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CNN INSIDE POLITICS

Drought-Stricken Farmers Beg For Help; Presidential Hopefuls Magnetized to Iowa; Senator Thompson May Return to Hollywood

Aired August 15, 2002 - 16:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


JOHN KING, GUEST HOST: I'm John King in Washington. The sweltering dry summer has put the heat on politicians here and in the heartland. I'll ask Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle what he is doing to ease the pain.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I'm Suzanne Malveaux in South Dakota. Here in Senator Tom Daschle's backyard, the president talked to farmers and ranchers hit hard by the drought.

BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Bruce Morton in Iowa, where the president and a number of Democrats who may want his job have been spending a lot of time lately, except of course for the man who won this state in 2000, Al Gore. Has Iowa a message for him?

KING: Also ahead, when he leaves Senate next year, is Fred Thompson headed to primetime?

Thanks for joining us. Judy is off this week. In his continuing effort to show Americans he feels their economic pain, President Bush tailored his message today to voters left high and dry by drought. Nearly half of the country now is suffering from moderate to severe drought conditions, with South Dakota among the states hardest hit. Mr. Bush went there today with a congressional election year and Mt. Rushmore as his backdrops. Here's our White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX (voice-over): President Bush is celebrating the 75th anniversary of this American treasure. It was early this afternoon that he and Governor Tom Ridge used this magnificent backdrop to actually promote the administration's agenda, including homeland security, fiscal responsibility and free trade. But the real concern here in South Dakota is drought relief.

It was Monday the administration announced $150 million in emergency funds for South Dakota and three other states. But some are saying it is too little too late.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I understand what drought means to people who make a living off the land. I know how people suffer when they -- when there is no rain. I have seen my fellow Texans and I heard some of my fellow Americans today talk about the anxieties that come when you're in a business that relies upon good weather and good prices. I've talked to ranchers who have been on their family ranch for years wondering whether they can stay off.

MALVEAUX: And South Dakota is home to a key Senate race, the White House hand-picked John Thune (ph) is taking on Democratic Senator Tim Johnson. The outcome of that race could tip the balance of power in Washington if Republicans take that seat. Suzanne Malveaux, CNN, Mt. Rushmore.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: To further drive home and illustrate why the drought is a political issue, let's take a look at a map showing the parts of the country that are parched. A number of those states are in the midst of heated Senate races, including Colorado, Iowa, the Carolinas and, as Suzanne noted, South Dakota.

Joining us now from his home state of South Dakota, the Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle. Senator, a great deal of point, counterpoint between yourself, the Democrats and the visiting president today.

Let's move quickly through it, beginning with issue of the drought. President Bush says he is helping and willing to help more but he says the money must come from the existing farm bill, not the $5 billion emergency package you are pushing. What's wrong with the president's position?

SEN. TOM DASCHLE (D), SOUTH DAKOTA: Well, the problem with that, John, is that money's going to be needed for the safety net in the bad years to come when prices are low. That's what it was designed for, to assist in providing an offset to the low prices.

If we had a hurricane or an earthquake, you know that we'd find the emergency help to provide assistance to victims. We have a draught here that's every bit as serious in South Dakota, and we need help, too.

KING: Senator, obviously you want to help the farmers and the ranchers in your state and other states, but you don't deny the political subplot here, do you, the Democrats, your friends, Senator Tim Johnson in a tough race again Republican John Thune, and the Democrats are saying if John Thune is so close to President Bush, who encouraged him to run, why can't he help. That is the subplot, is it not?

DASCHLE: Well, John it wouldn't even be required. That question wouldn't be required if the president would help. Every president has responded. President Clinton vetoed bills in the past because we weren't able to provide the kind of assistance that he felt was required to provide to farmers and ranchers at other times in the past, and that's really in essence what I think is the most critical question in South Dakota today. How can we provide drought relief to farmers and ranchers who are losing their livelihoods as quickly as any time in history?

KING: Let's move on to the bigger question of the economy. Obviously the drought very important for the economy in your state. You called the president's economic forum earlier this week a made for TV essentially much ado about nothing. What would you do, Sir? You are the highest elected Democrat in the land. What would you do, and would it include slowing down the implementation of the Bush tax cut?

