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Bush to Give Saddam Final Ultimatum; Inspectors, Media, Civilians Warned to Leave Iraq

Aired March 17, 2003 - 16:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: The final line in the sand. President Bush plans to deliver an ultimatum to Saddam Hussein tonight.

COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: The time for diplomacy has passed. He's had many chances over the last 12 years, and he has blown every one of those chances.

ANNOUNCER: The exodus from Iraq. We're monitoring all the moves that suggest war is almost at hand.

The president's big gamble. Will he prove the protesters wrong? Or will they haunt his political future?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This war, it's just a senseless war. It's wrong.

ANNOUNCER: War stories. How reporters have covered past conflicts and the rules this time around.


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

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

The Bush administration says there's only one way left for Saddam Hussein to avoid war. And that is to go into exile and take his top lieutenants with him. In this "NewsCycle," Iraq is rejecting that ultimatum, even before President Bush delivers it, during a televised address to the nation at 8:00 p.m. Eastern. Mr. Bush plans to brief Congressional leaders on his remarks less than two hours from now at the White House.

The moment of the truth, as the president has called, is playing out after the U.S., Britain and Spain called off their efforts to get the bitterly divided U.N. Security Council to pass a new Iraq resolution.


POWELL: The U.N. is an important institution, and it will survive. And the United States will continue to be an important member of the United Nations and its various organizations. But clearly, this is a test, in my judgment, that the Security Council did not meet.


WOODRUFF: Knowing that war may begin very soon, the United Nations has ordered weapons inspectors and aid workers to leave Iraq. They're expected to start moving out tomorrow. U.N. monitors are also are pulling out from Kuwait and Iraq border.

The U.S. State Department has urged Americans to leave Kuwait immediately. Adding to the anxiety, U.S. officials say they have fresh evidence that Saddam Hussein is planning to use chemical weapons, perhaps against American forces or Iraqi citizens. Today, Saddam Hussein acknowledged that Iraq once had weapons of mass destruction, but he repeated his claim that he does not have them now.

Our correspondents are standing by at the White House, at the United Nations and the Pentagon. Let's go first to our senior White House correspondent John King. John, what is the president going to say tonight? Is he going to give Saddam Hussein a specific deadline?

JOHN KING, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Judy, we are told the latest drafts do include a specific deadline. Administration officials say this is still a point of discussion within the senior administration circles, but we are told as of now there is a specific deadline.

One senior official telling us 72 hours would be in the right ballpark. One leading Congressional source I spoke to a short time ago says he'd been told 48 hours is the leading deadline under discussion here at the White House.

We are certain of this, the president will say tonight in an address to the American people, the world, and especially Saddam Hussein, that diplomacy is over. That U.S. and British troops are poised to forcibly disarm Iraq, forcibly remove Saddam Hussein from power. And the president will issue this blunt ultimatum that the only way now to avert war is for Saddam Hussein to leave office within a matter of one or two days.

U.S. officials tell us Saddam Hussein would have to commit to stepping down and leaving Iraq along with his top lieutenants. This, of course, a signature day in the Bush presidency. A momentous decision for the president tonight. Still, Judy, he did take some time to have a light moment today outside of the White House. Photographers captured the president playing with Spot and Barney here.

One senior official told me the president, quote, "recognizes the gravity of this moment but also is comfortable with the course that he has taken." The putting the finishing touches on those remarks tonight. Again, we are told, a very clear ultimatum for Saddam Hussein. We are also told that the president could be speaking from the Oval Office. He will speak from the residence tonight, but he could speak from the Oval Office by the middle to the end of this week, announcing that military action is underway if that ultimatum is not accepted. One other quick point, as you noted, Congressional leaders will be here at the White House late today, other key members of Congress.

We are told that perhaps as early as next week, within the first few days of military action, the administration will request emergency spending in the area of $70 billion to $100 billion to pay for the war and its immediate aftermath -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Huge amount of money. John, what do they say at the White House to the argument that the United States and Great Britain don't have the authority to take military action against Iraq, that that authority is not there in the existing U.N. resolution? We've heard that from the Russians. We've heard it also from the U.N. secretary general.

KING: We have, today, and the administration says that it believes it does have the authority. Under Resolution 1441, it says that resolution allows the United States to do this. Jack Straw, the British foreign secretary, anticipating similar questions, had a brief prepared by Britain's attorney general saying there is legal authority to go forward with this war.

