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One Republican Throws Wrench Into Creation of Homeland Security Department; Increased Voter Concern About Iraq May Not Help Republicans

Aired September 24, 2002 - 16:00   ET


JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Judy Woodruff in Washington. A Senate Republican throws a surprise wrench into President Bush's plan for a new Homeland Security Department.
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I'm Bill Schneider in Washington. I'll tell you why increased voter concern about Iraq is not proving to be a plus for Republicans.

BRUCE MORTON, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Bruce Morton in Washington. Famous Iran-Contra figure, Oliver North, knows a thing or two about intrigue. And now, he's written a novel that reads like a slice of his life.

ANNOUNCER: Live from Washington, this is INSIDE POLITICS with Judy Woodruff.

WOODRUFF: Thank you for joining us. We begin with the Bush administration getting socked in the Senate on two war fronts. Majority Leader Tom Daschle took charges that the White House is politicizing the showdown with Iraq to a new level. And one of Mr. Bush's fellow-Republicans is siding with Democrats in a move likely to throw plans for a new Homeland Security Department into political limbo.

Our congressional correspondent, Jonathan Karl, is on the Hill.

Jon -- is this a real serious impediment to Homeland Security becoming reality?

JONATHAN KARL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well it really is, Judy. If you remember yesterday, the Republicans were hoping that they could get their version of a Homeland Security Department passed by a single vote, by the tie-breaking vote of the vice president. That assumed that they would be able to hold on to all 49 Republicans.

But now one Republican, Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, has said that he is going to side with the Democrats on issue of the labor rights of the new employees of that to-be-formed Department of Homeland Security.

With Cheney now siding with the Democrats, the Republicans come up one vote shy, and they are not happy about it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. PHIL GRAMM, (R), TEXAS: And this is an issue about whether we are going to give the president the tools to do the job the Democrats are not proposing to give him those tools. And you would think, when we're at war, when thousands of our citizens have died, that the Democrats would be willing to give the president the benefit of the doubt. But they're not.


KARL: And that Republican, Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, Judy. Now, meanwhile, White House officials are up here on Capitol Hill today, saying that they find this proposal by the Democrats, and now supported by single Republican, to be simply unacceptable, 100 percent unacceptable, in the words of one Republican aide and one White House aide. And he says the president would veto this, Judy.


SEN. TOM DASCHLE (D-SD), MAJORITY LEADER: I must say, I was very...


WOODRUFF: I'm sorry. I'm sorry, Jonathan. I thought we were listening to Tom Daschle there.

But separately, you do have the Democrats now accusing the administration of politicizing all this debate over Iraq, Tom Daschle involved in that.

KARL: Well, absolutely. Tom Daschle came out had some very strong words about the vice president today, talking about a campaign appearance the vice president made yesterday for a congressional candidate from Kansas.

Here is what Daschle had to say.


DASCHLE: I must say, I was very chagrined that the vice president would go to a congressional district yesterday and make the assertion that somebody ought to vote -- that they ought to vote for this particular Republican candidate because he was a war supporter, that he was bringing more support to the president than his opponent.

If that doesn't politicize this war, I don't know what does.


KARL: And Senator Daschle's words reflect a much broader problem up here for the Democrats. They want to appear supportive of the president when it comes to Iraq, but they are very frustrated with the politics of the situation, and believe the Republicans are playing politics.

As Senator Dick Durbin said a little while ago up here on Capitol Hill, he was questioning whether the administration wants regime change in Iraq or regime change here in the United States Senate.

And Judy, one footnote up here about the vice president, he is up here this afternoon. He met with senators. But he is also lobbying a Republican up here, Dick Armey, the number two Republican in the House, who has been very critical of the administration's approach to Iraq.

He got a personal visit, a personal call, in person up here, from the vice president this afternoon -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: So Jon, but you still don't have -- other than John Kerry, there really not very -- or very few -- Senate Democrats who are outspokenly disagreeing with the president on his Iraq policy.

KARL: Well, what we're seeing increasing up here, Judy, though, is Democrats coming out and raising concerns about the question of whether or not the U.S. goes alone on this.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, who is frequently with the administration on foreign policy questions, especially regarding the Middle East, told reporters today that, as the language stands now of the administration's use of force authorization, she would vote against it. So many Democrats up here kind of gingerly raising the question of whether or not this resolution should say something about the need for the U.N. to support whatever action the U.S. takes.

WOODRUFF: All right, John Karl on the story, at the capitol -- on both stories I should say. Thanks Jon.

