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CNN INSIDE POLITICS

Lott Still Under Fire For Remarks at Thurmond Birthday Party

Aired December 11, 2002 - 16:00   ET

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

ANNOUNCER: The American view of war. Reality isn't like the movies. And many are asking -- what's the rush in Iraq?
Democrats keep the heat on Trent Lott for remarks they call racist. Are his fellow Republicans joining the outcry?

Is cross-burning free speech? The Supreme Court takes on the question.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A burning cross more than any other burning symbol, brings intimidation to bear.

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

JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you for joining us. Senate Republican leader Trent Lott has expanded on his apology for what some have called racist remarks. A short while ago, Lott said in a radio interview that his words were -- quote -- "insensitive." He says he made a mistake when he praised Strom Thurmond's 1948 presidential bid. He said again that he does not embrace segregationist policies of the past.

Also today, the United States is allowing Yemen to have the shipment of Scud missiles seized by U.S. and Spanish forces. The Bush administration says it has no authority to keep the weapons that were found hidden aboard a North Korean ship. Yemen assured the U.S. that the missiles are for defensive purposes only. We'll have more on that story coming up.

The public criticism of Senator Trent Lott continued today, fed in part by revelations that last week's comments about Strom Thurmond's presidential campaign were almost identical to statements that Lott made back in 1980.

With me now from Capitol Hill is our congressional correspondent, Jonathan Karl. Jonathan, what is going on up there now about all this?

JONATHAN KARL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Judy, Senator Lott chose an interesting venue to come out to address his critics. He went on a conservative talk radio show, the "Sean Hannity Show," and basically elaborated on the apology he has already given.

I will give you one excerpt to kind of give you an idea. He said -- quote -- "I wanted to honor Strom Thurmond, the man who was turning 100 years old. He certainly has been a legend in the Senate, both in terms of his service and the length of his service. It was certainly not intended to endorse his segregationist policies that he might have been advocating or was advocating 54 years ago, but, obviously, I'm sorry for my words. They were poorly chosen and insensitive, and I regret that I have had the way it has been interpreted."

Now, he also said in this interview, Judy, that this was a mistake of his head, not a mistake of his heart. An interesting choice of words which he pointed out directly echoed what Jesse Jackson said in 1984, if you remember, of course, Jesse Jackson had come under fire in 1984 for calling New York City "hymietown," (ph) a remark that was interpreted as being anti-Semitic. In explaining that comment at the 1984 convention, Jesse Jackson had said, "charge it to my head, not to my heart" when he made the apology.

So Trent Lott clearly trying to remind people that there are others, others on the other side of the political aisle, that have made misstatements. Now, as for whether or not this will kind of calm the storm up here on Capitol Hill, there have already been a flurry of statements that have come out from the critics of Trent Lott, not satisfied with this.

One of whom, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Terry McAuliffe, condemned Lott for choosing to go on what he called a right-wing talk show to address his critics, and also Senator Ted Kennedy has got a statement out calling Lott's original statement racist.

This came out after the interview, calling it "shocking and irresponsible salute to bigotry," and you can imagine there will be more words of criticism coming from the Democrats about this.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KARL (voice-over): Lott's toughest critics have made it clear that even a whole-hearted apology may not be enough.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it's difficult and hard to see, in this day and age, a man who said what he said, even if he makes an apology, can still be in this role.

KARL: Seizing on the fact that Lott also praised Strom Thurmond's 1948 presidential campaign back in 1980, the chairman of the Democratic Party said Lott's words reflected an unfortunate pattern of racist remarks that reflects Senator Lott's true prejudices on race.

But Lott's Senate colleagues in both parties don't seem to agree.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I personally do not think that Trent Lott is a racist.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I believe he's open to all people. He's -- I've never heard him -- I've been with him in the House and the Senate, utter anything that I would consider, or anybody would consider racist.

KARL: Others, like Joe Lieberman, stopped short of calling Lott a racist, but said they wanted to hear more from him, and from President Bush.

SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN (D), CONNECTICUT: The longer the president waits to speak out, the more the wounds that were done by Trent Lott's statements go deeper.

KARL: At the White House, Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said nothing has changed from yesterday when he said Lott's apology ended the matter.

