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CNN INSIDE POLITICS

Major League Baseball Sets Strike Date; Will September 11 Cause Political Cease-fire?

Aired August 16, 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. President Bush is warning he may get furious. We will tell you why just ahead. Here's a hint.
JONATHAN KARL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Jonathan Karl on Capitol Hill. In this congressional election year, is there anything that could lead to a political cease-fire? Well, how about September 11th?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Increasingly, Europeans say President Bush is your leader, not our leader. We will drink your coffee, but we won't follow your leadership.

KING: Also ahead, questions about Florida Governor Jeb Bush's new child welfare chief and his controversial views on spanking.

KING: Thanks for joining us. Judy is off this week.

President Bush said he would be furious if baseball players went on strike. The players set that strike deadline today. The owners of Major League Baseball and representatives speaking now in New York. Let's listen in.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

ROB MANFRED, MLB OWNERS NEGOTIATOR: Without the players taking the step that causes great concern to so many of our fans. Our disappointment is magnified by the fact that as a result of compromises by both sides, we made substantial progress towards a new agreement over the past weeks. A number of important issues have been resolved, and we are close on many others. Most of you know that in recent days, we have said little about the details of the process. Unfortunately, in an effort to explain their strike vote, some players have publicly mischaracterized the most recent discussions. We intend to correct that record today.

First, the only major move on the issue of competitive balance taxes that was made this week, was made by the clubs. That move was to accept the structure that union put forward with respect to the competitive balance tax.

Second, the union has expressed great disappointment at the last proposal that we made on Wednesday. Let me put that proposal in some context. On Wednesday morning, the union made a proposal that moved their three tax thresholds, the thresholds for 2003, 2004 and 2005, by a total of $7.5 million. We were not thrilled with the union's proposal, because the threshold really affected only one club. As an aside, I have been told that earlier today, Don said our proposal on the minimum club payroll should not be taken as serious because it only hit one club. One might suggest that the same could be said about their tax proposal.

Despite our disappointment, we went forward with a counter proposal on Wednesday evening. For the same three years, '03, '04, and '05, we moved our thresholds by a total of $6.5 million. While our move was approximately the same size as the union's, the union reacted very negatively to our proposal. In an attempt to overt a problem, we met with the players association the next morning, and in plain terms, Mr. Dupuy and I expressed our desire to compromise on the tax issue.

The fact of the matter is that the union is not prepared to move forward on the tax issue at this time. Let me also say that we came to this negotiation with modest proposals. We did not seek a salary cap or anything that alone or in combination would act like a salary cap. We know from our experience under the last agreement that clubs will exceed a threshold and pay a tax in order to get the players they want. Anyone who tries to characterize our proposal as a cap does not understand the economics or is purposefully attempting to mislead. Let me close by saying, that we are scheduled to resume talks tomorrow. For our part, I can tell that the commissioner and all of the clubs remain committed to reaching a new agreement without an interruption.

Questions? I'm sorry. Andy?

ANDY MACPHAIL, PRESIDENT, CHICAGO CUBS: Well, I guess the best way I can characterize it is just regrettable that we had to set a strike date. I tried to be somewhat objective and analytical about this and if you take a step back, it seems to me there's been considerable progress made. We've agreed to 50 percent raise on minimum salaries which in my operational experience is not only a tremendous benefit to the entry level players, but a benefit to all players until they get to arbitration, to carry with them.

We have agreed on a pension plan and, my goodness, in prior agreements we've had strikes over the pension plan. We've agreed on the concept of a worldwide draft. That's novel. That's a landmark for our game. We have made a lot of progress, as has been reported on revenue sharing. We have made a lot of progress on what I think and hope to be the first joint jug agreement since 1985. Heck, I was naive enough to think we were making progress last week when the clubs moved to the player's structure for what a tax ought to look like.

So it's disappointing for all of us to be here and to have this date set for our game. It seems to me we just have one more hurdle to overcome. And that's really to what extent we tax the game's highest payrolls. We have had it in the last agreement. We've seen how it works. It certainly did not act as a salary cap on anybody's salary or any club salary. There's no new philosophical concept that we got to wrestle with and debate from now until the end of eternity. To me, it's just a matter of working through the numbers and working out a deal and that's what we intend to do -- Peter.