We have a little more now on the showdown with Iraq. The president is welcoming the help he got today from British Prime Minister Tony Blair in making the case against Saddam Hussein.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: He has poisoned his people before. He has poisoned his neighborhood. He is willing to use weapons of mass destruction. And the prime minister continues to make the case, and so will I.


WOODRUFF: A 50-page intelligence report released today by the British government concludes that Saddam Hussein could deploy weapons of mass destruction within 45 minutes.


TONY BLAIR, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: His weapons of mass destruction program is active, detailed, and growing. The policy of containment is not working. The weapons of mass destruction program is not shut down; it is up and running now.


WOODRUFF: In his speech to the House of Commons, Blair argued for action to enforce U.N. mandates to disarm Iraq. But he stopped short of calling for a regime change, which has been the stated goal of the United States.

Iraq denied Blair's allegations. They called them a "hodgepodge of half-truths and lies.


LT. GEN. AMIR HAMUD SADI, IRAQI PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: His conclusions that Iraq is engaged in the production of weapons of mass destruction are simply not true.


WOODRUFF: Lieutenant General Amir Sadi is an Iraqi presidential adviser. He promised U.N. weapons inspectors planning to return to Iraq will, he said, have unrestricted access to any site that they want to inspect.

Well, President Bush brushed aside Al Gore's criticism that came yesterday of his Iraq policy. But Gore may have tapped into a new shift in public opinion.

As always, our Bill Schneider's been looking over our latest poll. What are you seeing -- Bill.

SCHNEIDER: Well, what we are seeing is that if Iraq is now the voters' top concern, then -- even bigger than the economy -- Republicans ought to be making gains, right?

Well, not necessarily.


SCHNEIDER (voice-over): The Iraq issue is gaining prominence, but it's not helping Republicans. How can that be? Because critics are getting stirred up, like this one.

AL GORE, FORMER U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: Rather, he is telling us that our most urgent task right now is to shift our focus and concentrate on immediately launching a new war against Saddam Hussein.

SCHNEIDER: Take doves on Iraq, people who oppose sending U.S. ground troops to remove Saddam Hussein from power. They are still a minority, and their numbers have not increased, but their concern is growing.

The percentage of doves who say Iraq is the key issue in this election, bigger than the economy, has nearly doubled from 24 percent in early September to 46 percent now.

Hawks have shown an increase in interest as well, but not as big. All the talk about war with Iraq has rallied hawks, but it has also increased anxiety among doves even faster.

If the Iraq issue is raising anxiety in the electorate, why do Republicans want to talk about it? Because it's the best issue they've got. Our latest poll shows Republicans in Congress are rated better than Democrats on handling terrorism, war with Iraq, the situation in the Middle East, and world affairs.

Democrats are rated better on everything else: health care, the environment, prescription drugs for seniors, social security, education, unemployment, corporate corruption, even taxes.

Republicans insist on seeing all those issues through the prism of national security.

BUSH: We need an insurance bill to cover potential terrorist acts so that hard hats in America can get back to work.

SCHNEIDER: Democrats see what's happening in the world through the prism of domestic policy.

GORE: Squandering all that good will and replacing it with anxiety in a year's time is similar to what was done by turning a $100 billion surplus into a $200 billion deficit in a year's time.


SCHNEIDER: Focusing on Iraq does carry a risk for Republicans. Yes, it distracts attention from issues where Democrats have the advantage, but it also stirs up anxiety over war.

WOODRUFF: All right, talking about hawks and doves, Bill, do you classify Al Gore as a dove? I mean after all, he did make these remarks yesterday, but in the past, he has said U.S. should go after Saddam Hussein.

SCHNEIDER: I would not classify Gore as dove. For instance, he says he agrees with the president that the goal in Iraq should be regime change. But he did articulate yesterday, two concerns that doves have at the forefront and, in fact, most Americans share.

One, the United States should not do this alone. Two, we should not do it in a way that distracts from the war on terrorism.

Now he packaged those two, he linked them very cleverly, by saying, if the United States does go it alone, even though we could, if we do that, it will damage our credibility with other countries. And they will be less willing to cooperate with us in the war on terrorism, where their help is needed.

WOODRUFF: What else did you see, Bill, in these numbers that surprised you?

SCHNEIDER: There's one thing that really stood out, Judy, and it was the finding that, among those who say Iraq is the number one issue, bigger than the economy right now -- and that number has been growing -- how do they vote in Congressional election? It's a dead heat; they vote 50-50 between Democrats and Republicans. You might have expected Republicans to predominate in that group, but war anxiety has meant that Democrats and doves have gotten much more concerned.

