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CNN INSIDE POLITICS

How Are Jewish Voters Responding to President Bush?; Ariel Sharon Visits Washington

Aired May 6, 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. As President Bush faces challenges in the Middle East, how many Jewish voters is he winning over in the process?

JOHN KING, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I'm John King with a look inside the White House at expectations for the president's big meeting with the Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon.

BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Bruce Morton in Washington with newly released papers from Richard Nixon's presidency and new insights about his dealings in the Middle East.

WOODRUFF: Also ahead, "Citizen McCain." Elizabeth Drew talks to us about her new book and the surprising things she's learned about the Senate.

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

WOODRUFF: Thank you for joining us. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has begun talks here in Washington with Bush administration officials. But the man who is not at the table, Yasser Arafat, is in many ways taking center stage.

Sharon came to the U.S. with a report which, according to Israel, proves that Palestinian leader's direct ties to terror attacks. Palestinian officials charged the report is -- quote -- "full of lies." On the eve of President Bush's meeting with Sharon Mr. Bush said again that he shares Israel's disappointment with Arafat.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If I've been asked once, I've been asked 20 times about him. He has disappointed me. He must lead. He must show the world that he believes in peace.

And we have laid out conditions for all parties in order to achieve peace. All parties -- the Arab nations, Israel, Chairman Arafat and the Palestinian party -- must assume their responsibilities and lead.

(END VIDEO CLIP) WOODRUFF: Our senior White House correspondent, John King, is here. John, we're hearing the president be hard on Yasser Arafat publicly. But privately, is he trying to persuade Prime Minister Sharon that he has to deal with him?

KING: Yes, he is. That he has no choice but to deal with him, is probably the better way to put it. And the White House says it feels exactly the same way: doesn't like Mr. Arafat's conduct, whether the issue is terrorism or corruption in the Palestinian Authority, it does not believe he has met the test of leadership.

But he is the internationally-recognized leader of the Palestinian people. The Arab countries, so important to the president's delicate diplomacy right now, have said and are saying today with representatives in Washington, there is no way around Mr. Arafat.

So we are told the president's message to Prime Minister Sharon is: I know you don't like him, I know you don't trust him. But at least in the short term, you must deal with him if we are to move forward on issues like short term security arrangements and the hope, ultimately, for long-term peace negotiations.

WOODRUFF: John, the administration has made such a point of saying it does not intend to deal with terrorists in any way. How much stock is it placing in this Israeli report that reportedly ties Yasser Arafat to terrorist activities?

KING: Administration officials, first and foremost, made clear that the Israelis distributed this to the news media before they shared it in any large quantities with the administration. So they view it more as a political posturing by the Israelis to build public support here in the United States for Prime Minister Sharon's position, that he should not have to deal with Arafat.

That said, they say they already have enough evidence that Arafat has been either directly or implicitly, tacitly, involved with terrorism in the past, and that that is a legitimate issue to raise with him. But they view that as separate from the issue of, if there are to be negotiations he is the leader of the Palestinian people.

The administration would very much like an alternative. This administration in recent days has talked more and more about corruption in the Palestinian Authority, saying where are the roads, where are the schools, where has all that money gone, Mr. Arafat?

But in the short term, if we are talking about who would you sign a cease-fire with tomorrow, who would you negotiate a peace agreement with tomorrow, that person is Yasser Arafat. Because, the White House says, there is simply no alternative.

WOODRUFF: All right, John King reporting from the White House. Thanks.

We want to tell you that within the hour we do expect to see some live pictures of the Israeli prime minister. He has been meeting at the Pentagon with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. When they appear together before cameras, we will bring that to you live.

In the meantime, as President Bush himself prepares to meet with Mr. Sharon, some Republicans are hoping that the administration's pro- Israel policies will persuade Jewish voters to be more supportive of Mr. Bush and of his party.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BUSH: I do believe Ariel Sharon is a man of peace.

WOODRUFF (voice-over): Many Jewish voters say they have been impressed by President Bush's strong words of support for Israel. While the Democrats have had a strong hold on the Jewish vote in recent presidential elections, Republicans have made in roads in the past. Dwight Eisenhower won 40 percent of the Jewish electorate in 1952. Ronald Regan won 39 percent in 1980. And even George Herbert Walker Bush won 35 percent of the Jewish vote in 1988.

Now Republicans hope that the current President Bush can match or even improve on those numbers, after getting just 19 percent of the Jewish vote in 2000. Although Jews account for just 4 percent of the electorate nationwide, in some close states, such as Florida, a shift in their votes could have made a difference in 2000.

