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CNN INSIDE POLITICS

Republicans, Democrats Fight Over Who is Politicizing Iraq Debate, Creation of Homeland Security Department; Bush Continues Push for Resolution Against Iraq

Aired September 25, 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.
The debate over Iraq gets angry and personal. Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle demands the president apologize for implying Democrats don't care.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TOM DASCHLE (D-SD), MAJORITY LEADER: You tell those who fought in Vietnam and in World War II they're not interested in the security of the American people. That is outrageous! Outrageous!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: Is Iraq being politicized? We'll hear a variety of voices in the battle over possible war.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. TOM DELAY (R-TX), MAJORITY WHIP: The Senate Democrats are sitting over there playing political games. It is blatant what is going on here, and I think it is outrageous.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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

WOODRUFF: Thank you for joining us.

Well, it has been building for some time, from Democratic grumblings, to today's explosion on the Senate floor. With his finger pointed squarely at the president, Majority Leader Tom Daschle went a dramatic step further in accusing Republicans of trying to politicize the possibility of war with Iraq.

Here now, our congressional correspondent Jonathan Karl.

And Jon, it was a Tom Daschle we haven't seen

JONATHAN KARL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Oh, it was unbelievable, Judy. And Democrats, up until now, have been very divided on the issue of Iraq.

But today, with Senator Daschle's speech, they found something to unify around, and that is charging the Republicans, specifically the White House, with using the prospects of war to score political points.

Senator Daschle, citing a story in today's "Washington Post," quoted the president as saying: "The Democratically controlled Senate is not interested in the security of the American people."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DASCHLE: Not interested in the security of the American people? You tell Senator Inouye he's not interested in the security of the American people. You tell those who fought in Vietnam and in World War II, they're not interested in the security of the American people. That is outrageous! Outrageous!

The president ought to apologize to Senator Inouye and every veteran who has fought in every war who is a Democrat in the United States Senate. He ought to apologize to the American people.

KARL (voice-over): Senator Daschle was referring to this speech by President Bush in New Jersey:

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Senate is more interested in special interests in Washington, and not interested in the security of the American people.

KARL: But the president was not talking about Iraq. He was talking about the Senate deadlock over the homeland security bill.

But the usually soft-spoken Daschle also accused the vice president and White House aides of playing politics with Iraq.

DASCHLE: So Mr. President, it is not too late to end this politicization. It is not too late to forget the pollsters, forget the campaign fund-raisers, forget making accusations about how interested in national security Democrats are, and let's get this job done right.

KARL: Republican Senate Leader Trent Lott fired back.

TRENT LOTT (R-MS), MINORITY LEADER: Who is the enemy here? The president of the United States or Saddam Hussein? That is who was attacked this morning.

KARL: Democrats were especially critical of Vice President Cheney for allegedly telling voters in Kansas to vote for a Republican candidate because he would support the war.

But Cheney appears to have been a victim of a misleading Associated Press headline. There is no record of Cheney saying it, although he has repeatedly talked about the war at political events.

But on the question of authorizing war with Iraq, Democrats remain deeply divided, with an increasingly vocal minority opposing military action. SEN. ROBERT BYRD (D), WEST VIRGINIA: For the first time in history of the Republic, the nation is considering a preemptive strike against a sovereign state. And I will not be silent!

I have no grief for Iraq, but I am not going to be silent.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KARL: Even as this rhetoric heats up, Judy, bipartisan negotiations continue to go on between the White House and Democrats here on Capitol Hill about that use of force authorization that they expect to be voted on sometime over the next couple of weeks.

And, in fact, Vice President Cheney was up here on Capitol Hill today in a classified briefing -- giving a classified briefing to a bipartisan group of senators, including several Democratic senators on Iraq -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right, Jon, thank you very much.

Well, the president was asked by a reporter today if he is politicizing the war on terror.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: You may try to politicize it. I view it as my main obligation. That is, to protect the American people. It's the most important job this president will have, and it's the most important job future presidents will have, because the nature of war has changed. We're vulnerable.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: Our senior White House correspondent John King is here.

John, at least in that encounter, the president didn't answer the question. But others at the White House are talking about it.

JOHN KING, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, the president was not ask there, Judy, directly about Senator Daschle, just generally about accusations he's politicizing the war.

Here at the White House, what they say is happening, privately, is they believe Senator Daschle is venting the frustration that many Democrats have complained about publicly and privately, that they cannot get us in the news media or anyone else to focus on the economy, to focus on health care, with just about five weeks going to election.

