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CNN INSIDE POLITICS

Tenet Publicly Confirms North Korea has Ballistic Missile Capable of Striking Western U.S.; Greenspan Says Deficits Biggest Economic Problem

Aired February 12, 2003 - 16:00   ET

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

ANNOUNCER: Live from Washington, this is INSIDE POLITICS with Judy Woodruff.
CANDY CROWLEY, HOST: Thanks for joining us. Judy is off today. I'm Candy Crowley.

America nears the brink of war with Iraq and the terror alert is high. If you are wondering what shoe could possibly drop next, consider this. In this "NewsCycle," for the first time, a U.S. official has publicly confirmed that North Korea has a ballistic missile capable of striking the Western United States. CIA Director George Tenet said it during questioning by the Senate Armed Services Committee.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. EVAN BAYH (D), INDIANA: They fired missiles over Japan. What is the likelihood that they currently have a missile capable of hitting the West coast of the United States?

GEORGE TENET, CIA DIRECTOR: I think the declassified answer is, yes, they can do that. So, in all likelihood, they have nuclear warheads and the ability to deliver them to the west coast of the United States -- obviously, very, very troubling.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: Tenet's acknowledgment came shortly after a move that could aggravate the North Korean nuclear crisis, declaring that Pyongyang has defied atomic safeguards. The U.N.'s nuclear watchdog agency sent the matter to the Security Council. Let's bring in our White House correspondent Dana Bash. Dana, in light of Tenet's statement, is the White House taking any new heat for making Iraq priority No. 1?

DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Candy, they do continue to say that with regard to North Korea, they are going to take the diplomatic approach. And with regard to Tenet's statement, they are trying to kind of tap down all the discussion about whether or not they have this missile by saying -- Ari Fleischer said, look, this is old news. It is not new.

As a matter fact, just in the past half hour, they just released this document here. It's from the National Intelligence Estimate from December of 2001, where it actually states what the CIA director talked about, about the fact that North Korea does have this missile technology. So they are trying to say, look, this is not new. But, of course, there is a lot of focus on this given all the talk about North Korea's potentially ramping up their nuclear capability.

The other point that the White House is trying to make on this is they are trying to say that, look, this is why the president says that we need a missile defense system, saying that this is another reason why, as you know, Candy, lots of Democrats are saying that's not necessarily something that we need right now.

CROWLEY: Dana, let me just turn the corner here to what the president was doing today, which is focusing on selling his economic plan, which has also taken a lot of heat. What's the administration's strategy to try to cool some of that off?

BASH: Well, as you know, Candy, the president -- when the president has talked, almost every time this week, whether it's about the faith-based initiative or other issues, he does tend to talk also about -- have a couple of lines in his speech about the war, the potential war with Iraq, about the situation in Iraq.

Today, he didn't do that. Today when he was visiting -- talking with some small investors in Alexandria, Virginia -- not too far from here at the White house -- he kept his statement to just talking just about the economy.

And as you know, Candy, the presidents in the past have gotten in trouble by talking about war and not necessarily focusing enough on the economy, especially when it's ailing. And the White House is trying to make sure that doesn't happen to this president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If the economy needs a little extra oomph, if more money needs to go into the pockets of our people so as to encourage economic vitality, why wait?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: Now, the president's speech comes on a day where you see Alan Greenspan having his second day of testimony on Capitol Hill, second day in a row, talking about the fact that, you know, the biggest problem right now is the fact there are large deficits. And he's putting a little bit of daylight between himself and the president on what is needed to stimulate the economy, making a very strong signal that perhaps a stimulation of using tax cuts or accelerated tax cuts maybe isn't what the economy needs right now.

That is something that certainly isn't helping the White House, as they try to push this plan on Capitol Hill, especially at a Time where some of the moderate Republicans, people in his own party, are still lukewarm to the idea. You know, yesterday the president did meet with about 10 Republican senators. And although they talked about the plan, and the Senate Finance Chairman Chuck Grassley said that he will try to push the plan. I talked to somebody in his office who said, yes, he'd try to push it. But he still wants to have bipartisan compromise. And if that means losing a part or two of the plan, that's just going to have to happen.

CROWLEY: Dana Bash at the White House. Thanks.

We're going to move on to the same subject. "On The Record" with me today, Commerce Secretary Don Evans. Thanks for joining us.

DON EVANS, COMMERCE SECRETARY: You bet, Candy. Good to be with you.

