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CNN INSIDE POLITICS

White House Lobbies Security Council Members; What Is Cheney's Role in Administration; Interview With Gary Hart

Aired March 10, 2003 - 16:00   ET

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

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
ANNOUNCER: Intense lobbying on Iraq with another U.N. vote looming. The president and his team work the undecideds as Russia and France renew their veto threats.

Has anyone seen the vice president?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The advice he gives the president, I hear constantly, is the single-most important advice the president gets.

ANNOUNCER: Dick Cheney's role in the Bush White House and his behind the scenes ability to influence policy.

Gary Hart considers one more comeback. The two-time presidential candidate joins Judy to talk about Iraq and terrorism, and why he's thinking about another run for the White House.

And later...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have 250,000 men and women right now poised in the Gulf, but also what happens afterwards?

ANNOUNCER: In the kitchen with a Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow. She talks politics and Iraq policy over homemade Greek soup.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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

JUDY WOODRUFF, HOST: Thank you for joining us.

President Bush and his national security team are calling on their powers of persuasion today. They're trying to rescue a U.S. and British backed U.N. resolution giving Iraq until March 17, one week from today, to prove that it has disarmed.

In this "NewsCycle," a Security Council vote on the measure is expected later this week. The passage far from assured, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan says he is concerned by the possibility of a U.S.-led war without U.N. support.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) KOFI ANNAN, U.N. SECRETARY-GENERAL: The members of the Security Council now face a grim choice. If they fail to agree on a common position and action is taken without the authority of the Security Council, the legitimacy and support for any such action will be seriously impaired.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: Just a little while ago, French President Jacques Chirac told French television that France will vote against any resolution that contains an ultimatum. He also said that a war with Iraq would break up the international coalition against terrorism.

Earlier today, Russia's top diplomat said that Russia will also vote against the U.N. resolution in its current form. U.N. inspectors, meantime, say that Iraq destroyed six more Al Samoud missiles and three warheads today.

In London, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw says the missiles that Iraq is destroying are, quote, "the tip of the iceberg of Iraq's illegal weapons program."

Our reporters are standing by at the White House and the United Nations with the latest on the standoff with Iraq. Richard Roth is at the U.N. Chris Burns is with me from the White House. Chris, I see a lot of Judy in the screen. Chris Burns is there somewhere. Chris, there you are. First of all, today, the opposition, if anything, seems to be growing stronger to this U.S. sponsored resolution. Is the White House changing its strategy

CHRIS BURNS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, it does appear that there could be a bit of a diplomatic retreat, though not much. I mean, you've heard bad news for the White House from France, from Russia. President Bush beginning the day speaking with China, which is the other country that could have veto power on the U.N. Security Council. President Bush speaking with the Jiang Zemin, the Chinese president by telephone this morning, and later with many other countries, either trying to win them over or trying to maintain this coalition of the willing.

Also meeting today with the foreign minister of Guinea who came here. Guinea's on the U.N. Security Council, is presiding on that Security Council and is also one of those swing votes, one of the six undecideds. So Condoleezza Rice meeting with the foreign minister here at the White House just moments ago. What comes out of that, we're not sure. But, obviously, some very, very heavy lifting as far as diplomacy. Now, words from Ari Fleischer talking saying that there will be a vote. He's vowing there will be a vote this week, that they do intend to do that, but there could be a bit of slippage, a little bit of give. And he's using the word "benchmarks" for the first time. Listen to what he has to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ARI FLEISCHER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Some Nations have suggested such things as benchmarks, they're ideas being explored and looked at. And so it is too soon to say what the final document that will be voted on will include. It's too soon to say what the exact date will be. They've indicated it will be this week, but there is an important phase of diplomacy under way as we speak. That diplomacy is marked by some level of flexibility within the diplomacy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNS: And listen to that tape, because they're talking -- up to now, they've been talking about that March 17 date. But it even looks that perhaps that date could slip just a little bit. The U.S. far from getting those nine votes they need on the U.N. Security Council, and they're working very hard to get them right now - Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right, Chris Burns at the White House. Now let's go quickly to the U.N. where our Richard Roth is. Richard, bring us up to date on what's going on right now at the Security Council.

