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CNN INSIDE POLITICS

Has Colin Powell Shifted Burnen of Proof to Saddam Hussein?; Some Critics Say Shortage of Funds Contributed to Columbia Disaster; Is Ronald Reagan's Legacy Being Carried on by George W. Bush?

Aired February 6, 2003 - 16:00   ET

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

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is a testing time for our country. One thing is for certain, we didn't ask for these challenges, but we will meet them.

ANNOUNCER: The end game in the showdown with Iraq. Has Colin Powell shifted the burden of proof to Saddam Hussein?

A president with a plan Democrats question the administration's global direction.

SEN. BARBARA BOXER (D), CALIFORNIA: I see a doctrine that appears to me to be one of designed neglect.

ANNOUNCER: A Republic icon marks another milestone. Is Ronald Reagan's legacy being carried on by George W. Bush?

NASA's high price. On another day of tribute to the Columbia seven, more tough questions about spending and America's future in space.

DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And while many memorials will be built to honor Columbia's crew, their greatest memorial will be a vibrant space program with new missions carried out by a new generation of brave explorers.

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

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN HOST: Thank you for joining us.

President Bush meets at the White House this hour with his top diplomatic point man on Iraq. In this "News Cycle," Secretary of State Colin Powell is expected to share the feedback he's getting after his presentation to the United Nations Security Council. He appeared before a Senate committee earlier today. Powell said the administration would work toward a second U.N. resolution on Iraq, but could launch a war against Saddam Hussein without one.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: Within weeks, as the president has said, we will know enough to bring this to a conclusion one way or the other. I can't tell you today when such a resolution might be appropriate to be offered by one member of the council or another, or when there might be a vote on such a resolution, but I think we are reaching an end game in a matter of weeks, not a matter of months.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: After meeting with Secretary Powell, President Bush is expected to talk to reporters about the standoff with Iraq. We'll carry his remarks live at the bottom of this hour.

Right now, let's bring in our senior White House correspondent, John King.

John, the secretary was pretty tough yesterday. What more can the president say today?

JOHN KING, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, for starters, Judy, we're told the president will compliment the secretary of state, perhaps no surprise there. But the president wants to come out and speak today, because the administration believes there are some momentum now in selling its case for a very tough stance toward Iraq.

We are told the president will say that Secretary Powell's presentation leaves absolutely no doubt that Saddam Hussein is in open and active defiance of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1441. And the president will say, in his view, it is now imperative for the council to meet its obligations, and to make clear that it's resolutions have meaning.

The president, we are told, is also prepared to say he is more than willing to accept a second Security Council resolution as many other members of the council have called for, but that he wants the debate on any such resolution and the negotiations to take place quite quickly.

We are told the president is not ready to commit to any hard date, any hard deadline for the Security Council to act, but he will say he will accept a second resolution, so long as that resolution moves the ball forward and makes clear the diplomatic window is closing and does not in any way back away from Resolution 1441 and its clause invoking serious consequences, meaning military force, if Iraq does not come into compliance quite soon.

So, look for a very strong statement from the president, first toward Iraq, but also to try to nudge the Security Council to move forward.

WOODRUFF: Well, John, we know the administration has been fairly dismissive at times of the U.N. How important do they really believe it is to get U.N. backing now?

KING: Well, Judy, it is important from an international perspective if they can get it, to get a second resolution and to move forward under the banner of the Security Council if there is military action, and it is also important here domestically. This president has made clear, and he will make clear again, he is prepared to act outside of the United Nations. But if you look at polling here in the United States, the American people also want him to go forward within the United Nations.

And administration officials say if you look closely at what the French and what the Russians said yesterday after Secretary Powell's presentation, yes, it is true they are nowhere in agreement with the United States just yet. French President Jacques Chirac made that clear again today, too. But administration officials believe, especially if Hans Blix comes back on the 14th and delivers yet another report to the council saying Iraq is not fully cooperating, that they can get a second resolution.

So, they will make every effort to get one, while also making clear it has to be done within the next few weeks.

WOODRUFF: All right, John King at the White House. And once again, we'll be hearing from the president in about 25 minutes from now. Thank you, John. KING: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: Well, with the end game nearing in the showdown with Iraq, two key U.S. allies offered new signs of support today. Turkey's parliament granted the United States permission to upgrade Turkish bases and ports for possible use in a war with neighboring Iraq.

