CNN INSIDE POLITICS
Bush to Temporarily Transfer Power to Cheney; Interview with Dennis Hastert; President Scolds Crooked Business Execs
Aired June 28, 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: President Bush at the White House on his way to Camp David, telling reporters that he will undergo a routine procedure tomorrow at Camp David, a colonoscopy. This is a procedure that is done to look for colon cancer.
And the president said, because he is going to be, for a while, under anesthesia, he is going to transfer power to the vice president.
John King, our senior White House correspondent.
John, were we aware that these polyps had been found two years ago when he had this exam?
JOHN KING, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That is in the president's health history that was released, I think, Judy, late in the campaign. I know that I have heard of it before. Just hearing it again from the president reminded me that I had heard him say that, or had seen that in the documentation.
I can't answer for you now exactly when. But yes, we were aware of the testing in the past. It was before he was president, if my memory is correct. And we are also told by sources that they've had a few meetings here over the past several days, as they have planned to make this announcement.
The White House counsel's office working with the vice president's office. Vice President Cheney is in North Carolina today on a political trip. But we are told, you heard the president say, you'll have to ask him where he's going to be.
We are told by administration sources that the vice president will be back in Washington for the period that we assume will be several hours. One administration source saying, look for probably two or three hours at the most, for the president to be under because of the anesthesia, and the powers transferred to the vice president.
WOODRUFF: John, this is -- I gather, from what the president is saying, this is the first time the president would go to the trouble to transfer power when he's having such a brief procedure done.
KING: Yes, and you heard the president say why. This is a nation at war, in his view. Troops obviously deployed overseas. The continuing threat of a terrorist strike here at home, especially as we get closer to the July 4 holiday. There are concerns across the government that that would be a time that if there were to be follow- up terrorist strikes, that that would be a time the terrorists might target.
We are told by sources Mr. Bush doing this out of an abundance of caution. But that he thought it was the right thing to do since he will be unconscious for at least an hour, some say as many as three hours, perhaps. That he thought he should transfer power to the vice president.
WOODRUFF: John, just refresh our memory on this. What does the Constitution say about a president transferring power to the vice president?
KING: Well, he is authorized to do so. And it transfers automatically, of course, if the president is incapacitated in any way. My last recollection of a debate about this is when President Reagan was hospitalized. There was a debate in the White House over what to do. And power wasn't transferred at that time, if my memory is correct.
The Constitution allows the president to do this, though. And he is obviously doing this. And again, as the president said, he believes it is done out of caution, that he doesn't really think it's necessary. But in his view, because the nation has troops deployed overseas and the threat of terrorism here at home, he wants the vice president to have the full authority so there are no questions if anything did happen.
WOODRUFF: All right, John King, we want you to stand by. That video we were just showing our viewers was Vice President Cheney in North Carolina today campaigning for Elizabeth Dole, who is a Republican, of course, seeking the Senate seat from the state of North Carolina.
As we talk about the president's announcement that he is going to undergo a colonoscopy, a procedure tomorrow at Camp David, let's go to our medical correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen, in Atlanta.
Elizabeth, because he is going to be for a while under anesthesia, he is going to transfer power to the vice president. Elizabeth, the president described this as a routine procedure for people his age. He said he had the first one done, I think he said five or six years ago. Just how routine is this?
ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know what, Judy, everyone age 50 and over is supposed to get a colonoscopy. First at age 50, and then every 10 years. Not everyone does it, but it was good that the president reminded people today that they need to.
You're even supposed to get them younger than age 50 if you have any kind of family history of colon cancer, or any kind of gastrointestinal cancer like that. So, let's talk a little bit about what's going to happen to the president. And I promise I won't get too graphic. When he goes in for the test, he will be sedated. It's not actually anesthesia. Colonoscopies are usually done with the patient sedated through an IV. And they are -- some people sleep through their colonoscopy.
Some people are sort of kind of awake, what people call twilight sleep, and they can sort of see things but they can't really grasp what's going on. And then they wake up sort of feeling a little bit confused and out of it, and sometimes feel like that for many hours or even for the whole rest of that day.
So it's not as if -- when we hear the word anesthesia, I think we think of someone who has to be on a breathing machine, and who is completely out of it, couldn't wake him up if you had to. That is not usually what happens with a colonoscopy. The person is just sedated.
And again, what they do in a colonoscopy is, they're looking for signs of cancer or polyps, which could possibly turn into cancer, in the large intestine. The entire procedure takes about 30 to 60 minutes.
I actually recently accompanied a relative to a colonoscopy. And I have to say, it was not as big of a deal as I thought it was. And my relative also thought it was not as big of a deal as he thought it was going to be. So, again, the person is not completely out.
