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CNN INSIDE POLITICS

Interview With Al Sharpton; Bush Compares Iraq Standoff To Bad Rerun

Aired January 21, 2003 - 16:00   ET

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

JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: INSIDE POLITICS begins right now.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He has weapons of mass destruction, the world's deadliest weapons, which pose a direct threat to the United States, our citizens, and our friends and allies.

ANNOUNCER: President Bush compares the standoff with Iraq to a rerun of a bad movie. He vows once again the U.S. is prepared to act.

SEN. TED KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: I continue to be convinced that this is the wrong war at the wrong time.

ANNOUNCER: Senator Ted Kennedy offers his own review of White House policies at home and abroad, and gives much of it a thumb's down.

The Reverend Al Sharpton makes it official, and enters the race for president. He joins us live to talk about why he's running.

Thirty years after Roe v. Wade, abortion rights groups target the president and his policies as the White House considers its future strategy for the high court.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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

WOODRUFF: Thank you for joining us. Well, President Bush today made a point of defending U.S. policy toward Iraq, accusing Saddam Hussein of playing hide-and-seek with U.N. inspectors. In this "NewsCycle," peace activists marched outside Britain's parliament as a new poll in "The Guardian" newspaper found British support for military action against Iraq has fallen to its lowest level.

Inside, Prime Minister Tony Blair, a staunch U.S. ally, defended his policies under tough questioning before members of the House of Commons.

Here in Washington tonight, the six Democrats running for president will attend the same event for the first time, A banquet marking the 30th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision on abortion. One of those Democrats, the Reverend Al Sharpton, will join me in just a few minutes to discuss his campaign.

Well, the president's comments on Iraq were reinforced by Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, who released a new government report outlining Iraq's failure to disarm.

CNN's White House correspondent, Suzanne Malveaux, joins us now for the latest on the increasing U.S. pressure on Iraq.

Suzanne, the president keeps saying time is running out, the U.S. intends to move. But with major U.S. allies like the French and the Germans resisting, how is the administration going to move ahead?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, the administration, Judy, right now is really engaged in a full-blown public relations blitz to try to get its message out, to sell that message, not only to the American people, but also to U.S. allies. That message being that Saddam Hussein has not complied with U.N. Security Council Resolution 1441, that there are no signs that he will do so, and that international pressure is not working.

The White House already creating this Office of Global Communications to get that message out, today releasing its 32-page document, "Apparatus of Lies," outlining years of deception from Saddam Hussein.

Earlier today, we heard from the president. He was speaking with leading economists on his economic stimulus package, but he also addressed that very issue, the fact that U.N. Security Council members, Germany and France, suggesting that Saddam Hussein can be contained. President Bush making the argument that history shows that he cannot.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: He's not disarming. As a matter of fact, it appears to be a rerun of a bad movie. He's delaying. He's deceiving. He's asking for time. He's playing hide-and-seek with inspectors. One thing is for certain. He's not disarming, and so the United States of America, in the name of peace, will continue to insist he does disarm, and we will keep the pressure on Saddam Hussein.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RICHARD ARMITAGE, DEPUTY SECRETARY OF STATE: Some people may say there is no smoking gun, but there's nothing but smoke.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: Judy, another part of the White House strategy is to show that Yes, we can do this alone, if necessary. Of course, the administration would like the support of the U.N. Security Council, but it is willing to do it with its own coalition of allies and friends if necessary. And as you can see, the tremendous military buildup, another part of the strategy to show that yes, the Bush administration is ready, if necessary, to go to war with Iraq -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Suzanne, are they saying, or is it believed that the administration thinks they could go ahead without the support of traditional U.S. allies, like France and maybe like Germany?

MALVEAUX: Well, the administration, of course, is saying it would like the support of those allies. It's very important. That's why you've seen this campaign, that's why you've seen the administration working with the United Nations.

One of the arguments they make, however, is they go back to the president's September 12 speech, before the United Nations and say that that organization's credibility is on the line. That's why they're pushing them so hard. That yes, they should be on board with this. But also President Bush today making it clear that this administration would be willing to go without the United Nations' support on that. They turn to Britain and say that, yes, they have the support of Britain. They also say they have the support of other countries. They're not giving us the names of those countries at this time, but it's not ideal, but the Bush administration says yes, it would go forward.

