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CNN INSIDE POLITICS

Do New Wiretap Guidelines Threaten Civil Rights?; Can Government Keep Airports Safe?; New Revelations About JFK's Health

Aired November 18, 2002 - 16:00   ET

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

JUDY WOODRUFF, HOST: I'm Judy Woodruff in Washington. An appeals court says the feds can go farther to spy on suspected terrorists. But will they go too far and threaten your rights?
PATTY DAVIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Patty Davis at Reagan National Airport. If you're planning on traveling home for the holidays, I'll tell you what the government is going to do and not going to do to keep you safe from terrorists.

BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Bruce Morton in Washington. Imagine the president secretly ill and popping painkillers. We'll look at new revelations about JFK's health. A far cry from the glamour of Camelot.

WOODRUFF: Also ahead, the new political realities for Al Gore. After the Democrats mid-term drubbing, could Gore survive a rematch with George W. Bush?

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

WOODRUFF: Thank you for joining us.

Attorney General John Ashcroft says the government's ability to investigate and prosecute terrorists was revolutionized today. But civil libertarians are wringing their hands and looking at their options.

Our justice correspondent Kelli Arena is now here with more on today's ruling. Kelli, a big victory for the justice department?

KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Oh, for sure. No matter which way you look at this, this is a very big victory for John Ashcroft. Basically, a special secretive appeals ruling gives the government much more flexibility to listen to telephone conversations, read e-mail, all at investigating and targeting suspected spies and terrorists. Now, it also allows more flexibility in the sharing of that information between the intelligence community and law enforcement.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN ASHCROFT, ATTORNEY GENERAL: The code (ph) reviews action, revolutionizes our ability to investigate terrorists and prosecute terrorist acts. The decision allows the Department of Justice to free immediately our agents and prosecutors in the field to work together more closely and cooperatively in achieving our core mission: the mission of preventing terrorist attacks.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ARENA: The American Civil Liberties Union and other groups argue that the broader powers would unfairly restrict free speech and invade privacy. Those critics also charge that more flexibility allows the government to use wiretaps that are meant for espionage and terror investigations in the investigations of common criminals.

Now last May, the foreign intelligence surveillance court agreed and ruled against the government. But the special appeals court today said that the Patriot Act, which was passed by Congress after September 11, allows more flexibility in wiretapping, and that those powers do not violate the constitution.

WOODRUFF: But at the same time, Kelli, some very real constitutional concerns about this ruling, right?

ARENA: Well yes, and the fourth amendment- basically they don't have to have what -- it doesn't have to be the high standard of probable cause met to get a wiretap, to go into someone's computer and check their e-mails. So they said that they have a broader discretion as to when they can eavesdrop, we they can surveil an individual. It doesn't have to necessarily to be primarily for the issue of terrorism or espionage.

WOODRUFF: We haven't heard of end of this, I'm sure.

Kelli Arena, thank very much.

Well, some Americans are feeling anxious again about homeland security as they book flights for the busy holiday travel season and wonder if a possible war with Iraq will unleash new terror threats. Our reporters are covering all angles in the war on terror.

We begin with Patty Davis at Reagan National Airport. Patty, what are the airports dealing with here? Are they going to make this deadline that they have?

DAVIS: Well, in fact, Judy, they announced today, the federal government that they have made that deadline. Federal security screeners, those passenger screeners now in place 44,000 of them at more than 400 airports across the country. They are better trained, they have more schooling, they replacing -- the point here: replacing -- those private screeners, getting federal screeners in place. The point now, try to stop terrorists before they get bombs on to planes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TOM RIDGE, DIR., HOMELAND SECURITY: We have seen the lengths terrorists will go to penetrate airport security. They are just as determined to destroy innocent lives as we are determined to protect them.

Make no mistake, we must be ever-vigilant, because they will try again.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DAVIS: Also, a new Web site. The Transportation Security Administration coming out with as of this weekend, www.tsatraveltips.us. Let's of tips on there for anxious travelers heading home this holiday season: what to bring, what not to bring. Things like, don't wear jewelry when you go through that screening checkpoint because it's going to set the alarms off; it's going to send you -- have you spend more time at the checkpoints. Pack your coat. That's just something else you're going to have to put through the screening checkpoint. Really common sense things but hopefully to help people ease their minds a bit -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Patty, one of the big issues, as we know, is in bagging screening. Is that going to be in place by the end of the year?

DAVIS: That is the next very big deadline. December 31, that was the other big deadline that Congress set after September 11, 2001, those terror attacks.