The administration, after the president's speech tonight, will try quickly to quiet those arguments by showing that this is a broad- based coalition. Obviously, the overwhelming burden of the military action would be carried by U.S. troops some British troops involved.

The Australian prime minister says he will try to commit some Australian forces to help out. Italy, Spain and Portugal have offered some support. Not likely in any direct military way, but backup support. The administration says Eastern European nations are with it.

So by saying this is a broad coalition, the president will try to quiet those arguments, but certainly a great rift right now between the United States and the United Nations, and certainly between this president and some of the traditional key allies of the United States, especially France and Germany. And the one relationship this president has put so much investment into, his relationship with the Russian president.

WOODRUFF: There's going to be a lot of repair work to be done after this. John King at the White House.

Again, the president speaks to the nation in a little less than four hours. However, CNN's special live coverage of the address will begin at 7:00 p.m. Eastern, 4:00 Pacific.

Now, we move quickly to the United Nations and our own Richard Roth. Richard, it's American officials, British officials who are saying the diplomatic window is closed. How are they reacting at the U.N. to that? RICHARD ROTH, CNN SENIOR U.N. CORRESPONDENT: Well, they don't want to give up yet, whether it's the German ambassador or Pakistan's envoy here, these diplomats are practically trained to never say it's all over here. They are going to keep fighting.

Here you see the British, and the U.S. and the Spanish ambassadors, the big three who have put this new resolution on the table have now taken it off the table, in effect, though it's still there for consideration. They walked in early today. It didn't take long by U.N. standards.

They walked right to the microphone and they said they were not going to be acting on this resolution, not in the face of a veto threat by France. And they continued really to press during the day and blame France, even though they didn't mention the country by name.


JOHN NEGROPONTE, U.S. AMB. TO THE U.N.: People believe that the vote would have been close. We regret that in the face of an explicit threat to veto by a permanent member, the vote counting became a secondary consideration.

JEAN-MARC DE LA SABLIERE, FRENCH AMB. TO THE U.N.: They have realized that the majority of the council is against and oppose a resolution authorizing the use of force. This is a position of the huge majority in the council.


ROTH: And even inside, Judy, during the Security Council consultations regarding the withdrawal of inspectors, the French delegate was upset that his country had been singled out. And he and others have said that the U.S. just didn't have the votes. They only had four publicly. And that 11 other countries were lined up because they oppose any resolution they thought would authorize war.

The U.S. feels they have the backing under the resolution passed last November by every country to act, because Iraq said -- it was told it would face serious consequences if didn't immediately cooperate on disarmament.

Other quick reactions, off camera Iraq's ambassador to the U.N. said it's clear they want war. Mohammed Aldouri said he is feeling pessimistic. He cannot be optimistic. He said America is a great country, not a great leader. Why do you want to dominate the world and impose your values on others? Back to you, Judy.

WOODRUFF: Richard, what about the sort of growing view that's been expressed by people who watch the U.N. and the diplomatic goings- on that the U.N. has really been completely sidelined in all of this, and may have had serious damage done to it?

ROTH: Well, it just may have become sidelined a bit. There may be a ministerial meeting on Wednesday, despite all of these moves, that France, China and Russia want with their ministers. And now the U.N. is still going to play a role. The spokesman today says when there's a mess, when all else fails, you are going to need the U.N., the clean-up brigade, the mop-up brigade, because they need the U.N.'s humanitarian arm, the post-war reconstruction phase, whatever happens there.

And even President Bush in his comments in the Azores Island said the U.N. is an important institution. It's going to play a role. But there definitely is going to have to be an examination of the Security Council. Back to you.

WOODRUFF: OK. Richard Roth at the U.N. And now we're going to skip over to the Pentagon where our Jamie McIntyre is. Jamie, what about this new information, Pentagon officials are sharing that there seems to be some solid evidence that the Iraqis have been provided with chemical weapons.

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think we should make it clear that the Pentagon is not saying it's solid evidence. What they are saying is that there's some fresh intelligence that even while Saddam Hussein is insisting that he doesn't have banned weapons, that he may have ordered the distribution of some chemical shells to at least one Republican Guard unit.

Now, this falls short of hard evidence, but, nevertheless, one senior U.S. official told CNN, quote, "they clearly have given some chemical capability to some Iraqi forces."