WOODRUFF: OK. Suzanne, thank you very much.

Meantime, on Capitol Hill, Democrats are increasingly bold in their willingness to criticize White House policy toward Iraq and some Republicans are beginning to voice concerns as well.

Our Jonathan Karl is on Capitol Hill -- Jonathan, what about the reaction up there to allies saying the U.S. is moving too fast here, perhaps?

JONATHAN KARL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the president got some words of caution today from a senior Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee. In interview with CNN, Chuck Hagel said that he doesn't want to see the French dictate U.S. policy, but at the same time, he thinks it would be a grave mistake for the U.S. to go forward without the support of our allies in Iraq.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHUCK HAGEL (R), NEBRASKA: The objective is not to go to war. At least, that's not my objective. At least that's not what we've told the world. The world thinks that we're about disarming Saddam Hussein. We need to be patient here. Time is on our side here. We can afford to be patient and work this through without losing our allies here, because if we lose our allies and if we do something very precipitous, it would endanger not just Americans around the world, but it would endanger this country, our security, stability in the world for a long time to come, because we were rash in using our power.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KARL: And there was an even harsher assessment coming from the Democrats today, that coming from Ted Kennedy. In a speech at the National Press Club, said that a war with Iraq would be the wrong war at the wrong time.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KENNEDY: Surely, we can have effective relationships with other countries without adopting a chip on the shoulder foreign policy, a my way or the highway policy that makes all our goals in the world more difficult to achieve.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KARL: Now, Judy, you've also heard recently from Democrats, especially from the Democratic leader in the Senate, Tom Daschle, complaints that the president has not complied with the resolution that the Congress passed last fall authorizing the use of force in Iraq. That resolution required the White House to turn over a report on the progress towards meeting the goals of disarming Iraq within 60 days of the passage of the resolution last fall.

Those 60 days have long since passed, but today the president, the White House did send up to the Congress a report on the progress, a 13-page report. Not a real lot of surprises here, but some very strong language about Iraq. The report says, in part, "Iraq is actively working to disrupt, deny, and defeat inspection efforts."

This report also puts the Congress on notice that the White House is prepared to go to war if necessary, a message that, of course, has been sent publicly as well.

The report says -- quote -- "We are prepared, if necessary, to lead a coalition of the willing to use force to rid Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction capabilities" -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: So, Jon, do Republicans on the Hill expect the White House is going to come back to the Congress again before military action were to begin, if it begins?

KARL: No, they don't in terms of authorization. He already has the authorization to go forward, based on the resolution that was passed in the fall. But clearly, Democrats and Republicans up here expect the White House to continue to consult with the Congress as the process goes forward. But Judy, he already has the authorization to use force if they deem it necessary.

WOODRUFF: All right, Jon, thanks very much.

And a quick reminder, I spoke with Senator Ted Kennedy about Iraq and other issues a little earlier today. That interview is coming up later this hour, along with Kennedy's comments about whom he plans to support for president in 2004.

Well, tonight's dinner in Washington marking the anniversary of Roe v. Wade will bring together all six Democrats currently running for president. The perfect attendance highlights the ongoing political impact of the abortion issue, and the divisions that continue to separate the two parties.

Here now, Senior White House Correspondent John King.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Lord, also now on this 30th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, we pray for wisdom...

JOHN KING, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: A hopeful prayer to start the show, and a hopeful tone when the subject turns to the 30th anniversary of the Supreme Court's landmark abortion ruling.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How many people know about depression that comes after abortion? How many people know those things? Once they know, we feel that we can turn this ship around, and then we can overturn Roe v. Wade.

KING: An anti-abortion president is one reason social conservatives are more optimistic, though many wish Mr. Bush would speak out more often.

SANDY RIOS, CONCERNED WOMEN FOR AMERICA: I would say, if I had to give him a one to ten, I would give him about an eight. I would say on talking and leading and taking some bold moves, I'm wouldn't give him that high of a score.

(SINGING)

KING: This Internet parody from Planned Parenthood reflects the other side of abortion politics, and a harshly critical view of the president.

KATE MICHELMAN, NARAL PRO-CHOICE AMERICA: He campaigned as a moderate. He -- he talks as if he is not someone to be feared, but, in fact, he's been one of the most aggressive anti-choice presidents we've had in our history.

