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JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS

9/11 Investigation: Capitol Hill Clashes; Politics of Gas Prices

Aired March 30, 2004 - 15:30   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
ANNOUNCER: A compromise or a cave-in? Will gauge the spin now that the White House has changed its tune about Condi Rice's 9/11 testimony.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Some people have wacky ideas, like taxing gasoline more so people drive less. That's John Kerry.

ANNOUNCER: Priming the pump: the Bush and Kerry camps do battle over rising gas prices.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'll tell you what, if the gas prices keep rising at the race they're going now, Dick Cheney and George Bush are going to have to carpool to work.

ANNOUNCER: Pop goes the Internet ad. Smart politics or simply annoying?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Some of the data I've seen suggests that people like door-to-door salesmen more than they like pop-up ads.

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

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Thank you for joining us. Judy is off this week. I'm Candy Crowley.

We begin with a White House reversal in the 9/11 investigation. The Bush administration now says National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice will testify under oath and in public before the commission investigating the September 11 attacks.

The commission agreed to the White House condition that Rice's appearance would not set a precedent for testimony by its staff and that the panel would not request additional public testimony from any White House official. The White House also reversed its opposition to President Bush and Vice President Cheney appearing privately before the full commission, rather than just the panel's chairman and vice- chairman. The president is expected to talk about this matter within the hour, and we'll carry his remarks live.

The head of the commission spoke just a short time ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KEAN: In the end, I suspect that the president and White House understood that it was very important for the public, as well as for the commission's work, that Dr. Rice be allowed to testify in public.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: The administration has been under intense pressure to allow Rice to appear before the commission under oath to rebut last week's testimony by former counterterrorism adviser Richard Clarke. Clarke says the Bush administration ignored warnings about the terror threat before the 9/11 attacks.

The Kerry campaign issued this response to the White House change of heart: "The question is why this White House only does the right thing under public political pressure. They're first instinct should be to answer questions about our security rather than launch a public relations offensive and when that fails do what they should have done from day one."

Fallout from the 9/11 investigation remain as source of friction on Capitol Hill. We want to bring in our congressional correspondent, Joe Johns -- Joe.

JOE JOHNS, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Candy, congressional Republicans say they are moving forward with their plan to try to declassify certain of Richard Clarke's testimony, closed-door testimony from a couple years ago. The Senate's top Democrat essentially accusing the Senate's top Republican today of trying to smear Clarke, referring, in fact, to statements made by the majority leader last Friday on the floor of the United States Senate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. TOM DASCHLE (D-SD), MINORITY LEADER: He has even been accused right here on the Senate floor of perjury. No one, no one shred of proof was given, but that wasn't the point. The point was to have the perjury accusation on television and in the newspapers. The point was to damage Mr. Clarke in any way possible.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JOHNS: Daschle was referring to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's statements on the Senate floor last Friday in which he accused Clarke of making contradictory statements about the administration's focus on the war on terrorism in its early days. Today, Senator Frist was just not backing down.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BILL FRIST (R-TX), MAJORITY LEADER: The point is that there are two different stories that American people deserve to hear. And why they didn't come out -- Mr. Clarke resigned on January 20th, not of 2004 but 2003. Why did these allegations just appear last week for the first time, that is at about the same time he signed a multimillion-dollar contract or a book deal that will bring multimillion dollars to him? Just simply asking the question.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JOHNS: Now, on the House side, there's also been some political sniping as women. The top Democrat on the intelligence committee accusing the chairman of the intelligence committee of exceeding his authority by giving out certain information to the Central Intelligence Agency without the full knowledge of the entire committee. A lot of talk about politics here on this issue -- Candy.

CROWLEY: CNN's Joe Johns on Capitol Hill. Thanks, Joe.

We want to talk more about the politics on the 9/11 probe with Ron Brownstein of the LA Times.

Ron, a tough bullet for the White House to bite on this one.

RON BROWNSTEIN, LA TIMES: Absolutely, but probably inevitable, Candy. I mean, I think many longtime Washington operators over the last few days have said that every White House goes through the same trajectory on an issue like this. They started off on a position of principle.