Now, other U.S. officials are downplaying the intelligence, calling it ambiguous and inconclusive. But, nevertheless, they say it underscores the fact that there are increased reasons to believe that Saddam Hussein may order the use of chemical weapons if the U.S. attacks.

Meanwhile, the U.S. says it is ready to attack. Two U.S. aircraft carriers that were in the eastern Mediterranean Sea that they contemplated moving to the Red Sea apparently will stay in the Mediterranean. Defense officials tell CNN that the U.S. has a plan to fly around Israel, over Jordan to attack targets in the north.

Some 1,000 Tomahawk cruise missiles are now poised, more than 35 ships, both in the Red Sea and Persian Gulf, the 101st Airborne Division has gotten the rest of its equipment, so it's ready to go. Essentially, people say here that the gun is cocked, and all that's left is for President Bush to pull the trigger -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: And, Jamie, they may be getting some good news from Turkey in terms of ability to use that as a base. But, Jamie, what about this notion that tonight, the president is expected to give a deadline. From a military standpoint, does it serve them well that the Iraqis are being told you have so many hours and we're coming in? Doesn't that completely remove the element of surprise?

MCINTYRE: Well, it takes a lot of the surprise out of it, but there's still things the U.S. can do to surprise the Iraqis, both in how they attack, exactly when they attack, and where they attack. Yes, the U.S. has forfeited a lot of tactical surprise, but they say they still have some surprises up their sleeve.

WOODRUFF: Jamie McIntyre at the Pentagon, thanks very much.

Here in Washington and other parts of the world, opponents of the U.S.-led attack on Iraq are speaking out. In Canada, Prime Minister Jean Chretien said today that his country's armed force would not play a role in the war since a new U.N. resolution was not approved.

In Britain, senior cabinet minister Robin Cook quit his post in protest of military action without broad international support. He was conspicuously absent from an emergency meeting of Prime Minister Tony Blair's cabinet.

Dozens of anti-war protesters were arrested here in the nation's capital. More than 100 people marched from a church in southeast Washington to Capitol Hill singing "We Shall Overcome."

Now, we turn to Capitol Hill and how lawmakers are responding now that America is on the brink of war. Our congressional correspondent Jonathan Karl is with us -- Jon.

JONATHAN KARL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Judy, we heard a harshly negative reaction to the breakdown in diplomacy from the Senate's top Deomcrat Tom Daschle, who in a speech before the government employees union just about an hour ago had this to say.


SEN. TOM DASCHLE (D-SD), SENATE MINORITY LEADER: I'm going to the White House this afternoon and I have a pretty good understanding, a pretty good idea what I'm going to hear. And I'm saddened, saddened that this president failed so miserably at diplomacy that we're now forced to war. Saddened that we have to give up one life because this president couldn't create the kind of diplomatic effort that was so critical for our country.

But we will work, and we will do all that we can to get through this crisis like we've gotten through so many.


KARL: Despite Senator Daschle's comments, most Democrats are saying that the time to debate this is now rapidly drawing to a close. The time to criticize the president's policy on this is rapidly drawing to a close.

As the march to war seems to be quickening, one such Democrat, Senator Carl Levin, who led the fight against giving the president the authority to go to war without U.N. approval, went to the Senate floor today to kind of go over his arguments, but then to have this to say.


SEN. CARL LEVIN (D), MICHIGAN: Those of us who have questioned the administration's approach, including this senator, will now be rallying behind the men and women of our armed forces to give them the full support that they deserve, as it now seems certain we will soon be at war.


KARL: And, Judy, as that happens, you can look for a resolution to come up almost immediately on the floor of both the House and the Senate expressing support for those actually doing the fighting -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: So, Jon, is Iraq taking up all of the attention, all the oxygen on Capitol Hill, or are they able to focus on anything else?

KARL: Actually, it really isn't. There is a pact schedule in both the House and Senate on issues far apart from Iraq, including the national Amber Alert program that is pushed through up here on Capitol Hill, including the nomination of Miguel Estrada to the circuit court of appeals.

And, of course, the budget. Both the House and Senate are using most of their time this week to pursue the budget, now that will include other debates beyond the question of where the government will spend its money. One such question is the question of drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. There will be a key vote on that this week, and a key vote on the president's tax plan, which will be included as part of this budget process.

