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CNN INSIDE POLITICS

Bush Names Treasury Department Nominee; Gore Takes Shot at Bush on Foreign, Domestic Issues

Aired December 9, 2002 - 16:00   ET

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

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
ANNOUNCER: A new messenger for Bush economics.

JOHN SNOW, TREASURY SECRETARY NOMINEE: I look forward to joining your economic team to advance a pro-grow, pro-jobs agenda.

ANNOUNCER: Find out has the president's new choice for treasury secretary wants to do for you.

Al Gore sounds more and more like a presidential candidate. Taking shots at Mr. Bush and his economic plan.

AL GORE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Within two years time, he is going to be extremely vulnerable and should be, because this is not good for our country.

ANNOUNCER: From the economy to the war on terrorism, an in-depth interview with Gore.

How did Mary Landrieu do it? We'll have the secret of the Democrat Senate win in Louisiana.

The Monday after the Strom Thurmond birthday bash.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Happy birthday to you.

ANNOUNCER: Why Senator Trent Lott may still have a headache.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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

JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you for joining us. We begin with President Bush trying to boost confidence in the economy and in his own economic leadership. Even as the U.S. faces the costly prospect of a new war.

In this "News Cycle," U.N. weapons inspectors paid a third visit to Baghdad's main nuclear research center. The United States meantime is reviewing an unedited copy of Iraq's 12,000-page arms declaration with a skeptical eye. More on Iraq coming up. Mr. Bush is urging the Senate quickly to confirm his new treasury secretary nominee. He says former Ford administration official John Snow, has led one of the nation's largest railroads with skill, success and integrity.

Snow would replace Paul O'Neill who was pressured by the president to resign just last Friday.

A senior White House correspondent John King has more on the nomination -- John.

JOHN KING, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Judy, that quick speed, Paul O'Neill asked to resign Friday, John Snow asked to fill the position Monday, perhaps the president's number one priority here at home, focusing on the economy. Mr. Bush rolling out his choice, 63-years-old, a friend of Vice President Dick Cheney. A man who served in the Ford administration. The head right now of CSX, the nation's largest railroad here in the East Coast area.

One criticism Paul O'Neill, he sometimes criticized this president's only policy, veered from the script. Vice President Cheney recommending Mr. Snow said he would be a constant team player. He did that today speaking just moments after the president introduced him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SNOW: Thanks to your leadership, and this administration's stewardship of the economy during a tough time, the recession was one of the shortest and shallowest in modern economic history. Yet I strongly share your view that we cannot be satisfied until everyone, every single person who's unemployed and seeking a job has an opportunity to work.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: In some ways, Mr. Snow quite similar to the man he would replace. Both Paul O'Neill and John Snow served in the Ford administration, both went on to head major corporations here in the United States, but there are significant differences and they are viewed here in the White House as key.

O'Neill, often unapplicantable, sometimes critical of his president's own policies. Snow is viewed as a team player. O'Neill, frosty relationships, especially in the end with key members of Congress since leaving the government 25 years ago. John Snow maintained good relationships with those on Capitol Hill, especially amongst key Republicans.

Judy, this is round one of a two round installment. Within days we'll get veteran Wall Street manager Steven Freeman. He will replacement of Larry Lindsey as the top economic aid inside the White House. White house facials say more than shaking up the team, the president realizes he has to put more emphasis on the economy heading in. Remember, 23 months from now, Mr. Bush himself will face voters -- Judy. WOODRUFF: John, we keep hearing the president -- the White House cooking up some sort of stimulus package for the economy to be unveiled in January, if not sooner. What are they serious hi thinking about?

KING: There had been talk about revealing that plan in Washington as early as this week. White House officials say that was never the president's plan. We are told they're still debating parts of this trying to squeeze as many incentives as possible into a package that runs over $3 billion over ten years. Some is certain.

Mr. Bush will call for accelerating some of the rate cuts in the tax cut that was past last year. The big 10-year Bush tax cut. Also new incentives for new businesses to invest in production. Also incentives reducing taxes on stock dividends designed to give people more confidence in investing in Wall Street after a year in which we had Enron, WorldCom and other corporate scandals.

We're told to look for that in early January, in part to get the new team in place, in part, how much they can fit into a new package over ten years.

WOODRUFF: In fact, I got some comments from the incoming chairman of the Senate finance committee. I talked to him just awhile ago.

All right, John, at the White House, thanks.