WOODRUFF: Fascinating, fascinating. All right -- Bill Schneider, thanks very much.


WOODRUFF: Well, we'll zero in. We'll have a little more on Iraq from "TIME" magazine editor Michael Elliott coming up next.

Plus, we will zero in on economic issues. Are the Bush years taking a bite out of Americans incomes? We'll get an accounting from Ron Brownstein.

Also ahead, bugging in Corn Country? We'll look at allegations of snooping that are clouding a key Senate race.



LAURA BUSH, FIRST LADY, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: ... "big monsters, little monsters all know what to do. When they get together, they say"...

CHILDREN: Wubba, Wubba, Woo!


WOODRUFF: Laura Bush has fun with the gang on "Sesame Street."

And we'll get a sneak peek of political cameos on the "Gilmore Girls."

INSIDE POLITICS, the place for campaign news.



MICHAEL ELLIOTT, COLUMNIST, "TIME" MAGAZINE: ... detailing the modernization program that Iraq's done on its missile technology and detailed the extent to which they may now have missiles that could pretty much hit anywhere in the Middle East or, for that matter, in Eastern Europe.

WOODRUFF: So that's a significant piece of this, as well. It's not just what they have; it's their ability to deliver it.

ELLIOTT: Absolutely. You can have all the agents you want. But what you really need, of course, is a missile that can get it somewhere. And I thought that it was a smart move, by the British government, to spend so much time detailing the advances that the Iraqis have made in their missile technology.

WOODRUFF: Is this going to be enough, Michael, to change public opinion, in Europe, towards supporting the Bush administration desire to go after Iraq?

ELLIOTT: I think the key thing there, Judy, is to ask the question, change on what time line? Immediately? No. In 24 hours, 48 hours? Are all those who have opposed the prospect of war suddenly going to come around say, he's a really bad guy. The British have told us so. We'll march in lockstep with the Americans? No.

But my view has always been, if you took a two or three-week, or a two or three-month horizon, you would get world public opinion around to view, that this was a very, very unpleasant guy, a brutal dictator, as "The British White Paper" says, with really, really bad stuff in Iraq, ready to use against other people.

So it is a slower process than, perhaps, some in the administration would want, but, if one bears that in mind, I think this "White Paper" helps.

WOODRUFF: And what about, Michael, any bearing it will have on the debate at the U.N. in the Security Council over the language of any resolution?

ELLIOTT: I think much the same is true there, as well, that we all have to be a little bit patient. The British have said, very, very firmly, that anew resolution is needed, that it's got to be tough, that it's got to be absolutely unambiguous in what it demands of Iraq.

There is obviously a little bit of work that is still to be done with the French and Russians. I think if everyone is patient in Washington, we will discover that the U.N. Security Council -- at least the permanent five members of it -- are all on board with the tough resolution. But it won't happen tomorrow.

WOODRUFF: All right -- Michael Elliott, we're thankful you are here with us today. Good to see you.

ELLIOTT: Thanks, Judy.

Well, we're going to switch from talking about Iraq to the U.S. economy and this new bit of information. Consumer confidence, we learn, hit its lowest level in almost a year, in figures out today. And the Dow took note, dropping 188 points.

Despite all bad news, the president sounded bullish.


BUSH: Well, I'm optimistic because, one, I'm optimistic about America in general. I mean the American people are resilient; they're strong; we've got the best workers in the world; inflation is down; interest rates are low. So when you combine the productivity of the American people with low interest rates and low inflation, it's -- those are the ingredients for growth.

(END VIDEO CLIP) WOODRUFF: And separate even from the numbers I mentioned a moment ago, other new government numbers released today by the Census Bureau provide a snapshot of economic health of America's families.

Political analyst Ron Brownstein of "The Los Angeles Times" reports that the economic checkup could not come at a worse time for Mr. Bush.


REP. RICHARD GEPHARDT, (D-MO) MINORITY LEADER: This house is becoming irrelevant because people's kitchen table priorities are not being addressed on a constructive and bipartisan basis.

RON BROWNSTEIN, POLITICAL ANALYST, "THE LOS ANGELES TIMES" (voice-over): As Democrats try to shift the public focus from hard choices abroad to hard times at home, newly-released Census Bureau studies show that, in President Bush's first year, average families lost ground economically, after enjoying big gains through most of the 1990s.

The most revealing number is the median income, the amount of money that the average American family earns. During Bill Clinton's eight years as president, the median income rose almost 15 percent, to just over $43,000.

But in Bush's first year, the median income fell by more than 2 percent, to just over $42,000.