KING: The president favors legislation outlawing a late term abortion procedure, supports a law allowing those who attack a pregnant woman to be charged with two counts of assault, cut off funding to international family planning groups that offer abortions and abortion counseling, and extended a low income health insurance program to cover fetuses and embryos, a legal status some say could be used to challenge abortion rights.

A Supreme Court retirement could dramatically intensify the abortion debate.

PETER HART, DEMOCRATIC POLLSTER: The public still, overwhelmingly, in the 60 percent range, says a woman should have the right to choose. That has not changed over 30 years.

KING: Social conservatives already are waging a campaign against one Bush favorite, White House counsel Alberto Gonzalez, who, as a Texas Supreme Court Justice, voted with the majority in a case abortion foes say made it easier for teenagers to skirt the state's parental notification requirement. Mr. Bush says he has no specific litmus tests, but as a candidate, the president made clear he disagreed with the high court's landmark abortion ruling.

BUSH: Roe v. Wade was a reach, overstepped the constitutional bounds, as far as I am concerned.

My administration opposes partial birth abortion...

KING: Like last year, Mr. Bush plans to phone in a message to the annual anti-abortion march, but not appear in person. The White House says it's a scheduling conflict, but even many conservative allies see this president, like presidents before him, practicing cautious politics.

John King, CNN, the White House.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: The Reverend Al Sharpton says the Democrats need to expand their base, and he's the right man for the job. Straight ahead, Al Sharpton joins me to talk about his decision to run for president and the issues that will define his campaign.

Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson will be along to debate U.S. policy toward Iraq and the flagging support of some U.S. allies.

And later...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KENNEDY: We have administration's policies that are dividing us on race, and dividing us on riches, and that is basic, fundamentally wrong.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: Senator Ted Kennedy talks about race, Iraq, and other issues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Hispanics are now the nation's largest minority. The Census Bureau reports today that the Latino population stands at 37 million people, nearly a million more than black Americans. According to the new numbers, the Hispanic population jumped nearly 5 percent from the year 2000 to 2001. The black population grew 2 percent. But according to CNN exit polls from the last presidential election, Hispanics made up only 7 percent of those voting in 2000, while black Americans accounted for 10 percent.

So which political party benefits the most? Hard to predict the future, but in the 2000 election, 62 percent of Hispanics voted for Al Gore, while only 35 percent cast ballots for George Bush.

And what do the new numbers mean for black Americans? I'll ask, among other things, Democratic presidential candidate Al Sharpton next on INSIDE POLITICS.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Add another name to the list of Democratic candidates in next year's presidential race. The Reverend Al Sharpton today formally filed papers announcing his bid for the Democratic nomination. The civil rights activist is the sixth Democrat to join the race.

Our Candy Crowley takes a closer look at Sharpton and where he stands on some key issues.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Even in New Hampshire, where presidential dreamers arrive almost as often as the snow...

REV. AL SHARPTON (D), CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST: I'm the real Democrat. I am the only candidate that is unequivocally against the war, that is unequivocally against the tax cuts.

CROWLEY: Al Sharpton is an unusual sight at the usual spots. Not to belabor the obvious, but he is African-American, competing for a spot that has always, always gone to white men.

SHARPTON: I understand more about the global village we live in than anybody talking about running, because most people in the world are not rich, white males.

CROWLEY: It's hard to know what to make of Al Sharpton who is, depending on who you talk to, a civil rights activist who speaks for the voiceless and the hopeless, or a media manipulator who exploits racial tensions to feed an outsized ego.

Sharpton has been central to New York's most racially explosive moments, demanding a murder indictment against Bernard Goetz, the white man who shot four unarmed black teens Goetz said were trying to rob him. Leader of the Days of Outrage protest after a group of white teens with bats assaulted three black men in Howard Beach. And prominent adviser to teenager Tawana Brawley, who complained she was raped by five or six white men. She is now thought to have made it all up. Sharpton was held liable for defaming one of the accused.

SHARPTON: If all the opposition can do is pull one 15-year-old civil suit out, then I'm in good shape compared to what others have had to explain in New Hampshire.