And Britain's defense secretary announced that he is sending more than 8,000 additional air force personnel to the Persian Gulf region, along with more planes and helicopters.

In London today, the U.N.'s chief weapons inspector seemed to acknowledge that time is running out for Iraq, despite their hopes that Saddam Hussein could be disarmed without a fight. Their shift in tone may have a lot to do with Colin Powell's presentation yesterday.

Here's our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider -- Bill.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Judy, Colin Powell achieved a crucial breakthrough yesterday at the United Nations. He shifted the burden of proof.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Before Colin Powell addressed the U.N. Security Council, the burden of proof was on the Bush administration. Could it produce a so-called smoking gun? But before he even spoke, Powell told the world there will be no smoking gun.

Whatt the secretary of state produced instead was an impressive array of evidence to back up his central argument.

POWELL: Saddam Hussein and his regime have made no effort, no effort, to disarm as required by the international community.

SCHNEIDER: The demand for a smoking gun suddenly vanished. The onus had shifted.

BILL GRAHAM, CANADIAN FOREIGN AFFAIRS MINISTER: It amounts, if I may say, to certainly a transfer of the burden of proof from the United States to Saddam Hussein.

SCHNEIDER: As a result of Powell's testimony, Iraq is now presumed guilty. Of what? Of failing to comply with U.N. disarmament resolutions. Now, the burden is on Iraq to prove that it will, after all, disarm. The Russians say so.

IGOR IVANOV, RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): Iraq should be the first to be concerned about providing final clarity about the question of weapons of mass destruction.

SCHNEIDER: The Germans say so.

JOSCHKA FISCHER, GERMAN FOREIGN MINISTER: Iraq must give clear answers to all open questions.

SCHNEIDER: The U.N. inspectors say so.

MOHAMED ELBARADEI, EXEC. DIR., INTERNATIONAL ATOMIC ENERGY ASSOCIATION: That they need to show drastic change in terms of cooperation.

SCHNEIDER: Even Democrats say so.

SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D), DELAWARE: War or peace is now Saddam's choice.

SCHNEIDER: And time is running out.

SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN (D), CONNECTICUT: Or it's a last chance for the people of Iraq to change the regime themselves and avoid the consequences of war.

SCHNEIDER: The world is now waiting for Iraq, not the U.S., to decide.

HANS BLIX, CHIEF U.N. WEAPONS INSPECTOR: I think we all would wait for an Iraqi determination to be forthcoming on the matters of substance.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER: The U.S. no longer has to prove something. Iraq does. That's the new reality. Powell created it with his testimony -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Shifting the burden of proof, crucial here. All right, Bill, thank you very much.

Colin Powell's performance at the U.N. generally won rave reviews on Capitol Hill, but some Democrats are stepping up their criticism of the administration's broader global view.

Here's an exchange from Powell's testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOXER: I see a doctrine that appears to me to be one of designed neglect.

POWELL: I simply cannot sit here and not respond to a suggestion that we have no foreign policy, or it's a foreign policy of benign neglect. We...

BOXER: Designed neglect. I didn't say benign neglect.

POWELL: Designed neglect?

BOXER: Designed.

POWELL: Designed neglect. Well, I don't like that characterization either...

(CROSSTALK)

BOXER: Yes, I understand.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: Presidential candidate John Kerry accused the Bush administration of having a fuzzy policy toward North Korea. And Kerry's Democratic rival, Joe Lieberman, urged the White House to reopen talks with North Korea immediately. The White House says there is a -- quote -- "real cause for concern about North Korea,: and that the U.S. has robust contingency plans, including the possibility of military action."

Well, as President Bush noted today, global threats are not the only reason this is a testing time for America. In East Texas today, the search went on for debris from the space shuttle Columbia. Two hundred National Guard members braved the cold and the rain to recover pieces of the lost shuttle, but the weather was so bad that about 500 other searchers were told to stop working until the skies cleared.

Well, NASA is scheduled to hold another briefing on the Columbia investigation this hour. We will be going to it live.