They believe here at the White House, Senator Daschle under a great deal of criticism from liberals in the Democratic Congress and that he was just venting steam, if you will.

They say, as Jon Karl noted, he took what the president said out of context. A short time ago here in the White House briefing room the Press Secretary Ari Fleischer saying the president stands by what he said: That if Senate does not send him a tough homeland security department -- a bill creating a homeland security department that, in the president's view, they will be setting aside the security interests of the American people.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ARI FLEISCHER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: There is no doubt about it: If this does not pass into law, because special interests provisions will have prevailed -- the Senate will not have acted in the best interests of the American people, and the interests of the special interests will have been put ahead. And the result will be that the Senate will not have acted in that interest for the national security.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: So Judy, they insist here the president is doing his job, talking about the war effort. They insist here, Senator Daschle especially in case of the vice president, relying on a headline, not on what the vice president actually said.

And I'll tell you this: Their only big concern here this afternoon appears to be, Will this effect those negotiations Jon Karl just talked about? Will the Democrats put pressure on their leadership to either delay a vote on the Iraq resolution until after election that some want, or to change the language in some way that would make it unacceptable to the White House.

The White House says there's no sign of that so far, but that's what they're worried about -- not the back-and-forth over who's politicizing the war.

WOODRUFF: But John, they're sticking to the line at the White House that Democrats, in their words, don't care about the security of the country if they vote against the president on this homeland security bill.

KING: The president, in his speeches, has never put the word "Democrats" in front of it. And some aides here privately say the one quote Daschle is referring to is perhaps not the best quote of the president's on this issue, where the president said "the Senate." He did not say "the Democrat-controlled Senate." And in that very same speech the president went on to say there are some in Washington, Democrats and Republicans, trying to get it right.

In the speech last night, the president said some in Washington, some in the Senate, trying to deny him that legislation.

The president, when he talks about the department of homeland security, is careful most of the time not to use the term "Democrats."

Now, we know who runs the Senate. It is clear who he is talking about here. And from the podium they have been very critical in the briefing room about the Democrats saying they're beholden to the labor unions in this debate. But the White House simply says the president is making his case that he wants that tough legislation, the new department of homeland security, and that he will continue to make it no matter what the Democrats say about it.

WOODRUFF: All right, John at the White House, thanks very much.

Well, if they are not saying "Democrats" at the White House, there are those in the Congress who are saying the word. House Majority Whip Tom DeLay today charged again that the Democrats are the ones politicizing Iraq. I interviewed DeLay a little bit earlier today, and I asked him about concerns within both parties about giving the president a blank check to go to war.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DELAY: Judy, I just have to say where have these hand-wringers and appeasers been over last 12 years? It is quite obvious to the world that Saddam Hussein is evil, that he is a terrorist -- he has been on the terrorist list for 20 years -- that he has used biological and chemical weapons against his own people, against Iran. I mean he even ran a terrorist organization to try to assassinate George Bush 41. And I could go on and on and on. Where have they been?

Where they have been is what we saw yesterday, and from a speech by Al Gore, and the American people need to ask themselves would they feel more secure today if Al Gore was president and the Democrats controlled the House of Representatives and the Senate? No, the American people know this president, George W. Bush, has shown more leadership, understands the threat, is not afraid to confront evil and will go forward.

I heard some of my colleagues this morning, on your network, talking about how we have to do everything we can to avoid war. Well, you know, that kind of attitude undermines the security of the American people, because the longer we wait, the stronger Saddam Hussein will get and the stronger he will get with his terrorist friends. They will be able to give these weapons of mass destruction the kind of -- give them to terrorists to use; that is how they operate. No one in this country believes that Saddam Hussein doesn't have terrorist friends, and he is supporting them, funding them, and supplying them with weapons.

WOODRUFF: But it is not just the Democrats; it is your own majority leader in the House, Dick Armey, raising questions, challenging the president on this. Does it make it harder for you to round up votes when Mr. Armey is opposing this, or is he almost irrelevant here because he is a lame duck?

DELAY: Well, I think Mr. Armey is very concerned, as we all are. Whenever you vote to send our boys and girls into war, you want to make sure that you are doing the right thing. He struggles with this issue; it is something that is really important to him. But I don't think he is undermining or questioning the leadership of this president. He is trying to feel comfortable in his own mind that when he votes for that resolution, it is the right vote to take. He is not doing what others are doing that are questioning the president's leadership, that are constantly throwing up hurdles to keep us from doing what we have to do to protect the American people: using the false arguments, these constantly -- throwing up, Well, I have to have answers to this question, and when they get the answer, they come up with a new question. These are people that don't want to protect the American people. They don't see -- they will do anything, spend all the time and resources they can, to avoid confronting evil.