And it could make a difference in 2004.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

With us now for more on the Jewish vote, Frank Luntz, Republican pollster and head of Luntz Research Companies. Thank you for being with us.

And Ira Forman with the National Jewish Democratic Council. Let me turn to you first, Ira Forman. We just said President Bush got just 19 percent of the Jewish vote when he was elected. Right now, with all that's been going on in the Middle East with the -- if you will, the administration appearing to favor Israel to some extent, is that likely to help him a great deal when he runs for reelection?

IRA FORMAN, NATIONAL JEWISH DEMOCRATIC COUNCIL: Well, if the election was today, it would. How much we don't know. But we have two and half years before the election.

And as we get back to -- as we probably will, in that two and a half years -- to domestic issues, church-state relations, prayer in schools, a Supreme Court nominee who's likely to be pro-life, that's likely to erode those numbers dramatically. And what we have closer is a six-month congressional election, which almost certainly, we have a pattern of 20 years now where democrats get 3-1, 4-1 advantages. We're likely to see that again this November.

WOODRUFF: You think you're likely to see it again.

FORMAN: Yes.

WOODRUFF: Frank Luntz, your organization did a poll six months ago looking at the Jewish vote and what they thought about President Bush. He did surprisingly well. Over half of them were Democrats, but as of November 2001, 42 percent of them said they would vote for George Bush.

FRANK LUNTZ, GOP STRATEGIST: And only 39 for Al Gore. Did you ever imagine that on INSIDE POLITICS you'd ever have a segment that talked about the Jewish community being a swing vote? I mean, that was inconceivable six months or a year ago. And it is that way.

Ira, I read your book, "Jews and American Politics." It's fantastic. But the one thing that I would urge you to focus on is that while Jews have traditionally been Democrat, ideologically they've been more conservative than people give them credit for.

And now they see what's happening on foreign policy and defense issues. For the first time they're opening their eyes and saying, you know what, I do have a choice here and I'm going to examine it.

WOODRUFF: This week we know President Bush, meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Ira, does the administration politically set aside what the foreign policy, international policy side of the White House is doing? Do they need to think about how they are perceived as dealing with the leaders of the Israel government?

FORMAN: I think it's a political issue. But again, Judy, it's six months until the election. It's two and a half years until the president's reelection campaign. And you know , this is ancient -- this is ages in American politics. And so I don't think that this week will define it. But it's likely, if Frank took a poll this week, it's likely those numbers will go down.

And let me just say that, you know, there has been a lot of talk over 30 years that Jews are becoming Republicans. Frank's organization that he takes polling for, in '92 and '96 they talked about revolution. They talked about realignment.

And Frank in '99 talked about the president was going to break 30 percent. And he got 19. Some revolution, some realignment.

LUNTZ: But this is not just about electoral politics. And the one thing about the Jewish community and in fact all Americans would say, is that the Middle East is so much more important than whether someone gets a vote here or there. And if you appeal to them in strictly political terms, you won't win any votes from anyone.

Right now you've got a crisis in the Middle East. And we all agree on that. And people are dying every day. And what the Jewish vote is going to determine how they will vote is which political party is best able to show a vision to end the crisis, and which political party stands up for democracy, which party stands up for America's allies.

And in 2002 they may well send a message to the Democratic Party that you should be as supportive of Israel as the Republicans have been. FORMAN: Actually, we've already got an answer to that, which party stands up for Israel. And the answer is, both. Because both political parties, both leaders of both political parties, have been extremely pro-Israel. We saw it this week in the Senate, where Daschle puts that resolution.

LUNTZ: And who would have thought that the Democrats would have signed on to Tom DeLay's resolution? The man who they despised, they were suddenly backing him and applauding his efforts. So you now have a Congress that has become supportive in a bipartisan fashion.

But still, it starts at the top. And George Bush is at the top. And that's why the Jewish vote is reexamining their partisanship at this point.

WOODRUFF: All right, gentlemen, we're going to have to leave it there. Frank Luntz, Ira Forman, thank you both. We appreciate your dropping by.

We will have a weighty discussion when we return, when we talk fitness and politics with HHS secretary, Tommy Thompson.

In our "Taking Issue" segment, a controversial question: has Bill Clinton exploited African-Americans?

