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Andrew Cuomo Withdraws From New York Gubernatorial Race; President Bush Set to Meet With Members of Congress to Discuss Iraq, Other Issues

Aired September 3, 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: I'm Judy Woodruff in Washington.
Andrew Cuomo pulls the plug on his campaign for New York Governor. How did a candidate with a famous name, connections and credentials fall flat?

JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SENIOR ANALYST: I'm Jeff Greenfield in New York.

There more to the Cuomo decision than meets the eye, including the always delicate question of racial politics.

KATE SNOW, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Kate Snow on Capitol Hill.

Congress gets back to work, picking up the debate over homeland security right where they left off.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I'm Bill Schneider in Washington.

Waiting for Deep Throat to arrive and help me solve a big White House mystery.

WOODRUFF: Thanks for joining us.

On paper, Andrew Cuomo had a lot going for him in his bid to challenge New York Governor George Pataki. His father had held the job. He's married to a Kennedy, and he served in the Clinton Cabinet. But in reality, Cuomo had serious problems, in the polls and in a lack of support from his own party. So, a week before the Democratic primary, Cuomo called it quits.

CNN's Michael Okwu is in New York.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MICHAEL OKWU, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is the image some political observers believe spoke volumes about the direction of Andrew Cuomo's gubernatorial campaign. Senator Hillary Clinton marching side by side with Cuomo's Democratic rival, H. Carl McCall, days before the state primary. One day later, citing the need for party unity, Cuomo made it official. ANDREW CUOMO, FORMER NY GOV. CANDIDATE: I will not close a gap in an election by opening one in the body politic. Today I step back and withdraw from the race. I believe the banner we carry is more important than the person who carries the banner.

OKWU: The most recent poll, from Quinnipiac University had Cuomo trailing McCall by more than 20 points, 47 percent to 25 percent. The former housing secretary ended his 18-month campaign flanked by former boss President Clinton, running mate Charlie King and staunch McCall supporter Congressman Charlie Rangel, noteworthy, since Cuomo emphasized his self-proclaimed refusal to "go negative."

CUOMO: If we were to now spend two million dollars this week on an acrimonious campaign, we would only guarantee a bloody and broke Democratic nominee, whoever won and the ultimate success for Governor Pataki in November would be assured. Maybe we could win the battle. But we would lose the war, my friends.

OKWU: Cuomo's campaign suffered from what some considered political miscues and gaffes. Criticizing Governor George Pataki's leadership following 9/11, he said Pataki "held the leader's coat," meaning New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani's. Democratic leaders were miffed when he dropped out of the state Democratic convention to launch a people's campaign. Many were annoyed he entered the race at all to challenge the first black elected to statewide office.

For now, he will have to leave McCall to revenge his father's loss of the governor's seat to current governor George Pataki, who for his part, says he is just focusing on doing his job.

GEORGE PATAKI (R), NEW YORK GOVERNOR: I look forward to a campaign that has a high level discussion of the important issues, and I'm confident that will be the case.

OKWU: McCall, the Democrat left a take on Pataki in November didn't join Andrew Cuomo, but appeared separately later in the day.

CARL MCCALL (D), NY GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: That's one thing about politics, it is always unpredictable. I want you to know that I appreciate and I welcome Andrew Cuomo's support.

OKWU: The former president quipped and offered words of encouragement for Cuomo.

WILLIAM J. CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So I will make you a prediction. I am the only person standing on this stage whose political career is over.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OKWU: Now observers believe Cuomo's move and the good will it engenders within the party may very well position him for a future run for the governor's mansion. Today he urged all his supporters to vote for Carl McCall saying quote, the banner we carry is bigger than the person who carries it.

Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right, Michael, thanks very much.

And now we want to bring in our senior analyst Jeff Greenfield. He's also in New York.

You know, Jeff, in a two-candidate primary, it's pretty unusual that one of them is going to drop out just so close to the primary, so is it simply that Cuomo decided he couldn't win?

GREENFIELD: Well, I think that's absolutely a big part, but I think there's a little more to it than that. Every poll did show that Cuomo, who at one point a few months ago had a big lead over state comptroller McCall was now way behind.

And the Democratic establishment was showing clear signs it was behind McCall. Senator Chuck Schumer not only endorsed him, he cut a commercial for him. As we heard, yesterday, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, Senator Clinton officially neutral, marched side by side with McCall at that West Indian parade in Brooklyn.

That is about as clear a signal as you can find and it makes almost kind of melodramatic, the fact that ex-president Clinton, whose wife helped signal that it was over for Cuomo, now showed up at his announcement today.

But I also think the withdrawal helps Andrew Cuomo with his most serious problem for any future.

WOODRUFF: Which is?

GREENFIELD: Well, I think -- I'll be blunt about this, Andrew Cuomo managed to convince a lot of voters that he was simply too hungry, too ambitious, too ruthless, a guy who could not wait his turn. As you heard from Michael, he never recovered from the comment that Governor Pataki was simply a coat holder for Mayor Giuliani after 9/11. So this withdrawal does save McCall a lot of money for the general election.