WOODRUFF: Do you mean that literally that you think they don't want to protect the American people? And I ask that because the president has been saying that people who criticize him or disagree with him on this don't care about the security of the American people. Do you mean that sincerely?

DELAY: We are faced with a blunt threat from Saddam Hussein. The American people are threatened by Saddam Hussein. There is no question about that. The Senate Democrats are sitting over there playing political games with the Department of Homeland Security, that would bring all these agencies together to protect the American people back home. And why are they doing it?: for political reasons, and to help their special interest friends, the unions, bosses and trial lawyers.

It is blatant what is going on here, and I think it is outrageous. The American people know it is outrageous, we need to understand that this president has shown incredible moral clarity in where he needs wants to lead this country. And we need to support this president.

WOODRUFF: And when those when -- some people say the White House, despite its denials, is playing politics, to some extent here, because the president is out on campaign trial. Vice President Cheney out on the campaign trail saying Republican candidates care more about the security of this country. Is that politicized?

DELAY: When you're losing the debate and you don't want to support the president, you can always bring up specious issues like that. To bring it up is playing politics. No one is playing politics with this war; the war that started in 9/11 is an ongoing war that we have to deal with. But at the same time, we have campaigns in this country, and what would you have the vice president do: get on the campaign trail and give a silent speech? Of course he is going to talk about the issues of the day that are important to this country. How do you we protect this country, our national security, our economic security, our retirement security -- all these issues are issues that are important to the upcoming election?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: House Majority Whip Tom DeLay.

Well, on Capitol Hill, lawmakers are used to seeing Delay play hardball. But seeing Tom Daschle launch a fiery attack still causes some people to do a double take.

Our senior political correspondent Candy Crowley looks at the Senate majority leader's political style and ambitions.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: The first time Tom Daschle was elected Senate Democratic leader, it was by one vote. Many of his colleagues didn't think he had the brass knuckles required to do the job.

DASCHLE: We ought not politicize this war. We ought not politicize the rhetoric about war and life and death.

Looking back, you wonder how he could have been so underestimated. After all, you don't rise to the top in a Senate teeming with ambition without knowing how to throw a sharp elbow.

DASCHLE: This has got to end, Mr. President. We've got to get on with the business of our country. We've got to rise to a higher level. Our founding fathers would be embarrassed by what they're seeing going on right now.

CROWLEY: And you do not survive as a liberal Democrat in one of the most Republican of states without knowing how and when to play the game.

Daschle has been able to soft-talk his fractious caucus into something resembling unity, look and act like the loyal opposition when he can, and employ the velvet shiv when needed.

A measure of his success is the millions critics have spent trying to rough him up:

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On tax cuts, Daschle said no. On economic stimulus, Daschle said no. On limiting Washington spending, Daschle said no. Now, we have the Daschle deficits. Tell Tom Daschle to put our jobs ahead of his petty partisanship.

CROWLEY: Supporters called it "the demonization of Daschle." He responded with a studied disappointment that has become a bit of a trademark.

DASCHLE: I think what you have to do is acknowledge it and accept the fact that there are some things that we're proud of the fact that we're not doing.

CROWLEY: Daschle is kind of the Clark Kent of politics, a mild- mannered, soft-spoken South Dakotan who can change quickly into a hardball politician with what one of his colleagues called "a spine of steel."

This is a man who woke up this morning to a double-barreled headline blow: the president complaining about the Daschle-led Democrats and the Democrats complaining about Daschle.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY: And Daschle's double-barreled assault on the president answered both headlines, putting the White House on the defensive and, for now, placating Democrats who think Daschle has been too amenable on the Iraq issue. They do not underestimate Tom Daschle anymore -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Certainly not after today.

Candy, thank you.

Tough questions about attacking Iraq: I'll talk to a leading critic, House Democrat Dennis Kucinich.

Also up next: the buzzwords that are defining the Iraq debate. Our Bill Schneider will parse the language.

In our countdown to election 2002, Jeff Greenfield tells us why several races have become so fascinating and competitive. This is INSIDE POLITICS, the place for campaign news.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(AUDIO/VIDEO GAP)

SCHNEIDER: ... unilateralism is one and preemption is the other.