QUESTION: Is the White House prepared to actually denounce the statement that Senator Lott made?

ARI FLEISCHER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I made President Bush's statement very clear yesterday on this topic, and about what the progress our nation has made on racial issues, and how we are a better nation today as a result of the civil rights movement, and the civil rights changes.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KARL: Now the significant question is what will the moderate Republicans say about Trent Lott's statement? Many of them have been privately very concerned about this controversy, but they have been quiet.

We have an answer, in part, to that coming from Arlen Specter, moderate Republican up for re-election in the next cycle from Pennsylvania.

He put out a statement saying -- quote -- "I know Trent Lott very well from working with him in the Senate for the last 14 years, and can vouch for the fact that he is no supporter of Senator Strom Thurmond's 1948 platform. His comment was an inadvertent slip, and his apology should end the discussion. So, clearly, many Republicans, including some moderate Republicans at this point sticking up very strongly for Senator Lott -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: OK, Jon Karl, reporting on all this from the Capitol.

We just want to add that Trent Lott's Republican Senate colleague Bill Frist is among those coming to Lott's defense. I caught up with Senator Frist a little earlier today, and I asked him if he thinks Lott should remain in the Senate leadership.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. BILL FRIST (R), TENNESSEE: He's not a racist. I've known Trent well the last eight years. The spin to this and the interpretation of this, I think, is abhorrent.

I do think that Trent could have apologized quicker, made it much clearer to the American people. It's a three-day story now, and it should have been a one-day story.

I do think it is very important that he, personally -- the United States Senate make it very clear that there is absolutely no -- absolutely no tolerance for any element of racism or non- discrimination of inequity (ph) as part of, either proceedings or individuals in the party in leadership positions.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: And my complete interview with Senator Frist is coming up a little later this hour.

Maryland's Democratic congressman, Elijah Cummings, is also following the Lott episode. Now, Cummings was just elected chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus yesterday. I spoke with Congressman Cummings just a short time ago, and I started by asking if he thinks Lott should step down as Republican Senate leader.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D), MARYLAND: I think that it's going to be very difficult for him to lead. We are a country, a very diverse country, which has made a lot of progress over the last 50 years. Statements like those made by Mr. Lott merely tear up the fabric of this country, and I think that the Republicans would do well to choose someone else to lead.

WOODRUFF: As you know, his office has said it was offhand, it was at a birthday party, he didn't mean what it sounds like he meant.

CUMMINGS: Well, until I found out just this morning that there apparently was a similar statement back in 1980, I was more accepting of that. When I found out that there was a similar statement back in 1980, that made me question, seriously, whether this was just a misstatement.

WOODRUFF: The Congressional Black Caucus. You are representing an important group of members of the House of Representatives at a time when Democrats have done very poorly. You're coming off midterm elections where the Democrats, for some, it was a disaster. And there are people in your party who are saying the party should move to the center, and not just count on the traditional base, including minorities. What do you say to those folks?

CUMMINGS: I say to those folks -- it's interesting, first of all, that while the party was not doing so well, the Congressional Black Caucus added an additional member. Two, I say to them, the words of Senator Wellstone. We cannot be about the business of just moving to the center of the political spectrum. We have to be about the business of moving to the center of people's lives.

That's what this is about. In other words, prescription drugs, education for children. Things of that nature are very important. That's what we have to do.

WOODRUFF: But how does the party do that? How does the party continue to appeal to minorities, including African-Americans, and reach out to the broad center?

CUMMINGS: I think do you it, basically, the way Mary Landrieu did it down there in Louisiana. She may be to the center, but she talked about the basic issues that concern people every day. The things that allow their children to be -- to grow up to be all that God meant for them to be. The things that made it possible for them to have the health care that they need.

Those are the crucial issues that Americans want to know about. They want to know that when they get a statement from their stock broker that it's accurate. They want to know that they can retire. And those are the things that we've got to concentrate on.

You know, some people may say they may be old issues, but they go to the very center of what we hard-working Americans are all about.

WOODRUFF: Are you feeling any outreach right now from the White House, from the Republican Party? I mean, did you get any congratulatory calls from the other side the aisle, for example?

CUMMINGS: No.

