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CNN INSIDE POLITICS

Pre-September 11 Warnings Draw Congressional Reaction

Aired May 17, 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 the partisan maneuvering continues over pre-9/11 terror warnings, what other revelations may surface?

KELLY WALLACE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I'm Kelly Wallace at the White House. President Bush is defending himself against second-guessers and trying to turn the tables back on Democrats.

JONATHAN KARL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Jonathan Karl on Capitol Hill. Was Senator Hillary Clinton unfairly taken to task by the White House? I'll have reaction from the Clinton camp.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: I'm Bill Schneider in Washington. I'll connect all of the dots in this terror warning flap to reveal the political play of the week.

WOODRUFF: Thank you for joining us. The president's aides had been in damage control for more than 24 hours when President Bush himself spoke up today in his own defense. During a White House event he responded to the controversy over the vague warning that he received about a month before September 11th, of a possible hijacking by Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know what's interesting about Washington, it's a town -- unfortunately, it's the kind of place where second-guessing has become second nature. The American people know this about me and my national security team and my administration: had I known that the enemy was going to use airplanes to kill on that fateful morning, I would have done everything in my power to protect the American people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: But even as Mr. Bush was speaking, new questions were being asked about a terrorism report dating back to 1999. Our White House correspondent Kelly Wallace is here. Kelly, what is in that report?

WALLACE: Well, Judy, I have a portion of the report here, as you say, dating back to 1999. It was called "The Sociology and Psychology of Terrorism," ordered up by an agency during the Clinton administration and prepared by the Library of Congress. This report suggesting that al Qaeda operatives could do a range of things, such as participate in suicide bombing missions, ramming commercial planes into buildings, such as the CIA, the Pentagon and the White House.

Now, White House officials say they never knew anything about this report, that they're just learning about it today. They say it was not based on intelligence information and they say the previous administration didn't call attention to it.

Members of Congress back in 1999 did not call attention to it. And so they are saying they just are finding out about it now. But it is a difficult question for this administration. There was some information out there suggesting that a hijacking might not be traditional, that it could turn into something else.

And we do know, Judy, that Republican Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa is calling on the CIA to do an investigation to find out what the CIA did with this report, did with this information, and why was it or was not passed along to this administration and to other agencies -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Kelly, we notice that Ari Fleischer was a little more aggressive today in talking to reporters at his briefing. How would you describe the White House strategy in dealing with all this?

WALLACE: Well, it's two-fold. No. 1, of course, you have the president speaking out today. You also had the first lady, Laura Bush, issuing a statement in Europe. The administration saying also it will cooperate with any congressional investigation.

But you also have the administration suggesting that some Democrats might be playing politics with this. And also Ari Fleischer suggesting that Democrats knew about some information, the possibility of a terrorist attack, last summer and suggesting that Democrats perhaps weren't talking to each other.

Now, Democrats are saying they are not playing politics, Judy, they are simply asking questions that they say are very legitimate, and are seeking answers from the White House -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right, Kelly Wallace at the White House. As Kelly was just saying as the White House presses its charge that the Democrats are trying to turn this into a political issue, a certain New York senator was singled out for criticism.

Our congressional correspondent, Jonathan Karl, is here with more on that -- Jonathan.

KARL: Exactly right. The White House counterattack singled out New York's junior senator.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(voice-over): For the White House, the only thing more upsetting than this "New York Post" headline on Thursday was Senator Clinton's reaction. SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: Questions raised by one of our newspapers in New York, with the headline "Bush Knew." The president knew what? My constituents would like to know the answer to that and many other questions. Not to blame the president or any other American, but just to know.

KARL: The White House says when New York Mayor Bloomberg saw the headline, he called the White House.

FLEISCHER: I have to say the disappointment that Mrs. Clinton. having seen that same headline, did not call the White House, did not ask if it was accurate or not.

Instead, she immediately went to the floor of the Senate and, I'm sorry to say that, she followed that headline and divided.

KARL: Advisers to Senator Clinton immediately took issue with Fleischer's comments, saying the senator never criticized the president, but was simply asking the same questions asked by her constituents. In New York, reporters asked Senator Clinton for a response.