DASCHLE: Well, the most important thing we ought to do is to restore consumer confidence, and they don't have it today so long as you have the corporate scandals that continue to unfold.

Obviously we have started in that process with the corporate accountability that we passed. We also want to pass a good pension security bill in September. That's going to be critical. We also have to have fiscal responsibility, and the president exacerbates that with his tax cut. He wants to make it permanent. That's an additional $400 billion, John, that we just can't afford.

So I think it's not digging the hole deeper and putting that fiscal responsibility back in the strategy that we haven't seen now for 18 months.

KING: So you say, do not make the Bush tax cut permanent, that is one part of the debate. Some Democrats, Senator Clinton the other day, said she would slow down the implementation of the existing already passed 10-year tax cut. Do you believe that should be done, sir?

DASCHLE: Well, the president won't sign it. He won't support it. There is a great deal of opposition from the Republicans in the Senate on doing that. What we ought to do is to do the things we know we can do, and one of the things we ought to be able to do, and I think there is broad bipartisan support for doing it, is not make these tax cuts permanent in a way that would exacerbate the debt even more.

We don't have go there. We have to restore fiscal responsibility. We ought not be borrowing from the Social Security trust fund as this president continues to insist on doing. Those kinds of things, John, can make a big difference.

KING: You might call this a bit of in your face politics, if you will. The president coming to your home state, bringing the homeland security director Tom Ridge with him, to insist that he needs that new department. You know the issue, there is a dispute between the administration and the Democratic Senate which you run, Sir, over worker rights in this new department.

Any progress during the recess on breaking that logjam? When will the president get that legislation and are you willing to give in on that point?

DASCHLE: Well, this is a critical issue for everybody, I think.

Obviously we want to protect the rights of workers. You had people who had rights on 9/11. You had firefighters responded to the rescue. They had comments. They had their rights. You had policemen that responded on 9/11. They had rights. You had flight attendants and pilots who responded. They had rights. There was nothing that happened on September 11 that in any way impeded our ability to respond to a crisis. We're simply saying, let's continue to do what we have always done, respect workers rights while we continue to make this country safer.

KING: Can't resist, Sir, this show is called INSIDE POLITICS for a reason, and you have a majestic backdrop behind you. Update us on your own thinking about whether you will seek the presidency in the year 2004. As you do so, on a light note, see a spot for Tom Daschle up there on that rock behind you?

DASCHLE: Oh, John, you are there for a reason. No, I -- there is nothing new to add. We want so badly to retain the majority in the Senate. I'm dedicating all of my time to that. I'm with Tim Johnson, of course, quite a bit during the month of August and other candidates as well. That's our first and foremost goal and I'm confident today we are going to obtain that goal.

KING: Not a bad spot behind you though, there is it.

DASCHLE: That's as good as it gets.

KING: Senator Tom Daschle, the majority leader, thank you so much for joining us today.

DASCHLE: My pleasure.

KING: And now a closer look at the sizzling summer of 2002 and how it is shading the fall congressional elections. Here's CNN's Jeff Flock.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEFF FLOCK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Politicians are hearing about it, talking about it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The West is real bad.

FLOCK: But farmers and ranchers in the drought that now stretches to half the U.S. states want to know what somebody is going to do about it, about the bone dry wheat fields in places like Mobridge (ph), South Dakota have shriveled the crop.

UNIDIENTFIED MALE: Like this kernel here is just a teeny little kernel, half the normal size it should be.

FLOCK: The government says because of the drought, U.S. wheat crop will be down 14 percent this year, soy beans down 9 percent, corn, 7.

(on-camera): which is great for prices, which have been booming here in the future pits in Chicago. The problem is that the way this year's farm bill was written, if prices go too high, farmers don't get a subsidy. And of course, it doesn't make much difference how high prices are, if your crop has all been burned up in a drought.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's been tough and we know that. FLOCK: Take the money saved on subsidies and give it to the farmers who need help, says South Dakota Republican Senate candidate John Thune. He's been touting his clout with the White House as he tries to unseat Democrat Tim Johnson in a race that could determine control of the U.S. Senate. If Thune can't convince President Bush on farm aid, though, Democrats could hurt him in what is now a dead heat. Johnson's also pushing for aid.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So I'm very frustrated that repeatedly we've run into veto threats from the White House.