PETER ANGELOS, OWNER, BALTIMORE ORIOLES: I would agree completely with the remarks made by Rob and certainly by Andy just now. It's true that we've made tremendous progress, and on both sides there has been a give and take from the outset of these negotiations. It seems to me that the real difference here, which has led to this setting of a strike date, is one where there is a real separation between the two groups. Essentially, the Major League Baseball position has advanced to the level of $100 million annual payroll for each particular club. In other words, that is a permissible level that a club may spend each year for salaries paid to its complement of professional baseball players.

Now we think that is an enormously high number, but nonetheless, it is a number that is at the present time in effect in at least six separate Major League clubs. And what we're talking about is not any givebacks which seem to be the common occurrence nowadays with labor management relations. We're seeing to it that the benefits of a salary standpoint as well as other benefits that the fringe benefits that players receive stay the same or ultimately will advance. The tax that's being referred to is nothing more than an imposition of a penalty of a sort if a club exceeds that $100 million per year that it pays its players totally for that season.

In other words, we have endorsed a payroll at that level for each of the clubs, if that's what the individual clubs decide. And as Andy has emphasized, that does not preclude a given club from going beyond that level. It does not preclude a franchise from paying in totality in a given season its players, $130 million. The only difference is that if you go over that $100 million level, you will pay a tax, something like 50 cents on the dollar we advocate, for any dollar you pay over the $100 million. If you don't exceed the $100 million in that given season, you don't pay anything.

We believe that that in combination with the revenue sharing proposals which I believe we have a tentative agreement with the players association, combined, can bring a certain level of stability to payrolls in Major League Baseball. You all know that in the past five or six years there has been an unbelievable increase in the salary levels that individual clubs are paying, not to individual players, although that is the case also, but in the total amounts that these clubs are paying annually to their complement of players. We believe it is time to get this spiraling payroll situation under some control. But remember, nobody is obliged to stay within that $100 million. You can pay more, if that's what you would like to do in running your franchise, but if you do, you will pay a penalty per dollar, which you overspend to a common fund, most of which, by the way or a substantial part of which, would be used to finance additional player benefits.

The idea is to stabilize the payroll situation in Major League Baseball to bring some sense of stability to the overall operation of the major league clubs, to bring all of the clubs up to a level of competitiveness through the revenue sharing, and through the combination of revenue sharing and the $100 million level that Major League Baseball sanctions as an appropriate payroll annually for each club, if that's what each club wants to do then you are going to have a competitive situation, you get the club's compressed and more together so that every fan will have the feeling at the beginning of a season that ultimately, their team has a chance to go to the playoffs, and possibly to the World Series.

Remember, what is being advocated on the other side of this issue by the player's association or the representatives of the players' association is that the minimum payroll before a tax would be imposed, would be $130 million in the year 2003. In the year 2004, that level would go to $140 million. And in the following year, the level would be $150 million. In other words, we, as the Major League Baseball representatives, there's the players' representatives which sanction pay rolls at that level for a club in a given year in those years. Now, remember, all of those payroll dollars have to come from the pockets of the baseball fans of America. And we believe that in order to keep the game within the reach of the American baseball fan, we've got to get some payroll stabilization here. We've got to do the revenue sharing that Rob has talked about and that Andy has talked about and certainly that I support completely so, that we can give all of the clubs a chance to compete by taking monies from the high revenue clubs and distributing them to those clubs that are not as fortunate from a financial or fiscal standpoint.

I am the principal owner of the Orioles. The revenue sharing proposal which is being discussed, to which I've agreed, would require my club to pay into that fund that revenue sharing fund, in the year 2003, approximately $10 million. That means I would have to take $10 million from our funds and submit them or remit them to the pool. And those dollars along with the other dollars would be distributed to clubs that have less resources available to put together a competitive team for the benefit of their fans and so that their fans can believe that they too have a chance to prevail, to win and to go to the playoffs. In other words, competitive balance and financial stability for the game, the ultimate goal being, a competitive baseball situation with prices for the consuming fan being at a level which is affordable, and which is not unfair, and onerous (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Questions? Jason?

QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) your proposal on the payroll tax which is just so not acceptable, like kind of out of left field, but how can that be based upon the fact that everything you guys have done with your proposals has been based on the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) report. I mean it didn't come out of left field. You knew what this was based on.

MANFRED: Look, I talked a little bit about the size of the move that we made in response to what they had done. And I don't know why Don reacted the way he did. He'll have to explain that to you. Quite frankly, we thought we made a proposal that would continue the process. We didn't think that, did we think they were going to jump up and down say let me sign here. Maybe not, but we thought it would continue the process.