WOODRUFF: From the White House or...

CUMMINGS: No. We -- the Congressional Black Caucus met with President Bush once, and we will be meeting to try to figure out whether we want to meet with him again.

We had a good meeting -- a good meeting when he first came in, and after that, he said he simply did not have time, because of 9/11. So -- but in America, if you're the president of the greatest and one of the most diverse countries in the world, if you're the president of one of the most diverse countries in the world, it is important that you meet with every segment of that society. And here we have 39 people who each represent 665,000 people, and I think the president will meet with us.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Elijah Cummings, the new incoming chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus. We did that interview just a few hours ago, and not long after the interview, Senator Trent Lott called Congressman Cummings. A spokesman for the congressman said he doesn't know everything that was said in the call, but he described it a gesture by Lott to reach out to the Congressional Black Caucus.

We also want to mention that Trent Lott will be a guest tonight on "LARRY KING LIVE" at 9:00 Eastern. He will join Larry by phone.

And one more note on politics, on history and the issue of race. The Supreme Court today heard arguments over a Virginia law that bans cross burning. An attorney for men convicted under the law argued cross burning is a form of free speech. He told justices they should -- quote -- "err on the side of the First Amendment."

Several justices, however, noted the long history of cross burning as a symbol of racial hatred. A decision in the case is expected in June.

Well, there is much more ahead on "INSIDE POLITICS."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: I'm Bill Schneider in Washington. Most Americans think U.N. weapons inspections in Iraq are a crock. So why are they so eager for them to continue?

WOODRUFF: Also ahead, defending against smallpox as a terrorist weapon. Senator and doctor, Bill Frist talks about U.S. policy, the benefits, and the risks.

And the early Democratic presidential standings in New Hampshire. We will have a sneak preview of a new Hotline Poll.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Secretary of State Colin Powell says North Korea is a dangerous proliferater of weapons, but he says the U.S. is letting a ship carrying North Korean missiles go on to Yemen after getting assurances from the Arab nation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: After a flurry of phone calls and after getting assurances directly from the president of Yemen, President Saleh, that this was the last of a group of shipments that go back some years, and had been contracted for some years ago, this would be the end of it, and we had assurances that these missiles were for Yemeni defensive purposes, and under no circumstances would they be going anywhere else.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: CNN's John King is at the White House with more on the release of these missiles. John, is this diplomatic headache now behind the White House, and just how much of a concern is the supplier here, North Korea?

JOHN KING, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, it certainly is embarrassing to the White House, Judy, to have a country that is a stated ally of the United States in the war on terrorism buying missiles from a nation that President Bush says is part of the axis of evil, that the White House says is the world's greatest arms bazaar, selling dangerous technology to anyone around the world. So it is certainly embarrassing.

You heard Secretary of State Powell saying Yemen has promised that this is it, that this shipment is the final shipment, the last time it will buy anything from North Korea. We often hear as Congress is debating legislation, let's not make the perfect the enemy of the good. I think you can apply that phrase in this case to the president's foreign policy. Yemen is providing key support in hunting down al Qaeda, it is a key base now of CIA operations looking for al Qaeda operatives. The White House deciding in this case, it had no standing under international law to block this shipment. It certainly doesn't like it, it doesn't like it when anyone provides North Korea with hard cash that the White House says North Korea can then use on its nuclear program, but they decided in this case, because Yemen -- the relationship with Yemen is so important in the war on terrorism, that they were just going to have to let those missiles go through, voice their objections, but not stop the missiles -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Fascinating the way this whole thing unfolded. All right, John. Thank you very much.

Well, meanwhile, in Iraq today, an expanded team of U.N. weapons inspectors searched six sites, including a military factory built just a few years ago.

Our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider, has new poll numbers on the showdown with Iraq. Bill, do Americans, first of all, have confidence in this U.N. inspections process?

SCHNEIDER: No. Start with this: 63 percent believe Iraq currently has weapons of mass destruction. Another 28 percent believe Iraq is trying to develop those weapons. The percentage of Americans who think there's nothing for the inspectors to find? Three. OK, but will the inspectors be able to find that incriminating evidence? Seventy percent of Americans say no, Iraq has hidden the evidence too well.