So, despite the fact that we have this march for war, there is much else that the Congress is doing that has nothing to do with the war. But even on that budget process, you're hearing a lot of talk about the war. Many Democrats are coming out and saying, is it really appropriate to push through a budget when we don't even know how much this war will cost. And is it appropriate to pass a tax cut or at least prepare for a tax cut on the eve of war?

WOODRUFF: And we just heard the numbers from John King, maybe from $75 to $100 billion. But we shall see. All right, Jon Karl, thanks very much.

Well, evidently, many Americans also are worried about the bottom line. Up next, are the financial markets rallying behind military action? We'll have a live report from Wall Street.

Also ahead, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright shares insights about diplomatic failures at the United Nations and the final push toward war.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Candy Crowley in Washington. It is difficult to overstate the political risks President Bush faces if he puts American lives on the line in Iraq.

WOODRUFF: Also ahead, everyone is Irish on St. Patrick's Day. But what was Senator John Kerry's excuse all those other days? This is INSIDE POLITICS, the place for campaign news.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) WOODRUFF: With me here in Washington to talk more about the latest developments involving likely war in Iraq, former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. Madam Secretary, we are told the president is going to give an ultimatum tonight. Do you see any way out of going to war?

MADELAINE ALBRIGHT, FMR. SECY. OF STATE: Well, the only one that has been presented at this moment is that Saddam Hussein would leave the country voluntarily. And given his past behavior, it's very hard to believe that he'd actually do that. And what is evident is, as we've been saying all day, is that the diplomatic window has closed. And so it's very hard to imagine how we can see anything other than going to war at the moment.

WOODRUFF: How do you see what went wrong here in this search for a diplomatic answer? The Americans are saying the Bush administration is saying the French stopped this. The French are saying that the U.S. didn't give diplomacy a chance. How do you see it?

ALBRIGHT: Well, I think that it depends on what angle you're looking at it from, but I think there's a very interesting piece in the "Wall Street Journal" today that would indicate that Vice President Cheney, from the very beginning, has said that diplomacy really didn't have a chance. And he was among those who really felt that we needed to resume where we had left off in 1991, after the Gulf War.

And so I think there was a group that did not want to see diplomacy succeed. And at the same time, I think there were those within the administration who worked very hard to get a diplomatic solution. But the very hard part, Judy, and having been ambassador at the U.N. as well as secretary, it's very hard when the American president says I'm going to war no matter what.

In other words, why bother with this. And when the French president says I'm going to veto anything that comes up. And so, from both sides, they kind of painted themselves into a corner and made it very hard for diplomacy to take some final steps here.

WOODRUFF: Are you saying this whole thing was just a half- hearted effort on the part of the Americans to go to the U.N.

ALBRIGHT: Well, I think that it depends on, again, to whom you've been listening. Clearly, all along, this administration has been divided on this. And there have been those who have been quite pejorative about the role of the United Nations, the role of the inspectors. And then there are those who have been really pushing very hard for diplomacy.

WOODRUFF: Do you believe the U.S. has the authority, under the existing resolution at the U.N., 1441, that was passed in November? The Russians are saying the U.S. doesn't, and Great Britain don't have the authority. The Secretary General Kofi Annan has questioned whether there is that authority. What do you believe, having served at the U.N. ALBRIGHT: Well, I think there is legal basis for us going on the basis of 1441 and previous resolutions. But it's not just the legal aspect. It's also kind of the whole diplomatic sense of whether you have the support of the international community, and sometimes just being within the strictures of the law is not really enough to get you the kind of support that is necessary from the community.

And so I do believe, actually, that there is ample authority in various places within the whole set of Security Council resolutions. But I think it has been set up in such a way now that we are not doing this with a sense of international legitimacy, which I think is a little bit different.

WOODRUFF: Well, is the U.N., they keep saying the U.N.'s going to be involved after the war. But the U.N. will not have been involved in this very important decision to go to war. Does that make the U.N. irrelevant when it comes to the big decisions?

ALBRIGHT: Well, I hope not, because I don't think we can exist without the U.N. And while it has it flaws and doesn't always do what the United States wants and needs a lot of reform, I think it's an essential institution.

And one of the things that troubles me the most about what has happened here is that, all of a sudden, the United States has put itself above every kind of institution that has been the basis of our relationships with countries for the last 50 years. And we need the U.N. And I do hope, very much, that the U.N. will be a part of the post-war part of it, as it has been in Kosovo and Bosnia.

And places where it's been essential as kind of the structure in order to try to get other countries to help with assistance programs and rebuilding.