CROWLEY: Well, you have quite a selling job to do, it would seem. You have got Alan Greenspan saying, you know, tax cuts that aren't paid for are not going to stimulate the economy. You've got Republicans going, we're going to have to give up to this. What are you going -- we know what you want. What are you going to settle for?

EVANS: Well, listen, what I'm going to settle for is going across America and talking to the American people and listening to what they want. And I've been doing that. I've been doing that for the last couple of months now as I traveled all across this land, talking to the workers of America, the small business owners of America, the entrepreneurs of America.

They all tell me they want the president's plan. When you have time to explain it to them, and explain what it means to them as workers, and families and single moms, and how it will leave money in their pockets -- not just this year, but next year and the following year and the following year -- they begin to understand how this plan will help them, and their families and small businesses in the same kind of way.

CROWLEY: Look, heaven knows, I hope you know more about this than me. But what everybody says to me is, look, it's capital investment that has pulled down this economy, the lack of it. The consumer spending hasn't been that bad. So what's the point in tax cuts for consumers if it's capital investment that is the problem with getting the economy moving?

EVANS: Well, consumption drives capital investment. When those that invest capital see that sales continue to grow, then they will invest capital. We have a lot of surplus capacity in our country today because of the excesses of the late 1990s.

And we have to absorb that surplus capacity. And the way to absorb it is to continue to leave the money in the hands of the hard- working people of America and let them continue to consume. And as they continue to consume, those that invest capital will see their sales grow and then begin to buy more equipment.

CROWLEY: Look, the hard-working people of America are also worried about a war that's going to be costly, about a deficit that is spiraling sort of record numbers. Why not find a way to pay for this tax cut? Why not look at some of these programs and go ahead and cut them? Isn't that the fiscally responsible thing to do?

EVANS: Listen, Candy, the deficit is not spiraling into record numbers. What people have to understand in America is that we are playing on the lowest debt service we have in 20 years. And the debt as a percentage of GDP, is only 35 percent. In 1992, it was 52 percent.

And so are the debt numbers higher? Yes, they are in absolute terms. But when you look at the debt as a percent of the gross domestic product of this country, it's a very manageable kind of number. I've talked to Chairman Greenspan about this. And we share the view that we have to watch the deficit and make sure it stays in a manageable kind of level, and 35 percent of debt-to-GDP is a very manageable kind of number.

CROWLEY: So you think this 300-plus deficit number is manageable?

EVANS: Remember, Candy, that our economy is an over $10 trillion economy. And when you look at the president's over 10-year tax cut package, over that period of time, our economy will be $126 trillion.

And, so, when you put the $670 billion tax cut, which is a large number, but when you put it up against the overall economy, it's only about 0.5 percent. So you have to keep it in perspective as to the size of our economy. It's a very manageable debt to manage, and it's also a very manageable deficit to manage. And what you think about is long-term economic growth, growing this economy for more jobs.

I mean that's what the president is focused on is three very important reasons to pass this president's economic package. The first is jobs. The second is jobs. And the third is jobs. Because a job is where somebody goes to pursue the American dream, and that's what the president understands. And, so, what he wants to do is cut taxes and control spending, keep spending under control, so we can continue to grow this economy, not only in the short term, but in the long term.

CROWLEY: Commerce Secretary Don Evans, I wish we had more time, but you're a busy guy. Thanks for coming by.

EVANS: Great to be with you, Candy.

CROWLEY: I appreciate it.

EVANS: Yes, you bet.

CROWLEY: Democrats are accusing the president of taking his economic message across America while taking money away from the states. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi charged the Bush plan is a recipe for economic disaster that would drain $64 billion from state coffers over the next 10 years.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: The gap between the rhetoric and the reality of putting the resources into the states is a giant gap. We have not -- we don't have adequate funding for law enforcement, funding for first responders, for infrastructure repair for our ports and our waterways that are vulnerable.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: A new sign of the economic troubles in the states. South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford says he may have to close the governor's mansion for four months, or raise private money to pay for staff, utility bills, food and other costs.

There is much more ahead on INSIDE POLITICS. Up next, the doctor's report on John Kerry's prostate surgery. And I'll talk to a man who knows what Kerry is going through, Bob Dole.

Plus...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My thoughts on the war is, first of all, there is absolutely no reason for it. It's immoral. It's costly. It's unwise.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: We'll listen to anti-war voices in Iowa and consider the impact on the presidential race.