The top Democrat in the House says President Bush can shuffle his economic team all he wants, but his economic package is what's the real problem.

Our Jonathan Karl has been on Capitol Hill will Democrats worked today to build their own economic plan -- John.

JONATHAN KARL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Judy, first reaction to this new appointment many Democrats are joking, that who better to deal with a train wreck of an economic plan than a former, or a current, trade executive, a railroad executive in John Snow here.

But Democrats by and large are giving high marks to this nomination. As a matter of fact, Senator Daschle, the top Democrat, of course, in the Senate, said he is somebody with good experience and a stellar reputation. But as you mentioned, Daschle said the question is not the people here on the economic team but the plan. The economic plan of the president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. TOM DASCHLE (D-SD), MAJORITY LEADER: I think last week's actions by the administration was an admission of failure. The real question now is, whether or not they can turn that failure to success, and they won't do it unless they do more than rearrange the chairs.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KARL: Republicans are saying the real question is here what is the Democratic alternative if they are critical of the Republican plan what is the Democratic plan? There is an economic summit of sorts going on at Capitol Hill today and tomorrow, House Democrats led by their new leader Nancy Pelosi have been coming together. Originally this two-day summit was billed as a way for deeming to come together, develop and present their plan. Their plan to get the economy going.

That now, that whole goal for the summit has been downsized significantly. Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats are no longer saying they'll present a plan. They say they still need more time to develop their alternative.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER-ELECT: Before Democrats proceed with our own economic plan for economic growth that creates jobs but is fair, that stimulates the economy in a with that does not disrupt our budget we want to hear a clear analysis of the economy. A clear diagnosis of what is wrong before we prescribe our remedy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: As for John Snow of course, he cannot become the treasury secretary until confirmed by the Senate. That confirmation, the first hearings, held by the Senate finance committee, now in Republican hands, Chairman Chuck Grassley. Republicans are quite happy with this nomination.

Senator Trent Lott has put out a statement, he's known John Snow more than 20 years, is enthusiastic for him as new treasury secretary and someone he'll get along with better theoretically than Paul O'Neill. Those hearings have not been scheduled but Chuck Grassley says he'll schedule them as soon as the president formally sends that nomination up to Capitol Hill.

WOODRUFF: As we said, John, we'll hear from Senator Grassley a few minutes from now.

Well, Al Gore says he will unveil his own economic plan after the first of the year, about the same time he'll reveal whether he's running for president again or not. The promise of a plan seems to be further evidence that Gore will jump into the race.

I talked at length with Mr. Gore here in Washington today, I started out by asking him about these new additions to President Bush's economic team.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GORE: Well, I wish them well, but I think the key is the policy. If they don't change the policies, then O'Neill and Lindsey will turn out to have been just fall guys for a failed policy. You know, tax cuts for the very wealthy, that really doesn't make up an economic policy. That's just greed and political payback. And what we need is a new economic policy.

I'm going to be presenting an economic plan after the first of the year that will get into a little more detail on all that, but, you know, the top 2 percent are the ones that have benefited primarily from the Bush/Cheney policies, and that's not helping the country. Unemployment's now gone up to 6 percent. Business investment is very weak. The global economy has a very troubling outlook. There are mixed signals.

I'm hoping that we'll avoid a double-dip recession, but we need a new policy. We need a stimulus for the short term and a restoration of confidence in our economic policy making in the longer term.

WOODRUFF: I want to ask you about John Kerry, who's formed an exploratory committee, has already endorsed a payroll tax holiday. The Business Roundtable has endorsed something like this, $130 billion worth the first year. Is that something you would consider?

GORE: Well, the problem there is that, that's the money that's dedicated for the Social Security trust fund. Now, there might be some way to put protections in that would insulate the Social Security trust fund from not losing any money. But I think that -- that's a little risky. I'd want to see how that fund would be protected before endorsing anything like that.

WOODRUFF: And you've also, in talking about a health care plan, you've put the idea out there about a single payer national health care plan -- and you said....

GORE: Yeah, which doesn't mean a government-run program. There are a lot of different ways to skin that cat. The key is it has to be universal. It has to be a national plan, And it has to solve the problems that are now causing the collapse of our current health care system.

WOODRUFF: You said you would be willing to consider a tax increase to pay for that?

