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JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS

Bush to Deliver Live Prime Time Address Tomorrow From Deck of Abraham Lincoln, Will Mark End of Major Combat in Iraq, Not Victory

Aired April 30, 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: Putting peace on the map. The Bush administration delivers on its plan. But will it change the landscape in the Middle East?

Pass the Turkey. With a zestier economy on the side, does the president face a thanksgiving deadline for turning things around?

It was a political disaster for the Clintons. So what makes some 2004 Democrats think they can breathe new life into universal health care?

Now, live from Washington, JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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

We begin with the Bush administration moving beyond the fighting in Iraq and launching what could be much more difficult mission for peace in the Middle East. In a first of its kind photo opportunity, President Bush will deliver a live prime time address tomorrow from the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln. The White House says Mr. Bush will mark the end of major combat in Iraq, but will not declare victory.

Defense Secretary Rumsfeld has been patting U.S. troops on the back in Baghdad today, and celebrating the success of the Pentagon's war plans. At the same time, the U.S. delivered on a pre-war promise handing the long-awaited road map for Middle East peace to Palestinian and Israeli officials.

Secretary of State Colin Powell heads to the region tonight for talks with Syria and Lebanon. He plans to return to the Middle East about a week later to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and the new Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas.

Let's bring in now our senior White House correspondent John king. John, politically, how does the Bush administration capitalize on this moment in time in the Middle East? How do they keep things going for both the Israelis and the Palestinians?

JOHN KING, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Judy, they insist here it will be an effort led by the president, and we will hear from the president in a little more than an hour from now on his vision for how the road map should be implemented. But President Bush will be involved, White House officials say. Secretary Powell will take the lead for now. As you noted, going back to the Middle East, back to Israel and to the Gaza Strip to see Mahmoud Abbas next week.

The administration clearly now will invest in this. It knows its credibility in the Arab world is at stake. Ari Fleischer, the White House press secretary, earlier today making clear, he says the president understands laying out the road map is not enough, that the president will have to get involved to enforce the benchmarks and the timelines laid out in that peace plan.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ARI FLEISCHER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Make no mistake. It will be hard work. There will be a lot of hand holding required. The president is prepared to invest the time and energy into it. Still, it does fundamentally come down to the two parties, but nobody would expect that the initial comments one hour after release is going to be the final comments.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Critics already wondering, will the president bring the parties here for some sort of peace summit? What will he do, and everyone expects this to happen, if and when, Yasser Arafat somehow undermines the new Palestinian prime minister. Arab's (ph) question, when will the president exert open public pressure on the Sharon government to pull back from settlement activities? All these questions the White House says the president will answer with time, effort and an open commitment in the weeks and months ahead. Judy, the president knows here, not only is the Israeli-Palestinian issue before him, but there is a broader ripple effect in Iraq and across the Middle East.

WOODRUFF: Well, John, on Iraq, for the president's speech tomorrow night, they are saying he is going to declare an end to any major fighting. Any risk in that? There are still some skirmishes, still fighting going on. What's the risk, if any there?

KING: Well, the risk is to convince the American people that the war is over. And that's why the president will not say that. He will say that major combat operations are over, and there will, indeed, be skirmishes and perhaps the risk of American, and Iraqi and other lives in the days and weeks ahead. The White House views this essentially as turning the page away from major combat operations to a security and a reconstruction phase.

One of the things it does not do is promise the American people that most of those troops will be coming home soon. But one thing that it does do and that Mr. Bush will do in the speech is make clear now that major combat operations are over, other nations are free to come forward and offer help with peacekeeping and policing. It is a way, Judy, if you will, to invite countries that were opposed to the war to help the United States enforce and manage the peace.

WOODRUFF: And it will be interesting to see what's work out in that direction. All right. John King at the White House, thanks.