ROB DUPUY, MLB PRESIDENT: Two points on that. Remember that even before we made a formal proposal, the commissioner (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the threshold from 84 to $98 million in a recognition of what had happened to payrolls over the two years after the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) report was issued. We had then moved even from that further so their level of surprise is also a surprise to us. Second, in addition to their threshold only catching one team, their threshold is also greater than 17 teams gross 2001 revenues, more than half of our teams gross revenues is where they would set the threshold before a team would have to pay a tax and we think that's inconsistent with all the things that Andy and Peter have indicated we're trying to accomplish and that is a compression of the ratio between top to bottom.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Rob, you're a pretty experienced negotiator. In your experience, what does the introduction (ph) production of a strike date have on talks? The union basically said that this is meant not to go on strike but it's meant to hasten negotiations and maybe create a sense of urgency. What do you think this does...

MANFRED: I said before they set the strike date that I felt that the process had been imbued with a sense of urgency on both sides, that because of the recognition of the harm that would come to the game in the event that we did have a player initiated stoppage, they felt apparently that the addition of a strike date would create more pressure. Iin all honesty, I don't think we feel a lot different today than we felt yesterday. We'd like to get an agreement. We feel it is important to get an agreement absolutely as quickly as possible. But, you know, in terms of our own thinking, I think we are pretty much the same place today as he were yesterday. Jason?

QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) it doesn't seem that there is any common -- I mean they are so far away from you guys. I mean, can this bridge the gaps? I mean considering that they are not even (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

MANFRED: In all honesty, Jason, I think that my experience has been that issues that can't be bridged are generally issues of philosophy. We apparently don't have a philosophical issue at this point in the sense that we have a proposal on the table. They have a proposal on the table. In an effort to be forthcoming, we moved into their structure. And it is a question of how I think Andy said it well, it's really a question of how those numbers are going to be worked out.

And you know, it is not like we're wandering around in in the woods with no guidance. Our previous agreement had a threshold that was negotiated that hit a certain number of clubs. I think that there are some guide posts out there. I think the problem right now is that the MLBPA is apparently unwilling to go anywhere from their 130.

KING: We've been listening here as representatives of Major League Baseball and baseball owners voice their disappointment to the decision earlier today by the Major League Baseball Players Association, the players union, to set an August 30th strike deadline. The major impasse remains a so-called luxury tax, a penalty higher income teams would pay to the league if they paid more than what the owners proposed, current $100 million in total salaries per season.

Let's bring in now CNN's Josie Karp. She is in New York keeping track of these difficult negotiations. Josie, sometimes strike deadlines are set to help move the process along. Sometimes they are set when there is a genuine impasse that cannot be breached. Any sense of which is the case here today?

JOSIE KARP, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think we just heard Rob Manfred say, he's the chief negotiator for owners, that when it comes to these negotiations if there is a difference in philosophy, that's when you get worried that the gap can never be bridged. He was saying just moments ago that clearly they are on the same page philosophically right now. Both parties have said that they will accept or push for on the case of the owners, a form of a luxury tax or a competitive balance tax. Now it's just the numbers.

You heard the owners come out and say exactly what their number is, and that's $100 million after which teams would be penalized. They would have to pay that tax and they came out and say that the number that the union is pushing is $130 million and it would go up from there year after year. One thing that really sticks out for me just listening to this press conference is how the public outpouring now from the owners, where they're sort of laying everything on the line. We'll go over just a couple of blocks away when it comes to the union and their representatives.

All along, Rob Manfred for the past couple of weeks has been holding a conference call with reporters at the end of every day after negotiations are done. And really the union has raised with their words an eyebrow over the fact that he is conducting those conference calls and having a public dialogue. So it'll be interesting to see, John, what this public dialogue now does in terms of, may be derailing the tone of these negotiations.

KING: And, Josie, quickly, the strike deadline two weeks from today. Will they now go their separate ways and see how things go or are their formal negotiating sessions scheduled beyond the lines being drawn today?

KARP: That's a fabulous question, John. As of this very moment, I don't know if they have anything scheduled. I can tell you, I can hold up for you, this is the union's statement. They came out with this a couple hours ago and at the end of it, clearly Don Fehr is the union executive who was doing most of the talking, he said that we are prepared to meet and bargain with the owners representatives until an agreement is reached.

