICS with Judy Woodruff.

WOODRUFF: Thank you for joining us. Karen Hughes wields so much influence in President Bush's political life it is difficult for many to imagine him without her at his side day-to-day. That's why Hughes' announcement that she will resign as counselor to the president this summer to return to Texas is such a striking change for the Bush Administration. I went to Hughes' White House office today to discuss her decision and what happens next. I began by asking her why she is giving up a job at the pinnacle of power.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KAREN HUGHES, ADVISER TO PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Because I think it is the right thing do for my family. My husband and I made a very difficult decision. As you know, I love the president dearly and he is not only my boss but he and Mrs. Bush are also very close friends. I'm known as his number one advocate and I plan to continue to be his advocate. But he always says if your mom or dad, your responsibilities as a mom or dad come first. I agree with that.

It is important to my husband and me that -- I grew up in the Army and I moved a lot and I found a home in Texas. And we really love Texas. We want my son to have those roots there. He is getting ready to go to high school, he won't be home that much longer. In three years he will go to college and I really want him to feel rooted in Texas.

WOODRUFF: Those are all important considerations and yet you are arguably one of the most powerful people in this city working for the man who is the most powerful person in the world. How hard a decision was this to reach?

HUGHES: It was a difficult decision. No one makes a life- changing decision like this one lightly. My husband and I thought a great deal about it and talked about it for several months. I also talked to the president who was wonderfully supportive. Earlier in my career when my son was little I commuted to a job. I worked in Dallas with the Republican party of Texas and did a lot of my work by fax and phone.

The president knows he can call me any time. When I talked to him about moving home to Texas he said as long as I can still have your advice and your counsel and rely on your judgment. I want to you still involved in it, and I want to be involved and I plan to continue to be involved.

WOODRUFF: What was his reaction when he finally understood that you were serious? Did he try to talk you out of it?

HUGHES: No. He knows me very well, both he and Mrs. Bush knew that my family and I missed Texas. I think they understand. They are Texans too. They always ask about my son. They ask about my husband. They ask about my family. When we were in Texas recently, when Prime Minister Blair was at the ranch at Crawford, I drove to Austin to see one of my best friend's son play soccer.

And I realized I was missing a lot. I was missing the opportunity to see my friends' children grow up and to have my son go to his friends' home and be involved with their parents. This is a wonderful, wonderful, a wonderful opportunity. It is the thrill of a lifetime and the honor of a lifetime to work for the president and serve the president. But again, I plan to continue to do that. My commute will be longer, but I still plan to be involved. As he said, I'm changing addresses but I plan to be one of his key advisers.

WOODRUFF: What was so hard about Washington, would you say for your family? Maybe another way to ask it, what's different about Washington, between Washington and Texas?

HUGHES: Well, you know, I don't really know. I think it is -- life here, just with the weather -- a lot of things are different. The weather is very different. The atmosphere is different. But this is really not about -- we have liked Washington very much. I wouldn't trade this experience for anything. We have enjoyed it. People have been very friendly. My neighbors, everyone from my neighbors to the people at the church I attend here, to my colleagues in the White House have all been very very welcoming and friendly. We have enjoyed it.

But Texas is home. I have a daughter and a grand-daughter in Austin. Dear, friends there. That's my home. I think -- I said I think in all candor, I think we are all a little homesick, and plus we miss the Tex-Mex.

WOODRUFF: Your relationship with the president has been described as sort of like an old marriage -- you finish each other's sentences.

HUGHES: We have traveled together a lot over a long period of time.

WOODRUFF: Who will finish his sentences now?

HUGHES: Me. I won't be here on as much of a daily basis. But I plan to still, for example, I told him when is he preparing for the state of the union speech next year, I always went to Camp David and spent the weekend. We talked about the speech. I plan do that again. I will come in and go up to Camp David and we will spend the weekend talking about the State of the Union Speech I assume.

So whatever he wants me to do I'm prepared to do it. I plan to continue to be involved with him, if he wants my advice, I will only be a phone call away. I plan to also come back to Washington and spend quite a bit of time here.

WOODRUFF: Again, we haven't worked out all of the details of that. I went ahead and made the announcement today because I had to notify my son's school by May 1, whether he would be attending next year or not. So we haven't resolved all the -- we will have to look at all the issues and the exact details, we will work it out because I am going to be here for several more months. I am not leaving tomorrow. I will be here for probably through late in the summer.