CLINTON: We have a responsibility to ask for information. And I think that is not only appropriate, but necessary. You know, nobody is more entitled to answers to some of these questions than the people of New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KARL: The White House is also seeking to turn the tables on the Democrats by asking the question, what did Congress know and when did they know it? To bolster the case that the White House is saying that the congressional intelligence committees had the very same information or similar information that the president had, the White House has dug up a quote from Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, member of the intelligence committee, back in July, two months before the attack on September 11th, on CNN.

On "LATE EDITION," where Dianne Feinstein said -- quote -- "intelligence staff have told me that there was a major probability of a terrorist incident within the next three months."

Now, Senator Dianne Feinstein is responding to that by saying, yes, the intelligence committees did have generalized information about the possibility of a major terrorist attack. And she says that she tried very hard to talk to the vice president about bolstering homeland defense at that time.

And she said that in a conversation she had with Vice President Cheney's chief of staff on September 10th, Judy, she said that something needs to be done now. And she was told it would have to wait six months.She says that she said to the vice president's chief of staff that she didn't believe that we had six months -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right, I'm sure we're going to be hearing from the vice president's staff, his chief of staff, Scooter Libby, on what Senator Feinstein had to say. Jon Karl, thanks very much.

While both political parties try to cast this controversy in a light that works to their own political advantage, the American people are beginning to decide whose spin they buy. Here is our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Could it have been prevented?

REP. RICHARD GEPHARDT (D-MO), MINORITY LEADER: What we have do now is to find out what the president, what the White House knew about the events leading up to 9/11.

CROWLEY: The questions are torturous at a personal level. The questions are important at a policy level.

SEN. TOM DASCHLE (D-SD), MAJORITY LEADER: I'm gravely concerned about the information provided us just yesterday, that the president received a warning in August about the threat of hijackers by Osama bin Laden and his organization.

CROWLEY: And the questions are provocative on the political level.

DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What I want to say to my Democratic friends in the Congress, is that they need to be very cautious not to seek political advantage by making incendiary suggestions, as were made by some today, that the White House had advance information that would have prevented the tragic attacks of 9/11.

CROWLEY: The problem with politics is that everybody thinks the other party is playing.

JOE LOCKHART, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I think Vice President Cheney's speech us to last night was outrageous, sort of creating a threatening attitude, where if you ask any questions, if you ask any questions you will undermine the war, we'll will brand you as un- American.

ED GILLESPIE, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I think the Democrats in Congress have been flailing about for some time, trying to figure out a way to bring the president's high approval ratings down. I don't think this approach will work for them. In fact, i think it may backfire.

CROWLEY: In fact, the latest CNN-"USA Today"-Gallup poll shows 66 percent of Americans say their opinion of the president is not changed by recent revolutions. Of the 32 percent who feel less favorably toward the president, 48 percent are Democrats, 34 percent independents, 10 percent Republicans.

And neither do normally liberal editorial pages seem much impressed with the last 24 hours. In an editorial entitled "The Blame Game," "The New York Times" warned Congressional Democrats, "they should remember that the House and Senate intelligence committees received some of the same intelligence reports. We don't recall a rising clamor from Congress last summer."

"The tempest," said "The Washington Post," "seems overblown."

Still, there are warning signs within the polls that Democrats may have exposed a soft spot in the Bush administration. Sixty-eight percent of those questioned said the Bush administration should have much earlier disclosed the news that the president had been told of a general threat of hijacking by al Qaeda members.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

After a rough 24 hours, the president sought to turn the corner and the country's attention back to what he believes is the main story. This is an enemy that's not going to quit, he said today. This country must have the will and determination to chase these killers down one by one.

And he added quite pointedly, "that's exactly what will happen, so long as I am president." Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right, Candy Crowley, thanks very much.

Post September 11th politics may eventually turn to a large degree on whether intelligence problems are solved or terrorists are able to strike again. Our national security correspondent David Ensor reports on whether change is really in the works.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID ENSOR, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Did U.S. intelligence have clues which together could have helped avert 9-11? Should the intelligence community be reorganized and better equipped to put the pieces together?

SEN. BOB GRAHAM (D-FL), INTELLIGENCE CMTE. CHMN: There wasn't a single point of contact for analysis and reporting of what was going on. We failed to put the puzzle together before the horrific event.

REP. PORTER GOSS, (R-FL), INTELLIGENCE CMTE.: The fact is, we do need to make some changes. I think we've discussed before that the basic architecture of our intelligence structure is flawed.

