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CNN INSIDE POLITICS

New Majority Leader is a Win for Bush; Politicians Top Greatest Living Americans List

Aired December 25, 2002 - 16:00   ET

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

JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN: Thank you for joining us, and Merry Christmas.
America's first family is spending this holiday at Camp David. You could argue that the president received his best political gifts days and even weeks ago. Those gifts are widely expected to strengthen his hand heading into the New Year.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BILL FRIST (R-TN), MAJORITY LEADER-ELECT: And indeed the Republican Party in the broadest sense stands united.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: Bill Frist's election this week as Majority Leader gives President Bush a powerful champion for his agenda in the closely divided Senate. The White House doesn't want to be seen as having engineered Frist's promotion, but the fact is the president got his man and his way. Trent Lott and his baggage have been shoved aside.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Recent comments by Senator Lott do not reflect the spirit of our country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: Trent Lott would not have had the Majority Leader's job to give up if President Bush hadn't led his Party to victory in the mid-term election.

Last Christmas, after 9/11, Mr. Bush had grown into his role as Commander In Chief. This Christmas, he has grown into his role as leader of the Republican Party, demonstrating a political clout that may serve him well in his bid for re-election.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose elections, that's just the way it is.

(END VIDEO CLIP) WOODRUFF: As we now know, Mr. Bush won't have to worry about a challenge from Al Gore, but he does face a possible war with Iraq and a still troubled economy. And, he won't have a Democratic majority in the Senate to point fingers at.

So the president may want to count his political blessings while he can. He may have a lot to prove by next Christmas.

Like the rest of us, political leaders have plenty of holiday wishes this time of year. On this Christmas Day, we figure, there's no one more qualified to fulfill a political wish list than Santa Claus himself. He looks suspiciously like our own Bill Schneider.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: After being out all night last night in the cold, guess where Santa spent Christmas Day? Right here at the beach in Southern California. Santa's no fool, but before he jumped on his surf board, Santa left this bag of presents for his political friends, a few of whom were nice, but most of whom were naughty.

Like Congressman Jim Traficant. He's spending Christmas in the big house. He gets a get out of jail free card. That's Santa's version of a presidential pardon.

And since we're near Hollywood, here's an Academy Award for Al Gore for two performances -- a great comic turn on "Saturday Night Live." Santa loved the hot tub bit. And, a surprise ending on "60 Minutes" that kept everybody guessing right up until the end. Boy, that guy knows how to get off the stage fast.

Here's the perfect gift for Dean Barkley, Minnesota's newest senator, and soon-to-be newest former senator. A notebook for his senate memoirs.

And speaking of formers, here's a shoe horn for Senator Trent Lott, who needs it to get his foot out of his mouth.

Bill Clinton and Bob Dole have a whole new career now as members of the Senate Spouses Club. They'll have to make tea and cookies for all those hard-working politicians. This should help them get started.

Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge is a hardworking fellow and Santa has something to make his job a little easier -- this box of crayons. 64 crayons, 64 colors, 64 alert levels -- today's color is mauve. Be careful out there.

There must be something here for the Democrats. Let's see. Oh, there it is. A crystal ball. They can look into it and see if the Democratic Party has a future.

You know how President Bush just hates leaks, like the leak that he wanted Trent Lott out and Bill Frist in? Well, Santa brought the president this very handy stopper to plug up the White House. Kinda hard to get in your mouth, though.

And finally, something for the brand new Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist. If he's going to be President Bush's man in Congress, he'd better remember whose boss. You've heard of the burning bush? Well this is the talking bush. Listen.

"Together we will renew America's purpose." Senator Frist can take this with him everywhere. This guy is the only guy around who gets to operate on a surgeon.

Well, it looks like Santa has made it through another Christmas safely. What's his secret? This special hat. He got it from Attorney General John Ashcroft. It picks up signals from the Department of Homeland Security.

You be safe, too. And have a Merry Christmas. From Bill Schneider, CNN, Los Angeles.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Well, many Americans like to spend Christmas night driving around and looking at the beautiful lights and decorations. Few places are as well decked out for the holidays as the White House. So, sit back and enjoy this encore tour with first lady Laura Bush as your guide.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

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