It is also the move of a good soldier who falls on his sword for the good of the party and that's an impression that Andrew Cuomo was very well advised to leave with the party.

WOODRUFF: So you're saying even in New York it's possible to be too ambitious!

GREENFIELD: As opposed to Washington, yes.

WOODRUFF: Let me ask you about another aspect of this. It's a little uncomfortable to talk about. But was there a racial aspect to all of this apart from the fact that Carl McCall is African-American.

GREENFIELD: I think that's absolutely right. Democrats in New York have very painful memories of last year's New York City mayors race. The Democratic primary featured a very angry fight between Mark Green, white liberal candidate, and the Latino candidate, the Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer. There were charges of race baiting at the end of the primary, Latinos and blacks, many of them, many of the officials sat on their hands on election day, and that's one reason why Republican Mike Bloomberg is now the mayor.

The only way, as Cuomo said in his announcement, to have had any chance in this primary was to go very negative on McCall and had he won, we would have likely seen another totally polarized Democratic party along race lines in a year when the Republican incumbent Pataki has built a big lead in polls, and has a huge lead in money. At least, this leaves Democrats united, which is not all that typical.

You know Judy the old saying that when Democrats form a firing squad, they make a circle. Well, not this time in New York. They will be united which is, a minimal standard but it's something that nobody really expected about 72 hours ago.

WOODRUFF: It certainly took a lot of people by surprise, certainly as of this morning when we heard about it.

All right, Jeff thanks very much.

And we want to tell our viewers that we do expect to be talking to Carl McCall in just a few minutes on INSIDE POLITICS. He'll be joining us from New York.

Well, encouraging a candidate to drop out is a tricky bit of political diplomacy and according to our John King, a leading architect in this case was veteran New York Democratic Congressman Charlie Rangel. Sources tell John, it was Rangel who led the effort to get Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton to march with McCall in that Labor Day parade that you just saw.

One source says, quote, "Charlie's view was that it was clear that Andrew was not going to win, and it was time to make sure the campaign ended with an eye on unity, not with an eye on desperate attacks." The source said that Rangel and Mrs. Clinton brought the former president in to reinforce the Democratic unity message and to reinforce to Cuomo that he would remain a player in New York Democratic affairs.

Cuomo now of course is out of the running, but two other former Clinton Cabinet secretaries are widely seen as struggling in their races for governor. That's former Attorney General Janet Reno in Florida and former Labor Secretary Robert Reich in Massachusetts.

Three other Clintonites appear to be in somewhat better shape politically. Former Energy Secretary turned gubernatorial candidate Bill Richardson in New Mexico and former White House chief of staff turned Senate candidate Erskine Bowles in North Carolina and former Clinton adviser turned House candidate in Illinois Rahm Emanuel.

And now we turn to Capitol Hill where Congress is getting back to work after its August recess and members have a lot on their plates. Thirteen spending bills still making their way through the Congress. Lawmakers may grill Martha Stewart as part of their continuing crackdown on corporate misconduct. Hearings on a possible attack on Iraq are a high priority. And today, the wrangling over a new homeland security department resumed. Here now our Congressional correspondent, Kate Snow.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW (voice-over): The day after Labor Day, like the millions of school kids they represent, senators go back to the grind.

SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN (D), CONNECTICUT: What this bill is about, what this proposal is about, stated in the most direct way is to diminish, hopefully eliminate the vulnerabilities that the terrorists took advantage of, to strike at us on September 11, so that they will never be able to do it again.

SNOW: With no agreement on a homeland security department before the recess, now there is increasing urgency. The anniversary of September 11 looms large and elections are around the corner. The political risks are great. Democrats say the ball is in the president's court.

SEN. TOM DASCHLE (D-SD), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: We're not going to roll over, when it comes to principals and beliefs that we hold very, very -- to be very, very important.

SNOW: But the administration is equally adamant. Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge made the morning talk show rounds, and lunched with Senate Republicans to explain President Bush's concerns about the Senate Democrats' bill.

TOM RIDGE, HOMELAND SECURITY DIR.: The president believes that his administration in this new department needs the freedom to manage, the freedom to lead the department, the freedom to create direct lines of responsibility, as well as accountability.

SNOW: That core argument echoed on the Senate floor.

SEN. PHIL GRAMM (R), TEXAS: There cannot be a bill that does not give the president reorganization flexibility, the ability to override collective bargaining agreements in the name of national security and personnel flexibility. I think that denying these three powers simply is a denial of common sense and a denial of the crisis, as we all know it exists.

SNOW: Democrats say they are not trying to deny the new department the ability to respond to crisis, but to make sure employees transferred to this new department don't suddenly lose labor protections. One Democrat is so worried about ceding power to the executive branch, he would rather stop the legislation in its tracks.