And Bill Clinton gets angry about AIDS in his interview with Judy Woodruff.

And...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I'm Bill Schneider in Washington. The results are in. Kerry won. No, not that contest. The one that's gone to the dogs.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: A progress report in today's "Campaign News Daily." Senator John Kerry's doctor says his surgery for prostate cancer today went very well. The Democratic presidential candidate is said to be resting comfortably at a Baltimore hospital. An inspection of the prostate gland after its removal appeared to show the cancer was completely contained. The 59-year-old senator is expected to be out of the hospital Saturday. He has vowed to return quickly to his campaign.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DR. PATRICK WALSH, JOHN KERRY'S DOCTOR, JOHNS HOPKINS HOSPITAL: We'll see if he can keep up with the schedule he wants. I think, physically, there's no reason why he shouldn't be able to. But if he is a little slower than that, I wouldn't be surprised.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY:: A Kerry campaign source told reporters the Senator wore his Vietnam dog tag during the surgery for good luck, and he joked he might not need anesthesia if he read the history book he brought along or, better yet, the book he wrote.

Former presidential candidate and senate majority leader, Bob Dole, is a prominent advocate of prostate cancer awareness, after having surgery for the disease himself. I spoke to Dole today about a number of topics. First, I asked him if he believes Kerry's diagnosis will hurt his presidential campaign.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BOB DOLE, FORMER SENATOR, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think in the last 20 years there has been a sea change. I mean, I think the fact that John Kerry goes public is a big plus for him and a lot of men that he knows in Massachusetts, and going to get to know around the country, they are going to go in and see their doctor now if they know John Kerry had this. He's a young guy at 59 years of age. I don't think it makes any difference.

I put out a statement when I had mine done. Some of the people in my office didn't think it was a very smart thing to do because people see cancer. They go, oh, cancer. This buy must be about gone. Well, mine was 12 years ago and I am partly here. So it's a -- I don't think it is an issue at all.

CROWLEY: Let me move you on to sort of the global thing. One thing I am curious about, first of all, is whether you and Senator Dole have bought duct tape, plastic tape, water -- all of the things that Homeland Security and Tom Ridge are now telling us to do?

DOLE: No, but I must say I haven't even thought about it. I watched the news last night. You know, I guess people -- I don't say you shouldn't do it. I think some people have different thresholds that they will feel more secure if it is in the house, and just to have it in case of -- you know, what happens if they hit the alter some day that something's happened, and you have done anything. So it is the old grasshopper story.

CROWLEY: Let's talk about Iraq and how this administration has handled it. When you look at it, it seems to me we are on the precipice of ware. Do they handle this well?

DOLE: I think so far it's been done fairly well. Going back to the Senate and Congress, in my view, is a big step. Going back to the U.N. was a big and necessary step, even going back now for even a second resolution. I think Secretary Powell played a very key role in sort of hanging back, the reluctant warrior, and then making a splendid -- doing this for the United Nations. I thought he did an excellent job.

And now, recently, this new tape of bin Laden, more ties of Iraq with al Qaeda. I mean, I think the case is getting stronger. I can't figure out France and Germany, but they have their own interests.

CROWLEY: I wanted to take you to one other area of the world, hot spot, Korea. Do you think that North Korea is really prepared to go to war? How do you read that?

DOLE: I think it's all bluff. I mean, I think they are looking for concessions from us. The thing that startles me more than anything is what I see in South Korea. I mean, anti-American demonstrations when we've got 37,000 Americans at risk there in the DMZ.

And we, in fact, saved the country in the Korean conflict in the early '50s, '50 to '53. I hope those who demonstrate don't speak for all the South Koreans. But my view is, the president's got it about right. Some people say, well, this is -- Iraq -- first is North Korea, then al Qaeda, then Iraqi. I'm not certain that is the case. I think he's got it about right. If we're successful in Iraq, it's going to send a lot of signals around the world.

CROWLEY: Of all the things that are happening, there's such an unease, I am wondering what scares you the most, what worries you the most?

DOLE: I think it's al Qaeda. I think it's terrorism. My view is we're going to be able to deal with Iraq, whatever happens. But then you think, well, that is going to trigger acts of terrorism in L.A., or Spokane or Miami or Russell, Kansas, or wherever it might be. I think that worries me. They are out there- somewhere. And how long it will be before someone strikes or whether this will provoke -- if there is a conflict with Iraq, will this provoke more terrorism?