Now what about that 12,000-page declaration the Iraqis produced last weekend? The percentage of Americans who believe that report is accurate and complete -- 7. Ninety-one percent say it's a crock, even though I suspect most people, unlike you and me, Judy, actually haven't read it.

WOODRUFF: So, Bill, are you saying that Americans are ready for war with Iraq?

SCHNEIDER: Well, you know, while most people don't have much confidence in the inspection process, they'd like to see it played out. There's no rush to war. Even if the United States believes Iraq's report is inaccurate, two-thirds of Americans say the U.S. should not take action until U.N. inspectors find the evidence against Iraq.

Even those who believe Iraq already has the weapons say the U.S. should wait until the case is proved. The Bush administration says it has the evidence now.

Should the U.S. release that evidence publicly in order to justify taking action? Yes. The public has already made a judgment about Iraq, but people don't think the U.S. should act until either the U.S. or the U.N. produces the evidence.

WOODRUFF: And if it comes down, Bill, to either the U.S. or the U.N., who do the American people say they're more likely to believe?

SCHNEIDER: Well, Judy, no surprise here. People say they'd believe the Bush administration. But you know, not a huge majority. It's 52 percent. The U.N. still has a lot of credibility, and most Democrats say they believe the U.N. over the Bush administration.

WOODRUFF: Hmm. Very interesting. All right. Bill, thanks very much.

Well, when and if war breaks out with Iraq, it may not play out conflicts that have been dramatized on the big screen. Our national correspondent Bruce Morton reminds us that Americans have fought in very different kinds of wars.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRUCE MORTON, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is the movie "Pearl Harbor," but this is the way many Americans remember their country's wars. The bad guys start something and the U.S., the good guys, finish it a winner.

And the U.S. has fought wars like that. Not just World War II, but Korea. The U.S. led the United Nations response when North Korea invaded South Korea, though the end result was a tie, not a victory. The Gulf War, Iraq's Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. The first President Bush led a coalition which drove him out of Kuwait. The war against terror: al Qaeda attacked the Trade Center and the Pentagon, the U.S. sent troops to Afghanistan, overthrew the Taliban and put al Qaeda on the run. That war isn't over, but Osama bin Laden's forces have lost people and bases and weapons.

But there's another kind of war when the U.S. Wants to fight and finds an excuse, sending U.S. troops into what the Mexicans thought was Mexico, for instance, and when the shooting started saying, Ah-ha! This is the war we wanted.

Newspaper publishers William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer may have started the Spanish-American War with the slogan, "Remember the Maine," when that U.S. battleship blew up in Havana Harbor, an accident, historians think now. But Hearst, you furnish the pictures, he told an artist, and I'll furnish the war, did exactly that and got his war.

Vietnam may have been a third kind of war. The Gulf of Tonkin resolution gave President Lyndon Johnson freedom to wage the war, but recently released text of Johnson phone calls show that what he really wanted to do and couldn't, was find a way out.

And now Iraq. The administration says the U.S. won't necessarily wait for the other side to strike first, that the U.S. will feel free to land the first blow, to be the aggressive. Do most Americans agree?

KEATING HOLLAND, CNN POLLING DIRECTOR: The majority of Americans, in general, believe that the U.S. should not attack unless this country is attacked first. However, when it comes to Iraq, the American public feels completely differently. Two-thirds believe that it's OK to attack Iraq, even if Iraq does not attack the United States first.

MORTON: So in this case, President Bush has said he may change the old, Let the bad guy start it rule, and seems to have the country with him.

Bruce Morton, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Hmm.

Coming up, lessons learned from September the 11th. Does the United States need a domestic spying agency? I'll talk to one of the leaders one of the leaders of an investigation into the terror attacks.

Plus, the controversy over smallpox vaccinations. A diagnosis from the only doctor in the Senate.

(MARKET UPDATE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Is working under the Capitol dome a disadvantage when it comes to running for the White House? Our Jeff Greenfield investigates. That's coming up.

But first, this "News Alert."

(NEWS ALERT)

WOODRUFF: A new Congressional report details -- quote -- "significant gaps in U.S. intelligence" leading up to the September 11 attacks. Unclassified parts of this 10-month investigation were released today.