SEN. ROBERT BYRD (D), WEST VIRGINIA: The president's proposal has been barreling, barreling through Congress like a Mack truck, threatening to run over anyone who dares to stand in its way. And Congress, so far, has cleared a path and cheered on this rumbling big rig without stopping to think seriously about where it is ultimately headed.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW: Now Byrd may be in the minority when it comes to Democrats, the Democratic leadership. Senator Daschle saying that they are hoping to push this on through, resolve the differences over the next probably two or three weeks, but, Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott saying his side isn't going to give anything. They are not going to give in here.

So Judy, what we have is basically a large game of political chicken.

Back to you.

WOODRUFF: So, Kate, if I were to ask you if there's any glimmer of a compromise, you're saying you're not hearing it.

SNOW: Well, I'm just saying that right now, the two sides appear entrenched, but look at where we are. We've just started the debate. They say it's going to last two or three weeks. It's highly likely that someone will give at some point here because both sides, saying that they feel it is absolutely essential to pass a new homeland security structure. Both sides don't want to leave town especially in an election year Judy, without that done.

WOODRUFF: All right, Kate, thanks very much.

And with me now as we focus on the president's legislative agenda, no one better to talk about it, Nick Calio, who is the White House director for legislative affairs.

All right, you just heard Kate Snow say that neither side sounds like they are giving, but the Democrats are saying "the next move is the president's." Is the president prepared to give in on this question of worker protection?

NICK CALIO, WHITE HOUSE CONGRESSIONAL LIAISON: No, Judy. I don't think he is. We think it's critical that the new department have management flexibility, and I don't think it's really a matter of giving in. I think it's a matter of common sense. And in terms of practical reality, I think if you checked the records you will find that the flexibility that the president is asking for the new department management, is no more than was given to the management of the Education Department when it was (UNINTELLIGIBLE), the Energy Department when it was stood up. The Transportation Security Agency was given more flexibility as was the IRS than we're currently asking for.

So people can try to make a political issue out of it. I think we've got to deal with the reality of it. We are not trying to infringe on workers' rights. I think the real question here and what's really going on here is do certain federal workers get more rights or greater rights than others. And, we don't think under this circumstance, that the Department of Homeland Security, it makes sense to award Federal employees rights they currently don't have where they are currently working. WOODRUFF: Well, you say it's politics, but Senator Joe Lieberman who has been very involved in this legislation, in his words it's just another power grab for the White House.

CALIO: Well, I don't think that conforms with the facts very much, and we worked very closely with Senator Lieberman. We're going to continue to work closely with Senator Lieberman. I predict at the end of the day we'll get the management flexibility that's necessary, workers will not have their rights infringed and we'll get a good bill. But we're going to have to have a little bit of, a little bit of discussion along the way, further discussion.

But again, I do think it's important that people separate fact from fiction and the fact is, we're not asking for any greater flexibility here.

WOODRUFF: Iraq, the president has said time and again, he is going to consult with the Congress with regard to a military action against Iraq. What form exactly is that consultation going to take? We know he's going to meet with the leadership tomorrow. What exactly is he going to ask for?

CALIO: I'm not sure the president's going to be asking for anything tomorrow. I think the president's going to be talking to members of Congress about Iraq and other issues, and, you know he is committed to consultation. He's indicated that we will consult, Congress has a roll to play in any such debate, quite clearly under the constitution.

WOODRUFF: Congress has a role and you are saying he is going to consulting but he's not going to ask for a resolution, of authorization for the U.S. to take, some sort of military action?

CALIO: Well, just, I think Judy despite all the media talk, about it, that decision has not been made, yet.

WOODRUFF: When does the president want Congress to address the question of Iraq? There are a number of other issues on Congress' platter. There are only about five weeks to go before the scheduled break. When would they take up Iraq if they were to?

CALIO: Well, again, I think it's a matter of whether they do or not. We'd all like to see Congress adjourn I think we would by October 4. I know that certainly I'm voting that way. I think with given everything that's on their plate, that's difficult.

But Congress has the capacity to deal with a lot of different issues so I think we'll take it as it comes. They've got very important issues they have to deal with including homeland security which you mentioned. There is a lot of economic issues that the president also wants taken up, the terrorism insurance bill, the energy bill are all very important to the economy of this country.

WOODRUFF: Just one quick question about energy. Is the White House prepared to give in on its position on with regard to ANWR, the Alaska wildlife refuge in order to get that energy bill out of conference committee?

CALIO: Well we'll see how that goes as well. I think that the conference has a long way to go. There were staff meetings over the summer break. I think the members need to get together. People have different views on that. We'll get a good energy bill at the end of the day.

WOODRUFF: Sounds like you are signaling maybe a little give there Nick.

CALIO: I'm not saying any give, Judy. Please don't do that to me.

WOODRUFF: All right Nick Calio good to see you. Thanks for talking with us.

