CNN INSIDE POLITICS
Has Chanda Levy's Body Been Found?; Could the Country be Getting Back to Normal?; Deadly Suicide Bombing Rocks an Israeli Town
Aired May 22, 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.
CHARLES RAMSEY, POLICE CHIEF, WASHINGTON D.C.: ... but again, that's something that I don't think he's going to know until he gets there to determine just how difficult it's going to be. Obviously, dental records will play a role in this. And whether or not he's able to make any kind of match remains to be seen.
QUESTION: You have dental records?
RAMSEY: We do have dental records, yes.
RAMSEY: In many cases, it is. But again, DNA analysis is something else that would be performed. But it would give us at least an indication as to whether or not there's a possibility of who this person might be.
QUESTION: Chief, it is possible to make a positive ID from dental records, is it not?
RAMSEY: It is a possibility to make an ID based on dental records. Although with current technology, we're able now, through DNA analysis, to get a far more certain identification.
But I would feel that if we're able to get a match of dental records, we'd be able to safely give an identity of who that person is.
QUESTION: It could be tonight, sir?
RAMSEY: I don't know how long it's going to take. I'm optimistic that we'll find out sometime today, but then again, it could take longer.
QUESTION: Was blood found on any of the clothes?
QUESTION: Could you tell us the condition? Were they burned, ripped?
RAMSEY: I don't want to get into that kind of detail, other than the fact that there was clothing that has been recovered. It is clothing that's consistent with clothing worn by a woman.
RAMSEY: Again, we have not begun to process any of the evidence that we have found, or any of the materials that we have found. For the length of time that the remains have been exposed to the weather, it's unlikely that just by looking you'd be able to identify any trace blood evidence. It would probably require some analysis in a laboratory in order to do that.
QUESTION: Chief, how much of this skeleton has been found since the first bones this morning, sir?
RAMSEY: My understanding, there's quite a bit of the skeletal remains have been located. I don't know if the complete skeleton has been located, but quite a bit.
QUESTION: Do you know if it is a woman?
RAMSEY: Well, again, it takes a forensic pathologist to determine the sex of a skeleton. All I can tell you is that right now, from what we have, it is weighing very heavily on the side of the remains belonging to a woman.
QUESTION: Can you tell whether or not the remains you have found, whether or not there may have been some violence?
RAMSEY: It's too early to tell that right now. We're just in the initial stages. We want to very carefully process this. And a lot of that's going to have to be done by Dr. Arden, as he's able to really take a look at what it is that we found, and hopefully be able to determine a manner and cause of death.
QUESTION: You can call my office. We are getting some stats together. 727-4383.
QUESTION: Have you searched this area before?
RAMSEY: We searched Rock Creek Park, 1,700 acres. But as you can see, this is very difficult terrain. It's a very heavily-wooded area. And we did go through Rock Creek Park, but obviously didn't find anything during the first go-around.
But again, we don't know if the remains have been here since around the time of Ms. Levy's disappearance. We don't know if they could have been left sometime after. All those things will have to be determined by the medical examiner, as to how long they think remains were at the present location.
QUESTION: ... you think the bones were in, or were they strewn on the ground?
RAMSEY: I'm not aware of anything like that having been found. However, there is a wide area that we have yet to search. QUESTION: If you can't identify the remains as belonging to Ms. Levy, will it help the investigation if you can't identify the remains as belonging to Ms. Levy?
RAMSEY: Will it help the investigation? Well, if we can eliminate the remains as being hers, then the investigation continues as a missing person.
QUESTION: But if they aren't hers, will it help your investigation?
RAMSEY: It wouldn't help if it's inconclusive. If there is no information that comes from this, it would not be helpful.
QUESTION: What about jewelry?
QUESTION: What are the Levys saying?
RAMSEY: Well, they're obviously very distraught. This is difficult for them. I mean, they're sitting at home. They're waiting, they're praying. I just spoke to them about 10 minutes ago, I guess. And we're going to keep them as up-to-date on what's going on as possible.
But it's just a very difficult time. They've had a very, very difficult time from the very beginning. I've not seen many people as heartbroken as I have the Levy family, when it comes to dealing with something like this.
QUESTION: Do you know if Ms. Levy's ring, if her ring was found?
RAMSEY: We found a variety of items. I don't have a listing of all the items.
RAMSEY: Other than just in general items of clothing, I'm not going to talk specifically about what we found.
QUESTION: ... a portable radio was found? Are you familiar with that?
RAMSEY: I'm not going to confirm anything specifically that was found. Some items that were recovered, we did in fact inform the Levys of that fact. But I don't believe they've made any comments at all. So, the accuracy of any report that's being reported by any outlet right now, I'm just not going to confirm.