CROWLEY: He is the most anti-tax cut, the most anti-death penalty, the most anti-war candidate of the '04 group.

SHARPTON: Get used to this. When I'm president, it just opens up like that. This is just a dress rehearsal. This is Pennsylvania Avenue.

CROWLEY: He was the only '04 candidate to show up at Washington's weekend peace rally. Sharpton is an anti-establishment figure who admits to having been an FBI informant, a politician without office, and a minister without parish, though not without talent, as evidenced during his trip to South Carolina, home of the first Southern primary.

SHARPTON: You know, if you see it on the news, they just say I protest other folks. I also challenge us. All of this violence and dope selling and disrespecting our women, we got to stop that in our community.

CROWLEY: But while he may be a natural on the pulpit, Sharpton may need pointers on the fine art of campaign chat. He seems more comfortable on his omnipresent cell phone than with the people who have come to talk to him. It would be easy to dismiss Al Sharpton, but his opponents don't. Perhaps he cannot win, but Sharpton could bring out enough black votes to rearrange the primary dynamic.

SHARPTON: If one kid in one barrio or ghetto or in Appalachia could say, Yes, he's right, I don't have to come from the so-called pedigree of those that are at the top. Regular people can think and lead and serve, then it's worth the trip.

CROWLEY: In that, he may succeed. To meet Al Sharpton is to remember him.

Candy Crowley, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: The reverend Al Sharpton goes on the record now to talk about his decision to run for the presidency.

Reverend Sharpton good to see you.

SHARPTON: Good evening -- good afternoon, I should say.

WOODRUFF: Well, you've jurisdiction heard -- what you were saying at the end of the report from Candy Crowley, you talked about pedigree, regular people can run for the presidency. A John Edwards, if he were sitting with us here, or Joe Lieberman, both who came from families of very modest incomes, say what are you talking about? We come from a modest background too.

SHARPTON: I don't think there's any question others have come from modest backgrounds. The question is whether they are presidential platforms and whether their years of public service have been to those people that are common. We're talking about people that once he broke out, in my judgment, in some cases have advocated things that are far more helpful to those that are wealthy and those that, in my judgment, have always had the doors open than to those that are working class of all races. It's not a question of where you came from. It's a question of what you do when you arrive somewhere.

WOODRUFF: We've talked to a number of Democrats, people who like you, who respect you, who say you're very intelligent, great political skills, but they have doubts about whether you can win this nomination. Even if you don't agree with that, does that perception hurt you?

SHARPTON: No, I think that first of all there are six people going to run. I will officially announce in April Or May. And five of us or wrong. I'm not the only one that may not win and I'm clearly one that can win. I think if we expand the base of the Democratic party. You just had an interesting story where Hispanics now are the largest minority group in America according to the census. Let's talk about how do we get Hispanic votes?

This morning, Roberto Hamrez (ph) chairs my exploratory committee is a Latino leader. We to jail on a Hispanic issue for civil disobedience. I campaigned all over this country for those candidates. I can match that against anyone in the race. If you expand the base and if you bring in people that have not been in historically, that will be the margin of victory for the Democrats in 2004.

WOODRUFF: You've long argued that life -- that Americans have not been fair to black Americans, to African-Americans of this country that has been repeatedly unfair. Can the same thing be said for Hispanic Americans?

SHARPTON: I think if you look at the language discrimination, if you look at the fact some people have voted against even the language training in schools if you look at how immigration laws have been used against Hispanics in the Mexican border, I've been there. Absolutely, you can make that case. As well as for working class whites. I was in Iowa, where farmers said the Farm Aid bill helped the big guys, didn't help me. It's not just blacks and Latinos. It's also working class whites that have not had a voice, that I intend to give a voice when we make this run.

WOODRUFF: Another point, we've talked to many Democrats. A view among a number we've talked to, is political races you've been involved in New York, you've ended up hurting the Democrat, often the liberal Democrat in that contest and helping the Republican. There was another article this month in the "American Prospect Magazine" making that point. Is that a problem for you in your own party?

SHARPTON: No, I think that it is a problem for those that want to continue to assume that we that have something to say and advocate are going with them no matter what. First of all, it's not true. Yesterday, not five years ago, yesterday we had the...

WOODRUFF: But you have endorsed Republicans over Democrats?

