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CNN INSIDE POLITICS

Americans Put on Higher Alert for Possible al Qaeda Attack; Are U.S. Forces Ready for War?; Bill Clinton Speaks Out

Aired February 7, 2003 - 16:00   ET

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

ANNOUNCER: The color of terror. Americans are put on higher alert for a possible al Qaeda attack. What should you be doing?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TOM RIDGE, SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: In the days ahead, take some time to prepare for an emergency.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: Are U.S. forces ready for war in Iraq? We'll take on that question and watch top guns in action.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have said that if Saddam Hussein does not disarm, we will lead a coalition to disarm him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: Bush versus Saddam. Is either winning the battle for the "Political Play of the Week?"

Bill Clinton rocks on in a wide ranging CNN interview and on stage with the Stones.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAM J. CLINTON, FMR. PRESIDENT: Even though the Stones once said it's only rock and roll, tonight it's way more than rock and roll.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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

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

President Bush is responding to what the White House calls a sad fact, that terrorists remain dedicated to attacking the United States.

In this "Newscycle," the Bush administration raised the national terror threat level from an elevated risk to a high risk for only the second time since September 11. Attorney General John Ashcroft says the move is based on specific intelligence corroborated by multiple sources.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN ASHCROFT, ATTORNEY GENERAL: Since September the 11th, the U.S. intelligence community has indicated that the al Qaeda terrorist network is still determined to attack innocent Americans, both here and abroad. Recent reporting indicates an increased likelihood that al Qaeda may attempt to attack Americans in the United States and/or abroad, in or around the end of the Hajj, a Muslim religious period ending mid-February, 2003.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: Ashcroft says intelligence indicates the so-called soft targets, such as apartments, hotels, sports arenas and amusement parks are at heightened risk.

Let's bring in CNN's Jeanne Meserve here in Washington. Jeanne, what does this mean in terms of what the government is doing and what individuals should now be doing?

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the federal government has been reaching out today, through a series of conference calls, with state and local government officials. Also calls to the public health community and to the private sector, which controls 85 percent of the critical infrastructure in this country, trying to coordinate this response to the orange threat level.

These are the sorts of things you're seeing happen around the country. You're seeing increased protection around critical infrastructure, around roads and bridges, things of that sort. More air marshals are in the skies. You're seeing more restrictions on parking at airports around the country, more questioning of passengers at the nation's borders.

You're seeing more people questioned, more vehicles searched, also closer screening of cargo. There is Judy, however, some question about how uniform the response is going to be. The last time the nation went to orange status back in September, a survey by the National League of Cities showed that one third of cities did absolutely nothing in response to the raise in -- the rise in the threat status.

Today, there also was an appeal to the public, Secretary Ridge asking the public to do its part.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RIDGE: Take the time now to get informed. There are so many available sources of information that you could refer to that will give you and your family and your businesses and your schools some comfort to know that in the eventuality, with the possibility that something might happen, you have taken some precautionary measures or taken some steps to minimize the damage or, perhaps to avoid it altogether.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MESERVE: Now in addition to that, Secretary Ridge urged the American public to keep their eyes and ears open. It is the belief of the officials that that is how terrorism is going to be detected in this country. That is how it is going to be interrupted, by individuals paying attention to the surroundings -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Now Jeanne, with the buildup -- separately, the buildup, to a possible war with Iraq, there's also the concern now that police officers and others who would be part of security in the U.S. may be called up into the military reserves.

How are they dealing with that in the homeland security arena?

MESERVE: It is happening, has been happening now for some time and we've heard state officials talk about that, saying that they're concerned about the drop in their level of personnel. Some states are indicating they're going to pull up some national guardsmen to try and fill in some of those gaps.

Another thing that actually has drawn down some of the local forces, Judy, some of the local police officers have been recruited by the federal government, drawn to higher salaries at the Transportation Security Administration, for example. That too has drawn down the power at the local level to respond to something like this increase in the threat alert.

WOODRUFF: All right. Jeanne Meserve, thanks very much.