The No. 1 Republican on the Senate intelligence committee says that he wishes the report had gone further to hold top officials accountable. Senator Richard Shelby is with us now from Capitol Hill.

Senator Shelby, before I ask you about people being held accountable I want to ask you this: Should Americans be angry more wasn't done in the intelligence community to put information together to either prevent or mitigate what happened on September the 11th?

SEN. RICHARD SHELBY (R), ALABAMA: Well, angry, anxious and concerned. I think all of those, because, Judy, our investigation, the House-Senate joint committee has found out a lot of information. Had that information been shared by the various intelligence agencies and acted upon in a timely manner, we don't know if September the 11th would have happened or not.

But the information was not acted upon. It was not shared. And this shows that there are a lot of shortcomings in our community. WOODRUFF: Are you able to pinpoint those now to the point that they can be fixed? These problems can be fixed?

SHELBY: We hope so, Judy. We have made a lot of recommendations. You have a copy of that. What I would like to get out -- and this is the classified information -- that's the findings that will back up our recommendations.

We're now trying to declassify that, because I think the American people ought to know the failures that have happened in the community. And that would support why we're making our recommendations.

WOODRUFF: You have called on people to be held accountable for what happened. Among others, you've talked about the CIA Director George Tenet.

But my question to you is, are you a lone voice on this? Really, you are just about the only one that we know of who is out there saying, people ought to be held accountable for this.

(CROSSTALK)

SHELBY: No, I'm not the only one. I might be vocal about it.

Senator Levin, my colleague from Michigan, has been very vocal about accountability. As a matter of fact, in the joint hearings back in October, he asked Director Mueller, Tenet and others: Did they believe in accountability? Why weren't people accountable? Why weren't people held accountable?

We're all accountable. We're all responsible. But it seems to me that nothing has changed in the intelligence community, despite all the failures.

WOODRUFF: The work that your commission, your committees, joint committees have done now is going to be picked up and carried on by this Kissinger commission, the commission appointed by the president and others headed by Henry Kissinger.

Are you absolutely confident that that group, that commission is going to do the work necessary to both complete the investigation and make sure that the fixes get made?

SHELBY: First of all, I'm confident that they can. I'm confident about some of the appointments thus far that will be on the commission. I think that they owe it to the American people. I believe most of these people understand that.

They're experienced in government. They know that there are problems in the intelligence community. They can start where we left off. Their scope will be broader. It will be deeper. And they'll have more time. What we've come up with, we believe, is a good report. It's substantive and it's credible, but it's not the end of the story.

WOODRUFF: And, Senator, I'm now able to confirm some news that CNN has learned. And that is that the vice chairman of that commission to look into what went wrong before 9/11, former Democratic Senator George Mitchell, has stepped down from his position on the commission. He's going to be replaced by former Democratic Congressman Lee Hamilton.

Any comment on this?

SHELBY: First of all, George Mitchell, our former leader and my former colleague, is very able. I hate to see him step down, because he would bring a lot of force and a lot of diligence and a lot of knowledge to the commission.

But Lee Hamilton, a former colleague, congressman, now head of the Woodrow Wilson unit, whatever it is.

WOODRUFF: Center.

SHELBY: Center with Princeton University.

He's very able, very knowledgeable about these issues, testified before our joint inquiry. That would be a good appointment, too. I wish we had them both on the commission.

WOODRUFF: Well, Senator Richard Shelby, we thank you so much.

SHELBY: Thank you, Judy.

WOODRUFF: It's good to see you. We appreciate it.

SHELBY: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: There's a survey out today that shows two out of every three Americans are willing to be vaccinated against smallpox. The prospect of war Iraq has heightened fears that the disease might be used as a terrorist weapon.

I asked the only doctor in the Senate, Republican Bill Frist, what the federal government is doing in case of a smallpox attack and how worried the public should be.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FRIST: The risk of smallpox is real. It is a potentially devastating virus, especially if it's used as a weapon of mass destruction. So, we know the risk is real.