ENSOR: Right now, the CIA director is also the nominal head of the whole intelligence community -- the director of central intelligence. But George Tenet has no real power over the biggest three agencies, which report instead to the Pentagon.

The National Security Agency, which cracks codes and eavesdrops, the National Reconnaissance Office, which deploys spy satellites and the national imagery and mapping agency which analyzes spy photos all get their money and marching orders from Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. He does not want that to change.

DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: I doubt if it will happen. Don't know. We'll see.

ENSOR: After 9-11 President Bush and CIA director George Tenet asked a former senior official, Brent Scowcroft, to recommend reform if needed. Scowcroft's panel recommended sweeping changes, sources say, designed to make intelligence agencies report directly to Tenet, and to use more resources against terrorism rather than for military intelligence goals.

GOSS: If the Defense Department is spending all the money to get products for their troops, there's not enough money to get the right kind of equipment and the right kind of intelligence going to our national leaders. That has been a tension that has been going on for some years.

ENSOR: For now, the Scowcroft recommendations are languishing in the bureaucracy. Pentagon sources say officials are preparing a counterproposal, which would increase their control over all of the intelligence agencies, except CIA.

But opponents of change appear to have a powerful ally.

CHENEY: It's important for us to avoid a situation in which we spend so much time moving the boxes around on the chart and redrawing wiring diagrams, that we lose sight of our basic requirements and mission here.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ENSOR: The Bush administration is wary of taking on the huge task of reorganizing intelligence in a city where power brokers fiercely resist change. It may be a good idea, one senior official said to me, but we've got our hands full already -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right, David Ensor, thank you.

Still ahead, more on the September 11th political fallout. We will ask key members of the House an Senate intelligence committees what they knew or didn't know about pre-9/11 warnings.

How did Senator Ted Kennedy appall and then surprise Republicans? Bob Novak will have the "Inside Buzz."

And later, Kate Snow takes us inside Castro's Cuba, and inside halls of power that seemly eerily familiar.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Questions about how the government responded to the terror warnings received before September 11th have sparked plenty of comment on Capitol Hill. We're going to discuss the issue with members of both parties, first Democrat Nancy Pelosi of the House intelligence committee. She spoke with our Candy Crowley earlier today.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) CROWLEY: Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, Democratic whip of the House, ranking member of the House intelligence committee, thank you for joining us today.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), CALIFORNIA: My pleasure.

CROWLEY: I want to start right out with turning a question around and ask you, what did the House intelligence committee know and when did it know it?

PELOSI: This is an interesting question, because over the period of time from 1993 until the year 2001, we had received reports which were contain in the president's presidential daily briefing. What's different from what we knew and what the president knew is that we received the information over time, over years.

The president, someone made a decision to put all of that information, gleaning it, taking it from volumes of information, and putting specific reporting on one piece of paper that day, to the president.

CROWLEY: Then do you think that the president, based on the knowledge he was given, that you weren't given specifically in that same form, do you think the president acted negligently? I mean, what went wrong here? What is the uproar about?

PELOSI: First of all, I think that any president of the United States would do anything in his power to protect our country. I think also that the information that the White House received was different in the way it is presented to the president from the Congress, and that the president has a larger responsibility as commander-in-chief, in charge of our national security, law enforcement, et cetera.

I think that the concern here is that the administration should have, I think, made this information known to the public following September 11th, because there were reports, one after another, that we didn't have any indication that anything like this was possible.

Well, certainly flying planes into buildings is unimaginable to any sane person. But nonetheless, hijacking, a loss of life of any kind is troublesome. I think it would take some inquiry to see what else accompanied the briefing, a piece of paper that the president received, what the conversations were.

But I would say, of course, I would come down on the side of saying that I know that any president would make a judgment in favor of protecting our country. So I'm not saying that I have a complaint with the White House. I'm just saying the public deserves more information.

CROWLEY: If you found out in October that the president had gotten this general briefing as opposed to now in May, what difference does that make?

PELOSI: Well, the inquiry will tell us that. I mean, I do think that as a comfort of the families, they seem to have a sadness over not having the fullest awareness of what the warning signs were. They don't think they want the warning signs to be diminished.