"On the Record" this Friday, the former chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Republican Richard Shelby of Alabama. I asked him if raising the terror alert is the right move now.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. RICHARD SHELBY (R-AL), FORMER CHAIRMAN, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Absolutely. I believe considering what's going on in the world today, the probably imminent decision dealing with the Persian Gulf, the Hajj going on, additional chatter or signal traffic -- always in the past that's been an indication of a possible attempt at a terrorist attack either in this country or against our allies around the world, our soft targets.

WOODRUFF: What exactly are you and other authorities, people in a position to know what this chatter is, what are you worried about?

SHELBY: Well, we're worried about a terrorist attack, because we know that we have people in this country, Judy, that would do us harm, people affiliated with al Qaeda. We know that after we took over Afghanistan, hundreds if not several thousand al Qaeda agents were dispersed all over the world, a lot of them are right in this country. The FBI knows this. Governor Ridge knows it, the president, the CIA.

What we've got to do is get information. It's not ever specific, at least up to now, and stop these attacks before they occur.

WOODRUFF: If we are getting this kind of information, this kind of very disturbing information, are we going after the people who are making these threats?

SHELBY: I can assure you that the FBI is on alert. They're after the terrorists who would do us harm in this country, and they are having some success in disrupting and stopping some of these attacks. You know some of the history there, and I believe they will get better at it in the future.

But all of it, Judy, depends on what kinds of information they have, what kind of intelligence, the sharing of intelligence. They're moving in the right direction, sharing intelligence with everybody on the local level, the federal level, and the FBI-CIA connection.

WOODRUFF: Senator, ordinary Americans hearing this, how should they behave differently?

SHELBY: I think they should just be on alert right now, aware that things -- something could happen. We don't know the specifics, because if we did, we'd stop it right now, immediately, in its tracks. But be alert, be looking around, and don't do something foolish.

WOODRUFF: And are you confident at this point that the intelligence community is analyzing, is getting this information, and acting on it in the best way for the American people?

SHELBY: I think they're trying, Judy, but nothing's perfect. What we're asking the intelligence community to do -- the CIA, the FBI, NSA and all the others, is to get information together, share this information among themselves, and try to stop these attacks before they ever occur. That is a tall order, but we have been successful in some of them.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Senator Richard Shelby, former chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Please stay tuned. Next hour, Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, who will be a guest on "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS." That's 5:00 p.m. Eastern, 2:00 Pacific.

Well, even before the heightened terror alert, our new polls suggest that many Americans were feeling fearful and anxious about a possible war with Iraq. The CNN/"TIME" magazine poll shows 56 percent of Americans now say President Bush is doing a good job handling the showdown with Iraq. That is up from 49 percent in January, before his State of the Union address. That change has helped to push the president's overall approval number back up to 62 percent.

And since his big speech, Mr. Bush has convinced more Americans that U.N. approval is not necessary for the U.S. to launch a war against Saddam Hussein.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: For 90 days, he's -- best way I can describe it is played a game with the inspectors, and so the U.N. Security Council has to make up its mind soon as to whether or not its word means anything.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: President Bush speaking today.

If the U.N. were to pass a second resolution authorizing war with Iraq, President Bush has said he would welcome the move. A British official says that his country would likely draft such a resolution, but only after u.n. inspectors report back to the Security Council on February 14.

U.N. weapons inspectors visited at least four sites in Iraq today. And Iraq says that three more of its scientists have now given private interviews to the inspectors. That's in addition to the one who talked yesterday.

En route to Baghdad, Chief Weapons Inspectors Hans Blix welcomed greater cooperation by Iraq, but warned the world will not wait another eight years for Iraq to disarm.

Meantime, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld sent a stern warning to Baghdad. While in Italy Rumsfeld said that Iraq's military commanders should not even think about using biological or chemical weapons. And if they do, he said, they will wish they hadn't.

And in New York's Central Park, 30 women laid bare their opposition to war, using their bodies to spell out "No Bush."

And we want to tell you about a story that has just come into CNN from Michigan and that is a pileup of traffic at the intersection of Interstates 94 and Interstate 196. This is Southwest Michigan, in the Benton Harbor area.

Police said that a car collided with a semi truck in heavy snow in that area, starting a chain reaction. There are now dozens of cars involved, serious injuries, several serious injuries. Not immediately clear whether anyone has been killed. Again, an enormous traffic pile-up in Southwest Michigan.

