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CNN INSIDE POLITICS

Ventura Will Not Seek Second Term; Kennedy Pushes Health Care; Turner's "Israeli Terror" Comments Cause Furor

Aired June 18, 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. Another bombshell from Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura. He says he will not seek re-election.

BRUCE MORTON, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Bruce Morton. You can certainly can say this about Ventura's political career: it has never been dull.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: I'm Bill Schneider. Do Jesse "The Body's" political blows mean third-party candidates are doomed?

WOODRUFF: Also ahead, we'll talk to a husband and wife who spend their nights together, and spend their days running for the same office.

Thank you for joining us. Always one to exude his share of confidence and then some, Jesse Ventura says he thinks he would have won re-election if he had decided to run again. But after weeks of wrestling with the decision, the Minnesota governor says he will return to private life after his term ends early next year. Our Bruce Morton has more on Ventura's exit and his wild ride in the political arena.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MORTON (voice-over): Minnesota's independent and independent- minded governor, Jesse Ventura, won't seek a second term.

GOV. JESSE VENTURA, MINNESOTA: I'm going to announce on your show right now that I am not seeking re-election again. I will not run again.

MORTON: You've got to have your heart and soul into these types of jobs, Ventura said, adding that his decision was partly tied to news reports his son had used the governor's mansion for parties.

He's had a lot of careers: professional wrestler.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The referee has counted Rocky Johnson out of the ring and awards this contest to Jesse "The Body" Ventura. MORTON: He was a Navy SEAL, an author -- the book's title comes from a line he had in an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie. Had dolls made in his image. But he got elected governor because he figured out a basic political fact, at least in Minnesota, in 1998.

VENTURA: The Democrat and Republican parties are minorities. It's that simple. When you look, you've got maybe 20 percent on the left, 20 percent on the right. The majority, the 60 percent in the middle, do not align with either party.

MORTON: He won four years ago with 37 percent of the vote. Republican Norm Coleman second with 34. As governor, Ventura has had some successes: tax cut, a sales tax rebate -- though smaller than he wanted.

VENTURA: If there's one liberating thing that has come from being a third-party governor, it is that my cabinet can ask new questions that have nothing to do with politics.

MORTON: He got elected, actually, as a reform party candidate, went to independent after falling out with Ross Perot and Pat Buchanan. Voters liked him, though he was criticized for refereeing a wrestling match and working as a football commentator.

Now, he says, it's time to go back to the private sector. He once tried to make reporters at the state house wear badges labeled "official jackal," but they'll probably miss him. Wouldn't you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you for your time, Mr. Ventura.

VENTURA: The pleasure was yours!

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MORTON: His departure leaves the field, for now, to the Democratic farmer-labor (ph) party candidate, Roger Moe, and Republican Tim Pawlenty. But who knows -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Bruce, thanks very much.

With us now from Minnesota, Jim Ragsdale of the "St. Paul Pioneer Press." Jim Ragsdale, why is he not running again?

JIM RAGSDALE, "ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS": Well, he said, as Bruce Morton said, that his heart wasn't in it. And also he mentioned many times that he felt the media was invading his privacy too greatly. You mentioned a story this week about his son having parties at the residence. That, apparently, was the last straw for him.

WOODRUFF: Why was that the last straw? What is that all about? I did read some of the stories indicating his son, who is now 22 years old, over the last few years, has had, has entertained guests at the governor's mansion. What more can you tell us about that?

RAGSDALE: Well, the governor's mansion has been kind of a soap opera for about two months. The governor closed it when his budget was cut against his wishes by the legislature. Then he declined to -- then when the legislature restored the funding, he refused to rehire the old staffers.

And then the old staffers started talking to reporters about parties that the governor's son had had, and how they had had to clean up. And they were concerned about security and such. And I think the governor felt those stories were too intrusive.

WOODRUFF: So do you think he's just, he literally is just fed up with the stories about his family?

RAGSDALE: Well, there have been very, very, very few stories about his family. The governor has a tendency to point the finger elsewhere to find explanations for his behavior. And in this case, he points it at the media.

