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Greens Blast Bush Forest Plan as Pandering to Timber Industry; Majette Explains Primary Victory Over McKinney; Bush Approval Ratings Fall Back to Earth

Aired August 22, 2002 - 16:00   ET

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


JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: President Bush making a familiar pitch for his economic plan, going back over the tax cuts that Congress passed at his request last year in saying he wants those tax cuts to be permanent. But the reason the president is in Oregon today is to tour an area where wildfires are still raging, and the president is there to unveil a plan he has to thin the forest to allow loggers to cut down more trees, to cut back on environmental regulations, environmental laws to allow all this to happen. Now, the president in Central Point, Oregon, where you see he is surrounded by people from that community.
We want to get now quickly an environmentalist response to the president's speech. He is Sierra Club executive director Carl Pope. He's with us now. Mr. Pope, what is wrong with the president's idea, which is simply, these fires are out of control, these forests have got to be thinned, the Federal government's got to be involved?

CARL POPE, EXEC DIR., SIERRA CLUB: There's nothing wrong with the concept that we need to deal with the fire risk. The disappointing thing about the president's program is it really won't do anything to help the problem in spite of his rhetoric. It doesn't...

WOODRUFF: What do you mean?

POPE: It doesn't set priorities. It doesn't provide funding and it doesn't provide personnel. At the rate the Forest Service is moving this year, it will take them 90 years to finish doing the fire protection work around communities at risk because they are taking too much of the money and too many of the people and using them to do projects that have nothing to do with protecting communities but are designed to put timbers into the pockets of the timber industry.

We call for a plan that would say, over the next five years, every community at risk in America should have the community protection zone around that community, the place where a fire could come from, cleaned up, thinned, cleared out and protected. We can do that job if we make that the first priority, the top mission for the U.S. Forest Service.

We've asked the administration to do that and what he said instead is, let's make life easier for the Forest Service and the timber industry. Frankly the two institutions that haven't shown very much interest in protecting communities. WOODRUFF: Let me ask you, I mean, even people like Democratic Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, have said that he agrees with a plan like the president's to let these forests be thinned. So my question is, is it just environmental groups like yours that are opposing this?

POPE: We are not saying you shouldn't thin the forest. That's actually not what we are saying. What we're saying is you need to thin the areas around communities first. You need -- that's what Senator Daschle's proposal did. They were thinning areas right around communities there in South Dakota.

WOODRUFF: And you're saying the president's plan does not do that?

POPE: The president's plan does not do that. We asked the administration to set a priority. What the administration is saying is, instead of thinning areas around communities, which by and large costs money, we're going to thin areas wherever the timber area wants to cut big trees. That's typically not in the areas where communities are at risk. This year the Forest Service has spent more than half of the money that it was given to protect communities, 50, 75, 100 miles from communities, because that's where the timber industry wanted to go, and the president's plan will allow them do even more of that. We're saying, set priorities, appropriate money, move the people in, get the job done that is going to protect communities.

WOODRUFF: All right. Carl Pope, we hear you. Carl Pope is executive director of the Sierra Club. Thank you so much. We appreciate it.

POPE: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: And coming up next on INSIDE POLITICS, a new poll on public attitudes towards Iraq. Plus, President Bush has been busy this summer breaking fund-raising records. I'll ask a political money man about the urgent race to pull in big bucks.

Also ahead, I will ask Georgia Democrat Denise Majette about her primary victory over Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney and the help she got from supporters of Israel. And later find out who has a beef with a very unscientific burrito poll. This is INSIDE POLITICS.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: As the scorching summer wears on, President Bush's once sky high approval rating is falling a little farther back down to earth. Our new polls show 65 percent of Americans now approve of Mr. Bush's job performance, still way up there, but down from a summer high of 76 percent back in June. Several months of headlines about economic troubles and a possible attack on Iraq may not be helping Mr. Bush. Senior political analyst Bill Schneider has more on the hot issues and how they are playing politically. Hi, Bill.