And much more ahead on INSIDE POLITICS.

FRANK BUCKLEY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We are live at the Nevada test and training range. I am Frank Buckley watching the Air Force put on a live fire demonstration right now A-10 Thunderbolts screaming overhead. We will show you more of this demonstration live coming up.

WOODRUFF: Also ahead, taking issue with the Democratic presidential candidates and their response to South Carolina's Confederate flag flap.

Plus... (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: There's still a chance Saddam Hussein will come to his senses and disarm.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: Bill Clinton's prime time diplomacy. Did he sound supportive of President Bush?

And that's entertainment. When Republicans go on a retreat.

(SINGING)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: It may look pretty, but it's making life pretty miserable for travelers in the Northeast today. A fast-moving winter storm left more than a half foot of snow here in the nation's Capitol before moving up the East Coast, where it is still snowing.

Next, we will go live to the Pentagon for a close-up look at the military deployment to the Persian Gulf.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(AUDIO VIDEO GAP)

COL. JOSEPH RAY NESS, USAF: ... we have close coordination and we prep the battle field for both our Army and our Navy brothers.

What you saw earlier when we were doing the cast demonstration, the close air support demonstration, that's the kind of close coordination and seamless integration that we have across services to engage enemy targets.

BUCKLEY: And we should tell our viewers they're going to be hearing all kinds of things here. It's the sound of the A-10s that are dropping ordnance. We also have the aviator who is showing smoke and waiting for his pickup now from the two helicopters, the Pay Fox (ph) who are coming in.

As we see them coming in, give us a sense, sir, of what will happen as we see the two choppers come in.

NESS: OK, what you see right now are the A-10s are clearing the area of enemy troops and making sure it's secure. One HH-60 is in support and the other HH-60 is picking up the pilot right now.

In just a couple seconds, you'll see two PJs leave the HH-60. They will ensure that the downed guy, pilot, is the person we think it is. And then they'll bring him aboard a helicopter and we'll bring him home.

BUCKLEY: We had a great opportunity to watch some of this yesterday, the rehearsal. And it's interesting how these PJs approach, as if this could be a hostile person.

NESS: We have to confirm that he is the guy we think he is and we have some codes and things that we do and then he'll be picked up and brought home.

BUCKLEY: And there are cases where you'll actually leave the Helo on the ground and they'll just run in. But in this case what do is you have the helicopter leave the area and that's because it's vulnerable. Is that right?

NESS: In this case, they're showing that there's some enemy troops or vulnerabilities in the area. So what they've done is the A- 10s are still engaging the hostiles. They have the HH-60 leave the PJs and they're going to come back and get him.

BUCKLEY: And it's just amazing. We see so many aircraft flying around, these A-10s, the helicopters, they seem very close. I can't imagine that there's an air traffic controller who could control this space. So they must be in communication with each other.

NESS: They're in communication, as we talked about, Frank. These guys are doing seamless integration of all the information coming across. They're talking with our sister services and the guys who are engaging us and picking up the helicopter -- picking up the downed pilot.

BUCKLEY: Now they've got the downed pilot here. The helicopters have come in to pick him up. This has to be a particularly vulnerable moment and dangerous moment in any extraction.

NESS: Oh, yes. And that's why you see the -- in this case, the A-10s are still engaged. Up to the north, we have the F-16s that we're providing suppression of any of the air defenses (ph). And of course as we've already earlier seen, the F-15Cs have dominant air power, they've cleared the skies of the enemy MiGs that we saw earlier. .

BUCKLEY: All right. And as we see the PJs were doing a fireman's carry to bring the downed aviator. And now he's on his feet and walking toward the helicopter.

Colonel, we're going to thank you very much. We appreciate your insight as we continue to watch this incredible live fire demonstration for the purposes of these generals and the new admirals who are learning about the Air Force capabilities -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: The fellow was heavy. His colleague there dropped him. OK. Frank Buckley, thanks very much.

Well, the military buildup in the Persian Gulf is moving steadily ahead, as we know, with tens of thousands of U.S. troops already in place throughout the region. For a little more now on the buildup we want to turn to Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr.

