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Blix Calls for More Time for Inspections; How Well Did Bush Do in Last Night's Speech?

Aired March 7, 2003 - 16:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: In the trenches. With Iraqis and Americans preparing for war, U.N. inspectors want more time.

HANS BLIX, CHIEF U.N. WEAPONS INSPECTOR: It will not take years, nor weeks, but months.

COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: The clock continues to tick, and the consequences of Saddam Hussein's continued refusal to disarm will be very, very real.

Is a deadline in the works? We'll update the timetable for the final round of diplomacy.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: King, John King. This is a scripted...

ANNOUNCER: The president's prime-time performance. Was it boffo, boring or somewhere in between?

Facing the stress. Has the showdown with Iraq taken a physical toll on the British prime minister?


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

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

The United States and key members of the United Nations Security Council are as divided as ever over war with Iraq. And a new proposal to give Saddam Hussein a deadline doesn't seem to be changing that.

In this "NewsCycle," the U.S. and Britain want the Security Council to vote next week on their new plan to give Iraq until March 17 to fully disarm. But three nations with U.N. veto power remain opposed to military action after hearing from U.N. weapons inspectors today.


DOMINIQUE DE VILLEPIN, FRENCH FOREIGN MINISTER: We do not accept any ultimatum, any automatic use of force. They are giving the deadline of the 17th of March, which is ten days. We don't think that we go to war on timetable.


WOODRUFF: Chief arms inspectors Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei today reported improved cooperation by Iraq. But Blix said that sobering questions remain about Baghdad's weapons of mass destruction. The inspectors disputed a U.S. claim that Iraq has mobile weapons production centers, and said there is still no evidence that Iraq has resumed its nuclear weapons program. Blix said Iraq had not destroyed any more banned missiles today. He said he hopes it's a temporary break after significant progress.


BLIX: The destruction undertaken constitutes a substantial measure of disarmament, indeed, the first since the middle of the 1990s. We are not watching the breaking of toothpicks. Lethal weapons are being destroyed.

POWELL: Unfortunately, in my judgment, despite some of the progress that has been mentioned, I still find what I've heard this morning a catalog, still of non-cooperation.


WOODRUFF: Our correspondents are standing by at the United Nations, at the White House and at Capitol Hill. Let's go first to Richard Roth at the U.N. Richard, what happens now with this second draft resolution?

RICHARD ROTH, CNN SENIOR U.N. CORRESPONDENT: Well, it will be circulated among the Security Council members, who are going to go behind closed doors in about an hour, and they'll start discussing it. But it's going to take several days to reach any agreement, if that is possible. And that's going to shorten the time that Iraq has, if that language is approved, to cooperate.

March 17 is now the new deadline looming for Iraq if the resolution is passed. And this Security Council you're looking at right now is not very united. There's the big day, March 17, that Iraq has to comply and give up any weapons of mass destruction it may possess. This despite the U.N. weapons inspectors asking for more time. The U.S., Britain and Spain are now saying that's the day. That's what's new in the resolution.

But there was still a lot of division in the open session between the French foreign minister and the British foreign minister, the foreign secretary, Jack Straw. They battled it out. This time, it was Straw who got some applause.

The French minister said, Why should we wish to proceed by force at any price when we can succeed peacefully? And then, the British foreign secretary using the French foreign ministers first name saying, Dominique, to say we can proceed peacefully is wrong. If it were that easy, we wouldn't be here -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Now, Richard, if this is coming up next week, what does the U.S. and Great Britain, what are they planning to do diplomatically over the next few days? What happens?

ROTH: Well, they're going to present the paper, and then they're going to lobby and say, look, we're giving him one last chance. The earlier proposed resolution said Iraq had missed the chance. Some in the U.S. would say he's run out of chances, Saddam Hussein.

But they're going to continue the wooing, probably with other economic issues for some of the noncommitted members. But let's talk about some of the reaction we are hearing from those uncommitted so far. One diplomat said, "I have a better chance of getting a date with Julia Roberts than Iraq has of complying in ten days."

Another diplomat said if the resolution, as is, goes to vote next week. Quote, "it would be defeated overwhelmingly." And Iraq said, What can you do within ten days? It's nonsense.

But Britain, Spain and the United States think this is giving Iraq more time. And one U.S. official said this was really all about Britain giving ten days more to Iraq. This was for Tony Blair, for him to show his government, which is in danger of falling over the Iraq issue, to show that more time is being given, that the U.S. and U.K. are open to news and will not bomb immediately -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: OK, Richard Roth at the United Nations.