BILL SCHNEIDER, SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Hi Judy. You know, the conventional wisdom says the economy is the Democrats issue. War is the Republicans' issue. Well, let's see how that conventional wisdom holds up.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Concern over the economy certainly helps Democrats. People who think the economy is getting worse plan to vote Democratic for Congress by a big margin. But does the prospect of war with Iraq help Republicans? Americans trust congressional Republicans more than congressional Democrats to make the right decisions on Iraq. But something else is going on. Do Americans favor sending U.S. ground troops to remove Saddam Hussein from power? They do, but only by a narrow majority. And, that majority is shrinking.

Over the past two months, public anxiety over the prospect of war has been growing. In June, 31 percent of Americans opposed a U.S. attack on Iraq. Now 41 percent are opposed, and those people plan to vote Democratic for Congress by a big margin. War anxiety is hurting the GOP. That's why President Bush is trying to discourage public anxiety.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I know there's this kind of intense speculation that seems to be going on.

SCHNEIDER: If the midterm election becomes a war referendum, it will not necessarily be good news for Republicans.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER: The danger for the White House is that Americans could vote for a Democratic Congress in order to send a message. Let's not rush into war. Judy?

WOODRUFF: But Bill, don't Democrats have to be careful with this issue too?

SCHNEIDER: Democrats have to be very careful, Judy. They have to be careful not to downplay Saddam Hussein as a threat. The public is overwhelmingly convinced that Saddam Hussein supports terrorist groups that plan to attack the U.S. They believe he currently possesses weapons of mass destruction. And they believe he was involved in the September 11 attacks. Americans are cautious about war, but they are definitely not soft on Saddam -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right, Bill, thanks very much. We'll see you.

A Florida professor accused of having links to terrorism fights to save his job. One of the topics ahead in our taking issue segment. Plus, what the army is doing to investigate the recent murders involving military families at Fort Bragg. The "Newscycle" is next.

First, let's turn to Rhonda Schaffler. She's at the New York Stock Exchange for a market update. Hi, Rhonda.

(INTERRUPTED FOR MARKET UPDATE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) WOODRUFF: Among the stories in our "Newscycle": The Army plans to send investigators to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, to review all medications taken by families involved in several recent murders at the base. The investigation will include possible side effects of a malaria drug given to military personnel. There have been five murders at Fort Bragg recently involving military families.

Georgia health officials say they are investigating as many as six new probable human cases of West Nile virus. Two of the six people believed to have contracted the virus have died. Blood samples from the six have been sent to the CDC for confirmation.

In Florida, a college professor accused of having ties to terrorism is fighting to keep his job. Sami Al-Arian said today that the University of South Florida is trying to fire him because of post- 9/11 attitudes toward Muslims. The professor's brother was deported today after he was detained more than three years for suspected links to terrorism.

Bay Buchanan of the American Cause is here; and with us from Houston, former Gore campaign manager Donna Brazile, now with the DNC Voting Rights Institute.

Bay, let me turn to you first. What about this professor at the University of South Florida? Does the university, should they lay off of this man and let him continue to do his job? Or do they have a right to fire him?

BAY BUCHANAN, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN CAUSE: Well, I think it's a fascinating issue right now, Judy, because I think that a university should be allowed, if an individual is really disrupting their ability to perform their duties -- such as fund-raising is harmed by this individual, or recruitment, which is what the president of the school says is happening -- that they should be allowed to let him go.

But tenure does not allow that as of right now. And I think to throw it to an arbitrator -- fire him, throw it to an arbitrator and have this issue resolved would be in the best interests of everyone, because I think it will weaken tenure, which is what should happen.

DONNA BRAZILE, CHAIRWOMAN, VOTING RIGHTS INSTITUTE: Bay, he may be unpopular. His views may be controversial. But he still retains his rights as a tenured professor.

What about academic freedom? And what about the pledge that we all support, not just under God, but with liberty and justice for all? He's not broken any law. And although he's controversial, I don't think the university has any right to throw him out until they can prove something.

BUCHANAN: I agree that we know of no law that he has broken and there is no incident or any evidence that he has committed any crimes.

But the key here is, I believe a university, if it has certain beliefs and principles, that those people that work for it, that they write checks to and pay should honor those principles and should do honor to the school. And that is why I think tenure is much too restrictive. Academic freedom shouldn't be guaranteed employment. You and I have freedom of speech. We don't have guaranteed employment. And I think it is harmful to universities to have that.