RICHARD ROTH, CNN SR. U.N. CORRESPONDENT: Listen to British Ambassador Sir Jeremy Greenstock whose at the microphone right now giving us an update. He said there will not be a vote in the next 24 hours, that they're still working on plans to see if they can get any type of compromise proposal. Maybe we can listen to the ambassador right now.

(INTERRUPTED FOR COVERAGE OF LIVE EVENT)

ROTH: That's the British Ambassador Sir Jeremy Greenstock. Britain is a permanent member. And Britain is pushing this new resolution, the 18th, according to U.S. officials. March 17 deadline for Iraq to disclose, turn over all weapons of mass destruction.

Earlier, the ambassador describing today's consultations saying we'll how it goes here. He does not expect a vote in the next 24 hours. He says I think you can assume it will not be Tuesday, quote, "We're working very hard to see if there are any proposals that might create a majority in the United Nations Security Council. The non- committed members met for a while this afternoon. And they still want to give Iraq more time to comply with what the weapons inspectors tell them to do. Some speculated 30 days, 45 days, terms and dates that are unacceptable so far to the United States. So far, though, it's just talk and we'll see what happens.

Hans Blix has gone into the Security Council. He is likely to face questioning regarding a drone that he reported in his written report, didn't choose to mention it in his oral findings to the council on Friday. - Judy.

WOODRUFF: What about these very strong comments from Secretary- General Kofi Annan today that if there's any military action against Iraq outside the U.N., that that's a violation of the U.N. charter?

ROTH: The U.N. is studying whether it's a violation of the charter. They do not have a position on it. Annan, I'm not sure if he went that far. What he's saying is that he hopes the big powers can reach an agreement. Otherwise, if the U.S. goes it alone, there will not be international legitimacy, serious impact on the organization. But he has said before, the U.N. will still be standing after Iraq.

WOODRUFF: All right, Richard Roth at the United Nations, where there is a lot of going on right now. Thank you, Richard.

Well, here in Washington, the circle of top advisers to the president is led by a man rarely seen in recent days. Vice President Dick Cheney is the president's point man on many important decisions. His influence far outweighs his lack of public visibility on the showdown with Iraq. Here now, CNN's senior White House correspondent John King.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN KING, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He's not the type to say I told you so.

REP. ROB PORTMAN (R), OHIO: In this town, if you give good advice, and if you are discreet about that advice, you are very valuable. And that's what Dick Cheney provides to the president.

KING: Consider the fractured debate at the Security Council now, and this warning from the vice president just a few months back.

DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A return of inspectors would provide no assurance whatsoever of his compliance with the U.N. resolutions. On the contrary, there's a great danger that it would provide false comfort that Saddam was somehow back in his box.

KING: He often seems a silent partner now as the president nears a decision on going to war. Few public events and no access by reporters to sessions like this meeting with Iraqi Americans to discuss post-war planning. Yet out of sight hardly means out of the loop.

PORTMAN: The advice he gives the president, I hear constantly, is the single most important advice the president gets.

KING: He is a leading voice in daily national security sessions and believes removing Saddam Hussein from power is critical to remaking the Middle East.

MARY MATALIN, FMR. COUNSELOR TO THE V.P.: He's a scholar and somewhat of an academic and has studied our history and America's place in the world, in history, and believes that all the progress of the last century, or a goodly portion of it -- eradication of tyrants, and communism, and fascism and Hitlerism was a direct result of the strength of the United States of America and their willingness to use their strength for good.

KING: His prized west wing real estate just steps from the Oval Office is empty most days. Mr. Cheney tends to work elsewhere when the president is in town.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You may remember him, the former director of my vice presidential search committee. Thank God Dick Cheney said yes.

KING: That recent tribute was a rare moment in a Capitol worried about terrorism. This speech one of just three times this year the president and vice president have been in the same room off of the White House grounds.

MATALIN: For our government to securely go forward, the heads of it need to be separated, and he accepts that as part of the job.