WOODRUFF: With that thought, we are going to leave it there. Former U.S. Secretary of State, former U.N. ambassador from the United States, Madeleine Albright. Good to see you. We appreciate your coming by.

ALBRIGHT: Thanks, Judy.

WOODRUFF: Thank you. The political risk of war, coming up. Is George W. Bush gambling his reelection on the outcome of the showdown with Iraq? We'll get the view from the left and the right.


WOODRUFF (voice-over): It's time to check your "I.P. I.Q." In the fall of 1964, Saddam Hussein was arrested for charges accusing him of rebelling against the regime. In what country was he arrested? Was it A: Iran, B: Jordan or C: Syria? We'll tell you the answer later on INSIDE POLITICS.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK) WOODRUFF: Breaking ranks in Britain. One of Tony Blair's senior ministers calls it quits over Iraq. Will the British Prime Minister face a full-scale revolt from his own party?


WOODRUFF: Well, the political challenges facing British Prime Minister Tony Blair include dissention within his own political party. Earlier today, a high-profile member of Blair's cabinet resigned in protest of Britain's policies cords Iraq.

Now, with the latest from London we have CNN's Robin Oakley joining us. Robin, what is the reaction over there to the notion now, not only that the diplomatic window's closed, but that Tony Blair is up against the wall politically speaking?

ROBIN OAKLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, when that window slammed shut, Judy, it was Tony Blair's fingers who, in a sense, got caught in the frame.

The departure of Robin Cook, the former foreign secretary, is a big blow to Tony Blair as he battles to swing round public opinion and the opinion in his party, because there is a lot of suspicion of Britain going to war, taking military action against Saddam Hussein, without the blessing of the U.N. Security Council. That's why Robin Cook has quit his Cabinet. He said he couldn't condone the idea of a unilateral military action of this kind.

The last time Tony Blair's Iraq policy was put to the House of Commons, 122 of his M.P.s rebelled. He faces another rebellion when he appeals for support tomorrow in sending British troops. The question is how much that total might climb with the example set there by Robin Cook. And there's still the possibility that Clare Short, another member of the Cabinet, will resign. She threatened to do so last week if Blair went without U.N. backing. And she is said to be sleeping on the thought overnight and making up her mind what she'll do.

But Jack Straw, the U.K. foreign secretary, has been defending the British determination to go for the use of force. He basically said that there was only one language that Saddam Hussein understands.


JACK STRAW, BRITISH FOREIGN SECRETARY: The debate tomorrow will be the most important in the House for many years. Some say that Iraq can be disarmed without an ultimatum, without the threat or the use of force, but simply by more time and more inspections. But that approach is defied because all our experience over 12 weary years.


OAKLEY: Preparing the way for tomorrow's big vote in the House of Commons, Jack Straw has set out a resolution for M.P.s to support, which doesn't just say, let's take military action against Saddam Hussein, but promises to preserve oil revenues for the Iraqi people, promises a humanitarian effort and a reconstruction of the country, and also ties in the new effort in the Middle East blessed by George Bush in the last couple of days -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right, Robin Oakley, a lot going on over there, especially with that vote coming up tomorrow -- thanks very much. We appreciate it.

Up next: echoes of war on the presidential campaign trail.


SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We cannot allow him to have nuclear weapons.


WOODRUFF: As some Democrats feel the heat for their stands on Iraq, will President Bush be the one who pays the greatest political price in the end?


WOODRUFF: Presidents who commit U.S. troops to war often say, the threat of casualties weighs heavily on their mind. Commanders in chief are less likely to talk publicly about a different kind of risk to their own careers.

As our Candy Crowley reports, President Bush certainly knows that risk is there. And so do the Democrat who want his job.


CROWLEY (voice-over): The ugly mix of politics and war brewed at the state Democratic Convention in California this weekend. And presidential hopeful John Edwards got a taste of it.

EDWARDS: Saddam Hussein is a serious threat. And I believe he must be disarmed, including the use of military force, if necessary. We cannot...


EDWARDS: We cannot allow him to have nuclear weapons. I also...

CROWLEY: The politics of war is an uneasy subject. But there it is. Some like it more than others.

HOWARD DEAN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What I want to know is what in the world so many Democrats are doing supporting the president's unilateral intervention in Iraq.