FLOCK: In nearby Iowa, another big Senate race, Democratic incumbent Tom Harkin had been running ads criticizing his opponent, Republican House member Mark Ganske (ph) for not voting for the Farm Bill. Of course the way it's structured with the drought stricken farmers potentially shut out of subsidies, that could look like a smart move.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Grasshoppers have eaten the silks off.

FLOCK: Right now, politicians are getting an earful, even if the corn farmers aren't. But in drought country, they say they need action not talk. It is hot air, they point out, that got them into this mess. I'm Jeff Flock, CNN, in Chicago.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: Less than a month before the first anniversary of September 11th, plans for a 9/11 memorial have been put on hold for another year. The agency overseeing the rebuilding of the World Trade Center site is giving itself now until September 2003 to choose a design. Officials are inviting architects from around the world to submit ideas after early proposals from the site were widely criticized.

Here in Washington today more than 600 relatives of September 11 victims filed a $1 trillion lawsuit against people and organizations they accuse of funding terrorism.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

THOMAS BURNETT, SR., FATHER OF THOMAS BURNETT KILLED ON UNITED FLIGHT 93: Nothing could be a greater tribute to Don's memory, Don's last words were, we're going to do something. And today we're going to do something too.

DEENA BURNETT, WIDOW OF THOMAS BURNETT KILLED ON UNITED FLIGHT 93: This is our only source of retribution, our only source of action to help stop them.

MATT SELLITTO, FATHER OF MATTHEW SELLITTO, KILLED IN WORLD TRADE CENTER: If the odds are stacked against us, we will beat them. And we will pursue this action until justice is served and terrorism is stopped.

(END VIDEOTAPE) KING: CNN national correspondent Bob Franken is tracking the story for us. Bob, just who are these families suing?

BOB FRANKEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, they are suing a wide range of entities, mainly financial institutions, Islamic charities and the like which some of whom have been named by the United States government; others are not but they're the fruits of their private investigation. But in addition they're suing the government of Sudan and they are focusing on Saudi Arabia. They even name as defendants the three members of the royal family which of course extremely sensitive diplomatically for the U.S.

KING: So what does the State Department do and what are the implications of all this?

FRANKEN: Well, the State Department squirms right now. The State Department is treading very carefully, as it always does with Saudi Arabia. As you know Saudi Arabia has been the target of quite of a bit of criticism, really an increasing volume of criticism particularly among neoconservatives who, buy the way, have a role in this lawsuit.

KING: Unprecedented, is it not?

FRANKEN: It's unprecedented but what is really fascinating about it. It's not the standard class action lawsuit. Up to this point about 600 individual lawsuits with maybe another 400 or 500 who are going to join on. And they're all joined into one lawsuit. One of the first things that's going to have to happen is the judge is going to have to set up some procedures.

KING: CNN's Bob Franken, thank you very much.

Florida Governor Jeb Bush on damage control. That story is next. After the disappearance of little Rilya Wilson, will a new chief of Florida's department of children and families turn the problem around?

Also ahead, a sequel for Fred Thompson. We'll get the inside buzz from Hollywood, a retiring senator's reported plan to return to the screen. And later, a story we just couldn't sweep under the rug. A tribute of sorts to jailed former Congressman, James Traficant.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Florida Governor Jeb Bush cited the maze of problems in the state's child welfare system as an issue in his 1998 campaign for governor. But after a series of high profile failures during his administration the woman Governor Bush chose to clean up the department resigned. Today with political criticism mounting, Governor Bush announced his new choice. CNN's John Zarrella has the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The man behind the governor will now lead the way and perhaps the toughest fix-it job in Florida. GOV. JEB BUSH (R), FLORIDA: It's never going to be perfect but we clearly have an obligation to do better than what we're doing now.

ZARRELLA: Governor Jeb Bush went to a man with family ties to fill the job of secretary of the state's battered Department of Children and Families. Jerry Regier served President George Bush in 1992 as head of the national office of juvenile justice. Most recently as a cabinet secretary in Oklahoma, Regier was credited with making dramatic improvements in the state's health agency. Now he faces quite possibly the most challenging job of his career.