In the end, it is simply untenable on an issue of this magnitude, the 9/11 investigation, to be in a process story day after day after day, when even your own -- people in your own party are asking why won't the person, the national security adviser, who's been on virtually every media program, it seems, in recent weeks, go out and answers the questions in public. I think it was inevitable they ended up where they are.

CROWLEY: And she has, in fact, been out a lot. On "60 Minutes," a very lengthy interview. Is there any reason to expect that she's got something different to say in public?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, that's what I really wonder. I mean, I can't imagine. I mean, she's not under oath on "60 Minutes," but she's in front of 20 million or so Americans. And you can't imagine that she's going to say anything very different.

Look, they have a very vigorous defense. Clarke has a very vigorous indictment of their performance. She has other questions to answer from other commissioners who have raised questions about whether her op-ed piece in The Washington Post track with some of the things that they've learned in their investigation.

So this is not necessarily going to be an easy session for her. But there's no reason to think that she can't handle herself in it.

CROWLEY: She always has proven to be pretty good at handling herself.

Is this Clarke versus Rice? Is that what we're seeing now, or just hearing the...

BROWNSTEIN: No, I really think it isn't. And I think that today, the fact that she has to testify before this commission, shows why it's a mistake to simply personalize this into a dispute between Rice and Clarke.

The administration and its allies are focused on raising questions about Clarke's credibility and motivation. But the commission process is a parallel and independent process to that. And you are now seeing through the staff reports, through the questions from the commissioners last week, presumably when Rice comes, many of the concerns that Clarke raised being raised by others, whether in the CIA or the Defense Department, early in the Bush administration, or now by some of the commissioners themselves.

So I don't think that whatever happens to Richard Clarke's credibility with the public, this is going to entirely go away because the commission itself is an on going vehicle for these concerns to be raised. Its report is due out, as I understand it, the first day of the Democratic convention, July 26.

CROWLEY: Wow, OK. Fifteen seconds. The overall political impact on George Bush?

BROWNSTEIN: Look, he's taken a bite. His approval on terrorism has declined. Clarke and the commission, as I said, is going to make this an on going headache. But it will not shatter his credibility on terrorism for two reasons.

One, because people think that Clinton, by and large, didn't do enough either. More importantly, it's rooted in reality. The fact that we haven't had another attack since 9/11, we have overthrown the Taliban, we have overthrown Saddam Hussein, that is the core of his strength with the public on this issue. And no argument by itself can make that go away.

CROWLEY: Ron Brownstein, LA TIMES. Thanks, Ron.

BROWNSTEIN: Thank you.

CROWLEY: Now to another flash point between the Kerry and Bush campaigns: gas prices.

CNN's Kelly Wallace looks at today's fuel for the fire.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KELLY WALLACE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): John Kerry, hoping to get political mileage out of sky-rocketing gas prices, makes an unscheduled stop in San Diego, where a gallon of unleaded goes for $2.15. In his speech, he charges the Bush team has done nothing to bring gas prices down.

KERRY: If the gas prices keep rising at the rate they're going now, Dick Cheney and George Bush are going to have to carpool to work.

WALLACE: But the Bush-Cheney reelection campaign fired the opening salvo in the debate with this new ad now running nationwide, accusing the senator from Massachusetts of supporting higher gasoline taxes on 11 separate occasions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Some people have wacky ideas, like taxing gasoline more so people drive less. That's John Kerry. He's supported a 50-cent a gallon gas tax.

WALLACE: And this from the president himself during a visit to the battleground state of Wisconsin.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There are some in the other party in Washington who would like to raise gas taxes. I think it would be wrong. I think it would be damaging to the economy, not positive to the economy.

WALLACE: How potent is the issue? A look at a couple of the key battleground states, Ohio, Missouri and Nevada, show gas prices are close to or above the current national average of $1.75 a gallon. And in a new CNN-USA Today-Gallup poll, 69 percent of Americans said that rising gas prices were either a crisis or a major problem.

Kerry said as president he would put more pressure on OPEC to increase oil production and would temporarily stop sending hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil every day into the United States' emergency stockpile known as the strategic petroleum reserve.