CROWLEY: The truth is, most of the strategists involved in '04 campaigns do not expect Iraq to be a turning-point issue for any candidate, except one. GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Saddam Hussein has proven he's capable of any crime. We must not permit his crimes to reach across the world.

CROWLEY: He has pushed so hard against so many for so long, history may write this as George Bush's war. And, surely, his political future begins at the end of it.

The president has long said political capital should be spent. He's putting all of his on this war. Though Bush's popularity has fallen from the stratospheric 70s of the post-9/11 era, it's still a strong 58 percent. But signs suggest he could use refinancing. Asked in a CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup poll to pick between President Bush and whoever runs as the Democratic Party candidate in 2004, 45 percent of registered voters picked the president; 42 percent picked the Democratic candidate.

It is hard to overestimate the political risk of war with Iraq. A long, ugly conflict and/or deadly repercussions will all but certainly bring the president's judgment into question, weaken his political standing, threaten his domestic agenda. Even quick victory and a reasonably manageable peace is not an '04 guarantee, but it would give the president muscle to do battle here at home.

And if the markets and the economy respond, history may write that George Bush's war was the beginning of the next term.


CROWLEY: As one top aide to a Democratic hopeful put it, "If we win the war, catch bin Laden, and the economy perks up, I'd even vote for Bush." And he was only half kidding -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: This is a president who made a decision to spend that capital.

CROWLEY: He did. He did. And it's a high-stakes bet.

WOODRUFF: Candy Crowley, thanks very much.

Well, let's talk more about the political risks of war. I spoke a little earlier with Democratic pollster Mark Mellman, and Ron Kaufman, a former political director for the president's father. I asked them how much pressure this president is under to wage a war in Iraq quickly, successfully, and with minimum casualties.


MARK MELLMAN, DEMOCRATIC POLLSTER: Well, the reality is, there's already been one failure. And that's on the diplomatic front. George Bush's father put together a coalition of over 120 countries to oppose Iraq. George Bush the son failed his father's test.

The real question, though, I think, for the war itself is not, is the war completed successfully, but what's the aftermath going to be like? I don't think there's too much doubt that the war's going to go well, from the United States' point of view, on the ground. The question is what happens afterwards. Does the American public, does the rest of the world judge this war as successful or not? It's hard to define that in advance, but people know it when they see it.

WOODRUFF: But what is going to be the definition of success for this president, Ron?

RON KAUFMAN, GOP STRATEGIST: Well, I think a couple things, Judy.

I think one is how the war itself comes out. Is it an efficient war, with a minimum amount of casualties and a minimum amount of people coming home hurt or dead? But, more importantly, I think, it's going to be about the aftermath, as Mark said. Is there a clear decision afterwards how Iraq's going to be governed? Is Hussein out of power? Do the allies then look at this as a success?

And if in fact the war does go well and peace goes well afterwards, then I think you say, this president and, quite frankly, Tony Blair in England will be looked at in a different way and they will be new leaders. And I think it will absolutely affect the way we look at the U.N. in the future.

WOODRUFF: Which is another whole question.

Does George Bush's presidency hinge on the outcome of this, Mark?

MELLMAN: Well, to an important extent, it does, in two respects.

First of all, if this war is judged unsuccessful by the American public, if we have American troops running Iraq for years and continuing casualties and so on, that's going to be a political disaster for the president, as well as for American diplomacy. But the reality is, the impacts of this war extend beyond the war itself to the economy. What happened to George Bush's father?

WOODRUFF: To the U.S. economy.

MELLMAN: To the U.S. economy.

A successful war for George Bush's father pushed a teetering economy into a recession. That recession ended up being his political undoing. We have a teetering economy now. This war could push us again into a recession. It could be this president's undoing as well.

WOODRUFF: Ron, it is true that, in the run-up to this period, people -- because of concern about whether there's going to be a war and what's going to happen, the economy has taken some hits.

KAUFMAN: Well, sure it has. And it's not been a good economy.

But I think that people really care more about this war than they do about the economy, which is unusual in the polling data that Mark has done over the years, I'm sure. But I think this war becomes really important. If the war does well and the peace goes well, then George Bush will be reelected by a lot more than he was last time. WOODRUFF: You're saying no matter what the economy does?

KAUFMAN: I think irregardless of the economy. I think that people want their president to lead. And I think, when they lead, they do well, even if people don't agree. People didn't agree with Ronald Reagan on a lot of issues, but they voted for him overwhelmingly. The same is true, quite frankly, with this president. For 41...