And, John, it's a little bit different than in 1994. At this time, they hadn't had any substantive talks on any issues. Fehr coming out and saying he's willing to talk and we'll see where that goes this weekend.

KING: Josie Karp keeping track for us of the difficult negotiations between baseball players, baseball owners and Major League Baseball in New York. Thank you very much.

Now we should remember, of course, George W. Bush is not only the president of the United States, but the former managing partner of the Texas Rangers. Someone who was an owner when there last was a baseball strike, someone who knows these issues he quite well and is a big baseball fan. CNN's Suzanne Malveaux is nearby the president's ranch in Crawford, Texas. Suzanne, the president doesn't like what he is hearing, does he?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: He certainly doesn't, John. And as you mentioned before, he really knows both sides of the issue here, being a former co-owner of the Texas Rangers as well as a big baseball fan himself. But he was asked that question earlier today whether or not the administration would get involved in this. And he really put the onus back on the players, back on management to work it out for themselves.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If there is a stoppage, a work stoppage, a lot of fans are going to be furious. And I'm one. It is very important for these people to get together. They can make every excuse in the book not to reach an accord. It is bad for them not to reach an accord. They need to keep working.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: And so that's the president's position on it. It's a very strong position. He doesn't want the administration to get involved in this. He wants them to work it out themselves. He hopes that that happens. He says he will be one furious fan if it doesn't -- John.

KING: Suzanne, you say the president does not want the administration to be involved. Any inkling at all behind the scenes that it would get involved if it had to, if there were a strike? Bill Clinton, for example, back in '94 did name Bruce Lindsey (ph), one of his top advisers, to get involved, to try to mediate a little bit, push the parties along. This president adamant in saying he will not get involved?

MALVEAUX: Well, as you know before, he did get involved in the previous occasion, so he really does not feel as if he wants to get involved this time around. But I have to tell you, administration aides say it's really disappointing that it has taken this type of turn in light of the corporate scandals, in light of September 11. They really look at this as an American pastime. They want to see something positive come out of this. But they are really trying to take a hands-off approach on this one.

KING: Suzanne Malveaux on a breezy day near the president's ranch in Crawford, Texas. Thank you very much.

And when we come back, talk of a potential truce when it comes to politics around the anniversary of September 11. Stay with us. This is INSIDE POLITICS.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Whatever President Bush and other politicians say these days is framed at least to some degree on the upcoming congressional elections and the increasingly pointed disagreements between the Democrats and Republicans. But now there is some talk of a partisan truce to mark the first anniversary of September 11. Our congressional correspondent Jonathan Karl has an update now on the politics from 9/11.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KARL: ... from Rudy Giuliani and George Pataki. But in a measure of how sensitive the politics of 9/11 are, a new Giuliani TV ad for Pataki's reelection campaign aid doesn't even mention it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, ADVERTISEMENT)

RUDY GIULIANI, FORMER MAYOR, NEW YORK CITY: I think people have always looked at George Pataki as a very honest man and a man who's a real source of strength for our state.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KARL: And when it comes to the upcoming one-year anniversary of the attacks, campaigns throughout the country are in competition to prove they will do nothing to politicize it. The latest gambit comes from Patty Murray, the chairwoman of the Democratic senatorial campaign committee. In a letter to her Republican counterpart, Murray calls for a moratorium on all party political advertising in Senate races from September 7 to September 12. The Republicans say they'll consider their proposal and their senatorial committee was already promising a moratorium.

GINNY WOLFE, NRSC COMMUNICATIONS DIR: You're going to see that the pretty much everyone is going to be very sensitive to the time and are going to take some time off from political advertising during the week of September 11th to show, you know, it is kind of a sober and reflective time.

KARL: The political cease-fire, however long it lasts, comes just as campaigns would normally be going full speed. But don't expect the lull to last for long.