CALIO: Thank you Judy very much.

WOODRUFF: We appreciate it.

After a short break we will talk with Carl McCall who's now alone in his bid for the Democratic nomination for governor of New York state.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: With us now, a very happy man, Carl McCall, the New York state comptroller who just a few hours ago lost his only competitor for the Democratic nomination for governor of the state of New York.

Carl McCall, you're now running unopposed in that Tuesday Primary. What did Andrew Cuomo say when he called you up to say he was getting out of the race?

MCCALL: Well, he really didn't call me up. He had a press conference and he announced that he was getting out of the race and of course I'm delighted. Of course we still have a race. His name is still on the ballot and we still have to get people to come out next Tuesday and vote, but the fact that he withdrew and endorsed me means that things look very good for me next week.

But you know, I've got to look beyond next Tuesday. I've got to look on to November, when my message about providing hope and opportunity to the people of the state of New York that message has to continue to connect with people, so the kind of overwhelming support that I now have from the Democratic Party I can expand that, and bring more people behind me, so that I can become the next governor. You see, this state...

WOODRUFF: I hear you, I was going say I hear you. I want to ask you though just quickly about how this came about. Our White House correspondent John King has been reporting that a key player in all of this was Congressman Charlie Rangel who helped persuade, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton to march in that parade, that Labor Day parade with you yesterday, sending a pretty important signal. MCCALL: It was important. I'm not sure that Charlie Rangel has played a great role in my campaign. I'm not sure that he convinced Hillary Clinton to march with me yesterday. Yesterday we had a terrible downpour during this very important West Indian day parade. I think I had very big umbrella and Hillary Clinton wanted to be under my umbrella to be protected from the rain, but it was great having Hillary with me. We had a great time together.

I expect that just as Bill Clinton today, also, indicated that he will be supporting my campaign going forward. I'm sure she'll be on board, too, because you see all of the Democrats in New York like Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton and Charlie Rangel and Andrew Cuomo and everybody else, Senator Schumer. We know that New York State needs new leadership, new direction and new vision. It hasn't been provided by the present governor. We're committed...

WOODRUFF: Let me ask you -- I want to ask you about that, because, the last poll that was taken showed George Pataki running something like 20 points ahead of you, and Andrew Cuomo. You still have a very tough race on your hands. How are you going to make up that amount of that amount of distance between now and November?

MCCALL: Oh, I don't think that's going to be difficult, when people look at the governor's failure to provide a first class education for our children, to provide affordable quality health care for senior citizens, to provide jobs for people throughout state of New York.

So those are the things that I'm going to focus on, and, you know, poll numbers really don't -- don't bother me. I look at the numbers of children who are failing standardized tests, the number of senior citizens who can't pay for their prescriptions drugs and the number of young people who are leaving New York. These are the issues that really count.

WOODRUFF: Let me ask you about a couple things, that Mr. Cuomo said about you, in your debate last week. Among other things he criticized your management of New York's billion dollar pension fund. He said your work as New York City Board of, head of the New York City Board of Education was to be criticized and he also said you haven't been criticizing George Pataki enough. In other words he came after you, on several fronts, which the Republicans are free to pick up on, now.

MCCALL: Well, they could pick it up, but they are meaningless and empty criticisms.

I have had the best performance of any public pension fund, the largest public pension funds in this country. I've outperformed all the other large funds. I have doubled the assets in our public pension fund and I've invested public pension fund money in New York to create jobs and opportunity.

In terms of the board of education I was president of the board. We started some new schools that have really performed very well and I learned a lot. I learned that our children really need to have smaller class sizes so that they can really achieve. I learned that we have to invest in our teachers and give them the benefits that they need. And I learned that we've got to start kids early, if they are going to really achieve in school.

WOODRUFF: Have you, you said earlier that Andrew Cuomo didn't call you. You heard about it through the news conference. Had you spoken to him today?

MCCALL: Well, just recently with the last hour I called him to thank him. I'm very grateful that he has endorsed me and that he will be helping me in terms of my campaign going forward, so I'm sure we will be talking very soon, and I look forward to his support.

WOODRUFF: And was he right when he said you haven't criticized George Pataki enough?

MCCALL: Well, you know, again, people make comments like that in the heat of a campaign. That is obviously not true. And the fact that he has now endorsed me indicates that he realizes that I am the one candidate who can unify the Democratic party, and can beat George Pataki and the Republicans and bring new hope and opportunity to all the people in New York state.

WOODRUFF: All right, New York Comptroller Carl McCall now unopposed for the Democratic nomination for governor, Mr. McCall good to see you.

MCCALL: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: Thank you for talking to us.

Question, does Bill Clinton have a new role in New York politics? One of the topics ahead in our taking issue debate.

Also, who's driving the administration message on Iraq? One Democrat jokes that he's just watching the debate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DASCHLE: We were thinking about having a debate among those within the administration so that we might get both sides.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: But first let's turn to Rhonda Schaffler. She's at the New York Stock Exchange for an update on today's dramatic slide in the markets.