But in fact, he would have had a difficult re-election campaign. And it just sounded like his -- he and his entire family were simply not prepared to go through it again.

WOODRUFF: Well, I saw that a recent poll, it was something like 49 percent disapproval rating. And 63 percent of those asked in this poll in Minnesota said they would rather see someone else elected. How did he get to such a low point?

RAGSDALE: Well, like most governors, he has fallen as the economy has fallen. Minnesota went from surpluses and rebates to deficits and discussions of tax increases. And that was a large part of it. It has happened in many other states. Perhaps the governor was artificially high before that, so he had a lot farther to fall.

WOODRUFF: How much do you think of his personality, just his style, has hurt him? Or do you think it's been a help?

RAGSDALE: Well, it's both. I mean, he's -- for all the sometimes wacky things he says, when he is in front of a crowd in rural Minnesota, people like him. And he has a certain political ability that very few politicians in this state have had. And it's really sad to see it leave the scene, actually.

WOODRUFF: Really sad. I assume reporters are going to miss him.

RAGSDALE: Sure, we'll miss -- I mean, he's a great story. And you hate to see someone who has that much to offer, just kind of exit without a final political battle, the story we'd all like to see.

WOODRUFF: Well, Jim Ragsdale, putting it very candidly there. We appreciate you joining us. Thanks very much.

RAGSDALE: Thank you for having me.

WOODRUFF: Well, no one could dispute that Jesse Ventura is truly unique. But, is there a broader message to be found in his political rise and his retreat? Our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider, is here.

Bill, is there a message, do you think, being sent by his stepping back from the political scene?

SCHNEIDER: Well, he'd like to send a message that politics has become too poisonous. That his family was, in his words -- quote -- "assassinated by the media."

But the real message is, as a noted historian once said, third parties are like bees. They sting and then they die. Ross Perot stung in 1992 and then he died in 1996. And his Reform Party got buried in 2000, when Pat Buchanan led it and got less than half a percent.

George Wallace in 1968, John Anderson in 1980 -- they stung and then they died. Only one third party has ever succeeded. That was the Republicans with Abraham Lincoln, who got elected with less than 40 percent of the vote in 1860.

Now, Ventura also won with 37 percent of the vote in 1998. But Lincoln support went up when he got re-elected in 1864 -- without the South, of course. The latest Minnesota poll figure from March shows only 31 percent of Minnesotans saying they would vote to reelect Governor Ventura, which is less than a third of the vote. He is no Abraham Lincoln.

WOODRUFF: So why is it so hard for these third party figures to hang in there, to survive?

SCHNEIDER: Two words: no base. Your base are the people you have to rely on when you get in trouble. Things were OK for Governor Ventura for his first three years, when the state budget was in surplus. But this year, we just heard, Minnesota, like most other states, had a serious budget deficit.

Governor Ventura proposed some unpopular measures, like raising taxes and cutting spending on education. And the Democrats and the Republicans in the state legislature ganged up on him and rejected his budget. So now, for the first time in more than a decade, the legislature in Minnesota is more popular than the governor.

A lot of governors are unpopular this year because of the budget crunch. But if they're Democrats or Republicans, they can rely on a base.

WOODRUFF: All right, we'll remember that.

SCHNEIDER: OK.

WOODRUFF: Bill Schneider, thanks very much.

Jesse Ventura's -- I want to skip over that and go directly to Kyra Phillips in Atlanta. Kyra, some breaking news?

(INTERRUPTED FOR BREAKING NEWS)

WOODRUFF: Thanks, Kyra, very much. We're glad all that ended with no one being hurt.

Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson will consider Jesse Ventura's big decision ahead on INSIDE POLITICS.

But up next, Senator Edward Kennedy goes "On the Record" about his effort to put health care reform front and center, even after September 11.

CNN founder Ted Turner is creating controversy, again. House Majority Whip Tom DeLay will tell us why Turner's comments have angered him.