HOWARD WOLFSON, DCCC EXECUTIVE DIR: After September 11th itself last year, there were a lot of these questions being posed, about how campaigns would run negative ads, would they run negative ads. Would the tenor of our political discourse change. And in fact, you saw within a matter of, I think days, if not weeks, negative ads were being run in New York City and in New Jersey in the mayor's race and the governor's race. You can't get any closer to ground zero than that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, ADVERTISEMENT)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kill it. Kill it. According to court documents, that's what Mike Bloomberg told a female employee when she informed him she was pregnant.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KARL: That was one of several attack ads from Democratic mayoral candidate Mark Green in the weeks immediately after the September 11 attacks. They were answered by the most devastatingly effective negative ad of the year, one that invoked September 11.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, ADVERTISEMENT)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I actually believe that if God forbid, I had been the mayor during such a calamity, I would have done as well or better than Rudy Giuliani.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KARL (on-camera): The "Hot Line," a must-read publication for political junkies everywhere, has been keeping a running tally of all the campaigns, the candidates and campaign committees that have said that they will run no ads on September 11. So far the "Hot Line" counts 33 campaigns saying a September 11th moratorium on political advertising.

But, John, even if those campaigns wanted to run ads, it's not clear that they could because many networks will be accepting little if any advertising on September 11 -- John.

KING: Jonathan Karl keeping track of that controversy and the continuing debate from Capitol Hill. Thank you.

The U.S. case for ousting Saddam Hussein. What kind of message is America sending? That will be one of our topics in today's debate segment just ahead.

Also ahead, more INSIDE POLITICS. But let's go first to Joya Dass at the New York Stock Exchange for today's market update -- Joya.

JOYA DASS, CNN FINANCIAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, John. It was a mixed day on Wall Street. The technology sector attracted some buying, thanks due in part to a cheery outlook from Dell Computer. Airline stocks also took off for the second session in a row. Shares of UAL, parent of United, spearheaded the advance with a nearly 20 percent rally. Earlier in the week, United said it might be forced to file for bankruptcy by the fall.

Consumer issues and retailers dipped into the minus column following some downgrades and weak earnings report. Here are the closing numbers. The Dow Industrials slipped 40 points ending the week at 8777, but the Nasdaq composite added 16 points. There are green arrows on the week, the Dow edged up 4/10 of a percent while the Nasdaq rose 4 percent and the S&P 500 finished up by 2 percent. The New York Stock Exchange will delay its opening bell on September 11th while memorial services are held throughout the country. Trading will begin at 11:00 a.m. Eastern time, 90 minutes later than usual.

That's the latest from Wall Street. More INSIDE POLITICS after the break, including a look at Democrats with an eye on the White House, already converging on Iowa.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We turn now to a political problem facing the president's brother. One day after Florida Governor Jeb named a new head of the state's troubled child welfare agency, there are calls for Jerry Regier to step down. At issue: an essay Regier was credited with co- writing outlining evangelical Christian views, including a controversial statement about spanking.

CNN's John Zarrella has the story from Miami.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN MIAMI BUREAU CHIEF (voice-over): Jerry Regier was appointed Thursday to save and rebuild Florida's embattled Department of Children and Families. And, if his selection kept the agency's problem from becoming a campaign issue for Governor Jeb Bush, that would be a bonus.

But only a day after his appointment, writings attributed to Regier have some questioning his selection. Some child welfare advocates are demanding an explanation. And the Democratic Party wants him gone.

BOB POE, FLORIDA DEMOCRATIC CHAIRMAN: I've talked to our legislative leaders around the state. They're all horrified. And they want this name withdrawn immediately.

ZARRELLA: In 1989, Regier's name appears on the cover of an essay, "The Christian Worldview of the Family." The essay lays out dozens of conservative Christian interpretations of the Bible, statements like -- quote -- "We affirm that the husband has final say in any family dispute, insofar as he does not violate Biblical principles" -- end quote.

The essay outlines when a woman can work outside the home and when she can't. It discusses homosexuality and being single. But, most troubling to child welfare advocates is the view taken of corporal punishment -- quote -- "We affirm that Biblical spanking may cause temporary and superficial bruises or welts that do not constitute child abuse."

POE: This man is well beyond conservative. These are right- wing, radical beliefs. These are not just conservative. These are off the charts.

ZARRELLA: Despite his name on the cover of the essay, in a statement, Regier says he did not co-author the document and he does not agree with all the Biblical interpretations. He said -- quote -- "It is not my position that corporal punishment should result in welts or bruises," and -- quote -- "I support women in the work force" -- end quote.

The president of the Center for Florida's Children has a much different view of what constitutes child abuse.

JACK LEVINE, CENTER FOR FLORIDA'S CHILDREN: I, however, believe that you can separate personal beliefs from professional obligations. I do have a concern, however, that corporal punishment, in its ideal, should not be leaving bruises and welts. I think that does signify child abuse.