KING: But security concerns are just one reason Mr. Cheney has kept such a low profile of late. Secretary of State Powell is viewed as the most reluctant warrior of the Bush national security team, and as such is considered a more powerful spokesman to make the case diplomacy has failed.

(on camera): But plans already are in the works for the vice president to resume a high profile role explaining and defending any decision by the president to go to war.

John King, CNN, the White House.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Up next, the 2004 campaign on the record. Will he try again? Former Senator Gary Hart joins me to talk about Iraq and another potential run for the White House.

Also ahead ...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm concerned that we are not going to be able to solve this and it's going to just all blow up in our faces.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm seeing another Vietnam. I have grandchildren. How many people are going to be scarred in those countries that are innocent? And how many of our young people are going to never return.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: Anti-war activists and the Democratic Party.

Presidential hopefuls try to bridge the gap with the grass roots.

And later, Britain's Tony Blair has aligned himself with President Bush, but can their alliance stand the test of time? A look at their common means and what could be very different goals for war with Iraq.

You're watching INSIDE POLITICS, the place for campaign news.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Jimmy Carter weighs in on an attack with Iraq, saying diplomatic options to avoid fighting have yet to be exhausted. Should a former president be critical of the current commander chief on the eve of a possible war in the Gulf? Coming up, our guests from the left and right take issue.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF (voice-over): It's time to check your IP IQ. Gary Hart ran for president in 1984 and 1988, but he was no stranger to presidential campaigns. Whose campaign did Hart manage? Was it A: Herbert Humphrey, B: George McGovern or C: Jimmy Carter? We'll tell you the answer later on INSIDE POLITICS.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN NEGROPONTE, U.S. AMB. TO U.N.: We remain convinced that Iraq is not in compliance with its obligations under 1441, and that if it fails to disarm peacefully, it will have to be disarmed by force. And that is the essence of our position. I'll be back after the ...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: That's the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, John Negroponte talking just a few minutes ago to reporters at the U.N..

On the record today, former senator and former presidential candidate Gary Hart, the Colorado Democrat is with me from Denver to talk about Iraq and his own political plans. Senator, thank you for talking with us.

GARY HART, FMR. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: A great pleasure.

WOODRUFF: You say that Iraq has become President Bush's white whale. Do you just completely dismiss President Bush's argument that Saddam Hussein and Iraq can export terrorism that is an immediate threat, potentially, to the U.S.?

HART: Well, I don't disagree with some of -- the first part of the question. I think I fundamentally disagree with the last part. What the president has not done, and I think other people have made this point, is convince the American people and certainly our allies around the world, that the threat is immediate and unavoidable, which is a standard for preemption under international law. And he has not connected Iraq to the war on terrorism. It's a sideshow. It's unfinished business from 1991. There are clearly people in the administration who feel strongly about this, but it's a separate entity from defeating terrorism and protecting the homeland.

WOODRUFF: But senator, you know what they're saying among other things is that whatever Saddam Hussein has can get into the hands of terrorists. Today, they're talking about cluster bombs, the kind of cluster bomb that can disperse chemical weapons. They're talking about unmanned drones that can dispense chemical weapons. These don't scare you as something that can get into the hands of terrorists? HART: Yes, and we have obviously North Korea, which possesses nuclear weapons. We have Iran to the east, which either has or will have nuclear weapons. We have probably 20 countries with cluster bombs, some of them not very friendly to us. And in five years or so, 20 countries will be able to produce, in substantial quantities, biological weapons. Are we going to war with all of those? I don't think so.

WOODRUFF: Senator, you've been saying that you assume there will be a retaliatory strike against the U.S. If the U.S. leads a war on Iraq. What do you base that on?

HART: Testimony by George Tenet, the director of the C.I.A., statements by Mr. Mueller, the director of the FBI and others much more expert in terrorism and counter-terrorism than I am. I think, universally, anyone who has looked at the situation says, if you kick open a hornet's nest in most volatile region in the world, you can expect to get stung. And that's not necessarily from Iraq. They'll have their hands full with our army, obviously. But from radical fundamentalists throughout the Arab world who will be outraged at a massive American army invading a sovereign Arab nation.