Let's see what all the fighting is about.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): "Unilateralism" is a fancy word for going it alone, which is what President Bush says the U.S. must do.

BUSH: But if the United Nations won't act, if they won't disarm Saddam Hussein, if they won't expose this liar for what he is, then the United States and other friends of ours around the world will do just that.

SCHNEIDER: Why go it alone? Because the U.S. cannot let the decisions vital to its security be made by others.

Some Democrats agree.

SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN (D), CONNECTICUT: We feel that the president should be authorized to take military action outside the U.N. if the U.N. will not do it.

SCHNEIDER: The argument against?

SEN. CHUCK HAGEL (D-NE), FOREIGN RELATIONS CMTE.: We don't need to do this alone, nor should Iraq be something that separates us from the rest of the world.

SCHNEIDER: They also say it's a foolish thing to do when the U.S. needs other countries' support, maybe not in Iraq, but definitely in the larger war on terrorism.

AL GORE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our ability to secure that kind of multilateral cooperation in the war against terrorism can be severely damaged in the way we go about undertaking unilateral action against Iraq.

SCHNEIDER: The idea of preemption was first raised by President Bush back in June, with no mention of Iraq.

BUSH: We must take the battle to the enemy, disrupt his plans and confront the worst threats before they emerge.

SCHNEIDER: Before they emerge? Yes, because the alternative is too dangerous.

SEN. RICHARD SHELBY (R), ALABAMA: The doctrine of preemption, where we can preempt attacks -- people who would do damage to our interests and kill a lot of our own people -- I think we have to do it.

SCHNEIDER: If Iraq is acquiring weapons of mass destruction and has expressed the intention of using them, does the U.S. just wait for Saddam Hussein to commit an atrocity against us? September 11 teaches otherwise.

Only in the case of Iraq, the threat is more ominous.

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.

SCHNEIDER: But do you punish someone for what they might do to you?

Many Americans find that profoundly unsettling.

SEN. ROBERT BYRD (D), WEST VIRGINIA: For the first time in the history of the republic, the nation is considering a preemptive strike against a sovereign state, and I will not be silent!

SCHNEIDER: Moreover, if the U.S. takes preemptive action, won't that set a dangerous precedent for other countries?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I'm worried about Russians in Georgia. I'm worried about the Chinese with some of their problems. I'm worried about other -- Pakistan and India.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER: What critics call unilateralism, the Bush administration calls leadership. What critics call preemption, the Bush administration calls self-defense.

In this debate, words make a difference -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right, Bill. They certainly do. Thanks a lot.

With me now from Capitol Hill, one of the most active House opponents to President Bush's proposed resolution on Iraq. He is Democrat Dennis Kucinich of Ohio. Congressman Kucinich, one of your colleagues says he thinks that for all the frustration in the House and in the Senate in the last analysis, he thinks no more than 10 members out of 435 are going to oppose the president on this.

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH (D), OHIO: I think there's an advancing tide for peaceful resolution of this crisis with Iraq. And I think that more and more members of the House are raising questions about the direction that we're going in. And I would say that I wouldn't yet predict that the resolution, as has been crafted by the White House, will pass.

WOODRUFF: Well, let me just quote from a Democratic member of the House from California, Sam Farr. He says, "There's real fear. No one wants to be seen as being unpatriotic after September 11." Is this what it is boiling down to?

KUCINICH: Well, since when do we equate patriotism with going to war? Since when do we equate patriotism with preemptive strikes and with unilateralism?

I mean, we're taking America in a new direction here. America's always been a nation that's worked with other nations. And after September 11 of last year, we had the entire world community working with us.

Now we're separating ourselves, isolating ourselves from the world community because we want to go it alone. I think America needs to reorganize our approach here. And to work again with the United Nations, we need inspections in Iraq. That is something we ought to work towards, but working through the United Nations.

WOODRUFF: But you're not just talking about the president, you're not just talking about the Republicans in the majority in the House. You're talking about the leadership of your own party in the House. Are you one of those who believe that some of your colleagues and the leadership in your party are putting politics ahead of principle?

KUCINICH: I don't want to cast dispersions on anyone's position; I think we don't need to do that.

What we need to do is depoliticize this environment. And the first step should be to have the vote after the election. To have a vote in the context of a super-heated election for control of the House and Senate only makes this even more confusing, and it really kind of diverts us from attention to the real concerns of the people.

