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Bush Remains Skeptical Hussein Will Comply With U.N.; Kerry Eyes Presidential Run; Is Rove Running White House?

Aired December 2, 2002 - 16:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: Saddam Hussein stares down a deadline. And President Bush remains skeptical the Iraqi leader will comply.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You see the inspectors are not in Iraq to playing hide and seek with Mr. Hussein.


ANNOUNCER: Senator John Kerry takes a plunge into presidential waters. What are his top strengths and weaknesses as a candidate?

Is political strategist Karl Rove essentially running the White House? We will describe the new portrait of Rove's power.

One year after Enron the scandal rocked the markets fall but what about the nation's capital?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's hard to any anything that happened here in Washington.


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

JUDY WOODRUFF, HOST: Thank you for joining us. We begin with Iraq, the hunt for weapons and the threat of war. In this news cycle, United Nations inspectors conducted their longest search yet looking for evidence of outlawed missiles near the heart of Baghdad. The U.N. says some equipment tagged by inspectors in the 1990s was missing. Mean time, CNN learned Iraqi officials told inspectors they unsuccessfully tried to buy aluminum tubes in violation of U.N. sanctions. The Iraqis say they wanted the tubes to build conventional rockets, not nuclear weapons.

And from Britain, a report that concludes Saddam Hussein's Iraq a terrifying place to live. It contains graphic firsthand accounts of torture, rape and other human rights abuses by the Iraqi leader's regime.

Here in Washington, President Bush said a short while ago that the signs from Iraq are not encouraging. CNN Suzanne Malveaux is with us from the White House.

What did the president say he was basing that on.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, he said that really Saddam Hussein has a history of not complying with these U.N. resolutions. Earlier today President Bush signed the Defense Authorization Act if appropriated by Congress would mean really the largest increase in defense spending in some 20 years.

The president used this Pentagon signing as a backdrop to update on the war on terror. Much progress has been made, the liberation of Afghanistan, as well, as the capture of key al Qaeda, but said much needs to be done. Squarely put the responsibility on Saddam Hussein, sternly warning him he must meet that December 8 deadline set up by the U.N. Security Council resolution 1441, to declare all chemical, biological and nuclear weapons. Or face the United States and a global coalition that will force to disarm him.


BUSH: The inspectors are not in Iraq to play hide and seek with Mr. Saddam Hussein. Inspectors do not have the duty or the ability to uncover terrible weapons hidden in a vast country. The responsibility of inspectors is simply to confirm. The evidence are voluntary and total disarmament.


MALVEAUX: Now, Judy, as you mentioned before, really, President Bush also making the case that he is very skeptical that Saddam Hussein is going to comply. Kind of in a one-two punch from this administration, a coordinated effort. Vice president Dick Cheney also delivering a strong message today out of Denver, Colorado, to a group of National Guard, emphasizing, this is the end game. The end game is very near for Saddam Hussein.


DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This time as the president has said delay and defiance will invite the severest consequences. The demands of the world will be met, or action will be unavoidable. Either Saddam Hussein will fully comply with the United Nations resolution or the United States in coalition with other nations will disarm Saddam Hussein.


MALVEAUX: So what happens December 8? Well, the Bush administration will see that whether or not the Iraq declaration matches with U.S. intelligence. If it does not, they will point the weapons inspectors to those specific sites and prove that Saddam Hussein lying -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right. The week begins. Suzanne, thanks very much. Appreciate it. Even as the Bush administration gears up for possible war with Iraq, an article in "Esquire Magazine" suggests the White House is driven far more by politics than policy. The magazine quotes John Dilulio, who's the former head of the presidents faith based incentives, as saying "What you got is everything, and I mean everything, being run by the political arm. It's the reign of the Mayberry Machiavellis." According to "Esquire" Dilulio goes on to describe and lament the unprecedented political power of Bush adviser Karl Rove, but in a statement, Dilulio says, we quote, " my opinion, the article is unjustly hard on Mr. Rove and over-the-top complimentary to me, thereby creating a too-pat contrast that is, I fell, most unfair to Mr. Rove."

Dilulio said he answered author Ron Suskino's questions in a long memo after an off the record chat.

With us now, Ron Suskino.

Wow. I mean, this article is pretty extraordinary in that there's almost a vacuum of policy making in the White House?