Now, let's turn quickly to Dana Bash, our correspondent at the White House. Dana, how seriously did the Bush administration take today's presentation by the weapons inspectors?

DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, they've really been down this road before, Judy, with watching Hans Blix's reports on how the inspections are going. In the past, they've been somewhat optimistic that perhaps he would help their cause to show that inspections aren't working. He didn't necessarily -- he really didn't do that today.

And the White House certainly wasn't surprised by that. But they are really calling what he said much of the same thing. He didn't necessarily do that today. And the White House certainly wasn't surprised by that. But they are really calling what he said much of the same, saying that, yes, while Iraq, in Hans Blix's words, is making progress, Saddam Hussein isn't doing what the White House says that they want him to do, which is totally and fully disarm.

And following on the president's speech last night, his press conference last night, saying that there will be a vote no matter what next week at the Security Council. As Richard was just talking about, the White House is supporting this deadline of March 17, because some of the middle states, as Richard was talking about, they feel here at the White House that they would be more inclined to vote with them if there was a deadline, if Iraq was given one last chance. But for those who will vote against the resolution next week, who are planning on voting against it, Ari Fleischer, the White House spokesman had a very, very pointed comment on that earlier today.


ARI FLEISCHER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: For nations that oppose and do so, they will vote their conscience, as they do. I think the real question they'll have to answer one day is the question that will perhaps one day come from the free Iraqi people. Where were you when we needed you the most? To whom do we say thank you for our freedom? And they will know, because hands will be raised. And that, too, is a moral issue.


BASH: While all the action was going on in New York, the president, for his part, had some private meetings here at the White House. He had a meeting with his National Security Council. There, you see the vice president going in for a meeting this morning with the president to do some war planning.

Another important meeting he had was with the foreign minister of Qatar. That country, of course, very important to the president and to the White House in terms of any military action, because it is hosting the U.S. central command, which would direct any war against Saddam Hussein -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right. Dana, it doesn't get anymore blunt than what Ari Fleischer said.

BASH: No, it doesn't.

WOODRUFF: All right. Thank you.

On Capitol Hill, there are fresh signs of the Democrat's divisions and frustrations about U.S. moves toward war. Here's our Congressional correspondent Jonathan Karl.


JONATHAN KARL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Democrats have asked for time to debate war with Iraq, but few bothered to show up for it.

SEN. JIM JEFFORDS (I), VERMONT: It's a serious form of air pollution.

KARL: Jim Jeffords was there but decided to talk about clean air rather than war. Tom Harkin, who voted last fall to allow the president to wage war against Iraq, wasn't there. But he told the "Des Moines Register" he regrets that vote and would now vote no. " I'm not going to be fooled twice," Harkin said. "As I look back, it sure looks like the administration was never serious about resolving the situation peacefully. I thought they were." But there isn't going to be another vote. And most Democrats think war is coming and there's nothing they can do about it. A point made by house Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, one of the few party leaders who has consistently opposed war.

NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: If the Democrats had spoken out more clearly in a unified vote five months ago in opposition to the resolution, if the people had gone on to the streets five months ago in these numbers, in our country and throughout the world, I think we might have been at a different place today.

KARL: In contrast, Republicans have been remarkably unified. And in today's debate, the key GOP leaders showed up to again tow the party line.

SEN. TED STEVENS (R), ALASKA: I agree with the president. We don't need partners on this one. We don't need them. I believe we have right on our side, and we have might on our side. And we should use that might for the best interest of the world of the future.

KARL: But in the three hours set aside to debate war with Iraq, Ted Kennedy and Chris Dodd were the only two Democrats who talked about it.

SEN. CHRIS DODD (D), CONNECTICUT: I honestly believe, Mr. President, that it's in our interest to try and rebuild this, to get diplomacy back in the front burner here, and to give that a chance to work. And if it doesn't, then we'll go to war. But we ought not to jump to war.


KARL: And if it comes to war, both houses of Congress are expected to pass a resolution, probably unanimously, expressing support for the troops, as Senator Kennedy said today on the Senate floor. If it comes to war, even the toughest critics of the war, will close ranks behind those that are actually doing the fighting -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: OK, Jon Karl, that's something to watch. Thanks very much.

Democratic Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia is venting his frustration against President Bush. Here's what he had to say about the President's news conference last night.