And later...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would like to see her on the bench, but not at my expense.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: A Kansas judge and his wife, bedfellows on their way to becoming political opponents this fall.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: In recent years, attempts to help the millions of Americans without health insurance have taken a backseat to more modest proposals, like making prescription drugs more affordable. In a moment, I'll talk "On the Record" with Senator Edward Kennedy about the plight of America's uninsured, and the rest of his health care agenda.

First, CNN's Bill Delaney on the difficult choices facing consumers and lawmakers.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BILL DELANEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Were Jody Golden of Los Angeles to get sick since she lost her job as a secretary in January, she'd have no way to pay to get well.

JODY GOLDEN, UNEMPLOYED & UNINSURED: I get scared if I think about it too much. God forbid, something happens to anybody that doesn't have insurance. What do you do?

DELANEY: Well, there's the emergency room, and her daughter is covered by Medicaid. But COBRA -- government-mandate insurance for unemployed -- would cost her $530 a month, half of what she is presently living on a month, while she looks for work.

GOLDEN: The unemployment will last me at least until November. I'll have that, and I'm just looking around right now for cheap insurance, which I'm not finding.

DELANEY (on camera): Because, of course, it's very hard to find, coast to coast. Here in Massachusetts, some 578,000 have no health insurance. Many, though not necessarily in poor health now, are not getting the sort of medical attention they should have to stay that way.

(voice-over): Uninsured women, for example, often neglect preventive care for breast cancer, and so are twice as likely to die from it. Thirty-two thousand Americans with very treatable heart disease don't treat it because they have no insurance.

Many are uninsured for relatively brief periods of time, though the consequences can be felt for a long time, like Keith Rodgerson of Boston. Without insurance, he suffered a bad burn.

KEITH RODGERSON, FORMERLY UNINSURED: I went without insurance for about a year. I ended up filing for bankruptcy now to get rid of all the medical bills from that period in my life, because I -- a couple of unfortunate things happened, $15,000 in the hole.

DELANEY: But critics say any health plan created by the federal government would be too expensive and a bureaucratic nightmare.

KAREN KERRIGAN, SMALL BUSINESS SURVIVAL COMMITTEE: Consumers need to have control of the system. We need consumer-driven solutions. For example, like medical savings accounts, which couple an IRA for medical savings accounts with a high-deductible policy.

DELANEY: Without some kind of dramatic change, though, all sides agree: the uninsured, in 10 years, will likely reach at least 64 million. Bill Delaney, CNN, Boston.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: We're here at the National Press Club this Tuesday with Senator Edward Kennedy, who is making a major address today on health care.

Senator, at a time when most Americans, when you ask them, say their chief concern is the war on terror, how do you hope to get health care to the top of the agenda?

SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D-MA), HEALTH & EDUCATION CHMN.: We are all united in the battle against terror. But that doesn't mean that we should not address the priorities that we're facing here at home.

And certainly among those priorities is the question whether health care costs and health care coverage, or health care costs are going up too fast and pricing Americans out of the market. And the coverage is going down. We have a health care crisis.

And are we going to be the only country in the world that's going to fail to meet what is basically a moral issue, a moral question. And I think we can address it. I think we should address it. And I have some ideas about how to do that.

WOODRUFF: Senator, I can almost hear, with all due respect, some Republicans, members of the other party, saying, well, you know, Senator Kennedy may mean well, but Democrats are scrambling to find an issue for this year. The war on terror comes first. People are less concerned about domestic issues.

KENNEDY: Well, people are concerned about the domestic issues. The reasons that we're fighting abroad is for our society and our values here at home. And our values, obviously, they have to be protected here at home. But we also have to meet domestic needs here at home.

We did that with President Roosevelt. We've done that with President Eisenhower, we've done it at other times. The fact is, Teddy Roosevelt talked about health care as a moral issue, and about covering families in this country. We still have not done so.

WOODRUFF: You're not proposing national health care today. That's something you've said you're going to talk about in the fall. You are talking about prescription drugs. You're talking about insurance coverage for working families, companies that employ over 100 people.

How do you hope to get support for this at a time when we've already seen the health insurance industry, many businesses, small and large businesses, lobbying against this?