Barbara, tell us, how far along is the U.S. right now? How prepared is the U.S. today to go to war? BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, more prepared each day, Judy. That's what Pentagon officials keep telling us.

Now, the buildup is continuing. As we speak today, there are just over 70,000 -- 70,000 U.S. military troops in the immediate striking region of Iraq. Most of these troops are now Army and Marine units that are in the Kuwaiti desert, just miles from the Iraqi border, playing the types of war games that you just saw, but they're a little more for real. These are the things that could happen to them in the event they're called in to battle.

There are several other countries in the region, of course, around Kuwait that are also participating in hosting U.S. troops right now. Over in Bahrain, the headquarters for the Navy's 5th Fleet, which will direct the five aircraft carriers now expected in the region, 250 fighter aircraft on those five carrier decks.

Over in Oman, Air Force bombers and about 2,500 U.S. troops supporting that effort. In Qatar, that is going to be a key area. Tommy Franks has his new Central Command headquarters in that country. And if there is war, it will be directed from that very small but very important Persian Gulf nation.

And over in Saudi Arabia, of course, about 5,000 U.S. troops. This will be another launchpad, possibly, for fighter aircraft if there is war. In the United Arab Emirates, finally, there are a number of U.S. naval assets.

The buildup is continuing every day. There are now five carriers, that's very interesting, on their way to the Persian Gulf as we said, 250 fighter aircraft. But they are also accompanied by surface warships. It's estimated when everything is in place, there will be more than 20 cruisers and destroyers, all capable of launching Tomahawk cruise missiles, those highly precise, unmanned missiles, of course, that we expect to see in the opening days and nights of any war -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Barbara, is the Pentagon saying when all this is due to be in place? And second of all, today, you said every day something is going on. Bring us up to date on what's happening today.

STARR: Well, today, let's go to that first, today, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has now finally signed out the deployment orders that were expected for the Kitty Hawk, the aircraft carrier, the fifth aircraft carrier now that will be sent to the region, and he has formalized, we're told, the deployment order for the 101st Airborne Division, America's only air assault division; 20,000 troops, almost 300 assault helicopters will be headed now to the Persian Gulf.

WOODRUFF: All right. And Barbara, does the Pentagon say when?

STARR: Right. You know, their view is they're ready as soon as the president tells them. That could be today, tomorrow. It could be several weeks from now. But all the signals, frankly, Judy, point towards in the next few weeks. By the end of February, early March, the Pentagon will have everything in place that it wants to, to begin any action against Iraq.

WOODRUFF: All right, Barbara Starr, at the Pentagon. Thank you, Barbara.

Well, they may be an odd couple, but this week, they were a dynamic duo. Next, the teamwork behind the showdown with Iraq.

Plus, piecing together what happened to the space shuttle Columbia. Will new Air Force photographs hold crucial clues?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: INSIDE POLITICS has a military bent today. We were telling you a little while ago about those exercises under way this hour, the Nevada test training range. We're going to go back there now, back to CNN's Frank Buckley -- Frank.

BUCKLEY: Judy, now we're awaiting the arrival of the B-1 bomber. And you can see it right now. It is approaching the range area.

Colonel Ness, I'll ask you to tell us what we're seeing again.

NESS: Again, right now, he's employing defensive measures as he comes in, versus the IR threat. But in just a second, the doors are open and he's going to release his weapons. Here from the can (ph), you see the weapons coming out, high drag munitions, full bayload. And he's off.

BUCKLEY: And as we saw those flares coming out, those are to protect against the heat-seeking missiles, correct?

NESS: Yes. And he's deployed -- in this case, just a nominal amount to show the capability.

BUCKLEY: And as we feel those, wow, those waves coming through here, this again, is that the way the B-1 would be employed in a real world situation? Would it fly in that low?

NESS: Well, what we're showing here, again, is something, a demonstration of its low altitude capability. However, in most cases, we'd have him at medium altitude, employing at those attitudes where he wouldn't be seen and he couldn't be engaged by the IR missiles or the surface-to-air guns.

BUCKLEY: And we have another B-1 that's approaching, incoming downrange. Again, we saw the flares go off, and describe what that feeling is like, being in an aircraft when you're on a bombing run.