But I think that cooler heads have to prevail here. And it's not about assigning blame. What we want to do is prevent it from happening again. And if we can't go into this without saying that any turf is sacred, that we can't look into, inquire about, where an opportunity was missed -- regardless of where that is, in the Congress, in the oversight committee, in the White House, in the administration.

Let's hope that everybody did everything expected and possible to prevent this from happening. But I don't think that we should ignore something that could say to us, this is a place that if we had done things differently or saw it in a different context, that we might have prevented this. Because we want to prevent something from happening in the future, and that is their main goal.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Nancy Pelosi talking to Candy Crowley a short time ago.

Arizona Republican Jon Kyl is a member of the Senate intelligence committee. He's standing by now on Capitol Hill. Senator, did the administration in any way drop the ball, when it comes to acting aggressively on the information it had?

SEN. JON KYL (R), ARIZONA: The president acted entirely appropriately. What our investigation will find is that the FBI, the CIA and other agencies of the government, all for one degree or another, failed to do exactly what in retrospect we believe they should have done.

In fact, the FBI director Bob Mueller has already testified in the Senate that the FBI should have followed up the so-called Phoenix memorandum a lot more thoroughly. And he's already begun to change the structure of the FBI to deal with the probable cause of that failure.

WOODRUFF: Does it trouble you at all, Senator, that it took eight months for the administration to disclose publicly that it had this information about al Qaeda and possible hijackings?

KYL: This was well known. As a matter of fact, I hold in my hand a February 1998 press release that talks about much of this same information. It's the same information that Senator Feinstein was talking about just a few months before this bombing.

It was known to everybody publicly that had anything do with the terrorist investigations. And what the president was told was generally, fairly unremarkable. Essentially, what I'm told he was told -- and Dr. Rice made this all clear yesterday -- was that we're getting increased reports of possible terrorist activity.

Most of it is, insofar as Americans are concerned, aimed at our embassies or Americans abroad. But we can't discount the possibility of an attack here in the United States. (CROSSTALK)

KYL: Quickly, just one thought. Osama bin Laden is one of the key actors here. And among the things he and his people have talked about are A, B, C, D and E. And E was the possible kidnapping of an aircraft for the purpose of getting some of his lieutenants out of jail.

So all of these things were well known to us, and nothing of the sort that would cause the president to issue a warning.

WOODRUFF: Speaking of Senator Feinstein, as you may now, she is now saying in response to what Ari Fleischer said today at the White House, that she tried repeatedly to get the administration, including the office of the vice president, to move on reform of counterintelligence structures and homeland defense capabilities.

But Mr. Libby told her, we've got to wait at least six months.

KYL: Well -- and I'm familiar with that. She and I worked on this together and I had conversations with Mr. Libby and so on. This is really a separate issue. And prior to September 11th, I don't think anyone assigned quite the degree of importance to it that we now do.

The other side of this is, the information that the intelligence community had been bringing to the president. And my point is that the president didn't know anything on that, in that August briefing, that would have caused any reasonable person to go public and say we want to issue a warning to you.

It just wasn't that specific. And as I say, no reasonable person would have taken that public and started to say to people, don't fly on airplanes, for example.

WOODRUFF: All right, Senator Jon Kyl, thank you very much for being with us. We appreciate it.

KYL: You bet.

WOODRUFF: Yasser Arafat has some new conditions that he wants met before he holds new elections. What he said, next in the "Newscycle."

Plus, more on September 11th and its warning signs. Bay Buchanan and Donna Brazile consider the political fallout.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Among the stories in our "Newscycle," President Bush said today that second-guessing is second nature in Washington. He said if he had known America was going to be attacked on September 11th, quote, "I would have done everything in my power to protect the American people."

Yasser Arafat says there will be no Palestinian elections until Israel withdraws from Palestinian territories. A top Palestinian official later said that elections will go forward within six months, if Israeli troops pull back and travel restrictions are lifted.

With us now, former Gore campaign manager Donna Brazile and Bay Buchanan, president of American Cause. Donna, here we are day two after the revelation that there was information given to the president, given to the White House, about al Qaeda network possibly planning hijackings. Where do we stand in all of this?

DONNA BRAZILE, FMR. GORE CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Well, Judy, this is still a national security matter and I believe it's a legitimate question that should be raised on Capitol Hill. The media is raising questions, members of the media, of course, the general public, victims of 9/11. So I believe it's important that Democrats as well as Republicans raise questions so we can find out what happened, and hopefully avoid this from happening again.