You know my district -- people are worried about rising unemployment, they're worried about their 401(k)s have disappeared, they're worried about Medicare and having access to health care and prescription drugs. These are imminent threats to people in their lives, not necessarily this conjured-up condition.

WOODRUFF: But your Democratic leader in the House, Dick Gephardt, has said, We need to get this Iraq business dealt with so that you can move on a discuss some of these domestic questions like the economy before the election.

KUCINICH: I have a great deal of respect for Leader Gephardt. There is -- there are differences of opinion inside the Democratic caucus. And we're finding that more and more Democrats are expressing hesitation about voting for war. We're hearing from constituents -- my constituents by a margin of nine to one -- the calls that I'm getting oppose this war. And I think more and more members are hearing from the American people.

And frankly, when that happens, I think you're going to see a change. And I would say that war is not inevitable, peace could be inevitable as we hear from the American people and look for alternatives that include inspections and working through the United Nations.

WOODRUFF: All right, Representative Dennis Kucinich. Thank you very much for talking to us. Good to see you.

We'll have more on the political debate over Iraq and language in the proposed Congressional resolution just ahead.

But first, let's turn to Rhonda Schaffler at the New York Stock Exchange for a market update.

Rhonda, it looks like things turned around a little today.

RHONDA SCHAFFLER, CNN FINANCIAL CORRESPONDENT: They did indeed, Judy.

Stocks moving higher right across the board this session, rebounding after both the Dow and Nasdaq were slumping at multi-year lows yesterday.

Some reassuring profit forecasts from General Electric and International Paper gave investor's some confidence it was OK to buy stocks again. Investors largely ignoring a report showing sales of previously homes -- previously-owned homes dipped 1.7 percent last month.

Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill speaking this afternoon in Washington saying that the economy is continuing to move upwards. He downplayed the need for another tax cut at this time.

We're showing you the closing numbers at the moment. Dow surging 158 points -- up, not down -- up 2 percent, in fact. At one point the Dow was up better than 200 this afternoon.

GE shares tacking on more than a point, International Paper also moving higher. And the Nasdaq surged more than 3 percent higher. Many analysts, though, concerned that the rally is not going to hold. They say investors are concerned overall, mixed economics reports, earnings warnings, concerns about Iraq still don't go away even though we saw the markets move higher today.

And companies continue to cut back. Hewlett-Packard slashing 1,800 jobs. That's on top of the 15,000 cuts it announced as part of its merger with Compaq Computer. HP says it needs to make the cuts to stay competitive.

That is the latest from Wall Street.

More INSIDE POLITICS after the break, including the political obstacles blocking adoption of the homeland security bill.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Returning now to the congressional debate over Iraq and the president's proposed resolution on military action, we turn now to Kate Snow at the Capitol for the latest.

Kate, they are looking at tinkering with the president's language here.

KATE SNOW, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Judy.

Today, again, staffers from the four top leadership offices meeting throughout the day. Dick Gephardt, the House Democratic leader, tells me they are not there yet, but they are getting closer. One proposal on the table now is from a key Republican, Henry Hyde, the chairman of the International Relations Committee.

What he would do is tighten language authorizing the use of force by the president. There you see the president is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate means. That is a change, taking out the words "that he determines." In other words, the president would no longer determine it, but it would be what is necessary and appropriate.

That action could be taken to defend U.S. national security or to enforce U.N. Security Council resolutions to restore peace and security in the region. That is a change as well. It is meant to link action to the United Nations and clarify that the president can't just go after any country in the region, but only if there are U.N. Security Council resolutions, in the case of Iraq specifically, that have been broken.

And, finally, Chairman Hyde would have the president report back to Congress every 60 days. Now, sources familiar with the discussion say that this document is on the table and it's been helpful. But there are certainly a lot of other documents and suggestions out there: Democrats still pushing to make the language stronger that the president must exhaust all diplomatic routes before he could take any action.

They want to make it clearer in the resolution that the goal is disarming Iraq. I'm told by sources that any action in Iraq, they want it to be clear that it won't undermine the war on terrorism, the broader war on terrorism. And I'm told that they want to make sure that the administration has some kind of clear post-Saddam Hussein strategy, if Saddam Hussein falls, some kind of a plan for what would succeed him.

And one source tells me, Judy, that they are talking very seriously now about the reporting-back-to-Congress element. If the president is told he has to report back to Congress, should he have to specifically lay out what a post-Saddam Hussein world would look like? And that is what some members here on Capitol Hill are pushing for -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Well, Kate, if they are trying to work all that out, are they going to be able to get votes, get it to the floor, get debated and voted on next week and the week after?