Again, I don't know what the answer is. You can't just sit and wait, and say, well, if we wait long enough nothing will happen. I don't think that's the answer either. But it does frighten you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY: Former Senate Republican Leader Bob Dole.

And in the showdown with Iraq, Secretary of State Colin Powell said today the moment of truth is almost at hand. The Democratic presidential candidates are all too aware of that reality. And so are some key voters in the lead-off, caucus state of Iowa. We went there the other day to take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY (voice-over): Iowa in the dead of winter is just what you'd expect. Inky blue frigid night and simmering protest over soup supper.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My thoughts on the war is, first of all, there's absolutely no reason for it. I can't -- it's immoral. It's costly. It's unwise.

CROWLEY: The eve of war coincides with the opening of the presidential election season in Iowa, a confluence of events which gives buzz to the campaign of Howard Dean.

HOWARD DEAN (D), FORMER GOVERNOR OF VERMONT: The Secretary and the President have not made the case that such an imminent threat exists, and we should not go to war in Iraq until he does that.

CROWLEY: Even as it fuels one of the lesser-known presidential candidates, the impending war has hit home and heart of a state senator.

DEAN: Well, I lost two friends in Vietnam. I told myself then -- excuse me -- that if that kind of situation ever arose again, I would do everything I can to make sure that that doesn't happen to the current generation of young people.

CROWLEY: He will introduce a state resolution opposing the war. In the snowy chill of Iowa days, the anti-war grassroots are firing up.

CHET GUNN, RETIRED CLERGY: The next step will be civil disobedience. You are going to see more in Iowa, people risking jail. We are not going to put up with this. It is such a serious, serious matter that we are playing around with.

CROWLEY: A peace movement veteran, Chet Gunn and five fellow Democratic activists talk war on the corner.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's going to be a winning issue.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's certainly in Iowa.

CROWLEY: Fear infuses the room.

BOB BRAMMER, PEACE ORGANIZER: My strongest feeling is this is a scary mistake. This is going to unleash kind of inflamed hatred of the U.S.

CROWLEY: This is not your children's anti-war movement. They consider themselves fairly mainstream products of the heartland. Mark is head of the state's AFL-CIO.

MARK SMITH, PRESIDENT, IOWA AFL-CIO: We've got money to retire Saddam Hussein, $200 billion. But we haven't got any money for the retirement and security of the people right here. We've got money to destroy the hell out of people in Iraq. We haven't got any money to take care of the health care needs of this country.

CROWLEY: Mary is old enough to remember the day Pearl Harbor was attacked.

MARY BRUBAKER, RETIRED JOURNALIST: If prayer makes a difference to people, they need to pray. If marching makes a difference to people, they need to march. I've gotten out my Vietnam peace medal that my father, who was a wood carver, carved for all the children and grandchildren in our family And this may become a familiar symbol again.

CROWLEY: A post-Vietnam baby, Joshua was born into a country skeptical of government words, government motives.

JOSHUA CRANDALL, IOWA FAITH AND LABOR CMTE.: Bush, Cheney, Powell, they're all pushing for more but they all had a chance to fight in Vietnam. They chose not to. But now they are willing to send blacks and poor whites to go fight their war so that they'll profit and oil.

CROWLEY: When Peggy, mother of three, was pregnant for the first time, she dreamt her baby died in a nuclear holocaust. She's been a peace activist ever since.

PEGGY HUPPERT, FORMER CHAIRWOMAN, POLK CO. DEM.: The more people I talk to a real sense of despair, and that there's just nothing they can do. That Bush has made up his mind that he is going to war, that we are going to war.

CROWLEY: They are afraid. They are sad. And, worst of all, they feel unheard.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is this war going to happen?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Unfortunately.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm afraid so. But I think that they're -- if we used our creativity, globally, we could find another solution.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am not giving up, but I think it will happen.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, I think it will.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hoping against hope it doesn't, but feeling like it's headed to war.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY: Just a few Democratic voices out of the heartland.

And now coming up, the duct tape controversy. Is the administration doing enough to safeguard Americans from terror attacks? Our guests will take issue.

And later, the flag flap in Georgia. Will the state's voters get a say in deciding which flag will fly?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: Did you know that nearly five months into this fiscal year the U.S. is still without a spending bill? That may soon change. Republican congressional leaders today hammered out a nearly $400 billion package that would fund the government for the next 7 1/2 months. The bill must now be passed by both houses of Congress.