And later...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: We have two dogs. This is our dog Barney. I tell him, with eyebrows like that he ought to be a senator.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: The importance of being funny. Jeff Greenfield on politicians and their punch lines.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

TOMMY THOMPSON, HHS SECRETARY: including myself. And I've lost eight, nine pounds so far. And I'm going to lose another 10. And I am running.

WOODRUFF: You look pretty trim. Now, Mr. Secretary, I read that among other things you are considering a tax credit for people who take good care of themselves. Are you serious about that?

THOMPSON: I am serious about advocating new ways in which we can try and make people healthier, Judy. And one of those things is exploring the possibility of a tax credit. The problem we have with it is how do we show proof that people are actually doing what they say they are? It's very hard to monitor.

WOODRUFF: You're also looking at maybe a tax increase for people who use cigarettes?

THOMPSON: Well, I'm looking at a tax on tobacco and thinking that that's certainly...

WOODRUFF: All part of the same...

THOMPSON: All part of the thing to remain healthy.

WOODRUFF: I want to ask you about -- you're with a group of seniors, here. Prescription drugs for seniors, it's a big issue. There's been a lot of talk. There's been more talk. Some people think nothing is going to be done about it.

As you know, there are House Republicans who are proposing what they think is the right way to go, 200 billion over 10 years. That's not what the Bush administration is proposing.

THOMPSON: I think most people have recognized that the figure of around $350 billion is...

WOODRUFF: Which is what the administration is proposing.

THOMPSON: Is what the administration is working with the House Republicans on. And this one would include prescription drug coverage and it would also revitalize and strengthen Medicare, which has to be done.

WOODRUFF: You don't have unanimity among Republicans at this point, right?

THOMPSON: But you don't have unanimity on the other side. My message to everybody is that this is the year, even though it's an election year and even though most people don't think they can get it done, this is the year to address the revitalization of Medicare, including prescription drugs.

And because most people campaigned on it in the last election. And the next election is coming up in several months. I think the pressure is going to be on Congress to do something. And I think we should do something this year.

WOODRUFF: A little bit of politics just quickly, Mr. Secretary. In your home state of Wisconsin, your successor, Scott McAllen, is having some difficulty with his reelection campaign. What's happened to the Republicans in Wisconsin since Tommy Thompson left?

THOMPSON: I don't know. I think the Republicans will come back strong in the fall. I mean, they're getting their sea legs right now. And it's been difficult. But you know, it's difficult in a lot of states this year, with the recession and 9/11. And I think they are regrouping.

Even though right now, it looks less promising. You know, a lot of things are going to change between now and November. And the 800- pound gorilla we have is, and the best marathon runner we have, is George W. Bush. And he is out there campaigning, stronger and better than a lot of people ever anticipated. And I think his popularity is so high, he's going to be able to coalesce a lot of candidates and be very successful. I feel Republicans are going to do quite well this year.

WOODRUFF: Last question -- speculation Tommy Thompson is going to leave before two years is up. Are you absolutely committed to staying as secretary for the full two years, which is what you said your commitment was?

THOMPSON: I am going to stay my full two years. And the president has asked me to stay longer.

WOODRUFF: Do you think you'll stay beyond that?

THOMPSON: Well...

WOODRUFF: I saw you quoted the other day as saying you'd made a two-year commitment.

THOMPSON: I have made a two-year commitment and that's what I'm going to do. And we'll see what happens. If the president still likes me and wants me to continue, which he does right now, we'll take it one day at a time.

WOODRUFF: All right, Secretary Tommy Thompson, thank you very much for talking to us on this walk. We appreciate it.

THOMPSON: It's always a pleasure. You're wonderful.

WOODRUFF: Thank you. Appreciate it.

THOMPSON: Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: I hate to admit it. That's the most exercise I've had in about a year.

Ahead in our debate segment, was Bill Clinton as big a friend to African-Americans as many people have claimed?

Plus, new legal developments from Boston involving Cardinal Bernard Law.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Among the headlines in our "Newscycle," Cardinal Bernard Law could be deposed as soon as Wednesday in a civil lawsuit involving defrocked Priest John Geoghan. A superior court judge ruled today that Cardinal Law must give a deposition in the case, filed by 86 people who sued the Boston archdiocese over allegations they were sexually abused by Geoghan.

A negotiated end to the standoff at Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity is said to be close at hand. But talks have stalled over Israeli demands to exile 13 of the Palestinians who were hold up inside. Yasser Arafat opposes the exile of more than eight of the Palestinians.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is in the United States for talks tomorrow with President Bush. Earlier he met with Secretary of State Powell and he is scheduled to meet this hour with Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld. We plan live coverage just minutes from now of the prime minister's arrival at the Pentagon.