Well, separately, the president met with Republican leaders at the White House today. And he pledged to use his political capital from the war to push his tax cut plan. Sources tell our congressional correspondent Kate Snow that Mr. Bush was, quote, "really on and focused during the meeting." Majority leader Bill Frist left the meeting promising to push the Senate to go beyond its $350 billion tax cut limit.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BILL FRIST (R-TN), MAJORITY LEADER: It's a very productive meeting, a typical meeting as we transition to a razor sharp and focused light on the jobs, and growth and the economic package of the president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: In the meeting with GOP leaders, we are told President Bush mentioned eliminating the double tax on dividend, but he did not dwell on it. The top Senate Democrat did dwell on it in his criticism today of the Bush tax cut plan.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. TOM DASCHLE (D-SD), MINORITY LEADER: If you really want the biggest bang for the buck, if you really want to do the most to create jobs and soon, then you have got to look at something other than the dividend tax credit exclusion. You can't do it with that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: Republican Senator Lincoln Chafee and Club for Growth president Steven Moore face off in the "CROSSFIRE" over tax cuts. That's right after INSIDE POLITICS at 4:30 p.m. Eastern here on CNN.

Well, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan threw another splash of cold water on the president's tax cut plan today, appearing before Congress he repeated his opposition to massive cuts that would increase the federal deficit.

Our senior political correspondent Candy Crowley has more on Chairman Greenspan's remarks, and the economic challenges ahead for President Bush.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ALAN GREENSPAN, CHAIRMAN, FEDERAL RESERVE: I continue to believe the economy is positioned to expand at a noticeably better pace than it has during the past year.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): From his lips to Karl Rove's ear, as the president's team quietly but certainly plots the course of his re-election bid, the tally goes something like this. A war judged successful by most Americans. A conservative base kept enthusiastic with tax cuts and judicial nominations. A likable candidate with the Oval Office as a backdrop. It's an article of faith among most Bush supporters that the only thing standing between the first term and the second is the economy.

STEPHEN MOORE, CLUB FOR GROWTH: If we were to have a strong economic recovery that started some time soon and lasted through 2004, then I think President Bush becomes unconquerable.

CROWLEY: Key word here, soon. If you wonder why in the spring of his third year a president's fancy always turns to re-election, it's because by Thanksgiving, it's too late.

GREG VALLIERE, CHARLES SCHWAB: People around this President Bush are very mindful that the economy had come back in the summer of '92, but it was too late for the first President Bush. Therefore, I think they realize you've got to get the economy going by this fall.

CROWLEY: When the first Bush won the war and lost the election, the measure of economic discontent was largely the jobless rate and a president who seemed not to notice. Twelve years later, many experts note changing economic dynamics. Translation, what mainly ails main street now is Wall Street.

VALLIERE: An awful lot of Americans, the majority of us who own stock feel pretty battered, pretty beat up after the last few years. We had planned for certain things in retirement, and our stock portfolios have been badly hit. That's now, I think, a big political issue.

CROWLEY: Four trillion dollars to $5 trillion of American wealth have been lost on Wall Street in the past three years.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY: And more than half of all Americans have a stake in Wall Street, while it's estimated as many as two-thirds of all voters may own stock. Numbers which give some context to the White House tax plan which experts say seems aimed at giving value back into stocks, and maybe some optimism back on to main street -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: There is a connection. Candy Crowley, thanks very much.

Well, a top Democrat takes aim at the president's economic plan. Next...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: The president's plan is reckless, it's irresponsible, it is not job creator.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi talks to me about the way the president is doing his job.

Health care reform has been painful politically for Democrats. So why are they going there again?

And pull out the RV. We'll tell you which presidential hopeful is planning his vacation with the campaign in mind.

This is INSIDE POLITICS, the place for campaign news.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Democratic House leader Nancy Pelosi has been an outspoken critic of the president's tax cut plan, and she's also opposed his decision to go to war in Iraq. I talked to her about these and other issues with Congresswoman Pelosi today. And I started by asking her about recent comments by Commerce Secretary Don Evans, who said if the Democrats don't like the Bush plan for the economy, then what's their solution?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PELOSI: We preempted the president, as a matter of fact, by putting forth our own jobs proposal, our plan for economic growth, a day before the president put his forth. I beat him on three scores. It was fair to the taxpayer. It was fiscally sound and it was fast acting. So the Democrats have been out there. The president's plan is reckless, it's irresponsible, it is not job creator. In fact, it creates fewer jobs than were lost in the months of January and February alone.