Some critics have questioned whether a shortage of funds may have contributed to the shuttle disaster. But as CNN's Jonathan Karl explains, others wonder if the problem is now NASA's money has been spent.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE):

JONATHAN KARL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The giant bugs at the Chicago Field Museum are brought to you in part by NASA. And why did the world's premiere space agency dump a million dollars into an exhibit on underground insects? Because Congress, which has increasingly used the agency's budget as a piggy bank for pet projects, demanded it.

BOB WALKER, FORMER CHAIRMAN, HOUSE SCIENCE COMMITTEE: Several generations of science committee chairmen, including this one, have attempted to wring pork out of science programs, whether it's at NASA or other places, because we think that that does not allow the agencies at times to elect the very best things to do.

KARL (on camera): But since 1998, $1.7 billion of NASA's budget has been spent on projects forced on the agency by Congress. These are projects NASA never requested, and that were slipped in without any hearings. Last year, there were a record 132 such projects, costing $536 million.

(voice-over): The more than $3 million spent on the Challenger learning center in the tiny remote town of Kenai, Alaska is typical. The center is called the Ted and Katherine Stevens Center for Space Technology (ph). It's named for the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, who says it is an important educational program similar to others in 42 other states.

TOM SCHATZ, CITIZENS AGAINST GOVERNMENT WASTE: When Congress spends money on pork barrel projects, it detracts from NASA's overall mission. It forces the agency to look at projects that were not on its priority list.

KARL: In the wake of the Columbia catastrophe, Congress is re- evaluating NASA's mission. Some critics say the shuttle program itself amounts to pork barrel spending, and should be scrapped.

GREGG EASTERBROOK, SR. EDITOR, "NEW REPUBLIC": I think at this point, the space shuttle support is mainly money. It's a spending program that involves billions of dollars. The congressional delegations from states like Texas, Florida, Alabama, California, where most of the money goes, are very jealous and guarding it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have a go for space lam (ph) activation.

KARL: The program's defenders acknowledge that local politics have been a driving force behind NASA's support since the very beginning.

WALKER: Any of these places that has space centers in them, it's a huge economic driver for them. So, they're going to pay attention. It's the reason why Lyndon Johnson, when he was vice president, made certain that the space center got built in Texas.

KARL: And the space shuttle's defenders are some of the most powerful figures on Capitol Hill.

REP. TOM DELAY (R-TX), MAJORITY LEADER: No, it's certainly not pork. Great nations have always pushed the frontier, and when you push the frontier, the gains that that nation gets is overwhelming. And the same applies here. Our space program has benefited every American in meaningful ways. .

KARL: Congress will certainly continue to fund NASA. The question is whether lawmakers will steer that money toward space exploration or continue to force spending on things like oversized bugs in Chicago.

Jonathan Karl, CNN, Capitol Hill.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: We'll talk about NASA funding and how the money is being spent a little later with CNN's space policy analyst Nick Fuhrman.

Here in Washington today, the Columbia astronauts were remembered as space explorers who died while trying to improve life on earth.

The service at the National Cathedral continued a week of mourning for the Columbia seven. Official Washington and members of the astronauts' families shed tears and heard tributes read by Vice President Dick Cheney.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHENEY: Every great act of exploration involves great risk. The crew of the Columbia accepted that risk in service to all mankind. The Columbia is lost, but the dreams that inspired its crew remain with us. Those dreams are carried by the families of the astronauts who even in grief have urged that America go on with our space program.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: The vice president echoed President Bush's message that America's space program will go on.

Again, we are waiting for a NASA briefing on the Columbia investigation. We're also waiting for remarks by President Bush at the White House on Iraq. We plan live coverage of both.

Coming up next here, Ronald Reagan's 92nd birthday. We'll mark the occasion by talking with long-time Reagan friend and advisor, Michael Deaver.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Candy Crowley in Washington.

Ronald Reagan left the White House in the hands of George Herbert Walker Bush, but many believe Bush 43 is the one who inherited Reagan's style of leadership.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Former President Ronald Reagan turns 92 years told today. It has been 14 years since he left the White House after serving two terms as president. For almost a decade, Mr. Reagan has suffered from Alzheimer's disease. His chief of staff described him as -- quote -- "comfortable," and in her words, he is doing as well as anyone could expect for a man of 92.