QUESTION: Chief, as you said, Dr. Arden is on his way back to the office now, the laboratory, to attempt a dental comparison. If he is able to reach a conclusion, is he going to be making that announcement, or will you be making that here, sir? RAMSEY: I don't know. My only concern is that the family find out before anybody else find out. The rest of it is really not as important to me, in terms of when the public finds out. My concern is that the family know what's going on.
QUESTION: Will you be making that notification, as opposed to the medical examiner?
RAMSEY: I don't know. It could be either of us, depending on when it happens. I don't know what the time line is going to be around that.
QUESTION: Chief, are the remains at the medical examiner's office now, are they being taken there?
RAMSEY: Some of the remains, they may be there now. They left some time ago. So it may be there, I don't know.
QUESTION: How does this move the investigation forward?
RAMSEY: Well, obviously it would move from a missing person to a death investigation, unless he's able to determine immediately manner and cause of death. So that would certainly shift it to our violent crimes branch, who would handle all death investigations.
QUESTION: Chief, tell us about the area where the remains were found. Is there a trail there?
RAMSEY: It's not along a path. It's really in a remote area. Again, that's why it's taken so long. I mean, someone came across it today. But with all the people that use Rock Creek Park on a regular basis -- and she's been a missing person for quite some time -- this is the first discovery, which says a lot right there about the remote nature of the location.
QUESTION: This is not an area where...
QUESTION: ... makes it more difficult for the medical examiner to determine the cause and manner of death?
RAMSEY: You'd have to speak to the medical examiners just how complicated that makes it. Obviously, it adds a layer of complexity. But we also had someone from the Smithsonian Institute out here along with the medical examiner. So there are ways now in which they can reconstruct from skeletal remains what a person looked like, and so forth. So science has gone a long way.
RAMSEY: That's up to the medical examiner. Again, that's something that they have to determine. And that's all part of the process: manner and cause of death. That's where this would be right now.
But that's all I have additional. As things come up, I'll keep you posted. Thank you.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: We've been listening to D.C. police chief, Charles Ramsey. He is in Rock Creek Park, a massive area within Washington, where this morning some human remains were found, as you heard. There is some high suspicion among reporters and investigators that perhaps these are the remains of Chandra Levy, an intern who has been missing for more than a year.
We have with us Bob Franken, who knows a lot about this story. Bob, put together what we've just heard from the police chief and what you heard from your sources. What do we know?
BOB FRANKEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the combination, what we don't know, first of all, is whether this is for sure Chandra Levy. But we do know now why there is such hope, that perhaps they're moving toward proceeding on this case. They've been very frustrated, as you know.
We heard the police chief talk about the fact that the items of clothing that were found were consistent with those that would be worn by a woman. What we've been told by sources is also that they are consistent with clothing that would have been worn by somebody who was out jogging, exercising.
What was so important about that is that Chandra Levy was really into physical fitness and was someone who jogged. Some associates of hers said that it was not unusual for her, as it is with so many people in Washington, to jog in Rock Creek Park. That's why that was such a focus all the time.
It was searched by -- all 1,700 acres were searched. But as police officials said then and now, it was such an overgrown area in many places that it would not have been unusual for something not to be turned up. That's one possibility.
Police say they're also exploring whether the body possibly was put there after the search. They're, of course, first exploring whether it was a woman. Police say that this is a woman. They're obviously checking for the age of the remains as best they can.
Most importantly, their medical examiner is checking such things as dental records. They hope tonight -- they hope -- that they're able to make a pretty declarative statement, Candy, whether this is Chandra Levy.
CROWLEY: So you think that we ought to know within, before midnight?
FRANKEN: Well, that's what the police are hoping. One never knows. I can tell you that the more definitive DNA tests that would done by the FBI are tests that can take up to weeks. So you will not have the absolute, 100 percent assurance.
But it would probably be high enough before DNA. This would be the kind of evidence that would denote whether it is Chandra Levy. We should know by the end of the day. CROWLEY: Last question. Congressman Gary Condit, who was -- didn't win his primary and is not going to be running for office again, obviously said he had a personal relationship with her. He was a very prominent figure in this. Have policeman been in touch with him, do you know?
FRANKEN: Congressman Condit won't say, the police won't say. Of course, the police, we have to say, repeatedly made the point that Congressman Condit was not a suspect in the disappearance. That Congressman Condit was only important because of the personal relationship he had, the sexual relationship he had, with Chandra Levy, that he acknowledged, according to law enforcement forces, in his third interview with them.
I will point out that a grand jury has been meeting on the case. The grand jury expressed interest in talking with Congressman Condit. In answer to your question again, no one is saying whether he has been contacted.
CROWLEY: Thanks very much, Bob.
As it happened, Chandra Levy's parents taped an interview for the "Oprah Winfrey Show" early this morning. The interview was conducted before we learned about the discovery of the remains in Rock Creek Park. Here's some of what the parents had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT LEVY, CHANDRA'S FATHER: When you're missing a child, you have to maintain the hope, unless you know otherwise.