BAY BUCHANAN, AMERICAN CAUSE: Judy, this is awful. This is truly awful, what the Democrats are trying to do here. The two questions that they raised yesterday -- I'm sure they'll start to change that -- but the two were: What did the president know and did he take proper action before 9/11? And after 9/11, was he candid and forthright with the American people?

It is quite clear that what he did beforehand was to inform and put on highest alert embassies overseas and military installations as well as the intelligence community. As soon as he heard about the hijacking, he notified the FAA. He notified the airliners and the Transportation Department to do whatever they needed to do. And, in a short eight months, what else did he do? He had a plan on his table to talk about a preemptive strike against Osama bin Laden. He did everything possible. After 9/11, it is quite clear that the administration was completely candid.

BRAZILE: Judy, he did everything but inform the American people. And we deserve a full account of what happened.

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN: You know, what I want to know is, these Democrats, they are on the Intelligence Committee. They knew. What took these weak sisters nine months to tell the American people that the White House was withholding information? Because they were not withholding.

These fellows wouldn't go out there until they had the cover of the press. They are deliberately undermining the faith and confidence of the American people in their commander in chief. And that is what is despicable.

BRAZILE: Bay, you're going on and on about nothing, because the truth is, we still don't know what happened and what information the White House had.

Condoleezza Rice gave us a pretty good overview of some of the information. But we haven't heard from the intelligence agencies. And we should have a full investigation by an independent commission or members of Congress, whatever, nonpartisan, because this should be above politics.

BUCHANAN: Everybody agrees to that. Everybody agrees there was clearly a blunder, an intelligence blunder. Nobody is questioning that.

This administration, in this short a period of time, is actually making some dramatic changes to the intelligence community and mixing it up, so that all this information flows properly, something that the last administration in eight years did not do, knowing Osama bin Laden...

BRAZILE: Well, see, once again -- and that's the problem.

The problem is for that, for the last eight months, what we've heard from the White House is blame, blame, blame, and not taking responsibility for protecting the homeland and for fighting to make sure that this does not happen again.

And I think the American people deserve a full accounting.

BUCHANAN: There was no blaming.

BRAZILE: And we should get it from the administration or from Congress, weak sisters or strong sisters. And, by the way, no one ever would call Hillary Clinton a weak sister. She's a strong sister.

BUCHANAN: Hillary is the last one who should talk, because, for eight years -- Osama bin Laden didn't become the No. 1 terrorist overnight. It was years. He was linked...

BRAZILE: She was speaking out because people died in New York. And those families are calling her. She's the senator.

BUCHANAN: Yes, and let me ask. What was her husband doing for the years that Osama bin Laden was linked to the embassy bombings, to the USS Cole bombing? What were they doing?

(CROSSTALK)

BRAZILE: I can tell you what they did do. They averted many of the crises that they learned about. And that's what they did. And President Clinton and Vice President Gore took responsible action to stop the millennium bombing from occurring.

So, I believe this is not about finger-pointing. This is about moving forward to make sure that we protect the American people, protect the homeland. And there's nothing wrong with raising questions.

BUCHANAN: You know, Donna, you're smarter than they are, because the blame started not after 9/11. This administration has never blamed anyone. They have looked at this. They said: "We did what we could. This is a terrible thing. We're going to respond quickly." And they are doing everything in their power.

But it's the Democrats in the last two days that started saying, "Oh, my gosh, what did he know and when did he know it?"

BRAZILE: For a couple of days, the Republican National Committee was out there hustling photos of 9/11.

BUCHANAN: And you criticized that.

BRAZILE: Absolutely.

BUCHANAN: And now the Democrats are using this to undermine the American people's trust in their commander in chief in order for their own political gains. That is what is unacceptable.

BRAZILE: Well, it's been the Republicans who have questioned the patriotism of the Democrats. And I think that should be put to rest.

(CROSSTALK)

WOODRUFF: I hate to break this up, you better believe it, but it's Friday afternoon.

BRAZILE: It's a love fest.

(LAUGHTER)

WOODRUFF: But we'll give you all the weekend to cool down and we'll talk to you next week.

Bay Buchanan, Donna Brazile, we appreciate it. Good to see you both. Thanks.