RON SUSKINO, "ESQUIRE MAGAZINE": An extraordinary process of dealing with John Dilulio, the first person stand up and be counted in this White House. The first person who is credible to give testimony. What John said in that first conversation, which was not off the record. What I attempted to do was to replace it with other things he said later, was that this White House is unprecedented, in the lack of considered policy analysis as well as the extraordinary power of the political arm.

WOODRUFF: Well, how was it that Mr. Dilulio was prepared, who left the White House, we should say, almost a year ago. Why was he prepared to be so candid about all this?

SUSKINO: I think John Dilulio speaks for other people who are in the White House now. Many of whom talked, for not for attribution, that there's a kind of a sense of regret that this administration never embraced the idea that we will provide best remedies, that we will be a place in from which ideas emerge. Ultimately a presidency tends to be judged on that. What good ideas were executed and what were the results?

What happened here was that from the start, there was almost no serious policy discussion, according to not only John Dilulio but many folks I talked to within the White House. Instead, it was all about rather short-term political calculation. Which is why, as John and others say, at this point, two years in to this presidency, there's almost no policy that one can point to as a success for this president.

WOODRUFF: There is a remarkable line in here. Again, from John Dilulio, he says quote, "The were, truth be told, only a couple of people in the West Wing who worried at all about policy substance and analysis..." That's very tough.

SUSKINO: You know, the thing is, John stood tall and spoke the truth. This is a difficult thing to do in this White House. They are not one that engages in public dialogues. There are penalties for those who break those codes, but as well what was fascinating is that inside the White House there is not meaningful dialogue there either.

That was the thing that was actually stunning to me when John and I first talked, and certainly his letter which is 2,000-3,000 words, most of which appears in "Esquire," is a stunning appraisal, a very sober and reason by and academician about what was hoped for here and what went wrong. And also, you know he is a supporter of the president, he loves the president. In a sense sending a letter to say, it doesn't need to be like this, especially now with one party government. Be serious about policy and there might be results that eventually you'll point to with pride.

WOODRUFF: Of course, so much of the article is a profile, or a look at Karl Rove and the way he runs the White House. There is another quote in here where unnamed White House aid saying ". You have an unnamed White House aide saying "After the midterm elections, Karl jumped from being prime minister to king."

SUSKINO: Prime minister to king, well, Karl exerted a kind of self-censorship that Dilulio and others talked about, as Karl's powers began to grow almost from the beginning of this administration. No one could stand up to Karl rather than Karen Hughes. We she departed there was literally no one left. And because of that, especially now, after Karl's extraordinary midterm coup, folks are simply not challenging him in any way as to the serious issues of policy.

I mean, Judy, every White House is determined by both policy and politics. These are two, you know, sort of a left hand, right hand entities.

What is really quite different about this White House is that policy side seems to be a place of placidity and the political side has grown so much. I mean, any administration can describe how tends to work. The policy guys talk about best remedies. The protocol guys listen to get smart, and then say how must we best execute this? How should we present it? Who might be natural allies? In this case though, the political side basically is handling almost every.

WOODRUFF: All right, Ron Suskino, "Esquire Magazine." Thanks very much.

Fascinating article. We should say among other things, the White House said in reaction to this, good politics is good government. We are attempting to get some other comments on the White House and we'll try to bring that to you as the week goes on.

Well, Senator John Kerry is taking aim at President Bush's priorities a day after the Massachusetts Democrat took a big step toward a run for the White House. In his home state today, Kerry said Mr. Bush focused on extending unemployment benefits for workers rather than helping big insurance companies. And he outlined his foreign policy differences with the president picking up where he left off yesterday.


SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: I've made a decision to file a formal exploratory committee.

WOODRUFF (voice-over): With that, John Kerry jumped in, and immediately criticized President Bush on a range of issues, foreign and domestic. On Iraq, Kerry says the U.S. must have U.N. support to go to war.

KERRY: I think it would be very dangerous for the United States to go it alone in Iraq, under any circumstances, except if there were a clear, imminent threat.

WOODRUFF: On NBC's meet the press Kerry faulted the administration for failing to catch Osama bin Laden.

KERRY: Target number one, Osama bin Laden. Target number two, al Qaeda. Target number three, Mullah Omar. All three of them are still loose.