With us now, Terry Jeffrey, editor of the weekly magazine, "Human Events" and Michael Eric Dyson. He's a religious studies professor at DePaul University.

Mr. Dyson, is the Bush administration's policy at this point seeking a resolution to events in the Middle East, the correct policy?

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON, DEPAUL UNIVERSITY: I don't believe so. I think that they certainly made a step in the right direction when they employed shuttle diplomacy by sending Secretary Powell to the Middle East to meet first meet with many of the governments in the region and then finally to meet with Mr. Sharon and then with Mr. Arafat. It's certainly a delayed tactic that needs to be stepped up now.

And I think even the Arab states are kind of skeptical about this still ill-defined peace process that is being exercised in that region. They're not clear about what the strategies and principals are. And they're not secure in the fact that Mr. Arafat will be brought in as the duly recognized head of the Palestinian people.

So I think that Mr. Bush has to be quite conscientious about the fact that he needs to both take Mr. Sharon and Mr. Arafat seriously, and then engage in some discourse and dialogue about what it will take to reach peace in that region.

WOODRUFF: Terry Jeffrey, is it ill-defined, without clear strategies or principles?

TERRY JEFFREY, EDITOR, "HUMAN EVENTS": No, I think the president has a very clear strategy, Judy. He spelled it out April 4 in his speech at the Rose Garden, when he first sent Colin Powell over there. There has been some progress since then.

The crown prince of Saudi Arabia has agreed to put pressure on Arafat. Sharon will be meeting with the president tomorrow. I think the president's aim is to retain the U.S. credibility as a negotiator between the Israelis and the Palestinians. And to do so, I might add, against tremendous pressure from people in his own party who probably share his own gut instincts in this moment to side with Israel. And to be appalled by the fact that Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat has been complicit in these terrorist attacks against Israel.

WOODRUFF: All right, we are watching the scene there live at the Pentagon as I talk to you gentlemen. We are watching the motorcade bearing the Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon, pulling up to the Pentagon. There is Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld there, among a group, who will be meeting with the Israeli prime minister. There is Secretary Rumsfeld there, standing in the suit on the left -- lighter colored suit. And stepping out of his car, Ariel Sharon, for a handshake. Mr. Sharon arriving in the United States since meeting earlier today with Secretary Powell. Now with Secretary Rumsfeld.

And tomorrow, Ariel Sharon will meet with President Bush. They are moving up the steps into the Pentagon, where their meeting will take place. We'll be following that. And if there are developments to report, we will bring them to you.

Now I want to continue with our conversation with Michael Eric Dyson, with DePaul University, Terry Jeffrey of "Human Events." I want to turn the two of you from the Middle East to a domestic question. And to Mr. Dyson, something you said at a recent NAACP event.

You said -- and I want to quote -- with regard to President Clinton's legacy, "He exploited black sentiment because he knew the rituals of black culture. Bill Clinton exploited us like no president before him."

Can you elaborate on that? What did you mean by that?

DYSON: What I was referring to, Judy, is the fact that Bill Clinton undeniably was an extraordinarily popular president among African-American people, for good cause. He knew and was intimately familiar with our songs, our culture, our practices, the things that we held in high esteem.

And certainly, because of his own difficulties as a young person, being the son of a mother who was not married to his father, and having economic problems, and then going on to forge his way in life, we certainly identified with us and he identified with us as well.

But the problem is, I think, that Bill Clinton used his familiarity with the rituals of black culture to exploit black sentiment. This is what I mean: he knew the third verse of "Lift Every Voice and Sing." He knew to go to our churches and hug the ladies and grab the babies.

But he also sent a message at the very beginning of his candidacy, in 1991, when he went to Jesse Jackson's Rainbow Coalition and dissed Sister Soldier and distanced himself from Jesse Jackson, the major leader of African-American culture, while at the same time appealing to the conservative, suburban vote.

He also...

(CROSSTALK)

WOODRUFF: So you're saying...

DYSON: He also signed a crime bill...

(CROSSTALK) WOODRUFF: You're saying he did all this to get votes.

DYSON: Well, he did all this to get votes. But also, I think his own inclination is certainly to be familiar with black people. But I'm saying familiarity with black culture doesn't translate into politics that are good.

Two instances. First of all, he signed a crime bill which had devastating impact.