With me now to talk more about Ronald Reagan and his legacy, Mr. Reagan's long-time friend and advisor, Michael Deaver, who is the author of a new book, "A Different Drummer: My 30 years with Ronald Reagan."

Dr. Deaver, good to see you again.

MICHAEL DEAVER, FORMER REAGAN DEPUTY CHIEF OF STAFF: Nice to see you.

WOODRUFF: How are they celebrating? You just spoke today, you were just telling me, with Mrs. Reagan.

DEAVER: Well, I think it's quiet. I'm sure there will be a little cake. But not a lot of festivities.

WOODRUFF: How is he doing?

DEAVER; Well, this is, as everybody knows, a progressive disease, and this has now been nine years. It just doesn't get better. And the only thing I know is that he's comfortable, and he is with the person he loves the most. She's there 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It's her job.

WOODRUFF: And how is Nancy Reagan doing?

DEAVER: Pretty well. I mean, you know, that's a tough role. A lot of Americans have it. But she's doing well. She's doing well. She's a very strong lady.

WOODRUFF: She's aware of how fond so many people of this president and the fact that we continue to celebrate his birthdays and observe his birthday every year.

DEAVER: Oh, I think it's one of those things that keeps her going and strong and optimistic is the response that she gets not only from the letters that they receive, but just if she steps out anyplace, you know the warmth that she feels for from people who shout, "Nancy, how is he," you know.

WOODRUFF: You've talked about this. In fact, you were quoted in a "New York Times" story just the other day on this very subject, about how the current President Bush even more so than his father bears some resemblance to the Reagan style. How does that -- I mean, how did you come to that conclusion?

DEAVER: Well, I think there are -- they're both westerners, they were both governors, they both have ranches they love, they like to be out, they both have deep, spiritual convictions, and they both came to the office with a set of beliefs and a firmness in their spine, they both seem to rely more within themselves than polls and research and aides, staff, assistants. I think there's a lot of similarities.

WOODRUFF: You are somebody, Michael Deaver, who is a master of the message, if you will. How is this president doing with the message that he needs to be getting across right now in Iraq, first and foremost?

DEAVER: Yes, I think it's been tough. I think this White House is as disciplined as any White House I've ever seen. But I think they are now getting the message that they need to get out, this business for Colin Powell went through superbly yesterday I thought, and they've got people out now not only all over this country, but all over Europe and Asia talking about, echoing this message of the facts that Colin Powell brought forward to the world yesterday.

So, that's what they need to do. They need to keep the drumbeat, because the other side, the Iraqis and those people who are opposed to what the president wants to do are out there every day.

WOODRUFF: What is it about President Bush's performance when he's in public? I mean, you weren't in town for the State of the Union address.

DEAVER: No, it's not in Europe.

WOODRUFF: But what is it about his performance that you think is working for him?

DEAVER: Well, I think what works for President Bush is that people understand that there's a firmness and a resolve, and he believes in certain things, and he's not going to bend, and he keeps at it. He keeps saying it over and over again. There is none of this, you know, on the one hand, we'll do it this way, but maybe tomorrow, we'll change our mind. I think the American public respects the resolve that this young president has.

WOODRUFF: But you said just coming back from Europe, still some questions overseas.

DEAVER: Oh, no question about it. And we know that, and we just see the polls. Hopefully the leadership over there is going to be as strong and resolved as our president is.

WOODRUFF: Mike Deaver, great to see you again. Thanks for coming by.

DEAVER: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: We appreciate it.

Well, we have a little more now on the Reagan legacy and some reasons why the current president, Republican president, is drawing frequent comparisons to Ronald Reagan in style as well as substance.

Here's our senior political correspondent Candy Crowley.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) CROWLEY (voice-over): The comparisons began early on.

BUSH: We live in a nation President Reagan restored and the world he helped to save.

CROWLEY: Ronald Reagan and George Bush, the son, two politicians with western swagger, every-man charm, and a conservative doctrine seen through a prism of right and wrong.

BUSH: States like these and their terrorist allies constitute an axis of evil.

RONALD REAGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They are the focus of evil on the modern world.

CROWLEY: But while President Bush may seem to take it out of the Reagan play book for success, his leadership style is grounded even more in the failure of his father.