WOODRUFF: Kerry also laid out his domestic priorities -- education and health care. He wants universal health care coverage for all Americans, but not the type favored by former Vice President Al Gore.

KERRY: Well, a single payer is the Canadian plan, or the British plan, a plan where the government makes all the choices, the answer is no.

WOODRUFF: And on taxes, Kerry said he would cancel the Bush tax cuts from this point on.

KERRY: No new tax cut under the Bush plan, most of which goes to the wealthiest Americans, because we simply can't afford it.

WOODRUFF: Kerry has an impressive personal and political biography. He is a war hero, serving as an officer on a gun boat in the Mekong Delta in the Vietnam War. Kerry was wounded three times, and returned home to join the anti-war movement.


KERRY: What we have to decide is that we're going to keep coming back until this war ends.


WOODRUFF: In a famous 1971 protest, Kerry threw his combat ribbons, but not his Bronze and Silver Star medals, onto the steps of the Capitol. He ran and lost a race for Congress. Became a prosecutor, Governor Michael Dukakis' lieutenant governor, and in 1984 was elected to the Senate, where he became a leader on POW issues.

Kerry is also very well off. In 1995, he married Heinz Ketchup heiress Theresa Heinz, the widow of the late Senator John Heinz of Pennsylvania. According to the newspaper "Roll Call," Kerry is the wealthiest member of Congress, worth some $550 million.


WOODRUFF: So, John Kerry has a solid resume, but does he have what they call the right stuff to be president? Our Bill Schneider has been grading the senator's political strengths and potential weaknesses.


WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST (on camera): A presidential candidate needs a grabber issue, something that makes this candidate different from the others, and the right person for the times.

John Kerry's grabber issue is national security. If there's any lesson Democrats should take away from the 2002 midterm it's that they cannot take national security off the agenda. They have to offer a tough, credible alternative to President Bush.

That's why 2004 could be Kerry's year. He claims credibility on national security going all the way back to the Vietnam War. Unlike most other candidates of his generation, John Kerry served honorably and heroically in combat. In fact, he has rare credibility on both sides of the most divisive issue of his generation. Kerry was a decorated combat veteran, and an anti-war activist.

Kerry has been a leading Democratic spokesman on Vietnam, Central America, the Balkans and the Middle East. He has challenged President Bush not just on Iraq, but even on Afghanistan.

What about Kerry's vote against the Gulf War in 1991? That won't hurt him with Democrats. Most Democrats voted against the war. And he's been tough on Iraq in the nearly 12 years since.

One other Kerry strength -- intelligence. Remember the seven debates between Kerry and Governor Bill Weld in the 1996 Massachusetts Senate campaign? Kerry showed himself to be deeply knowledgeable on the issues, a quality for which Bush is not well known.

If Kerry shares Bill Clinton's intelligence, he lacks Clinton's common touch. That's said to be Kerry's biggest weakness. He's a patrician, the wealthiest member of the Senate. He is often described as cool, cerebral, difficult. Not someone who feels your pain.

Oh -- and one other weakness. Kerry is by any definition a liberal. Even worse, a Massachusetts liberal. Even worse, he was Michael Dukakis' lieutenant governor for two years. Oh, my God.

But, hold on, that's unlikely to be a problem in the race for the Democratic nomination, especially in neighboring New Hampshire, where Kerry is well known. And against the Republican named Bush? Well, let's just say a man who was awarded the Silver and Bronze Stars, as well as three Purple Hearts wouldn't look out of place in a tank.

Bill Schneider, CNN, Washington. (END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: So, how might John Kerry's stance play with moderate Democrats? I'll ask Democratic Leadership Council chief Al From next.

Also ahead, the scandal that hit Washington with a bang but then fell flat. Enron, one year later.

The Supreme Court takes on big questions involving gay rights behind closed doors, and affirmative action on college campuses.

And gentlemen, start your engines. Is President Bush trying to rev up NASCAR? This is INSIDE POLITICS.


WOODRUFF: From position papers to presidential candidates, the Democratic Leadership Council is a key player in charting a centrist policy direction for the Democratic Party. With me now from New York to talk about the lessons from the November election and the candidates already lining up to challenge President Bush is Al From, he is the CEO of the Democratic Leadership Council, the DLC.