ZARRELLA: According to Governor Jeb Bush's office, the governor didn't know about the writings before he appointed Regier.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZARRELLA: On the campaign trail today, Governor Jeb Bush is saying that he continues to stand by his appointment of Regier for Florida's Department of Children and Families, and that no one has ever questioned Regier's record in child services, that he is an accomplished leader, and that "The Miami Herald," which originally brought broke the story, got it wrong, and that Regier has distanced himself from the writings and was never really an author, again, John, despite the fact that, for 13 years now, his name has appeared on the front cover of that essay -- John.

KING: Well, John, they had to know in the Bush campaign, because of the Democrats making such an issue about this, that this appointment would be closely scrutinized. And yet the governor did not do the research, did not have somebody do a background check. You can go online and get most of these articles, can you not?

ZARRELLA: Absolutely.

And that's, in fact, where we got the article, online. And, in fact, when we talked to Governor Keating's office in Oklahoma -- Governor Keating's office supposedly had recommended Regier. And they said, well, in fact, they did recommend him as someone who could come on to help with the department, but never really recommended him as someone who could take over the department, but only as an adviser.

So, only yesterday -- or Wednesday -- did Keating's office in Oklahoma actually have a conversation with Bush's office about Regier. And the next thing you know, Regier is appointed secretary of the department. So, apparently, no, John, a lot of homework probably wasn't done by the Bush campaign or by the Bush governor's office.

KING: And the controversy likely to continue. John Zarrella, joining us Miami -- thank you, John.

And with us now: Michelle Cottle of "The New Republic" and Terry Jeffrey of "Human Events" magazine.

Michelle, let's start where we just left off with John Zarrella.

Trouble for Governor Bush, this new controversy?

MICHELLE COTTLE, "THE NEW REPUBLIC": Well, obviously, this was a big appointment that he had to do.

The state of the child welfare system in Florida has been a hot point for Democrats to jump on. And the fact that he didn't pay enough attention to what he was doing to be able to kind of foresee that this was coming suggests a lack of attentiveness on his part that he is going to pay for politically.

KING: What about, Terry Jeffrey, the specifics of the items in the article, the spanking and the like?

TERRY JEFFREY, EDITOR, "HUMAN EVENTS": Well, I'll tell you, John, when I read the article in "The Miami Herald" and it seemed to infer that this guy favored spanking that would cause welts and bruises, I thought, hey, man, that is really over the top.

But before I wanted to unload on this guy, I did actually look at the article that he wrote, which is available online. And it's not be quoted fully in context. Let me give you the full sense what he said.

He said: "We affirm that Biblical spanking may cause temporary and superficial bruises or welts that do not constitute child abuse, but" -- and this is what is not quoted -- "but that proven brutality of the child resulting in permanent disfigurement or serious injury should be punished by law. We deny that the right and responsibility to discipline children ever give parents the right to seriously injure their children."

Now, I wouldn't want anyone to spank a child and cause welts and bruises. But I think, to be fair to this guy, what he was really saying is that there are government agencies in this country that overaggressively pursue parents for child abuse and will take out of a good home a child that may have been spanked and there may have been a temporary welt or bruise.

Was it a good thing for that parent to spank a child and cause a welt or bruise? No. But is it a good thing for the state to be overaggressive, take a child out of a good home, when this is a good parent and really hasn't injured this child? No. So, I think we ought to be fair and deal with what this guy actually said.

KING: Let's move on one of the great debates as Congress spreads out, fans out, goes home during the recess: U.S. policy toward Iraq, many Republicans voicing reservations with the president's apparent decision -- we don't know when -- but to go forward with regime change.

I want you to listen quickly to the president earlier today. He said he's aware of all these rumblings. He said he's listening, but he sounds a little annoyed.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: People should be allowed to express their opinion. But America needs to know, I'll be making up my mind based upon the latest intelligence, and how best to protect our own country plus our friends and allies.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Michelle, does the president have a political problem here in selling this, not only to the American people, but to the Congress, including fellow Republicans? COTTLE: Well, he hasn't been selling it.

Condi Rice did an interview yesterday with the BBC and she was answering some of the questions on this. But all the news reports were pointing out that this is not a specific campaign to convince people of anything. The Bush people may be convinced that this is the right thing to do, but they need to sell this a little more if they don't want to face this criticism.