Likewise, during Clinton's tenure, the number of Americans living in poverty fell by almost 7.7 million, the best performance under any president since the 1960s.

But in Bush's first year, the number of Americans in poverty jumped by 1.3 million, with the increase concentrated among whites and in the south.

DASCHLE: I would ask the president to spend as much time each week working on the economy as he does going out to campaign for members of his party.

BROWNSTEIN: Democrats blame Bush economic policies for the turnaround. Republicans point to a slowdown that began in Clinton's last year, a downturn that saw family incomes dip slightly even in 2000, according to newly-revised census figures.

BUSH: You bet I'm optimistic. But I understand we've got a lot of work to do.

BROWNSTEIN: Bush can take heart from one precedent: poverty rose and income fell during Clinton's first year also, and then recovered briskly until the very end of his term, helping him to an easy reelection.

But another precedent is more ominous for Bush. During his father's presidency, poverty rose sharply and the median income fell steadily. And when the elder Bush faced the voters again, even military victory in Iraq wasn't enough to protect him from the discontent surrounding that bleak bottom line.


WOODRUFF: All right. With me now, Ron Brownstein.

Ron -- you're pointing out bad numbers, in terms of the -- of incomes and poverty. Which number -- which number of the two, though, is more important to President Bush?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, traditionally, the income numbers have had the most impact on the status of a president, but it's a broader measure. It affects more people, and when incomes aren't rising, often you see discontent with the economy that translates into discontent with the president.

In his case, I think poverty is also going to be very important. Because, in 2000 recall, when he ran as a different kind of Republican, the centerpiece of his case was that he had new approaches to fighting poverty and he was concerned about reducing poverty, I think for both political and personal reasons.

WOODRUFF: Compassion and conservatism.

BROWNSTEIN: Compassion and conservatism. Both politically and personally, I don't think this president wants to run in 2004 the poverty numbers rising.

WOODRUFF: OK -- Ron, thank you very much. I appreciate that.

Political response to Al Gore's speech on Iraq ahead in the "CROSSFIRE."


WOODRUFF: Checking the INSIDE POLITICS "Newscycle," a Congressional staff member revealed evidence today that the hijacker who flew the jet into the pentagon on September 11 was an associate of a man mentioned in the so-called Phoenix memo. That memo was written by an FBI agent two months before the terror attacks, voicing concerns about supporters of Osama bin Laden enrolled in Arizona flight schools.

Coastal Louisiana and Mississippi are under a hurricane watch this hour, as tropical storm Isidore gains new strength in the Gulf of Mexico. The storm is expected to reach category-one status by the time it reaches land, with rainfall totals up to 10 inches in some areas.

U.S. Special Forces troops are on their way to Africa's ivory coast to protect American citizens caught in the crossfire of an armed revolt. About 200 American students and staffers are said to be trapped inside a school. The U.S. troops will join a large number of French forces already deployed to the region. Coming up next, we'll have "Crossfire" debate, what's going on with Iraq, Al Gore's comments yesterday, but also up next, Charlton Heston making waves in Alabama.

And why is one Senate candidate, in Iowa bugged with another? We'll discuss the allegations and a new apology in the Harkin-Ganske race.


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

Hello, gentlemen.

Yesterday, former Vice President Al Gore went after the Bush administration and went after the president's determination to go after Iraq militarily. He said going after Iraq will severely damage the overall war on terror. He said it will weaken U.S. leadership in the world.

Just a short time ago, Senator Joe Lieberman, also thinking about running for president, had this to say -- I want you to hear -- about what Al Gore said yesterday. Let's listen to Joe Lieberman.


SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (D), CONNECTICUT: Al didn't really indicate how he would vote on a resolution authorizing military action. I think he stated some conditions, which if adopted -- and I think most of them probably will be adopted -- that suggests to me that he might support such a resolution.

So I understand what the tone in the headlines have been. But I think it was a more nuanced statement which recognizes the danger that Saddam Hussein represents to the region and to the world.


WOODRUFF: Tucker, are Al Gore's comments going to change the texture of the debate about Iraq in a significant way?

TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST, "CROSSFIRE": Well, let me just say how fiendishly cutting Senator Lieberman was about Al Gore. That was -- wow. That was really kind of amazing. Good to hear it from Senator Lieberman.

No. I wish they would, though. There is a serious debate about Iraq and what do about Iraq that is taking place to some small degree. I think it needs to take place more. Al Gore could have joined it. He didn't. He never addressed the central question, which is: What do you do now that you know this country has weapons of mass destruction?

He said we ought to use the U.N. In the very next sentence, he said those weapons will remain as long as Saddam lives. It was very, very junior varsity, kind of sad, weak. And I expected better from him.