They are sedated and the whole procedure is 30 to 60 minutes, with the person feeling out of it -- at least in my relative's case, out of it for a couple of hours afterwards. I'd like to bring in my colleague, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, who's with us. And he can give us some more out of New York City.
SANJAY GUPTA, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, hi, Elizabeth. The procedure, as you said, 30 to 60 minutes. The biggest concern about these procedures certainly is any bleeding associated with the biopsy and just any complications of anesthesia.
But, Elizabeth, as you correctly mentioned, the president will be incapacitated by the procedure because of significant sedation. They won't actually have to take over his breathing system for him, which is a bit of a difference, mainly because it doesn't subject him to all the risks of general anesthesia.
It is a very routinely done procedure. Less than half of Americans get the procedure the way they should, according the American Cancer society guidelines. Only about 44 percent of Americans. But as you said, Elizabeth, 50 and older, men and women alike, should be getting the procedure to test for any early signs of colon cancer.
COHEN: And, Sanjay, I think you agree that many of the reasons -- one of the reasons why people don't get them the way they're supposed to, is they're just so scared that they don't get in. I'm sure you've been present at colonoscopies during your training. And I think -- would the people pretty much say that it's not as big of a deal as they thought it would be? GUPTA: Exactly. It really isn't as big a deal. And most people do sleep right through it. But the biggest fear for most people is just really the fear of embarrassment. As you pointed out, that's the reason that keeps a lot of people from going and getting this very valuable procedure.
As we've talked about so many times, certainly catching these cancers early, if there is a cancer to be caught, is the key to its treatment and ultimate cure. There's no indication of that in this case. He did have some polyps, the president did have some polyps in the past, which are very commonly found during this sort of procedure.
WOODRUFF: Sanjay, it's Judy Woodruff in Washington. A question about those polyps. The president said that they were discovered just about two years ago. Does the fact that he's had those before mean there's a greater likelihood of cancer? Or is there any connection between these benign polyps and cancer?
GUPTA: That's exactly what they're trying to figure out. There is certainly an increased likelihood of finding more polyps. That doesn't mean necessarily that there's an increased likelihood of finding any of those polyps to actually be cancerous.
From what we were hearing, there was none of those polyps that were even what is known as pre-cancerous. They are completely benign and, again, a relatively normal finding in a lot of colonoscopies. What they do when they do find these polyps, they'll check to see if there's any either cancer cells or pre-cancerous cells.
If there are pre-cancerous cells, that may mandate more frequent screening and possible early diagnosis. As I said, there is really no indication of that at this time.
WOODRUFF: OK, Dr. Sanjay Gupta in New York, Elizabeth Cohen in Atlanta, thank you both.
Elizabeth, did you want to add anything? I didn't want to jump in here.
COHEN: Actually I wanted to add that I did a story recently that the Centers for Disease Control is trying to get more people to get colonoscopies with the frequency that they should. And I think probably President Bush has just done one of the greatest PR campaigns that the CDC could have hoped for.
WOODRUFF: That's exactly right. Because everybody, if they don't hear about it today, they will certainly be reading about it in the newspapers tomorrow morning.
John, Vice President Cheney, perhaps you said this a moment ago, where will he be tomorrow? Do we know when the president undergoes all this at Camp David?
KING: My understanding is he will be back in Washington, Judy, where exactly, his residence, obviously, is here. We are told to not expect to see him or hear from him in any way. That the president will simply transfer the power as a precaution.
I was asking, though, because he was out of town today, just checking, and was told by two senior administration officials that every anticipation is that he would spend the day here in Washington. Again, just to be on standby, just in case.
WOODRUFF: And evidently not at the quote/unquote, undisclosed location.
KING: Well, perhaps. We know where he lives here in Washington and that has not been such a concern of late. The vice president's comings and goings are much more frequent and much more public here at the White House. They don't usually tell us where he is on the weekend because he has downtime if he's not traveling.
He travels quite a bit, especially in this midterm election year. But we are told he will have the day here in Washington as the president undergoes his procedure.
WOODRUFF: All right, John. John King. I want to thank again Dr. Sanjay Gupta and Elizabeth Cohen. John, we want you to stand by because we are going to now go to the story that we were going to be leading the program with just a moment ago.
As if the WorldCom accounting scandal weren't already hitting Wall Street and Washington like a ton of bricks, now the pink slips are flying. Today the telecommunications giant began laying off 17,000 workers, at plants and offices around the country and overseas. Almost 1,900 of those layoffs right here in the Washington, D.C. area -- further driving home the scandal for federal officials.