SHARPTON: I've only endorsed Republicans one time, maybe 20 years ago. But what -- my point is yesterday, we had Martin Luther King ceremony at National Action Network. Every leading Democrat in the state was there. Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, Senator Schumer, Senator Clinton, all of whom I supported. Because I wouldn't support one person for mayor, and because another person I questioned that I want support them, clearly I've supported many liberal Democrats. I don't think they're masochistic to come to our headquarters and thank people if we weren't in support of them. WOODRUFF: One other quick question. You write in your book, who others who bring up your history, you said any problems in your past, should be ready to get hit back later. And I'm quoting, you said, "That makes me want to run more, so they can compare when they consider my baggage to the trunks of the some of the leaders of the Democratic party."

What and who are you talking about?

SHARPTON: Again, I think that we play different standards. People call me fighting and pursuing justice baggage, controversial. Others that -- for example, you have a sitting vice president that won't, to this day talk about meetings with Enron around energy legislation.

WOODRUFF: You were talking about Democrats here.

SHARPTON: In the Democratic party. We've got all kinds of people running for president that has had personal question. I'm saying let us be fair. What I bring to the table, maybe people disagree with my pursuit of justice matters. What I bring to the table is maybe people felt I raised questions they were uncomfortable with. It's far more credible to stand up for justice and risk controversy than some of the personal issues that some people who run for president had to answer, and may not have been guilty of them.

I'm not going to be intimidated by a double standard, Judy, that's all.

WOODRUFF: Reverend Al Sharpton, thank you very much for joining us.

SHARPTON: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: We'll be following your campaign.

SHARPTON: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: And just ahead, President Bush sits down with experts to push his economic stimulus plan. When we return, hear what Mr. Bush had to say good the get-together.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: President Bush today opened a new front in his bid to sell his economic stimulus plan to the public. He summoned more than a dozen economists to the White House to talk about his proposals.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: We had a great discussion about the plan that I laid out for the Congress to consider and to enact. A plan which focuses on job creation, a plan which recognizes that money in the consumer's pocket will help grow this economy, a plan that recognizes there are some long term things we can do to make sure the investor feels comfortable taking risks in America. It's a plan that recognizes that economic growth is not as strong as it should be. It's a plan that's good for all Americans.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: Democrats and a few Republicans vow to fight the president's plan, saying it favors the rich and would do too little to stimulate the economy.

So how are the stock markets reacting to all this talk on taxes and the economy?

Rhonda Schaffler joins us live from Wall Street with an eye on your money.

Hello, Rhonda.

RHONDA SCHAFFLER, NEW YORK STOCK EXCHANGE SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Judy.

It was interesting in many ways, not on the radar screen for some investors today. You know what they're fretting about: the latest developments with Iraq. And that is really what overshadowed things today being. It overshadowed some decent news on the economy as far as housing numbers go. Also overshadowed some decent earnings reports. Traders instead are watching oil prices rise and they're concerned about developments in the Middle East.

The Dow Jones Industrial average closing near session lows, sliding 143 points. Their forth straight losing session. Nasdaq down 11 points. As far as earnings go, a couple of well-known companies, 3M and Johnson & Johnson reporting higher profit. Citigroup topped forecasts even though it's profit declined. And details on the economic front, new home construction surging 5 percent in December. It's actually at a 16-year high -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right, Rhonda, separately, what can you tell us about the recording industry going after people who download music on the Internet?

SCHAFFLER: Very interesting story here. Federal judge is ordering Verizon Communications to turn over the name of an Internet customer suspected of downloading 600 songs in one day. Verizon at first balked at the recording industries request, saying it would violate customer privacy and turn Internet provide into online policemen. The recording industry has been fighting illegal swapping of music online, which the industry blames for slowing music sales. That is the very latest on from Wall Street.

Back to you -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: OK. Rhonda, thank you.

And coming up on INSIDE POLITICS, President Bush's policy on Iraq is under the microscope. "CROSSFIRE" hosts Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson square off on that issue just ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) WOODRUFF: Packing up and heading out to the Persian Gulf, but a key ally says no to an attack on Iraq. Should the U.S. go it alone? The take from the left and the right -- coming up in our "CROSSFIRE" segment.