Al From, let me just quickly read a little bit from a memo that you and your colleague Bruce Reid put out last week. You sent this to some members of Congress, I think. You said: "The harsh reality is that the Democratic base just isn't big enough to win. There are more conservatives than liberals, more independents than either Democrats or Republicans, more suburbanites than big city dwellers, more whites than minorities, more non-union workers than union workers." So my question is, are you telling Democrats, go away from your base and work on building the white, independent, suburban vote?

AL FROM, DEMOCRATIC LEADERSHIP COUNCIL: No, Judy. What we're telling Democrats is, we have to win our base, but we also have to expand our appeal. This isn't a matter of ideology. This is a matter of arithmetic. If we need -- just to give you an example. In this country, there are about three conservatives to every two liberals. That means, if we win all the liberals and they win all the conservatives, we have to win 60 percent of the moderates just to break even. So our message to Democrats is, let's get every Democratic voter we can, let's get all the faithful we can to the polls, but let's also expand our appeal to the swing voters. Let's recapture the vital center of the electorate, which we held during the Clinton years in the 1990s.

WOODRUFF: And very quickly, you can do that at the same time you appeal to the base of the party? Minorities and others?

FROM: Absolutely. What we need is new politics of common purpose in this country. You know, I think one of the great myths in American politics is that you have to appeal one way to get your base voters and another way to get the swing voters. Every American wants a country that creates opportunity. Every American wants a president that keeps our country safe. Every American wants a president that reflects the values of the country. That's not -- it's no different from getting your base voters and getting swing voters in the suburbs and in the middle class.

WOODRUFF: Let me just quickly ask you about two of the names that are out there right now. John Kerry saying yesterday he's about to announce, he's forming an exploratory committee. No doubt on anybody's mind he's going to run. Where does he fall on the moderate Democratic spectrum?

FROM: Well, I'm not going to get into the business of handicapping candidates. John Kerry...

WOODRUFF: Well, he is, for example, on the war with Iraq, the president should not be talking about going it alone. That the U.S. must work with the U.N.

FROM: Well, look, Senator Kerry has a terrific record on national security issues. As we said, Bruce Reid and I said in our memo, the first thing we have to do as a party if we're going to have a chance of winning the White House in 2004 is to put security first. John Kerry is somebody who can do that.

WOODRUFF: And what about Al Gore? I mean, we know he hasn't decided whether he's going to run yet, but he's already talked about possibly a single payer health care plan for this country.

FROM: Look, Judy, again, this isn't about -- you know, I'm not in the business of handicapping candidacies. What I am in the business is of laying out strategies and presenting ideas that we think can help the Democratic Party win the White House. And it's very clear to me on what we have to do.

One, we have to be credible on security. And we have to be taking a leadership role in the war on terrorism. Secondly, we have to stand up for the values of the forgotten middle class. That's one thing we did very well in the mid-'90s. That means we have to tackle the Bush economic plan with a middle-class tax cut and with an economic growth program. And, third, I think we need to practice a politics of common purpose, a politics of responsibility, and if we do that, we'll do fine.

WOODRUFF: Some of these candidates are, indeed, talking about a middle-class tax cut and something for us to talk about the next time we chat.

Al From, good to see you.

FROM: Thank you, Judy..

WOODRUFF: Thanks very much for being with us. We appreciate it.

Well, the Enron Corporation declared bankruptcy one year ago today, setting off a chain reaction that dragged the markets down and brought new attention to corporate accounting and inflated profits. In the months that followed, there was a lot of noise in Washington about the certain political fallout from this startling collapse of Enron.

So what happened? Here's Bruce Morton.


BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was a very big shock. The E bent, crooks in high places, captains of industry taking and taking and taking the Fifth.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But on the advice of my counsel...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I respectfully decline to answer...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... the question based on my right under the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

MORTON: Lots of investigations, lots of red faces, but a year later, what effect did it have politically? Was it a factor in last month's elections?

THOMAS MANN, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: I think it had very little political effect. President Bush reacted in a damage control fashion. He agreed to what he had to agree to on Capitol Hill, and then changed the subject. Therefore, it's done no damage to the Republicans.

LOU DOBBS, MANAGING EDITOR, CNN'S MONEYLINE: As a matter of fact, that's one of the great surprises to most political strategists, that they assumed that there would be much hay to be made, particularly by the Democratic Party, in the Enron scandal. And that simply did not come to pass.