WOODRUFF: Are you describing this as it is still a full-time job, but just in a different place?

HUGHES: Again, we haven't worked out all the details, but clearly, when the president wants my advice, I will be glad to give it. And I'm going to be there. He and I have a very close relationship. He told me that he wants to continue to be able to rely on my friendship and advice and judgment. I plan to be available in any way he wants me to.

WOODRUFF: Any tears over this?

HUGHES: Well, it is some -- it was hard to tell my staff this morning. I have a wonderful group of people who work with me. And it was a little hard. But -- that will probably come later when I actually -- when I actually turn the light off.

But again, I think also the fact that I know that I am going to plan to come up here at least every couple of weeks and remain involved, so it is not like -- as the president said this morning, I told him that actually, a colleague had some tears and gave me a hug. And he said that's the wrong attitude. You are just changing your address. You are still going to be here. You are still going to be involved. That's the way I'm looking at it.

(END VIDEOTAPE) WOODRUFF: More of my interview with Karen Hughes ahead on INSIDE POLITICS.

Now let's bring in senior white house correspondent, John King. John, what was the president's reaction when he heard this?

KING: In a word, Judy, we are told understanding. The president has known for several months that Karen Hughes wanted to go back to Texas. That she has had issues about her son living here as opposed to with his friends down there.

She actually started talking among friends and family members about this late last year. So, the president was not totally shocked that she wanted to do this, perhaps a little surprised by the timing of it all. But the president today, reporters called into the Oval Office during a meeting with King Mohammed of Morocco. Mr. Bush making the case, just like Karen Hughes, that, yes, she will be moving back to Texas. But the president says she will still be very much involved.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Karen Hughes will be changing her address, but she will still be in my inner circle. I value her judgment and I will have her judgment. I value her advice. I have her advice. And I value her friendship and I will have her friendship.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: That will be tested though in the months ahead. Everyone in Washington will tell you that proximity is power, especially in the White House. Yes, Karen Hughes, as she said, will be able to help plan the state of the union address. The big question is what role will she have on a day-to-day basis when the unexpected happens, when a major development happens in Congress, when, God forbid, something like September 11 happens. Not being at the president's side at moments like that are likely to limit her influence in the months ahead -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: So, John, given all that, how does the president even begin to fill the role or the many roles that Karen Hughes plays?

KING: A debate in the White House as to whether anyone will get that title. She was called counselor to the president. Carl Rove is perhaps her only equal or close to equal in the White House. He is the senior adviser for the president. Most believe at least in the short term, the president will not name another counselor.

Dan Bartlet is the communications director. He has been Karen Hughes' right-hand man for many years, again, dating back to day one of the campaigns for governor in Texas. Dan Bartlett in recent months already has taken on many of those day-to-day communications responsibilities. He is very trusted by this president, just like Karen Hughes. Some talk here in the White House of perhaps a greater role for Mary Matalin. Remember, she was a key political operative in the first Bush Administration. Now she has the dual titles of assistant to the president and counselor to vice president. Most of her work done out of Dick Cheney's office, but some talk in the White House that perhaps she will take on a greater role.

Again, I think all that will sort itself out in the several months while Karen is still here but after she is gone when have you day-to-day events in which the president needs to turn to somebody right away, that's when the new relationships will be tested here at the White House.

WOODRUFF: All right, John King at the White House. Thanks. Karen Hughes will talk about what this decision means for women and she will share her memories of President Bush when our interview continues next on INSIDE POLITICS. Also ahead, the U.S. cardinals meeting at the Vatican have a prayer of easing the crisis within the church. We will discuss what they are doing and not doing.

Actor Martin Sheen is delving again into real life politics. Our Bob Novak has the "Inside Buzz."

And later, Elmo the activist? You may be surprised what the muppet is saying about politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: When Karen Hughes started working for George W. Bush back in 1994 she brought with her a former television reporter's eye and a fierce sense of loyalty. Our Candy Crowley has more on the makings of their political relationship.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY (voice-over): Andy Card knows more about the ways of Washington. Carl Rove knows more about politics. But Karen Hughes knows the most about George Bush.

HUGHES: I have worked for him for long enough that I hear -- I'm not sure I have my own voice any more. I hear his voice in my head.

CROWLEY: She signed on for the first governor's campaign, stayed through for the second and was there when it began.