SEN. ROBERT BYRD (D), WEST VIRGINIA: He talked last night like a man who is not willing to listen any further. He has stopped listening. And a president can't do that. A president of the United States has to listen. Ought to listen.


WOODRUFF: You can hear all of Byrd's interview on CNN's "LARRY KING LIVE" tonight at 9:00 Eastern. Well, the Iraq debate continues to stir emotions and protests around the world. In Los Angeles, this hour, supporters of the use of force plan to protest France's opposition to war by pouring bottles of French wine in the gutter outside of the French consulate.

In Italy today, peace activists blocked what they dubbed a train of death carrying tanks and weapons to a NATO base in the southern part of that country. About 50 demonstrators chained themselves to tank turrets and the train itself, holding it up for hours.

Meantime, the Pentagon is moving ahead with preparations for war in Iraq, and for what comes afterward. CNN has learned of a plan to divide Iraq into three sectors. As soon as security is established after war begins. Northern and Southern Iraq would be under the administration of two retired U.S. Army generals. Central Iraq would be administered by Barbara Bodine. She's a former U.S. ambassador to Yemen.

Meantime, U.S. forces have dropped more than a half million leaflets southeast of Baghdad, warning Iraqis not to use weapons of mass destruction or to fire on coalition aircraft.

For more on Iraq, stay with CNN. The International Atomic Energy chief Mohamed ElBaradei will be on "MONEYLINE." You can watch that exclusive interview at 6:00 p.m. Eastern tonight.

And Secretary of State Colin Powell will be a guest on "LATE EDITION WITH WOLF BLITZER." That's Sunday at noon Eastern.

Coming up, we will talk about U.S. moves toward war in Iraq and at the U.N. with the ranking Democrat on the Senate Arms Services Committee, Carl Levin.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I'm Bill Schneider in Washington. The cards have been dealt and the stakes are high. I'll tell you who is claiming the pot and the political play of the week.

WOODRUFF: Also ahead, some eye-popping new economic numbers. What do they mean for the market and for President Bush?

And what is a Democratic candidate to do? We'll consider how the threat of war is complicating the presidential campaign.

This is INSIDE POLITICS, the place for campaign news.


WOODRUFF: Coming up, the wear and tear from the showdown with Iraq.


RICHARD QUEST, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He has bags under his eyes and, most crucially, he seems to have lost a lot of weight. The prime minister's office says nothing wrong with the man. He's on a strict diet.


WOODRUFF: Our Richard Quest on the political and physical toll that Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair is taking.


WOODRUFF (voice-over): Yesterday, Senate Republicans failed to break a Democratic filibuster on the judicial nomination of Miguel Estrada. When was the requirement to end such delaying tactics or filibuster reduced to 60 votes? Was it A: 1935, B: 1955 or C: 1975?



WOODRUFF: The ranking Democrat on the Senate Arms Services Committee is among those who say it would be a mistake for the U.S. to use military force against Iraq without U.N. approval. Senator Carl Levin of Michigan is with me now from Capitol Hill to talk about his views on the standoff with Iraq.

Senator, you do say the U.S. should work through the U.N., but right now, the divisions are as deep as ever. If they persist, isn't time -- and this administration means business -- isn't it just about time for the U.S. to give up on the U.N.?

SEN. CARL LEVIN (D), MICHIGAN: I think it would be a mistake for the U.S. to give up on the U.N. As a matter of fact, it's the U.N. resolutions which the United States would be presumably enforcing. The president has made it an important part of his presentation to the Security Council that it's the U.N. resolutions that have not been fully complied with.

With that being the case, it seems to me that the decision or the opinion of the U.N. Security Council, whichever way it goes, ought to have great weight with the administration.

WOODRUFF: Well, if this new proposal by the Americans, the British and Spanish to give Saddam Hussein until March 17, is that enough time?

LEVIN: I don't think it will be for the Security Council. It's obvious they don't want to set that kind of a deadline, as long as progress is being made, according to the inspectors. But that seems to be where the Security Council is at the moment.

They want to give support to the inspectors. Since they're making progress, they want to see the rest of the missiles destroyed. They want to have all the suspect sites that have not yet been visited, visited. And that seems to be where the Security Council is going.

But we shouldn't walk away from the Security Council if, in fact, they don't agree with us. The Security Council's decision is highly relevant, whichever way they go. And whether or not we have that authority when we use force is very important in terms of the consequences, which will flow from our use of force.