In fact, the Transportation Security Administration saying that it will not meet that deadline at all airports to get bags screened by those big bond detection machines.

However, Congress right now working on an extension for airports. Probably 30 to 35 airports, in fact. But it -- the TSA says that those airports, though, still will be required to do 100 percent bag checks by some other method. Now that could include bomb-sniffing dogs, hand searches. But it will be done, so travelers should feel at ease - Judy.

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

The Senate is heading toward a showdown that could determine whether the homeland security bill reaches President Bush's desk this year. Democrats charge the bill needs to be stripped of special interest goodies that were slipped in by House Republicans.

Our Jonathan Karl is on Capitol Hill. Hi, Jon.

JONATHAN KARL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Judy.

Well this showdown over the provisions that were passed by the House but not by the Senate threatens to once again delay passage of that bill to create this department of homeland defense.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KARL (voice-over): Democrats have a list of seven provisions they say must be removed from the homeland security bill, including a measure that would limit the liability of pharmaceutical companies that make vaccines such as smallpox and anthrax. Another that limits the liability of companies that make anti-terrorism technologies, and one that protects companies that make baggage screening machines. SEN. BYRON DORGAN (D), NORTH DAKOTA: With these kinds of little special provisions, and especially the pharmaceutical provision in this bill called homeland security, who put it in and why? What was the motivation? Does this have anything at all to do with homeland security? The answer's no.

KARL: Democrats accuse Republicans of trying to help corporate special interests like drug companies. But Republicans say Democrats are fighting for their own special interests: the trial lawyers, who would profit from unlimited lawsuits.

SEN. PHIL GRAMM (R), TEXAS: In every war we've fought since the Civil War we've granted some liability protection for people who've been making instruments of war. In this case, we grant liability protection for those that are making smallpox vaccine.

KARL: And Republicans warn if the Senate makes changes, the bill will be delayed and could even die because the House has already adjourned for the year.

GRAMM: Whether they would actually bring their people back to try to amend the bill I think is doubtful. And I think the worst case scenario is the bill dies.

KARL: Democrats say the bill also creates a homeland security research center at Texas A&M University, a favorite of Republican Phil Gramm.

Gramm insists other universities could qualify for the center as well.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KARL (on camera): Now this may come down to a very interesting, pivotal vote here, Judy, the vote of the new interim senator from Minnesota, Dean Barkley, could be the critical vote here. If the Democrats hang on to all their members, except for Zell Miller, who is aligned with the Republicans and the Republicans hang on to all of their members expect for Lincoln Chafee, who has been aligned with the Democrats, that would bring it down to the vote of Dean Barkley. Dean Barkley could bring this to a 50-50 tie vote, which would essentially a victory for the Republicans.

But under that scenario, there is something else that could happen. And that is Senator John McCain. Senator John McCain, it is unclear how he will vote on this. He has been very critical of these provisions added by the House but he has also been one saying that we need to get ahead -- go ahead and pass this bill and create this department as soon as possible.

So watch for John McCain and Dean Barkley. Those could be the pivotal votes when the vote finally happens tomorrow in the Senate.

WOODRUFF: Jon, fascinating. Especially when we thought it was all resolved at the end of last week and now look and see where we are. All right. Thanks very much. Now we turn to a tense situation in Iraq with today's arrival of some U.N. weapons inspectors on a mission that could lead the United States into a new war.

CNN's Nic Robertson is with us from Baghdad, where it is just after midnight. Nic, how did this first day go? Nic, are you able to hear me? Nic Robertson?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, certainly the meeting's beginning to get under way this evening. We saw a meeting between the U.N. Weapons Chief Hans Blix and a senior -- well, the senior scientific adviser to President Saddam Hussein, General Amir Al-Sandmi (ph). Of course it was General Amir Al-Sandmi (ph) that Hans Blix had meetings with in Vienna at beginning of October. Those meeting paving the way for the agreement -- paving the way for the new security council resolution as well. One of the reasons the inspectors are back here mow now.

Now Hans Blix when we arrived said he had one job to do, one question to answer that is -- that is: does Iraq have weapons of mass destruction? He also said that this was an opportunity for Iraq and the United Nations to enter into a new era of cooperation.