NESS: Right now, the crew's pretty dedicated to being on target, making sure they're on time, and on releasing the weapons. They're pretty busy and they're all working together. Again, this is a concerted and concentrated effort with seamless integration across the battle lines for both the B-1 and the integration between services.

BUCKLEY: And how important is it to have eyes on the ground in a bombing run like this, to tell you this is what you're supposed to be hitting?

NESS: In this case, for the B-1, this would be declared a hostile target, a major target area, and he'd be -- that would have been before he went airborne, or in the case as we just showed in Afghanistan, he could have had that information passed to him while he was airborne, cleared through the CAVOK, and then engaged that target.

BUCKLEY: Colonel, thanks very much again for giving us some insight into what we're seeing. The expert telling us exactly how this is taking place. Again, Judy, the purpose of this to inform these new generals and admirals of what exactly the Air Force capability is -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right, Frank Buckley, thanks very much. My guess is the Bush administration and the military would like to think that President Saddam Hussein of Iraq and his military commanders are watching some of these exercises on television.

Well, the events of this week have shown how key members of a president's team can help make the difference in selling White House policies.

For more, let's turn to our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider.

Hi, Bill.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Hi, Judy. You know, they are a strange team. One, a WASP, born to wealth and privilege, educated at Yale and Harvard, corporate executive with great family connections. The other, an African-American, son of immigrants, went to city college, made his career in America's ultimate meritocracy, the Army. Put them together and what do you get? "The Political Play of the Week."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Speaker, the president's cabinet.

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): How often does a cabinet member overshadow a president in stature and popularity? Let's see. There was Henry Kissinger and Richard Nixon. Robert Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson. George Marshall and Harry Truman. And now, Colin Powell and George W. Bush.

BUSH: And I would say of General Powell what Harry Truman said of General Marshall. He is a tower of strength and common sense.

SCHNEIDER: And one might say of President Bush what was said of President Truman, that he is secure enough to surround himself with people who are more knowledgeable and popular than he is and not feel threatened.

In 2000, the Bush campaign showcased Powell. It wanted to reassure voters that, as president, Bush would have a man of world experience. BUSH: I am honored to have you on my team.

SCHNEIDER: Once Bush became president, however, Powell seemed to shrink from a leadership role. "Where Have You Gone, Colin Powell?" asked a "TIME" magazine cover story dated September 10, 2001. Nowhere, as it turns out.

Powell was biding his time, marshaling his resources for an issue where he could really count, Iraq. Powell brings legitimacy abroad and at home. Look at the standings of the two men. Republicans are almost unanimously behind President Bush. Most Democrats are not. Powell's standing among Republicans is just as high as Bush's, but he also has impressive standing with Democrats.

SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D), DELAWARE: I'd like to move the nomination of Secretary of State Powell for president of the United States.

SCHNEIDER: Put together Bush's leadership...

BUSH: The game is over.

SCHNEIDER: ... and Powell's legitimacy...

POWELL: What we're giving you are facts and conclusions based on solid intelligence.

SCHNEIDER: ... and you've got a great team and the "Political Play of the Week."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER: Even Bush's critics have to acknowledge that, despite the tough talk about the U.S. going it alone, this administration has been pretty conscientious about getting other countries on board. And that's called teamwork, the cowboy and the diplomat -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: And now we got it.

All right, Bill Schneider, thanks very much.

Well, a new development in the search for terrorists coming up -- plus, you could say the Civil War is creating fallout in the 2004 presidential campaign. Up next, Donna Brazile and Bay Buchanan take on that issue and one another.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: We've been reporting the federal government today raised the terror threat level today from heightened to high, from elevated, that is, to high.

CNN's Jeanne Meserve is with us now with a later development -- Jeanne.

MESERVE: Judy, the FBI is asking for the public's help in locating an individual who they want to talk to. His name and picture and a description are up on the Web site, his name Mohammed Sher Mohammad Khan.

However, the FBI cautions, this may be a fictitious name and they give seven aliases. His date of birth also may be fictitious. It's listed as November 11, 1966, described as being born in Pakistan, height, 5 foot, 3 inches, to 5 foot, 7 inches, 132 pounds, black hair, black eyes. The FBI says it has no specific information that this individual is connected to any potential terrorist threat.