KENNEDY: Well, first of all, we are paying for the fact that people aren't covered and the prices are going up. We're paying it in human suffering, number one. And we're paying in the lack of productivity, number two.

And we're paying in the fact of the higher costs of health care when people don't get early interventions when they're getting ill and getting sick. We cannot afford not to find a way of dealing with this issue.

Finally, there are ways that we can save in terms of health care costs. Today we've outlined a series of those steps. Why, for example, is the health industry the only industry that doesn't use information technology to control cost?

If you looked at Fidelity, in my own city of Boston, three years ago it cost them $25 for a piece of paper or a file or a claim. And now it's 3 cents and going down. But at the major hospitals, it's 20- odd dollars a few years ago, and it's up to $25 now.

WOODRUFF: You're still asking, though, American taxpayers, the federal government, to put out billions of more dollars for health coverage, for health care, at a time when the government, at a time the economy is doing poorly. The government has less money than it's had in a decade.

KENNEDY: Well, first of all, what we're talking about is covering the parents of the chip program, which is the Children's Health Insurance Program. That will reach about a third. That $90 billion that will be used for that is included in the Democratic budget, but it's also included in the president's budget for that particular third.

Then we can cover another third by requiring the largest companies in the country to ensure that they are going to provide for their employees. Large companies now provide investment in their employees in a variety of ways.

Most of these large companies are already doing it. But a number aren't. And we are going to say, meet your responsibilities to your workers and do it. And then third, it's going to be the feature of the last third, about how we're going to put together a program that is going to deal with those that are left out.

And we are also suggesting ways that we can save resources. We are spending more now, when the first offer of a national health insurance was $100 billion. We're spending $1.4 trillion, and it's going up higher. So the question, if not now, when?

WOODRUFF: And the Bush administration is going to be -- you're going to be fighting them all the way?

KENNEDY: There's nothing that sharpens the interest of political leadership like an election. We have the support of more than 100 organizations, in terms of features of this particular program. The election is out there. The American people care about this. And I believe we will be able to make important progress.

WOODRUFF: Senator Edward Kennedy, we appreciate it. Good to see you again.

KENNEDY: Good to see you.

WOODRUFF: Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

An update on today's suicide bombing and the Israeli response, next in our "Newscycle."

Also, a program about same-sex parents on a network for kids. The debate surrounding Nickelodeon's programming decisions ahead in the "CROSSFIRE."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Among the stories in our "Newscycle," within the last hour, sources tell CNN more than a dozen Israeli tanks moved into the West Bank town of Jenin. The move was an apparent response to the suicide attack earlier today in Jerusalem that killed 19 people, some of them schoolchildren. A White House spokesman says today's attack does not affect the long-term U.S. goal of an independent Palestinian state.

CIA Director George Tenet, along with the directors of the FBI and the National Security Agency, met privately today with the joint House and Senate panel looking into the September 11th attacks. One lawmaker said their testimony described the September 11th plotters as sophisticated and professional.

Afterwards, Senate intelligence committee chairman Bob Graham cautioned next week's hearings may be delayed. He said the testimony could be relevant to the criminal trial of Zacarias Moussaoui, the so- called 20th hijacker.

Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura says he has had enough. Ventura announced today that he will not run for re-election. He said he was honored to have served as governor, but his heart, he said, is no longer in the job.

With us now from the CNN "CROSSFIRE" set at George Washington University, Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson. Tucker, are you surprised about Ventura's announcement?

TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST, "CROSSFIRE": No, I mean, of course I'm pleased. He is such a relic of the '90s. I mean, Jesse Ventura was elected at a time when a lot of people thought government really didn't matter. And it was sort of a bold statement by the people of Minnesota who said, look, it matters so little that even a professional wrestler can run our state.

He didn't run it very well, it turned out, embarrassed the state. He took this ludicrous XFL job and spent his free time beating up on the press. I'm glad to see him go.

WOODRUFF: Paul Begala, do you buy his explanation that he was just getting -- his son was getting beaten up too much in the press?