MORTON: Where it did have an effect, of course, was with average investors, in a country where most people now own stock.

DOBBS: Just at the time when we thought that the market was recovering, the Enron scandal and the corporate corruption scandals that followed along with it depressed investor confidence in this country to levels never before seen.

MANN: I think there's a wariness among investors. I think you're seeing some churning on corporate boards. Certainly new efforts to look at arrangements for audits. So, much more of a response in the private sector than in the public sector.

MORTON: But now, a year after the first Enron shock, the economy, too, may be healing. Retailers say holiday shopping so far has been brisk, though it's early yet. And last week was the eighth week in a row in which the Dow Jones Industrial Average finished up.

Bruce Morton, CNN, Washington.


WOODRUFF: Well, holiday shopping was on Wall Street's mind, at least for a while today. Rhonda Schaffler is with me now from the New York Exchange.

Rhonda, how did the major retailers do on this first weekend after the Christmas shopping season began?

RHONDA SCHAFFLER, CNN FINANCIAL NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Judy, the bottom line here is that retail sales were much stronger than expected. That's the early indication. Of course, this is the weekend everyone tracks as the season gets off to its official start here.

Basically, consumers were lured in by price cuts and coupons. Discount chains among the favorite among shoppers. The world's largest retailer, Wal-Mart, had its best single day ever, ringing up more than $1.4 billion in sales on Friday.

Overall, one survey says retail sales up on Friday by 12 percent compared to last year. Also, the Internet appears to be a popular choice, still. Online sales jumping 40 percent. That is according to the retail consulting firm, Shopper Track.

However, while this weekend was strong, some analysts warned that we're not really going to know how strong this season is. All those discounting efforts by retailers paid off. That's what got consumers in whether they'll keep buying for the next couple of weeks. We just don't know yet -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right, well, how did shares in those retailers do today, Rhonda? And what about the market overall? How did it close?

SCHAFFLER: Well, retailers held out throughout the day here, and it was a very choppy session. Wal-Mart, for instance, closed up 50 cents. And there was strength across the board in retailers. Now, as far as the overall market goes, we've got these decent retail sales numbers, but then we got a report on the manufacturing sector. It was seen as somewhat problematic. It did send the Dow Jones Industrial Average lower. Closed off about 33 points. Nasdaq managed to hold on to a few gains, though, and closed slightly higher, up about 6.

That's the latest from here. Judy, back to you.

WOODRUFF: All right, Rhonda, thanks very much.

Question -- should minorities receive an advantage when it comes to applying for college? When we come back, the emotional debate over affirmative action once again lands in the Supreme Court.

Plus, searching for trouble in Iraq. Our Nic Robertson reports from Baghdad, where U.N. weapons inspectors are on the hunt.


WOODRUFF: The Supreme Court agrees to take on some controversial cases. We'll take a look at what's on the docket in a few minutes.


WOODRUFF: U.N. weapons inspectors inside Iraq today discovered equipment tagged by previous inspection teams at one search area is now missing. Iraqi officials say the equipment was moved or destroyed by Western bombings. The inspectors spent several hours at the complex in the heart of Baghdad.

CNN's Nic Robertson has details.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Close, but unsure of the way, U.N. inspectors call on Iraqi officials to direct them, cooperation turning to familiarity, as, on day five, each side settles to the retune of the other.

Minutes later, the team of international experts drive unchecked into the Central Baghdad military industrial al-Karamah complex, not yet 9:00 in the morning and another day's inspection just beginning. Taking notes, talking with site officials and touring buildings, the inspectors link to the production of parts for the banned al-Hussein Scud missile, capable of delivering a warhead 650 kilometers.

At one point, an apparently irate Iraqi official appears clutching documents. The inspection, however, ends at 3:00 p.m., as al-Karamah employees leave for the day. By the time journalists are invited on to the site, the buildings are locked, officials denying production of Scuds, but not denying production of the allowed-for shorter 150-kilometer-range missiles, the deputy director asserting the inspectors had enough to time to do their work.

MOHAMMAD MOHAMMAD, DEPUTY DIRECTOR GENERAL (through translator): The inspections are their speciality, to look for documents and search everything.