WorldCom has sent a letter to President Bush saying the company officials share his outrage that the firm misaccounted for almost $4 billion. The CEO, John Sidgmore, wrote -- quote -- "this letter reaffirms our commitment to working with you and the appropriate agencies to investigate this serious matter and to set an example by accepting responsibility and taking decisive action," end quote.
Mr. Bush today repeated his pledge to hold the nation's corporations to higher standards.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Corporate America has got to understand there's a higher calling than trying to fudge the numbers; try to slip a billion here or a billion there and hope nobody notices. That you have a responsibility in this country to always be above board.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOODRUFF: John King is still with us now.
John, we're going to be hearing a good bit from the president about corporate responsibility now, aren't we? KING: Yes, you are, Judy. You heard from him, of course, when he was in Canada for the G-8 summit when the WorldCom story broke. You heard him today in that speech. That was at a political fund raiser.
You will hear him if you're up at 10:00 a.m. tomorrow morning. The president's radio address, once again, will be dedicated to this theme. And we're also told the president will dedicate a speech to this theme of corporate responsibility on July 9 up in New York City -- of course, in the area of Wall Street.
Mr. Bush concerned about the economy, aides say. He believes that consumer confidence in the stock market has been significantly hurt by the Enron story, now the WorldCom story. So Mr. Bush will keep focussing on this from a policy standpoint as well, urging Congress to adopt new disclosure rules and the like.
And White House aides fully acknowledge this is a political issue as well. We are in a midterm election year and the Democrats believe they can score some points here by painting Republicans as the party of big business.
WOODRUFF: Well, of course, some of the Democrats are already speaking out. John, I just want to read you a part of what Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle had to say today. He said -- quote -- "piece by piece, they," meaning the Republicans, "dismantle the regulatory environment that we had, and in large measure," Tom Daschle says, "they created the sense of laissez faire of just total unwillingness on the part of regulatory or enforcement agencies to play a role."
Now, how is the White House planning to deal with this kind of criticism?
KING: No. 1, by using the bully pulpit of the presidency. A president can communicate a message unlike any other politician in the country. Congressional Republicans, we are told, are nervous about this and have been for some time since the Enron story broke.
Karl Rove, the president's top political adviser, has been urging Mr. Bush to make this now a staple of his speeches. And since the WorldCom story broke, obviously Mr. Bush has done so. And we know he will do so in the future.
If you look at our polling at CNN -- and they have similar polling here at the White House -- this president's single biggest weakness perhaps is that voters do identify him as too close to big business, as too much of a corporate figure.
If you ask them would he put your interests over corporate interest, you get a fair amount of people who say this president would side with corporate interest. So they understand it is a potential political weakness for this president and the Republican Party.
But they also believe that this is a president, again, with the power of the bully pulpit, who has been speaking out on it since day one. There have been, as this White House insisted from the beginning, no direct links made to the Enron scandal or anything. So the White House feels pretty comfortable that this president is safe in delivering the message.
And, yes, they expect a Democratic attack. They believe, though, that he has a much bigger megaphone, if you will, here at the White House.
WOODRUFF: All right, John, I'm going to ask you to continue to stand by.
We want to circle back now to the story that we opened the hour with, and that is President Bush's announcement that he's going to be undergoing a colonoscopy. This is a routine procedure looking for colon cancer. He's going to have it done at Camp David tomorrow. He will be sedated for it. Here's what he said just a few moments ago at the White House.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As you know, I've been recommending that Americans take precautionary measures for their health and that people should be screened on a regular basis, particularly those of us over 50. And tomorrow I'm going to have a colonoscopy at Camp David. It is the third such procedure I've had.
The doctor have recommended I have another one because the last time they found some benign polyps. And so this is, kind of, a routine physical examination that will be done at Camp David.
I'm going to be sedated for a period of time and will transfer power to the vice president during that time. And I look forward to exercising tomorrow afternoon after the procedure takes places.
QUESTION: Sir (OFF-MIKE) how long it's going to be, sir?
BUSH: Well, you know, the last time I did this it wasn't very long. I mean the definition of long -- the docs will be briefing here pretty soon. But, you know, it should take too long to get it done.
BUSH: No, not at all. I feel great. It's just a part of the ongoing, you know -- it's a, kind of, part of the annual physical. And so I decided to do it this time -- it fit in with my schedule. And I feel great. No signs, no symptoms.
The last time we did one of these colonoscopies they found benign polyps and they recommended that I -- I think it was two years ago -- and just recommended they take another look and see if there's anything in there.
QUESTION: Should we read anything into the fact that you are going to transfer power, that it's the length and time of this?