WOODRUFF: But among other things, not just Commerce Secretary Evans, but others in the administration say, for example, the rebate that the Democrats are proposing is a one-time deal. It doesn't allow people to plan, as a tax cut would. A tax cut is something that businesses can count on. They can add jobs based on it.

PELOSI: When we talk about growing the economy, one of the things that you must do is create demand. The Democratic economic proposal will create demand by putting money in the pockets immediately of workers who need the money and can spend it, and that's why our proposal creates a million jobs at a minimum this year.

The president's plan is geared to the high end, to the wealthiest people in our country who won't necessarily spend that money, create, infuse demand into our economy. So in terms of the president's plan, don't take it from me.

Four hundred economists, including a dozen Nobel Laureates have come out against the president's plan, and even the chairman of the fed, Chairman Greenspan, has said that the deficits that these tax cuts will create will have a negative impact on long-term interest rates, thereby destabilizing the economy down the road.

WOODRUFF: But how do you and other Democrats get that message out, Ms. Pelosi, when the president is coming off a very successful war effort in Iraq. He's got sky-high favorability ratings. How do you get your message out there?

PELOSI: Well, there's no question the president has the soapbox. But the American people are out of work, and they know very clearly that there is a need for something different. The people are looking for a message of job creation. The president can talk about jobs all he wants. But the fact is that his proposal is not a job creator. The Democratic proposal is.

How are we going to get that out? By being persistent, by speaking to the aspirations of the people in need of work, and to make a very clear distinction between what the president is proposing and what the Democrats are proposing.

WOODRUFF: Let me finally ask you a quick question about the 2004 presidential campaign. The word out today is that you will later, in about a month or so, endorse Richard Gephardt your predecessor, your good friend as the presidential candidate of your choice. He supported the war in Iraq. You very much were against it. Why wouldn't you support one of the candidates who were against, like your House colleague Dennis Kucinich, or even Howard Dean, the former governor of Vermont.

PELOSI: First of all, I'm not making any announcement today about who I am supporting for president of the United States. I certainly have tremendous admiration for the former leader Richard Gephardt, as I have admiration for the other Democratic candidates as well. I'll be speaking to them.

I will be making an announcement when I am ready, and the fact is is that whoever that person is, we will all get behind to elect a new Democratic president of the United States, one committed to job creation, protecting the environment, access to quality health care for all Americans, and improving education for every child in America.

WOODRUFF: And finally, on that war that you were against, the U.S.-led coalition war in Iraq, now that it's over, wouldn't you agree, however, that the people of Iraq are much better off today without Saddam Hussein than they were before?

PELOSI: Certainly. It remains to be seen how we conduct the peace, but good riddance to Saddam Hussein, and commendations to our young men and women in uniform for their valor, for their courage, for the sacrifice that they were willing to make.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. As she did clarify afterwards, she said she will either endorse Richard Gephardt for president or she will avoid an endorsement altogether.

Still to come, a look at where South Carolinians stand on the Democratic hopefuls.

A positive showing in the palmetto state for Senator Joe Lieberman. The numbers just ahead in the "Campaign News Daily."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: An appeal today by the White House to keep the pledge of allegiance as is. The Bush administration asked the Supreme Court to preserve the phrase "under God" in the pledge that school children have recited for generations. Last year a federal appeals court in California banned the teacher-led pledge in public schools, saying it violated the Constitution by promoting religion. We're back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Checking the headlines in our "Campaign News Daily." The former President Bush is raising money for Republican candidates in Texas tonight. The 41st president is joining Mississippi gubernatorial candidate Haley Barber in Houston to raise cash for GOP candidates in Mississippi, Louisiana and Kentucky.

Senator Joe Lieberman is the early frontrunner among Democratic White House hopefuls in South Carolina. A new poll by the American Research Group gives Lieberman 19 percent followed by Congressman Dick Gephardt and Senators John Kerry and John Edwards. A lot of votes are still up for grabs, though, 47 percent are undecided.

Senator Edwards refers to Senator Trent Lott's controversial comments about the Strom Thurmond presidential bid in a new letter to potential supporters. According to the "Raleigh News and Observer" Edwards writes, quote "It is no wonder that the rest of America has such a stereotypical view of southerners."