BUSH: It was a miserable year in 1992.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What did you learn?

BUSH: Well, I learned a couple of things. One that it's important to spend political capital when you have it.

CROWLEY: If you've got it, use it or lose it. It is the guiding light for the Bush of the state.

Floating in the stratosphere for most of the post-9/11 period, George W. Bush did what his father did not: put his war-born popularity on the line to further his domestic agenda.

At the risk of losing his commander-in-chief aura, he campaigned in the mid-terms as few presidents and got a Republican Congress. And then as the new Congress convened, it was damn the red ink and tax cuts ahead as the president put forward a package bigger than anyone expected, with an end to taxes on dividend checks as the centerpiece.

BUSH: I am proposing that all of the income tax reductions set for 2004 and 2006 be made permanent and effective this year.

CROWLEY: But nowhere is the expenditure of political capital riskier than in Iraq. The U.N. us unyielding, some allies hostile, and Americans increasingly skittish. But with all of the mobility of a loaded freighter, President Bush pushes on, fueled by political capital and the belief that his cause is just.

BUSH: The course of this nation does not depend on the decisions of others.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY: He is willing to spend it all. This will not be an incremental presidency. Domestically and internationally, he has also shown a willingness to reach for it all. And in the end, he will likely be judged as either a major success or a major failure -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: OK, Candy Crowley, thanks a lot.

He is a former oil man, but does President Bush want to steer the country towards gas-free cars? The story coming up.

(BUSINESS NEWS UPDATE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: We are moments away from two live events: the president expected to deliver a message to the U.N. Security Council from the White House.

And we may learn more about the shuttle Columbia tragedy.

John King is at the White House now. We are waiting. The president should be out in just about a minute.

John, as we were saying earlier, Colin Powell delivered a very powerful, well-received message at the U.N. What more does the president want to get across today?

JOHN KING, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, the president wants to reinforce Secretary Powell's message that it is now time for the Security Council to prove its relevance and to prove that, when it passed Resolution 1441 unanimously, 15-0, that it meant it when it said, in that resolution, that any decision by Iraq not to fully cooperate, not to proactively disarm, meant that Iraq could face serious consequences.

The president will say he is willing to have a second Security Council resolution, but only if the council acts within a matter of weeks and only if a new resolution is just as tough as the existing resolution, because Mr. Bush says he has the authority to go to war without any further action by the Security Council.

Certainly, if there is to be a war, he would prefer to have the blessing of the United Nations. The president will make that clear today, a direct challenge to the Security Council, in the words of one senior official, to read its own resolution and keep its obligation.

WOODRUFF: John, the president just seconds away.

Why would the president choose to do this in this way at the White House?

KING: Well, he wants to back up Secretary Powell. You also had the French president, Jacques Chirac, coming out today saying give the inspectors more time. You have Iraq allowing a scientist to be interviewed in private today. The White House is concerned Iraq will cooperate piecemeal in an effort to try to sway public opinion. So, the day after Secretary Powell, the president wants to reinforce him.

Here you see the president in the Roosevelt Room.

WOODRUFF: He stepped away from the lectern, but here is the president now.

(INTERUPTED BY LIVE EVENT)

WOODRUFF: President Bush making it clear that, in so many words, the jig is up. There at the end, he said, "We will not wait to see what Saddam Hussein will do." He said: "There's no doubt he will play last-minute games. He will play a game of deception."

In effect, John King, he threw the gauntlet down to the United Nations Security Council, saying, you better do something or we will.

KING: He certainly did, Judy.

And while they will say here at the White House there's still a window of three or four weeks, perhaps, for diplomacy, you also can see there a president preparing the nation for the likelihood of war in Iraq within a matter of weeks, the president's very blunt message to the United Nations Security Council.

He said that: You are being defied and mocked by a dictator and the United Nations must now decide whether it's relevant and whether it is willing to keep its word in Resolution 1441. So, defiance, the president -- an old rule of politics is, if you want to sell a policy, use repetition, the president repeating the chief allegations Secretary Powell made yesterday in his presentation and then closing by saying that, in his view, it is over and that Saddam will try some last-minute tricks, but that he believes the council must step up and meet its obligation.