Rhonda.

RHONDA SCHAFFLER, CNN FINANCIAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Judy.

Very dramatic, in fact, a brutal sell off here as we start a new trading month, and September is one of the historically weakest months for the stock market. Weaker than expected data from the manufacturing sector and sharp declines in overseas markets prompted heavy selling, early on and it just picked up as the day went on here.

The Dow industrials plunging 355 points or better than 4 percent. That is the second biggest point decline this year for the blue chip average.

The Nasdaq tumbling about 4 percent as well. Citigroup lost $3, pulling down other financials. That's after Prudential downgraded the company, to a rare sell rating on concerns over the widening probe of its investment banking arm.

Intel led a chip sector decline falling better than 80 cents on negative analyst comments. Not helping matters was a report showing the number of layoffs announced in August surged 46 percent from July.

Placement firm Challenger Gray & Christmas says U.S. companies announced 118,000 job cuts last month. That data could push up the unemployment rate from its current 5.9 percent in a report, due out Friday.

That is the latest from Wall Street.

More INSIDE POLITICS after the break, including an inside look at a new program to draw suburban teachers to urban schools.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: President Bush as you've been hearing has invited congressional leaders of both parties to come to the White House tomorrow to talk about Iraq amid pressures from lawmakers who want a say in whether the U.S. attacked Saddam Hussein.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. TRENT LOTT (R-MS), SENATE MINORITY LEADER: I am absolutely satisfied that if we're going to have a major conflict again in Iraq that Congress will be involved. There will be time for debate.

DASCHLE: I think most Democrats believe that the president has yet to make the case for taking action in Iraq. That hasn't been done.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: When Congress does hold hearings on Iraq in the coming weeks, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says the administration could lay out further evidence of the threat posed by Iraq. Today Rumsfeld chafed at continued reports in the news media that administration officials are at odds over Iraq policy.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DONALD RUMSFELD, DEFENSE SECRETARY: There's no question but that if someone wanted to take all the column inches or all the minutes on television by the top people in any government at any given time on the same subjects and ignore how the question was asked and ignore the context of the quote, that you could end up just juxtaposing things in ways that would sell newspapers by saying ah-ha, there's a disagreement there. He said this. She said that.

What about this? What about that? That's baloney. These people meet together all the time. They know what each other thinks. Do they sometimes say things one way and someone else might have said it some other different way? Sure they do.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Well, now we're joined by our White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux.

Suzanne, I was just talking with Nick Calio, the White House congressional liaison. He said when the president meets with these congressional leaders tomorrow, he's not going to be asking for anything.

So what is he going to talk to them about?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you're absolutely right. He's not going to be asking for anything.

But, really, this White House is engaged in a full-court press involving these members of Congress. What we understand is that it is basically going to prove and show that the president is serious about consulting with lawmakers, that he values their opinion.

It's a chance really for him to outline all of U.S. options when it comes to Iraq, including military option, and that, yes, the White House says this is going to be an inclusive meeting.

It's going to be bipartisan as well; and it is going to involve a lot of the heavy-hitters, including from the House Republican leader, Speaker Denny Hastert, Majority Leader Dick Armey, Majority Whip Tom DeLay; Democrats, Minority Leader Dick Gephardt, Minority Whip Nancy Pelosi. And also, in the Senate, Democrats, Majority Leader Tom Daschle, Majority Whip Harry Reid; and Republicans, Minority Leader Trent Lott and Assistant Minority Leader Don Nickles.

Also, there will be chairs from the Armed Services Committee, as well the International and Foreign Relations Committees.

And, really, there are a lot of unresolved issues that they have to talk about. One of them is whether or not the president is going to consult or is going to ask for approval from Congress, a resolution, if the administration decides to act militarily, and whether or not Congress would even grant that permission; and then, secondly, just how much the administration is going to give over in terms of intelligence information to some of these congressional committees that are looking at the policy between Iraq and the United States.

This is just the beginning. We said this is the first step really to answer some of these tough questions.

Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right, Suzanne, I know you'll be watching it very closely. We'll see you tomorrow.

MALVEAUX: Thanks.

WOODRUFF: Well, those conflicting signals on Iraq coming from top administration officials -- despite what Secretary Rumsfeld just said -- are an unusual turn of events for this White House, which is known for its ability to hone a consistent policy message.

Our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider, has more on what's behind this sudden inability to remain on message.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER: A mystery is gripping Washington, the best mystery since Watergate, and the same subject: What is going on at the White House? It's the mystery of the missing political strategy.

(voice-over): This White House is supposed to run a tight ship: no loose lips, everybody on message, orderly and disciplined, like a corporation. Oops, wrong image.

Anyway, on the subject of Iraq, the message has kind of gotten out of control. August 26, Nashville: The vice president says no more U.N. inspections.

DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The return of inspectors would provide no assurance whatsoever of his compliance with U.N. resolutions. On the contrary, there is a great danger that it would provide false comfort.

SCHNEIDER: September 1, London:

COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: The president has been clear that he believes weapons inspectors should return.

SCHNEIDER: Powell is on message, says the State Department.

RICHARD BOUCHER, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: The secretary has been in close touch with the president.

SCHNEIDER: Cheney's on message, too, says the White House.

ARI FLEISCHER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Of course he is representing the administration.

SCHNEIDER: The critics are dismayed.

LAWRENCE EAGLEBURGER, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: I would suggest to this administration that it would be a good idea if they would get their act together.

SCHNEIDER: Why is the White House message in such disarray? Here's one theory: Karen Hughes went back to Texas. Without her, things have gotten out of control. Some claim to see a political strategy behind it all. SEN. CHUCK HAGEL (R), NEBRASKA: I think this was very preordained and prepositioned and this was the beginning of a rollout public-relations strategy.

SCHNEIDER: Maybe President Bush likes creative tension among his advisers.

FLEISCHER: The president has said that he welcomes a variety of thoughts from a diversity of people.

SCHNEIDER: Here's another possibility: There is no message. The president hasn't made up his mind.

FLEISCHER: You are assuming, again, a decision is made on which a case needs to be made.

SCHNEIDER: The chorus of complaint seems to be coming mainly from the first President Bush's national security team. They are unlikely to have spoken out without at least informing the former president.

Columnist William Safire writes: "This is high political drama worthy of a Shakespeare." The audience wonders: Are the two Presidents Bush locked in disagreement about the paramount issue of the day?

Oh, enough is enough.

RUMSFELD: I think what's important is the substance of this discussion. And I see too little attention to it and too much attention to the personality aspects.

SCHNEIDER (on camera): Oh, wretched indecision, Mr. Shakespeare might say. But it may not last much longer. On September 12, President Bush is scheduled to address the United Nations General Assembly. Maybe then the mystery of the missing political strategy will be solved.

Bill Schneider, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: And we may decide to let you know what parking garage Bill has been reporting from.

When we come back, we're going to continue to talk about the administration disarray, uncertainty over Iraq policy. We'll talk to Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson from the "CROSSFIRE" set on whether all this is helping or hurting the administration.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: With us now from the CNN "CROSSFIRE" set at George Washington University: Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson.

Gentlemen, I know you were just listening to Bill Schneider's report. My question is, is all this apparent disarray over Iraq policy hurting the administration because it appears they can't agree, or is it maybe helping them because it's keeping Iraq on the front burner, as something people are talking about, domestic issues Democrats care about, back burner?

Paul?

PAUL BEGALA, CO-HOST, "CROSSFIRE": Well, Judy, my hope is that there's some strategy here, that maybe they're trying to spread disinformation for the Iraqis. I mean, we are talking about war.

Even I, a Democrat who dislikes this White House politically, hope that they're not just doing this for political ends to try to keep down the fact that they haven't been able to get a prescription drug bill passed, or a budget passed, for that matter.

But it is, I think unhelpful, not just to the Republicans or the Bush administration, but to the country. Imagine, this is a president who now can't reconcile his own Cabinet, much less his own family, for that matter, much less the country and the world. If we're going to go to war, we need a united world community. And he can't even unite his own Cabinet or his family.

TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST, "CROSSFIRE": You know, I think it is a little outrageous to bring the president's family into it. I don't know what his family has to do with this at all. Obviously, it is not good for the president to have the dissent become public. And maybe you ought to think twice before hiring someone you can't fire, as in the case of the secretary of state.

But I do think that Secretary Rumsfeld made a good point when he said look, the substance of this -- which is the fact that Saddam Hussein has chemical and biological weapons and is working on nuclear weapons, facts that Tony Blair of England came out today and said, yes, are true -- is compelling. And I think the president meeting with congressional leaders tomorrow at 9:40 a.m. changes the entire dynamic, because, all of a sudden, Democrats have to respond to the substance. And we'll get to find out what the Democratic plan for Iraq is, which ought to be fascinating, since there isn't one, as you know.

WOODRUFF: Let's switch quickly to U.S. -- to politics. And that is, in New York state, we've got Carl McCall now claiming the Democratic nomination as his own. Andrew Cuomo is out of the race. Standing there with Andrew Cuomo today: former President Bill Clinton.

He hadn't been very involved in this race. Now he's clearly there. He's saying nice things about Carl McCall and about Andrew Cuomo. Is his presence with any of the people who served in his Cabinet or in his administration, is it a plus or a minus, Paul?

BEGALA: Well, it is obviously a plus in this case.

I saw your report and John King's earlier that President Clinton himself didn't play any role in Cuomo's decision. But the fact that he's there as an elder statesman, he can bless this move. It is a very classy move. And I thought he said just the right thing in that he's the only person on that stage whose political career is now over. I think it's good for New York Democrats. And the only person who is unhappy about it -- I saw Carl McCall smiling on this broadcast earlier. I think the only person who is frowning is George Pataki.