GORE: Those words were put into my mouth a little bit. Let me tell you exactly what I did say. I don't think we necessarily need any new revenues, because we are now paying much more for health care, per person, than any other nation on the face of this earth. And fully a third of what we're spending each year, 300 billion out of almost a trillion, is being spent on waste, unnecessary paperwork.

These claims that are currently handled for $20 to $25 each are the same kinds of transactions that banks and brokerages are now handling for one penny each. And the reason why we have a chance for savings, even as we improve health care and extend access to health care in a rationalized national system is because we can squeeze out all that waste, when you get rid of the utilization review panels and the insurance brokers and all the different competing big management schemes, that all take their own cuts.

WOODRUFF: You've said that you're going to put out the details of your health care plan and the tax cut proposal for the middle class in January.

GORE: Right.

WOODRUFF: Whether or not you run?

GORE: Right.

WOODRUFF: For president?

GORE: Right.

WOODRUFF: Now, what would be the point of doing it if you're not running?

GORE: To play a role in the national debate, to help shape the choices our country makes.

WOODRUFF: But are people going to be listening to you as seriously if you're not a candidate?

GORE: Well, if I'm not a candidate, I will still try to play that role. If I am a candidate, then I'll put it forward in the form of a specific candidate proposal.

WOODRUFF: Do you think can you win? I mean, this is a very different climate, political climate now, than it was.

GORE: The answer to that -- I want to be very firm on this. I truly believe that whoever the Democratic nominee is in 2004 will have an excellent chance to win. I think that the economic course that our nation has embarked upon now, which has already been catastrophic for family savings, for 401(k) plans, for these who have become unemployed, for the economy as a whole, I don't see a prospect of President Bush changing that course. And I think that within two years' time, he is going to be extremely vulnerable -- and should be -- because this is not good for our country.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: He's sounding like a candidate. We'll have more on Gore's political future tomorrow.

But still ahead in this hour, Gore takes on the president's Iraq policy. And he'll tell us why he's pressing Senate Republican Leader Trent Lott to say he's sorry.

(NEWSBREAK)

WOODRUFF: Question, will John Snow be a better treasury secretary than Paul O'Neill? I will ask the incoming chairman of the Senate panel that will vote on Snow's nomination.

Also ahead, would Saddam Hussein be allowed to stay in power if Al Gore were president? We'll have more of our Gore interview.

And I will ask Gore this political question... (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: Clarify what you said about Trent Lott. Are you saying Trent Lott is a racist?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: The answer, coming up.

(AUDIO GAP)

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: ... how Senator Mary Landrieu broke the political law of subtle politics and got away with it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: The names of the people consulted during the creation of this White House's energy policy will remain private, at least for now.

A federal judge today threw out a lawsuit against Vice President Dick Cheney and his energy task force. The head of the General Accounting Office had filed the suit. The case gained extra publicity as Democratic lawmakers began to question the influence of oil and gas companies, including Enron, within the Bush administration. The judge called the GAO request unprecedented.

Who is the greatest living American? Coming up, our Jeff Greenfield looks past the obvious choices.

Plus, what can we learn from Louisiana? Our Bill Schneider makes sense of the battle in the Bayou. INSIDE POLITICS, back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: All over the place political experts today mulling over the returns from the weekend Louisiana Senate runoff. Incumbent Democrat Mary Landrieu won about 52 percent of the vote, defeating Republican Suzanne Terrell, backed by a who's who of GOP luminaries.

Even with the Landrieu victory, Republicans still will control the Senate come January, 51 seats. For the Democrats, 48 with one independent who usually votes for the Democrats.

Our Bill Schneider joins me now with more on the always unpredictable elections in the Bayou state, and they are usually unpredictable -- Bill.

SCHNEIDER: That they are.

You know, on Saturday, Judy, Mary Landrieu broke the law. The law in Southern politics that if an incumbent fails to get 50 percent in the primary, he or she is doomed in the runoff. How did Landrieu get away with it?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): This wasn't supposed to happen. Suzanne Terrell had the money and the momentum and the big Republican names coming to Louisiana to campaign for her. What did Mary Landrieu have? a strategy. Last week, Bill Clinton told Democrats they'd lost the November 5 midterm because they were wimpy.

WILLIAM J. CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When people feel uncertain they'd rather have somebody strong and wrong than someone who is weak and right. We don't have to be more liberal but we have to be more relevant in a progress in a way.

SCHNEIDER: Before the November 5 primary, Senator Landrieu was not exactly critical of President Bush. After all, he has a 73 percent approval rating in Louisiana. After the primary, Landrieu shifted gears. Instead of emphasizing her support for Bush, she emphasize her independence.