(CROSSTALK)

BRAZILE: Go ahead, Judy. I'm sorry.

WOODRUFF: Donna, I'm going to quickly -- because we're running out of time, unfortunately -- I want to turn both of you quickly to the aftermath of this Georgia Democratic primary, where the flamboyant Representative Cynthia McKinney lost to a more moderate African- American candidate.

There are today African-American political leaders saying they are troubled by the notion that Jewish groups are targeting blacks. And Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson, who is head of the Congressional Black Caucus, said they're trying to pick our leaders.

Is that what's going on, Donna?

BRAZILE: No, I don't think so.

I think that there are 39 African-Americans members of Congress. Three will retire. Two will be replaced by African-Americans. Two have lost in the primary. Those two will be replaced by African- Americans. Look, African-Americans and Jewish-Americans are the most loyal Democrats in the country. And while at times our relationships sour, but this is a message that we all need to hear and hear clearly, is that African-Americans and Jews have fought before for civil rights and human rights and they will continue to fight the same battles in the future.

BUCHANAN: You know, I think that the Jewish lobbying group, though, Donna, made a huge mistake. McKinney was falling on her own sword. They didn't need to step into this. They didn't need to antagonize the black community by playing a role here. She lost by 16 points.

And just months before her primary, which is an open primary, Republicans able to cross over, she trashes the president of the United States, virtually suggesting a treasonous act by him. And so she infuriated them, gave them reason to cross over. And she was coming down. Why do they get into something like that and really, I think -- really increase the mistrust between the two groups?

(CROSSTALK)

WOODRUFF: We are going to have to leave it there. I'm sorry. We want to hear, always, more from both of you. It is going to have to hold until next week.

BRAZILE: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: Donna, Bay, thanks very much.

BUCHANAN: Thank you, Judy.

WOODRUFF: We will discuss further political tensions between Jews and African-Americans tomorrow, when we talk with the Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan.

But up next, we'll talk to the Democrat who toppled Congresswoman McKinney, Denise Majette.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Checking the headlines in our "Campaign News Daily": New York Governor George Pataki is going after independent candidate Thomas Golisano with a tough new TV ad. The spot uses the image of Senator John McCain to question Golisano's credibility.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NARRATOR: McCain told Tom Golisano not to use his name in an ad. McCain says Golisano's ad is false and misleading. You just can't believe Tom Golisano.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: Meanwhile, the race for Michigan governor appears to be tightening. Democrat Jennifer Granholm has a 13-point lead over Republican Dick Posthumus in a new EPIC-MRA poll of likely voters. When the two candidates were paired up for a poll back in May, Granholm's lead was 19 points.

Mayoral candidate Jim Fielding of Port Saint Lucie, Florida, says most people won't notice the typos on his campaign signs. Fielding recently spent $500 on yard signs promoting his campaign, but his last name was misspelled on the signs two different ways. Fielding says he is going to use the signs anyway.

Well, in Georgia, political observers still are dissecting Tuesday's primary defeat of controversial Democratic Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney.

And we are joined now by the political novice who managed to remove Cynthia McKinney. She is former state court Judge Denise Majette.

First of all, congratulations.

DENISE MAJETTE (D), GEORGIA CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: Thank you. Thank you very much.

WOODRUFF: Some of your critics are already saying, yes, you won, but it was because there were Republican crossover votes and because you got so much money from outside the state.

MAJETTE: Well, we were able to win because we were able to build a strong coalition of people across the district. And the money that we received from outside of the district just helped us get our message out. But the funding that we received and the support that we received began right there at home.

WOODRUFF: Well, I want to ask you about that money from outside the district. Someone you're going to have to work with if you're elected in November is Eddie Bernice Johnson. She's the congresswoman who is chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, quoted today in the press as saying she is concerned that outside groups are exerting so much influence in a race.

She said -- quote -- "There's a growing perception that Jewish people are attempting to pick our leaders" in the African-American community. What do you say to her?

MAJETTE: That the people of the 4th District made the decision on who was able to best represent them in the Democratic Party. And that's the bottom line. The people of the district voted and the people of the district made the decision.