ROBERTSON: This site had contained monitoring cameras and other equipment marked by previous U.N. inspection teams. After this visit, the U.N. disclosed in a statement: "None of these are currently present at the facility. It was claimed that some had been destroyed by the bombing of the site; some had been transferred to other sites." The U.N. says it's following up on those claims.

(on camera): Exactly what the inspectors were looking for and, perhaps more importantly, what they may have found, is unclear. That they spent more than six hours searching this facility, which is moderate-sized compared to some, is an indication of just how long the inspection process could drag out.

(voice-over): On Iraqi television, the first close-up pictures of inspectors at work with Iraqi officials, a sign the Iraqi government sees the relationship between the two sides developing positively, a sign, too, everyone here is settling in for the long haul.

Nic Robertson, CNN, Baghdad.


WOODRUFF: Here in the United States, the Supreme Court today agreed to hear arguments in one of the most divisive issues in American education: the use of affirmative action programs in the admissions process at major universities. CNN's Bob Franken explains the cases and he previews what's at stake.


BOB FRANKEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The justices will be taking still another stab at trying to clear up an issue that, for decades, seems to get murkier each time someone tries. Can the University of Michigan, can any government-funded higher- education institution use an enrollment selection formula that gives any advantages to minorities?

THEODORE SHAW, NAACP LEGAL DEFENSE FUND: What the Supreme Court does hear is going to be very important. It will determine at least the next generation and maybe more of students and what kind of rules apply to their access to higher education.

FRANKEN: At issue: Are these valid efforts to achieve a desirable racial and ethnic mix or are they undesirable reverse discrimination?

One of the plaintiffs: Barbara Grutter, a white woman, who after years in the workplace, applied to the Michigan law school in 1995 and was rejected.

BARBARA GRUTTER, PLAINTIFF: I have a very strong background, a small business background, corporate background. I have expertise in multiple fields. I have a lot of experience, also, at a personal level that I really could have brought to that class.

FRANKEN: The justices have decided to hear not only the law school case, but a separate one that involves the University of Michigan's recruitment of minority undergraduates. That policy, until recently, used a point system to rate applicants. African, Hispanic and Native Americans got an automatic 20 points. That case will bypass the lower appeals court.

The last guidance on this was the 1978 Bakke case, when the Supreme Court decided racial quotas were not allowed, but the need for diversity was "sufficiently compelling," to quote Justice Lewis Powell in that same case, "to justify consideration of race."

Fast-forward to the present.

LIZ BARRY, UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN ATTORNEY: They take into account one factor among many in order to pursue the educational benefit of diversity.


FRANKEN: And those on both sides of the issue agree on one point. There is a crying need to know just what the rules of affirmative action are.

It probably won't end the fight, Judy, but at least everyone will know what the fight is about. WOODRUFF: And, Bob, another case, an important case, the court has decided to take a look at involving the rights of homosexuals?

FRANKEN: As a matter of fact, this is a revisit of the sodomy issue. In 1986, the court decided that states did have the right to have laws banning sodomy.

But now comes the Texas case. It's one of the states that bans sodomy only when it involves homosexuals. The court has decided to hear that case. Don't know if they're going to let it stand, if they're going to just overturn that part of it, or if they will overturn the whole concept of states having a right to ban sodomy. Times have changed.

WOODRUFF: Yes. All right, Bob Franken, thanks very much, reporting on the court today.

Well, still ahead: the controversy over Karl Rove's clout, taking issue with that article in "Esquire." Is it baseless, as the White House claims, or an accurate portrait of administration politics?


WOODRUFF: And with us now: Maria Echaveste, former Clinton White House deputy chief of staff; and Betsy Hart of the Scripps Howard News Service.

Let's talk about this pretty extraordinary piece in "Esquire" magazine by Ron Suskind primarily about Karl Rove, but about the way this White House operates. I just want to quote something that he says when he talks about how this White House puts politics above all else.

Quote: "When policy analysis is just backfill to support a political maneuver, you'll get a lot of oops."

Betsy, my question is, is this White House any more political than any other administrations?


I'm reminded of that scene in "Casablanca" at the end where Professor Renault says he's shocked to find out there's been gambling in Rick's casinos. He's collecting his winnings.