SEN. MARY LANDRIEU (D), LOUISIANA: It points to my independence, my ability to make decisions not based on who contributes, not based on what the administration says, but putting Louisiana first.

SCHNEIDER: For example...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just before our election, Mexican newspapers reveal a secret deal with Washington to flood with America with Mexican sugar.

SCHNEIDER: That gave her an opening to mock her opponent.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Louisiana doesn't need a rubber stamp.

SCHNEIDER: Landrieu's claim of independence energized Democrats. On November 5, Democrats had no clue what was happening to them. This time, Democrats were ready.

DONNA BRAZILE, FRM. GORE CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Over the last 32 days, people in Louisiana, they got it.

SCHNEIDER: Particularly black people. Statewide, turnout, nearly as high in the December runoff as in the November primary. And Landrieu improved her performance in heavily African-American areas like New Orleans.

The "Times-Picayune" reports that late Saturday afternoon former President Clinton called Louisiana's most influential African-American politician, state Senator Cleo Fields, and urged him to step up his get out the vote effort in the last few hours.

The next day, Fields told the "Times-Picayune," "All that talk about Landrieu's support for the president turned my stomach. To her credit, she changed all that in the runoff and worked hard to distinguish herself from the Republicans and really reached out to African-American voters. If she keeps up that attitude, only God knows what she can do."

Stay in office, for one thing.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER: Republicans are claiming President Bush had nothing to do with Terrell's defeat. But, you know, had she won, I feel pretty sure they would have touted it as a victory for the president.

WOODRUFF: Bill, you mentioned president Clinton calling Cleo Fields, but we understand that Donna Brazile also had something to do with getting the African-American vote out?

SCHNEIDER: Yes, it was a very big win for her. This week's "Newsweek" reports that Miss Brazile may be organizing a plan to run black candidates as favorite sons and daughters in the 2004 Democratic presidential primaries. The goal, at least 1,500 delegates to the convention who would have control over the nomination. I think that plan would be a disaster for Democrats.

And conceivably for African-Americans, because Democratic contenders might have little incentive to go after those votes. I think some influential Democrats like, oh, Bill Clinton and maybe her former boss Al Gore might try to persuade Miss Brazile not to do this.

WOODRUFF: Today when I asked Al Gore what Donna Brazile was doing, he said he didn't know anything about it, but said that he loved Donna Brazile.

OK, Bill, thanks very much.

So, how does Mary Landrieu herself think she won a second term? I will ask Senator Landrieu that question and many others. When she joins me tomorrow, right here, on INSIDE POLITICS.

Well, Democrats also picked up a Louisiana House seat in Saturday's runoff. Unofficial returns for Democrat Rodney Alexander upset Republican Lee Fletcher by a little more than 500 votes. Out of more than 170,000 ballots cast. Fletcher, however, has yet to concede the fifth district race. He said he hopes to pick up more votes when the results are certified.

Our "News Alert" is coming up with the latest on the showdown with Iraq.

Plus, Al Gore has some sharp words about President Bush's policy and about Saddam Hussein.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Controversial comments land a Senate Republican in hot water. What Trent Lott said and the fallout coming up.

(NEWSBREAK)

WOODRUFF: To another voice of caution about war with Iraq, former Vice President Al Gore. In our interview today, I asked Gore to clarify his position on overthrowing Saddam Hussein. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GORE: We should not have a U.S. war in Iraq unilaterally to try to change their government. I do think that it's in our interests for their government to be changed. I think the world would be a better place when Saddam Hussein is gone. But for the United States of America to invade another country to try to change their government in these circumstances I think would be a mistake.

WOODRUFF: But 12 years ago, the view was that Saddam Hussein should be left in power. If your view is we -- the United States -- should be patient and have a long-term strategy, isn't that tantamount to the saying Saddam Hussein stays in power?

GORE: No, I don't think so, because I think that there is reason to hope that the resistance can continue to grow inside Iraq. The Congress passed legislation when the Clinton-Gore administration was in power. We adopted the national goal of regime change in Iraq and began to step up efforts, not all of which have been made public, to try to improve the chances that the resistance there and the opposition to Saddam would grow.

But that's very different from having a unilateral U.S. military invasion of a foreign country in order to change their regime. That is not a wise course of action for our country to take, particularly not now, because our top priority ought to be to win this war against terrorism. And we need allies in order to win that war.