(NEWS BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Who will win the 2004 presidential election? A prediction from Senator Ted Kennedy next on INSIDE POLITICS.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: With us now from the CNN "CROSSFIRE" set at George Washington University: Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson.

All right, Paul, the Republicans in the House -- well, in both houses -- have voted to relax rules that govern what lobbyists can give to members of Congress. Is this smart politics?

PAUL BEGALA, CO-HOST, "CROSSFIRE": No, it's bad politics, because it makes them look hypocritical.

On the substance, some of the rules needed changing, the so- called pizza rule. They can feed staff, a small amount of money. That's fine. On the substance of the other, the travel restriction is ridiculous. Anybody who can register as a charity with the IRS, which is any nonprofit, can now fly a member of Congress to any resort, wine them and dine them, and influence them. It makes the Republicans -- well, it makes them look like hypocrites.

WOODRUFF: Tucker?

TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST, "CROSSFIRE": I hate to, answer, Judy, because I agree with Paul. And that's a disturbing concept.

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON: But I agree, fundamentally.

Members of Congress don't make enough money. They're actually more pinched financially than most people recognize. And so I think it's, of course, fine that lobbyists pay for their pizza or even meals. But I agree that it doesn't look good to get flown around the country by lobbyists. And it is a bit like the scene in "Animal Farm" when the slogans get repainted on the side of the barn.

It was only in 1995 that these rules took effect. It's probably not a good idea, politically, to start changing them this early. I do challenge Democrats to ignore the changes, though, and continue to turn down lobbyist money, because we know they're above that.

WOODRUFF: Oh, ouch.

BEGALA: That would be a good idea. No, they should.

WOODRUFF: So, is this a big deal, basically? CARLSON: No, it's not.

Look, there's a certain sort of person who thinks Washington is deeply corrupt. It's not deeply corrupt. You'll never convince that person anyway, but it doesn't add to the bouquet of Washington.

BEGALA: It depends, though. It fits in a larger context, Judy.

Recent polling CNN and others have done show more and more people think the country's on the wrong track. If we get to election time -- it's a long way away -- if we get to election two years from now and voters see, generally, that the country's going in the wrong direction, Democrats point to Republicans and say, here's another thing they did. They sold out to lobbyists in ways great and small. I do think it can hurt, in the way that the House bank scandal hurt Democrats a decade ago.

WOODRUFF: Dramatic change of subject. Let's turn to Iraq.

The president again today, Tucker, talking about Iraq, says time is running out. Now we're hearing from an American ally, the French, saying, don't go so fast. Is the Bush administration moving too quickly here?

CARLSON: Well, I think to call France an American ally may be a little strong.

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON: This is not unexpected. The president apparently sort of waved it off, France trying to get in the way, something we expected. France has business interests in Iraq. There are a lot of other motives, perhaps, behind the announcement by the French.

The question remains, is invading Iraq a good idea on the merits? And, unfortunately, announcements like this from France muddy the issue a lot and allow Democrats to say, oh, Belgium is against it. Oh, we shouldn't do it, and avoid the real debate. And that's the shame, I think.

BEGALA: Well, the question is not whether the president will listen to the government of France. We know he couldn't find France on a map.

The question is, will he listen to the people of the United States? And they're trying to tell him, go slow. They're trying to tell him, work with allies. They're trying to tell him, yes, go through the U.N. before you go the war. And if you can find any way to avoid it, do so. I'm more worried about our president not listening to the voices of his own constituents. I don't expect him to be wise or experienced enough to listen to his allies.

CARLSON: Listening to France, that's the measure of wisdom?

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: OK, that right there, boil it down, the measure of wisdom: Listen to France. I love that. Thank you, Paul.

BEGALA: Maybe you had the mute button on, Tucker. I said listen to the American people, hundreds of thousands of whom this last weekend were in the streets asking the president to go slow and to avoid a war. And I hope he listens to them.

WOODRUFF: And, Tucker, we didn't see you out there with them. All right, Tucker Carlson...

CARLSON: I was not there. That's true, Judy. Thank you. Very sharp eyes.

(LAUGHTER)

WOODRUFF: Tucker Carlson, Paul Begala, thank you both.