HUGHES: I went in and said governor, we have been called and asked our reaction to a poll. What poll? This is not an election year. The poll that shows you are the front-runner for president. We both laughed.

CROWLEY: A wife and mother, Hughes was an intense but reluctant road warrior, eventually deciding by the fall to bring her son along on the campaign. She proved the steeliest member of the so-called iron triangle the then-governor's most protective, most loyal staffers who signed on early and stayed late. BUSH: I have known Karen for a long, long time. I -- we knew each other when the definition of a motorcade was one car. She has been at my side and I trust her a lot.

CROWLEY: We finish each other's sentences, the president once said of Hughes. She wrote some of them too. Hughes penned the president's obligatory campaign autobiography in a month's time. When it became clear that candidate Bush's beautiful but flowery speeches were out of sync with his own voice, Hughes rewrote them. Speech writer, strategist, adviser, she listens to George Bush and George Bush listens to her.

HUGHES: He sometimes doesn't like what I have to tell him. But I consider it part of my job to tell him.

CROWLEY: But what problems she had were relayed in private, while it frustrated reporters, Hughes saw her primary task as the promotion and protection of George Bush and his agenda. Critics question whether Hughes was loyal to a fault, whether her admiration of the boss blinded her to missteps that might have been avoided if her perspective were broader. Still, Hughes was not just a spinner but a true believer.

HUGHES: I wouldn't be doing this for anyone else. This is not -- my life ambition was to go out and work for someone who was going to be running for president.

CROWLEY: In the end she is leaving him for another man, two in fact, her husband and now 15-year-old son. Both have had trouble adjusting to life inside the beltway and under the microscope.

After the move to D.C., Hughes' son complained, we came here because of you, mom. No, she told him, we came here for the president.

Candy Crowley, CNN.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: And more now of my interview with Karen Hughes as she prepares to resign as counselor to the president and return to Texas this summer. She is the only woman who has had so much influence in the White House, who wasn't married to the president. I asked her if that made it harder for her to resign.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HUGHES: Well, there are a lot of women actually here who have a great deal of influence. Condoleezza Rice, Margaret Spelling, is our chief domestic policy adviser, Mary Matalin, the vice president's counselor. Those are all key people.

WOODRUFF: But your role is unique.

HUGHES: Well, my role is unique by virtue I think of the fact that I worked for the president for a number of years. I have been with him since, he jokes, the motorcade was one car and frequently, I joke, he was driving it sometimes. He doesn't drive much any more.

Yes, obviously, all those factors had to be part of my decision. But, the bottom line is throughout my career, I have been an advocate for a family friendly workplace. I believe that women can balance a career and a family. At this point in my life I felt it was important for my family that we live in Texas. But I plan to continue to be involved. I think this is another example, this is another family friendly decision. I really appreciate the president and Mrs. Bush being so supportive of it.

WOODRUFF: A lot of people would look at this, especially women, and say, it's because she is a woman. If she had been a man, she wouldn't have to do this.

HUGHES: That's kind of like saying, if your eyes are blue do you see the world differently? I am a woman. It's not a question of me having to do this, I chose do this. This is what I chose as the way I want to live my life.

WOODRUFF: But men don't usually do this.

HUGHES: I think some men do that. I remember reading from the Clinton Administration that there was someone here whose son told him his baseball games weren't fun any more because his dad couldn't be there and the next day he left his job. I think there are men who do that.

I encourage both women and men to make decisions that both are rewarding professionally and also are good for their families. The president always said, if you are a mom or dad, your most important responsibility in life is to be a good mom or dad. I believe that.

WOODRUFF: I'm pressing this point as you know, because people all over this country, especially women, are struggling with this demanding job and the demands of a family. And women everywhere are asking, is it possible -- or women who aspire to do -- have demanding careers -- are asking, is it possible to have the most demanding job, hold it down successfully and have a family. And what do you say to them?

HUGHES: I hope that what I've demonstrated over the last year and a half and now with this decision is yes, you can do what's right for your family. You can work at the White House as I did, and still be involved with your family. As you know, you saw me, your son was at some of the baseball games where I went to some of the baseball games.

So, yes, you can. That doesn't mean it is always easy. It's not easy for any parent, woman or man. But you can. And I think -- I hope what I have done over the last year and a half demonstrated that. I hope this decision demonstrates that. A number of people here have told me that they applaud me making the decision that I think is in the best interest of my family.