And many of the important allies that we need would have tremendous strains placed on their relationship with us if we undertook unilateral military action to overturn the regime in Iraq.

WOODRUFF: What more, specifically, should the United States, should this administration being doing in the war on terror that it's not doing right now?

GORE: Well, we should support an international force of 35,000 to 40,000 people in Afghanistan to take control away from the warlords. This should have been done on the heels of the military victory there. It would be more difficult now, but that's what should have been done. Now...

WOODRUFF: Well, the U.S. has -- had said it's fine for U.S. troops to be spread around the countryside now. So that's happened.

GORE: Well, you know, the administration vetoed the plan that the international community advocated for 35,000 to 40,000 troops and put a limit of 5,000.

They also vetoed the plan to deploy troops throughout the country and limited them to the capital city. Now the government that has been installed there has a span of control that encompass a few neighborhoods in one city. The rest of the country is back under the control of the warlords. They are once again the No. 1 heroin producer in the world. Taliban elements, we know now, have been infiltrating back in, according to the news reports. We're seeing the return in some regions of open warfare between different drug lords and warlords. And that's the situation that was prevailing when the Taliban first got installed there.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: And, just to be clear, Gore does advocate military action to take out Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, if it's proved that they exist.

Well, if Gore does, indeed, run for president, a new poll out today suggests that he is the early Democratic front-runner in the leadoff primary state of New Hampshire. But, John Kerry of neighboring Massachusetts is nipping at his heels. The Marist Poll has Gore with 31 percent, Kerry with 28 percent. Joe Lieberman is a distant third, followed by outgoing Vermont Governor Howard Dean. Gore had this to say about the polls.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GORE: To be tied with one of the neighboring candidates is probably a good thing. There are two neighbors candidates on either side of New Hampshire there. But, you know, I haven't been able to spend time in New Hampshire. If I become a candidate, then I'll be spending an awful of time. And I'll look forward to that, because I love the state.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: Again, it sounds like he's running.

Tomorrow on INSIDE POLITICS, we'll have more on Gore's political prospects, his first priority, and his regrets.

Coming up next: Gore's tough words for Trent Lott, after the senator's praise of Strom Thurmond stirred controversy.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: He's fighting for his political life. Now his estranged wife is weighing in against him -- the story of a president under fire coming up.

INSIDE POLITICS back in one minute.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Al Gore today is accusing incoming Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott of making a racist comment. At issue: Lott's remarks at a birthday celebration for Senator Strom Thurmond last week. Some have interpreted Lott's statement as praise of Thurmond's segregation platform when he ran for president back in 1938.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. TRENT LOTT (R-MS), MINORITY LEADER: I want to say this about my state: When Strom Thurmond ran for president we voted for him. We're proud of it.

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

LOTT: And if the rest of the country had of followed our lead we wouldn't of had all these problems over all these years, either.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: Well, back in 1948, Thurmond was known to make statements such as this one -- quote -- "All the bayonets of the Army cannot force the Negro into our homes, our schools, our churches" -- end quote.

Well, in my interview today with Al Gore, I asked him if he believed that Lott's praise of Thurmond's political past means -- after he criticized Lott -- means, in his belief, that Lott is a racist?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GORE: Trent Lott has made a statement that I think is a racist statement, yes. That's why I think he should withdraw those comments, or else the United States Senate should undertake a censure.

WOODRUFF: But you're not prepared to go one step farther and say he is.

GORE: I can't look inside his heart. He has the opportunity to apologize for those comments and to withdraw those comments. And I think he's capable of doing that. I would sincerely urge him to do that, for the country's good, for the Senate's good, and for his own good.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Al Gore calling on Trent Lott to apologize, first and foremost. The Reverend Jesse Jackson is going even further, calling for Lott's resignation. But Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle says he believes Lott when he says that he did not intend for his comments to be interpreted as racist.

And now to a breaking story: CNN's Michael Okwu in New York has gotten hold of some of that 12,000-page document handed over to the U.N. weapons inspectors by Iraq.

Michael in New York?

MICHAEL OKWU, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Judy, hello to you.

Just to be clear about this, this is not actually the document itself, but really more the table of contents that was released here at the United Nations. This is a letter, essentially, that was written by Iraq's foreign minister, Naji Sabri, dated the 7th of December and addressed to the president of the Security Council, the U.N. -- the ambassador to the U.N. from Colombia, Mr. Valdivieso.