WOODRUFF: But, at the same time, a lot of money came into your campaign from outside interests. We just talked about that, a lot of that money from pro-Israel groups. Is there any -- should people have any reason to be concerned?

MAJETTE: No, no reason at all. And my allegiance, my first priority will be the people of the 4th district. The campaign that we started began with people who were right there in the district. We ended up with hundreds of volunteers and obviously tens of thousands of voters who believed that I could best serve the district.

WOODRUFF: Are you going to have difficulty working with other members of Congress who happen to be African-American over this issue?

MAJETTE: I expect that we will be able to work well and that we will have a strong relationship once they get to know me. I intend to have meetings individually with the members of the Black Caucus, as well as other members of Congress, before I get there in January. I'm looking forward to that. And I think I'll be able to reassure them that I will be someone who will be an effective legislator and who will be able to work with the people in Congress to get the job done.

WOODRUFF: You don't think you were used by some of these outside groups?

MAJETTE: Oh, absolutely not. I made the decision to run. I'm a very, very independent woman. And I took on this race as my decision. And lots and lots of people discouraged me. But the bottom line was, as a 19-year resident of the district, I knew that there were lots of needs that were not being met and believed that I could be someone to meet those needs.

WOODRUFF: Denise Majette, again, congratulations. And we thank you for talking to us.

MAJETTE: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: We'll see you again soon. Coming up next here: bringing in the big money. When it comes to campaign cash, President Bush makes good on his pledge to hold a working vacation.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: President Bush will appear at several fund-raisers for California gubernatorial candidate Bill Simon later this week. But CNN has learned that the events will be closed to the media, meaning there will probably be no images of the president and Bill Simon together.

Now, this week's fund-raisers are the latest in a heavy schedule of campaign events during the president's self-described working vacation.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(voice-over): Two jampacked weeks: an economic forum in Waco, the Iowa State Fair, a speech at Mount Rushmore, a military summit in Crawford, a wildfire speech in Oregon, and on the side, a heavy dose of campaign politics.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I am here to help this good man because I believe in him.

WOODRUFF: The campaigning started last week in Milwaukee with a fund-raiser for Governor Scott McCallum's reelection bid, the take: $600,000.

On to Des Moines and a $1.2 million fund-raiser for GOP gubernatorial candidate Doug Gross. Next: South Dakota and a valuable photo-op with Senate candidate John Thune. Thune videotaped the event for possible use in a future ad.

Today, the president is raising money for Oregon Senator Gordon Smith, first at a $5,000-per-dollar senatorial roundtable; later at a $1,000-a-head gala, where you can get your photo with the president for a mere $25,000. Tomorrow, California and another fund-raiser, this one for GOP gubernatorial candidate Bill Simon.

Including Oregon, California and a trip to New Mexico this weekend, the president has visited 36 states this year, raising money for GOP candidates in 24 of them. According to our tally, Bush will have raised almost $111 million.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: One hundred and eleven million, that's the most a president has ever raised in his first 19 months in office. By contrast, Bill Clinton raised roughly $38 million during the same period.

With me now from Nashville is Ted Welch. He is a finance chair for the National Republican Senatorial Committee and a fund-raiser for Lamar Alexander's Senate campaign there. Ted Welch, thank you for joining us. Why the feverish race to raise all this money?

TED WELCH, REPUBLICAN FUND-RAISER: Because we needed to offset the amount of money that the Democrats are raising and will have the full support of labor.

And we have a lot of good candidates. It is very important that we regain control of the U.S. Senate this November so the president's agenda can be put into place. Daschle, particularly, has been such an obstructionist that we need him gone as majority leader forever and ever.

WOODRUFF: My colleagues here at CNN have been trying very hard all day to find out from the Republican National Committee, from the party committees, how much of this money the president has raised is hard money, how much is soft money. We haven't been able to find out. Does it matter?

WELCH: No, it doesn't matter a whole lot of difference.

Of course, from the candidate's perspective, they would much prefer having hard money raised rather than soft money that go to the national committees. And the day after this election, soft money will no longer be, only -- all the candidates will have to depend -- the federal candidates will have to depend on hard money to support their efforts.

