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President Bush Pushes for Mideast Peace; California Democrats Feeling Ignored

Aired May 27, 2003 - 16:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: A whole new ball game: What does President Bush have to do to hit a home run for Mideast peace?

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: But you have to be willing to work for something really greater than yourself.

ANNOUNCER: Sour grapes in California: Golden State Democrats feel ignored by their party's presidential candidates.

Read all about it: After the 2000 election debacle, could the public's opinion of the news media get any worse?



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

Well, for a president who once seemed wary of ever extending himself on the global stage, George W. Bush sure has his hands full internationally. With the U.S. missions in Iraq and Afghanistan still ongoing, he keeps diving deeper into the Mideast peace process, working toward a meeting with Palestinian and Israeli leaders in the coming days. At the same time, he is turning the heat up on Iran.

Our senior White House correspondent, John King, is following these developments and all the stakes for Mr. Bush.

John, with these talks, first in the Middle East, looking likely, what is it that the president has to do to make this work?

JOHN KING, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Judy, first and foremost, the president has to hope that word of his commitment to be personally involved is enough to get the Israelis and the Palestinians, over the next week or so, to take small steps toward creating a climate for peace.

You mentioned this planned three-way meeting: President Bush, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon of Israel, Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority. Plans for that meeting could be announced as early as tomorrow here at the White House. We are told it most likely will be in Jordan eight or nine days from now. Between now and then, the president is hoping that both the Palestinians and the Israelis take steps to create a climate for peace. For the Palestinians, that means trying to clamp down on militant groups and improve security. The White House is heartened that Prime Minister Sharon, in the past 24 hours, has used the term occupation and said Israel cannot sustain an occupation of the Palestinian territories indefinitely, the president's press secretary, Ari Fleischer, saying earlier today, after 2 1/2 years of bloodshed, deaths on both sides, the president sees an opportunity here to get the peace process up and running again.


ARI FLEISCHER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: After a very sustained period of killing in the Middle East, we have now arrived at what can possibly be a hopeful moment. And the president wants to do everything in his power to make it the most hopeful moment possible. And this will continue to involve the president in the conversations that he's had with Prime Minister Sharon, with Abu Mazen, the meetings that the president has had.


KING: Again, if there is a three-way peace summit, we're told it most likely will be held in Jordan. And, again, we are told, plans for that meeting could be announced as early as tomorrow. The White House is worried about announcing it, worried that the Israelis and the Palestinians will stop, then, taking steps forward and wait for such a summit to take place.

And, Judy, I must also say, another factor in the White House being secretive about this as possible is because of concerns of security, bringing President Bush, the Palestinian leader and the Israeli leader together at the Middle East at this moment of instability in the region -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Well, John, between all this going on in the Middle East and what's been going on in Iraq, we now also are getting word that the president getting more involved in Iran. What's going on there?

KING: Well, it depends who you ask in the administration.

Here at the White House, they say the president isn't getting any more involved, that he, of course, is deeply involved because of a number of concerns. The administration is increasingly concerned and says others, including the International Atomic Energy Agency and the government of Russia, are beginning to share their concerns about Iran's nuclear program, believing it is for nuclear weapons purposes, not for peaceful purposes, as the Iranian government insists.

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld also today saying yet again that he'll not tolerate Iran trying to meddle in the politics of Iraq. At the moment, there are other concerns as well with the Iranian government, Ari Fleischer today saying it is harboring members of al Qaeda and that its announcement that it has arrested some members of al Qaeda is not enough.

So the White House has a number of concerns when it comes to Iran. There are some in the administration who want to be more aggressive in fostering political instability and political opposition within Iran. There are others in the administration who say, the best thing to get cooperation from the Iranian government would be if Washington just kept quiet right now and gave the Iranian government some time, a bit of a tug of war in the administration over how to proceed with this policy.

The one thing we are told is that the president will wait until this IAEA report about the nuclear program comes out in a few weeks in June. And that will be a point at which the administration will focus a lot of public pressure on the government in Tehran -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Of course, it's these tugs of war that make it all the more interesting for reporters like our John King at the White House.

KING: Exactly right.

WOODRUFF: John, thank you very much.