CARLSON: Oh, right.

The Clinton connection, case by case -- Rahm Emanuel obviously benefited from it. Erskine Bowles is not. I think that the Clintons were a factor in this case. Mr. Cuomo had the Clintons in his campaign ads. "I was a Clinton secretary," et cetera, et cetera.

The sad, the poignant thing here, though, in my opinion, is that Mrs. Clinton, Senator Clinton, sort of sold him down the river. This is a personal friend of the Clintons, Mr. and Mrs. Clinton. And you would expect, as a personal friend, he could expect them to campaign on his behalf. And she didn't. And I think it is odd and kind of sad.

WOODRUFF: Well, we're going to have to leave it there. Paul Begala, Tucker Carlson, good to see you both. We'll be watching you tonight at 7:00 Eastern.

BEGALA: Thanks a lot, Judy.

CARLSON: Thanks.

WOODRUFF: The "Inside Buzz" is coming up next. Is John McCain showing his liberal side? Bob Novak is back. He'll have details when we return.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Bob Novak is here with some "Inside Buzz."

All right, Bob, you have some information now on the White House push for a new Homeland Security Department.

ROBERT NOVAK, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, Judy.

During the congressional recess, the White House let the Senate Republican leaders know, in no uncertain language, that the president was demanding control over the civil service employees in the new Homeland Security Department. Now, as you know, the Democrats are opposing that. And the president has said that if he doesn't get this, he'll veto the bill. And that's what he told them.

So, this is really one of the -- a real confrontation. And you're going to see some very ugly battering going on in the Senate in the next week or so.

WOODRUFF: We heard Tom Daschle is predicting it will all get resolved, but it remains to be seen how.

Republicans giving up on labor in the midterm election? NOVAK: Yes, I just learned today that the organized labor in Michigan has got a unified fund of $14 million for their campaigns, soft money, non-reportable money for the governor's race and other races, and that Republicans had hoped that at least the Teamsters in Michigan, they could get some hope.

This is the latest of a lot of series of blows where, as the election grows closer, labor, the labor unions that the Republicans have been counting on, are moving to their home, which is the Democratic Party.

WOODRUFF: Not good news for the Republicans.

All right, Alaska Senator Frank Murkowski may end up appointing Alaska's next senator if he win the governor's race.

NOVAK: I love this story.

Yes, Murkowski is favored to win the governorship. And, normally, he would be elected, he'd resign, and the outgoing Democratic governor, Democrat Tony Knowles, would name it. But the Republican-controlled Alaska legislature changed it so that there's a gap there. And so Murkowski is going to name his own successor. And he's not telling anybody. The Democrats are raising hell in Alaska, but I don't know how much good it will do.

WOODRUFF: Last but not least, Senator John McCain has hired whom to be on his legislative staff?

NOVAK: He has hired somebody named Christine Dodd as his legislative director. That's a top job. She has spent the last eight years working for former Congressman, Democratic Congressman Tom Sawyer of Ohio, got beat in the Democratic primary, as legislative director.

Now, Sawyer has an almost perfect liberal record. He had a 3 percent lifetime conservative record, 0 percent in some years. So we asked the senator's office how could this be. And they said, well, she's a very effective person. She gave a good interview.

But it raises a lot of suspicions on John McCain, just how much of a conservative he is these days, when he can hire somebody like that.

WOODRUFF: They're saying it's policy, not politics on her part.

NOVAK: Yes, of course.

WOODRUFF: But of course.

All right, welcome back from vacation. It's good to have you with us again.

NOVAK: Nice to be with you, Judy. Thank you.

WOODRUFF: Bob Novak, thanks a lot. And this in now from CNN's John King: Former President Clinton and his 1996 rival, former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, we're told, have raised $105 million in scholarship money for the children and other family members of the victims of September 11.

According to aides for both men, the formal fund-raising will now end because their actuaries believe the money is enough to cover all or almost all of the scholarship costs. You can hear from Mr. Clinton and Mr. Dole themselves tonight on "LARRY KING LIVE."

John King reporting.

U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft has taken heat for his aggressive approach to fighting terrorism, but today he won a vote of support from a Republican with special influence on the terror issue: former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUDOLPH GIULIANI (R), FORMER MAYOR OF NEW YORK: You've underwent, as we all do in public life -- but in this particular case, I know you know it's worth it -- a lot of unfair criticism and misunderstanding of what you're doing. But the ultimate result is that America is far safer now than it was before.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: Giuliani appeared with Ashcroft here in Washington at an event to highlight what they said is a growing worldwide connection between terrorists and drug-traffickers.