And, essentially, it gives people a sense of what might actually be in this document: as expected, three major parts, at least three major parts, having to do with chemical, nuclear and biological weapons, as well as additional parts having to do with long-range ballistic missiles. There is a table of contents that might indicate that the document may name companies or individuals that, in the past, may have supplied the Iraqi government with weapons, arms and other supplies.

And, in addition to this, there are very key portions: for example, an area here that talks about terminated radiation bomb projects, which some people here at the United Nations surmise could be a reference to a dirty bomb. Keep in mind, Judy, that this is a document that is completely comprehensive. So, it refers to past as well as present projects.

In addition to this, Judy, it also -- there's a postscript at the end of the letter that suggests, that says quite clearly that the release of this information -- quote -- "entails risk and is inconsistent with the norms of the weapons nonproliferation regime," which suggests that the Iraqis were very concerned that, by making this information public, there were things in here that the international community might think were risque -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Yes, puzzling to see what those 12,000 pages are, when the Iraqis still say they don't have any weapons of mass destruction.

All right, Michael Okwu in New York, thanks very much.

And we know there will be much more ahead on CNN at the top of the hour on "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS."

Well, we return to the new choice for U.S. treasury secretary next. John Snow faces confirmation hearings before the Senate Finance Committee. And I'll talk with the incoming chairman of that panel, Senate Charles Grassley.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Iowa's Republican senator, Charles Grassley, is the incoming chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. His panel will consider the nomination of John W. Snow to be the new treasury secretary.

I spoke with Senator Grassley just a little while ago and started by asking him how Snow will be a better Treasury secretary than Paul O'Neill.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. CHARLES GRASSLEY (R), IOWA: Well, first of all, I was not one to find fault with Paul O'Neill. On the other hand, the Cabinet does work for the president. And the president is entitled to have people he feels are the best qualified to be in those positions. So, obviously, the president was uncertain about Paul O'Neill and he wants somebody new.

And I assume that the real strong point of Mr. Snow is that he will be able to be perceived and in fact be more of a leader in the area of economic policy. And I think that maybe the president would draw this conclusion from bold moves that Mr. Snow has taken in the past, let's say when he worked for the Ford administration. He was very much out in front four or five years before Congress legislated any deregulation.

And then, once he took over the railroad, the CSX, he moved very quickly and boldly to offer to buy Conrail. And those are seen as bold moves. And I think that maybe the president feels that he has to have an economic spokesperson who is willing to make bold moves.

WOODRUFF: Well, do you think any other members of the president's economic team should go, like Mitch Daniels, the head of the Office of Management and Budget?

GRASSLEY: No.

I think, in Mitch Daniels' case, we've got a person that has a hard clamp on spending. And the president needs that sort of clamp on spending, particularly the prolificacy of Congress to spend.

WOODRUFF: The Democrats -- we've been talking to some of them, from Al Gore to Tom Daschle and others -- are saying it's not who's on the president's team, but that it's the president's economic policy that's the problem here.

And, in fact, we now know the administration is thinking about speeding up, accelerating those tax cuts, making them go into effect sooner. They're also talking about directing tax relief to lower- and middle-income people. Can the country afford that?

GRASSLEY: It's kind of a case of where, when you have 20 percent of the resources of the country going to the federal government through taxes, that it, when it gets 20 or above, that it becomes very detrimental to the economy.

So, without a doubt, as we've proven through several tax reductions over the last 30 or 40 years, it's a stimulus to the economy. It encourages investment. It creates jobs. And the economy expands accordingly. And we have to be in a position where we have an expanding economy, because a contracting economy does not create jobs.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Senator Charles Grassley.

As we said, he'll be chairing the Senate Finance Committee, which will be passing on the nomination of John Snow to be the new treasury secretary. Well, Bob Novak has the "Inside Buzz" on the president's nominee for treasury secretary. Also ahead, Bob bucks some of the conventional wisdom about how Mary Landrieu won in Louisiana.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Checking the headlines in our "Campaign News Daily": Senate Democrats have turned to a man who knows a little something about campaign cash to lead their fund-raising efforts for the 2004 elections. New Jersey's Jon Corzine will head the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, putting him in charge of recruiting candidates and raising money for fellow Democrats. Corzine spent more than $60 million of his own money in his 2000 Senate race. He was also a major party donor before running for the Senate himself.