PAUL BEGALA, CO-HOST, "CROSSFIRE": Yeah right, Tucker.

No, I thought it was a very thoughtful speech. It was the most thoughtful critique from a Democrat on the Bush policy in Iraq. We have heard equally thoughtful comments, even yesterday, from three different four-star generals, who echoed Gore's position.

See, Gore approaches this differently from most Democrats. He supported the last Persian Gulf War. He supported the war in Afghanistan and famously said, "George W. Bush is my commander in chief." So he has the tough-on-defense credentials to say the smart thing, which is, it's al Qaeda, stupid, that we have a more important war against a terrorist threat from al Qaeda than we do from Iraq, and Bush has lost his focus.

And God bless Al Gore for saying it. It was a brilliant speech.

WOODRUFF: Tucker, when the spokeswoman for the Republican National -- or spokesman for the Republican National Senate Committee says Gore -- quote -- "sounded more like political hack than a presidential candidate," is that right on?

CARLSON: Well, look, Al Gore was a serious student of foreign policy for a number of years when he was in the Senate.

And, as I said, there is a real debate about Iraq. And it comes down to one question: What do you do about the fact this country is a threat to United States? Dennis Kucinich, a Democrat, has an honest line on this. He says, look, Iraq is not a threat. Therefore, we should not invade.

Al Gore has a dishonest, really quite silly argument that: "Yes, it's a threat. No, I'm not sure what we are going to do about it." That is not a serious position.

WOODRUFF: Paul, dishonest?

BEGALA: Well, no. In point of fact, Al Gore says we have many threats that face us and many regimes we don't like. We have to be grownups about this. And we can't go scampering off. A great nation, he says, doesn't go off half-cocked in a new area when it hasn't finished the old area.

Al Qaeda was behind September 11. The Bush administration, in a very dishonest way, has been trying to pretend Saddam Hussein was. It is not true. Gore made the case, as did General Schwarzkopf, General Scowcroft, also three other four-star generals yesterday, that the greater threat is al Qaeda and that Bush would do well to listen to people who know more than he does, like Al Gore.

WOODRUFF: Well, let's turn to judicial nominee. This week, the Senate takes up the nomination of Miguel Estrada. He's a Washington lawyer. He's been nominated to serve on the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Democrats are already saying this is one more symbol the Bush administration is focusing more on ideology in choosing their nominees than their qualifications.

Tucker, is that right?

CARLSON: Well, you will notice that there are no specifics contained in that.

The only real criticism I've seen against Mr. Estrada -- not from the American Bar Association, who rates him well-qualified -- but from something called the Puerto Rican Legal Defense Fund, this kind of really sort of fascist attack on him, saying he wasn't poor enough growing up. That is literally the criticism of him today in "The Washington Post."

I don't see how they can oppose him. They don't have anything specific to point to say this guy is unfit for D.C. Appeals Court.


BEGALA: Judy, as fate would have it, I have the comments here from the Puerto Rican Legal Defense. And they don't say that at all.

CARLSON: Yes, they do.

BEGALA: They say Mr. Estrada is -- quote -- "surprisingly contentious, confrontational, aggressive and even offensive." Now, that's fine for Tucker Carlson. But do we really want to take a guy...

CARLSON: Oh, please.

BEGALA: .. who has no qualification, never been on the bench a day in his life? He's got nothing else to recommend him except his compelling personal story. And then we find out he's the impoverished son of a banking executive.


CARLSON: You know, Paul, that is totally outrageous. You are attacking his temperament?


CARLSON: What, he is not polite enough? This is a total outrage. He has been rated by his peers on the ABA -- that used to mean something -- as well-qualified. Now he is not polite enough to be on the bench? It's ridiculous.

BEGALA: Our president has said the ABA doesn't matter. And so I'll defer to him. But what I do know is this. Temperament matters enormously on the bench. This is a guy who is a right-wing crank who helped


CARLSON: That is an outrage that you would say that. Give me one example.


BEGALA: He helped Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, the law firm that helped Bush in the election. This is a payback for the election.

CARLSON: He's a right-wing crank? You shouldn't say things like that. That's totally outrageous.

BEGALA: He's a cranky right-winger, which is I guests what Tucker is as well.

WOODRUFF: An interesting comment, though, came from Bill Clinton's solicitor general, Seth Waxman, who said Mr. Estrada is a model of professionalism and competence.


CARLSON: The former Gore staffer, Ron Klain, says the same thing. So Paul ought to listen.