Still ahead: How might the fallout over terrorism warnings affect the future of Homeland Security Chief Tom Ridge? Bob Novak will have the "Inside Buzz" on that right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: With us now from George Washington University here in Washington with some "Inside Buzz": our Bob Novak.

All right, Bob, what are you hearing? What's the reaction at the White House to all this criticism by some of the administration's -- the way it handled what it knew before 9/11?

ROBERT NOVAK, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Judy, there are people in the West Wing of the White House who think the president is going to have to do something to take the offensive, not just be on the defensive all the time.

And there are some people in the West Wing who have always felt that Tom Ridge, the head of homeland security, should be a Cabinet member. That would be a sign that the president was more focused on this. But he's against that. Vice President Cheney is against it. I think it is an uphill road. But that is a debate within the White House.

WOODRUFF: All right, we're going to move quickly to the artillery system known as the Crusader: House Republican leadership trying to decide how to handle this messy issue?

NOVAK: This is a real problem.

J.C. Watts, a member of the leadership, Congressman from Oklahoma, his district includes the factory that the Crusader is supposed to be assembled in near Fort Sill, Oklahoma. He is really upset about that. He boycotted when the president came up to the Hill to address the House Republican conference. And J.C. is supposed to preside over the conference.

The members of the leadership tell me this is a real problem for him. The president wants the Crusader eliminated. He says he'll veto the defense organization bill if he doesn't. And J.C. Watts says he may be forced to run in a district against another Republican congressman, Ernest Istook. He says, "I need the Crusader." That's a real problem.

WOODRUFF: It gets messy when you have got one incumbent running against another one.

NOVAK: You're right.

WOODRUFF: Bob, who was the surprise at the dinner honoring Nancy and Ronald Reagan the other night?

NOVAK: I was there at that dinner at the Reagan Building. And on the list of the three speakers, you had Trent Lott, OK, Dennis Hastert, OK, and Teddy Kennedy.

This was a very Republican conservative audience. And they were saying: "Who in the world put Teddy Kennedy on this? Come on. Give me a break. This is terrible."

When he got up to speak, he delivered an absolutely fabulous appreciation of Ronald Reagan as a president of hope. People had tears in their eyes. He got the only standing ovation of the evening, aside from Nancy Reagan, of course. Judy, there is nobody who can deliver a short speech in this country like Teddy Kennedy, even to a Republican audience.

WOODRUFF: Well, before we let you go, there's somebody we know who has had a seventh grandchild. Who might that person be?

NOVAK: That is my daughter, Zelda Caldwell (ph), and her husband, Chris (ph) Caldwell, who often appears on CNN. They have a young 6 -- a handsome, I should say, 6 pound, 11 ounce baby named George William Caldwell, their fourth child, my seventh grandchild.

WOODRUFF: Well, if it's a Novak grandchild, it means he's got to be great.

NOVAK: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: Congratulations to all of you.

NOVAK: Thank you. WOODRUFF: Thanks, Bob. We'll see you next week.

Checking the headlines now in our "Campaign News Daily": A judge says that Harry and Louise can stay on the air. The fictional couple star in an ad for CuresNow Action, a pro-cloning research group. The Health Insurance Association of America had sued to block the ads, arguing that the characters belonged to them because the insurance group created the couple almost 10 years ago for ads designed to block the Clinton health care proposals.

A new poll finds two Michigan Democrats in a dead heat in the primary race for governor. Attorney General Jennifer Granholm and former Governor Jim Blanchard are tied at 36 percent. Congressman David Bonior trailed with just 10 percent.

Minority leader Trent Lott is the latest GOP senator to campaign for South Carolina's Lindsey Graham. Within the last week, Senators John McCain and Kay Bailey Hutchison also have traveled to the Palmetto State to help Congressman Graham in his race to succeed the retiring Senator Strom Thurmond.

And straight ahead: history and Ronald Reagan.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SR. ANALYST: ... ideas, the conservative ideas that now dominate the Republican Party.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: Our Jeff Greenfield on why the 40th president will always be first in the hearts of Republicans.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Former first lady Nancy Reagan was back in Washington this week to accept the Congressional Gold Medal for herself and on her husband's behalf.