If it's just us and Great Britain and Australia against an Islamic state, that's very different from having the whole world community against Saddam Hussein, which it was in 1991, when 28 states actually contributed forces to the military attack, including many Islamic states. That's not true right now.

WOODRUFF: Well, I think the Bush administration will argue they've been working with the U.N. They've been working with the Security Council. You had Secretary of State Powell saying, today, how long is this going to go on and on? If there isn't going to be agreement on this March 17 extension, would you then be supportive of the U.S. going with a small group, U.S., U.K. and so forth?

LEVIN: No, I think we ought to stick with this U.N. Security Council.

WOODRUFF: No matter how long it takes.

LEVIN: Yes, because the U.N. Security Council -- look, we were, what? Fifty years against the Soviet Union. That was a long time in Europe. We've been 50 years against North Korea. That's a long time. A lot more than 12 years. I think the president has a strong case to make before the Security Council.

But if he doesn't succeed, it seems to me to walk away from the power of the Security Council and to go it alone without that authority risks huge consequences for us. And Ridge, as a matter of fact, pointed out some of those consequences, including a terrorist response being enhanced and increased if we attack Iraq.

WOODRUFF: But wouldn't that be an enormous loss of face, Senator, for the president, for the United States to come this close to the brink of taking military action against Saddam Hussein and then saying, well, we'll just pull back, because we can't get the kind of support we need at the U.N.

LEVIN: You say loss of face?


LEVIN: We don't go to war because of loss of face. We go to war because there is a threat to us, which we find to be solvable only through military force. And, unless that threat is imminent, to go without the authority of the U.N. Security Council has really severe consequences for us in terms of a response against us on the part of a huge part of the world. We can expect increases in terrorist response. We can expect chaos in Iraq and the Middle East afterwards. So it's not a matter of saving face. One does not go to war for that purpose.

WOODRUFF: But if you put it off, aren't you, in essence, saying you're not ever going to go to war because you're never going to get a coalition, are you?. LEVIN: Well, we did with the Gulf War. The coalition was authorized by the United Nations. And as long as those inspectors are saying they're making progress, it seems to me we ought to be sticking with the U.N., unless there's an imminent threat. If there's an imminent or immediate threat to us, we do, obviously, are going to do what we need to do.

WOODRUFF: No matter how long it takes, you're saying?

LEVIN: Korea's 50 years, we're still there. I don't want to put a deadline on it. You say no matter how long it takes. Unless there's an immediate threat to us, it seems to me the advantages of sticking with the U.N. Security Council outweigh any disadvantages.

And there are huge risks in going without the authority, both in terms of to our troops, because we will not have the military support of neighbors and Islamic states, which we had in 1991, and long-term, in terms of the response of the world. The anti-Americanism in this world, which fuels terrorist response, is huge. We've been warned about it by the director of the defense intelligence agency, about the threat of anti-Americanism.

And unless there's an imminent threat to us, where we have to defend ourselves against that kind of immediate threat, we ought to stick with the United Nations Security Council. It is their resolutions that we say that we are enforcing.

WOODRUFF: Senator Carl Levin, thanks very much. Good to see you. We appreciate you talking with us.

Well, how much support is there around the world for an attack on Iraq. Our Bill Schneider scours the globe for the pulse of the people. His worldwide poll of polls is coming up.

But first, new numbers this afternoon on the ever-growing budget deficit. The Congressional Budget Office predicts a massive $1.8 trillion deficit over the coming decade if the president's proposed tax cuts and budget plan become law. That report came just hours after more negative news on the job market. The Labor Department says 308,000 jobs were lost last month. The most since just after the September 11 attacks. Unemployment now stands at 5.8 percent.



WOODRUFF (voice-over): Time again to check your "I.P. I.Q." Earlier, we asked, when was the requirement to end a Senate filibuster, an extreme delaying tactic, reduced to 60 votes? Was it A: 1935, B: 1955 or C: 1975? The correct answer is C. On this date in 1975, the Senate reduced the number of votes required for ending this sort of debate from two-thirds to three-fifths, which is 60 members.



WOODRUFF: American troops are in place ready to attack Iraq if ordered. But how much support around the world is there for a war? In a moment, our Bill Schneider gauges international opinion.


WOODRUFF: A number of nations are refusing to budge in their opposition to a war in Iraq, right now, after today's report by U.N. weapons inspectors to the Security Council. Well, our Bill Schneider has been pouring over polls from around the globe. So, Bill, how much support is there out for going to war with Iraq?