BEGALA: Well, Ron Klain should run for the Senate. And so should Seth Waxman. The Democrats in the Senate are right hold up this guy up to real scrutiny. Let's have the hearing first, Tucker. What do you say?


WOODRUFF: Paul and Tucker, we've had the hearing here. Thank you, gentlemen.

CARLSON: Thanks, Judy

BEGALA: Thanks.

WOODRUFF: Well, while much of Washington parses the latest statements on Iraq, first lady and former librarian Laura Bush has been reading less complicated material in a taped appearance on Sesame Street.


BIG BIRD: Oh, hi. We're here with our friend Laura Bush.


BIG BIRD: And she is going to read a book to us.

L. BUSH: That's right.

This is a fun book called "Wubba, Wubba, Woo."

ELMO: Oh, boy. That's Elmo's very favorite monster book. Can Elmo help Mrs. Bush read it?

L. BUSH: Sure. ELMO: OK. I'm going to read the wubba, wubba, woo part.

L. BUSH: Big monsters, little monsters all know what to do. When they get together, they say wubba, wubba, woo.

CHILDREN: Wubba, wubba, woo.


WOODRUFF: Well, her husband has been taking some heat for his use of the English language occasionally, but Mrs. Bush proved that she could handle a tongue-twister over and over again.


L. BUSH: Say...

CHILDREN: Wubba, wubba, woo.

L. BUSH: Monsters say...

CHILDREN: Wubba, wubba, woo.

L. BUSH: Still say...

CHILDREN: Wubba, wubba, woo.


WOODRUFF: We are with you. Wubba, wubba, woo.

Up next: aftershocks from political controversies in Iowa and Kentucky. We'll be right back.


WOODRUFF: This is September 24. Look at your calendar. We are now exactly six weeks away from election 2002.

In the battle for control of the Senate, political observers say Democrats have the greatest chance of losing seats in New Jersey, Missouri, South Dakota, and Minnesota. Republicans, in turn, are seen as most at risk in the Senate races in Texas, Arkansas, New Hampshire Colorado.

As we count down to the vote, we will be turning a brighter spotlight on the tightest and the most interesting races. Well, one of those interesting races we are going to look at right now is in Iowa. Democratic Senator Tom Harkin's campaign has acknowledged that it obtained a transcript of a private strategy meeting held by GOP Senate hopeful Greg Ganske. And the Harkin camp acknowledges that it later leaked that document to a reporter.

Let's talk about the race now and the controversy with Jeff Zeleny, political -- national political correspondent -- let me get your title right -- with "Chicago Tribune." Jeff, first of all, what is known about exactly what happened here? Who did the taping and under what circumstances?

JEFF ZELENY, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, "CHICAGO TRIBUNE": Well, the questions about who did the taping still remain unknown this afternoon.

But what happened was, on September 3 in the Eleanor Roosevelt Room at a downtown Des Moines hotel, the Ganske campaign had a private strategy session. And the White House political director was on the line. And, for several minutes, they talked strategy about this race and other races across the country. About two weeks later, a Des Moines reporter was given a transcript in an audio recording of that meeting. And that is when the controversy began.

After the Harkin campaign late last night acknowledged and apologized for handing the transcript over to the reporter, the big question was left unanswered: Who did the recording?

WOODRUFF: And I assume you and other reporters are trying to find that out.

ZELENY: We are, as are the federal authorities.

The state Republican Party of Iowa has called for a criminal investigation into wiretapping and criminal eavesdropping in this incident. So the Harkin campaign answered a few questions yesterday by saying that they obtained the transcript. They will not say from who specifically. And they passed it over to a reporter. But it leaves open the question of who obtained this in first place.

WOODRUFF: Is it pretty clear that what was done here was illegal, Jeff?

ZELENY: I think that is still unknown at this point.

There were 24 supporters of the congressman -- who is in an uphill fight against Senator Tom Harkin -- there were 24 supporters in the meeting. And the Republican Party is not releasing a full list of those supporters. Some are said to be moderates, even perhaps some Democrats. So the speculation is, possibly someone in that room also may have recorded the meeting and made a transcript of it.

So, at this point, the allegations are just that: allegations of criminal wrongdoing.

WOODRUFF: So, when the National Republican Senatorial Committee spokeswoman, Ginny Wolfe -- we have a statement from them today. Among other things, she said someone broke the law here. This is Watergate, basically.


ZELENY: Republicans here are hoping that this is a lifeline for the Senate campaign of Ganske. In recent weeks, the campaign has been languishing. And Harkin has been on the offensive. He has been saying that Ganske's commercials are too negative. And this finally evens the score, Republicans here say. So, at this point, the federal authorities have not said if they will investigate. The situation has been handed over to them, but there is no concrete proof that any laws have been broken. But certainly questions are raised.