CNN's Jeff Greenfield has some thoughts on Ronald Reagan's enduring stature among his most loyal supporters.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GREENFIELD: A lavish black-tie dinner in his honor, a Congressional Gold Medal of Freedom, an airport named after him in the nation's capital: all tributes to former President Reagan.

His place in history will evolve over decades. But what these honors reflect in part is that Ronald Reagan has already earned one historical marker that will be enduring. He has become the most admired, even revered president within his own Republican Party.

(voice-over): Once upon a time, it was Abraham Lincoln, the first Republican elected to the White House and the first presidential martyr. But Lincoln is more a national icon than an embodiment of any Republican ideology.

Theodore Roosevelt was wildly popular a century ago, a giant of a political force. But when he tried to regain the White House in 1912, he split the Republican Party. Moreover, many of his passions -- conservation, for example -- are not exactly front and center for today's Republicans. And his attacks on big corporations and malefactors of great wealth sound suspiciously like the class warfare conservatives dislike.

What about Ike? Well, Eisenhower did bring the GOP back to the White House after 20 years in the wilderness, but he basically had no ideology. He was much more a national hero. And Nixon? He has his admirers, but those Watergate memories still linger.

Reagan, on the other hand, was a passionate conservative before he ever ran for office.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RONALD REAGAN: I've never known a man in my life I believed so incapable of doing a dishonest or dishonorable thing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GREENFIELD: He first gained fame speaking out for the doomed campaign of Barry Goldwater. He was a warrior for ideas, the conservative ideas that now dominate the Republican Party.

Second, he survived the martyr's fate. Recovering from an assassination attempt made him larger than life. Third, he won -- twice, by landslides -- and, in 1980, swept Republicans into power in the Senate. A political party really likes that kind of clout.

And he governed with an easy touch, a sense of grace. Given the polarizing combat that has defined more recent politics, Reagan, in retrospect, seems to be what Franklin Roosevelt used to call Al Smith: "a happy warrior."

(on camera): There are, to be sure, some ironies here. Reagan embodied traditional values, but he lived in Hollywood, rarely went to church, and was the first divorced candidate ever to win the White House.

He scorned big government. But the federal government was just as big when he left as when he arrived. And his deficits set records. On the other hand, Reagan long argued that international communism would collapse if the West would stand firm enough. And it did.

Again, historians will sift out this record, but, as far as Republicans go, Ronald Reagan is their FDR and JFK combined.

Jeff Greenfield, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Next: From Cuba, Kate Snow tells us about her exclusive interview with former President Jimmy Carter. And she will take us under the dome in Havana, where similarities to its Washington counterpart are striking.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Former President Jimmy Carter wrapped up his visit to Cuba today, proclaiming it very successful.

In an exclusive interview with CNN's Kate Snow, Carter stood by his comments about Bush administration allegations that Cuba is trying to develop biological weapons.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIMMY CARTER, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No one ever raised any question to me about bioterrorism, knowing that I was coming here and the importance of my visit.

And you've quoted accurately the direct question that I asked the intelligence briefers. "Is there now or has there been any evidence that Cuba contributes to any foreign country in the promotion of terrorism?" And the answer was emphatic, "No."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: Kate Snow is now with us from Havana.

Kate, you usually cover Capitol Hill. And I understand that you found yourself, once got down to Havana, in surprisingly familiar surroundings?

KATE SNOW, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes.

Actually, if you walk downtown to Old Havana, Judy, you see something that looks like the states, El Capitolio, they call it here, the Capitol Building. The similarities are striking, the Capitol here split just like the U.S. Capitol, Senate on one side, House on the other.

But there are differences. For on thing, it doesn't have the wings that were added on to the U.S. Capitol. For another, the most striking difference is that they don't use the building as a functioning legislature.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(voice-over): It's a lot younger than its U.S. counterpart. The Cuban Capitol was completed in 1929, the dome's exterior inspired by St. Peter's Basilica.

Marlene Riscard (ph) is our guide. Inside, it bears a striking resemblance to the dome on the U.S. Capitol.

(on camera): This is interesting, because we have something very similar in the United States. (SPEAKING IN SPANISH) (voice-over): Just like the center of Washington's dome marks the dead center of that city, a crystal in Havana is the zero mark for measuring distances to anywhere else in Cuba.

MARLENE RISCARD, GUIDE (through translator): From floor to ceiling, perfect symmetry. The lamps are strangely familiar, very similar to some outside the U.S. Capitol.