However, he did say this was a time when the stability of Iraq was essentially now in the hands of both the U.N. and the Iraqi officials.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HANS BLIX, CHIEF U.N. WEAPONS INSPECTOR: The question of war and peace depends mainly upon Iraq on the one hand, and upon Security Council -- the members of the Security Council on the other hand. We will report objectively. We'll do our job professionally. We'll report activities of the Security Council. It is for the Council to access whether there is a breach or not, and we hope there will not about breach.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTSON: Now the newspapers in Iraq, in their editorials calling for the inspectors to be both independent, to be unbiased, and to be objective in what they do. Those same newspaper editorials also pointing out to people here, to readers in Iraq, that the Iraqi government accuses previous inspection teams of containing spies. Now, Hans Blix has said that he won't tolerate that. And anyone found on any of his teams, that -- who is not reporting directly, and only to the United Nations will be thrown off those teams.

WOODRUFF: All right, Nic Robertson, thanks very much. And we're sorry about that audio problem at the beginning. Nic Robertson live in Baghdad.

We're checking campaign news daily. The host of one of TV's wildest shows has not rule out a return to politics. Jerry Springer says he is considering all of his options about a potential run for office. He recently donated $30,000 to several Ohio Democrats running for state offices. Springer once served as a Cincinnati councilman and mayor, and he ran a losing campaign for the 1982 Democratic nomination for governor.

Add the name of retired General Wesley Clark to the list people considering a run for president. "TIME" magazine quotes people who attended a meeting with Clark in New York, who say Clark seriously considering a White House run. Clark told "TIME" he made no decisions about his political future.

In Louisiana after several days of delay, Governor Mike Foster endorsed fellow Republican Suzanne Terrell in her runoff against Mary Landrieu. Foster made the endorsement over the weekend just as Terrell watched her first state-run ad of the campaign was run.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SUZANNE TERRELL (R-LA), U.S. SENATE CANDIDATE: I might not be a politician, but I did put Louisiana first, and that's what I'll do in Washington. I will work with President Bush to reverse the tax increases, to get back jobs, to support our troops and protect our families. Louisiana can do better.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Suzy Terrell for Senate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: Terrell, has some big name help on the campaign trail today. Does this sound familiar? Vice President Dick Cheney is making campaign stops in Monroe and Lafayette.

Looking ahead to future elections, the Supreme Court agreed today to a new review of federal limits on campaign contributions to candidates. The court will decide whether certain advocacy groups can directly give cash to candidates, which is banned under campaign reform laws passed after the Watergate scandal. This case is not related to the reason McCain-Feingold campaign finance law, which has been challenged in the lower courts. It could be reviewed by the high court next year.

From Alabama today, a ruling that conjures up images from the film "The Ten Commandments." A federal judge ruled that a 10 commandment monument, in the state's judicial building, amounts to the government promoting religion in violation of the Constitution. The judge gave Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore 30 days to remove the huge granite monument, that he had installed. Moore had testified the monument acknowledges god but does not force anyone to follow his conservative Christian beliefs. An appeal is expected.

Attention Wal-Mart shoppers, coming up is the discount store shortchanging its workers to boost its corporate profits? I'll ask AFL-CIO President John Sweeney. His union is taking on Wal-Mart.

And up next, the secret of the Kennedy years. How bad was the president's health? And how dependent was he on prescription drugs? We'll talk with former JFK speech writer and adviser Ted Sorensen.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: President John Kennedy was famous for that Oval Office rocking chair you just saw, which he used to ease back pain caused by injuries he suffered during World War II. Historian Robert Dallek is researching a new book on Kennedy, and recently won access to the president's medical records. In the current issue of "Atlantic Monthly," Dallek writes that the president was a lot less healthy than the public ever knew. Here's our Bruce Morton.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN KENNEDY, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Ask not --

BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He was ill most of his life. Scarlet fever at 2; it killed back then. A childhood illness, weight loss, apathy they couldn't diagnose. Writing to a friend just out of prep school, "eat drink and make Olive," a girlfriend. "As to tomorrow or next week, we attend my funeral."

Campaigned on crutches, a campaign for president denying he had Addison's disease, though he did. He took steroids for it, starting in the 1940s or maybe the '30s, and doctors didn't know back then that steroids had side affects: Osteoporosis, adrenal problems, susceptibility to infections and so on.

During his presidential campaign they carried a bag of medicines. It got mislaid once, and an aide warned that if the wrong people got a hold of it, it would be murder. They found the bag.

As president, he was sometimes was taking eight medications at once; steroids for Addison, penicillin and other antibiotics for prostatitist and (UNINTELLIGIBLE), Procaine, a pain killer to relieve back pain, anti-spasmatics like Lomotil( ph) for his collitis, testosterone to keep his weight up, Nembutal (ph) to help him sleep. And once, for two days, an antipsychotic drug Stelazine (ph) to combat a mood swing Jacqueline Kennedy blamed on the antihistamines. It worked.