But based upon information developed in the course of ongoing investigations, the FBI would like to locate and question this individual, who they believe entered the United States illegally around September 1. A law enforcement officials tells CNN that this individual is not the primary reason for the decision today to raise the threat level from yellow to orange. However, it is one of a number of factors being taken into consideration, obviously of some importance, for the FBI to take this name and photograph and put it on the Web site and turn to Americans and ask them to help -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right, Jeanne Meserve with the very latest -- thank you, Jeanne.

INSIDE POLITICS will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: The Hillary factor: The former first lady is leading in the polls and she's not even running. Coming, our guests from the left and the right take issue.

(NEWS BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Checking the headlines now in our "Campaign News Daily": Republican House and Senate members are holding a retreat in West Virginia this weekend. In addition to the usual strategy sessions, they're being entertained by singer Lee Ann Womack and attending a speech by football coach Jim Tressel of the national champion Ohio State Buckeyes.

Missouri Congressman Dick Gephardt plans to hit the road as soon as he makes his formal announcement for president. After he kicks off his campaign in Missouri on February 19, Gephardt plans a multistate trip to several early primary states, including New Hampshire.

Senator John Edwards holds a campaign gathering tomorrow in South Carolina at the home of a Confederate war hero. The event is scheduled for the Charleston home of William Aiken, once the largest slave owner in the South. An Edwards spokeswoman says the site is not an issue and that plenty of African-American leaders will attend the meeting. Edwards has criticized the presence of the Confederate flag on state property and he has also pledged to honor an NAACP economic boycott of the state.

With us now: former Gore campaign manager Donna Brazile and Bay Buchanan, president of American Cause.

Bay, is John Edwards honoring this NAACP boycott by doing this campaign appearance at the historic home of a big slave owner?

BAY BUCHANAN, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN CAUSE: No.

It was a political blunder. He thought he ways taking the high road. He thought it would so good for him, politically advantageous to stand there with the NAACP and honor this boycott. And then somebody explained to him that you have got to run a campaign down there. And that's in violation of the boycott.

And so now he's saying, well, I respect it, but I have to run this campaign. He's flip-flopping on this issue. It was a political blunder to do this in the first place. He made a mistake. And he's paying the price. And they're going to just hound him down there now.

DONNA BRAZILE, CHAIRWOMAN, VOTING RIGHTS INSTITUTE: Well, first of all, I hope they don't pass out any songs tonight like "Whistling Dixie," when Senator Edwards goes down to celebrate this occasion.

The candidates should have a consistent position on the flag. This flag is a leftover issue from the previous presidential campaign. And if they come out with a strong position to take the flag down, then I think the NAACP should exempt the party, exempt the candidates, allow them to follow Jim Clyburn's lead, the leading...

WOODRUFF: Congressman Clyburn.

BRAZILE: Congressman from South Carolina and go down and there and campaign and talk about all the other issues facing the American people.

BUCHANAN: And that's the problem.

(CROSSTALK)

WOODRUFF: He said the boycott is a mistake.

BRAZILE: No, I think the boycott is real and the boycott should continue for corporations and companies, but not for presidential candidates, who should go in there and talk about issues of importance to the American people.

BUCHANAN: Yes, but the problem with the boycott, Judy, is that it's attempting -- it's a boycott against tourism in the state. That's hotels and that's restaurants. And the black community works in those places. And so it's damaging and it's very hurtful, economically damaging to the black community of South Carolina. So, what is the NAACP doing?

BRAZILE: But the flag is also divisive and it's also hurtful to the African-American community. And they want the flag down. The flag has no place in the statehouse in South Carolina. So take the flag down and everyone can go and enjoy the Palmetto State.

BUCHANAN: It's a state issue. And they want it up. And I should say that it has good reason to be up over a Confederate memorial. WOODRUFF: All right, we're moving on to a poll that was taken in the last few days by Quinnipiac University, a national poll of registered Democrats.

With Hillary Clinton in the mix, look at this. She is -- even though she says she's not interested in running for president -- 42 percent, way ahead of the closest, No. 2, Joe Lieberman at 20 -- what is it? -- I can't read here -- Joe Lieberman at 15 percent, John Kerry at 11. But you take Hillary Clinton's name out and here's the way it looks. Joe Lieberman has 27 percent. He's ahead of John Kerry at 18 and Gephardt at 16 and so on and so on.