OPRAH WINFREY, HOST: Are you holding out hope that she will be found now, Dr. and Mrs. Levy, or are you just hoping that somebody will see you today, or who has seen or known something, and will just give you some kind of information? Are you holding out hope that she is alive, or are you holding out hope for closure?
LEVY: Well, we really hope that she's alive. We know under the circumstances, it doesn't seem likely. But, you know, as parents we have to maintain that hope.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: Again, that interview was taped earlier today before the discovery of human remains in Washington's Rock Creek Park.
Some other stories and trends gaining public attention in recent days contain a hint of deja vu. Our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider, is with me now to explain -- Bill.
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Candy, stories about sharks, stories about Chandra, movies about terrorists. Sound familiar? It could be an indication that the country is getting back to normal, if you want to call the obsessions of last summer normal.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) (voice-over): Do Americans believe things are getting back to normal? Yes, actually they do. Earlier this spring, nearly 2/3 of Americans said things in the country were mostly back to normal. But normal doesn't necessarily mean good.
Look at what happened after September 11th. According to the latest Pew poll, the level of satisfaction with the way things were going in the country was down to 41 percent in early September, before the attacks. After the attacks, a mood of defiant optimism took hold and public satisfaction rose to 57 percent.
Now satisfaction is back down, nearly as low as it was in early September. And Democrats hope that will be good for their issues.
MARK MELLMAN, DEMOCRATIC POLLSTER: As we get farther away from September 11th, the usual factors start to intrude. How are people feeling about the economy? How are they feeling about the security of their pensions, about their ability to afford health care? Those are the concerns that they had before September 11th.
SCHNEIDER: How are people feeling about the economy? Last August, 36 percent described the economy as good. After September 11th, that number shot up to 46 percent. People didn't want to say bad things about the country. And now the number who think the economy is good is back down to 35 percent.
We know one thing has changed: the public's assessment of President Bush. That's gone up, and stayed up. Here is something else that has changed, a little. Last year, 24 percent of Americans said they were worried that they or someone in their families would become a victim of terrorism.
After September 11th, concern over terrorism shot up to nearly 60 percent. Last month, the number was 35 percent. Back to normal? Not quite. But concern over terrorism is a lot lower than it was last fall.
SCHNEIDER: Here is something else that may not have changed. We have learned that tomorrow, a media watchdog group will report that television news now looks a lot like it did before September 11th -- Candy.
CROWLEY: Bill, thanks.
More on the terror warning investigation next. I'll go "On the Record" with House Majority Whip Tom DeLay, to talk about his opposition to an independent commission.
CROWLEY: "On the Record" today we have House majority whip Tom DeLay. Congressman, thanks for being here.
We want to talk a little bit about all of the controversy on the Hill on whether to have an independent commission to look into what the Bush administration knew prior to 9/11 and what it didn't know. You're against it. I need to know sort of in a nutshell why that sounds so bad to you.
REP. TOM DELAY (R-TX), MAJORITY WHIP: Well, first and foremost, Candy, we're at war. And when you're at war, you have to worry about making public a lot of things that should be kept private, as you fight the war. An independent commission, by its very nature, is very public. Frankly, it's only been asked for by people that are running for president.
And the second thing is -- and we should use the Congress. The Congress has plenty of the capabilities to investigate what went on, why it went on, what are the things that we need to do better. And they can do it under the cloak of secrecy when we are dealing with classified information. And they can do it because there are committees that have been dealing with these issues for a long, long time.
CROWLEY: Well, Congressman, you know, a couple things. First of all, there was an investigation after Pearl Harbor, and the country survived. Isn't there something in you that says, you know, the people need to know if something went wrong here?
DELAY: The commission after Pearl Harbor is a perfect example of why you don't want a commission. That was a commission that was set up to find scapegoats. And I'm afraid that's probably what a lot of people are trying to do here, is they're looking for political advantage.
And this is not the time to be playing politics. This is a time for the nation to be united and to be united against terrorists all over the world, and supportive of the president. Now, if there are things that need to be corrected, Congress has the committees that can deal with those issues, and we can correct them.
CROWLEY: Well, I can tell you right now that Democrats would respond that Republicans always cloak themselves in patriotism. That, in fact, it's just as political to want to try to hide what went on before 9/11.
Don't you, if you have an independent commission, at least take it out of the realm of politics? I know you favor having it up on Capitol Hill, but doesn't that just -- in that atmosphere, isn't it necessarily going to be partisan?
DELAY: No one is hiding anything. Our House and Senate intelligence committee are working jointly. The Senate's intelligence committee is chaired by a Democrat. The House is chaired by a Republican.
Then you have both Republicans and Democrats on these committees. They have been working on this ever since 9/11. They've had reams of documents they have been going over, 185,000 or more.