SCHNEIDER: Well, Judy, let's check our worldwide poll of polls. The United States and Britain are sure to vote, yes, but how do the American and British people feel? Well, in the U.S., two new polls this week, both find 59 percent of Americans in favor of military action.

America's British allies turn out to be strongly supportive, 75 percent, but only if U.N. inspectors find proof that Iraq is trying to hide weapons of destruction. and if the U.N. Security Council votes in favor of military action. If only one of those conditions holds, the British public is split. If neither holds, no proof, no U.N. vote. British support for war drops to just one in four.

WOODRUFF: And Bill what about in those countries where the government is opposing this military action?

SCHNEIDER: Well, France is leading the opposition, cheered on by the French people. Eighty five percent of the French oppose military action in Iraq. They say, non. The Germans are with the French, almost exactly, 86 percent of Germans say nein to war. And the Russians, nyet. A whopping 91 percent of Russians oppose military action.

Mexico still hasn't said how it will vote in the Security Council, but 70 percent of the Mexican people oppose military action. Chile is another undecided vote, and 80 percent of Chileans say, no. Is there popular support for war anywhere? Italy, 85 percent, no. Japan, 84 percent, no. Israel, a good bet the U.S. will find support there. But the latest poll shows wavering. Israelis are split over Iraq. If Americans feel alone going into this war, there's a reason for it. They are.

WOODRUFF: Sobering numbers.

All right, Bill Schneider, thanks very much.

On the homeland security front, the Bush administration announced that it now is releasing $600 million to help train and equip emergency workers who would be the first-responders in a terror attack. Governors, mayors and members of Congress have been clamoring for the financial help for months.

Also today, the Homeland Security and Education departments gave schools new tools and money to prepare for terrorism. A total of $30 million is being made available to schools to help them get ready for emergencies.

And a new Web site provides guidance on dealing with attacks and other disastrous events. The address is

Well, how would a war in Iraq change the race for the Democratic nomination for president? Up next: Stu Rothenberg and Amy Walter on the party hopefuls and the potential risks of practicing politics in a time of war.


WOODRUFF: Developments in the standoff with Iraq are complicating efforts by the Democratic presidential candidates to draw distinctions with the president.

With me now to talk more about the Democratic field, Stu Rothenberg of "The Rothenberg Political Report" and Amy Walter of "The Cook Political Report."

Stu, first to you.

War is looking very likely. What does this mean for these candidates?

STUART ROTHENBERG, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it changes the entire context.

It's very difficult to be partisan, it's very difficult to attack the president in general, but specifically on the war, if U.S. troops are under attack. So I think the Democrats are entering a period where it's going to be very difficult. They want to draw contrasts. They maybe want to second-guess the president. They can't do it too quickly and they can't do it if it looks as if they're being unpatriotic.

WOODRUFF: Is there a distinction, though, Amy, among these candidates? Are some of them freer to speak than others or are they all going to be under a blanket, so to speak?

AMY WALTER, "COOK POLITICAL REPORT: Well, I think they're all under the same blanket. And, certainly, it also takes a lot of issues that they want to be talking about off the table: domestic issues. They want to talk about health care, the economy, etcetera. Those are put in the background.

It puts some candidates, though, in a very interesting position, like former Governor Dean, who is running as an anti-war candidate, who's certainly staked a lot of his presidential ambitions on this anti-war stance. What he does during a conflict will be very interesting. And what he does afterwards is also going to be very interesting to watch.

WOODRUFF: Well, does this take the wind out of his sails, in effect, Stu? If this basically -- if this is the main rationale or one of the main rationales for his candidacy, what more reason is there for him to run?

ROTHENBERG: Yes, I think it could. It could cause him to have to redefine it.

WOODRUFF: Assuming this happens. And we're making a big assumption here.

ROTHENBERG: Right. Oh, absolutely.

WOODRUFF: It happens and it goes successfully.

ROTHENBERG: Right. Right. It's really two assumptions, that there is a war. I think most of us believe there will be, sooner rather than later. And then the big question is how it goes.

And you're right, Judy. If it goes well -- I'm not sure exactly what that means -- but if the loss of life is minimal, if we get a regime change and disarm Iraq, yes, then it seems to me that Howard Dean, in particular, has to change that message, focusing more on domestic issues, social and economic justice. He talked a lot about that when I talked with him. I think he would have to change his emphasis entirely.