WOODRUFF: Jeff, any sense of how this is going to affect the campaign? As you pointed out, Harkin has been running ahead. How much could this help -- or is it helping, or is it too soon to know -- Ganske?

ZELENY: I think, in the final six weeks of this campaign, this could be a very defining issue.

Up until this point, the campaign has been about the congressman. And he has been unable to make this about Tom Harkin's record. So, at this point, it appears, at least in the short term, I believe this incident will even things out and create the debate, that Tom Harkin has to respond to this. His campaign manager apologized. But the Republicans are calling on the senator himself to apologize.

And it could have a fallout for other competitive races here, the Democratic governor's race. He may be called on to give a statement on this and other things. So I think this will play a key role in the final six weeks of the campaign.

WOODRUFF: All right, Jeff Zeleny, we'll be following this story, as I know you will -- "Chicago Tribune." Thanks very much.

ZELENY: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: And now we want to check the headlines in our "Campaign News Daily": Georgia Governor Roy Barnes is a Democrat, but he knows President Bush is a popular figure with many Georgia voters. A new Barnes TV ad includes photos of the governor with President Bush. The ad also praises Mr. Bush's education reforms while Texas governor as the model for the Barnes education reform plan in Georgia.

A new poll finds Republican Lamar Alexander has widened his lead over Democrat Bob Clement in the Tennessee Senate race. The Mason- Dixon poll of registered voters gives Alexander 54 percent to Clement's 35 percent. Alexander has picked up eight points since a similar poll taken in July.

National Rifle Association President Charlton Heston's trip to Alabama last week has sparked some political discord between state Republicans and the NRA. Heston traveled the state Friday with Republican candidates, including gubernatorial hopeful Bob Riley. But, in a letter released Saturday, Heston endorsed Riley's opponent, incumbent Democrat Don Siegelman. The NRA then endorsed Siegelman as well. An NRA spokesman says the group always endorses incumbents with strong gun rights records.

And now to Kentucky, where there's more fallout today for that state's governor, Paul Patton, who last week acknowledged a two-year extramarital affair with a woman who is now suing him for sexual harassment. Patton said today that he will withdraw from politics -- quote -- "for the foreseeable future," including his expected challenge to Senator Jim Bunning in 2004. Patton had informally announced that he would challenge Bunning. But Democrats have urged him to bow out right now to avoid hurting the party's candidate in the governor's race next year.


GOV. PAUL PATTON (D), KENTUCKY: With the exception of one previously scheduled event this week, I will not be participating in or attending political functions.

For the time being, I do not anticipate personally answering any questions regarding political matters. My primary ongoing activity will be discharging my duties as governor and addressing the personal, legal and domestic issues in my private life.


WOODRUFF: And from Kentucky, we bring you here to Washington, where, on the Senate floor today, Strom Thurmond, the retiring South Carolina senator who first was elected to the United States Senate in 1954, 48 years ago, made what his staff is calling probably his last speech on the floor of the Senate.

Here today: Senator Thurmond.


SEN. STROM THURMOND (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: The United States Senate is a special place. There is nothing which compares to serving here. I am proud of my service and accomplishments as a United States senator.

May God bless each of you, the United States Senate and our nation. I love all of you, and especially your wives.



WOODRUFF: The issue of what to do about Iraq has been affecting political debates far beyond U.S. borders.

Our senior analyst, Jeff Greenfield, has a little more on that -- Jeff.


You have heard the question. How will the confrontation with Iraq affect domestic politics? We're used to thinking about that question in strictly American terms. Will it shape the midterm elections, maybe decide who controls the Congress? But the U.S. is far from the only country where the Iraq issue overhangs domestic politics.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wrong and unjustified, if we should act alone.

GREENFIELD (voice-over): Today's extraordinary debate in Britain's House of Commons underscored one key fact: The most vigorous opposition to Prime Minister Blair's wholehearted support of U.S. policy comes from his own Labour Party.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For the stability of the whole region.

GREENFIELD: There has been long-simmering anger on the Labour left at Tony Blair's more centrist policies. Now his strong support for U.S. action could subject him to something like open rebellion, particularly at the party's conference later this month.

And we have already seen the impact of Iraq on the politics of another European nation. In Germany, Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's Social Democrats won a razor-thin reelection after he openly and vigorously challenged Bush's Iraq policy. But that victory came with a price. After a Schroeder Cabinet member compared Bush's tactics to Hitler's, President Bush refused to congratulate Schroeder on his reelection. And Defense Secretary Rumsfeld snubbed his German counterpart at a NATO meeting.