His cholesterol once registered an astounding 410. He took a lot of drugs and the doctors worried and wondered. Robert Dallek says he deceived voters about his health, like other presidents including Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt before him, but also sees a man coping with extraordinary pain.

ROBERT DALLEK, AUTHOR HISTORIAN: He made a bet that he could carry it off effectively, and I think ultimately the most important thing is that he was absolutely right. It's amazing how courageous he was, strong-willed, stoic, call it what you will, and effective in handling his presidential duties.

MORTON: Tapes of strategy sessions during the Cuban missile crisis are now public. And on them, Kennedy, despite all the medications, sounds like a president, the man in charge. What the new information tells us that we didn't know is, how very far most of his life was from Camelot.

Bruce Morton, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: And with me now from Boston to talk more about the new information on President Kennedy's health is Ted Sorensen. He was a special counsel and speechwriter for President Kennedy.

Ted Sorensen, did you know at the time that the president was taking all of these medications?

TED SORENSEN, FORMER KENNEDY ADVISER: No. The president was just as vigorous in private as he was in public. Just as on the go, around the clock, around the country. And very few of us, very few people in your profession, Judy, could keep up with him. So no one thought that he was sick, because he was not. You know, I can tell you from my own experience that you don't judge a person's health by what's in the medicine cabinet.

WOODRUFF: But were you aware that he was taking all these different prescription drugs?

SORENSEN: No. I was aware that he had a very bad back. That at times it caused him a lot of pain, it made him cut down on golf and tennis, even throwing a football around. But he was not a sick man.

WOODRUFF: Why did you decide to release this to the historian, to Robert Dallek?

SORENSEN: Well, Bob Dallek is a very responsible, reputable historian, and I saw no reason to keep the medical file a secret, when I was assured by physicians who had looked at the file that there was nothing in there that would embarrass the president or harm him reputation in any way.

WOODRUFF: I should point out that you were part of a committee of three family friends of the Kennedys who had to pass on this decision.

What about the whole question of impaired judgment? Was there ever -- you just said you weren't aware of it. But at the time, was there anyone around the president who was concerned that using these different medications and the effect that it would have -- we saw once he had to take a numbing agent called Procane in his back, something like seven or eight injections before he had a news conference. No one was concerned that his judgment would be affected?

SORENSEN: Well, as well as Dr. Trevel's (ph) other patients who took Procane in the back for a bad back -- I can assure you, it didn't affect anyone's judgment at all. But I suppose people have a choice. Forty years ago, we had a president who was ailing and during the Cuban missile crisis kept us out of war. Now we have a president who's very physically fit.

WOODRUFF: Was there any sign, I mean, as you look back on it, you said you weren't aware of what he was taking, were there signs that he was in so much pain, and in so much need of medical attention and drugs?

SORENSEN: For example, usually, once a day in the afternoon, he'd take a hot bath as the best relief for his back. Sometimes I would see him ease himself into that bathtub in such a careful way that it was clear that he was in some pain, and that affected his mobility getting in and out of the tub. But at the same time, I would see him toss a touch football on the lawn in front of his house, or even in front of the Senate office building, and he apparently felt well enough to do that, even though he pretty much gave up swinging a tennis racket and a golf club.

WOODRUFF: You were there sometimes when he got into the bathtub?

SORENSEN: Yes. When he -- I -- I was often with him morning, noon and night. We traveled all 50 states together. Running for president and being president is a tremendous amount of work, and you don't get a lot time off.

WOODRUFF: Extraordinary that you spent that much time with him and still were not aware of the medication. But Ted Sorensen, thank you very much. We appreciate you talking with us.

SORENSEN: Always glad to be with you.

WOODRUFF: Coming up next, the FBI and you. Will the war on terror compromise your civil rights? Voices from both sides of the debate, next.

Plus -- from "20/20" to "David Letterman," Al Gore is back. Are all these media appearances a prelude to another run for the White House?

But first, the closing bell rang just minutes ago. Rhonda Schaffler joins us live from Wall Street with a look at your stocks. Hello, Rhonda.

RHONDA SCHAFFLER, CNN FINANCIAL NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Judy. It was a fairly quiet session here to start off the new trading week. The prospect of war with Iraq keeping some investors on edge. On top of that, a weak outlook from discount giant Wal-Mart, as well as a brokerage downgrade of AT&T pressuring the overall market here.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average sliding 92 points, or about 1 percent. The Nasdaq edged 1.25 percent lower.