(MARKET UPDATE)

CROWLEY: Coming up, Bill Clinton gets ticked off. Let's see what he had to say to our Judy Woodruff ahead on INSIDE POLITICS.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY (voice-over): It's time to check your I.P. I.Q. Which former American President was born 194 years ago today? Was it A: George Washington, B: Abraham Lincoln or C: Thomas Jefferson. We'll tell you the answer later on INSIDE POLITICS.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: Coming, who is the hottest representative on Capitol Hill? A tasty contest may provide the answer.

Plus, where's Judy? We'll tell you why our INSIDE POLITICS anchor is not in front of the cameras today. More INSIDE POLITICS in 90 seconds.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: A bitter battle is brewing in congress over this man. I'll tell you why coming up on INSIDE POLITICS.

But, first, this "News Alert."

(NEWSBREAK)

CROWLEY: While the White House today pressed the link between Iraq and Osama bin Laden, Iraq denied the connection. Iraq's vice president said no link exists between his country and al Qaeda. Joining us now, Margaret Carlson of "TIME" magazine and Tucker Carlson of CNN's "CROSSFIRE". Hi, Carlsons.

MARGARET CARLSON, "TIME" MAGAZINE: Hi, Candy.

CROWLEY: Let's talk about duct tape. I want to first play you something from Senator Daschle who took on the duct tape issue recently. Let's listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. TOM DASCHLE (D-SD), MINORITY LEADER: The response yesterday from the administration was that the American people ought to buy more plastic and duct tape. If that is their only response, then I believe that the people of this country ought to hold them far more accountable than that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: So, Tucker, cheap shot? Fair shot? TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST, "CROSSFIRE": It's a cheap shot. It's an understandably cheap shot. Democrats are losing by 30 points on the question: tough enough on terrorism?

So, they need to seem tougher on terrorism. On the hand, this does seem -- and you hate to think it is -- but an effort to leverage a terrorist threat for political gain. The fact is, maybe duct tape helps. If Senator Daschle had gotten up and said, duct tape doesn't help. Here are nine things that do help, it would be a more credible criticism. But he didn't do that. He just criticized. And it's hard to see it as not political.

CROWLEY: Margaret, go ahead.

M. CARLSON: I think a mouth is the only thing duct tape does work on.

I'm an expert on duct tape, because my V.W. is held together by it. And I can tell you, it keeps out the rain, but it does not keep out the humidity. So, I have not been in Home Depot. But I noticed the gender gap is most obvious there, where everyone waiting in line seems to be female getting the provisions, including the duct tape, and that women are far more worried.

And as women tend to do, we think we can do something about it, when, in fact, I think the duct tape and the plastic sheets is the illusion of being able to do something about it, when, really, with terrorism, we're on our own.

CROWLEY: Well, either that, Tucker, or men are just phobic about going to the store.

But, in any case, doesn't he have -- doesn't Senator Daschle have a point, in that we haven't really seen much about what we're supposed to do, other than look alert and buy this stuff? What else is going on?

T. CARLSON: Right.

Nobody is growing victory gardens or something like that. But, as Margaret said, it's not clear what the public can do. And the fact is, a lot of people are buying duct tape. And maybe it's silly and perhaps it's just useful as a psychological palliative. But to mock it, as Senator Daschle has, strikes me as risky, unkind to the people waiting in line at Home Depot, and really sort of opportunistic.

CROWLEY: Margaret, 15 seconds.

M. CARLSON: I think he was just making a little joke, like I was, because duct tape, somehow, just doesn't seem enough against al Qaeda's threats. And so, listen, lighten up a little.

Hey, Tucker, we could all be dead. Lighten up. I'm glad we're in separate locations, like Bush and Cheney.

(LAUGHTER) T. CARLSON: Thanks, Margaret. For national security reasons, we're separated

(CROSSTALK)

CROWLEY: Tucker Carlson, Margaret Carlson, on that light note, thank you both very much.

M. CARLSON: Bye, Tucker.

CROWLEY: Bill Clinton says he's very proud of his record in the battle against AIDS. Up next: The former president takes on critics of his record, including actor and activist Richard Gere.

Plus: the newest wrinkle in the controversy over Georgia's state flag.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: Look for some theatrics on the Senate floor tonight in the battle over Miguel Estrada's nomination to the federal appeals court.