Of course the White House is political. The question is: What are your politics? And they do have -- unlike some previous White Houses, namely the Clinton White House, that wouldn't do anything without putting it in front of a focus group first -- it seems to me they do have -- I stepped on some toes there.

But it seems to me they do have a certain policy basis, a certain worldview. And they're just trying to figure out: How do we get as much of this across as we can? I think they should have been more aggressive in some instances. But, still, this is silly.


But, really, three points: One, you never see any of the policy people on air. They're hidden. So they must not be players. The political people are in charge. No. 2 is, as an example of that, I'm really scared about the deficit that is just -- it's growing. But you don't see any of the economic advisers, probably because they're afraid someone is going to ask them.

And don't you really want to know what the process was for deciding to support the Homeland Security Bill, which came out on the day that the FBI whistle-blower was taking the stand up on the Hill? I'd love to know how, suddenly, the White House reversed course and decided to embrace that and ran with it all the way to the November election.


WOODRUFF: But when you say there are not more than a couple of people in the White House who look at policy compared to politics...

HART: Well, again, I just think you have to say, often, they are the same thing. The question is: What are your policies? What's your stance, for instance, on school choice, on whether or not people should have the...

ECHAVESTE: Actually, having worked there, you start with a policy and then the political people tell you what works, what can you get done. But you don't start with the politics and say, "What will help us win elections?"

HART: Unless the policy is what you believe. And how do you advance that gain? And I think you're saying those always be separate things. And they're not.

WOODRUFF: Let's talk about one aspect of policy. And that is the president today signing a bill today protecting America's wetlands. Now, this comes just days after the White House was criticized for rolling back regulations on clean air, rolling back logging regulations.

Jim Jeffords, the independent who was a Republican said, "Now this president insists on moving us backward, undoing his father's legacy, and weakening our nation's environment laws."

HART: Well, this is ridiculous.

And I am the first one to say that there are times when the administration is not aggressive enough in pursuing its own agenda or they're trying to "me too" the left. Let's be clear. The leftist environmental groups in America are not about preserving the environment. They are about advancing a pro-government agenda, turning back the tide of progress. And George Bush is never going to satisfy them. Let's stick to the facts here.

ECHAVESTE: The important thing is, what Bush did today was simply continue a government program that has been in existence since 1981. It's a fig leaf, because it doesn't say anything about how much money the government is going to spend to protect the wetlands. And I think it's exactly what Jeffords says, that this administration is getting a lot of heat. And the majority of Americans are concerned about the environment.

HART: And this is my point. The left is going to beat up on him when it comes to the environment no matter what he does.

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

Betsy Hart, Maria Echaveste, good to see you both. Thanks very much.

ECHAVESTE: Thank you.

HART: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: Some big-name Republicans are flocking to Louisiana. Up next: The GOP brings in the heavy-hitters to help Suzanne Terrell in her runoff against Mary Landrieu.


WOODRUFF: Checking the headlines in our "Campaign News Daily": Incoming North Carolina Senator Elizabeth Dole and former President George Bush are the latest party heavyweights to campaign for Louisiana Republican Senate candidate Suzanne Terrell. The current President Bush will be in the Bayou state tomorrow to help Terrell's efforts. Republican Senate Leader Trent Lott and Vice President Cheney have also made stops on Terrell's behalf. Terrell squares off with incumbent Democrat Mary Landrieu this Saturday in a Senate runoff.

Next door in Louisiana, Democratic Lieutenant Governor Amy Tuck announced last hour that she's switching to the Republican Party. Tuck has been at odds with state party officials for some time. The state Democratic leader was quoted as saying some in his party will say -- quote -- "good riddance" when they hear of Tuck's defection.

Former statehouse member Ed Case is Hawaii's newest congressman, at least for now. Case defeated 37 other candidates on Saturday in the special election to serve the remaining weeks in the term of the late Patsy Mink. Case says he will now run in the January elections to fill the two-year term that Mink was elected to just days after her death.

A trio of Republicans are taking office today. At the top of the hour, Linda Lingle will be sworn in as the first woman governor of Hawaii. In addition to that historic first, Lingle is also Hawaii's first Republican governor in 40 years.

This morning, John Cornyn become the new junior senator from Texas. He was sworn in to succeed Republican Phil Gramm, who resigned his seat early.