And I would argue, and most people would agree, that that risk is increasing. It's increasing for America, for our population. And our vulnerabilities -- and this is what frightens people, but this is where government must respond -- our vulnerabilities to smallpox today remain high. We're not underprepared, but we're still unprepared in the event that smallpox is used as a weapon of bioterror or mass destruction in the United States.

WOODRUFF: So, right now, the military is getting these vaccinations, people who might be going into a theater where they would be at risk, first-responders.

What should happen next? Should all Americans receive the vaccination? And should people have the right not have it, if they are concerned about the potentially lethal side effects?

FRIST: There are really two issues today.

One is post-event. If smallpox appears, say, right here in Washington, D.C., or down in Nashville, Tennessee, what do you do? And the administration and the policy under Secretary Thompson is pretty clear what you do. And it's been laid out. You want to get that vaccine as soon as possible. And that vaccine will be available to you.

What is currently being discussed and what I get asked about a lot, and a lot of people are insecure about, is, what about today, before smallpox comes to our shores? Can I get that vaccine on my arm or for my children today? That policy has not yet been articulated.

Personally -- and I say this as a physician, but also as a United States senator -- I do think that everybody in this country, every American, should have the opportunity to make an informed choice, informed choice, as to whether or not to get that vaccination, once we have enough of that licensed vaccine available.

But right now, today, if you wanted it or I wanted it or anybody wanted it, you couldn't get that vaccine, not yet.

WOODRUFF: But, at some point, people will be able to get it. And they should be -- I hear you saying they should be able to opt out if they're concerned?

FRIST: Absolutely. Ultimately, it's an individual decision, I believe.

Nobody can quantify the ultimate, the real risk. I'll say the risk is real. And I think Iraq probably has it. I think Saddam Hussein has it. He's a mass serial killer. We know that. We know he's used chemical weapons on his own people. If he has smallpox, he is likely to use it. There's no question about it. And he knows that we are vulnerable in that regard.

So, at the end of the day, I think that we should, everybody should be able to make that informed decision.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Senator Bill Frist talking to me just a couple of hours ago.

Coming up next: Tucker Carlson and Margaret Carlson on land mines in Iraq.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

First of all, we learned today in a report that the Bush administration is planning to use land mines in Iraq, despite a U.S. policy that says land mines should be phased out of use in wartime, except in North Korea, by the year 2003.

What's going on here? Is this the right, is this the appropriate thing to do under these circumstances, Tucker?

TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST, "CROSSFIRE": Well, it certainly is.

The report, the one report in a major American daily newspaper I read this morning was inaccurate, to the extent it left out the key fact about American land mines, which is, they're safe for civilians, because they become inactive or they self-destruct within a period of days or hours. They're very different than the kind of land mines that are still causing civilian casualties in, say, Cambodia or Angola or Laos or Afghanistan or other places around the world.

So, as fashionable as being against the land mines is, it's an inaccurate stance against these kind of land mines, because, again, they don't pose a threat to civilian populations and they are effective as a deterrent in war.

WOODRUFF: Margaret, what about it? If these are different kind of land mines, if they are not as lethal as the others, should really people be as upset?

MARGARET CARLSON, "TIME": Well, if Tucker's right -- and I have no doubt to ever doubt Tucker -- then the fact that 20,000 civilians are killed each year worldwide from land mines, and 80 percent of those are children, is not an argument against land mines that self- destruct in such a short period.

But if they're not, certainly, the United States has more sophisticated and better weapons than land mines, given the hazards that they pose for years later.

WOODRUFF: The other story -- and I'm going get to this very quickly, even though it's a huge subject -- the U.S. reserving the right to retaliate using nuclear weapons, if the Iraqis were to come at the U.S. with biological or chemical weapons.

Tucker?

T. CARLSON: Well, if there's one good thing about nuclear weapons, it's that they're a marvelous deterrent. And they have the capacity to prevent other nations from doing terrible things, like using, say, smallpox.

So, if it's a choice between threatening Iraq with nuclear annihilation or having smallpox unleashed upon the world, I think it's a pretty small price to pay to say to Iraq: Don't do it or we'll send nuclear weapons in.

So it's an effective and good thing, it seems to me. WOODRUFF: Margaret?

M. CARLSON: Well, that's the old policy, which is containment and deterrence. The preemption in the national strategic policy paper seems to say that an envelope of anthrax and the United States has the right to go nuclear.