WOODRUFF: But you're not suggesting that the rest of the world just leave Saddam Hussein where he is, are you?

HART: No. And the alternative often put forward by people in the administration is not do nothing. We're bombing regularly and patrolling in the air the north and the south of that country. We've had economic sanctions. There are inspectors there. And I and others have proposed that those inspectors be increased, that they be accompanied by armed U.N. forces, and that the international community would support almost universally a total no-fly zone in that country. That is to say, complete U.N. domination of the air over the country. Saddam is in a box. We can tight than box and we don't need to go to war.

WOODRUFF: Senator, let's turn you to this question of possibly running for president. Are you any closer to a decision today than you were a few weeks ago when you launched this speaking tour?

HART: Well, I'm closer chronologically, obviously. I said target date was March. I think because of the war and other considerations, that may slip another month or so to April. I have completed the policy speeches, as of last Tuesday in California. And I've gotten very, very positive response to those. I think most of the people who either attended the speeches or who followed them on the Web site, garyhartnews.com, have heard that I'm saying different things and saying things differently from any of the other Democratic leaders and have encouraged me to continue to speak. And I'll continue to do that.

WOODRUFF: This report that you're planning to use this part of the FEC law that allows to raise and spend a small amount of money to test the waters, so to speak, is that what you're thinking about?

HART: It is. And we'll do that in the next week or two, when we get accounts opened and so forth. One is permitted, if you're not a determined candidate, and I am not, to raise a reasonable amount of money for a reasonable period of time for the purpose of determining that candidacy. And I am going to do that in the next few days. And, obviously, hope people will respond.

WOODRUFF: Let me just quickly quote something that the former governor of Colorado, Richard Lamm, had to say about you. He said, "I don't want to write him off." He said, "I think there is definitely, though, a sense of tragedy about Gary. He was made for better things." Do you agree, there's a sense of tragedy about you?

HART: No. I don't know where Dick came up with that, but it's quite colorful and almost operatic. No, I don't feel any tragedy at all.

WOODRUFF: Well, let me just ask you quickly, does your own daughter, Andrea, says that you don't like campaigning and you don't like raising campaign money.

HART: Well, if someone does, I think that may -- at least the money may disqualify them. I think if you like raising money that's a disqualifier for the presidency. And if I run, I don't intend to compete with the tens of millions of dollars that the better-known candidates are raising. I think it's outrageous what politics cost in this country.

WOODRUFF: All right. We'll let you think about that sense of the tragic comment from Dick Lamm. Gary Hart, good to see you. Thanks very much.

HART: A pleasure, thank you.

WOODRUFF: We appreciate it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Well, tonight, Gary Hart teams up tonight with former senators Bob Dole, George Mitchell, George McGovern, Warren Rudman and Alan Simpson, all of them on "LARRY KING LIVE." You can watch this powerhouse line-up of former lawmakers face off on Iraq and other issues. That's 9:00 p.m. Eastern, 6:00 Pacific.

Coming up, he is one of the president's closest advisers, but who advises Karl Rowe? We'll check out his Rolodex just ahead.

Plus, capital cooking. My kitchen conversation from politics to Iraq with Michigan's junior senator.

(MARKET UPDATE)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF (voice-over): Time again to check your IP IQ. Earlier, we asked whose presidential campaign did Gary Hart manage? Was it A: Herbert Humphrey, B: George McGovern or C: Jimmy Carter? The correct answer is "B". From 1970 through 1972, Hart managed Senator George McGovern's unsuccessful campaign for the presidency.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: He's a former president and a Nobel Peace Prize winner, but some people think he stepped over the line. The controversy surrounding Jimmy Carter coming up in a moment.

(NEWS UPDATE)

WOODRUFF: Joining me now, Maria Echaveste, former Clinton White House deputy chief of staff and Betsy Hart of the Scripps Howard news service. Thank you to your both. Betsy, what is going to constitute success for the U.S.? Right now, the French are saying they're going to veto at the U.N. The Russians sounding that way. With vetoes, what does the U.S. have to have?