If it passes a second resolution, the president says that is fine, but that that resolution must in no way retreat from Resolution 1441, which says, if Iraq does not fully cooperate, which the president says it is not, that it will face -- quote -- "serious consequences," meaning military action -- so a little room still for diplomacy, but the president making quite clear his resolve here.

WOODRUFF: John, did you hear anything new when the president ticked off the violations that he says Iraq has committed? And at the end, he said, "Sources tell us Saddam Hussein has authorized his field commanders to use chemical weapons."

KING: That was in the Powell presentation as well yesterday, Mr. Bush saying the Iraqi dictator says he has no weapons of mass destruction, yet is telling his field commanders he can use them if there is a U.S. military attack, the president using that example, one, to put U.S. troops on alert, but, No. 2, to demonstrate, in his view, to the Security Council that Iraq is simply lying every day when it says it does not have these weapons.

Mr. Bush also noting this terror ring -- he says this terror cell, run by a top al Qaeda deputy, is threatening attacks on France, on Germany, on Spain and others, most notable, though, France and Germany, two countries most fiercely resisting the U.S. push toward possible military confrontation -- the president trying to make the case not only to the leaders, but to the people of Europe that they should listen closely here, that they are at risk as well, in his view.

WOODRUFF: All right, John King, reporting for us from the White House.

And I want to quickly bring in "Los Angeles Times" reporter Ron Brownstein, who is frequently an analyst for CNN.

Ron, how effective is the case the president is making, alongside Secretary Powell?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It was very effective.

And I think he was very shrewd to focus on the U.N. Security Council there at the end, Judy, because, if you look at the polling overnight, the reaction to the Powell presentation, the one obstacle the president still has in American public opinion is a strong desire from the public to have any military action authorized by the U.N., still at least half the country feeling that way.

A second U.N. resolution would also make it much easier for the Democrats, who have been supporting him, to buck the anti-war sentiment in their party. And, finally, a second resolution may be more essential than for any of these than for Tony Blair, where only about 15 percent of the public in polls in England has said they want to go to war without the U.N.

So, by putting the ball in the U.N. court, Bush is showing that he's serious about that option. And that could make it a lot easier for him politically, both here and across the Atlantic.

WOODRUFF: All right, Ron Brownstein, joining us.

And now quickly to Baghdad to CNN's Nic Robertson.

Nic, the president said, among other things: "Saddam Hussein was given a final chance. He is throwing that chance away."

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. He also talked about empty concessions and playing a last-minute game. The game was up.

Possibly, we're seeing something like that happening at this time, Judy, a breakthrough, apparently, of sorts -- just a few hours ago, Iraqi officials telling us that one Iraqi scientist has now been interviewed by the U.N. inspectors -- the U.N. inspectors here saying, confirming that that has happened and saying that it is important because it shows that Iraq is now finally giving in or apparently giving in, they say, on one of their key issues that they've been pushing for.

The weapons inspectors do want a lot more transparency across all the issues here. They say that it does -- it is important to see where Iraq goes with this, whether or not it does prove to be an empty concession. Certainly, Iraqi officials here have given the indication that there are more scientists lined up who will talk at this time. They say that others have come forward. And the reason Iraqi officials say that they have come forward is because they say these scientists feel that Iraq is under a lot of pressure, Judy.

WOODRUFF: And so, Nic, in the Iraqis you're talking to, how seriously do they take President Bush at his word now?

ROBERTSON: Well, certainly, if we talk to Iraqi officials here -- and President Bush laid out very much very concisely what Secretary of State Powell laid out yesterday -- and the reaction that we've had from Iraqi officials has been very clear. They just deny it. They say that it's all lies.

And although we've had no reaction so far to the president's words just now, it's very clear that it would be in the same vein. The key issue here is, they say they have no weapons of mass destruction. They say that all these allegations are lies. They say, prove it.

WOODRUFF: All right, Nic Robertson with us from Baghdad.

And quickly back to Ron Brownstein of "The Los Angeles Times."

Ron, what about public opinion here? Is the president now able to say that he, through his own words and through the words of Colin Powell, that he is bringing more American opinion along with him?

BROWNSTEIN: Yes, to the extent that more people view this as a threat, view Saddam Hussein as actively trying to defy and defeat the inspections, and are less likely to support waiting for a long period of time.