WOODRUFF: While there's fighting going on, Amy, is it pretty much just an unspoken agreement that they can't really say anything, I mean, much of anything?

WALTER: I think that that's right.

And for the most part, people aren't going to be that interested in what the Democratic candidates have to say. The focus is going to be on the war or any sort of military action that's taking place, the president, the administration. The actual give-and-take between candidates isn't going to be as relevant. And I don't think they're going to want to be out front talking about it.

ROTHENBERG: I would certainly agree, but I just would add this, that there are three candidates -- at least three candidates -- in the field who have been -- someone described as over the top on Iraq: Dean, Sharpton and certainly Kucinich.

It seems to me, if Democrats get out their front on this issue in a critical way -- I don't know whether it's two weeks down the road, two month down the road -- those are going to be the guys who are going to start the criticism. And then depending upon how events develop, you might see other Democrats criticize, other Democrats who have been trying to walk a finer line.

WOODRUFF: But, again, if the war goes -- and, again, we have to all agree on what defines success -- but if this war is short, if it is seen as successful, minimal casualties, again, these people, like Kucinich, we'll have to ask whether...

ROTHENBERG: Well, it's over for Kucinich. That has been the only thing he's talked about. At the DNC winter meeting, that was it. Howard Dean has a bit more elaborate agenda, but certainly foreign policy is his No. 1 thing.

WOODRUFF: Let's quickly ask you about Bob Graham. The senator from Florida underwent heart bypass surgery, still waiting for green light from his doctors. Amy, is it getting too late for him to launch a campaign?

WALTER: Well, certainly, on paper, he makes for a wonderful candidate: former governor, three-term senator. He's from a very important state, both politically and for fund-raising-wise.

But, yes, time is now, it's compressing certainly. And talk about his health will be a major issue in the campaign that he is going to have to continue to talk about. So, I think you have somebody on paper who looks very strong and we'll have to wait and see how he's able to translate that, put the campaign into place, put the infrastructure into place. That's only starting now.

ROTHENBERG: I think Amy has got this right: great resume, stature, maturity, interesting candidate -- a little too late, maybe a dollar -- a day late and a dollar short. We'll see.

WOODRUFF: Of course, he would a disagree with that if he were here, but that's what this game's all about.

ROTHENBERG: And he has the opportunity to show us that we're wrong. If he puts together a good campaign and makes up some ground, then we'll have to absolutely treat him even more seriously than we already do.

WOODRUFF: Stu Rothenberg, Amy Walter, always good to see both of you.

ROTHENBERG: Thanks, Judy.

WALTER: Thanks.

WOODRUFF: We appreciate it.

More updates on some of the Democratic hopefuls in our Friday "Campaign News Daily": One of the candidates on the trail this weekend is Senator John Kerry, but a top Republican is making a visit to the same state. Kerry and Commerce Secretary Don Evans are both making appearances today in New Hampshire.

In a speech tonight, Kerry is expected to criticize the White House decision not to release federal oil reserves as a way to counteract rising New England home heating oil prices. White House policies are well represented in the Granite State, however. Secretary Evans made stops in Manchester and Concord to promote the president's economic policies for small businesses.

Senator John Edwards, meantime, is preparing to apply a dose of humor to a television appearance he can't seem to escape. CNN has learned that Edwards will parody his lukewarm performance last year on "Meet the Press" at this weekend's Washington Gridiron Dinner. Edwards received poor reviews from some quarters after his appearance on the Sunday talk show. He later acknowledged he -- quote -- "sounded too much like a politician during the interview." We would ask, what's wrong with that?

Coming up next: Show your cards. That's the new motto in the debate over Iraq and the theme of the "Political Play of the Week."


WOODRUFF: Well, you might say that President Bush had a very serious face on for his big news conference last night. Our Bill Schneider was watching the president and the reporters who were there to question him -- Bill.


You know, a presidential news conference is supposed to give the press a chance to control the agenda. The idea is, reporters ask questions that are on the minds of their viewers and readers. But this news conference was different, more like a diplomatic play, more like the "Political Play of the Week."


SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Think of this as a high-stakes poker game. On Wednesday, the French, Russian and German players upped the ante.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We will not accept a second resolution.

SCHNEIDER: Then, Thursday evening, President Bush called their bluff.

BUSH: It's time for people to show their cards to let the world know where they stand when it comes to Saddam.

SCHNEIDER: The president showed his cards.

BUSH: When it comes to our security, we really don't need anybody's permission.