WOODRUFF: How is that going to change how candidates campaign? How is it going to change President Bush's schedule? Is he going to have to hop around more to individual candidate events or can he do any more? Presumably, he can't do any more of these big national party events like the one in Washington, where they raised about $35 million in one night.

WELCH: Well, you can still hold the large events. They will have to much broader-based. And it will have to be people contributing hard money as opposed to soft money.

An individual can still give about $50,000 a year to impact the outcome of federal races after November 6. So he can still hold some high-dollar events. But the demand for this particular president is going to increase day by day, because every single candidate in the country would like to have him by their side.

WOODRUFF: Ted Welch, how does it change your job as a major fund-raiser for the Republican Party and for Senate candidates, including Lamar Alexander? How will it change your job once campaign finance reform kicks in?

WELCH: Well, as finance chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, it makes my job harder, because we will have to be raising strictly hard money rather than soft money in the larger amounts.

But as finance chairman for Lamar Alexander, it would actually make it easier, because they virtually double the amount that you can give. They increase it from $1,000 to $2,000 per election cycle. So, for the same amount of effort, theoretically, you can raise twice as much hard money as you might otherwise.

But it does require that you have a much larger volunteer organization then you have otherwise and also requires that you develop a larger and more efficient master file, so you can raise money by direct mail.

WOODRUFF: Well, Ted Welch, we hear that you are well-equipped on both scores, both to raise that money for Lamar Alexander and for the national committee.

We thank you so much for talking with us today. And we hope to talk to you again soon.

WELCH: My pleasure.

WOODRUFF: Thank you. Good to see you.

WELCH: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: And, INSIDE POLITICS will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Even many Democrats would agree that political consultant-turned-"CROSSFIRE"-co-host James Carville is something of a character.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES CARVILLE, CO-HOST, "CROSSFIRE": If ifs and buts was beers and nuts, we'd have a hell of a party.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: Now Carville plans to really get animated. The Ragin' Cajun will provide the voice for a character in an upcoming Disney movie featuring bluegrass music and set in Appalachia. The film is slated for the year 2005 and it also will feature the voices of Dolly Parton and Lily Tomlin. We can't wait.

I'll be back in a moment with a quick bite on politics and burritos at a place where some CNN stars are considered big enchiladas.

But now let's take a look at what's coming up on -- I didn't know that was coming -- what's coming up on "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS."

Wolf, I'm sure you're there, too. Hello.

WOLF BLITZER, "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS": I'm waiting to see you, Judy.

In a moment, we'll have more on the terror on tape. CNN investigates how al Qaeda can create terror without smuggling bombs. If there is another war against Saddam Hussein, it won't necessarily be a replay of the Persian Gulf War. We'll have details. And a fun event backfires for a famous actress -- those stories, plus the popular Berman sisters on a controversial way to fall in love.

It's all at the top of the hour, right after INSIDE POLITICS.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Finally: an order of burritos with politics on the side. In Maryland, a Mexican restaurant chain is getting an early read on the congressional race in the 8th District by selling burritos bearing the candidates' name.

Well, we thought this contest required some analysis from our polling director, Keating Holland.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KEATING HOLLAND, CNN POLLING DIRECTOR: It's always great to see people involved in the political process, but I don't really think a burrito poll is worth beans. The big question is whether or not people are picking the burrito because of the candidate or because of what is in the burrito.

For example, Bulmer (ph) is the worst-selling burrito. The question is whether they dislike Bulmer or whether they dislike a tangy, sweet and spicy sauce. Mark Shriver's burrito is not selling all that well. It is because they dislike Mark Shriver or because they dislike a savory, spicy, citrusy sauce?

Another important thing is geography. The candidate that is doing the least well is the one who lives in an area where there are none of these restaurants. Who eats at the restaurant is just as important. Only Mexican food fans, obviously, are participating in this so-called poll. The question is whether people are buying these burritos because they support that candidate or whether they want to take a bite out of that candidate.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Keating Holland.

While we're told that Republican incumbent Connie Morella is in the lead, I think the real question is: Is the candidate what people are choosing or is it the sauce?

That's it for INSIDE POLITICS. "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS" is next.

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

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