An experienced Washington politico is heading home and moving ahead with plans to run for governor. Former RNC Chairman and Mississippi native Haley Barbour has filed the papers to begin raising money for a 2003 run for governor. Barbour is a Washington lobbyist, but he maintains a home in Yazoo City, Mississippi.

In Chicago today, Mayor Richard Daley announced plans to run for reelection to a fifth term. Mayor Daley calls serving the city -- quote -- "the work of my life." Daley and his father, Richard J. Daley, have together led Chicago for 30 of the past 50 years. You can hardly say the word Chicago without saying the name Daley.

ROBERT NOVAK, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Synonymous.

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

And the first thing I want to talk to you about is Mary Landrieu. All the feeling we were getting last week was that Suzanne Terrell was going to win that race. What happened?

NOVAK: The conventional wisdom is that the black vote put Mary Landrieu in. But I don't think that's the case. I don't think that she got any more black votes than the other Democratic candidates did on November 5 in the South who lost.

The point was that she got a lot more white votes. Or, should I say, the Republicans got less white votes than they did in Georgia and South Carolina killer and Alabama. And the reason, I think, was a very clever campaign in which they attacked too much sugar imports, too few steel imports, both hurting Louisiana. This was a case where Bush administration policies hurt the Republican candidate in Louisiana.

WOODRUFF: All right, the president today rolled out his new treasury secretary, John Snow. We also know that his new economic adviser is going to be a man named Steve Friedman. You've been talking to Republicans about this. What do they say?

NOVAK: Well, the Republicans are very unhappy with Steve Friedman. He's the typical Wall Street switch-hitter, who gives to both parties. He's given a lo of money to liberal Democrats, Jon Corzine, who we just mentioned here, Chuck Schumer. He's a member of the Concord Coalition, Council on Foreign Relations, Trilateral Commission, not exactly your conservative Republican.

On the other hand, John Snow is a real Republican. He gives only to Republican candidates, the treasury secretary-designate. But he was head of the Business Roundtable at the time it was giving a lot of money to Democrats, trying to get Democratic favor when they controlled the Congress. And that doesn't stand well with him.

WOODRUFF: So, you're saying there are Republicans and then there are Republicans?

NOVAK: That's right.

WOODRUFF: OK.

On the Hill, Dan Burton's committee -- he's outgoing chairman of Government Operations -- is holding hearings on U.S.-Colombia relations.

NOVAK: That's right, the fact that we are spending so much money in Colombia and not getting much out of it. He's having a big hearing on Thursday. The interesting thing is, this may be the last such hearing, because he is supposed -- he is likely to be replaced by Tom Davis of Virginia, who is not interested in Latin America at all.

And, in fact, the staffers on the committee are going out and the institutional memory of what's going wrong in Colombia will be lost. That won't be a very good watchdog anymore.

WOODRUFF: Back on the Democrats. You finally, Bob, have learned about some people being let go at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee?

NOVAK: Yes. They have something called the Harriman Center, which does media for members of Congress. They have closed that down and fired the people. They say it's because the building is being renovated, but they really got a cash crunch.

Now, the interesting part about that is that these employees that were let go are the only unionized employees of the DCCC. They belong to the IBEW , the International Brother of Electrical Workers. Liberal Democratic Congressman Bob Filner of California sent out a "Dear colleague" letter trying to turn this around. But this is the Christmas season, not much interested in people losing jobs, even union members who work for the DCCC.

WOODRUFF: You do have some good sources, Bob Novak.

NOVAK: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: Thanks very much. Appreciate it.

Still ahead: What happens if you hold an election and not enough people vote? The answer when we go "Inside Their Politics."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Politics is getting very personal down in Venezuela. And that tops our look "Inside Their Politics."

A general strike aimed at ousting Hugo Chavez, that country's leftist president, is now in its second week. The strike has crippled the country's oil industry. And that's bad news for the U.S., which gets more than 10 percent of its imported oil from Venezuela.

Well, if things weren't bad enough for Chavez, now another twist: His estranged wife went on national TV and called on the embattled president to listen to the opposition.

In Serbia, a very different political problem: not enough people at the polls. The Balkans country is headed towards crisis after only 44 percent of voters cast ballots in yesterday's presidential election. Now, that is well short of the 50 percent needed to validate the election. A vote for president back in October also failed to reach the 50 percent mark.

And that's it for our INSIDE POLITICS. I'm Judy Woodruff. Thank you for joining us.

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