MARIA ECHAVESTE, FMR. CLINTON WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY CHIEF OF STAFF: Well, I actually think that the French have done us a favor, in that, the U.N., in my mind, has become an irrelevant body. This just proves it. In the fall, the French voted with us for an absolute disarmament of Iraq. We have to have it. We have to have it now. Now they're backing away from it. If anything, it just shows that the U.N. is not effective. And that it really is up to the United States to protect the United States' interests. I think, eventually, we're going to go ahead without a U.N. resolution. And we'll see down the road that that actually was in America's and the world's best interest.

WOODRUFF: Maria, what's going to constitute a victory?

BETSY HART, SCRIPPS HOWARD NEWS SERVICE: Well, I think, in this case, even if the U.S. is able to get the majority in the Security Council, the fact that the vetoes will be there mean that the U.S. will be able to say, well, we had a majority. The fact is, going back to your point of what is in the U.S. interests, and I think a weak U.N., which this will undoubtedly be a result, is actually not in our interest over the long run. We have no other international organization that at least has the makings and structures to provide some forum for working out our problems internationally, by weakening at this level. And I am very sorry to hear that the French are going to veto, because I think that this is - They will not gain anything and, thus, we will have a weakened U.N. There is no other vehicle.

ECHAVESTE: Keep in mind, there are dozens of nations that do support us. I hope the U.N. decides to pick up their marbles and leave New York over this one.

WOODRUFF: Let's quickly go to Jimmy Carter who wrote an op ed piece in the "New York Times" yesterday, saying, this is not a just war. Is it appropriate for a former president when the U.S. is on the eve of military action, Maria, to come out so vocally, so visibly against this?

ECHAVESTE: Well, I think I have to start, there is no one really at this table anywhere who could question Jimmy Carter's integrity and his honorable nature. So, for him to take the step -- * there's no one at this table or really anywhere who could question Jimmy Carter's integrity and his honorable nature. So, for him to take the step, and a very difficult step, of being a former president on the eve to write what he wrote means that he was very seriously moved and actually reflecting what half the country is worried about, worried about what we're doing.

HART: Writing this op-ed just make me question his integrity. The idea that the president who gave us the Iranian hostage crisis, not to mention the invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviets would actually have the nerve, on the eve of something like this, to write an op-ed that was breathtaking in its naivete and in its condescension, and to attack a sitting president, it is unprecedented and wholly inappropriate.

WOODRUFF: Are you saying he should have kept quiet altogether?

HART: I'm saying it would have been fine to have even talked to President Bush directly. But, as a former president, he has a standing and an obligation and a moral authority. And he had no right to so undermine a sitting president's position.

ECHAVESTE: Actually, that might be the source of the problem, because what presidents do is actually consult with former presidents. And I wonder if, after Carter received his prize, Nobel Peace Prize, and he was critical, if you will, in his remarks about Iraq, whether he got frozen out. And maybe this is his last effort to raise one more time the issues that he's not the only one who is thinking about.

HART: Well, that's just speculation. It's inappropriate.

(CROSSTALK)

WOODRUFF: Maria, Betsy, good to see you both. We appreciate it. Thank you.

Coming up: Some of the Democratic presidential hopefuls are focusing on the views from the heartland. They spent time over the week in Iowa. We'll find out more from our Candy Crowley when INSIDE POLITICS returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Some of the Democrats running for president spent time over the weekend in Iowa. And among the key concerns they heard from voters was the possible war with Iraq.

Our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley, is with us now to talk more about that.

Candy, what are they hearing from the people out on the campaign trail?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's not just a key concern. At this point, it's pretty close to the only concern that they're hearing about. Every day on the campaign trail at this point must seem like "Groundhog Day" to the '04 candidates.