But, Judy, as I said, the one point he still has to cross is that the polls still show the public would much prefer this to be done under U.N. authorization. And the president was much warmer toward that today than he was last Friday. When he appeared with Tony Blair, he had a very passive construction. He said it would be welcomed if the U.N. moved forward with a second resolution. Today, he said, we would support and welcome such a resolution.

So, clearly, he feels he's in a position of strength, greater at the U.N., after the Powell presentation. And now he can perhaps deal with that last remaining concern that is still evident in public opinion here, and even more so in Britain, where Tony Blair has been his most steadfast ally.

WOODRUFF: All right, Ron Brownstein, once again, thanks to you, to John King and to Nic Robertson, all reacting, commenting on President Bush's remarks just now at the White House.

When we come back: the latest on the shuttle Columbia tragedy.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Well, we may soon learn more about the space shuttle Columbia tragedy. That briefing we were telling you about at the bottom of the hour, NASA officials have moved it to 5:00 Eastern. We'll, of course, carry it live.

Bad weather is putting a damper on the hunt for shuttle debris today. Meanwhile, NASA is widening its search for answers into what caused the Columbia disaster. Among the theories being examined: possible flaws in the wing and even a collision with space junk.

Joining us now from Atlanta, CNN space policy analyst Nick Fuhrman.

Nick Fuhrman, what about these new theories being advanced, the fact that NASA originally was talking about foam? Now they're saying they're backing off that. There is now video of some flash of light coming off the shuttle over Arizona. What do you make of all this?

NICK FUHRMAN, CNN SPACE POLICY ANALYST: Well, I think it was very surprising, Judy, in the first case, for NASA to be so open about a theory that it really would have needed some physical evidence to bear out. And so I was really twice as surprised when they did the pirouette and changed their mind about the foam.

I think that the foam had huge long-term implications for the shuttle program, in terms of the costs, to get back flying, the length of time, if, in fact, the foam was identified as the culprit. I know that they're not dispensing with this theory entirely, but they are looking in other places, because an act of God would be a lot cheaper to get the shuttle back on the road than looking at what this foam would have implied.

WOODRUFF: And this trail of light coming off the shuttle before Texas?

FUHRMAN: We don't know if that isn't an optical illusion or something like that.

But let me say this. The odds of a micro meteorite or a piece of wayward space junk from a spent stage of a satellite hitting the shuttle in exactly the place that would cause this kind of damage are astronomical when compared to the odds, unfortunately, that favor human error in a system with a million signatures, a million approvals. NASA's shuttles are so complex, those odds are probably a greener pasture to look for culprits, unfortunately.

WOODRUFF: Let's talk about funding: a lot of criticism out there now about whether NASA got enough money to keep these shuttles, the whole space program, as safe as it should be.

You heard a report earlier on the program, Jonathan Karl reporting it's not just how much money was spent. It was the way it was spent, congressional pork and so forth. You worked on the Hill. How do you read all that?

FUHRMAN: Well, I don't want to be the one to tell people that there's gambling in Las Vegas, but the road to space is paved with a few gold bricks.

After the Challenger accident, there were two programs started, the Shuttle-C, which was an unmanned shuttle, because people were worried about having people on the shuttles unnecessarily. And so, they invented an unmanned shuttle. That program began and was canceled.

The second program was the advanced solid rocket motor. That program was promised at $300 million. When it hit $500 million and was headed to $1.5 billion, we canceled it. Important things about these programs, they were both in the districts of the Appropriations Committee chairmen in the Senate and the House both. And it wasn't until after the late Congressman Whitten from Mississippi died that the advanced solid rocket motor program was allow to go gracefully.

WOODRUFF: So, a lot to look at there, you're saying, in essence, in terms of decisions that have been made over the years by the Congress.

FUHRMAN: The history isn't great.

WOODRUFF: All right. OK, Nick Fuhrman, we thank you very much.

FUHRMAN: Thanks, Judy.

WOODRUFF: Much more to learn.

And as we were just saying, that briefing on NASA's part will get under way at the top of the hour. That's 5:00 Eastern.

INSIDE POLITICS will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: And that's it for INSIDE POLITICS. We thank you for joining us.

I'm Judy Woodruff.

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