Now, there are low-yield nuclear weapons that aren't the way we think of the mushroom cloud nuclear weapons. But, nonetheless, that's a pretty strong statement. And it should be something that the United States retains as a final warning, not something that you put out there without specifying in any way. And the United States' policy was not to specify, but to keep this in your arsenal of things to put out there.

WOODRUFF: All right, obviously, these are two things we could go on at much greater length.

Thank you both. It's always good to see you on Wednesday. And we'll see you next week.

T. CARLSON: Thanks, Judy.

M. CARLSON: Thanks, Judy.

WOODRUFF: Margaret Carlson, Tucker Carlson.

Still ahead: Something is missing from the very early race for the White House. Up next: What do most recent presidents have that most of the current Democratic hopefuls do not?

Jeff Greenfield has the answer when we return.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Checking just one headline in our "Campaign News Daily": Democratic Senate Leader Tom Daschle is said to be talking with advisers about a run for the White House. Former Senator Bob Kerrey tells Daschle's home-state newspaper, "The Sioux Falls Argus Leader," that he has talked with Daschle about mounting a campaign for the White House.

Well, the Reverend Al Sharpton is taking a first step toward a run for president. Sharpton will file papers with the Federal Election Commission to set up a presidential exploratory committee. He's to make the filing on January 20, Martin Luther King Day.

Well, the current crop of Democratic presidential hopefuls may be lacking, if you consider a lesson from election 2002 and presidential elections of the past.

Here now: our senior analyst, Jeff Greenfield.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SR. ANALYST (voice-over): There was one piece of good news battered Democrats took from last month's midterm elections. New Democratic governors were elected in Pennsylvania, Illinois, Michigan, Kansas, Wisconsin and many other states.

Democratic governors, old and new, gathered in Washington this week, asking, among other things, for a bigger voice in their party. And therein lies an intriguing political tale. Look at the list of Democratic presidential wanna-bes: Lieberman, Kerry, Edwards, Daschle, all senators. Then there's Gore, an ex-senator, and Dick Gephardt, long-term congressman. Only Howard Dean, outgoing governor of Vermont, is from a statehouse.

Now look at the last five presidents. All of them, except for the first George Bush, came to prominence as a governor. In fact, only two presidents of the 20th century, Warren Harding and John Kennedy, were elected as sitting senators.

By contrast, Barry Goldwater and George McGovern, both sitting senators, suffered two of the worst landslide losses in modern history.

WALTER MONDALE, (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He won't tell you. I just did.

GREENFIELD: Walter Mondale, who served in the Senate before becoming vice president, is the third member of that unhappy troika.

Back in 1998, when Republicans were looking for a presidential candidate, they chose George W. Bush of Texas from a whole platoon of big-state Republican governors: Pataki of New York, Whitman in New Jersey, Ridge of Pennsylvania, Engler of Michigan.

But what big-state governors are Democratic this year? Only New Jersey's Jim McGreevey, too young and too new, and California's Gray Davis, who limped to a highly unconvincing victory in November and took himself out of the running this week.

(on camera): That's one reason why the long-shot candidacy of Vermont's Howard Dean isn't being dismissed out of hand. Voters seem to like presidential candidates without the Washington insider taped on their resumes. And right now, Dean is the only one of the Democratic wanna-bes without that dubious distinction on his resume.

Jeff Greenfield, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Dubious distinction.

Well, coming up next: a very early look at how some Democratic hopefuls fare among New Hampshire voters, the "Inside Buzz" from the political hot line, and the latest sign that John Kerry is on a role in the so-called invisible primary.

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WOODRUFF: I can tell you that "The Hotline" is a daily must-read for anyone in the business of politics. With me now is the editor in chief of "The Hotline," Chuck Todd.

And you have got a few little hot tips for us.

First of all, in the state of New Hampshire, there's been a new poll with some interesting results.

CHUCK TODD, EDITOR IN CHIEF, "THE HOTLINE": Yes.

We commissioned a poll from our friends at Global Strategy Group, the polling company, a Democrat and a Republican firm. And we tested both the entire Democratic field, one that would include Al Gore and not Joe Lieberman and then one that included Joe Lieberman, not Al Gore.