PAUL BEGALA, CO-HOST, "CROSSFIRE": Well, I certainly have a lot of sympathy for it, to tell you the truth.

Politicians, nobody forces them to get into this game. But once they do, I think particularly guys who haven't been politicians all their lives, who were in these kinds of easy jobs like pro wrestling, have to toughen up a lot when they get into politics. But it is instructive about sort of the fate of these dilettantes who get into politics thinking it's just a lark, as Tucker said.

This governing is pretty hard. And I think you ought to save this tape. There's a guy did nothing much more in life than run the Texas Rangers who then got elected president. I wonder if he is going to follow Ventura and say: "Ah, the heck with it; I have had my one term; I'm going back to the ranch in Crawford to chop wood"?

You watch. Bush is going to be self-term-limited to one.

CARLSON: One of the many things that separates the current president from Jesse Ventura is, Jesse Ventura has a strong authoritarian impulse in him. You saw it throughout his time as governor, where he would constantly lash out at the press: "the jackals, my enemies."

And this final story about his son having parties in the governor's mansion and trashing the place while his parents were gone for the weekend, rather than address the charges head on, Ventura immediately attacks the press. I mean, it is, I think, an unattractive and destructive impulse.

WOODRUFF: So, neither one of you has a nice word to say about Jesse Ventura.

CARLSON: Not a single one, not one.

BEGALA: No. I like the fact that he let his son have parties in the mansion. I like the fact that he trashed the press. I'm with him on all of that. I just didn't like what he was doing for education and taxes.

WOODRUFF: Let me turn you both to the story today some of us are following: The Nickelodeon children's channel is being criticized for a decision, a programming decision. And that is to air a program tonight looking at same-sex parenting.

And I just want to quickly to read a quote from the host of the show, Linda Ellerbee. She is defending the program, saying -- quote -- "It is not in any way about the homosexual lifestyle. It's not even introducing the subject to most kids. They know. But, quite frankly, many of them know it from a hate standpoint, without even knowing what they're talking about."

Is this something the critics should be worried about or is this entirely proper, Paul?

BEGALA: Well, first off all, the critics are given a role in this program as well. Jerry Falwell will be on that program. Many others from the right will be on there to put their side of it out, to sort of, I guess, defend the hate and prejudice that they put forward.

But I think it's terrific to teach young kids that hate is unacceptable. It turns out the number one epithet used in schoolyards today is the word "fag." Well, when I was a boy growing up in the South, there was another word, a racial word that people used. And we don't use it anymore because we have become educated to it. I hope we do that with gay people as well.

WOODRUFF: Tucker?

CARLSON: Let me choke down my nausea at the self-righteousness you just heard by saying that it is unfair to call anybody who has a qualm about homosexual parenting a hater. There are people who are not haters, that don't hate gays, who have problems with it, or at least want to know more about it before supporting it. They're not haters. They're not bigots, necessarily.

There are bigots who are anti-gay. There are gays who are bigots. But it stifles debate. It stifles any sort of dissent to write them all off as haters or liken them to members of the Ku Klux Klan, as Paul did, as Linda Ellerbee did. So I think that is wrong. There is a real debate. We ought to have it and not stifle it with words like "hater."

BEGALA: So, get this. I love this. The argument, Judy, is that, by putting this on the air, we are stifling debate. By putting Rosie O'Donnell on one side and Jerry Falwell on the other, we're stifling debate? I don't get it, Tucker. CARLSON: That's actually not the point at all. But by saying that, "Anybody who disagrees with me is engaging in hate," that is outrageous. That's not debate.

WOODRUFF: May we assume we will hear more on "CROSSFIRE," 7:00 p.m. Eastern?

CARLSON: You will.

BEGALA: I think we'll debate it tonight.

WOODRUFF: Paul Begala, Tucker Carlson, thank you both. Good to see you.

CARLSON: Thanks.

BEGALA: Thanks, Judy.

A nation always on alert still struggles to prevent acts of terror. Up next: Jeff Greenfield on U.S. attempts to secure the homeland and the sobering lessons to be learned from Israel.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: On a day when yet another suicide bomber strikes Israeli citizens, our Jeff Greenfield has some thoughts on what America can learn from Israel and its daily battle against terrorism -- Jeff.

JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SR. ANALYST: Well, Judy, today's suicide bombing is, by one count, the 69th in a series that began some 21 months ago, the eighth since Israel's military went into the West Bank to root out the perpetrators.

For America, there is an unsettling lesson here. It's one that highlights just how daunting the challenge of protecting the homeland really is. Israel is a nation of less than 5.9 million people. It's tiny, only about 8,000 square miles, about the size of New Jersey.

The United States is immense, a continent, some 3.7 million square miles, with 280 million people. It has more than 60 international airports, coastlines totaling more than 12,000 miles. We takes in more than 45 million visitors a year. Israel has been in a state of siege literally from the moment of its birth. Its public places -- its bus terminals, airports, theaters -- are or are supposed to be at the highest levels of security.

And that sense has been crucial to its tourist business, one of the lifebloods of Israel's economy. And yet it's a business that has this year fallen off some 50 percent. The United States has, until recently, been among the most open nations of the world. And it still is. Its sense of freedom, economic vitality depends on the free movement of goods and people. If the United States, for example, had to subject all of its incoming people and cargo and trucks to intensive border checks, that would amount in economic terms to a crippling blow. Now, what is the point of these contrasts? Well, think for a minute about what has roiled Washington these last few weeks: a series of complaints about what our intelligence agents did not know, should have known, must know from now on; a proposal to create a big brand new government agency to protect the nation; and a pretty clear suggestion that, if another attack hits the U.S. -- an attack the experts all say is quite likely -- it will cause a political earthquake.

So, this simple question: If the small, highly mobilized, ever- on-guard state of Israel cannot protect itself against repeated acts of terror, what does that tell us about the threats to this open, porous society? And what does it tell us about what the true cost of protection might be? -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right, you raise some very good points. Jeff Greenfield, thanks very much.

We will talk politics with House Republican Whip Tom DeLay when we come back. Among other things, we will ask him why he criticized publicly some controversial comments by CNN founder Ted Turner.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Checking the headlines in our "Campaign News Daily": California Republican Bill Simon's first television ads will target Spanish-speaking voters. His new ad takes aim at incumbent Democrat Gray Davis and the governor's record on education. The Simon campaign says it plans to run these TV ads on Spanish cable television networks and an audio version on Spanish radio stations.

A new Keystone poll gives Democrat Ed Rendell an early lead over Republican Mike Fisher in the race for Pennsylvania governor. Rendell leads Fisher by 12 points in the survey, with 25 percent of respondents still undecided. Yesterday, Rendell was endorsed by his primary opponent, Bob Casey Jr.

President Bush is headed to Florida later this week to raise money for his brother, Governor Jeb Bush. The Friday fund-raiser is expected to bring in about $2.5 million. It will be the president's fourth visit to the Sunshine State just this year.

INSIDE POLITICS will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: It has been said, of course, that politics makes strange bedfellows, but bedfellows also can make for strange politics.

In Kansas, Democratic public defender Sarah Sweet-McKinnon is running for district judge and planning to challenge the Republican incumbent, her husband, Steve Becker, this fall.

They both join us now from Wichita, Kansas.

Sarah Sweet-McKinnon, to you first. Why do you want to take your husband's job away from him?

SARAH SWEET-MCKINNON, KANSAS PUBLIC DEFENDER: You know, I don't think it's a matter of me wanting to take my husband's job away from him. I have a very sincere desire to serve my community in the profession that I have chosen. And right now, I can't do that.

I'm an attorney. And as long as I'm an attorney practicing law, I can't appear in front of Judge Becker, my husband. So, it makes it quite awkward. And this is a way I can see that I can serve my community at home.

WOODRUFF: But you would be taking his job away from him.

SWEET-MCKINNON: Well, that's the end result, I guess, but that's not my sole purpose with all this.

WOODRUFF: Well, Judge Steve Becker, we realize you still have a primary to go through. But, assuming you win that, how do you feel about your wife doing this? What was your reaction when she told you she was going to do this?