JEFFREY: Well, I think the president does have a big problem, John, because you have pretty serious people, with General Scowcroft yesterday in "The Wall Street Journal," House Majority Leader Dick Armey last week, coming out against a war against Iraq. And they are making some powerful and persuasive arguments, I think more persuasive than the arguments that the administration is making.

So, if Bush is going to launch a war against Iraq, he has got to bring the Congress with him. Behind the Congress, he has to have the American people. And he's nowhere near close to doing that at this point.

KING: Let's follow up on that.

We had Dick Lugar on the program last week, Chuck Hagel on the program, well respected voices in the Republican Party on Capitol Hill. They say they are not being consulted. They don't feel they're being consulted properly. Does this president think: "Well, I have got Dick Cheney. I have got Donald Rumsfeld. I don't need them"?

COTTLE: It's a little embarrassing, because, during the campaign, he talked about, he wasn't not going to run an arrogant administration; it was going to be a humble administration, and American foreign policy would reflect this kind of thing.

And so far, we haven't seen it reflect that. It has come across as total arrogance. And he needs to be careful if he wants support for this.

KING: Arrogance fair?

JEFFREY: Well, I wouldn't say arrogance. This guy hasn't moved forward to actually invade Iraq. He says he doesn't have a plan yet. He's not absolutely committed to an invasion. But their argument is not strong at this point. And if they can't come up with a strong argument, they can't do it.

KING: Michelle Cottle, Terry Jeffrey, thank you for joining us today.

And coming up next on INSIDE POLITICS: All's fair in Iowa as Democrats test the presidential waters, except there's one know conspicuous no-show.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: The Iowa State Fair winds down this weekend. And, as always, farm equipment and presidential hopefuls have been on display.

But, as our Bruce Morton reports, there's one prominent Democrat who decided to stay away this year.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRUCE MORTON, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Bush has been to Iowa seven times since his election. He lost the state by fewer than 4,200 votes last time and clearly wants to win it next time.

Connecticut Democratic Senator Joseph Lieberman visited the state fair this week. He may run for the Democratic presidential nomination. So may House Democratic Leader Dick Gephardt, also a fair visitor. John Edwards of North Carolina will drop in later this week. John Kerry of Massachusetts missed the fair, but has visited the state with its famous caucuses.

That leaves Al Gore, the narrow winner here last time, but something of a mystery this time, on vacation at an undisclosed location this week. Maybe he's time-sharing with Vice President Cheney. Gore's been here just once, but plans a visit in mid-October. What would he find?

MIKE GLOVER, ASSOCIATED PRESS: A plurality -- not a majority -- but a plurality of Democrats probably would tell Gore to do it again. And if he came and said "I'm running," more people would be for Al Gore than for any other single candidate. How long that lasts, I don't know.

DAVID YEPSEN, "DES MOINES REGISTER": Al Gore has a big lead in all the polls and it doesn't mean a thing.

MORTON: Democrats here, like Democrats elsewhere, have questions. What was the beard about?

GLOVER: Gore is going to have to explain how things were different. You hear that a lot. "I just want to talk to him and I want to hear how he's going to make it different next time around." And he truly has been disconnected. He's only been here once. And he's not even doing the kinds of things that candidates do, making the phone calls, sending the birthday cards, not doing any of that.

YEPSEN: If you talk to the activists out there, the people who go to caucuses, they have a lot of questions for Al Gore: "How did you blow this race? How would a new one be different?" So Gore has got an awful lot of work to do in this state if he wants to run for president again.

MORTON (on camera): And history won't cheer him up. Richard Nixon ran for president and lost in 1960, wasn't a candidate in '64, finally ran and won in '68. But the last loser to run again next time around was Democrat Adlai Stevenson. Dwight Eisenhower beat him easily in 1952 and did it again in '56. Is there a lesson there?

Bruce Morton, CNN, Des Moines. (END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: A congressional battle between two Georgia Republicans come down to the wire. Up next: "Campaign News Daily" and a new poll spotlighting the tight race between Bob Barr and John Linder.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Checking the headlines now in "Campaign News Daily": You don't need to be a big spender to attend Elizabeth Dole's barbecue fund-raiser tonight in North Carolina. Admission is just $10 for adults. Kids eat free. An aide to the Republican Senate candidate this week said the Dole campaign is pulling its TV ads temporarily. The move comes just weeks after a Dole fund-raising letter said the campaign was low on cash.