BEGALA: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: Up next: The Senate's leading liberal offers a detailed critique of White House politics -- Senator Ted Kennedy on why the U.S. should wait before mounting an attack against Saddam Hussein.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: As we've been reporting, Senator Edward Kennedy today unveiled a detailed critique of White House policies at home and abroad.

Earlier today, I spoke with Senator Kennedy. And I began by asking him about Iraq and statements by President Bush that time is running out and that the U.S. must be prepared to act against Saddam Hussein.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Well, I believe that this is the wrong time and the wrong war.

The administration, in the beginning, said that inspections would not work. They are working now. They should be given time. The international community wants to give this time. We ought to recognize what the greatest threat to the United States is today. I think it is the danger of al Qaeda. We saw that even today, this morning with the loss -- killing of an American serviceman.

We've seen it in Indonesia. We've seen it in Kenya. We've seen it in Yemen. It's alive and well. There's a great deal more priorities that we have here in terms of the homeland. We have to give greater, focus, attention and resource to that.

Secondly, I think the whole challenge that we're facing on North Korea is also a greater threat than Iraq. The administration had a lurching policy in the very beginning. And only in the most recent times, it has been willing to even talk to the North Koreans. And I think that this is the focus and attention. The North Koreans have the ability, in a few short weeks, to produce weapons-grade plutonium. The danger of nuclear development in North Korea, continued production of weapons, are a real threat to the United States' security.

WOODRUFF: Senator, so much to talk about today, both on the international and the domestic front.

But let me turn you to the question of the administration tax-cut proposal. They argue that it is across the board, that, yes, the well-to-do are hit more than the poor and the middle class. But they say the wealthy pay more taxes. The other argument you hear is that, during the administration of your brother, President John Kennedy, tax cuts were a good idea, across the board, including the wealthy. If that's the case, why aren't they a good idea here?

KENNEDY: Well, first of all, what we're seeing here is, the administration seems to have a domestic priority of making the wealthy wealthier. We should have policies that are going to unite us and not divide us. We have administration policies that are dividing us on race and dividing us on riches. And that is basic, fundamentally wrong. We should understand where the nation's priorities are.

WOODRUFF: Are you saying this president is just basically insensitive to the poor, to minorities?

KENNEDY: I'm saying that he's got the wrong priorities. It's how the wealthy are going to be made wealthier. That is -- you can't review what the administration's policy has been with regards to the taxes and not recognize that.

It's been basically scraps for the investments in education and in health care. And, certainly, with regards to uniting this nation in battling discrimination, we've seen an administration that gives lip service to civil rights, then proposes judges that are hostile to civil rights, and then fails to -- battles against affirmative action, which this nation, in a bipartisan way, has been committed to for 40 years, and then fails to fund the most important opportunity for children. And that is education and education funding that opens up the opportunities for full participation.

WOODRUFF: Quickly to health care.

You talk about -- you say, essentially, there should be a guarantee. Anyone with a job should be guaranteed health care. Again -- and you say the effort to have massive reform of the health care system back in the early '90s was the right way to go. I could just hear what the administration's reaction will be. Again, we don't have that kind of money. This has got to be done in concert with the private sector. It's not up to the federal government.

KENNEDY: Well, look, we can do what needs to be done.

But beyond that, we have to resist what the administration wants to do. They basically are going to hold a prescription drug program hostage until we're going to put all of our seniors into an HMO. They don't understand the HMOs are the problem, not the solution. Basically, they're going to say that we're going to let ideology interfere with scientific research, which is the key to unlocking Parkinson's disease and unlocking diabetes and unlocking many of these other kinds of diseases.

The administration -- we have to recognize that we have to hold back the administration from taking wrong steps and I think try and battle towards meaningful reform.

WOODRUFF: Finally, Senator Kennedy, on the subject of affirmative action, President Bush was asked again today about his decision to have the administration weigh in on the Michigan case. And again he's saying today, yes, I believe in diversity, the president says. But he says, I believe there are race-neutral ways to do that. You don't have to use race, in other words, as a way to achieve diversity.

Why doesn't that make good sense?

KENNEDY: Universities are the gateway to opportunity. We are a diverse country, a diverse society. They are the gateway to everything that is possible in terms of our nation.