United Airlines bucked the down trend. Shares of its parent company rose after the airline stepped up its campaign to stave off a bankruptcy filing. United is slashing another 9,000 jobs and plans to reduce its flight schedule by 6 percent. Company outlined more wage cuts as well, of up to 11 percent for non-union workers, and it keeps trying to strike a deal with its machinists union. United desperately needs to cut costs to win a nearly $2 billion loan guarantee. It says the cutbacks will help the airline return to profitability by 2004.

The very latest from Wall Street. More INSIDE POLITICS after the break, including the latest on Al Gore's aggressive return to the political spotlight.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: The FBI gets a free hand to use wiretaps to track terrorists. But will your civil rights be trampled in the process? Our guests will take issue in a moment, but first, this news alert.

(NEWSBREAK)

WOODRUFF: And with us now, Michelle Cottle of the "New Republic," Betsy Hart of the Scripps Howard News Service.

Michelle, to you first. The attorney general obviously very pleased over this ruling. Is this -- does this mean now that the government can go ahead and use wiretaps to do domestic spying?

MICHELLE COTTLE, NEW REPUBLIC: Absolutely. And of course he's very pleased about this. I mean, the spy court initially had ruled that this was a bad idea in part because there were all of these abuses that had happened in the past. And so they wanted to put in a word of caution here. But now that's right out the window, and the Justice Department is back to being able to do whatever it feels like it needs to.

BETSY HART, SCRIPPS HOWARD NEWS SERVICE: Well, in fact, they do have to show cause, that they have a reason to actually put on a wiretap. But step back and look at the larger issue. I find it amazing that some of the same people who gutted our intelligence services in the 1970s then complain about how -- why did no one connect the dots and let this terrorist atrocity happen last fall, are also the same people getting outraged when John Ashcroft wants to put some of those dots behind prison. I think we have to have a clear view of this. In fact, what we have done during previous times of war, as far as limiting civil rights, is staggering compared to what are really fairly minor measures today, for a good purpose.

WOODRUFF: Well, hand in hand with this story, we learned over the weekend the president's national security adviser is considering creating a domestic department in charge of domestic intelligence gathering. Is this a good idea?

COTTLE: Well, obviously, they'll have to be careful about not trampling civil liberties on this case.

But what I'm more concerned about here is also that they don't just run in and do a bad job of this. We've already had problems with the FBI and the CIA not talking to each other. We're going to stick in another level of bureaucracy, another chain of command. The Homeland Security Department is going to have an analysis agency, where it is going to have all of these different departments reporting to it.

It's just becoming more and more confusing. And there's the risk that we're just going to have too many people trying to get in there and do this.

HART: Yes, you know, I don't actually totally disagree with you on that at all.

And I think we do need to find out why and how some of these agencies have not worked together in the past. This is in fact a government bureaucracy. And guess what? Government bureaucracies tend to get bloated and out of control. And that's going to be in play here, too.

One thing I would say, though, is that, if we could be a little bit more up front about security, like barring foreign nationals from the Middle East from coming to the U.S., we might not have to do so many of these things sort of more secretly. But because we're so worried about offending -- "Oh, we can't pull people out of line if they're of Arab descent in airports; we can't keep Saudis out of the country" -- all of the sudden, we're left with some of these other things that we have to focus on.

And that might not be the case if we took a more up-front approach to security.

WOODRUFF: Very quick political question: It appears all these interviews that Al Gore is starting to do, among other things, he has evidently released Joe Lieberman from the pledge that he not run for president if Al Gore runs for president.

There was a poll done of Democratic National Committee members, most of them, that showed, overwhelmingly, that Lieberman should stick with the pledge, by 70 percent to 22 percent. Should he stick with this pledge or not?

COTTLE: Well, Judy, the way that he released him was, Al Gore said: "Well, he never made that pledge to me. He made it to the American people. And if he want to go back on that, that's his prerogative."

This is not giving him the green light. That still leaves him in a bad position.

HART: Yes, if I were Joe Lieberman, I'd watch my back on that one. He might technically be released, but you can bet the Gore operatives would be behind the scenes reminding people that he had broken his pledge.

WOODRUFF: OK, we're going to leave it there.

Betsy Hart, Michelle Cottle, great to see you both. Thanks very much. Appreciate it.