They have had many, many interviews of the CIA, the FBI, all kinds of people. This is a bipartisan effort. And as long as it stays bipartisan, politics won't enter into it. It's just these people that are running for president want to create a commission so that they can play politics.
CROWLEY: You know, I'll tell you, I think that most Americans are sympathetic with the idea that some of this is very sensitive information and shouldn't get out. I think also, though, Americans want to know what happened.
When you have all these secret hearings on Capitol Hill and pass along secret information, when does the public get to know if they were adequately protected? And if they weren't, who is responsible?
DELAY: Candy, the worst thing that we can do is give Osama bin Laden the opportunity to see what he did wrong so that he can correct it. That's what we're talking about here. If you lay it out in the public, he can see how we got our information so he can go kill people that may have given us information. What kind of technology we use, so he can change his behavior, so that we can't see him as well as we've been able to see him.
You know, all these things come into play when you're at war. And the American people, through their representatives, are finding out the information. And the American people, in the end, will know the information. Plus, they will see their representatives making corrections that we need to make.
We have a bill on the floor right now that has over $1.5 million so that the intelligence committees can continue their investigations. We're not covering up anything. We're not hiding anything. And what we are doing is looking at what went wrong so that we can do better.
We've been doing better since 9/11. If you listen to Mr. Gephardt or Mr. Daschle, you'd think we haven't been doing anything. We have been passing all kinds of bills for homeland security, for airline security, for airport security. All kinds of things that are correcting problems that we have had -- border security.
We've been very much involved correcting a lot of the problems, as they have surfaced, that may have led to 9/11. And we're doing everything we can to protect the American people and make sure that they feel safer today than they -- than on 9/11.
CROWLEY: Congressman, we've got to go. I have one yes or no question. Can you assure American people they are safer now than they were pre-9/11?
DELAY: Oh, I think they're safer now since 9/11. But we all need to stay aware of what is around us, and we have to be alert. We are at war, and sometimes war can create some problems.
CROWLEY: Thanks very much. House Majority Whip Tom DeLay, we really appreciate it.
DELAY: Thank you, Candy. CROWLEY: Coming up, the Enron collapse was at the center of some heated debate in a Senate committee meeting today. We'll tell you what happened.
CROWLEY: Checking our INSIDE POLITICS "Newscycle," for the second time in two weeks, a deadly suicide bombing rocks an Israeli town. Today's blast at a pedestrian mall near Tel Aviv killed at least three people and injured at least two dozen more.
Our Martin Savidge has just made his way to the scene and has this first report. Marty, what can you tell us?
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Candy, we are in Rishon Letzion. This is a seaside community. It's located about 20 minutes south of Tel Aviv. And you can see in the background, if you look off to what would be my right, that would be your left. It is the area where the suspected suicide bombing took place. It happened shortly after 9:00 this evening.
And it happened, as you described, in an open-air area. Actually sort of a picnic area. It's a place where people would have gathered in the evening. It was a beautiful evening up until this point. A place to gather for backgammon, to socialize. It appears it was also a place for an attack.
And we know that at this point, there are at least three people dead: two people plus the attacker -- that would be the suicide bomber. Twenty-seven people have been injured. And we are told that three of those injuries are in fact critical.
Now, you mention that Rishon Letzion was also the site of another suicide bombing. That took place on May 7th inside of what was described then as a pool hall. There were 17 people killed then, 57 others wounded at that particular time.
And that sparked a great deal of concern about some sort of military retaliation on the part of the Israeli government. There was a buildup of troops in the Gaza area. It never did happen.
There is no indication as to what may follow as a result of the bombing that has taken place here. But now you have the bombing in Netanya on Sunday. You had another bombing in northern Israel, and then of course, the attack that has taken place right in this particular community.
This is a heavy commercial area. You can see in the background, there's a lot of emergency personnel. There are police, there is security. They are all trying to move in on the scene. Those that have been injured have already been removed. They are exactly trying to figure out who perpetrated the act and how it was carried out -- Candy.
CROWLEY: Martin Savidge in Rishon Letzion, thanks very much. Moving on to other news, a Senate committee voted today to issue the first congressional subpoenas to the Bush White House. The Governmental Affairs Committee voted 9-8 along party lines to issue subpoenas for Enron information.
The debate included this tense exchange between Democratic committee chairman Joe Lieberman and Republican Thad Cochran.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. THAD COCHRAN (R), MISSISSIPPI: Are we doing this to attract the public -- the attention of the public to the fact that you are requesting documents and information, and suggesting by this subpoena that there has been something that hadn't been done by this administration, in the one year that they've been in office, a little longer, that they should have done to keep Enron corporation from collapsing?
SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN (D), CONNECTICUT: This committee, this chairman, has not singled out the White House. The White House has singled itself out by making clear to us that it will refuse to comply with a reasonable request for information, as part of an investigation of a scandalous collapse of a corporation that has cost the American public billions of dollars and hurt our economy.