JERRY REGIER, SECY FLORIDA DEPT. OF CHILDREN AND FAMILIES: We are going to move forward quickly, and do the kinds of things to restore confidence from the people of Florida.

ZARRELLA: It won't be easy. Regier replaces Kathleen Kearney (ph), who resigned Tuesday. Her stock sunk dramatically after repeated incidents came to light of agency mismanagement of child welfare cases. It began in April with Rilya Wilson. Missing for 15 months before the agency realized it didn't know where she was. The 5-year-old is still missing. The public's faith in the agency had slipped badly.

NAN RICH (D), FLORIDA STATE HOUSE: We need to kind of lift this atmosphere of fear that has prevailed for the last couple of years and we have say to our communities, get involved. Because I don't think DCF can function properly without the support of local communities.

ZARRELLA: Polls show the governor still has a sizable lead in his bid for reelection in November. But the ongoing DCF mess was threatening to become a campaign issue. With a Democratic challenger, DCF was a chink in Bush's armor. Bill McBride said, quote: "When he got elected in 1998, he promised two things, that he would improve the public schools and that he would clean up the mess at DCF. Jeb Bush has done neither," end quote. Janet Reno says replacing Kearny took too long.

JANET RENO, (D) FLORIDA GOV CANDIDATE: I don't think he's handled it very well at all. I think he sat there knowing he needed a new leader and did nothing.

ZARRELLA: Now the governor has done something. As political damage control, it may help immediately. As for helping Florida's foster children, that may take a bit longer. John Zarrella, CNN, Miami.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: On the international front, White House officials today are playing down a decision by Mexican president Vicente Fox to abruptly cancel a planned trip to President Bush's Texas ranch.

President Fox called off the visit scheduled for later this month to protest the execution of a Mexican national last night in Texas. President Fox called President Bush about the case of convicted killer Javier Medina on Tuesday. The execution went forward last night. A White House spokesman insists the decision won't affect overall U.S. relations with Mexico.

And when we return, the Reverend Franklin Graham's latest comments about Islam. Did he go too far? Just one of our debates for Bay Buchanan and Donna Brazile. Also a check of the "newscycle," including today's sentencing hearing for a teen convicted of opening fire on his classmates.

But first, let's join Rhonda Schaffler at the New York Stock Exchange for today's market update. Rhonda.

(INTERRUPTED FOR MARKET UPDATE)

KING: Among the stories in our "Newscycle," about 10 minutes from now, a California sentencing hearing is expected to resume in the case of teenager Andy Williams. He pleaded guilty to shooting and killing two classmates and wounding 13 others at his high school last year. CNN will bring you that hearing live when it resumes.

At the Pentagon today, workers moved back into parts of the building destroyed in last year's terrorist attack. Marines who work in the Pentagon's outer ring in the affected areas starting moving in today. Complete reconstruction at the Pentagon is expected to be complete by this winter.

A Federal judge stayed her order that required the Federal government to release the names of those detained as part of the investigation into the terror attacks. The judge said she dropped her order for now because the government has requested speedy consideration of its appeal.

And with us now former Gore campaign manager Donna Brazile and Bay Buchanan, president of the American Cause. Franklin Graham, prominent minister in this country, back in the news again because of yet again a remark about Islam that could be considered quite controversial. Let's listen in to Reverend Graham.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

REV. FRANKLIN GRAHAM, EVANGELIST: There are elements within the teaching of Islam that I find disturbing and that bother me. I think one of the big things that has gnawed at me since 9/11 is where have the clerics of Islam been? If this was a radical group that had hijacked Islamic religion, why hasn't clerics come from all the Islamic world and said this is not true Islam?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: Bay Buchanan, do clerics who had nothing to do with this owe the American people an apology?

BAY BUCHANAN, PRES., AMERICAN CAUSE: John, you make the point. They had absolutely nothing to do with it. But the second point is this. They not only do not owe an apology, they have en masse condemned it.

With one phone I received 40 pages of list after list of names of clerics not only in America but across the country, Islamic leaders who have condemned this awful terrorist attack. And for him to suggest that he says he doesn't -- it alarms him, some part of the Koran, the Islamic leaders in this approached him and offered him an opportunity right after he made these initial remarks in November to sit down with them so they could talk and discuss and explain to them really what their religion is all about and he refused to meet with them, John.