KERRY: We should stop diverting that so the supply to the economy and to the country is higher, which brings price down.

WALLACE: But the Bush-Cheney team said four years ago Kerry said releasing oil from the strategic reserve would have a negligible affect on prices because it would take months for the oil to goat to the market.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WALLACE: A senior Kerry advisor said the senator never actually proposed in the Senate a 50-cent increase in the gas tax, and says during the Bush administration Americans have been paying 12 percent more when it comes to the price for their gasoline.

A Bush-Cheney aide saying the president has a comprehensive energy plan to bring gas prices down, but says that plan has been thwarted by congressional Democrats. About the only thing the two sides see eye to eye on, Candy, is that if the price of gas keeps going up and up, this could play a decisive role in this presidential election campaign -- Candy.

CROWLEY: Nothing hits home more than the gas station. Thanks so much. CNN's Kelly Wallace.

In the midst of this political slugfest over fuel, we're told the Bush administration has concluded there's little it can do to bring gas prices down in the short term.

Our senior White House correspondent John King reports the Energy Department recently studied the impact of deferring planned purchases for the strategic petroleum reserve. The study found those orders represent such a small portion of world demand that even freezing them outright would not reduce gas prices. The White House opposes tapping fuel already in the reserve to try to influence the gas market.

If gas prices haven't got you down, how about those ubiquitous Internet pop-up ads? They may be pesky, but we'll tell you why Republicans see a payoff.

Also ahead, the showdown state of Wisconsin. How is that battleground different than the others?

And hold the ketchup. Find out why the Heinz company fears an election year food fight.

This is INSIDE POLITICS, the place for campaign news.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: President Bush has just landed back here at Andrews Air Force Base after a trip to Wisconsin. We expect that the president will be in the briefing room to talk to reporters around 4:30 Eastern Time. Naturally, we will bring that to you.

You probably see pop-up ads as just another pesky reality of the Internet, but pop-ups can produce a pretty good payoff for advertisers, including, or so it hopes, the Republican National Committee.

Joining us now in Atlanta is technology correspondent Daniel Sieberg with more on the latest in campaign tools.

DANIEL SIEBERG, CNN TECHNOLOGY CORRESPONDENT: Candy, that's right. And they're cheap as well.

You know, earlier in this campaign season, we talked about how Democrat Howard Dean used the Internet to organize supporters, raise money, and how many candidates have used blogs or Web logs to keep followers informed. Now, though, it's pop-ups.

In fact, starting in January, the RNC began running pop-up ads for George W. Bush. Now, you might encounter them when you're surfing any of about 1,400 news sites. And if you do click on one, the ad takes you to an RNC Web site.

But with all the griping that people do about pop-ups, could the ads backfire? Well, we asked University of Pennsylvania marketing professor Patti Williams.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PROF. PATTI WILLIAMS, UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA: There are certainly some risks, but I think there are lots of advantages that might outweigh those risks. In particular, when you're talking about a campaign that has money to burn. I think it's a real opportunity, because the Internet is so flexible and you can change the messages so quickly. I think it's relatively easy to send out several messages, test them, see which ones get the highest click-through rates, and know that those are the messages that are most likely to resonate with the voters that you're trying to reach. The biggest risk is just that people are irritated with pop-up ads. Some of the data I've seen suggests that people like door-to-door salesman more than they like pop-up ads.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SIEBERG: We have certainly heard that from a lot of people who would prefer to have a door-to-door salesman rather than a pop-up ad on their computer. And there are some new ones out there that the Republicans are introducing, and they are now focusing directly, squarely at Democrat John Kerry -- Candy.

CROWLEY: So just knowing how this campaign season has evolved, I've got to believe there's something similar that the Democrats have.

SIEBERG: Well, the Democrat National Committee actually tells us they don't have any pop-up ads running at this point. But, you know, since the early days of the primary they have used the Internet to test campaign ideas with supporters, which is kind of what the Republican National Committee is saying that they're doing with pop-up ads. And, of course, the Internet has played a major role with this campaign season on both signs, whether it's for fund-raising or simply communicating with voters -- Candy.