WOODRUFF: All right, I'm sorry. We are going to have to leave it there. Terry Jeffrey, I'll give you just a moment to respond.

JEFFREY: Well, I think, Judy, there's no doubt that Bill Clinton was an equal-opportunity exploiter. He is a cynical man and a deft politician. Whenever he could manipulate symbols or rhetoric to get people to support him without giving substance, he'd do it. If Mr. Dyson says he did that to the black community, I'll take his word for it.

WOODRUFF: All right, and, gentlemen, I am apologizing to both of you. We're going to have to leave it there and hope to see you both again. Terry Jeffrey and Michael Eric Dyson, thank you both.

JEFFREY: Good to see you.

WOODRUFF: We appreciate it.

Some political roads well traveled are next on INSIDE POLITICS, as Democrats eying the White House flock to Iowa and New Hampshire. We'll get the "Inside Buzz" from the Democratic Party chairwomen of those states.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: At this early stage of the 2004 presidential race, you don't need a scorecard as much as you need a map to see which Democrats are trekking to the lead-off primary and caucus states.

House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt is in New Hampshire today, his fourth trip there since November of 2000. Vermont's governor, Howard Dean, tops Gephardt with as many six trips to New Hampshire in the past few months alone. Senators John Kerry and Joe Lieberman round out the frequent visitors list with three and two trips to the Granite State, respectively. Howard Dean and Senator John Edwards have each made three trips to Iowa since November of 2000. Dick Gephardt and Bill Bradley have made two trips each.

Well, several other potential presidential candidates have visited Iowa and New Hampshire at least once, including Al Gore. And now let's bring in some people who know what is going on in those states: Iowa's Democratic chairwoman, Dr. Sheila McGuire-Riggs; and New Hampshire Democratic Chairwoman Kathy Sullivan.

Kathy Sullivan, to you first. Now that the Democratic Party has decided to move up the presidential primary calendar in 2004, you are seeing an influx of these candidates. Is it -- are you seeing them more, do you think, earlier than did you four years ago?

KATHY SULLIVAN, NEW HAMPSHIRE DEMOCRAT PARTY CHAIRWOMAN: Well, it seems like we're seeing more people and that it is earlier.

We still have our state elections coming up in November of 2002. And, traditionally, the real action doesn't start happening until after that other off-year election takes place. So, I think we are seeing more people and we are seeing them earlier.

WOODRUFF: And, Dr. Sheila McGuire-Riggs, what about in Iowa? Do you think it's more so than you saw leading up to 2000 election and earlier?

SHEILA MCGUIRE-RIGGS, IOWA DEMOCRATIC PARTY CHAIRWOMAN: Well, there's just a much bigger field than in 2000. We are less than 20 months away from the Iowa caucuses. And we're seeing quite a variety here.

WOODRUFF: Is one candidate or another, Dr. McGuire-Riggs, do you think, picking up traction at this point?

MCGUIRE-RIGGS: Well, I think what we're seeing is the candidates showing us their work ethic.

We have a very full ballot in Iowa, like New Hampshire. And so our -- the presidential candidates are coming in and being a really big help, from Senator Harkin on down to the statehouse. And we're seeing Senator Edwards. And, as you said, Governor Dean is here today. And, of course, Representative Gephardt is very interested on a congressional level. So, he is here frequently helping in many ways.

WOODRUFF: And, Kathy Sullivan in New Hampshire, what does this work ethic translate into? We've seen it reported that Senator Edwards donated a lot of computers to the Iowa Democratic Party. What are the candidates donating or doing in New Hampshire?

SULLIVAN: Oh, we had our fair share of computers, too.

But, actually, what they are doing right now for us is helping our candidates in the November 2002 elections do some fund-raising. The mere fact that Representative Gephardt is in the state today campaigning with Katrina Swett, who is running in the 2nd Congressional District, Martha Fuller Clark, who running in the 1st Congressional District, translates into publicity for those two candidates, also helps them with their fund-raising.

Representative Gephardt is also appearing at a party fund-raiser later on this afternoon.

WOODRUFF: And, Dr. Sheila McGuire-Riggs, are the candidates this early able to lock up the support of party activists? MCGUIRE-RIGGS: Well, I think they are just laying some groundwork, relationship-building. And it will pay off. This is what you need do in Iowa.

WOODRUFF: What do you mean? What do you need do?