WOODRUFF: Let me ask you about your beginnings with George Bush. It's an appropriate time to do that. It goes way back, 1994. You went to work with his campaign as governor. How did the relationship develop?

HUGHES: Back when I -- when he was George. That seems like such a long time ago. I can't imagine calling him that now. Really when I went to work for him, I traveled with him. There were just three of us then. I traveled, Israel Hernandez was his personal aid, he is now here at the White House and works with Karl, and the president and I, and we -- I said when you spend long days together under high stress on the campaign that we weren't expected to win, you hear each other's jokes. You learn all about each other's stories. And you either end up not liking each other or liking each other a lot. We ended up liking each other a great deal.

WOODRUFF: Landmarks along the way, what are you going to -- I know you are saying you're not really leaving, but what are you going to remember the most?

HUGHES: So many. I think the first time I heard the band play "Hail To The Chief" when he walked up on the stage. I thought, that's my friend who is, you know, the president of the United States. I was so proud of him watching him walk across the White House lawn on September 11 when he came home to the White House. I think I will always remember that, and how wonderful I felt like most Americans felt that the president was back in the White House. And I knew things would be all right once I saw him back here. You know, this inaugural. There are a lot of wonderful moments.

WOODRUFF: What do you see -- what does he show to Karen Hughes...

HUGHES: There will be more moments still to come by the way. Again, as the president has cautioned me, this is not like, you know, get everybody out of the mind-set that you are gone. Because I'm not going to be gone. You will be seeing me back here in Washington.

WOODRUFF: But you know us in the press we ask these questions. What side does he show you that he doesn't show others?

HUGHES: You know, that's a great question but it is hard to answer because I think he is the kind of person that if you spend 10 or 15 minutes with him, you feel like have you known him for years. He is very open. He has a wonderful sense of humor. He is very direct and to the point. So I really think people, particularly in the aftermath of September 11, when the American people have had an opportunity to see him in extended periods of time, that the people have seen the real him.

He is a wonderfully thoughtful loving person. And who is, you know, I can trace my son's life with pictures of the president and at the time he was the governor, for a lot of it, growing up. Because he was always so wonderful about including people's families in the events of the governor's mansion, Halloween at governor's mansion, Christmas dinners. Thanksgiving at Camp David last year with my family, he invited Carl and his family and me and my family to join him. Is he is a wonderfully thoughtful person.

WOODRUFF: An extraordinary period of public acclaim for six, seven months after September 11, there has been a little bit after rough patch lately; the Middle East, some other issues, even some conservatives having some tough things to say about the president. How is he handling all this?

HUGHES: Absolutely, I don't think first of all, I don't agree with that characterization. I have to joke about that, that I saw the most recent poll this morning that I think 78 or 80 percent of Americans in recent poll said that they approve of the president's job performance. And he deserves that support and that respect. He has done a marvelous job. I think most Americans think he has done a marvelous job.

WOODRUFF: You're not buying the idea of a rough patch...

HUGHES: No. News has changed. Things have to change. Sustained approval ratings -- the president still popular does not make a great headline, but I think he is.

WOODRUFF: What is the one thing you will miss the most about being here other than obviously the time with him?

HUGHES: The time with him is the -- and with Mrs. Bush. I think the wonderful relationship I have with my colleagues here. Again, I will be here. I will be seeing them. But I feel very blessed to have worked with some wonderful people.

When you look around the senior staff table as I did this morning when I told my colleagues about my decision, I realized there are some wonderful people here who are here for the right reasons, who are here to serve the country, who are here doing the best job they can for the president and our country. I feel very good that even though I'm moving back to Texas, I'm leaving a great team of people in place who can continue to serve the president very effectively.

WOODRUFF: Anything you won't miss about Washington?

HUGHES: The early, early, early morning meetings. I'm famously not much of a morning person. I imagine I may sleep a little later at home in Texas.

WOODRUFF: Karen Hughes, thank you very much. We appreciate it.

One other thing you should know about Karen Hughes when I asked her off-camera if she ever planned to run for public office herself, she leaned forward and raised her voice and said no, I know too much about politics. I will never do that. But she said, I'm glad we're not on camera because who knows, maybe I'll change my mind one day.