In Georgia, the congressional race between incumbent Republicans Bob Barr and John Linder is extremely tight. Heading into Tuesday's primary, a new Mason Dixon poll finds 45 percent of likely GOP voters support Congressman Barr; 42 percent say they support Congressman Linder. The two incumbents are running for the same seat in suburban Atlanta. Their current districts were carved up during redistricting by members of the Democratic-controlled statehouse.

Former Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris faces a new obstacle. The 2000 election standoff figure was slapped yesterday with a lawsuit by her rival in a Republican congressional primary. The suit says Harris failed to qualify to run for Congress and should be removed from the ballot. Harris acknowledges she did not resign as secretary of state as soon as required by state law. But she calls John Hill's lawsuit frivolous.

Will retiring Senator Fred Thompson's name be added to the credits of a popular TV series? That story up next, along with a possible new calling for acting Massachusetts Governor Jane Swift.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: After deciding not to run for reelection, acting Massachusetts Governor Jane Swift may have a little too much time on her hands. It turns out she has taped an answering machine message for a Boston political reporter.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

GOV. JANE SWIFT (R), MASSACHUSETTS: Hello. This is Governor Jane Swift. Andy is not here right now. He's out making other political leaders' lives miserable. But if you leave a message, I'm sure he'll call you right back.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

KING: For the record -- and you may have heard the governor say it -- the owner of that answering machine: Andy Hiller. He's the Boston TV reporter who stumped President Bush with a pop quiz on international affairs back during the 2000 campaign. Some politicians run on a law-and-order platform, but Senator Fred Thompson may be retiring on one. Senator Thompson reportedly is on track to rekindle his acting career as the new chief prosecutor on the NBC drama "Law & Order." Thompson's office refused to confirm or deny the report.

Here is Cynthia Littleton of "The Hollywood Reporter," who was first to report the story.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CYNTHIA LITTLETON, "THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER": Well, certainly Thompson is used to the spotlight. He's been in what has been called the most elite club in the United States.

He's had an interesting career. He was a lawyer and lobbyist in Tennessee, fell into an acting career through his involvement in one of the cases that he represented in Tennessee, and did it for about 10 years, and then got elected to the seat that Al Gore had previously held in Tennessee.

So he seems to be kind of a renaissance guy. And "Law & Order" could not be a more prestigious prime-time show, very successful, Emmy-winning, always on the critics' list. And he will certainly bring a certain gravitas to the role of the prosecutor, which is definitely a key role on the series. He's sort of the moral center. He's the one that often has to make the difficult decisions and the tough calls.

And "Law & Order" is also a show that's known for rotating its cast, for keeping its troupe of actors very fresh. And the show has defied the odds of prime time by staying on the air for more than 10 years and being able to periodically reinvent itself with new cast members. And Thompson ought to be an intriguing addition.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: I will be back in a moment with the politics of Elvis Presley, but now let's take a look at what's coming up on "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS" -- hello, Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS": Hey, John.

Call it frustration Friday for baseball fans across America. Have players and owners exhausted our patience and goodwill? I'll ask the great sportswriter Frank DeFord. And our viewers also get a chance to weigh in. Then, a haunting discovery in Virginia: parents shot in the head, their 9-year-old daughter taken from their home, now a frantic search; and more fighting words between Iraq and the United States.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KING: And, finally, on this 25th anniversary of Elvis Presley's death, reminders that tributes to the king of rock 'n' roll are something of a political tradition.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator Dole.

SEN. BOB DOLE (R), KANSAS: Hi. Nice to see you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would like to welcome you to Las Vegas.

WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES (singing): You know I can be found.

PATRICK BUCHANAN, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Look at the Mexican peso right now. It's gyrating like Elvis.

CLINTON: There have been times in my life when I wanted to be Elvis, but I'm not.

(singing): Sittin' home all alone.

SEN. PHIL GRAMM (R), TEXAS: The Clinton health care bill is deader than Elvis.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Elvis Presley is still with me.

CLINTON: You know, Bush is always comparing me to Elvis in sort of unflattering ways. I don't think Bush would have liked Elvis very much.

GEORGE H.W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And I guess you would say his plan really is Elvis economics. America will be checking in to the Heartbreak Hotel.

AL GORE: I would have the chance to come here to Madison Square Garden and be the warm-up act for Elvis.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: And that's it for INSIDE POLITICS. "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS" is up next.

I'm John King in Washington. Thanks for watching. Judy will be back on Monday.

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