WOODRUFF: But President George Bush's father led a successful effort in Iraq, but then went on not to be reelected.

KAUFMAN: He wasn't perceived to be, unfortunately, a leader on the economy. It's isn't if the economy is good or bad. It's whether you lead or not. And, unfortunately, we failed him. We folks around him failed him and didn't, perceptually, let him lead the way he should have. The economy was fine, as you know. When President Clinton took over, his first quarter was the best quarter of his presidency.

WOODRUFF: Mark Mellman, we've seen these polls just coming out, the latest CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup poll. When you ask people, should President Bush be reelected, it's slipped to something like 45 percent. But are these numbers going to be meaningful months from now?

MELLMAN: The truth is, we're seeing that all over the country. Our latest polls show pluralities, if not majorities, in states across the country, saying they want to give someone new a chance to be president.

But the reality is, in the short term, people are going to rally around George Bush. They're going to rally around this attack on Iraq. That happens almost invariably in situations of this kind. But I think we're going to see the numbers come down much quicker after this war than we did after September 11 and after the war in Afghanistan, because people do have fundamental doubts about George Bush's diplomatic leadership and about his leadership on the economy.

WOODRUFF: Ron, a quick response.

KAUFMAN: Given the fact we're -- two big things about presidential politics: peace and prosperity, a little bit undecided right now. It's amazing he is where he is in the polls. I don't think anyone doubts the numbers will come down a little bit. They'll go down a little bit more before it's over.

But come after this war, and the president gives leadership to the war, leadership to the economy, his numbers will be fine come November of 2004, when it really counts.


WOODRUFF: That was Mark Mellman and Ron Kaufman.

Ahead here: the military and the news media, the challenges facing reporters on the front line and their changing relations with the U.S. armed forces.


WOODRUFF (voice-over): It's time again to check your "I.P. I.Q."

In the fall of 1964, Saddam Hussein was arrested for charges accusing him of rebelling against the regime. Earlier, we asked, in what country was he arrested? Was it, A, Iran, B, Jordan, or, C, Syria? The correct answer is C. Saddam Hussein was arrested and held in a prison in Syria. He later escaped from prison before heading back to Baghdad.



WOODRUFF: Some of the U.S. troops poised to head into Iraq will be accompanied by reporters. This front-line access is a big change from recent conflicts and it also marks a big change in the military's overall approach to members of the news media.

We get more from CNN's Bruce Morton.


BRUCE MORTON, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In World War II, allied reporters wore uniforms. This was in Yugoslavia.


ANNOUNCER: Tito is shown here with the first allied war correspondents to reach his headquarters.


MORTON: All their stories were censored. Vietnam was the other extreme. Reporters hitchhiked. And whatever they found, they could report.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think the new pressure here...




MORTON: A few rules -- don't report a sweep until there's been contact with the enemy -- but very few. Still, this was film shipped back to the U.S., edited before it was broadcast. Even so, many in the Pentagon thought reporters were too free. That changed in the Gulf War.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There were several explosions, pretty big explosions, maybe five or 10 miles away from where we are standing.


MORTON: CNN broadcast the start of the air war, but, later, Baghdad limited what reporters could say and see. And, sometimes, so did the United States: little access to troops, many briefings. Reporters grumbled.

HOWARD KURTZ, "RELIABLE SOURCES": During the Gulf War, they felt babysat, tightly controlled, censored. During Afghanistan, they felt almost completely shut out.

MORTON: In Afghanistan, when the reporters got to the action, it was often by chance, with no help from the U.S. forces. CNN's Alessio Vinci at Mazar-e-Sharif.

ALESSIO VINCI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I could hear bullets ricochet above my head.

MORTON: Now some 500 reporters have been embedded, as the Pentagon says, with U.S. and allied forces. They will be able to broadcast live from the battlefield, from the middle of a firefight, live, even if Private John Doe standing next to them is shot and killed on camera in American living rooms.

KURTZ: None of us wants to turn war in entertainment. But, in an instantaneous, 24-hour, media-saturated world, I'm not sure that this is worse than being shut out of the battlefield or being closely controlled by the Pentagon. War, for good or for bad, ought to be covered. People ought to see it in all of its full-color agony. And, clearly, that's where we're headed if we go to war with Iraq.

MORTON: Vietnam was the first war Americans watched in their living rooms. But, this time, they'll be watching war live. What will they make of it?