Just ahead, the summit on the sex abuse scandal involving American priests gets under way at the Vatican. We will tell you what Pope John Paul II had to say.

Plus, have a smiling Laura Ingraham will square off on that and other issues when we return.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) WOODRUFF: Checking the stories in our INSIDE POLITICS newscycle: A collision today between a commuter train and a freight train in southern California killed two people and injured at least 260 others. The collision happened this morning just south of Los Angeles.

White House counselor Karen Hughes is resigning, effective this summer, to return to Texas with her family. Hughes says she is a little homesick. She is the first member of the president's inner circle to resign. The President says he will continue to seek her advice after she leaves Washington.

American Catholic leaders sat down today with Pope John Paul II and other Vatican officials for a two-day summit on the sex abuse scandal involving the priesthood. In his strongest statement yet on the crisis, the pope said priests who have molested children have done great harm.

Attorney General John Ashcroft says there will be zero tolerance of security breaches at U.S. airports. His comments come following the arrest today of at least 80 workers at Washington-area airports on a number of immigration-related charges, including visa overstays. Officials say none of the workers arrested is suspected of having ties to terrorism.

Well, with us now to talk about some of this day's top stories: CNN contributor Tavis Smiley -- he is in Los Angeles -- and radio talk show host Laura Ingraham here in Washington.

Laura, to you first on the news, while we're discussing terrorism, Zacarias Moussaoui arrested by the government. They say he's had a connection with the terror attacks on September the 11th. He went before a judge in Washington yesterday and basically said: "I don't want the defense team you've appointed for me. I'm going to defend myself."

What does this do to the government case against him?

LAURA INGRAHAM, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Well, it is not a good development for the government. It is probably going to turn this thing into something akin of the Slobodan Milosevic trial at The Hague.

Milosevic is representing himself. And he goes on these long- winded rants against the entire process, the judges, the witnesses, demands all these documents. And I'm sure that's what Moussaoui is going to do. He'll be adjudged competent I think to represent himself, although it kind of shows you why this might not be best suited for federal court and might have been better suited in some type of military tribunal.

WOODRUFF: Tavis?

TAVIS SMILEY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I think Laura is right. And she's the attorney here, so I'll yield to her on this one.

But I think it's not good for the government, as Laura intimated a moment ago, but it's also not good for him. I think there are some legitimate questions now about his competency to stand trial. But I think it does the government no good and it certainly does him no good, if he's going to represent himself in our system of jurisprudence.

I think it's a foregone conclusion on behalf of most Americans that we're going to find this man guilty, when all is said and done, like it or dislike it. And I just think he's just hastening that day with this decision today.

WOODRUFF: Let's turn to the Catholic Church -- some strong words out of Rome today from the pope.

Laura, does this mean, do you think, that the church is finally going to grapple with this issue and take some serious steps?

INGRAHAM: Well, the early word out of this meeting, Judy, is that there has not been a unified policy or a way that cardinals, bishops should be dealing with these types of allegations, yet a condemnation, obviously, of the child molestation charges and so forth.

I think there needs to be more done by the church, because this is really giving the opportunity to sort of critics of the Catholic Church and people who want come in and shake it up from top to bottom, as far as celibacy and all of those things go, really giving them kind of a wide swathe of territory in which to roam around and try to find fault with the church. I just don't think, so far, the Vatican has gone far enough.

WOODRUFF: Tavis, what are you looking for? What to you would signal that they are taking it seriously and that they are going to do something about it?

SMILEY: Well, I think the fact that the pope has called this meeting of these American cardinals is a signal that they are finally taking this seriously.

But, with all due respect to Laura, I would be going a step further. It is not just because that there's not a unified, universal policy as it relates to these issues and cardinals and, for that matter, priests. The real tragedy here is not just the molestation of young people. That is bad enough. And any molestation found against a child seems to me to be the worst crime that one could perpetrate.

What is worse is that many of these priests were moved around. After being accused and alleged to have molested certain young boys, they were moved to other parishes and allowed to do this again. That is, to me, a worse cover-up than the molestation itself. And I think the problem is that this church of secrecy has not dealt with this appropriately. And, finally, the pope is taking a strong position. I guess better late than never. But you can't have an organization that operates in secrecy, that moves priests around once they've been accused of molesting kids, and not do anything about it.

But now I think is the most propitious time for us to move on this -- for the Catholic Church, rather, to move on it, and to move on it rather aggressively.