SNOW: Yes, that's the $10 million question.

I asked Dick Gephardt that just probably a half-an-hour ago. And he said, "Beats me." They are trying very hard to get this done as fast as they can. We have been told maybe by late next week, Judy, but a lot of members now saying that it might have to wait until the week after next before they can get this to a vote. It all depends on all of these little nitty-gritty language issues and whether they can come to some kind of agreement -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right, Kate, thanks very much, Kate with the latest from the Hill.

And with us now: Margaret Carlson of "TIME" magazine and Tucker Carlson of CNN's "CROSSFIRE."

Is the president politicizing the debate over Iraq, Margaret? Tom Daschle says today that is what's going on. In fact, over the last few days, the president has said several times that Democrats are not -- I'm going to read what he said -- the Democrats don't care about national security.

MARGARET CARLSON, "TIME": Well, those are fighting words from the president. They are not the first words.

Remember, right after the U.N. speech, the president said that he didn't understand why any member of Congress would want to go home without having voted to give him the authority to go to war against Iraq and not leave it in the United Nations' hands. Before that, of course, there was Karl Rove. But there's been a steady drumbeat from the president on this.

And I think Tom Daschle has been fairly restrained until now, because each time he would say the slightest thing, he would be accused by someone lesser than Bush of being unpatriotic. But he popped today. And perhaps it was time to do it.

WOODRUFF: Tucker?

TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST, "CROSSFIRE": Well, the president said -- the remark that Senator Daschle is upset about actually had nothing do with Iraq. It was from a speech the president gave in New Jersey. And it was referring, of course, to the debate over the Department of Homeland Security and the debate over the role of unions that's going on.

So it didn't have anything to do with Iraq. I'm not sure it was a smart comment. But it is unfair to say he was talking about the war.

M. CARLSON: But, Tucker, those two things are really mushed together. And he said national security.

T. CARLSON: Well, I don't know.

There is a discrete debate going over what role of labor should be in the Department of Homeland Security. And I think that is what he was talking about. It's clear from context of his remarks. But then you have Senator Inouye getting up and trying to make political points on his own war wound.

I think both parties need take a step back and consider the key question, which is still being ignored, which is: Is Saddam containable or not? It all boils down to that. That is what the debate ought to be about. All the rest of this is a sideshow, not productive at all for the country. And it's a shame.

(CROSSTALK)

WOODRUFF: Go ahead, Margaret.

M. CARLSON: Well, the debate has not taken place in part because, when the debate starts, the Democrats are accused of, as Bush said, not caring about national security. It has a tendency to mute those voices and not have a full-fledged debate over it.

T. CARLSON: Well, I don't know. These are big boys. I think they can handle it. And I think they have an obligation, as the Republicans have an obligation, to, again, focus the debate on that very narrow and essential question: Is it possible to contain this guy? Do we need to send troops in to remove him, to kill him?

That is what it boils down do. And every day that passes where that debate doesn't take place, it is a shame for the country, I think.

WOODRUFF: We are going to leave it there.

Tucker Carlson, Margaret Carlson, thank you both.

M. CARLSON: Thanks, Judy.

T. CARLSON: Thanks.

WOODRUFF: Thanks.

Up next: Are Iowa Democrats making the news media an offer they can refuse? And new poll numbers in the Florida governor's race that may have Jeb Bush thinking hard.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Our "Campaign News Daily" begins in Massachusetts. Republican Mitt Romney and Democrat Shannon O'Brien debated the issues last night in the race for governor. Aside from topics like education and the budget, the two tangled over comments O'Brien made on this program when she told me that Romney had already promised state jobs to his supporters.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SHANNON O'BRIEN (D), MASSACHUSETTS GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: But I'm not going to do the same kind of smear-and-fear kind of tactics that Mr. Romney has been engaging in. He's been questioning my integrity. And from the beginning of this campaign, he has demonstrated that he can't be trusted.

MITT ROMNEY (R), MASSACHUSETTS GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: I have not spoken with one person about a job in my administration. I haven't even -- I haven't made an offer. I haven't even discussed it. So you are just wrong.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: Meanwhile, a new poll in New York finds incumbent Republican Governor George Pataki has lost ground, but he still holds a double-digit lead over Carl McCall and Thomas Golisano. The survey gives Pataki 45 percent. McCall is 11 points back. Golisano, running as an independent, is third with 13 percent. A Quinnipiac poll in July showed Pataki with a 27-point lead over McCall.

Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidate Ed Rendell weighed in yesterday on a potential White House run by Al Gore. Rendell, who led the Democratic National Committee in 2000, told the Associated Press that he thinks Gore would make -- quote -- "a fine president," but, in his words -- quote -- "I don't know whether he is the best candidate in terms of winning or losing." He also said he is not sure that any of the other announced candidates would be better at what he called winnability.

Well, as we move closer to November, the campaign news increases by the day. We have two more items to tell you about in our "Campaign News Daily" extra edition. A new Mason-Dixon poll to be released at the top of the hour will show Florida Democrat Bill McBride now trailing Republican Governor Jeb Bush by six points among registered voters. The poll was taken since McBride was certified as the party's nominee. McBride has cut Bush's lead in half since a head-to-head poll taken back in August.

And the final item of today's "Campaign News Daily" extra edition: a state divided over basketball and politics. As if cheering for Duke or the North Carolina Tarheels were not enough to divide voters, two legendary basketball coaches have taken sides in the U.S. Senate race. Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski, better known as Coach K, is hosting a fund-raiser tonight for Republican Elizabeth Dole, while former UNC head coach Dean Smith last week hosted a competing event for Dole's opponent, Democrat Erskine Bowles.

Well, we head outside the Beltway next to check in on some of the competitive state races leading up to Election Day. Among our stops: sunny Hawaii, where Democratic dominance at the state capital could be coming to a close. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: It's less than six weeks before Election Day and some big races suddenly seem full of surprises.

Here is our senior analyst, Jeff Greenfield -- hi, Jeff.

JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SR. ANALYST: Hi, Judy.

Yes, in most years, most political races are mostly predictable. Well over 90 percent of House members get reelected. Massachusetts votes for the Democratic presidential candidate. Wyoming votes for the Republican.

But one of the intriguing footnotes to this year's election is that, in a lot of places, there are genuinely competitive races for the first time in more than a generation.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(voice-over): Take New Jersey. It swung from Republican to Democratic in recent presidential races. It elects Republican governors about as often as it does Democrats. But it hasn't sent a Republican to the U.S. Senate in 30 years. It is a state where moderate Republicans do well. Conservative Republicans don't.

But this year, GOP nominee Doug Forrester, who defeated a more moderate candidate to win the primary, is running slightly ahead of incumbent Democratic Senator Robert Torricelli. Torricelli's ethical problems, which led to a sharp admonishment from the Senate Ethics Committee, has made this Democratic lock an open door.

Now look at Maryland, a solidly Democratic state, with two Democratic senators. The last Republican elected governor in Maryland was way back in 1966, a fellow by the name of Spiro Agnew. This year, Lieutenant Governor Kathleen Kennedy Townsend -- she's RFK's eldest daughter -- was supposed to win in a walk. But her campaign stumbles, combined with the unpopularity of outgoing Democratic Governor Parris Glendening, has made it possible for Republican Congressman Bob Ehrlich to catch up to Townsend in the polls. This one looks close.

Illinois, it is a presidential battleground state. Its senate delegation is split. But it hasn't elected a Democratic governor in 30 years, maybe because the guy who won that year wound up in a federal prison. But this year may be different. Outgoing Republican Governor George Ryan has rock-bottom job-approval ratings. He is so unpopular that GOP nominee Jim Ryan is making it clear he is not the same guy and has been openly feuding with the man he wants to succeed. The result? Democratic Congressman Rod Blagojevich has a significant lead in the polls.

Finally, there is Hawaii, solidly Democratic. It hasn't had a Republican governor in 40 years. But, with scandals and a weakened economy plaguing the term-limited Democratic governor, Republican Linda Lingle, former mayor of Maui, has a real shot at ending that streak. (END VIDEOTAPE)

GREENFIELD: Now, these are all fascinating races. In fact, I volunteered to look at one of them in depth: Hawaii. The folks here at CNN looked at my budget. And so tomorrow, I will be heading off to New Jersey -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Yes, I'm lobbying for them to send me to Hawaii, Jeff.

GREENFIELD: Well, what can I tell you, you know? The budgets define everything these days.

WOODRUFF: I think you're right. OK, Jeff, thanks very much. We'll see you tomorrow.

Well, now we want to turn to the tight Senate Missouri race. With us now: Jo Mannies, political correspondent for "The St. Louis Post-Dispatch."