What does this say about the Democrats?

BRAZILE: Well, it says that Hillary is still the most admired person in the Democratic Party, as well one of the most admired women in the country.

She's very dynamic and intelligent. And I believe that, if Hillary decides to run in 2012, or another year, she'll be the front- runner when she decides to run for president. But, for now, I think the American people will get a look at the two Joes -- I mean the two Johns, the Joe, Dick, Howard, maybe Carol. And I'm missing somebody -- Al, of course. I cannot miss Al Sharpton.

I think they'll get to like those candidates and one of them will emerge victorious.

BUCHANAN: It's interesting. The ladies have the day here. She's got 42 percent. She's obviously -- it's name I.D., to a great extent. And, as Donna has pointed out, she is very popular in the Democratic Party.

But I couldn't think of a better thing than having Hillary win the nomination, because I think it would be the best thing in the world for the Republicans.

(CROSSTALK)

BRAZILE: They will come out of retirement to support Hillary Clinton and help run her campaign. And I'll be right there with you passing out bumper stickers and signs all over.

BUCHANAN: It would be such an exciting campaign. So many wonderful issues could be raised.

BRAZILE: Absolutely.

WOODRUFF: I think Bay is ready to sign on.

BRAZILE: Absolutely.

BUCHANAN: For her primary, yes, and then I'll switch quickly in the general.

(LAUGHTER) WOODRUFF: We got that. We got that. Great to see you both. And we appreciate it.

Well, we all know that her husband, former President Clinton, is an Elvis fan. Up next: The former president rocks to a different beat on stage with the Rolling Stones.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAM J. CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So, when you leave here tonight, remember, even though the Stones once said, it's only rock 'n' roll, tonight, it's way more than rock 'n' roll.

Ladies and gentlemen, the greatest rock 'n' roll band in the whole world ever, the Rolling Stones!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: It was a free Rolling Stones concert in Los Angeles last night. And, yes, former President Bill Clinton was the opening act, of sorts. The event was sponsored by the Natural Resources Defense Council to help its campaign against global warming.

Clinton also appeared last night on CNN's "LARRY KING LIVE." And our Jeff Greenfield was listening closely. Jeff is with us from Atlanta today.

Jeff, not a lot of distance between this president and his successor on Iraq.

JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SR. ANALYST: No.

The president was very careful to offer words of support, but note the way he did it, by endorsing Secretary of State Powell and by arguing once again for an international rather than unilateral response.

Let's take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "LARRY KING LIVE")

CLINTON: I still hope the United Nations can act together on this. And I think there's still a chance we can. And there's still a chance that Saddam Hussein will come to his senses and disarm.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GREENFIELD: Now, on North Korea, Clinton publicly counseled for a private diplomatic approach to diffuse what he sees as a potentially grave situation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "LARRY KING LIVE") CLINTON: The president and the administration have said they want to handle it diplomatically. But I think you have to be firm in public and absolutely brutal in private. You cannot let them become a nuclear arsenal, because the pressure on them to sell these bombs will be overwhelming. They have no other way to make money.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: But, Jeff, he wasn't nearly as supportive when it comes to domestic and economic policy.

GREENFIELD: No, that's right.

And he also showed why, as a political fighter, he's what Joe Klein called "The Natural." Every time Democrats have criticized the Bush tax cut, Republicans have charged, it's class warfare. But, on "LARRY KING" last night, Clinton used a very homey touch of humor and personal references to attack the tax cut.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "LARRY KING LIVE")

CLINTON: Everybody else is being asked to sacrifice for this war on terror, and you and I are getting a tax cut out of the Social Security retirement fund of middle-class people.

LARRY KING, HOST: You keep saying you and me.

CLINTON: It's not right. We don't need it. It can't be justified and it's not good economics.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GREENFIELD: So, it's that little touch of humor, that very kind of down-to-earth argument that I think still makes Clinton, politically, an effective voice.

WOODRUFF: So, Jeff, here he is, what, the youngest ex-president since Teddy Roosevelt. What's he going to do in the years ahead?