MCGUIRE-RIGGS: Well, come in. Come visit. Come help. Get to know the people. Help local candidates from state rep up to U.S. Senate, and just get to know the people and make connections with the people who will, ultimately, less than 20 months from now, go to the precinct caucus.

WOODRUFF: Kathy Sullivan, what do you see? Are the party activists locking in their support this early?

SULLIVAN: Not really.

There is, I would really say, a handful of activists who are committing themselves right now. I think, for most of our activists, the real action is the November 2002 races. There is some interest in the presidential candidates. This being New Hampshire, there is always interest in presidential candidates. But, for now, we are focusing on the November 2002 elections, looking at the folks who are coming into the state.

But I don't think you are going to see great numbers of people committing until after November and probably, really, for several months after that. We're still not sure who is going to run. People don't know what Vice President Gore is going to do. I think that is a big factor as well. But, certainly, we're seeing a lot of folks, like Senator Kerry, Representative Gephardt, Senator Lieberman, Senator Edwards and all the rest.

WOODRUFF: Well, we want to thank both of you for dropping by to give us an update at this point in May of 2002. And we will want to check in with you as often as we can. Kathy Sullivan in New Hampshire, and Dr. Sheila McGuire-Riggs in Iowa, thank you both. We appreciate it.

MCGUIRE-RIGGS: You bet.

SULLIVAN: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: Both chairs of their representative state Democratic parties. Thank you.

And we keep our focus now on 2004 in our "Campaign News Daily": The Republican National Committee is making a play for the Hispanic vote by spending more than $1 million on 30-minute Spanish infomercials. The programs, featuring headlines and political discussions, will air as paid advertising on the Univision and Telemundo networks.

New polls around the nation today spotlight several key races, beginning with the campaign for Massachusetts governor. Republican Mitt Romney leads his closest potential Democratic opponent, Shannon O'Brien, by 11 points in a new survey. But only 42 percent of those polled have a favorable impression of Romney. That number stood at 57 percent two months ago.

In California, voters remain divided in their opinion of Governor Gray Davis. Only 42 percent of Californians polled approve of the governor's job performance. But he still holds a 14-point lead over challenger Bill Simon.

And, in Colorado, Republican Senator Wayne Allard looks strong against expected Democratic challenger Tom Strickland. Allard leads Strickland 43 percent to 31 percent among registered voters. That is more than double the lead that Allard held in February.

Up next: laughs with the president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DREW CAREY, COMEDIAN: I love watching him give a -- I'm telling you, you give the greatest speeches. Every time I get a chance, I watch, because every time he gets to a big word, it is like watching a high-wire act.

(LAUGHTER)

CAREY: Is he going to do it? Yes, he did it!

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: You expect jokes from a comedian, but our Jeff Greenfield tells us why it is also important for politicians to show a sense of humor.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: President Bush kept them laughing Saturday night at the annual White House Correspondents Dinner. Jeff Greenfield will share his thoughts on the president's performance in a moment.

But first, here is a sample of what the president had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When I look back over the last year, I think I have grown in office. I'm much more focused.

(LAUGHTER)

BUSH: I feel relaxed.

(LAUGHTER)

BUSH: I mean, occasionally there are moments where I feel a little stress. (LAUGHTER)

BUSH: I may have aged a bit.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: Well, they do manage to show a sense of humor.

All right, Jeff, we assume the White House works hard at these presentations, although, for all we know, maybe they just put this together in a few minutes. But why do they put so much effort into this?

JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SR. ANALYST: Well, when I worked in politics, I can tell you, we worked very hard on the humor part, sometimes harder than the serious stuff, because I think it is just the one unforgivable sin for a politician is to be seen as having no sense of humor.

He can be mean. He can be not entirely -- he can be ethically challenged at times. But, boy, not having a sense of humor, this is an essentially populist country. We don't trust big shots. And a politician without a sense of humor is seen as kind of stuffy and too self-important. That is why, at these annual events, it's almost like an act of ritual mortification. The politicians have to come in front of the public and the press and make fun of themselves even if inside they would rather be undergoing root canal.

WOODRUFF: So, has this gotten a little more elaborate over the years?

GREENFIELD: I actually lost you there for a second, but let me just make a point here. It may be what you asked me.

This thing has grown much more elaborate as television has popped up. John Kennedy, all the way back in 1960, went on "The Tonight Show" with Jack Parr and traded some light jokes. Richard Nixon went on "Laugh In" in 1968 and said, "Sock it to me." And I think part of is that we saw Bush and Gore on "Saturday Night Live," in person kind of feed on the mocking that was done of both of them.