Jo Mannies, this is a race that's been very close. It has been up. It's been down. Right now, Jean Carnahan seems to be a little bit ahead. Is that what you are seeing? And, if so, what's happened?

JO MANNIES, "ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH": Well, our poll showed that she had a very slight edge. It was about seven points. But the margin of error was 4.5. So, in effect, it is still neck-and-neck. And a month ago, we showed him a point up. So it has been going up and down.

What's been happening in the last couple weeks, though, is that she has been able to control the agenda more, getting the talk mainly to be about Social Security and health care and some issues that she feels more comfortable discussing.

WOODRUFF: What would he rather talk about?

MANNIES: I think he would rather talk about military issues, although, again, the two of them, when it comes to defense, national defense, national security, actually, to the average voter, there doesn't seem to be a whole lot of difference between the two. I mean, there are some little slight differences, but as far as what the average person sees, they see two people who are generally in agreement on that issue.

They also is a debate going on between them on debates: when they are going to debate, where they are going to debate. And that has been kind of a rumbling the last week. But, again, it is not something that average people are really paying that much attention to, other than the bottom line.

WOODRUFF: Why are these domestic issues -- I think you mentioned Social Security -- why is that working to her benefit?

MANNIES: Well, I think in part because the state AFL-CIO had a convention here in St. Louis a little over a week ago. And she signed a pledge that she would oppose privatization. She has been hammering at Talent for a bill that he co-sponsored while he was in Congress that would have moved some money into individual investment accounts. He has been explaining that that didn't have anything to do with the current retirees or people who would soon be retiring and that he was just among the Republicans who are trying to find something to solidify the program for the long term.

But she has been hitting him. The Democratic Party has been hitting him. And the AFL-CIO has been hitting him in these ads. And that has had an effect, we think.

WOODRUFF: And then there is also the episode where she was out doing some skeet shooting. That's made a difference?

MANNIES: Yes.

In fact, the NRA had the first of three workshops in the state yesterday here in St. Louis. And one of the messages that they were giving their volunteers is that they need to do something when they are dealing with the rank-and-file to tamp down this perception that she is not anti-gun. They want it to appear that she is anti-gun.

She has been distributing these bumper stickers that say "Sportsmen for Carnahan" and they're on a camouflaged background. And that has really got the NRA upset, because they say that is something they have been using for years.

WOODRUFF: All right, it's never dull in politics, and especially in politics in Missouri.

Thank you very much, Jo Mannies, with "The St. Louis Post- Dispatch."

MANNIES: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: We appreciate it.

A rerun of a political cameo: Up next, TV's "Gilmore Girls" meet Washington. We'll show you the scene that left some Congress watchers amused.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Now two California lawmakers have had their 50 seconds of fame on prime-time TV. Senate Democrat Barbara Boxer and House Republican Doug Ose had cameo roles in last night's season premiere of "The Gilmore Girls."

Here's the clip that we tried to show you yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE GILMORE GIRLS")

LIZA WEIL, ACTRESS: Come on, Senator Boxer. As one of our foremost Democratic leaders, I ask you, do you really think it looks good to have the American secretary of the Treasury traveling around with Bono? I know apparently he is a saint, he's going to save the world, yadda, yadda, yadda. But, my God, he never even takes the sunglasses off.

We have an image to maintain, don't we? Aren't we at least trying to pretend we are the superpower in this world? Why don't they send Carson Daly over to the Middle East next time Cheney goes? Or, hey, hook up Freddie Prince Jr. with Colin Powell next time he meets with NATO. Hell, let's hear what Freddie has to say, right?

SEN. BARBARA BOXER (D), CALIFORNIA: Great. Doug.

Paris, do you know Republican Congressman Doug Ose from California? You don't? Great. You two will have so much to talk about. Bye.

REP. DOUG OSE (R), CALIFORNIA: Barbara.

WEIL: Ose, right?

OSE: Yes, that's right.

WEIL: Let's take a walk.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

WOODRUFF: Well, what do you think? Are they destined for stardom in prime time? We'll find out.

I'll back in a moment, but now let's look at what's coming up on "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS" -- hello, Wolf.

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

A developing story we're following: a dramatic rescue of Americans caught in a crossfire in Africa. We'll have the pictures. And the calm before the storm: What will Isidore bring to Gulf Coast? And you will hear the fighting words for President Bush: why a top Democrat is demanding an apology.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Thank you for joining us. I'm Judy Woodruff.

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