Also, in the last hour or so, former Alaska Republican Senator Frank Murkowski was sworn in as that state's new governor. He will appoint his interim successor in the Senate, meaning a Republican.

Well, Bob Novak is here with some "Inside Buzz."

All right, Bob, what are you hearing about those Republican -- what's going on with the Republicans in the Louisiana runoff?

ROBERT NOVAK, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, with all those big names going to Louisiana, Judy, the name that scares and the Democrats the most is somebody who hasn't been firmly scheduled and hasn't been announced.

It's Ralph Reed, former Christian Coalition head, now the chairman of the Georgia Republican Party, who scored such a terrific sweep, Republican sweep in Georgia on November 5. He's an expert at get-out-the-vote. And a get-out-the-vote is going to determine who wins that Senate election in Louisiana.

WOODRUFF: So maybe he'll do a little organizing while he's there.

NOVAK: You better believe it.

WOODRUFF: All right, the Bush tax policy, they're thinking about more tax cuts.

NOVAK: You bet.

During Thanksgiving week, when we were eating turkey, the president met with his economic advisers for several hours to talk about tax cuts. What's interesting is, a couple days before, his secretary of the treasury, Paul O'Neill, was in Manchester, England, saying maybe we need a tax increase. Once again, Secretary O'Neill didn't get the message.

WOODRUFF: O'Neill said that?

NOVAK: He said it.

WOODRUFF: We need to look into that.

All right, Charlie Rangel, the well-known New York City Democrat.

NOVAK: He is the top Democrat on the tax-writing committee in the House, the Ways and Means Committee.

He desperately wants to be chairman. The word has been out for some time, if he didn't get it in this election, he might not run again. He might even resign. He doesn't get along all that well with Bill Thomas, the Republican chairman. But I talked today to some of Congressman Rangel's friends in New York. And they say he loves the House. At 72, politics is his life. They doubt he'll really quit.

WOODRUFF: And last but not least: the Republican Convention in '04. What do you hear?

NOVAK: The new buzz is that the front-runner is the Big Apple, New York City. A lot of people want to go there, with a Republican mayor, a Republican governor.

The downside is the trouble with unions. Republicans had a lot of trouble with unions in Philadelphia in 2000. The front-runner had been Tampa-St. Petersburg, but the hotels are so spread out there that the delegates would be spending most of the convention riding buses to and from the convention floor. Now, it's no secret, Judy, that, among the media, the favorite for the convention is the third site, the Big Easy, New Orleans. I wonder why?

WOODRUFF: The place where that runoff is taking.

We just like the climate down there, wouldn't you say?


WOODRUFF: Yes. And maybe the food.

NOVAK: Very strange.

WOODRUFF: Yes, yes.


WOODRUFF: All right, Bob Novak, thanks very much.

NOVAK: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: Add another sports champ to the list of those honored at the White House -- the story and the photo when we come back.


WOODRUFF: Remember NASCAR dads? They got a lot of attention in the midterm elections as a key voting group to court. And that may help explain why President Bush welcomed this year's NASCAR racing champ, Tony Stewart, to the White House today. Mr. Bush gave no speech and no reporters were invited, in contrast to other events honoring sports figures. Now, that may have something to do with fact that Stewart is considered a sort of a bad boy of racing and has been known to punch photographers. But he apparently didn't do that today.

Expelled Congressman James Traficant still is managing to make money, even as he serves time in prison for racketeering. Traficant's family put some of his possessions on the auction block in Ohio yesterday and pulled in an estimated $10,000. Among the top moneymakers: seven wooden church pews used by Traficant in a meeting room. They sold for $1,700.

Here in Washington, the halls are being decked for the holidays. Up next: It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas. We'll check out some of the official greenery.


WOODRUFF: With 23 days left until Christmas, official Washington is sprucing up for the holiday. The Capitol Hill Christmas tree arrived in traditional fashion. But, in a sign of the times, police say that it was swept for bombs.

Over at the White House, first lady Laura Bush received an 18- foot noble fir that will grace the Blue Room. It will be decorated with 400 bird ornaments, making it the centerpiece of the White House holiday theme -- we think it's a first -- animals, all creatures, great and small.

And that's it for INSIDE POLITICS. I'm Judy Woodruff.


Kerry Eyes Presidential Run; Is Rove Running White House?>

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