Well, still ahead: Have Democrats changed their tune about Al Gore? Well, that depends on which Democrat you ask. We'll discuss Gore's presidential prospects and dueling polls after the Democrats' midterm election debacle.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN") DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST: Now that you've had this time and other experiences, what is your perception, your perspective, your impression of the election now? You must feel different about it now than you did two years ago.

(LAUGHTER)

LETTERMAN: Al? You scared the hell out of me.

AL GORE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I'm completely over it, Dave.

(LAUGHTER)

LETTERMAN: That was -- to be a part of it, obviously, it did not go the way you and millions and millions of people wanted it to go. But, my gosh, to be a part of that, that was really quite something, wasn't it?

GORE: It was an amazing experience. It really was. And...

(LAUGHTER)

GORE: And you're very incisive in your analysis. It did not go the way I wanted it to.

(LAUGHTER)

GORE: You really put your finger on the...

(LAUGHTER)

LETTERMAN: Is there any way for you to look at it objectively and provide an analysis of it, or not? Can you look at it and you say: "All right, taking my myself out of this emotionally, it was handled OK. It was not handled well"?

GORE: Yes.

(LAUGHTER)

GORE: The...

(LAUGHTER)

LETTERMAN: You all right?

GORE: I got the impression -- I got the impression that some of it actually wasn't handled well.

LETTERMAN: Right.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

WOODRUFF: Al Gore may have told David Letterman that he's gotten over losing the White House in 2000, but have Democrats gotten over him?

Our Bill Schneider looks at the result of a new poll of rank-and- file members of Gore's party.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: We have evidence that one leading Democrat's stock has risen after the otherwise disastrous 2002 midterm, at least among other Democrats.

Just after Election Day 2000, 81 percent of Democrats had a favorable opinion of Al Gore. By March of this year, that number had dropped to 56 percent. Now it's back up again, to 71 percent.

What did Gore do to impress his fellow Democrats? He really didn't have much to do with this year's campaign. That's certainly a plus. Gore was one of the few leading Democrats to criticize President Bush on Iraq.

GORE: I think, specifically, the Congress should establish why the president believes that unilateral action would not severely damage the fight against terrorist networks.

SCHNEIDER: Many Democrats are angry because they feel the party's congressional leaders didn't show enough fight. Gore showed fight.

He's still Democrats top choice for the 2004 nomination. With 50 percent supporting Gore, it doesn't look like anybody has much of a chance. But will Gore run again? The public is split over whether he should. For all the flak Gore took about being stiff, the public still considers him likable and someone who cares about the average American. But fewer people now say Gore is a strong leader or someone who would be good in an international crisis.

Clearly, Gore suffers in comparison with President Bush on those qualities. That's the Gore dilemma. He's picking up strength among Democrats, but he's lost strength against President Bush. Bush vs. Gore 2000 was a dead heat. Bush vs. Gore 2004: not even close.

Bill Schneider, CNN, Los Angeles.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Well, Gore's political situation looks a little grimmer in a new poll of Democratic insiders.

"The Los Angeles Times' surveyed about three-quarters of the members of the National Democratic Committee. Just 13 percent of them volunteered Gore's name when asked who they would like to be the party's presidential nominee in 2004; 10 percent backed John Kerry, but 22 percent supported no one in particular. And 24 percent said they don't know who they'd like to see as the party's presidential nominee. Equally eye-opening for Al Gore, almost half of the DNC members surveyed said they do not think that Gore should be a White House candidate in 2004.

Well, I'm joined now by Karen Tumulty of "TIME" magazine and Ron Brownstein of "The Los Angeles Times."

Karen, you've written this story, big story , in "TIME" this week on Al Gore. You interviewed him. Has he gotten over it? We see him joking with David Letterman, but has he really gotten over it?

KAREN TUMULTY, "TIME": Well, he certainly says he has.

And there's a lot about his life now that does suggest he has. I visited him at his new home in Nashville. He does seem to be working on sort of settling in to an entirely different life that I think does speak to getting over it.

WOODRUFF: And, Ron, we talk about these dueling polls here. You've got one public opinion poll where people do think favorably -- Bill Schneider was talking about it -- in many ways, of him. On the other hand, the insiders in the party, who will have a lot to say about who the nominee is, are holding back.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: These are actually each half of the central reality that would face an Al Gore or would create an Al Gore 2004 campaign.

If he does run again, Judy, I think he would be in a situation very similar to what Gary Hart was in early in the 1988 race before he was forced from the field over the Donna Rice scandal. He was ahead in the public opinion polls, as Al Gore is, showing that he still has support among the rank-and-file. But the insiders, the institutions of the party, by and large, don't want him.