I think part of it is, you now have to either show up with an elaborate comedy routine, like Bush did -- remember, Clinton in 2000 had the whole videotape about the final days -- or you have to absolutely be willing to prove that you can laugh at yourself and just be a regular fellow.

WOODRUFF: Jeff, is it possible, though, for humor to backfire?

GREENFIELD: Yes.

There's one great example. Ohio Governor Jack Gilligan in 1974 went to a state fair and he walked by a sheep that was being shorn. And the photographer, "Why don't you pose shearing the sheep?" And Gilligan said: "I don't shear sheep. I sheer taxpayers." In that post-Watergate, Democrat-landslide year, he was the one important Democratic incumbent to lose.

And I wonder -- I don't think this is going to happen -- whether Bush flirting -- I don't mean flirting -- but having fun with Ozzy Osbourne is, in some sense, going to make some social conservatives unhappy given Ozzy Osbourne's track record. My feeling is, Ozzy Osbourne at this point is a national icon.

But, yes, it is like nitroglycerin. It's very powerful, but it can be very dangerous -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Well, the president actually said his mother was a big fan, but we get the point. Jeff Greenfield, thanks very much.

Well, while we're on the subject of political humor, we would like you to listen closely to this riff by Tipper and Al Gore as they promoted their upcoming book on the American family in New York yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TIPPER GORE, WIFE OF AL GORE: He's just a renaissance man. He does so many things so well.

(LAUGHTER)

T. GORE: Yes, he does. And, you spoke about the erections, Pat. You spoke about...

AL GORE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I am going back to my chair.

(LAUGHTER)

T. GORE: She spoke about Homo erectus, I believe. I just want you to know, he is not stiff.

(LAUGHTER)

T. GORE: OK. I am sorry. All right.

I don't know where that came from. I'm sorry. Anyway.

A. GORE: I think our time is up, honey.

(LAUGHTER)

T. GORE: Just one word on photography...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: Well let that speak for itself.

Tipper Gore was referring to one previous speaker's spoof on the book title "The Corrections" and another's pitch for a new caveman novel. As for her message, as we said, we're going to let you figure it out for yourself.

Up next, on our "Back Page": John McCain's newfound friends across the political aisle and one thing they all have in common -- the self-styled Republican maverick and his appeal to Democrats -- plus, an inside look at McCain's fight to pass campaign finance reform.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: ... a political horizon, for people to see that there will be a political solution that the parties in the region and the international community will be working on.

We also reviewed our bilateral relations. It didn't take a long time, because they are very solid. And we deeply appreciate all the support that His Majesty and his government has given to our efforts over the past eight or so months since 9/11.

And, Your Majesty, thank you for that support, and welcome again to the State Department.

KING ABDULLAH, JORDAN: Thank you very much. Thank you, Mr. Secretary.

Again, it's a great pleasure to be back in Washington. And we're here again to see what we can do in Jordan to work with the American administration and the American government to try and move the Israelis and the Palestinians forward, hopefully to find a solution to the impasse that has befallen all of us in the recent weeks. And we hope that over the next couple of days that we will assist in coming out with a vision that allows a hope and future for Israelis and Palestinian alike.

Thank you very much.

QUESTION: Mr. Powell, have you suggested to -- have you discussed with His Majesty the suggested U.S. peace conference to be held in the summer? What is the U.S. vision for that conference? And how do you see the role that Jordan can play in such a conference?

POWELL: Yes, we did discuss it. What I've said to His Majesty is that this meeting that we are proposing for the summer is a continuation of a process of discussions and events and meetings that we have had since President Bush's April 4 speech, followed by my trip to the region, followed by the kinds of consultations we're having this week with His Majesty, with Prince Saud, the Saudi foreign minister, with Prime Minister Sharon, bringing in ideas, gathering information, looking for a way forward that deals with the security problem, the humanitarian/economic problem and the political problem that we all have.

And so the Jordanians I'm sure will play an important and vital role as we move forward, as being a nation that is deeply concerned about the region, and His Majesty's concern about the plight of the Palestinian people is well known. And I look forward to receiving advice and counsel from His Majesty and the Jordanian government as we structure our plans in the weeks ahead.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, there's just been an arrest by Jordan of four Palestinian men in connection with arms smuggling. What can you tell us about that, if anything?

POWELL: I haven't heard about it. Perhaps His Majesty has.

ABDULLAH: Arms smuggling happens all the time, so I don't have any detailed information right now.