BUSH: No, not all. It's just that I made the decision. We looked at the precedent. I'm the first president to have done so under this type of procedure and/or physical examination. I did so because we're at war. And I just want to, you know, be super cautious. And I informed the vice president of this. And he's fully prepared to -- he's standing by. He realizes that he's not going to be president that long.
QUESTION: Is he back in Washington, sir?
BUSH: Yes, he is.
BUSH: Well, the time is -- you know, I really don't want to put out a time. I hope you understand why. It's a...
BUSH: I'm not sure where he'll be. I need to find out where he's going to be.
BUSH: Let's see, not really. Well, my brother -- I had a brother who had colitis. And so there's some history there.
I do recommend and urge that people take -- you know, get these precautionary tests and take a look. I had my first scope, as we say in the business, I think maybe five or six years ago; they discovered polyps for the first time. And it gets your attention a little bit. Fortunately, they were benign.
I think it's important to continue to get good checkups, and this is what this is about. Anyway I'm glad to be able to share that with you.
Thank you all very much
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOODRUFF: That's a replay of what President Bush had to say just about 4:00 p.m., about 15 minutes ago when he was on his way to Camp David, leaving the White House. As you heard the president say, they look at what they're doing as a precedent, because he said the country is at war. He said, I'm the first to do this, this transfer of power to the vice president, under these particular circumstances.
For a little bit more on this. let's bring in our CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin. He joins us by telephone. Jeffrey , this is unusual. As we heard, the president is being simply sedated, not actually completely put to sleep. But he's being very cautious, as he put it.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: That's right. It's actually the 25th Amendment to the Constitution which came into effect in 1967. That's the provision under which he's working. And what he does, technically, is he writes letters to the president pro tem of the Senate and the speaker of the House, saying that he is -- quote -- "unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office," unquote.
And then he -- when that letter is transmitted, the vice president is called the acting president. The president himself, President Bush, that is, then writes the letter to those same two people taking back the powers of the presidency.
I believe the last time this was invoked was when President Reagan had cancer surgery, which is obviously a far more significant risk than this very routine procedure. But, as the president said, he's being very cautious so he's invoking the 25th Amendment.
WOODRUFF: But as he said, no other president, as far as we know, has done so under these particular circumstances. In other words, he didn't have to do this.
TOOBIN: He didn't have do this. And in fact, one of the lingering mysteries about the 25th Amendment is that we don't know exactly when a president has to do it. It's left somewhat ambiguous.
But he obviously, as he said, thinks because the nation is at war, doesn't want there to be any question of a president under any sort of disability, any sort of moment where the country doesn't have a potentially alert president. So he in invoking it. It is unusual, but I think not dramatic, if I can put it that way.
WOODRUFF: All right, Jeffrey Toobin, joining us from New York. Thank you.
And we want to go from that story at the White House to another story we were watching very closely just within the hour. And that was what was reported to be a fire inside the U.S. Capitol building. The building was evacuated. These are pictures of what it looked like when they were evacuating the building.
Capitol police said they were investigating. But now we are told that there was no fire, and that there was no smoke, and that everyone has now been let back into the building. Apparently everything is fine. But just for a little bit more detail on that, let's go to our Kate Snow. She's at the Capitol.
Kate, what have you been able to learn?
KATE SNOW, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Judy, you're exactly right. We can't emphasize enough that this was not a fire and there was not actually smoke. But what happened was, just about over an hour ago, around 3:00 Eastern Time, someone was up on the fourth floor of the U.S. Capitol just under the dome, in an office of House Speaker Dennis Hastert -- it's one of his policy offices.
And they smelled something, the chief of police here called it a strong odor. It smelled to that person like smoke. So that person got in touch with the U.S. Capitol police. They then got in touch with the D.C. fire department and called in the fire department. Now, Chief Gainer, Terry Gainer of the Capitol police, now saying that the smell and the problem was actually from dust that had settled down on a fan motor in the ventilation system and had somehow been blown this person's way. So it smelled and it looked like smoke, but it wasn't actually smoke.
He said -- quote -- "there was no fire, there was no smoke." An evacuation of the Capitol did happen as a precaution, Judy. It took about 20 minutes to get everyone out of the Capitol. And Chief Gainer saying that, in fact, that shows that they're doing things right here because they've come up with this new evacuation plan after September 11.
He said actually it was a good exercise to have, notwithstanding the fact that it's 3:00 p.m. on Friday. And by the way, the House and Senate both out of session right now, Judy, so most members weren't here. It was mostly the staff that had to get out of the building.
WOODRUFF: You know, I was going to say the same thing, Kate, that they obviously have done a good job of evacuating that building. I happened to be over there a little earlier today for an interview that I did with Speaker Hastert. And you could see there's a lot of security around that place, much more than I think the public is aware of.