WOODRUFF: All right, we're going to leave it there. Tavis Smiley, Laura Ingraham, thank you both.

SMILEY: Thank you, Judy.

WOODRUFF: We appreciate you coming in.

INGRAHAM: Thanks, Judy.

WOODRUFF: Thanks.

Question: Is delving into politics a good thing for Martha Stewart? Up next: The mogul of domesticity has money to spare. We'll tell you where she is spending some of it next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Here now with some "Inside Buzz": our Bob Novak.

All right, first of all, what is your take on the Karen Hughes decision to go to Texas, back to Texas?

ROBERT NOVAK, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I have working the phones on this and I think that it is the truth. There's no secret story there.

Her son, who is a freshman at Saint Albans, didn't like it all that much, Saint Albans School here in Washington, wanted to go back to Texas. Her husband, who is a semi-retired lawyer, wanted to go back to Texas. She wanted to. So, I think they're just going to go back.

Now, when they say: "Well, she's going to be doing the same job in Texas as she was here," that's not true. And nobody is going to be replacing...

WOODRUFF: Well, she says that.

NOVAK: Yes. Nobody is going to be replacing her as counselor. So, it is kind of a hole in his inner circle.

WOODRUFF: No question he's going to miss her.

Bob, Robert Byrd, the senator from West Virginia, now, what's the situation with him and the White House these days?

NOVAK: Really very bitter.

They want to negotiate this supplemental appropriations bill. He won't even talk to the White House about appropriations -- he is the chairman of the Appropriations Committee in the Senate -- until they make a deal that Tom Ridge testifies, head director of homeland security, on homeland security spending in open session. He wants to grill him on that. They want to do it behind closed doors, because Ridge is a White House aide -- a real standoff. WOODRUFF: All right, let's move on to Minnesota. There's a Senate race there: Paul Wellstone being challenged by Norm Coleman. Some changes in the polls?

NOVAK: Yes, I've some new polls or the results of new polls.

There's one Republican poll that shows Wellstone down 8 percentage points. His own poll shows him down 4 percentage points. Now, when any -- those are not figures that can't be erased, but when any incumbent senator is down that much, you know he's in some trouble. So, you have to say that Senator Wellstone -- who I like -- he's a nice principled liberal -- but he is the most endangered of all the incumbent Democratic senators right now.

WOODRUFF: All right, let's talk about another incumbent Democratic senator, Max Cleveland of Georgia. And he has got something to maybe help him raise some money.

NOVAK: Yes. He's running against Congressman Saxby Chambliss, a surprisingly close race. He's not that far ahead of Chambliss. but sending out a new fund-raiser is Martin Sheen from "The West Wing," the very popular show about the presidency. Martin Sheen is a longtime liberal activist.

And he's written this very tough letter saying that a vote against Max Cleveland is a vote for Pat Robertson and Enron. So, he wants to raise some money against the big Republican bucks. And, in fact, some Republican lobbyists here in Washington got the Martin Sheen letter this week.

WOODRUFF: I wondered what your source was, but I figured some Democrats in Georgia sent it to you.

NOVAK: Not quite.

(LAUGHTER)

WOODRUFF: All right, Bob Novak, thanks very much.

And this "Inside Buzz" from our Capitol Hill producer, Dana Bash, on the strained relationship between President Bush and Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle. Seen together in friendlier days, Daschle says he is reconsidering his agreement to share a stage with Mr. Bush at an ethanol plant in the senator's home state of South Dakota tomorrow. The reason: Daschle says he believes that he may have been invited to only one official policy event during Mr. Bush's visit, while being shut out of another.

Well, tensions between Daschle and the president top our "Campaign News Daily": In a new ad, Daschle's supporters are urging Mr. Bush to stop attacks on the Senate majority leader. The spot is running in South Dakota today and during the president's visit there tomorrow. The White House says it had nothing to do with statewide ads by conservative groups that are blasting Daschle.

Is Martha Stewart a supporter of Congressman Dan Burton? FEC records show that she gave $1,000 to the Republican's campaign last month. Stewart usually gives to Democrats. There is speculation that she donated to Burton because of his support for the magazine industry.

And former President Bill Clinton is offering fellow Democrats advice on how to disagree with President Bush post-September 11.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAM J. CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: While we're bound together by what has happened to us, we cannot be blinded by it. Don't be afraid to point out what the differences are. Just don't sound too partisan when you do it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: The former president spoke at a Connecticut Democratic Party fund-raiser last night.