And they have to have the opportunity to reflect that diversity. That is what affirmative action simply does. And that is why it's been supported by Republicans and Democrats for the last 40 years and now, effectively, abandoned by this president in his recent statements.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: And one more political note: Senator Kennedy was asked today whom he planned to support in the 2004 Democratic race for president. He said he expects to back his Massachusetts Senate colleague John Kerry. And -- quote -- he said, "I expect he will win."

The campaign video that helped to spark a political upset -- straight ahead, an update on the rat that stole the show in the Georgia governor's race.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Checking the headlines in our "Campaign News Daily": Senator Joe Lieberman's status as the first Jewish presidential candidate has paved the way for new campaign memorabilia -- we should say first serious candidate. The Web site JoeBeanie.com is offering what it calls the first-ever presidential campaign yarmulke. The white leather yarmulke features the Lieberman campaign logo. JoeBeanie.com, by the way, is not affiliated with the Lieberman campaign.

Political party candidates and special interests groups spent a grand total of $24 million in last fall's South Dakota Senate race, researchers say. Now, that means that each vote cost about $70.50, according to a study by Augustana College. And incumbent Democrat Tim Johnson defeated Republican John Thune by just 524 votes.

The giant rat featured in a Republican video targeting former Georgia Governor Roy Barnes is now available for rent, the campaign tape where Sonny Perdue depicted Barnes as a huge rat running roughshod across Georgia. "The Atlanta Journal-Constitution" reports that the costume was made by a Hollywood special effects firm for about $40,000. It can be yours for one week for about $1,500 -- a bargain.

Well, coming up next: a live report from our United Nations correspondent, Richard Roth. He's just back from a trip overseas with chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix.

That's coming up next, a live report.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: CNN senior United Nations correspondent Richard Roth is just back from a trip with chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix and nuclear watchdog head Mohamed ElBaradei. Both men will report to the Security Council next Monday, after visiting Iraq.

Richard Roth with us from New York's JFK International Airport -- Richard.

RICHARD ROTH, CNN SENIOR U.N. CORRESPONDENT: Judy, Hans Blix, the U.N.'s chief weapons inspector, arrived here at JFK a short time ago. Mohamed ElBaradei, who you mentioned, went to Vienna, the home of his organization, the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The two men will brief the U.N. Security Council on Monday here in New York, a very important date. A few months ago, a lot of diplomats thought it would be even more important. But, right now, Blix's inspectors seem to be the ones who are controlling the limelight, with the U.S. not too eager to push it to war at this moment.

On the plane from Athens, his last stop, here to New York, Blix was quite relaxed. He was the last one aboard. The door closed right after he got on. He also took some questions from some other passengers who happened to recognize him. Upon leaving the baggage area here in New York, he was asked by CNN if he is, indeed, going to request more time for his inspections to take place.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HANS BLIX, CHIEF U.N. WEAPONS INSPECTOR: Read my report. That is, tell them like it is, as we say in Europe. Yes, precisely. All the latest things will be there.

QUESTION: What will be your message to the Americans?

BLIX: My message will be directed to the Security Council. And it will be a description of what we are achieving and what problems we are facing. That's about it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROTH: I don't know if you could tell there, but his answer was, I don't know to whether he needs more time for inspections.

I don't want to accuse Dr. Blix of plagiarism, but I had mentioned to a tourist who was sitting near Dr. Blix that Blix was going to tell it like it is to the council. And thus I suddenly hear my words coming out of his mouth. But we're not going to accuse him of anything. But it's the first time I've heard that phrase, which probably will get a little play in news circle, that he will tell it like it is to the council. Of course, the United States government would like for Blix to tell it like it is to the Iraqi government.

Otherwise, on the plane, Blix wrote in Swedish and English. He was preparing a report for Thursday to a U.N. regional committee. Then, over the weekend, he told me he's going to be writing the big report, probably 30 minutes in length, because what's unique about this council meeting, Judy, it will be open to cameras. The council members will then go into closed session with a few questions for Blix. And then, Wednesday, they'll return with more questions -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right, it will be fascinating to see just how much distance there is between Dr. Blix and Washington.

All right, Richard Roth, just back from that trip, thanks very much.

And that's all the time we have for today's INSIDE POLITICS. I'm Judy Woodruff. Thank you for joining us.

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