I am making no accusation about the conduct of anybody in the White House.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: Now, the president has made his way to Berlin, as has our John King. John, I'm assuming they got wind of this over there?
JOHN KING, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: They got wind of this, Candy, as they were flying over the Atlantic Ocean. Ari Fleischer, the press secretary, coming back on Air Force One and telling reporters the White House views this vote today to issue subpoenas as unnecessary. Ari Fleischer saying the White House, yes, was in some contentious discussions with Senator Lieberman, but had hoped to work it all out through negotiations.
And privately, senior administration officials saying very much like what Tom DeLay just said a bit earlier. Senator Lieberman among those also pushing for the independent commission to look into what the government knew, pre-9/11. Senior administration officials say privately they think here Senator Lieberman should have been more patient, should have tried to work this out through negotiations. They think perhaps a little presidential politics at play here -- Candy.
CROWLEY: John, can't let you go without talking a little bit about this trip to Berlin. What's the president facing there, both on the streets and inside those meetings?
KING: Two very different pictures If you look at what we see among the leaders and on the streets, President Bush this evening having a bite to eat with the German chancellor, Gerhard Schroeder, both men smiling for the cameras, both men saying they are good friends and close friends.
President Bush wants to celebrate here the treaty he will sign when he moves on to Moscow, slashing nuclear arsenals by two-thirds over the next decade. He will talk here in Berlin tomorrow about how, because of that treaty, it is critical for the European allies and the United States to reshape the NATO alliance to fight the war on terrorism.
As the president talks upbeat, though, on the streets today thousands protesting U.S. positions on the environment, protesting the war in Afghanistan, protesting other positions that they say shows the United States out of step with Germany, out of step with the broader European community. Mr. Bush says those differences are exaggerated by the protesters. But he also said, just before leaving Washington, that he would be happy to see those protesters. He views them as a vibrant sign of democracy.
So, Mr. Bush beginning a week-long trip here in Europe, most of it focused on security matters, the new relationship with Russia, and of course future fronts in the war on terrorism -- some disagreements there, although the president in public sure to focus on the positive -- Candy.
CROWLEY: Thanks, CNN senior White House correspondent, John King, from Berlin.
With us now: Margaret Carlson of "TIME" magazine, Tucker Carlson of CNN's "CROSSFIRE."
I hardly know where to begin, but let's open up a whole new subject: 9/11, Bush and the Democrats. From a political standpoint, has this been a winner for the Democrats?
MARGARET CARLSON, "TIME": Well, not yet.
The Republicans managed to take a few of the shrill voices and make that the accusation against Bush. So, Bush was able to say: "No, it's not that I knew and did nothing. I would have done everything in my power." Of course, that was not the accusation that Democrats were making, except for Cynthia McKinney and Jerry Nadler, and maybe Hillary with "The New York Post" headline.
And I was so surprised that Hillary Clinton, of all people, would hold up "The New York Post" as gospel, since it has been pretty hard on her and her husband.
CROWLEY: Well, politics, strange bedfellows. Gotta love that.
M. CARLSON: Yes.
But that wasn't what it was about. It was, listen, let's look at what we didn't know, which is more important, and figure out: Is it the CIA? Is it the FBI? Is it not coordinated? Is the information not getting out? But there have been some failures. And to see that they don't happen again, without scapegoating, let's take a look.
CROWLEY: Still, Tucker, there has got to be some reason that suddenly today the Democrats seem to be back on other issues. We haven't heard a whole lot about, "What did the president know and when did he know it?" and those sort of White House echoes. Have they figured out this might not be a real good issue for them?
TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST, "CROSSFIRE": It's another Enron, in other words, that goes nowhere?
CROWLEY: Your words, not mine.
T. CARLSON: I must say, I disagree with Margaret.
I think that the implication from a lot of mainstream Democrats was kind of Cynthia McKinney-esque. The implication was the president did know something and was either negligent or worse in not responding to it. I think Democrats overplayed their hand. You saw Gephardt essentially admitting that by saying they "overreacted" -- quote.
And today Tom Daschle in his speech said something along the lines of, "Look, I have a unique perspective on this because my office was attacked by anthrax." It strikes me, that it is an overplay.
CROWLEY: Yes, no?
M. CARLSON: I do think they overplayed last week. And there's nothing triter than "What did he know and when did he know it?" And when you fall back on that, already you're on weak ground.
But there are questions that it doesn't hurt anybody to answer to see where you go from here. And I agree with Tucker. Because you had Cynthia McKinney and Hillary Clinton and Jerry Nadler getting the headlines, it sounded like an accusation, where actually I think it is an inquiry that will in fact take place now that everybody is a little bit calmer.
T. CARLSON: And a lot of Republicans, I think, support the idea of having an investigation that doesn't come out of Congress, just from the intelligence committees, one headed by a bipartisan pair of people, for instance. Nobody has been fired or publicly disgraced since 9/11. That's weird.