Jonathan Karl reports, Republicans hope to force Democrats to filibuster Estrada's nomination the old-fashioned way, by talking into the night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R), UTAH: I'd be ashamed to use a filibuster, the first time in history, to risk the whole doggone judiciary because of partisan politics.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: Republican Orrin Hatch accused Democrats of using weapons of mass obstruction in the Estrada nomination. Democrat Harry Reid displayed a blank sign, which he said represented Estrada's answers to the Judiciary Committee. Democrats say Estrada stonewalled them about his judicial philosophy.

Senator Majority Leader Bill Frist says he'll hold the Senate in session into the weekend and as long as it takes to get Estrada confirmed as the first Hispanic on the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

Bill Clinton was back at his old school yesterday for the first annual William J. Clinton Presidential Foundation Young Adult Symposium. There's a mouthful. He was joined at Georgetown University by a panel of activists, including actor Don Cheadle, who you may remember from films such as "Ocean's 11" and "Traffic."

Just before Clinton gave the keynote speech, Judy Woodruff sat down with the former president and the actor to talk about young voters and a subject of great concern to Clinton, AIDS.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: President Clinton, Don Cheadle, good to see both of you. Thank you for talking with us.

WILLIAM J. CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: Mr. President, this youth forum at Georgetown...

CLINTON: And I'm delighted that he proposed the money.

WOODRUFF: President Bill Clinton, Don Cheadle, we thank you very much.

CHEADLE: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: Good to talk to both of you. Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY: Georgia's governor wants a nonbinding vote to be held in March 2004 on the state flag.

Protesters from both sides gathered today at the state Capitol as Governor Sonny Perdue announced he'd like the vote to coincide with the state's presidential primary. Voters would be asked whether the current state flag should be changed. They also would be asked whether they prefer the flag dominated by the Confederate battle cross or a previous flag.

The NAACP has warned it will stage an economic boycott if Georgia goes back to the flag dominated by the Confederate emblem. The Georgia legislature will have the final say on a referendum and on any change in the state flag that might be approved.

Still to come on INSIDE POLITICS: As debris from the space shuttle Columbia arrives in Florida, Congress opens hearings into the tragedy. We'll hear from the chairman of the House Science Committee, Representative Sherwood Boehlert.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY (voice-over): Time again to check your "I.P. I.Q."

Earlier, we asked, which former American president was born 194 years ago today? Was it, A, George Washington, B, Abraham Lincoln, or C, Thomas Jefferson? The correct answer is B. On February 12, 1809, Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president of the United States, was born in present-day LaRue County Kentucky; 83 years later, in 1892, his birthday was declared a national holiday.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: Debris from the space shuttle Columbia has started arriving at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Thousands of pieces are being sent to a hangar at the center, where they'll be spread out and at least partially reconstructed by investigators. The first shipment left Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana yesterday.

On Capitol Hill, a joint House-Senate committee opened hearings today on the loss of the shuttle and its seven-member crew.

And with me now: the chairman of the House Science Committee, Representative Sherwood Boehlert of New York.

Thank you so much, Congressman, for joining us.

Let me ask you first, are you confident that the independent group looking into this tragedy is independent enough from NASA?

REP. SHERWOOD BOEHLERT (R), NEW YORK: Well, Candy, that was one of the thrusts of our initial public hearing.

And we talked at length about that and the determination on a bipartisan, bicameral basis on the part of Congress to ensure that the commission, the Columbia accident investigation board, is truly independent, not just in name, but in fact. And we had a good exchange with Administrator O'Keefe on that point. And we have received assurances that the charter will be revised.

Now, let me give you a couple of examples. The independent board will have employees of its own selection that they are able to hire, rather than having employees completely from the NASA staff. They'll make their own judgments and determination on the manner in which they are going to proceed, the type of meetings they're going to have, when they're going to have them, where they're going to have them. They won't have to check with NASA.

So, you've put your finger on something that was very important right from the get-go, the independence of the board.

CROWLEY: And so you are confident, if they make these changes, that it will have the independence it needs?

BOEHLERT: Yes, there's no question about the integrity and professional competence of all the members who have been named thus far.

And I've already had extensive conversations with Admiral Gehman, the chairman. And he is receptive to our suggestion that we put more members on the board, people from the private sector who have no affiliation with NASA or with the government, people who have unquestioned credentials in the sciences, for example, or in business management, because a large measure of this overall deliberation will deal with the bottom line, the financial aspects of the whole program. CROWLEY: Let me ask you, a couple of fellow senators -- fellow congressmen -- they're senators, both Republicans -- have expressed concern that not enough money is being spent on safety on these missions and in NASA in general. Do you share that concern?