You have these divergent views in which he would be the front- runner by virtue of the polls, but would not have many of the assets of a front-runner, because he would not have the same level of institutional support as our survey and others suggests that he did last time. It would be a difficult, but not undoable situation.

WOODRUFF: Karen, I don't know to what extent he was willing to talk about a race, when he said he hasn't made up his mind yet officially. But to what extent has he thought some of these problems that are going to be facing him this go-around?

TUMULTY: He is absolutely believable when he says he hasn't made up his mind.

But he has thought a lot about both the mistakes he made in the last campaign and how he would do it differently if he runs again. And he insists that he would not be so focused on tactics, that he would be drilling down and digging in and coming up with a very clear vision and really focusing on communicating that.

And, interestingly enough, while a lot of people were making fun of President Bush in the 2000 campaign for working short days and seeming to not break a sweat on the campaign trail, Vice President Gore says Bush had the right idea, that he was able to take the time he needed to focus and get a clear message out.

WOODRUFF: Ron, some people are asking, what's going on with Gore right now? We've seen, he opposed the president on the war-with-Iraq resolution. He's just come out in the last few days saying he's for a single-payer health care plan, a much more liberal plan than anything he endorsed in the past. What's going on here?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, on the single payer, surprising even those who have been his closest policy advisers, who really aren't sure exactly what he has in mind there.

I think that Al Gore still -- I agree with Karen -- still hasn't decided whether to run for president. I think this book tour will be important because it will give him a sense of the public reaction. But, in the comments that he has made, he has moved somewhat to the left from where he was two years ago.

The interesting thing is, Judy, if you look at everything he's doing, it would be to sort of present himself as an outsider and a truth-teller, someone who is unburdened by the political system.

WOODRUFF: Even though he was the nominee.

BROWNSTEIN: The nominee and the vice president.

And, in that way, the resistance from these insiders might actually be useful to him by giving him something to push off of against and basically say: "Look, the party doesn't want me. I'm not the institutional candidate, but I'm here to tell you, maybe in some cases, unpleasant truths."

WOODRUFF: Karen, one of the raps on Gore in the past has been this notion, well, he reinvents himself every once in a while. Is that a danger for him, do you think, with what's going on?

TUMULTY: I asked him that very same question. I said, "Are people going say this is just another reinvention of Al Gore?"

He insists that this is who he is. Now, whether he can sell the public on this idea I think is what we're going to see in maybe the next six weeks, as he does this book tour.

WOODRUFF: OK, all right, we're going to leave it there.

Ron Brownstein, Karen Tumulty, great to see you both. Thanks very much.

The world's largest retailer comes under criticism. Up next: Organized labor plans a day of protest taking aim at Wal-Mart.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: The Wal-Mart discount chain is the world's largest retailer, with more than 1.3 million employees worldwide. Here in the U.S., a coalition of labor and women's rights groups is not happy with the way those employees are treated. On Thursday, they plan to publicize their complaints by staging protests in 40 cities.

With me now to talk about this and some other issues important to labor: AFL-CIO President John Sweeney.

Thank you for being with us.

JOHN SWEENEY, PRESIDENT, AFL-CIO: Thanks, Judy. Nice to be with you.

WOODRUFF: I read some of the complaints that you have against Wal-Mart. And I think, making more profits, cutting back on salary, wages and benefits for employees, a lot of companies are doing this. Why are you singling out Wal-Mart?

SWEENEY: Well, the fact that a lot of companies may be doing this doesn't make it right.

This is basically a campaign to highlight the greed that is going on vs. the decency for workers. We saw some very successful profits in the third-quarter reports on Wal-Mart just a couple of days ago. And yet the workers are minimum-wage workers for the most part, no health insurance, no retirement security. We know that there's 41 million Americans who are uninsured. Well, hundreds of thousands of those people are Wal-Mart employees. And it's about time Wal-Mart provided decent jobs and, at the same time, provided the great customer (AUDIO GAP)

WOODRUFF: ... Wal-Mart's response to this in the next few days.

But are you saying that they are treating employees worse than other companies of their size?

SWEENEY: Oh, sure.

They're going into communities where there are competitors who are providing decent benefits and decent wages. And they come into a community and disrupt the situation in that community as far as workers are concerned, lower the benefits and the standards that workers need in order to support a family.

WOODRUFF: I have you here with me, so I have to ask you a question about the Democrats and the midterm elections.

You said after the elections that this was a particularly strong indictment of the Democrats. You talked about Republicans, too. But you said that Democrats need to be clear about where they stand, what they believe in, their message. But, as we know, Democrats have different views. They are not all of one mind.