M. CARLSON: And if you put a blue ribbon around a commission, it tends to get you somewhere.
CROWLEY: Have an aura, yes.
Let me just move on to Chandra Levy, and say at the outset, look, this is a very sad, personal story. But what does it tell you about whether the media, as we thought after 9/11, was going to look at big issues and global things, as you watch the coverage today? M. CARLSON: Well, 3,000 people die in the World Trade Center and it certainly does grab your attention. But one death in your hometown also does it, especially if it involves a village elder like a congressman.
What's striking to me is just how bad the D.C. Police Department is. They said they'd combed Rock Creek Park, that the congressman being involved did nothing to lessen their interest in solving this crime. And yet, if they combed Rock Creek Park, they missed a great big thing.
T. CARLSON: That's exactly right. I mean, the moral here is, if you're going to get murdered, don't get murdered in D.C., because it will be a dog-walker who finds you.
The best line out of all is the police chief in Washington saying the body was found in a -- quote -- "remote area" of Rock Creek Park, as if there is any place in Washington D.C. that's remote. It's ludicrous.
M. CARLSON: Like Afghanistan, as if...
T. CARLSON: That's right. That's the story. One almost feels sorry for Gary Condit. There's no real evidence that he had anything to do with this. There's a lot of evidence that the D.C. Police Department is incompetent.
CROWLEY: Tucker Carlson, CNN, "CROSSFIRE," Margaret Carlson, "TIME" Magazine, thank you so much.
M. CARLSON: Thanks, Candy.
CROWLEY: Let's do it again some time.
M. CARLSON: OK.
T. CARLSON: Oh, yes.
CROWLEY: Coming up: Jeff Greenfield looks at the September 11 attacks and their impact on American politics. Jeff and his "Bite of the Apple" are next.
CROWLEY: Jeff Greenfield is with us now with some thoughts on how 9/11 has affected the political process.
Jeff, we've had days and days of headlines about who knew what and possible new terrorist attacks. And you would think that voters, when they go to choose members of Congress, would put terrorism and security front and center. But you have got some information to the contrary.
JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SR. ANALYST: Yes, there's a recent poll that was taken for NPR. And it shows that, when you ask voters, "What's the most important issue to you?" only 8 percent mention terror.
The vast majority mention something to do with the economy, education, moral values. And then when you ask them, "What's more important to you, the domestic issues that you are used to voting for or these new international issues?" by a margin of 69-27 percent, voters point to domestic issues.
And, in addition to that, there was a recent gathering of pollsters, and had a conversation about this, and pointed out that a lot of the values and fundamental feeling we thought would change in the wake of 9/11 haven't. Church attendance isn't up that much. The way people live their lives really hasn't been nearly as affected by 9/11, particularly outside of New York and Washington, as we might have thought.
CROWLEY: How is this possible, given that this was the worst attack on America in history, the worst single-day loss of life, and the clear warning about what the future might hold?
GREENFIELD: Well, I think there are two things.
One is that the sheer severity of it and the sheer overwhelming size of the issue means that some people just don't know what to think about it. It is not like what you think about taxes or abortion or a kind of normal political issue. If you were to ask people, "Well, what do you want done about it?" you can see, in a lot of the confusion about warnings and color-coded warnings, that it is almost beyond our comprehension.
I think there's a second point, when you look at the World War II comparison. Within a day after World War II, every American knew everything had changed. We were at war. Men of a draft age were subject to the draft. Women were going into the defense plants. Goods were rationed. Transportation was scarce.
There was no way to pretend this wasn't a big deal, because it was literally unavoidable. There has been no such kind of reaction after 9/11. There's no draft. We're being asked to, what, spend more, fly more. It's just not a comparison. And for a lot of people -- and I hate to put it this way -- but barring another terror attack, it doesn't seem as if life has changed that much.
It is odd for many of us who cover this, Candy, but I think that is the reality right now.
CROWLEY: Well, it does seem a little bit counterintuitive that voters wouldn't be focused on an event that we all believe changed our lives. You remember that day: "Oh, everything's changed from here on."
GREENFIELD: Exactly. All of us were -- it was a mantra on that day: "This changes everything."
One very smart political operative told me a couple of months ago -- in fact, he sort of predicted this. And he was pointing to the sheer overwhelming quality of the issue, that, in effect, rather than trying to embrace it -- after all, which of us really is sure that we know what we think about Islamic fundamentalism or how to build a coalition to fight terror?
So, in effect, he was suggesting that voters were going to retreat back to more familiar turf: "What do I think about our schools? What do I want the government to do about protecting Social Security or Medicare or moral values," if that's where your politics are? And I think he has been right so far. People have kind of been overwhelmed by the sheer size of what it means to confront terrorism that means to kill as many Americans as possible.
CROWLEY: Jeff Greenfield, thanks very much for sharing the "Bite of the Apple."