KING: So then, Donna Brazile, why, if Bay Buchanan can find the research with one phone call, if Reverend Graham was offered a meeting, why would he say such things?

DONNA BRAZILE, FMR GORE CAMPAIGN MGR: Well, no one really knows, but I must say as a Christian, many Christians found his comments inflammatory, perhaps unwise at a time the president is trying to build support in the moderate Arab world and the Muslim world to continue our ongoing campaign, the war on terrorism. Perhaps it is time that Reverend Graham sit down with some of the Muslim leaders in America who are willing to sit down with him and to have a dialog to foster some form (UNINTELLIGIBLE) in this country and not war.

KING: Bay Buchanan, your take on Florida politics. Jeb Bush seems to be coasting or at least comfortably ahead running for reelection. Now the resignation, a new head of the Department of Children and Families in that state, Governor Bush now vulnerable.

BUCHANAN: No, I don't believe he is vulnerable. He is running 60 percent in the polls and 20 points lead. I don't see any vulnerability whatsoever. But I think what happened, obviously this is an issue, this is an issue that we raised. I think it's a legitimate issue. He's raised it in his campaign so it should be allowed to be raised in his campaign. But nobody in Florida do I believe is going to assume that somehow Jeb Bush doesn't want it see these children found and accounted for and cared for.

BRAZILE: Poll watching must be a new sport in the Bush family. But let me just tell you, Jeb Bush is acting like a deadbeat governor when it comes to protecting Florida's most innocent and vulnerable children in his care, foster care. We know about the Rilya Wilson story. We also know that the "Orlando Sentinel" found children who have been missing from the Florida Department of Children and Welfare.

So I think it's time that Jeb Bush owned up to the fact he has done a lousy job in protecting those innocent and vulnerable kids and perhaps the voters will make a decision in 26 days since he's waited a long time to make a decision, to fire this other person and perhaps they should send him a pink slip.

BUCHANAN: I don't think that's going to happen. If in fact I can almost assure you, Donna, it's too hopeful on your part but I do believe that the head of this agency and Jeb should encourage them, that they need to go outside the agency and start hiring outside consultants to locate these children because that agency itself, and to track them. That agency itself is incompetent. KING: The governor's administration of the government clearly is a legitimate issue in a campaign. But when you get to a heart wrenching issue like this, missing children, perhaps abused children unaccounted for children, how do you strike the balance as a consultant as you are to campaigns, about how to, raising that issue...

BRAZILE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) a consultant in the campaign. I was campaign manager, not consultant but I would like my consultants anyway. Look, you raise this because Jeb Bush ran on cleaning up this department four years ago. He said that he could provide better leadership and finding good homes for these children and basically working with the government. And what has he done? He's lost track of many of these kids.

KING: Let's come home to the District of Columbia right here in Washington, D.C., a mayor's race that appears likely to get racially divided. An African-American minister, Willie Wilson, running against an African-American mayor, Tony Williams.

Mr. Wilson saying that Mayor Williams has catered to the business community and to rich white people at the expense of poor African- American communities. Fair criticism and what impact will it have here -- Bay.

BUCHANAN: I think the best thing that can happen to Mayor Williams is for him to have a little opposition here. Because there's no better way than to get your people out, and he really needs people out to do right inroads (ph). It's going to be much more difficult to win although I think he's got a lot going. But I have to ask Donna, to me, it is amazing.

You have -- you a black American city, really, it's predominantly black Americans here in this town, my home town, and you have two blacks running against one another, and we're all talking about the possibility of having racial, race as an issue. Donna, how is that possible?

BRAZILE: It's more, let me just say it quickly, it's more a class disparity and whenever you have class disparity you have racial tensions. But I think Tony Williams has tried to bridge that divide in this city by reaching out more across the bridge, in Anacostia and other places, to bring the community along and to promise economic development, to promise to improve services in parts of the city that perhaps during his first term he neglected. But I believe that D.C. is really, D.C. has improved over the last four years and Tony's done a tremendous job in improving the overall quality of the city.

KING: We need to end it there, Bay Buchanan, Donna Brazile, thank you very much.

BUCHANAN: Thank you.

BRAZILE: Thank you, John.