QUESTION: Secretary Powell, what you just outlined there sounds like a comprehensive peace vision that you have for the Middle East, quite different from the one that Prime Minister Sharon is thinking of here in Washington. He's talking about much more of a step-by-step approach, incremental...

POWELL: I don't believe I said that we had a comprehensive vision. I think what I said is we're talking to all the parties; we're consulting with all of the parties and trying to determine what could be usefully achieved at this meeting with respect to a security track, with respect to humanitarian and economic support for the people in the region. And I think Prime Minister Sharon is likewise interested in that, and what kind of political dimension we can point to as a way forward.

And there are different points of view on that political dimension, and what we'll be discussing with our friends in the weeks ahead is the nature of a comprehensive settlement, or a settlement that would involve way stations on the way to a comprehensive settlement. We have not made a judgment on this, and that's why we're consulting with our friends.

There are lots of different ideas out there, but sooner or later you've got to bring all these ideas together where reasonable people can sit down and begin to discuss the ideas to see how to go forward.

And the meeting we're talking about for this summer would not be a one-time meeting. It would be yet another step on our way forward. And we look forward to continuing to consult with our Jordanian friends on this process.

Thank you.

WOODRUFF: Secretary of State Colin Powell, who has just concluded his meeting with King Abdullah of Jordan, describing in some detail, at least at this point, the administration is envisioning efforts to reach a comprehensive peace.

But, as you just heard the secretary say, no promises that what they will end up doing this summer is having a comprehensive discussion of the issues. He said what we may end up with is just way stations along the way.

We're going to take a break, but first let's go to Wolf Blitzer, who is in Jerusalem, for a look at what is ahead at top of the hour -- Wolf.

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

We're going to be going live to Bethlehem, where they are apparently very, very close to a breakthrough in ending that standoff that has been going on for nearly five weeks. We'll have a live report. We will also speak live with Palestinian and Israeli officials on what's next, especially as President Bush prepares to meet with Prime Minister Sharon tomorrow. And I will also speak with Palestinians and Israelis who have lost loved ones in this fighting over these past several months.

It is all coming up right at the top of the hour, a special edition of "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS" live from Jerusalem right after INSIDE POLITICS.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: We're going to hold off on our interview with Elizabeth Drew about her book "Citizen McCain." We'll do that tomorrow.

But, for now, another chapter in the Nixon chronicles: A new batch of more than 100,000 papers from Richard Nixon's presidency was made public today.

And, as our Bruce Morton reports, the documents have relevance to international relations today.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When President Bush leaves for Moscow later this month, he will have a briefing book: background on issues on the Russians he will meet. It will be secret.

But Richard Nixon's briefing book for his trip to Moscow just 30 years ago is now public, still stamped "sensitive eyes only" -- notes on Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev and a memo from National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger: "He resents his image as a brutal, unrefined person. He is trying to live down his long history of drunkenness. He enjoys fancy cars, natty clothes... his anecdotes ... avoid the images of the barnyard." Brezhnev's predecessor, Nikita Khrushchev, had liked those.

Brezhnev liked to sneak off to soccer games or other diversions. China's Chou En-lai -- Nixon had visited China earlier in 1972 -- is Mandarin, cool. Brezhnev is Slavic, warm. Brezhnev worried about the Chinese, claiming they planned to shoot him, hang his No. 2, Alexei Kosygin, and boil Anastas Mikoyan alive.

In the briefing book, Kissinger recounts saying that Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko looks a bit like President Nixon. Gromyko: "The president said that to me himself. Next time in Washington, I will pick a dark night and try to walk into the White House." He didn't, of course. Finally, from talking points prepared for a Nixon meeting with Arab leaders in 1973: "Our position is that fighting should stop and that it should be followed by a serious diplomatic effort to reach a final peaceful settlement. We stand ready to play a part."

Weeks later, Egypt and Syria attacked Israeli forces in the Yom Kippur War. Some things don't change.

Bruce Morton, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: And before we go, we'll tell you a little about what is in works for tomorrow's INSIDE POLITICS. We will have extensive coverage of the meetings between President Bush and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon -- those meetings scheduled to get under way in the 4:00 hour, when we are on the air. And, as we said just a moment ago, we will have our interview with Elizabeth Drew, author of the new book on John McCain, "Citizen McCain."

That's it for now. CNN's coverage continues with "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS." Thanks for joining us. I'm Judy Woodruff.

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



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