GREENFIELD: OK. See you.
CROWLEY: The often overlooked influence of the White House press secretary straight ahead.
Also, a sitting governor feels the sting of satire, compared to a rat in a potential opponent's campaign video.
CROWLEY: "Inside Buzz" today on White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer.
For more, we turn to Howard Kurtz of CNN's "RELIABLE SOURCES." He joins us from the newsroom of "The Washington Post."
Howard, I read your article on Ari with great interest. It's a great article. I wanted to ask, you know, the rap on Ari -- and, indeed, on a lot of press secretaries -- is, they're not in the loop. Is this guy in the loop?
HOWARD KURTZ, "RELIABLE SOURCES": This guy is very much in the loop.
The president told me in an interview that he lets Ari Fleischer sit in on his meetings and sometimes phone calls with world leaders, talks to him several times a day. And, interestingly, Bush doesn't watch TV much. He calls Ari Fleischer at night to say, "How did the story play?" And Fleischer will tell him, "Well, so-and-so played it straight, but so-and-so was really biased."
CROWLEY: Well, but, generally, people always tell us. Is there any reason to believe that he does know things that he doesn't tell the press? Because it has always been sort of this game that you don't tell the press secretary certain things. And that way, there's no chance that he'll tell the press something you don't want them to know.
KURTZ: Well, I followed him pretty closely over the course of four months and found that he was going to national security briefings and other briefings, where, obviously, sensitive information would be discussed. He knew that Bush was going to make a major speech and a major push on the Middle East before it was announced.
The president had a great line. He told me: "The thing I like about Ari is, he knows the difference between the need to know and the need to say." Of course, reporters wish he would say a little bit more. Frustrated reporters are part of the press room atmosphere there. But Ari views his job as working for the president.
CROWLEY: I want to read you a quote you had from the president in your article: "I don't like unnamed sources, frankly. I know it is a part of the process. I happen to view it as quite cowardly for people to read into my intentions when they don't know me."
Let me ask you something. It does seem to me, however, that the White House has learned the art of this strategically.
KURTZ: That's exactly right.
The president hates leaks when he doesn't authorize them. He talks about level four and five officials. Apparently, he is No. 1, Cheney No. 2, Cabinet No. 3. And he doesn't like when they go off and push stories at reporters.
But Ari Fleischer changed the president's mind. When he first came into office, he didn't allow his staff to say in advance he's going to give a speech tomorrow on such and such. Bill Clinton had done that. The president didn't like it very much. But Ari convinced him that he would get more attention for his ideas and a cleaner shot, rather than having the critics quoting the same stories, if they could do those authorized leaks in advance.
CROWLEY: Howard, we have got less than a minute, but I did want to talk to you, couldn't pass up the chance to ask you your take on the Chandra Levy coverage today, particularly in this post-9/11 world. What have you thought of it?
KURTZ: Well, obviously, Candy, if the body found does turn out to be that of the missing Washington intern, that is news. But anybody watching TV on all the cable networks today beginning at noon Eastern had this feeling of, like, a time warp.
Last summer, when the news probably wasn't as serious, there was so much all-Chandra, all-the-time coverage. I think some of the speculation and hauling in the experts went a little overboard today as well. In other words, this was a story that came along when there's a lot of other news competing in the post-9/11 world. But it sure got big play on all the networks that I was watching.
CROWLEY: Howard Kurtz, CNN's "RELIABLE SOURCES" and "The Washington Post," next time, we'll get you an IFB that fits.
CROWLEY: The Justice Department has announced plans to file five voting-rights lawsuits related to the 2000 presidential election. The suits would apply to three Florida counties and one county each in Tennessee and Missouri. Two of the three Florida counties are confirmed. In Miami-Dade County, voters used punch card ballots. More than 28,000 were tossed out as spoiled by election officials. Al Gore won the county with 52 percent of the vote.
Osceola is another Florida county facing legal action. Voters there also used punch cards. And more than 1,600 ballots were declared spoiled. Gore won this county with 50.6 percent of the vote. The lawsuits include allegations of mistreatment of minority voters and violations of the Motor Voter Law. The suits have not been filed. And a Justice Department official says he expects the suits can and will be settled out of court.
A Republican candidate for Georgia governor has unveiled a campaign video mocking incumbent Democrat Roy Barnes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, SONNY PERDUE CAMPAIGN AD)
ANNOUNCER: Many just call him King Roy. Governor Roy Barnes seemed to mean well at first. Then, it seemed the power of the Gold Dome just went to his head. He forgot the people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: The video, put together for Republican Sonny Perdue, features a giant rat running roughshod over Georgia landmarks, including the state Capitol and Stone Mountain. The rat wears a crown and the label "King Roy." Perdue's aides say the clip is all in fun. Governor Barnes, however, is apparently not amused. His spokesman called the video insulting to the governor and insulting to the people of Georgia.