SCHNEIDER: With that, the highly anticipated U.N. vote turned into a sideshow. Look at the headlines in Friday's papers: "Time's Up" -- no mention of the U.N. -- "Bush Ready to Go Without U.N.," "Imminent War Regardless of U.N. Vote."

The president used a rare prime-time news conference to get out his own message.

BUSH: Saddam Hussein and his weapons are a direct threat to this country.

There's a lot of facts which make it clear to me and many others that Saddam is a threat.

I see a gathering threat. I mean, it's a true, real threat to America.

SCHNEIDER: The press was really a prop at this news conference. No raised hands, no shouted questions. Was there a script?

BUSH: King, John King. This is a scripted...


SCHNEIDER: His press secretary briefed reporters beforehand and told them there would be no news about the search for Osama bin Laden, in other words: Stick to the script. They did: no questions about Osama, no questions about domestic issues. The rule was, you ask the questions you want to ask. The president will answer the questions he wants to answer.

DAVID GREGORY, NBC NEWS: Can any military operation be considered a success if the United States does not capture Saddam Hussein, as you once said, dead or alive?

BUSH: Well, I hope we don't have to go to war. But if we go to war, we will disarm Iraq.

QUESTION: Is success contingent upon capturing or killing Saddam Hussein, in your mind?

BUSH: We will be changing the regime of Iraq for the good of the Iraqi people.

SCHNEIDER: The president used the news conference to call the U.N. Mr. Bush's cards are on the table. Let the U.N. fold. The "Play of the Week" has already been made.


SCHNEIDER: It's a play with the highest stakes conceivable. Mr. Bush is betting his entire presidency on it, which can only mean he expects to win.

WOODRUFF: And it certainly took a lot out of what the U.N. -- what was happening at the U.N. today.

SCHNEIDER: Yes, exactly the point.

WOODRUFF: OK, Bill Schneider, thanks very much.

Well, be careful what you say about one of the men President Bush has dubbed an evildoer. Next: Is there a debate that a congresswoman's comments about Osama bin Laden were not politically correct?


WOODRUFF: With us now: Mindy Tucker, communications director for the Republican National Committee; and Democratic consultant Jenny Backus.

We've been talking a lot about Iraq on this program, of course, but I want to the two of you talk about the economy first off.

New unemployment numbers out today, Mindy, unemployment up to 5.8 percent, the highest it's been in over a year. Separately, the Congressional Budget Office putting out really huge new numbers in terms of the deficit. Are these potential problems for the president?

MINDY TUCKER, COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, RNC: Well, I don't think they're a surprise to anybody. Everybody knows that the economy is lagging and we have got some problems to deal with. That's why we've been so adamant about pushing the economic stimulus package: tax cuts, job creation, whatever we can put together to get through to help this economy.

And that's why we're still hoping that Democrats will come to the table and sit down with us and move something forward. I think today's numbers just reinforce the fact that we've got to focus on the priorities the president laid out, one of which is the economy.


JENNY BACKUS, DEMOCRATIC CONSULTANT: Well, I think what you're seeing now, Judy, is that something has been forgotten. And there's a big threshold question on the table, which is, as you prepare to look at war, as we try to be strong abroad, are we strong at home? And we're not.

And we're not seeing that kind of cooperation on the economic front. We've seen a steady pattern since this president has been in office of numbers going down. We have governors crying for help. We're not seeing bipartisan cooperation in terms of things we can do right now to get real employment relief.

And the scariest thing inside those numbers is the long-term unemployment numbers. People are now starting to be chronically unemployed. The unemployment number has gone for 15 percent who have been out of work for 27 weeks to 22 percent. That's a lot of people who are hurting.

WOODRUFF: Should the president -- is there a distinction there that you see?

TUCKER: Well, I think we both agree there's a problem. But somebody has got to be willing to sit down at the table and work together to get it done. And to say that it's been ignored is inaccurate, because he talked about it in the State of the Union, not very long ago.


TUCKER: And he said: Come over. Meet me at the table. Let's talk about it.

BACKUS: But, Mindy, you can't shirk your responsibility. If you want to be the commander in chief and the president...

TUCKER: But I don't know how he's shirking responsibility by saying: Here's my bill. Meet me at the table.

BACKUS: Well, what has he done to pass it?

WOODRUFF: Labor Secretary Elaine Chao said today, I think it was, that if the Congress would just pass the president's tax cut, she said something like, what is it, 1.4 million jobs would be created.