Coming up, Jeff Greenfield gives us his thoughts on the resignation of White House counselor Karen Hughes -- Jeff and his "Bite of the Apple" just ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: In his "Bite of the Apple" today, Jeff Greenfield focusing on the resignation of Karen Hughes, as we know, one of the president's closest confidantes.

Jeff, here in Washington, when a top aide leaves, it always gets the rumor mill going. People want to know who's up, who's down and so forth. But, sometimes, do we ignore the human factor?

JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SR. ANALYST: Yes.

I think what happens is, so many politicians and powerful people, when they're in really deep trouble, 30 points down in the polls or absolutely on their way out say, "I really want to spend more time with my family," that we sometimes forget people really do want to spend more time with their family. And I think that's particularly true in more recent years.

This is not a case as it was with, say, Dee Dee Myers or George Stephanopoulos in the last administration, of a communications director, a spokesperson being moved aside into a different job or out. This was somebody who wanted to change. I think you, by the way, were quite right to press Karen Hughes about whether it would have been different for a man. And, while I take her point, I think it's still true, even after 30 years of the women's movement, that this is something that women with children are more inclined to do than men with children, though that is changing.

WOODRUFF: Jeff, that being said, do you think sometimes we focus too much when one person leaves, even somebody as influential as Karen Hughes? GREENFIELD: I really do think this is a -- you should pardon the expression, Judy -- a disease of the Washington world, because it is what people care about so much. Who is sitting next to who? It is almost like the pictures from the Kremlin wall in the days of the Soviet Union.

There are times when a staff departure tells you something. When Donald Regan replaced Jim Baker as chief of staff in the Reagan administration, it hurt the Reagan White House. When President Clinton moved in Leon Panetta as chief of staff, it finally got that administration organized.

For me, when a staff departure really means something, it is when someone leaves on grounds of policy, when, say, George Reedy, Lyndon Johnson's press secretary, and then Bill Moyers because of disaffection for what was going on in Vietnam. This is nothing like that. And those are the times when a staff departure, in my view, really tells you that something fascinating and important is going on.

WOODRUFF: I recall Cyrus Vance leaving Jimmy Carter over the Middle East.

GREENFIELD: Precisely. That's right, over the Iranian rescue operation. Those things are very rare in Washington: resignations on principle. But when they happen, it seems to me that's when it really tells you something significant.

WOODRUFF: All right, Jeff Greenfield, "Bite of the Apple" -- thanks, Jeff.

GREENFIELD: See you.

WOODRUFF: And coming up: Congress wants to know more about what American teens are learning about sex -- the story when we return.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: On Capitol Hill today, Congress was considering whether abstinence-only is the best approach to take in sexual education classes. At stake: continued funding of sex ed in the nation's schools.

CNN's Kathy Slobogin has more on the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The federal government does want you to know that the expected standard for teenagers is to wait for sex until marriage.

KATHY SLOBOGIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): These teens at a Waynesboro, Pennsylvania high school are getting an unambiguous message.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Saying no to sex is for everybody.

SLOBOGIN: It is an abstinence sex-ed class, filled with scary numbers.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Every day in the United States, 8,000 teenagers get a sexually transmitted disease.

SLOBOGIN: And skits designed to get under the skin.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's OK, whatever it is. I can handle it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK, Derek, I have Herpes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whoa.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's Herpes. You'll get it. You share things in marriage. We can share Herpes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We can share Herpes. Yes.

SLOBOGIN: For the last five years, about half a billion dollars in state and federal money has gone to abstinence education, part of the 1996 Welfare Reform Act.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm so proud to be a virgin, because I know that, in abstaining from sex until marriage, I'm going to develop a lot of other qualities in my life.

SLOBOGIN: Here, teens are urged to take a virginity pledge, signing a card they can carry around in their wallets. Proponents say abstinence is the only sure way to protect kids.

ROBERT RECTOR, HERITAGE FOUNDATION: The opponents of abstinence have been spreading the myth that there's no evidence that these programs work. And, in fact, there are 10 scientific studies that show that abstinence education is very effective in reducing early teen sexual activity.

SLOBOGIN: Robert Rector says studies found virginity-pledge programs reduced early sexual activity by 70 percent, enough of a track record for Congress to keep funding such programs, which he says are better for kids than conventional sex ed.