What's interesting is that Al Gore doesn't lead in any of them. John Kerry leads both matchups. In the matchup with Al Gore, we had John Kerry with 36 percent, Al Gore with 21 percent, a double-digit lead for John Kerry. Now, some folks could explain this away as saying, well, John Kerry is from a neighboring state, a neighboring media market, even. We know how powerful the Boston media market is.

And we took this poll. It happened to be two days after he announced his presidency, his candidacy, exploratory candidacy.

WOODRUFF: So, he's clearly getting a little bump?

TODD: He's clearly getting a little bump. Without him, he's the clear front-runner in New Hampshire. He's got -- the only other two people in double-digits are Joe Lieberman and Dick Gephardt.

WOODRUFF: Tom Daschle, you've been watching the fact that he's now talking seriously about whether to run for president.

TODD: The buzz is really heating up hard. And it almost culminated today with that item you talked about in the Sioux Falls paper.

Apparently, he's going to have a dinner with some of his key people that he'd like to work on his campaign just after Christmas, right before New Year's. He wants to make this decision at the end of the year. He's going to have some key meetings here. And he's going to decide.

Look, if Daschle gets in, he may become the front-runner in Iowa, South Dakota, another neighboring state. This could be sort of the campaign of neighboring-state candidates, not quite favorite sons, but favorite stepsons.

WOODRUFF: We've got several decisions out there at the end of the month, Gore and Daschle.

TODD: Absolutely.

WOODRUFF: And, finally, Evan Bayh, the senator from Indiana, scuttlebutt that he may looking at another run for a different office?

TODD: Well, this is really sending sort of some weird messages to a lot of people here in Washington.

Here's a guy who was a two-term governor, ran -- blew away the field in 1998 when he got elected to the Senate. Everybody assumed he was going to run for president in 2004. Well, he took himself out of that. And everybody said, OK, Evan Bayh will be the running mate. He'll be the easy-pickings running mate, because's he's a Midwesterner, conservative Democrat from a Republican state.

Well, now, if he's running for governor in 2004, is he sending the message that, well, he doesn't think he can ever run for president as a senator and maybe he misses being governor? It goes back to what Jeff Greenfield just said earlier. These guys know that it's easier being a governor. And maybe this is about 2008. And so it will be interesting watching Evan Bayh's moves on this and what message it sends to the Democratic establishment.

WOODRUFF: We should say we checked with his office today when we heard you were going to talk about this. And they said he's likely to run for reelection, but there's still that little...

TODD: I'll tell you, Senate Democrats are very nervous about this. They don't know if they could hold that Senate seat without him. It becomes a very tough proposition without Evan Bayh running.

WOODRUFF: Chuck Todd, with my favorite publication, "The Hotline," good to see you.

TODD: Thanks, Judy. All right.

WOODRUFF: Appreciate it.

Up next: a reluctant decision by Florida Governor Jeb Bush involving a government worker accused of sexual misconduct.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: A personal note now: We want to say so long to a much-loved member of our INSIDE POLITICS family.

Claire McCray (ph) has produced this program for eight years. She has given us so much of her time, her energy and her talent, always dedicated to making our political coverage the best that it can be. But Claire has given us even more than that. She's been our friend and our hero. We wish her well as she moves on to another producing assignment here at CNN.

Claire, INSIDE POLITICS is not going to be the same without you. And neither will we. Goodbye, Claire.

We're back in a minute.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: In Florida, Governor Jeb Bush says he is reluctantly reinstating a commissioner in Leon County. Rudy Maloy was acquitted last week of misdemeanor charges of expense account fraud. But Governor Bush notes that Maloy remains accused of sexual misconduct, including unwanted touching of female employees. Bush called Maloy's conduct deplorable.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. JEB BUSH (R), FLORIDA: I don't do this with any joy in my heart. The use -- the public use -- the power of an elected official should not be used to create a bad working environment or abusive working environment. And that occurred.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: Meantime, Maloy's attorney says it is not fair for Governor Bush to bring up sexual misconduct allegations against his client, which he says have not been proven. He suggests Maloy is the victim of a witch-hunt.

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

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