BACKUS: But we haven't seen that. The president pushed through a tax cut before and the deficits are worse and we have more unemployment. The promises have not...

TUCKER: Actually, the tax cut last time was credited with making the recession not quite so bad.


BACKUS: ... high for a unemployment, though.

TUCKER: And I think the Democrats really don't want to go into this presidential election being responsible for not sitting down at the table with the president to deal with the economy.

BACKUS: Mindy, he's the president of the United States. Are you telling me that you're shirking responsibility for the domestic agenda?

TUCKER: Are they willing come to sit at the table with him?

BACKUS: Democrats have been sitting at the table. Democrats helped pass his last tax credit.

WOODRUFF: We're not coming together on this one.

Let me raise another -- this is a comment that a Ohio Democratic congresswoman, Democratic Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur, made in the last few days. She's gotten in some hot water over this: She said -- quote -- "If you could think back to our founding as a country, we are a country of revolution. One could say that Osama bin Laden and these non-nation-state fighters with religious purpose are very similar to those kind of atypical revolutionaries that helped to cast off the British crown."


TUCKER: Well, even the Democrats are not defending her on this one. And I think it shows the danger in people that just want to oppose the president on any piece of the war just for political reasons. They just want to be opposed to the president.

It shows the danger of the comments that could end up coming out of their mouth, because, in reality, this is not something, this is not an enemy to which people should be supporting in this country. This is a person who has taken down buildings in this country, killed Americans.

WOODRUFF: Can you defend what she said? BACKUS: I think that she made an unfortunate comment that has now been taken out of context. And what I think is even more disappointing, Mindy, is, I'm just worried that you all are using this again, stirring up a comment that was an unfortunate comment to try to question patriotism again.

TUCKER: I don't think anybody questioned her patriotism.

BACKUS: And now is the time that we need to be coming together.


TUCKER: When people side with enemies of this country on terrorism...

BACKUS: Come on, Mindy, you know she's not doing that. She's not doing that. This is a distraction on the economy. It's the fact that we've lost 300,000 -- you'd rather talk about anything than the economy.

TUCKER: I would love for the Democrats to come to the table on the economy. And, apparently, they're going to.

WOODRUFF: We have to leave it there. We can continue this after we go to a commercial.


WOODRUFF: Mindy, Jenny, thank you both. Good to see you.

BACKUS: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: Good to see you. We appreciate it.

Battling public opinion and even his own party, is Tony Blair paying a personal price? We head to London next to and check out reports the burdens of office are wearing on Britain's prime minister.


WOODRUFF: The strongest overseas supporter of President Bush's Iraq policy continues to be British Prime Minister Tony Blair. The two leaders spoke by phone earlier today. And while Mr. Bush enjoys strong support from his political party, that is just one constituency that Mr. Blair has to lobby for support.

In London tonight, CNN's Richard Quest reports that the job may be taking its toll on the prime minister.


QUEST: This is all about the perils of being prime minister and the strains that are being put on Tony Blair as he shuttles around Europe trying to build support for the British and American position.

Newspapers have covered it extensively. "Fighting Fit: Blair Shows the Sign s of Battle Fatigue" is how "The Daily Telegraph" reported it. "Punishing Schedule Appears to be Taking its Toll." And you've only got to look at the difference between Tony Blair when he came into office back in the late 1990s -- youthful, vibrant, vigorous -- and the man who is now being dragged around Europe, who many are saying is tired. He looks worn and drawn. He has bags under his eyes. And, most crucially, he seems to have lost a lot of weight.

The prime minister's office says there's nothing wrong with the man. He's on a strict diet and he's eating healthy food. But the fact, nonetheless, is, if we look at what Tony Blair is doing it is taking its toll. Just in the last week or so, he's had meetings with the Spanish prime minister, where he had to go to Madrid, late into the night, followed by more meetings and press conferences, then back to Britain to address his own Labor Party conference in Wales, answering questions in the House of Commons, a prime minister's questions, more press conferences, meeting more people, more open forums.

The man is walking one shop for selling his cause. And just in the last 48 hours, he's held another forum, this time with 40 youngsters from across Europe, part of the MTV television network's coverage, this time, Mr. Blair defending the position to youth. No wonder he was looking tired.

Richard Quest for INSIDE POLITICS, London.


WOODRUFF: No wonder, indeed.

Well, that is it for INSIDE POLITICS. We hope you have a good weekend. I'm Judy Woodruff. Thank you for joining us.


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