JUDGE STEVE BECKER, RENO COUNTY DISTRICT COURT: Well, of course, when it was first brought up, it was just a casual remark. The problem was, she kept talking about it.

And my first reaction, I think, was that I would -- she is a very formidable candidate, if the voters get to know her. And I thought I couldn't say, "Any attorney in Reno County, Kansas, can file for my job except you, Sarah." That wasn't going to work. And I encourage her professional career. I encourage her advancement. So, I did not discourage it.

WOODRUFF: But, essentially, she is saying she can do a better job than you can.

BECKER: She's certainly different than I am. We have different personalities, different characteristics. She has got a temperament and a personality suited for the job. I think she would make an excellent judge. But I'm not ready to step down yet.

WOODRUFF: Well, Ms. Sweet-McKinnon, your husband, we just heard him say the problem is, you kept talking about it. Has this created a problem for the two of you?

SWEET-MCKINNON: Oh, not at all, not at all.

I have been an attorney for going on 12 years now. Steve and I have been married for about eight years. For the most part of our marriage, I have had to leave the county that I live in to practice law elsewhere. Like I said at the beginning, this is my opportunity to serve my community. And that's something that I really want to do. And I want to do it at home.

WOODRUFF: You mean in your home county. And what...

SWEET-MCKINNON: In my home county.

WOODRUFF: What do you think your husband should do if you defeat him as judge? What's he going to go do after this?

SWEET-MCKINNON: Well, you know, we haven't really put a lot of thought into that. One thing that I hope he will do, if I am successful in beating him in the election, is, I would hope that he would be the one that would swear me in in January.

WOODRUFF: Are you prepared to do that, Judge Becker?

BECKER: You know, that would be a pretty good last act of my public office, is to administer the oath of office to my wife. So, that has got a certain amount of appeal to it. But it's going to come at a pretty good cost to me.

WOODRUFF: Namely losing your job.

Well, we can...

BECKER: That's right.

(LAUGHTER)

WOODRUFF: We will certainly check in on this race as the year wears on.

Judge Becker and Ms. Sweet-McKinnon, thank you very much for joining us.

SWEET-MCKINNON: Thank you.

BECKER: Thank you for the opportunity.

WOODRUFF: We'll be back in touch. Thank you.

Well, we looked, but we could not find any other examples of spouses who were still together and vying for the same political office. But there are a number of cases of ex-couples running against one another. For instance, in 1982, Nevada state Senator Mary Gojack was opposed by her ex-husband, John Gojack, in the Democratic primary. Gojack said his ex-wife -- quote -- "was a good person until she got involved in the feminist movement" -- end quote. Mary Gojack won the primary, but she lost in the general election.

Like I said, we will follow that one. We'll go back to Kansas as the year goes on.

There's more INSIDE POLITICS coming up, but first let's go to Wolf to find out at what's ahead on "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS."

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

Coming up: the accident that caught firefighters by surprise. We'll tell you about the action taken today as a safety precaution. Also, Nickelodeon tackles a controversial topic. Is it right for your kids to watch? The host of the program, Linda Ellerbee, and the critic, the Reverend Jerry Falwell, will join me live. And the worst terrorist bombing in years in the Holy City: Is Israel striking back?

It's all coming up right after INSIDE POLITICS.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: CNN's founder, Ted Turner, is trying today to clarify comments he made about the Middle East California in which he said -- quote -- "Both sides are involved in terrorism."

In a new statement about those remarks made in April to a London newspaper, Turner now says -- quote -- "I regret any implication that I believe the actions taken by Israel to protect its people are equal to terrorism. My comments were part of a long and extensive interview that I gave two months ago when I was condemning the loss of human life. The violence in the Middle East has reached an intolerable level. And, in that interview, I condemned that violence on whatever side it may come.

"But I want to make it absolutely clear that my view was and is that there is a fundamental distinction between the acts of the Israeli government and the Palestinians. I believe the Israeli government has used excessive force to defend itself, but that is not the same as intentionally targeting and killing civilians with suicide bombers. I truly hope there will be a peaceful and prompt resolution to the conflict in the Middle East. And I am pained by the loss of life on both sides" -- end quote.