Well, Democratic presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich is blasting the Bush administration's approach toward Iran. After making his opposition to the war in Iraq his major campaign issue, the Ohio congressman now is accusing the administration of having a dangerous and misguided policy toward Iran that could further destabilize the region.

Kucinich is on a campaign tour of California in a bus powered by vegetable oil. Yes, you heard that right. And four other presidential contenders are also heading this week to the Golden state, considered a must-win for Democrats. Nonetheless, Democratic political pros and rank-and-file activists in California say they have been virtually ignored by the 2004 candidates.

One activist tells INSIDE POLITICS -- quote -- "We've seen more from George W. Bush than from any of the Democrats who want to replace him, which helps explain why Bush is beating all of them in California right now" -- end quote.

Well, let's talk about California politics with Mark Barabak of "The Los Angeles Times" and Mark Baldassare of the Public Policy Institute of California.

Mark Barabak, let's talk to you first.

What about this notion that the Democrats have paid so little attention to the state of California, it's no wonder that President Bush is doing better right now.

MARK BARABAK, "THE LOS ANGELES TIMES": Well, I was frankly a little surprised to hear that quote. I can tell you, from having covered them, they've been out here quite a bit. You can say that none of them have particularly caught fire with anybody at this point. There's not anyone who is running away with the race here, anymore than anyone is running away with it nationally.

But they've been coming out here. As you mentioned, they are all going to be out here this week. And I think the reason can be summed up by quoting that noted political philosopher Willie Sutton: "It's where the money is."

WOODRUFF: Mark Baldassare, how do you see it at this point? Has any one of these nine captured the imagination of California voters?

MARK BALDASSARE, PUBLIC POLICY INSTITUTE OF CALIFORNIA: No, no one has captured the attention, but, as a group, they certainly have, because there's concern about the economy here, whether the federal tax cut is going to help Californians, and where the nation is going.

So I think that the candidates who have gotten the most attention would have to be Lieberman, Gephardt, Kerry and Dean at this point. But the race is wide open in California.

WOODRUFF: Mark Barabak, would you buy those names as being the most intriguing to Californians, California Democrats?

BARABAK: Yes. I'd throw in John Edwards. And I would also throw in -- even though I'm not the poster here -- the caveat that it's very, very early here. It's almost a permanent state of mind in California to be disengaged in politics.

You can go back to a comparable period in the '92 election, when then President Bush was beating all the Democratic contenders by 60 points or more. The last poll I see has President Bush, this President Bush up by single digits. So it's just very early, again, for anyone to really catch on.

WOODRUFF: Early, and, yet, Mark Baldassare, the California primary is in very early March. It's March the 2nd. There are 10 other states, including, what Ohio and New York that day. But that's still early. California is -- is the sense there that California is going to be a player?

BALDASSARE: I think that California will be a player this time. I think that Californians will start focusing on the election in a few months, and that the campaigns already gearing up here for the various candidates, and that these early visits will make important impressions on a state that is going through a very difficult time right now. And they are looking for outside answers to some of the internal problems in California.

WOODRUFF: Mark Barabak, I want to come back to you very quickly on Arnold Schwarzenegger, a little more of an indication over the weekend that he's looking seriously at running for governor. What is your sense of this out there?

BARABAK: Well, I actually had lunch last week with someone who is in the Arnold brain trust, if you will, who suggested that a lot is going to depend on how his next movie goes. I think Arnold Schwarzenegger, for a nonpolitician, is doing a very politically astute thing, which is keeping his options open. WOODRUFF: And, Mark Baldassare, what about it? Do we think he's going to run for governor next go-round?

BALDASSARE: Well, it depends on when the next go-round is, whether there is a recall of the governor -- and that takes place relatively soon -- or whether Arnold Schwarzenegger has until 2006. So I think that, like a lot of other politicians, both Democrats and Republicans right now, everybody is waiting to see what's going to happen with the potential recall of Governor Davis.

If that goes on the ballot, then I think that changes everybody's calculations as to whether or not they jump in early or wait until 2006 and they're more deliberate about their activities. But I think Arnold Schwarzenegger will stay in there. Certainly, he was considered a front-runner for the 2006 race on the GOP side. And so I think that he is in a good position to jump in there, either early or late.