GREENFIELD: Well, he's know what he's not going to do. He's not going to do a talk show. He said so again last night.

Right now, he's a lot of things. He's a high-priced speechmaker, a big moneymaker, a fund raiser for Democrats and for charities. He does humanitarian work and he's trying to build his legacy. And, actually, going back to what you discussed a moment ago, what may lie ahead for him is the role of king-maker or, actually, to be more accurate, queen-maker, because, if Hillary Clinton does run for president somewhere down the line, she has got one heck of a political strategist at her side -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: And I'm sure people have given that a little thought on that -- in that family.

All right, Jeff Greenfield, thanks very much. Have a good weekend. And if you missed Larry King's exclusive interview with former President Clinton, you can catch it this Sunday night. That's at 9:00 p.m. Eastern, right here on CNN.

Bob Novak's "Inside Buzz" coming up next, from the snows of New Hampshire to the California sunshine -- how quickly will the Democratic presidential race be decided?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Bob Novak is here now with some "Inside Buzz."

Now, what is this about a national primary for the Democrats?

ROBERT NOVAK, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it amounts to it.

The first Tuesday that they could have primaries in 2004 is February 3. They've already got eight primaries on that February 3. And there's talk about four big ones moving in, at least speculation: New York, California, Ohio, and Illinois. If they got all those, even most of those in, it would be, in effect, a national primary. New Hampshire and Iowa coming the week before wouldn't count for much.

And the question is, the motive is to try to get a front-runner very early. But what if they don't have a front-runner and they have all these primaries and they're divided? Could we have a convention? We can dream anyway, can't we?

WOODRUFF: It might be a real contest.

NOVAK: Yes.

WOODRUFF: All right, what's this about the Republican leadership in the Senate threatening long hours in the next...

NOVAK: Doctors' hours, doctors' hours. Your doctor, he comes in the middle of the night to take care of you. That's Bill Frist. He is a doctor, the majority leader.

And the word around his office is that, on the confirmation fight over Miguel Estrada, that they may actually force the Democrats to filibuster. The way it works now in the Senate, if you say, I'm going to have a filibuster, they have a cloture vote. If they don't get 60 votes, it's off. But Frist, Dr. Frist, may say, you're going to have to stand there and talk all night. That hasn't happened since the '60s, Judy. It would be very interesting.

WOODRUFF: Two more quick things: first, the appropriations bill about to pass. And what's in it?

NOVAK: Nobody knows. That's the big omnibus appropriations bill. The suspicion is, there's lots and lots of pork in there, but nobody knows exactly what's in that bill. It comes up next week.

WOODRUFF: And last but not least, a sleaze reception at this Republican retreat we've been reporting this week. NOVAK: That's what the staffers call it.

The people who paid for it, the lobbyists, are giving a reception one night. And the grateful Republican staffers call that the sleaze reception. But they had a bad day today. There was snow on the golf course at the Greenbrier. They had to go on the bowling alley instead of golf. And Tom DeLay gave a party in the bowling alley. And Roy Blunt gave a party in the bowling alley. Aren't those Republicans fun?

WOODRUFF: Yes. I like to bowl. I think bowling is great.

NOVAK: They should have invited you.

WOODRUFF: Good exercise.

NOVAK: But you wouldn't go to the sleaze reception, though, would you?

WOODRUFF: Well, if they'd let us go in and report on what they're talking about, I would love to go.

NOVAK: These are the lobbyists who paid for them and they call them sleaze. Isn't that gratitude for a politician?

WOODRUFF: Bob Novak, thank you.

When we return: The General Accounting Office abandons a lawsuit against the vice president -- why the GAO is calling off its legal action over the White House energy task force.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: And, finally, we can report that the standoff between Vice President Dick Cheney and the General Accounting Office is over. Today, the GAO announced that it would drop its lawsuit seeking the records of Cheney's energy task force. A federal judge dismissed the case in December and the GAO decided that the appeal would be costly and a drain on resources.

That's it for INSIDE POLITICS. Thank you for joining us.

I'm Judy Woodruff.

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Attack; Are U.S. Forces Ready for War?; Bill Clinton Speaks Out>


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