We have a response from this network, which is: "Ted Turner's views are his own and they do not in any way reflect the views of CNN."

Turning now to a response on Capitol Hill: Tom DeLay is the House majority whip. And he joins us from the Capitol.

Mr. DeLay, you made a point of saying you wanted to speak out when you saw those comments from Ted Turner in the "London Guardian" newspaper.

REP. TOM DELAY (R-TX), HOUSE MAJORITY WHIP: Well, Judy, I'm glad to see that he is trying to clarify his quotes in the "Guardian" newspaper, where he made -- you didn't quote what he said. And it's a long quote, but I will just take the last sentence.

And he says: "I would make a case that both sides are involved in terrorism." He also, after 9/11, said that the reason -- and I quote -- "The reason that the World Trade Center got hit is because there's a lot of people living in abject poverty out there who don't have any hope for a better life. I think they, the 19 hijackers, were brave, at the very best."

Ted Turner has been wrong on many, many things, but this time, I think he has caught himself and he is revealing where he is coming from. And he's hit an all-time low. I can't -- I just can't believe that he has made, in this "Guardian" paper, a moral -- a case for moral equivalence between the terrorism perpetrated on the people of Israel and the children and the elderly in Israel and Israel being able to defend itself.

I think it's outrageous. I think he needs to be more than clarifying his statements. I think he owes an apology to the people of Israel.

WOODRUFF: Does his clarifying statement in any way, do you think, lessen the impact or the relevance of what he had to say in those quotes?

DELAY: Not at all, because we -- I think we know where he is coming from. He said in his clarifying statement that Israel has used excessive force. Excessive force doing what? Defending itself. Israel has every right to go after terrorists wherever they may find them and try to stop these terrorists from killing its citizens.

WOODRUFF: Why, Congressman DeLay, do you believe it's important to single out Ted Turner for remarks like these or other remarks that he makes?

DELAY: Well, I think it's very important that the people of Israel as well as the American people understand, with very straightforward moral clarity, where the United States stands. We stand with our allies, the democracy of Israel. We stand with Israel in going after terrorists. We want to root out these terrorist networks wherever we find them. And we want to identify Palestinian moderates that truly want peace in order to deal with those moderates.

For people that come out like Ted Turner -- who is obviously a celebrity and a very powerful man in the United States -- and have him say the things that he says muddles the message to the people of Israel and gives aid and comfort to those in the United States that may think the same way. The American people know that Israel is under attack, just like the United States was under attack, that freedom everywhere is under attack by these terrorists. And we have to go get them.

And we should not, in any way, even hint that there is a moral equivalence between terrorists and people trying to defend themselves.

WOODRUFF: Mr. DeLay, I would just clarify about Mr. Turner's role. He was, of course, a founder of CNN. And he is today vice chair of the AOL Time Warner board. However, he has no operational or direct or -- oversight over CNN.

I want to take just the minute we have remaining to ask you a very quick question about the president's proposal to create a new Department of Homeland Security. Do you agree with your colleague, Majority Leader Dick Armey, that some elements of the FBI and the CIA should be moved into this new department?

DELAY: I'm not sure I agree with that. I'm working with the White House, along with the other leaders, to look at what the White House has proposed to us. I think their proposal of this Department of Homeland Security becoming a client of the CIA and the FBI and focusing on what is necessary to keep Americans secure is the right way to go.

WOODRUFF: And in terms of the changes, what are you looking at? Can you be a little more specific, just quickly?

DELAY: No, no. It's way too early. We just started the process. The president just brought the bill up today and showed us what his legislative languages are. It's way too early to get into details.

WOODRUFF: All right, Tom DeLay, who is the House majority whip, we thank you very much for joining us.

DELAY: My pleasure, Judy.

WOODRUFF: We appreciate it.

DELAY: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: And that is it for INSIDE POLITICS. "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS" is next.

We thank you for joining us. I'm Judy Woodruff.

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