RECTOR: The conventional sex education programs are clearly sending the message that it is OK to be sexually active at an early age. All you have to do is wear a condom. That's a very dangerous message.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Here's the deal. Dating and your decision to date someone, it is not based on the boobs. It's not based on the butt.

SLOBOGIN: Polls show abstinence is widely embraced by the public, even by teens themselves. Whether they can do it is another question.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's a lot harder than it sounds. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's something that I'd like to think that I would do. But when I'm put in the situation, I don't know what I would do.

SLOBOGIN: Sarah Brown calls the science for some of the abstinence studies relatively weak. More importantly, she says the studies showing teens delaying sex don't look at what happens when they eventually do have sex.

SARAH BROWN, NATIONAL CAMPAIGN TO PREVENT TEEN PREGNANCY: Here's the problem. About half of kids in this country have had sex by the time they turn 16. What are we telling them in these programs about protection and about contraception? If we delay sex among some kids, but then when they do begin, they don't anything about how to protect against pregnancy, STDs, AIDS, I'm not sure what we have accomplished.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Saying no to sex is saying yes to yourself and your future.

SLOBOGIN: Brown says it is a mistake to pit teaching abstinence against teaching contraception.

BROWN: And the simple fact is that abstinence is better than contraception, but contraception is better than getting pregnant.

SLOBOGIN: But the battle cry here is abstinence only. Proponents say the best way to keep the kids safe is to keep the message simple.

Kathy Slobogin, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: A political pundit makes his debut ahead on INSIDE POLITICS to comment on Karen Hughes' resignation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ELMO: That's wonderful. Elmo loves you very much, Ms. Karen. And you're a wonderful mother.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: We'll tell you why Elmo has suddenly become a political animal.

But, first, let's check in with Wolf for a look at what is ahead on "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS" -- hi there.

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

We'll go to the Vatican for the latest on Pope John Paul II's historic meeting with American cardinals. Is there room for gay priests in the Catholic Church? We'll also get the latest from the Middle East in Bethlehem and Ramallah. And I'll follow up on your interview with Karen Hughes about her resignation. I'll speak live with her friend and White House colleague Mary Matalin.

It's all coming up at the top of the hour right after INSIDE POLITICS.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: In the works for tomorrow on INSIDE POLITICS, we will be doing this program live from the Apollo Theater in New York City, where the Democratic National Party will be holding a big fund-raiser. We'll hear from actor and comedian Chris Tucker, Latin entertainer Ruben Blades, and the famous Harlem Boys Choir.

Well, it is quite a transition from Sesame Street to Capitol Hill, but right now, Elmo, the popular Muppet, is appearing before a House subcommittee, along with a lobbyist for musical instrument makers. They're there to promote more spending on instruments and music research in the schools.

Our Bruce Morton has more on Elmo and why he is taking on this task at the tender age of 3.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ELMO: And Elmo hopes when Elmo goes to school, there will be instruments for Elmo to play.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I think Elmo, in many ways, speaks for children everywhere that music learning starts in that preschool age. And it really does help prepare children to learn more in school.

BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): And it means the hearing may get on TV.

Elmo is very famous -- a speaking part on Sesame Street starting in 1984 -- he is an old 3-year-old -- and of course the hottest- selling toy of the 1996 Christmas season. Remember Tickle-Me Elmo?

Is this a first: a Muppet witness at a hearing? Well, maybe. Famous people have come to Sesame Street. That's Barbara Bush. And this was a nutrition event outside the Capitol. That's House Democratic Leader Richard Gephardt. And Barney and a friend dropped by, but that's not a hearing, quite. And Elmo is something of a Washington insider now. He was at an education event at the White House earlier this month.

And since he is so inside, Judy, we asked for his reaction to the big news of the day: Senior White House aide Karen Hughes's resignation to go back to Texas.

ELMO: That's wonderful. That means her children are very, very, very important to her, even more important than the president. That's wonderful. Elmo loves you very much, Ms. Karen. And you are a wonderful mother.

MORTON: Isn't that about what the president said?

Bruce Morton, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: We need Elmo's voice on this program more often. We'll have to have him back.

CNN's coverage continues now with "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS." Thank you for joining us. I'm Judy Woodruff. We'll be in New York tomorrow.

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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