BOEHLERT: Well, let me tell you what the record shows over the years.

The record shows that we've continued to respond in an affirmative way to all of NASA's requests for money for safety, specifically safety. As a matter of fact, Congress has repeatedly insisted that safety be first and foremost. And we didn't have to convince anyone. NASA wants that same outcome.

But there is no evidence of Congress saying to NASA, no, we're going to cut here on safety because you're spending too much money. Quite the contrary. But we've got to examine everything. We have got to make certain that all the policies are looked at and determine what policy changes are needed to guarantee, as much as humanly possible, the future safety of that program.

CROWLEY: Congressman Sherwood Boehlert, we really thank you. We hope to have you back again. We know these hearings will be going on.

BOEHLERT: Thank you.

CROWLEY: Thank you.

And still ahead on INSIDE POLITICS: canines and candidates. Our Bill Schneider checks in with some comparisons between the presidential hopefuls and the contestants in the big dog show that wrapped up last night in New York.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: In the dog-eat-dog world of politics, our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider, may have come up with an alternative to next year's political primaries and caucuses.

With great depredation, I say, you are now here to tell us more.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Indeed I am.

You know, the 2004 primaries and caucuses are only a year away and we know what you are saying. There must be a better way to pick a candidate. Well, there is. We've found it. It's been going on this week in New York City.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Welcome to New York's Madison Square Garden, where political conventions are often held to pick a winner. There's been sort of a convention this week in Madison Square Garden with the same objective: best in show.

MARK MCEWEN, HOST: Hello, everyone. I'm Mark McEwen. And welcome to the 127th annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.

SCHNEIDER: The two processes are pretty much the same. A bunch of vain, pampered, ruthlessly ambitious creatures gather to show their stuff, hoping to impress the voters.

They are groomed. They're coddled. They're fussed over to a fare-thee-well. Those candidates line up for debate. These candidates line up for a run around the ring, same idea, show up the competition. Candidates in both races have to suffer indignities. Sometimes, a popular favorite emerges, like John McCain in New Hampshire or this fellow at Westminster.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This might be the biggest ovation we've heard so far tonight.

SCHNEIDER: But the crowd favorites don't always win. Negative campaigning? They've got it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Although they can be rough on other dogs...

SCHNEIDER: Some of the 2004 Democrats seem to have surrogates in the Westminster contest. See this one with the great hair? Must be John Edwards. And there's Joe Lieberman. Could this be Howard Dean?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This dog is getting to be very popular very quickly.

SCHNEIDER: Don't mess with this guy. It could be Al Sharpton. In fact, early on, a favorite emerged at the dog show.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is kerry blue terrier No. 6.

SCHNEIDER: Could it be an omen?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's in total command of this ring. He is the dog.

SCHNEIDER: All in all, not a bad way to pick a winner, but it may be tough. After all, how many Democrats could pass a test like this?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER: Breeding matters in dogs. You know, it matters in political candidates, too. Just look at the guy in the White House right now. You know, his father was a champion. Woof.

(LAUGHTER)

CROWLEY: As always, Bill, I'm completely speechless. Thanks, though.

SCHNEIDER: OK.

CROWLEY: Members of Congress sometimes can be pesky or testy, but how about zesty? That story still ahead. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: Hello. I'm Judy Woodruff. I'm 28 years old. And I've been a reporter for WAGA-TV in Atlanta for the past five years.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: From her early days in Atlanta, where she started as a newsroom secretary, our Judy Woodruff has come a long way, baby. And today, she was inducted into the Georgia Broadcasters Hall of Fame. Judy has covered everything, from the Georgia legislature, to the presidential campaign trail, to the White House, and now anchoring INSIDE POLITICS. It's quite a career and it's only getting better.

Along with your friends in Georgia, Judy, and our viewers, we on INSIDE POLITICS salute you.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: And, finally: members of Congress who like it hot.

Six lawmakers competed today in a jalapeno pepper eating contest sponsored by a magazine about spicy cooking. Last year's winner downed a mere eight peppers in five minutes, though we should note he washed them down with Tabasco sauce. This year's winner, California Congressman Joe Baca, consumed an astounding 47 jalapenos in five minutes, earning him the title of zestiest legislator and probably a case of indigestion.

That is it for INSIDE POLITICS. I'm Candy Crowley.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com



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