We are now about 10 months away from the first primary contest, the period when candidates begin to outline their policy positions in the living rooms of Iowa and New Hampshire. But no matter what the candidates have come to talk about, the questions are about war. And for candidates who supported the resolution of war against Iraq, the answers are carefully constructed.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MS), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I believe the president needs to proceed very carefully and to pursue diplomacy to really prove to the world that it's a last resort going to war.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: Remember that, at this point, grassroots politics are dominated by the liberal wing of the Democratic Party, which is overwhelmingly anti-war, which means the biggest hawks in the '04 field, Joe Lieberman and Richard Gephardt, have the roughest go of it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. RICHARD GEPHARDT (D-MO), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I want the United Nations with us. But, in the end, you have to make a decision on whether or not you believe that it is in the high-security interests of the people of the United States to make sure that components of weapons of mass destruction do not wind up in the hands of terrorists.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: In some way, "Groundhog Day" may be the easiest part. What campaigns must now begin to wrestle with is where and what to say should war begin and how soon would be too soon to get back to the campaign trail. Bottom line, this Democratic primary season, which started earlier than almost any in history, is pretty much in idle for the foreseeable future.

WOODRUFF: So, Candy, if there is that war, how is it going to affect the campaign?

CROWLEY: I think that it interrupts it, clearly. And it may affect the general campaign, obviously, depending on how it goes. But most people that you talk to that are in the '04 campaign now don't believe that, come January, they'll be talking about war. They think they'll be talking about the economy.

Now, I don't know if that's their hope or their wish, but they really believe that the war, one way or the other, will be behind them and that the focus will come back home by January, when the primary season begins.

WOODRUFF: Resolved one way or another.

CROWLEY: Right. WOODRUFF: OK, Candy, thank you very much.

Well, Senator Joe Biden was discharged today, one of the people who are thinking about running for president, discharged from a Florida hospital today, one day after undergoing emergency surgery to remove his gallbladder. Biden was on a weekend vacation with his wife and daughter in Fort Myers when he began to experience pain. He's expected to spend a few more days in Florida recuperating. The Delaware Democrat says he's considering entering the 2004 presidential race.

Checking the headlines now in our "Campaign News Daily": Democratic Party officials have approached former Cleveland Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar about running for the Senate from Ohio. CNN has confirmed national Democratic officials have been gauging Kosar's interest in a race against Republican George Voinovich next year -- no word on whether Kosar is interested.

Democratic Governor Gray Davis is registering new lows in popularity in a poll of California voters. A new "Los Angeles Times" poll found just 27 percent of Golden State voters approve of the job that Davis is doing; 64 percent said they disapprove. Davis won a second term last November, but the state's $35 billion budget shortfall and his proposed tax increases have battered his popularity.

White House political adviser Karl Rove is among the most plugged-in people in Washington. An article in today's "Washington Post" reveals part of his technique for staying in touch. "The Post" says that Rove speaks regularly with a network of about 150 people both in and out of Washington. The Rove Rolodex includes a wide variety of influential figures, including obvious choices like RNC leader Marc Racicot and former Georgia Republican Party Chairman Ralph Reed. He also talks regularly to Democratic strategist Donna Brazile, anti-tax activist Grover Norquist and neoconservative thinker Myron Magnet and many, many more. Read "The Washington Post" today to get the whole list.

Still to come on INSIDE POLITICS: British Prime Minister Tony Blair is President Bush's key ally in the showdown with Iraq. But do the two have the same goals as they press ahead toward possible war? We'll hear from political analyst Ron Brownstein just ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Civil rights activist, presidential candidate, model? Al Sharpton is among a number of celebrities appearing in an ad for Sean John. That's the clothing label started by rap mogul P. Diddy. The ad appears in the just-released April edition of "Vanity Fair."

Coming up on INSIDE POLITICS: Tony Blair is in a political pickle over the showdown with Iraq.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Tony Blair's support for President Bush in the showdown with Iraq continues to stir up trouble on the home front for the -- Tony Blair's support for President Bush in the showdown with Iraq continues to stir up trouble on the home front for the British prime minister. Cabinet Minister Clare Short says she'll quit the Blair government if Iraq is attacked without United Nations backing. Some other members of the Blair Cabinet criticized Short, though, saying her comments could undermine Blair's efforts to unite the Security Council.