SNOW: He was actually here, Judy. But just to be clear, he got out of the building when the alarm went off.
WOODRUFF: All right, Kate Snow, thanks very much. Talk to you later.
And we will talk politics, corporate responsibility and more, up next with House Speaker Dennis Hastert. We'll show you that interview. How is he hitting back at the Democrats who are trying to pin WorldCom's troubles on his party?
Up for debate, how to help seniors pay for their medicine. Is it a prescription for winning votes?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: As governor?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can't think of anything that Rick Perry has done while he's been in office.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can't think of one thing...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOODRUFF: I'm here in the offices of House Speaker Dennis Hastert. He's with us now. Mr. Speaker, thank you for talking to us. REP. DENNIS HASTERT (R-IL), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: My pleasure.
WOODRUFF: First of all, the economy. A couple days ago the House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt said when Republicans took over the majority in the House in 1995, because of their support for deregulation they created a climate that made it possible for all of these corporate scandals that we're seeing right now. What do you say to that?
HASTERT: Well, I think the corporate scandals (UNINTELLIGIBLE) a long time before 1995. We had also eight years of Democrat White House. We had people like Terry McAuliffe, who is the chairman of the DNC, that were involved in these deals. And what we need to do is not to try to point fingers but try to solve the problems.
The problems exist out there, that people have been able to mask economic deals, insider trading, we need to have a transparent system so that people can see what their real assets are, what debts are, what profits are. And because that hasn't happened, that is what we need do and those are the changes we need to foment.
WOODRUFF: Well, and hand in hand with that, with this new WorldCom bad news, more than that scandal that has come out in the open this week, are you in the House, you and your colleagues in the House, going to be willing to support tougher accounting rules like those that are part of the Senate legislation?
HASTERT: I think you'll see, first of all, two things. First of all, we want to fix the problem. We don't want to throw the baby out with the bathwater. People being able to have 401(k)s, ESOPs, to own part of these businesses. We don't want to prohibit that. I think that's a good and healthy thing to have.
But we want to make sure the transparency is there. People know what the debt is, know what the hidden profits that are supposed to be there that aren't there. These are the things that we need to have the transparency, and that's accounting, too.
We already have SEC and we have accounting standards that need to be put in place. And that is law that's not being followed now. We need to make sure that the laws we have in place are followed. And then we need to follow up and make tougher laws if we have to.
WOODRUFF: The debt limit. Last night you were here very late voting, among other things, to increase the amount of money that the government can borrow. It's now up to $6.4 trillion. Democrats are saying this is partly due to the tax cuts that were enacted last year.
HASTERT: I think we'd be in worse shape if we didn't have the tax cuts that we passed last year. The tax cuts have spurred the economy. They brought a better economic environment. And I think we'd have a much deeper recession if we didn't have the tax cuts.
I think that any economists, any people that know will tell you that. It makes good political rhetoric for the Democrats. The real issue on raising the debt limit is, when Dick Gephardt was majority leader, they did that automatically. It wasn't even a rules. It just happened.
We thought we needed to have a real vote on the floor. What we want to do is make sure that the good faith and credit of the United States is honored, that we don't upset the bond markets, that we don't upset the markets, that we do the right thing. And not be tied to political shenanigans.
WOODRUFF: So, as a good Republican, you didn't get a stomach ache voting for a higher debt limit?
HASTERT: Well, you know, we don't like to do that. And the real story is that for the last three years when I was speaker, we paid down $450 billion of public debt. Never happened under a Democrat House of Representatives, or it's never happened in history. It was the first time that that was ever done.
We do have an extraordinary time economically. We have a war going on. We have economic -- terrorism that happened in this country. And we're going to get back to balance budgets and paying down that debt very, very soon.
WOODRUFF: Quickly, the other thing that kept you here late last night was prescription drugs. There was a lot of disagreement among the members of your party about what to do about that. But ultimately late last night you did pass a prescription drug proposal.
As you know, however, Democrats and others are saying it's not enough money. It's 350 billion, not anywhere close to what the Senate looks like it's going to pass.
HASTERT: That's interesting. You know, $350 billion is a lot of money. I defy anybody that could conceive how much money that is. But what we've done is provide poor people in this country the ability to get prescription products so that they don't have to make choices where they're going to pay the rent or put food on the table, or buy the prescription they need, or get the prescription they need.
As a matter of fact, 44 percent of all seniors will get prescription drugs free under this formulary. Everybody will be able to be covered.
WOODRUFF: But their point is, that's not enough.
HASTERT: Well, you know, it's interesting. They say it's not enough. But they haven't passed a budget -- the Senate hasn't passed a budget. We have passed a budget.