Edwards goes on to say that he will be a leader who can unite, not divide. And Senator Bob Graham has found a new way to appeal to Iowans beyond the usual stands on foreign policy and ethanol. Graham's home state "Miami Herald" reports that the senator told a Des Moines audience yesterday that not only will he spend his summer vacation in the hawk-eye state, he plans to travel aboard two Winnebagos that are built in Iowa. Maybe he'll start a new trend, Floridians moving to Iowa for the summer.

Well, Democratic presidential candidates are always looking for ways to distinguish themselves from one another. And at least two of them are drawing a line over universal health care. Howard Dean is talking up his plan in New York today before the same union group that heard Dick Gephardt unveil his plan last week.

Our Bill Schneider thinks this all sounds rather familiar -- Bill.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Universal health insurance? Democrats have been there, done that, or rather not done that. They tried when Bill Clinton was president back in 1994 with the result that the voters have not elected a Democratic Congress for the past 10 years. Now why would Democrats want to go back there?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER: It's not like there's huge political pressure to act on health care. Yes, the ranks of the uninsured are expanding. But uninsured Americans are disproportionately low income, Hispanic, non- citizens and children, precisely the people who don't vote. In January 1994, health care was the public's top concern, way ahead of the economy, unemployment, and poverty. Now the economy tops the list, followed by Iraq, unemployment and terrorism. You have to go down to the fifth ranked issue to get to health care.

What's really moving Democrats to take up this issue is the Bush tax cut.

REP. DICK GEPHARDT (D-MO), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We paid for it by repealing the Bush tax cuts.

SCHNEIDER: Suddenly cost is not an issue. If President Bush says the country can afford tax cuts, the Democrats can propose spending the money on something they think is more important. Health care. Back in 1994, most middle class Americans already had health insurance and were satisfied with it. They just wanted to make sure they wouldn't lose it. Instead of guaranteeing health insurance, the Clinton plan threatened to have the government take it over.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Rationing, the way I read it. You know, long waits for health care and some services not even available.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Government-controlled health care.

SCHNEIDER: Howard Dean and Dick Gephardt insist their plans will not change the system. They will guarantee it by subsidizing those who already have insurance and by expanding it to cover those who don't.

HOWARD DEAN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: America is a conservative with a small "c." They don't like too much change too fast.

SCHNEIDER: President Bush is selling his tax cut to the middle class as a way to stimulate the economy. The Democrats say their health care plans will do that, too.

GEPHARDT: The economic stimulus created by this plan will pump billions of dollars into the economy. Creating jobs and helping far more working Americans than would ever be helped by the Bush tax cuts.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHNEIDER: The Democrats want to offer voters a clear choice. They want tax cuts for the rich, we want health care for all. But, you know, there's still one choice missing. Reducing the deficit. So where is Ross Perot -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Very good question, Bill. Your assignment is to find out where he is. OK, Bill Schneider, thanks very much.

Still ahead, a sighting of Al Gore and a story involving UFOs. They are not connected, but they are both political, so stay with us and get the details. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Ever since he decided not to run for the White House again, Al Gore has been keeping a low profile. So it was a bit of a surprise when he ventured before crowds and cameras today. Gore, his wife Tipper and daughter Karenna all joined East Harlem residents in New York City to celebrate the grand opening of a new family community center. There they are.

And another story, a strange sighting on Capitol Hill today. Former Clinton administration chief of staff John Podesta warmly greeting former GOP rival. He was in town shooting a segment on the House steps for the sci-fi channel's upcoming documentary on UFOs and government secrecy Podesta told CNN said he's doing the documentary because he is an open-government freak, whatever that means.

The Sci-Fi Channel announced last fall a new public effort to gain release of secret government records on unidentified aerial phenomena, commonly known as UFOs. We need to talk to John Podesta a little more about that.

Well, the members of New York Masonic Lodge reenacted the first inauguration of George Washington earlier today. Washington who was also a Mason was sworn in on this date in 1789. The reenactment was held on the same spot where Washington stood, with the same bible that he used 213 years ago today.

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

"CROSSFIRE" starts right now.

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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