KING: Thank you. Bob Novak is coming up next with the inside buzz on a brewing power struggle among Republicans. Also ahead, is Fred Thompson returning to show business? We'll get the story from Hollywood on the retiring senator's next role.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Bob Novak joins us now with some "Inside Buzz," including, Bob, what is it you are hearing about a possible challenge to the Senate Republican leader, Trent Lott?

ROBERT NOVAK, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes.

A lot of the Senate staffers, who are still in town here while their bosses are in all the fancy watering places, are talking about the possibility of Don Nickles, the No. 2 man as the whip, challenging the leader, Trent Lott, after the election. Now, there's even a complication that a third factor might get in there: Bill Frist of Tennessee, who is very polar and would probably be the first choice of the White House.

It all depends, of course, on how the election comes out in 2002 in November and who gets the credit or the blame for it.

KING: Fascinating one to keep an eye on.

Now, Senator Hillary Clinton wanted an invitation to the Bush ranch to discuss some spending issues during the August recess. She's not going to get one. But I understand you have some "Inside Buzz" on who just might be getting invitations.

NOVAK: The Pioneers are coming down. You might remember, John, the Pioneers were the men and women who raised or contributed $100,000 each to the president for his presidential campaign.

But here's the interesting thing. Although they're invited, they're not going to stay at the ranch. They're going to stay at the adjoining ranch. That's what he also did with the Regents, who raised or contributed $250,000 to the Republican Party. I think the president's view is that he will take these guy's money, but he doesn't want them in the living room. And I don't think the Secret Service does either.

KING: And, Bob, United Airlines raised the prospect this week it might have to follow U.S. Airways and file for bankruptcy. I understand, though, you have information that they're hiring some heavy guns, trying to get a bailout through the Congress?

NOVAK: Yes, the story is, John, that Bud Shuster -- you remember, the powerhouse pork barrel Republican from Pennsylvania, chairman of the Transportation Committee -- has been hired as a United lobbyist; and less well-known, but maybe even more powerful, Dan Mattoon, who was a former aide to Speaker Hastert. He's now partner with John Podesta of the Clinton White House in a powerhouse lobbying firm.

Shuster and Mattoon will try to get the bucks for United, against the wishes, maybe, of the White House. KING: And, Bob, what are you hearing about this conservative group, anti-taxation, the Club for Growth, getting involved in a Republican congressional race in Maryland, Wayne Gilchrest?

NOVAK: Yes. They won six straight primaries, all in open seats. Now they're going after -- they always do it once in one cycle -- an incumbent Republican, Wayne Gilchrest, a maverick Republican from the Eastern Shore Maryland.

And the Club for Growth is backing a young conservative lawyer named Dan Fisher (ph). Now, the interesting part of it is that Congressman Ehrlich, Robert Ehrlich, who is running for governor, is very unhappy about this. He has got a chance to be a Republican governor of Maryland. Can you believe it? Running about even in the polls. And the last thing he wants is a big intra-party fight on the Eastern Shore, but there's going to be one.

KING: "Inside Buzz" today from Bob Novak. Thank you.

(INTERRUPT FOR "LIVE EVENT")

We lost our signal there, obviously, from the courtroom in El Cajon, California, where we had been listening at the sentencing hearing of 16-year-old Charles Andy Williams.

He has pled guilty already to two counts of murder, 13 counts of attempted murder in a school shooting at his high school just outside of San Diego, California, back on March 5, 2001 -- defense attorneys asking that Charles Andy Williams receive the minimum sentence of 50 years in prison; prosecutors saying this young man shot fellow students as they fled, and that he deserves the maximum of 425 years in prison.

We're going to take a quick break, see if we can resume our signal from that courtroom. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: I'm John King in Washington.

"WOLF BLITZER REPORTS" begins at the top of the hour. Let's check in now with Wolf for a preview -- Wolf.

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

It is a wound time is not healing. Coming up: judgment day. Parents of students gunned down in a California courtroom -- in a California school, they face a school shooter. Also: target Saddam Hussein and the worst-case scenario. Could a future attack escalate into nuclear war? And moving on on moving day: why those touched by terror are proving they're survivors over at the Pentagon.

Those stories, much more at the top of the hour, right after INSIDE POLITICS.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) (INTERRUPTED FOR "LIVE EVENT")

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