And now checking the headlines in our "Campaign News Daily": Florida Democrat Bill McBride picked up a congressional endorsement today in his primary race for governor. Congresswoman Corrine Brown endorsed McBride over rival Democrats Janet Reno and Daryl Jones. Recent polls show McBride gaining on Reno, who has led for most of the campaign.

Washington, D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams has launched the first television ad of his write-in reelection campaign. The ad features Williams greeting residents and working at his desk, as well as writing his name on a sample ballot. The mayor was forced to run as a write-in candidate after his nominating petitions were found to be tainted by phony signatures.

Massachusetts Democrat Warren Tolman is struggling to break from the pack in the primary for governor. But he is giving new hope for men who battle baldness. Tolman has run several ads using the tag line, "Bald is beautiful."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, AD)

ANNOUNCER: And "The Herald" says "Tolman is hot."

CAROLYN TOLMAN, CANDIDATE'S WIFE: Hey, I think he's hot.

WARREN TOLMAN (D), MASSACHUSETTS GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: You know, some people think bald is beautiful.

ANNOUNCER: Warren Tolman, the Democrat, for governor. He only works for you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: So maybe he'll get the bald vote.

Up next: an effort to duplicate the state-level program designed to track down abducted children, the congressional initiative now under way to take AMBER Alerts nationwide.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: A group of senators this afternoon introduced legislation to create a national version of the AMBER Alert system. That's the program designed to track down abducted children.

One of the sponsors, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison. She is with me now from Capitol Hill.

Senator, I want to ask about someone in your home state of Texas. Tarrant County Sheriff Dee Anderson, who oversaw the first AMBER Alert program in Dallas, has been quoted as saying that people are rushing headlong into this without doing enough planning. What do you say to objections like that?

SEN. KAY BAILEY HUTCHISON (R), TEXAS: Well, I think that what a national coordinator in the attorney general's office would do is plan and try to set parameters for voluntary AMBER Alerts, so that it wouldn't be overused.

That's the very reason that we think having one person for an interstate contact would be good. Now, we're not going to try to interfere with any state system. But if a person in the state wants to have an alert done quickly in contiguous states, they can call the national coordinator and not have to worry about making three or four separate calls or doing anything further. We want it to be expedited. We want it to be simple. And there's no need for any big bureaucracy.

WOODRUFF: So, are you saying this is really just a facilitator function?

HUTCHISON: Yes, for the interstate systems.

What you have is the capability for someone to cross state lines and think that they would be able to get away from the hubbub that they have created by abducting a child. We want that to stop, so that if a child is taken to another state quickly, you could have the contiguous states be alerted.

WOODRUFF: Let me read you something that Marc Klaas, of course, whose daughter Polly was abducted some years ago and murdered -- here's what he had to say just recently. He said we've got to establish criteria, because, he said: "If police don't follow criteria for issuing these alerts, we're going to overplay the system. And when a child in my daughter's situation gets abducted, no one will pay attention."

How does this legislation address the standards question?

HUTCHISON: Well, the national coordinator would be able to set some standards for the contiguous state alert. We will let the state set their own standards. We're not going to interfere with that.

But we certainly would recommend standards, so that it wouldn't be overused, generally a standard of an 18-year-old or under where there is imminent danger and where a message getting out can be helpful. Like if you have the description of the car or truck, or you happen to have a description of the person or a license plate number, then an alert system can really be helpful. And that's where it has shown to be effective.

WOODRUFF: Are there going to be federal dollars required?

HUTCHISON: There will be an authorization for help to states for signage and that sort of thing. It will not be anything very big.

I was talking to Senator Feinstein. Maybe we would try, in the Appropriations Committee, to get $25 million, where states could match that 50/50, and see if that won't help. This does not need to be expensive. The broadcasters are wonderful about doing it on their own. That's free and it's voluntary.

Highway signage can be even portable signs. Some states already have electronic signs, so they can just put the message up without any added expense. This would be a very modest effort, and it could save children's lives. And that's why we're doing it in a very simple way.

WOODRUFF: Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, we thank you for talking to us.

We know that there are 16 states right now that have these statewide alert systems. And we're told that, by the end of the year, that's expected to more than double.

HUTCHISON: Absolutely.

WOODRUFF: Thanks again.

HUTCHISON: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: It's good to see you.

I'll be back in a moment, but now let's take a look at what is coming up on "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS."

Hello, Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS": Hi, Judy.

The White House is circling the wagons on Iraq, angrily denying talk of splits within the administration and preparing for a potentially huge meeting tomorrow with congressional leaders. We'll have the latest.

Plus: McDonald's announcing a big change in how the chain will make its French fries. Will that add any nutritional value, or, maybe even more importantly, how will they taste?

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Looking ahead to what's in the works for tomorrow's show: our latest installment of "Capitol Cribs." If you can guess whose grandfather this is, you'll know who works in this Capitol Hill office. We'll show you more of the office and we'll reveal its occupant tomorrow on INSIDE POLITICS.

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

Thanks for joining us. I'm Judy Woodruff.

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