"There was a strong North American cultural influence in Cuba at the time they were constructing the building," she says. But there are differences -- courtyards filled with palm trees, for one.

(on camera): So this was where the speaker of the House had his office.

(voice-over): It's just off the floor of what was Cuba's lower chamber. The galleries were for the public. In 1929, 54 representatives sat in this chamber. That number had tripled by the time Fidel Castro took power.

(on camera): When did it close?

(voice-over): December 31, 1958. The chamber has been empty ever since. Besides tours, the building is now used by the Ministry of Science. Castro did create a national assembly, but it usually meets just twice a year for two or three days -- and not here. Castro did not want his legislature linked to this symbol of the past.

We end in what used to be the Cuban Library of Congress, a gorgeous room in an impressive building, a building so similar to its counterpart in Washington D.C. and yet, in so many ways, a world apart.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW: There's a statue in the middle of that courtyard that you saw there, Judy. It's a statue of the devil, of Lucifer. And I asked our guide, "Why would they put the devil in the middle with all those legislators?" And she laughed at that. She said that's too long to explain.

(LAUGHTER)

SNOW: On a more serious note, Judy, they turned on the lights for us in that library. You noticed they were all illuminated. They did that special just for us. And our guide said, "Oh, they never do that anymore," because they're trying to save on energy here.

It was sort of striking in a way -- to me, anyway, as an American -- that it was sad that they don't use this building anymore, at least not for what it was originally intended -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Well, the resemblance is certainly striking to the U.S. Capitol.

Kate Snow, thanks very much. You've had quite a week. Thanks for all your reporting.

SNOW: Sure.

WOODRUFF: A cool head and a blurry picture up next in the "Political Play of the Week."

But, first, Wolf joins us from Jerusalem with a preview of what's coming up on "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS" -- hi there.

WOLF BLITZER, "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS": Hi, Judy.

We'll follow up on all those 9/11 warnings. And I'll speak live with the former head of Saudi intelligence and ask him what the Saudis knew and when they knew it. I'll also get some perspective from a man who has advised several presidents, David Gergen.

It is all coming up, that and much more, right at the top of the hour, right after INSIDE POLITICS.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Here now our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider -- Bill.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Judy, yesterday was a day of great danger for President Bush.

Washington dusted off its scandal script: What did the president know and when did he know it? And by the end of the day, it didn't look quite so bad for the president.

What happened? The "Political Play of the Week," that's what happened.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(voice-over): The big question was: Why didn't the White House connect the dots? The CIA warning about a hijacking threat, the memorandum from an FBI agent in Phoenix about terrorist groups sending students to American flight schools, the arrest of one such student, Zacarias Moussaoui, in Minnesota.

The press secretary evaded the question.

ARI FLEISCHER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The simple answer to that is, as a result of September 11, our government learned a lot of things.

SCHNEIDER: Let's try that again with the national security adviser.

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Neither the president nor I have a recollection of ever hearing about the Phoenix memo in the time prior to September 11.

SCHNEIDER: But there were two dots. RICE: I don't recall seeing anything of this kind.

SCHNEIDER: A reporter asks, "on Phoenix or on Moussaoui?"

RICE: On either -- prior to September 11.

SCHNEIDER: There you go. The president couldn't connect the dots because he never saw all the dots. He just saw one dot: the CIA briefing about the hijacking threat, 1 1/2 pages long, based on a three-year-old British source. Can't see much of a pattern from one blurry dot.

Condoleezza Rice protected the president, just as Admiral John Poindexter did in 1987 when he told the Iran-Contra hearings, "The buck stops here with me."

So President Bush could go out and say:

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Had I known that the enemy was going to use airplanes to kill on that fateful morning, I would have done everything in my power to protect the American people.

SCHNEIDER: Dr. Rice was cool, composed and analytical.

RICE: On August 1, the FBI issued another inlet, on the upcoming third East Africa bombing anniversary.

SCHNEIDER: Her message: "This is not about politics."

Oh, but it was. It was the "Political Play of the Week."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER: And the difference was, it took eight months for John Poindexter to make that statement. It took one day for Condi Rice to make her statement.

WOODRUFF: Bill Schneider.

That's it from here. We'll see you next week. Thanks for joining us.

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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