This is under Medicare. It's set up. We've worked on this for eight months to put it in place. They can talk about it, but they don't have any money to pay for it. So they can demagogue, they can politicize the issue. But they can't pay for the bill that they're talking about.
WOODRUFF: And when they say it's just political cover for Republicans who didn't want to do anything on the issue anyway, you say? HASTERT: I'll tell you, two times we've passed pharmaceutical drugs, it's been a Republican House of Representatives that has done it, twice. The Senate has held it up. It's time we get this done for the American people.
WOODRUFF: Mr. Speaker, we thank you very much.
HASTERT: My pleasure. Nice to be with you.
WOODRUFF: Good to see you.
HASTERT: Thank you.
WOODRUFF: Thank you.
And we have this breaking news in from the Middle East.
And that is, Israeli army -- the Israeli army has set off explosions in Palestinian police headquarters in Hebron in the West Bank. At one -- one description says that large sections of the Palestinian Authority headquarters were -- quote -- "ripped apart."
And I'm reading now from one wire story that says Israeli military helicopters continued to hover above the headquarters as the explosions occurred. Israeli troops are described as briefly entering the Palestinian Authority complex with large bags, but then left without the bags.
Now, CNN is attempting to get more information on this. As soon as we have it, we will give it to you.
And we will take a break. We will be right back with much more.
WOODRUFF: Checking stories in the INSIDE POLITICS "Newscycle": We want to start with a quick update on the news out of the West Bank in the Middle East. And that is that the Israeli army apparently has set off what are described as explosions inside the headquarters of the Palestinian Authority.
At this point, CNN has learned that there were helicopters over the headquarters of the PLA. The sources also were saying that Israeli troops briefly went into the complex with large bags, but then left without the bags. All we know is that there have been explosions. And we're attempting to get more information.
Just within the hour, President Bush has announced that he will undergo a colonoscopy tomorrow at Camp David. The routine procedure requires sedation. And Mr. Bush will transfer power to Vice President Dick Cheney. Doctors recommend a colonoscopy every few years for all people over 50 in order to screen for colon cancer.
In the wake of the WorldCom financial scandal, the president promised today that he would hold corporate executives accountable to a higher standard than -- quote -- "trying to fudge the numbers" -- end quote. WorldCom today began laying off 17,000 employees worldwide.
Meanwhile, in Alexandria, Virginia, today, FBI Director Robert Mueller thanked American Muslims for their help in investigating terrorism since September 11. But, in his speech to the American Muslim Council, he noted that some of its members have made statements supporting terrorism. Mueller defended his controversial appearance before the group.
And more than 4,300 firefighters continue their struggle against a wildfire of monstrous proportions in Arizona. The inferno has now engulfed 417,000 acres. The communities of Heber and Forest Lakes are in danger. And the city of Show Low is not in the clear yet.
WOODRUFF: You can add the name Al Gore to the list of Democrats trying to use the WorldCom scandal as ammunition against Republicans. Gore is stepping up his criticism of the Bush administration and stepping up his fund-raising activities.
Our Candy Crowley watched Gore in action in New York.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Just another Thursday night clubbing in the Big Apple.
AL GORE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Bush- Cheney economic policy is a total catastrophe for America. They ought to tear it up and start all over again and start caring about the people who need some help.
CROWLEY: In a once trendy, still noisy New York nightclub, Al Gore called for the resignation of the SEC chairman and took a couple of other strong shots.
GORE: What we see now is all over the news. There is a lack of confidence in our nation's economic policy, in the integrity of the accounting system, of the way government is being run.
CROWLEY: Designed as a Gen-X event, hosted by Gore's daughter, this New York soiree is a fund-raising for Gore's politics action committee for 2002 Democrats. But there were echoes in the evening, particularly in Gore's "I told you so" resurrection of his often- criticized campaign message of 2000: the people vs. the powerful.
GORE: Well, you see now what it means to have an administration that is committed to fighting and speaking and working on behalf of the powerful and letting the people of this country get the short end of the stick.
CROWLEY: Now, I know what you're thinking. You're thinking Al Gore sounds like he's running for president in 2004, but he's not. Just ask him. Oh, sorry, you can't.
GORE: I'm not doing interviews right now.
CROWLEY: The Gore strategy is firmly, rigidly in place: be seen frequently, heard occasionally, and never answer questions. Al Gore doesn't do interviews, but his daughter does.
KARENNA GORE SCHIFF, DAUGHTER OF AL GORE: He really hasn't decided. He will when the time is right. And I'll be supportive no matter what.
CROWLEY: Mrs. Gore does interviews, too, telling a Tennessee paper she would "love to see my husband run again."
That makes two of them.