Checking the headlines in "Campaign News Daily": Senator Edward Kennedy is helping out his niece in her attempt to become Maryland's next governor. The senator is hosting a fund-raiser tonight here in Washington for Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, the state's current lieutenant governor. The event is expected to raise about $100,000 for her campaign.
Ed Rendell was the big winner in yesterday's Democratic primary for Pennsylvania governor. After an expensive and hard-fought party squabble, Rendell defeated Bob Casey Jr. 56 percent to 44 percent. Rendell now faces Republican Attorney General Mike Fisher in the general election.
Democrats in Michigan are accusing state Republicans of forcing primary races by planting fake Democratic candidates in eight state senate primaries. Democratic officials have filed a complaint with the state elections bureau, alleging that none of the eight candidates is actually a Democrat. The four public notaries who certified the candidates work for Republican officials. State Republican officials deny the accusations.
Just ahead: He was the youngest competitor in the National Geographic Bee. But that didn't stop him from walking away with the title. We'll tell you more about Michigan schoolboy Calvin McCarter's victory.
CROWLEY: The youngest competitor in a field of 55 young geography experts won the National Geographic Bee today. He is Calvin McCarter from Michigan.
Bruce Morton gives us a closer look at the tough competition.
BRUCE MORTON, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The geography bee was kind of a bumbled bee. Things kept going wrong.
ERIK MILLER, CONTESTANT: Indonesia?
ALEX TREBEK, EMCEE: You didn't get it in in time, unfortunately. And so that's a miss for you.
MORTON: No, wait, a protest.
TREBEK: I would suggest checking the tape, please. We'll take a little break here. This is a very important moment.
MORTON: Erik Miller lost. Calvin McCarter had missed one, too. So, did that make Matthew Russell, who'd missed none, the winner? No. The format demands a two-person final. Playoff time. Erik misspells Okhotsk, loses again.
TREBEK: I don't think that O and what looks like S-K is quite enough. But I will leave it up to our judges. And they are ruling against you, Erik.
MORTON: OK, Matthew Russell vs. Calvin McCarter of Michigan. Jeopardy host Alex Trebek, the emcee, who was having what he called a bad hair day, announced the rules.
TREBEK: There will be five questions. Whoever winds up leading at the end of five will be declared the winner.
MORTON: But then he said McCarter had won after four questions.
TREBEK: By a score of 4-3, Calvin McCarter, the youngest competitor...
MORTON: No, wait a minute. He spelled Baluchistan wrong.
TREBEK: Oh, no. He got Baluchi. Oh, geez. Bad Alex, bad, bad Alex. Sorry.
MORTON: One more question: Lop Nor is what country's atomic testing base?
TREBEK: Lop Nor at the east end of the Tarim Basin is in China. And that means that Calvin McCarter is our 2002 National Geographic Bee champion. MORTON: So, a winner, the youngest ever at 10, so small he could barely see over the set, homeschooled fifth grader from Jenison, Michigan near Grand Rapids. He wins a $25,000 scholarship. And he was super cool.
CALVIN MCCARTER, GEOGRAPHY BEE WINNER: When I was in the tiebreakers, I was nervous. But when I got into the top two, I was a little bit more relaxed.
MORTON: The future?
MCCARTER: I'm still me. So I'll still do sports. I'll still play. I'm still me.
MORTON: He sure is.
Bruce Morton, CNN Washington.
CROWLEY: Calvin, you go, boy.
There is more INSIDE POLITICS ahead, but first, here's Wolf with a preview of what's coming up at the top of the hour on "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS."
WOLF BLITZER, "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS": Candy, I love that kid.
We're following two important stories here: yet another suicide bombing in Israel, and the possibility that the D.C. police have discovered the body of the missing Washington intern, Chandra Levy. We'll have extensive coverage of both. We'll also get the latest on the new terror threats, including those in New York City on the eve of the Memorial Day holiday weekend. Former FBI Agent James Kallstrom will join us.
All that, much more coming up live right at the top of the hour, right after INSIDE POLITICS.
CROWLEY: A couple of heavyweights on Capitol Hill today in a bid to get more funding for the fight against Parkinson's disease. Actor Michael J. Fox was joined by boxing legend Muhammad Ali at a Senate hearing. Both men struggle with the effect of the disease.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL J. FOX, SUFFERER OF PARKINSON'S DISEASE: Mr. Chairman, Senator Specter, and members of the subcommittee, thank you for this opportunity to testify.
It is just me or were you sitting in different seats the last time I was here?
(LAUGHTER) FOX: Was it just me or were you sitting in different seats?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wait. I'm constrained to say it's back to the future.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: Parkinson's disease affects about one million Americans.
CNN's coverage continues now with "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS." Judy is back tomorrow. I'm Candy Crowley.
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Getting Back to Normal?; Deadly Suicide Bombing Rocks an Israeli Town>