WOODRUFF: Mark Baldassare of the Public Policy Institute of California, Mark Barabak, "The Los Angeles Times," good to see both of you. Thanks very much for talking to us today. See you again soon.

Still ahead: a different shade of green? The party that nominated Ralph Nader for president in 2000 is considering a new tactic that might help Democrats this time.

Plus: the fallout continue from a Texas political showdown. Is a presidential candidate trying to keep the controversy alive?

And has fired "New York Times" reporter Jayson Blair caused Americans to view the news media in an even dimmer light? We'll update public opinion and whether it falls along party lines.


WOODRUFF: Checking the headlines now in our "Campaign News Daily": Some Green Party officials are considering a new strategy for the 2004 election. They say they may not field a candidate. Ralph Nader, as we know, picked up almost three million votes in 2000 as the Green Party nominee. Some party officials say they may have a better chance at defeating President Bush by endorsing a Democrat. A final decision won't come until the 2004 party convention.

Democratic Senator Joe Biden of Delaware says, if he waits too late to decide on a run for the White House, then -- quote -- "So be it." Biden says he'll wait until at least September to make a final decision. He tells his home state "Wilmington News Journal" that he wants to remain in the Senate for as long as possible to help shape or, in some cases, to use his word, impede the Bush agenda.

Eighty-one-year-old Senator Ernest Hollings says that he wants to run for reelection, but he says his wife may not let him. Hollings, who has represented South Carolina since 1967, told the Gannett News Service that his wife doesn't want to go through another campaign. In his words, "We are arguing about it and we'll see what happens."

INSIDE POLITICS returns in a moment.


WOODRUFF: Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Rick Bragg of "The New York Times" said today that he will resign. Published reports say that Bragg has been suspended by the paper over an article that carried his byline, but was largely reported by an assistant. Bragg tells CNN that he did nothing wrong.

"The Times" has been conducting internal reviews since reporter Jayson Blair was fired for fabricating dozens of articles for the paper.

Our Bill Schneider joins me now with the results of a new CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup poll.

Bill, did the Jayson Blair controversy have any impact, as best you can tell, on the public's estimation of the news media?


For almost 15 years now, Gallup has been asking Americans, do you think news organizations get the facts straight or are their stories and reports often inaccurate? Now, take a look at the number of people who say the press is often inaccurate. Currently, 62 percent have a negative view of the press. It sounds pretty high. But the number critical of the press has been up around 60 percent since December 2000.

Before that, in 1998, going back to 1989, the number had been in the 40s. Clearly, something happened at the end of 2000 to ratchet up ill will towards the media. What was it? Well, of course it was the 2000 election. When people are asked, does the press often get things wrong, they immediately think, Florida. The impact of that election appears to have continued.

It ratcheted up press criticism to a higher level than before. Jayson Blair may be sustaining a cynical attitude towards the press, but the real shock came on election night 2000, when we all got it wrong.

WOODRUFF: Bill, what about who is carrying this resentment towards the news media? Does it divide particularly along partisan lines, party line?

SCHNEIDER: Well, Republicans are the most resentful. And you can see the difference right here; 63 percent of Republicans, as compared with 54 percent of Democrats, say stories in the press are often inaccurate.

Remember, the networks initially called Florida for Al Gore. But conservatives have been complaining about press bias, you know, for decades, going back to Barry Goldwater and Spiro Agnew. And, sure enough, criticism of the press is highest of all among conservatives, 68 percent.

WOODRUFF: Well, now, is this cynicism that you are talking about, is it having an effect on people's...

SCHNEIDER: It is. And you can see it in the Jayson Blair case.

One of the reasons Blair got away with his deceptions for years is that nobody complained to "The New York Times," not the people he misquoted, not the people he claimed to have met, but didn't. Why wasn't Blair caught earlier? Why wasn't "The Times" besieged with complaints. Well, interviews with the subjects of those stories suggest the answer: cynicism. The prevailing view among those contacted was: Well, what difference would it make to complain? The press always twists things around to get a story.

That kind of cynicism is particularly prevalent among the less- well educated. The view that the press often gets things wrong is noticeably higher among non-college Americans than among the college- educated. They see Jayson Blair as the rule, not the exception -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Well, we certainly hope that that is not the case.