GORE SCHIFF: I actually want him to run. I just think that he is such a great leader. He is a really extraordinary man, very thoughtful about issues, very much focused on long-term benefit for all Americans, including the most vulnerable. And I think he would be a great president. I think he would be an exciting candidate.
I want to introduce him here today.
CROWLEY: A family green-light may seem like a given, but in the ever-so-cautious reemergence of Al Gore, it is a definitive step forward.
Look for more signals this weekend in Memphis, when Gore hosts a gathering of donors who gave to him in 2000. Gore critics within his own party say there are many deep-pocketed donors who are not interested in another Gore go-round. A signal to the contrary would help the former vice president keep his options open -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: It looked like it was a lot of fun, Candy.
CROWLEY: It was fun. It was fun. There were a lot of echoes, a lot of 2000 echoes.
WOODRUFF: OK, Candy Crowley, thanks very much, just back from the Big Apple.
When we come back, we'll have live reports: in the Middle East, the Israelis going after some militants who have been hiding in a Palestinian facility there in Hebron in the West Bank. We're also going to go live to the White House for the latest from President Bush's doctor.
We'll be right back.
WOODRUFF: Just within the hour, President Bush announced that he will undergo a routine colonoscopy tomorrow, a look for colon cancer. It is a test that is done for so many people over the age of 50. But president said he will be sedated for the procedure out at Camp David.
And for a little bit more on what's going on, let's talk to our White House senior correspondent, John King.
John, now, I understand you have been talking with the president's doctor.
KING: Dr. Tubb, Dr. Richard Tubb, has been briefing reporters here at the White House, Judy, on the procedure.
He says the president will undergo it tomorrow morning at Camp David. The president made this decision about 2 1/2, three weeks ago, Dr. Tubb says, to have this procedure now, to schedule it now. We are told the president will use an intravenous anesthetic called Propofol, P-R-O-P-O-F-O-L. And the doctor says they're choosing that in this case because it takes effect very quickly and the doctors also can dial it back, in his terms, once the president is ending, coming out of the procedure, and the president will be conscious quickly -- unclear whether the president will be completely unconscious at any time.
Dr. Tubb says that decision will be made by the president himself and the doctors, based on the president's comfort level during what can be a very invasive procedure. Overall, the procedure is expected to take between 30 and 60 minutes. And the White House -- a team of military doctors will be at Camp David for it. And the doctor was asked if the president was overly optimistic when he said he will be out exercising by tomorrow afternoon. And Dr. Tubb said, no, that he has every expectation that the president should be up and about by then.
Now, for the legal consequences of all this, the White House counsel, Al Gonzales, telling reporters that Mr. Bush will sign papers, a letter to the speaker of the house, Dennis Hastert, and the president pro tem of the Senate, Senator Bobby Byrd of West Virginia. The president will sign that letter as he is being sedated at Camp David. The president himself will decide just when to do that. That letter will be faxed by a White House official from Camp David.
And when the president comes out of the procedure and he feels that he is ready to reassume his duties, he will sign another letter. In the meantime, during that interim period -- again, likely to be a little more than an hour, perhaps as long as three hours, White House officials say -- Vice President Dick Cheney will be the acting president. And that has not happened since back in the Reagan administration, when former Vice President at the time, later President George Herbert Walker Bush, did briefly assume the powers of the presidency while Ronald Reagan was having colon cancer surgery -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: John, I hate to keep you out in the rain any longer, but let me just quickly ask you. We heard the president almost joking about this, saying, about the vice president, he won't be president for very long. But, in fact, this is a pretty serious precedent being set here.
KING: It is.
And Mr. Bush -- and his aides now giving us more details -- made this decision based on the advice of the White House counsel, as they considered the ongoing military operations overseas, the perceived at least, through the intelligence reports, terrorist threat here at home, that Mr. Bush decided it was simply in the best interest of the country, even though he may not ever be completely unconscious. And, even if he is, it would be only for a relatively brief period of time.
The president made the decision. He thought it was best to transfer that power temporarily to the vice president. We're told that Mr. Cheney will probably come here to the White House complex for a few hours in the morning, otherwise keep a relatively low-key schedule here in Washington. But, for somewhere in the area of 60 minutes to perhaps, again, they believe no more than three hours, he will be acting president of the United States tomorrow.
WOODRUFF: All right, John King at the White House. And now we'll let you go in from out of the rain. Thank you, John.
And now we want to go all the way to the Middle East to Jerusalem to our Wolf Blitzer for the very latest on the situation there.
We have just learned within the last few minutes, Wolf, that Israeli troops have gone in looking for some militants holed up at a Palestinian facility in Hebron.
WOLF BLITZER, "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS": That's right, Judy.