Political analyst Ron Brownstein of "The Los Angeles Times" is with me now to talk a little more about the Bush-Blair alliance.

They're arm in arm, but their motives are different, you're discovering?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think that, if you listen to Tony Blair very carefully, it's clear that he has several goals in Iraq. And some of them, one of them in particular, overlaps with George Bush. On the other fronts, they're not really necessarily totally in tune.

Where they converge is, they both see the importance of disarming Saddam Hussein. They both argue with equal intensity that, after 9/11, that's changed the calculus with dealing with outlaw regimes. It's no longer acceptable to allow them to develop weapons of mass destruction because of the risk that they could pass them off to terrorists.

But how you do it is very different. And for Blair, he saw this, I think, the movement against Iraq, as a way to reinforce the capacity of the international community to come together through the U.N. and other international bodies to deal with these kinds of threats. For Bush, that's less a priority, at the least. And now you're seeing these two goals coming -- an enormous strain on Tony Blair as they diverge toward the end.

WOODRUFF: It's not a priority at all for the Bush administration, is it?

BROWNSTEIN: And, in fact, in some ways, they may even be hostile to that goal. There are many in the Bush administration who argue that the key to security in the 21st century is reducing the constraints on the protection of American power. They see unfettered American power as the best way to produce a more secure world.

Blair, going back all the way to Kosovo in 199, came here to the U.S. and gave a speech about what he called the new doctrine of international community. He, throughout, has argued that we need to build these international institutions, which Bush has shown much less concern for and even has been willing to apparently walk away from.

WOODRUFF: And that ties into Blair's vision of what Iraq should be like after a Saddam Hussein, again, perhaps very different from the U.S. plan.

BROWNSTEIN: You saw Jack Straw this morning on CNN at the House of Commons talking about the need to turn it over to the U.N. as quickly as possible. The administration in general, across the board, whether it's the Kyoto treaty on global warming or who runs Iraq after a war, Blair generally wants to build those international institutions. Bush is looking for more unilateral U.S. freedom of action. And as you get to the crunch time here at the end, Judy, the conflict between those goals is becoming more apparent and Blair, to some extent, is being ground up between those rocks.

WOODRUFF: And the British pushing very hard for some sort of compromise language right now, while the U.S. is getting impatient by the hour.

BROWNSTEIN: Absolutely. He may not be able to get a majority in the House of Commons without a majority in the Security Council. He has a higher stake in getting that vote.

WOODRUFF: All right, Ron Brownstein, "Los Angeles Times," thanks very much.

BROWNSTEIN: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: When INSIDE POLITICS returns, we'll talk issues and cooking with Senator Debbie Stabenow when we head to her kitchen for a Greek cooking lesson.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Greek food is something Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan knows a lot about, because her new husband, is a Greek- American.

I recently visited the couple for a Greek cooking lesson and to hear what the senator from Michigan has to say about some of the main issues facing the country.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Well, all I know about Greek food is what I saw in the movie "My Big Fat Greek Wedding," which I loved.

(LAUGHTER)

SEN. DEBBIE STABENOW (D), MICHIGAN: It was great. And Tom is a wonderful took. And I love to good cook as well. But it's really great when he's able to pull together something like this. And then, on top of it, I have to say that we also -- I have to brag about Michigan, because, other than California, we have -- we grow more diversity of crops than anywhere else in the country, in strawberry and peach and apple and plums and blueberries and grapes.

TOM ATHANS, HUSBAND OF DEBBIE STABENOW: Well, between Debbie and I, we manage to squeeze in just enough time to make something very quickly, an avgolemono soup, which, in Greek-American households, is kind of a staple of dinner. It's relatively easy and it doesn't take too terribly long to cook. Well, let's see. We start out really with just some chicken broth. My grandmother's probably spinning in her grave because I'm using canned. And then you just put in about a cup of rice. And you just bring that to a boil. You have to separate the eggs. Probably the trickiest part of this recipe is in the process, because what you're doing is, you're putting -- mixing an egg mixture with lemon into the broth.