So, how do you suggest they get together and come up with one message? And who should carry it?

SWEENEY: Well, I think we found that people were focused on the war and terrorism and snipers. And the Democrats just couldn't get their message out there in terms of jobs and health care and retirement security.

And I think we all have to share a little bit in the blame as far as the domestic issues are concerned. We've had wars before and been able to balance our domestic situation as well as the international.

WOODRUFF: But, again, among Democrats, there are different views, for example, on what to do about President Bush's tax cut, whether it should be rolled back or left alone, whether the Democrats should move on to other issues, whether it's minimum wage or other things.

There are disagreements about how to handle health care. You now have Al Gore talking about a single-payer systems. Other Democrats are saying, "I wouldn't touch that with a 10-foot pole." You have a party that hasn't agreed on all these important issues.

SWEENEY: I know, but I think, also, that we have to develop a political will. Health care can only be resolved in a bipartisan way. And I think that both the administration as well as the Democrats really missed the boat in terms of raising the economic issues. Our members and workers across the country are talking about their priorities.

WOODRUFF: Is there an obvious standard-bearer for the Democratic Party? You were with -- well, the AFL-CIO was with Al Gore the last time. Most of your unions were. Are you going to be with Al Gore again if he runs?

SWEENEY: We'll do the same as we did before. And that's to make that whoever we endorse is the candidate that our members want to support. And we were convinced that our members wanted to support Al Gore.

We will go through a similar process with all the candidates, including the Republican candidates as well, to see if we can come up with a candidate that more than a majority of our folks support.

WOODRUFF: Would you personally like to see him run again?

SWEENEY: Oh, I think Al Gore was a good candidate. I think that, as he has said himself, there are things that we would do differently. But he certainly has a long career in supporting families and their issues.

WOODRUFF: Yes or no, would you like to see him run again?

SWEENEY: It remains to be seen.

(LAUGHTER)

WOODRUFF: OK. All right, John Sweeney, it remains to be seen.

Thank you very much for talking with us. We appreciate it.

SWEENEY: Thank you. Good to be with you.

WOODRUFF: Thank you.

Straight ahead: A congressman decides to meet a personal challenge head on.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JERROLD NADLER (R), NEW YORK: I am very ambitious to do things for the city, for the state, politically and so forth. But to do something for my own health has seemed much more difficult. And now I think I can.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: New York's Jerrold Nadler talks about his decision to take charge of his health when we return.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Struggling with a weight problem is never easy. Imagine dealing with such a personal issue while you're in the public eye.

Well, that was the problem that Jerrold Nadler faced, the congressman from New York. At 5 feet, 4 inches tall and 320 pounds, he decided to do something drastic to lose weight. Nadler underwent stomach-reduction surgery last August. And, since then, he has dropped 61 pounds.

The congressman spoke with CNN about his operation and the change that it has made on his (AUDIO GAP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NADLER: The point of the surgery is that it makes it much easier. The point of the surgery is that because your stomach is so much smaller, you feel full much more quickly. You don't eat nearly as much, and if you do really overeat, you feel very uncomfortable for a while, and that's a good negative-feedback system.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: I'm sure his experience is an inspiration to many. Congressman Nadler says he had tried almost every diet, without success, before undergoing the surgery. TV personality Al Roker also underwent a similar procedure. He is telling his story in the current issue of "People" magazine.

Coming up next: Citizen Bill Clinton takes a quick break while enjoying life in New York.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: The newest plane in the Air Force will carry the name of the oldest senator in Congress. The Air Force says that it will name the 100th C-17 cargo plane to roll off the line The Spirit of Strom Thurmond in honor of the retiring senator's 100 birthday. Thurmond is a World War II veteran and has been a strong supporter of the armed services during his many years in Congress.

Well, finally, former President Bill Clinton still has clout to open certain doors, at least with some prodding. "The New York Daily News" reports that a federal agent showed up at a New York building and urgently told the night doorman -- quote -- "We need to use your bathroom" -- end quote. Well, the "we" turned out to be the former president.

Once the doorman saw Clinton, he promptly escorted him to a basement restroom usually used by the janitorial staff. Well, when we on INSIDE POLITICS asked the Clinton camp for comment, we were urged to report on a more uplifting story, namely that a boulevard in Kosovo in Pristina has been named in Clinton's honor.

Well, that's it for today's INSIDE POLITICS. I'm Judy Woodruff. Thank you for joining us.

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