All right, Bill Schneider, thanks very much.

Coming up next: more talk about the Jayson Blair controversy, news media standards and public opinion with longtime reporter-turned- scholar Marvin Kalb.


WOODRUFF: We continue our focus on how the American public views the news media. I'm joined by Marvin Kalb. He's a veteran journalist and now a senior fellow at the Shorenstein Center at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

Marvin, good to see you again.


WOODRUFF: I was just saying, these are dark days for at least the perception of journalism.

KALB: Yes.

WOODRUFF: But I want to first ask you about what Rick Bragg is saying. He's saying he's going to leave "The New York Times." He said that it is a common practice for correspondent with their byline on a story in the newspaper to have gotten a good bit of their information from others, researchers, and others. Is that the case?

KALB: I think it is the case. And I think it's not only on "The New York Times."

To come here and to talk to you, I got a call from one of your producers. It's understandable, because you are too busy. All of the senior writers at "The Times" or "The Washington Post" are also too busy. And this has been going on for decades, that junior reporters or stringers or people of that nature have been doing some of the reporting. It very much depends on the key reporter, the person you're going to see, or the byline reporter as to how much they want done for them.

WOODRUFF: Is there something dishonest? Is the public being misled by this in some way?

KALB: I don't think there's anything dishonest, so long as you know that this is happening.

In other words, if a news organization writes, "by Rick Bragg" and that's the only thing the reader knows, that I think is bad. But "The Washington Post," for example, has had times when you say "by Jim Jones," but underneath, "research help by so and so," so at least that the reader is getting a better shot at the whole truth, how all of the information has been pulled together.

WOODRUFF: Are you saying we need more transparency in the way we're doing our journalism?

KALB: Yes, absolutely, because journalism has become too large a business now. There's too much money that is being made in journalism today. It's a lot like the government. It's a lot like large corporations.

CNN is part of a huge conglomerate. Well, everybody on the outside wants to look in and say, I want to know more about that, just as you, as a journalist, want to know more about what's going on inside the government.


KALB: When you get this large, you are subject to the same level of suspicion and skepticism as people are toward the government.

WOODRUFF: How do you do that, Marvin? At the same time you have limited space in the newspaper and limited time on television, how do you also cram in the other information about how you collected the story?

KALB: It's impossible and sometimes -- well, impossible, I guess that's the word.

You have to try to come through. The honesty has to shine through. The fairness has to shine through. And I think, in the case of "The New York Times," it was clearly unfair. It was plagiarizing. It was stealing. It was wrong. And "The New York Times" management was wrong in allowing it to happen. They had a young person who was probably -- I've never met him -- but he was probably very bright and a good writer.

WOODRUFF: Jayson Blair.

KALB: Jayson Blair.

But then they never mentored him. They never helped him. And he needed help. WOODRUFF: Do you think the media will be able to win back a measure of the trust and the confidence that it had decades ago, years ago?

KALB: Decades ago, no, and I don't even think years ago.

I think that we're in a down period now. And the only way to come out of it is, every day, every hour, every broadcast, good, solid, fair, balanced reporting. And the public, which is not dumb, is going to pick that up. At the moment, there's obviously some things that you've done that do not satisfy them. And they are skeptical.

WOODRUFF: Well, it's a bleak perspective, but it's an honest one and it's one that we all need to hear.

KALB: Well, thank you.

WOODRUFF: Marvin Kalb, always good to see you. Thanks for coming by today.

KALB: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: We appreciate it.

It was a winning day, meanwhile, for the American stock markets. Coming up, we're going to go live to Wall Street with an eye on your money.

And later: Some Angels come to the White House bearing gifts.





BUSH: It's pretty quick how things happen here in America. You buy the team. Now you're at the White House.


BUSH: But I think you and Carole will love baseball. I know Laura and I have really enjoyed our time with the mighty Texas Rangers, although we were somewhat disappointed by the fact that we never actually got to come to the White House.


WOODRUFF: President Bush hearkening back to his own days as a baseball team co-owner, as he welcomes the 2002 World Series champs to the White House today. Mr. Bush got a jersey from the Anaheim Angels. And he offered them some advice in return, urging them to set a good example for America's young people. We'll all buy onto that.

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


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