And the trickiest part of that is to make sure that you're whipping up the eggs into a nice thin, frothy mixture, so that, when you pour it in there, it doesn't coagulate and you end up more with egg drop soup.

WOODRUFF: It sounds very tricky.

ATHANS: We're going to squeeze some real lemons in there. And Greeks usually like it pretty lemony. So now I'm going to take the yolks that I originally pulled out and I'm going to put the yolks in there and mix those up into a nice broth.

WOODRUFF: Senator, I know it's a little incongruous while we're talking about what to eat for dinner, but, of course, the country right now is riveted on the likelihood that the United States is going to be at war with Iraq. What are your constituents saying about it?

STABENOW: Well, people in Michigan are very concerned about the United States going it alone. There's a strong feeling that, after 9/11, we came together and had a very broad coalition. The administration did a very good job going into Afghanistan with a very broad coalition of people. And it worked.

But now we're seeing that coalition disintegrate, where our allies are backing away from us. And there's a strong belief among the people that I hear from all across Michigan that we have the time and should take the time to have that coalition, so that we are going in and we are not only making sure our troops are as safe as possible -- we have 250,000 men and women right now poised in the Gulf -- but also what happens afterwards.

WOODRUFF: I know an issue you've paid a lot of attention to is health care for the elderly and prescription drugs. Now, the president has put a proposal out in which he's trying to encourage the elderly to go into a plan that would give more of them prescription drug coverage. But it would require that, in many instances, they leave Medicare and go into private plans. Why isn't this something that you and other Democrats can support?

STABENOW: Well, first all, this is an effort to privatize Medicare. Medicare's been in place since 1965. It's been universal coverage. If you're an older American or if you're disabled, you know you'll have health care.

For the first time now, there's a serious effort to move back to private insurance, with no guarantees on coverage, no guarantees on price or availability. Seniors have voted on that by choosing traditional Medicare. WOODRUFF: All right, Senator, while we're talking, I think some soup has been being made.

ATHANS: So I'm going to pour that. I'll take that from you.

STABENOW: OK. OK.

ATHANS: And we'll jut slowly pour that in there. Now we will add the chicken.

WOODRUFF: Oh, that's great.

ATHANS: The final and only simple ingredient is pepper.

Judy, I'm going to serve you up some avgolemono soup.

STABENOW: I love it.

WOODRUFF: It's delicious. I like it.

ATHANS: Good job.

STABENOW: Well done. Good job.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: It's great soup, courtesy of Senator Stabenow and her husband. If you're interested in the recipe, just e-mail us at INSIDEPOLITICS@CNN.com.

Just ahead: Krusty the Clown tackles government 101, how the government really works -- two views you don't want to miss.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: There is never a shortage of views on how things really get done here in Washington. Last night on "The Simpsons," Krusty the Clown was elected to Congress and received a rude reception.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE SIMPSONS")

DAN CASTELLANETA, ACTOR: Look, someone on this committee's got to care about my air traffic bill.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: I'm sorry, Congressman, but this is a committee for designing dollar coins no one will use.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: I say we make them out of chocolate. Kids eat them anyway. Why fight it?

CASTELLANETA: Oh, I need some air.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Do you need some hot air? We congressmen are full of it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: Well, there was an equally unflattering portrait of government presented this weekend by Senate Majority Leader and medical Dr. Bill Frist at the annual Gridiron Dinner. Dr Frist used a pointer to show President Bush's tax cut entering Congress, which Frist compared to the human digestive system.

The bill traveled through various committees on its course through the House and the Senate. Mr. Frist said he even referred to a kidney stone, which he compared to Senator Pat Leahy. Now, Frist said, when the bill comes out at the end, the president usually wants nothing to do with it.

By the way, CNN's own Bob Novak appeared on stage at this year's Gridiron. He starred in a journalist skit, complete with a hospital gown. He was a patient getting a new heart from the good Dr. Frist. The annual Gridiron Dinner exists solely for the purpose of roasting Washington political leaders. And they sometimes deserve it.

That's it for INSIDE POLITICS. Thank you for joining us. I'm Judy Woodruff.

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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