Now look at Israel. During the 1991 Gulf War, Israel yielded to U.S. wishes and did not retaliate against Iraq's scud missile attacks, the better to keep the coalition together. But Prime Minister Sharon, who faces a challenge on his right flank from former Prime Minister Netanyahu, either said flatly or strongly implied in recent days that this time Israel would retaliate. While that warning may help Sharon with his political prospects, it chills American officials, who fear that would ignite a region-wide conflict.


GREENFIELD: And then there's France. Its eagerness to chart a course independent of Washington goes back to the days of Charles de Gaulle. Will Japan help pick up the tab for this war, the way it did back in 1991?

What these questions show is that, while politics here at home is often compared to a horse race or poker, looking at it worldwide makes it seem more like three-dimensional chess -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Yes. And those debates overseas can end up having an effect on the debates here at home.

GREENFIELD: Absolutely. It's just like -- it's a circle. It feeds each other.

WOODRUFF: All right, Jeff, thanks a lot. See you later.

Members of Congress have been getting plenty of airtime, we've seen, debating war against Iraq. But tonight, two California lawmakers will be appearing in prime time and playing it for laughs. Here now a sneak preview of the scene in the season premiere of "The Gilmore Girls" featuring Senator Barbara Boxer and her potential opponent in the 2004 Senate race, Representative Doug Ose.

We don't have that tape. Our apologies. Maybe we'll get it for you a little later.

I'll be back in a moment with Bruce Morton's review of Oliver North's new novel, but first let's take look at what's coming up on "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS" -- hi, Wolf.


Saddam Hussein's arsenal, what's he hiding? Today, we get details from an American ally. But is it enough to go to war? Plus: a CNN exclusive: Boeing comes out with a warning about some of its airplanes. We will tell you why the company says it wants to play it safe. And a story for parents and grandparents: Why are kids getting their hands on Viagra? We'll tell you about a dangerous drug combination.

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


WOODRUFF: Iran-Contra-figure-turned-radio-talk-show-host Oliver North has launched yet another career as a novelist. His new book is titled "Mission Compromised."

And, as our Bruce Morton explains, North's work of fiction isn't that far removed from real life.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you solemnly swear...

BRUCE MORTON, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Oliver North, the Marine officer and National Security Council official involved in trading arms to Iran in exchange for freeing U.S. hostages and using the money from those sales to help Nicaraguan rebels -- yes, that famous Oliver North -- has written a novel, sort of.

It's a novel with a lot of real stuff in it. Saddam Hussein is in it and Osama bin Laden and some real bad guys, like -- North does bring his politics to this -- just about everybody at the United Nations, bad organization, very bad, and a president, never named, who loathes the military. Didn't we just have a president who said that once?

And the novel takes place in the '90s, during Clinton's presidency. And Oliver North is in the book. Peter Newman, the Marine officer who is the hero, is involved in a complicated plot to maybe kill Saddam and bin Laden and some other bad actors -- lots of double agents and plot swerves, of course. And he goes to North for advice. They meet at the Iwo Jima memorial.

"North was smiling," North writes, "with his familiar gap-toothed grin." North tells Newman: "Launching a personal crusade from the National Security Council isn't a very good idea" and adds, "I got involved with trying to save Americans, some of whom I knew personally, from being tortured to death in Beirut. Then, in trying to help the Nicaraguan freedom fighters, I'd come to know and admire them. As a result, my wife and children were targeted by terrorists and my career was finished."

Well, his military career, but he has a popular radio talk show, has written other books, though this is his first novel, and ran unsuccessfully for the Senate.

CROWD: Ollie, Ollie.

MORTON (on camera): How good is the book? North hired a professional writer as a collaborator. And it's moves like a Tom Clancy novel, lots more emphasis on plot than on character development. Still, there is a political viewpoint, of course. And how much you like the book may depend on how much you agree with North's politics, the North who wrote the book and the North who is in it.

Bruce Morton, CNN, Washington.


WOODRUFF: Thank you, Bruce.

And continuing on the book beat: Senator John McCain's new book, "Worth the Fighting For," hit the bookstores today. The Arizona senator will be a guest tonight on "LARRY KING LIVE." That's at 9:00 p.m. Eastern.

That's it for INSIDE POLITICS. "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS" is next. Thank you for joining us. We'll see you tomorrow. I'm Judy Woodruff.


Security Department; Increased Voter Concern About Iraq May Not Help Republicans>

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