Israeli troops have been spending the past four days trying to get Palestinian militants out of the Palestinian Authority headquarter compound in Hebron on the West Bank. And only within the past hour or so, huge explosions were heard in and around this building in Hebron. This standoff between the Israeli military and Palestinian militants inside has been going on for some four days.
More than 100 Palestinians have emerged from the building over these past few days. But the Israelis say at least a dozen, maybe 15, perhaps even more, remain inside. They are wanted men, the Israelis say, and this is part of their effort to try to deal with potential terror threats against the Israelis.
Earlier today, a Palestinian mediator did go into the compound. He emerged, though, empty-handed, saying he saw no one inside, although he acknowledged that he couldn't get to all of the rooms. This is a huge building. It once was a British police facility during the British Mandate of Palestine in the '30s and '40s. And the Israelis simply say that the Palestinians were inside.
They laid these explosions. And now we've heard these explosions and seen the results. And, of course, we don't know what exactly did emerge as a result of the explosions. But the Israelis say that those back-to-back suicide bombings in Jerusalem last week required them to go back and to reoccupy areas of the West Bank, including what we're seeing now in Hebron.
We're following this development. And we'll have more, Judy, as more information gets to us here in Jerusalem.
WOODRUFF: All right, Wolf Blitzer reporting from Jerusalem.
And we're going to know much more from Wolf at the top of the hour when he begins "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS" at 5:00 Eastern.
We'll take a break. We'll be right back.
WOODRUFF: We've been talking about attacks in the Middle East, and there's a Middle East connection to the "Political Play of the Week" now -- Bill, Bill Schneider.
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: There certainly is, because, in 1997, Congressman Earl Hilliard of Alabama traveled to Libya and he angered Israel supporters. He angered them again this year when he voted against a resolution in the House that condemned Palestinian suicide bombings. Now, that had big political consequences for Hilliard this week.
The Middle East meets Alabama's Black Belt in this week's "Political Play of the Week."
(voice-over): Enter Artur Davis, a 34-year-old African-American Harvard graduate and Birmingham attorney who lost to Hilliard in 2000. This time, Davis had his issue.
ARTUR DAVIS (D), ALABAMA CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: My opponent, Earl Hilliard, has not been a strong supporter of Israel. I have been a very strong supporter of Israel. And if I am elected, Israel will have a friend.
SCHNEIDER: Is the Middle East that big an issue in one of the poorest congressional districts in the country? No, but it did enable Davis to raise more money than the incumbent.
DAVIS: We've gotten very strong support from the national Jewish community. And I'm honored to have that support.
SCHNEIDER: The money enabled Davis to run tough ads attacking Hilliard's record.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, DAVID CAMPAIGN AD)
NARRATOR: In exchange for your taxpayer dollars, this is the number of bills he's introduced on education: zero; health care: zero; economic development: zero; civil rights: zero.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHNEIDER: Including the congressman's record on the Middle East.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, DAVIS CAMPAIGN AD)
NARRATOR: Earl Hilliard was writing a law that would force the U.S. to drop sanctions against terrorist states, drop all sanctions against countries that support and finance international terror networks.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHNEIDER: Hilliard's defense? Davis is trying to buy the race with out-of-state money from places like New York.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, HILLIARD CAMPAIGN AD)
NARRATOR: Are you for sale? Artur Davis thinks so. The price: $270,000 from 290 people in businesses in New York.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHNEIDER: Eighty-two percent of Davis' individual contributions over $200 did come from out of state. But 68 percent of Hilliard's did, too, much of it from Arab-Americans. Hilliard brought in outsiders to campaign for him from New York.
AL SHARPTON, NATIONAL ACTION NETWORK: Everybody that's our color is not our kind. Everybody that's our skin folk is not our kinfolk.
SCHNEIDER: On Tuesday, Davis beat Hilliard decisively in the runoff. With no Republican running in November, Davis has effectively been elected. He saw it as a statement.
DAVIS: That racial division and religious bigotry have no place in the 7th District.
SCHNEIDER: It was also a statement for American Jews: If you oppose Israel, we'll oppose you. That's political hardball and the "Play of the Week."
SCHNEIDER: It's rare for an incumbent House member to be defeated for renomination by his own party, especially a five-term incumbent. And you can bet that every member of the House took notice when it happened to Congressman Hilliard this week -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: No question about it.
Bill Schneider, thanks very much. Have a good weekend.
SCHNEIDER: Thank you.
WOODRUFF: And that's it for INSIDE POLITICS. "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS" is next. He'll have the latest from the Middle East. He's in Jerusalem.
We thank you for joining us. I'm Judy Woodruff. TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com
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