Bruce Morton, CNN, Washington.


WOODRUFF: We turn to campaign news next and the Democratic race for president. The most popular choice is not even an official candidate. We'll check the numbers in our new poll of the 2004 White House hopefuls.


WOODRUFF: We check in on the 2004 Democrats in the "Campaign News Daily."

Congressman Dick Gephardt is the early leader in a new CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup poll. But Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton remains the party favorite. The former House minority leader has 20 percent, followed by Senators John Kerry and Joe Lieberman, also in double digits.

Well, while Senator Hillary Clinton is not a candidate and says she won't be, when her name was included in the list, she received 28 percent support to lead all the announced candidates. Senator Lieberman picked up some home state support today from his state's other U.S. senator. Christopher Dodd endorsed Lieberman at a midday event here in Washington. Dodd briefly considered his own campaign for the White House, but he recently announced that he would not run.

Congressman Dennis Kucinich turned to song to grab attention at this weekend's California Democratic Convention.


REP. DENNIS KUCINICH (D-OH), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (singing): America, America, God shed his grace on three and crown thy good with brotherhood.


WOODRUFF: The patriotic a cappella performance took many of the California delegates by surprise. No word if these songs will become a regular staple of the congressman's campaign appearances.

Still ahead on this St. Patrick's Day: the political benefits of appearing Irish, even if you're not.


WOODRUFF: At first glance, it might not seem surprising that a presidential candidate named Kerry would attend a St. Patrick's Day event.

But our Bill Schneider says, looks can be deceiving in more ways than one -- Bill.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Judy, it is St. Patrick's Day, after all, and certain traditions must be upheld, especially in Boston, where all the attention was on one not-quite- Irish politician who was not expected even to show up.


JACK HART (D), MASSACHUSETTS STATE SENATOR: No matter who you are, everybody's Irish on St. Patrick's Day, except John Kerry.


SCHNEIDER (voice-over): John Kerry looks Irish. His name is Irish. A lot of people think he's Irish. But for a long time, the Massachusetts senator never quite fessed up to the fact that he's not really Irish.

The annual St. Patrick's Day Breakfast in South Boston, the music, the crowds, the rowdiness, was not Kerry's scene. PAUL SULLIVAN, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Even when he was Irish, this was not his crowd, because, frankly, John Kerry comes from sort of the more prep school background that people in this room, the working-class Irish of Boston, don't necessarily bond with.

SCHNEIDER: Earlier this year, after an exhaustive press investigation, it came out that some of Senator Kerry's ancestors were Jewish.

GOV. MITT ROMNEY (R), MASSACHUSETTS: I wasn't surprised at all, of course, that he threw his yarmulke into the presidential ring.

SCHNEIDER: One speaker pointed to a list of tipoffs that Kerry was Irish.

REP. STEPHEN LYNCH (D), MASSACHUSETTS: No. 9, he always went to Sunday mass on Saturday. No. 8, his Irish soda bread always came out flat.

SCHNEIDER: Did the fact that Kerry wasn't there create a problem? Well, yes.

SULLIVAN: There was an awful lot of people who felt fairly betrayed by the notion that somebody would be out in California raising funds and not back in your hometown.

SCHNEIDER: When all of a sudden, guess who showed up after all and immediately got into the spirit of the occasion?

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MS), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: So, who said I don't have the matzo balls to be here today?


SCHNEIDER: Which is topical humor at your own expense.

KERRY: So, let's get it straight once and for all. I am Scottish, Scotch Irish, English, Jewish, Austrian, Hungarian, Czech. And I don't understand why President Bush is going to the United Nations. Hell, I am the United Nations, folks.

SCHNEIDER: Kerry even sang in Irish -- make that a Jewish ditty.

KERRY (singing): If you're Yiddish, come into the parlor. There's a mazel tov for you.


SCHNEIDER: And if you like to think Senator Kerry is Irish, even after St. Patrick's Day, you know, he wouldn't complain. John Forbes Kerry, JFK. Get it?

WOODRUFF: I think Dennis Kucinich has a better voice, though.


SCHNEIDER: That's probably...

WOODRUFF: We heard him sing a little while ago "America."


SCHNEIDER: Yes. I heard that.

WOODRUFF: All right, Bill Schneider, thanks very much.

Well, that's it for INSIDE POLITICS. I'm Judy Woodruff. Thanks for joining us.


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