CROWLEY: Now, is there any way to tell about backlash? I mean, will they know that people are angry about it? Can we just assume that there would be a backlash?

SIEBERG: You know, we can pretty much assume there will be some backlash. However, an RNC spokeswoman tells us that she has not gotten any complaints about the pop-ups.

Now, I know that sounds amazing, but that's what she said. Certainly, the average Web surfer tends to complain about pop-ups. So perhaps the RNC just hasn't heard from a wide cross-section of people. You know, either way, it's hard to imagine that someone would change their vote simply based on a pop-up ad, but you never know -- Candy.

CROWLEY: You certainly don't. An election year, anything can happen.

SIEBERG: Right.

Thanks so much, Daniel Sieberg. Appreciate it.

Our next top is a showdown state that George W. Bush barely lost in 2000. The president was there today. But there's a big difference between then and now. Delay of the political landscape when INSIDE POLITICS continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) CROWLEY: When most people think Wisconsin, cheese heads come to mind, although I would like to say it's a very pretty state. And Wisconsin is also a manufacturing state. Eighty thousand of the state's manufacturing jobs have disappeared since George W. Bush took office, hence today's presidential visit.

Joining me to talk about jobs and politics in this showdown state is Craig Gilbert of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel newspaper.

OK. Lay of the land -- any way to read the tea leaves as to whether -- is this still a battleground state? Still a close state? Or has the manufacturing thing changed it?

CRAIG GILBERT, MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL: I think it's a perfect battleground state. No states have tracked the national results more closely than Wisconsin and Iowa in the last three cycles. And it was only decided by two-tenths of a percentage point in 2000.

You mentioned jobs. It's not just that Wisconsin has lost 80,000 manufacturing jobs, but it's more dependent on manufacturing for employment than any other state but Indiana. So there are issues that actually resonate on both sides in this race, and jobs is one, and taxes is another.

CROWLEY: And I take it that the taxes favor the president and the jobs favor Kerry? Is that a fair split?

GILBERT: Absolutely. I think -- I mean, we're seeing in obviously in the reelection ads for President Bush a huge emphasis on taxes. They're going after Kerry on taxes.

Wisconsin is one of those upper Midwestern states where people pay very, very high taxes. And there's always a certain amount of discontent over that. We've seen that at the local and state level in Wisconsin politic in recent years, where Republicans (UNINTELLIGIBLE) normally Democratic areas.

CROWLEY: You know, it's strange to me that a state can lose 80,000 jobs and the president can still sustain 2000 era popularity there. Why is that?

GILBERT: Well, it's all relative. I mean, it's even-Steven. That's been the rent history of the state.

Now, if you look at the unemployment rate, Wisconsin's unemployment rate is actually better than the national unemployment rate. It's really the manufacturing sector that's been hit hard. And I think that is definitely taking a toll on the president politically.

But, again, he's got opportunities on taxes. I think the war issue, it's too soon to tell how that's going to play out in the state. I think we're seeing nationally and in Wisconsin the degree of polarization, where they're really fighting over a small number of votes, which means it's going to be close either way.

CROWLEY: It sounds to me like Wisconsin could be Florida 2004. GILBERT: Well, I think -- the way I look at it, if you take Wisconsin, Iowa and Minnesota, the three states that were collectively decided by about a percentage point in 2000 for Al Gore, that is 27 electoral votes, which is Florida.

CROWLEY: Wow. So we all need to head to the Midwest, which we kind of knew all along.

GILBERT: Well, the other thing about those states is that they're at the top of the potential pick-up list for Republican because they all did go to Gore in 2000. It's vital for the Democrats in any kind of scenario you can pick for them to hold on to those states. But if -- consequently, if George Bush can pick up any one of those states, it's a real, real blow to the other side.

CROWLEY: Craig Gilbert, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel newspaper, thank you very much.

GILBERT: Thank you.

CROWLEY: Come back. We'll be talking about Wisconsin a lot.

GILBERT: I'm sure.

CROWLEY: President Bush is expected to make some comments soon about the 9/11 Commission and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice. Coming up, we'll have more on the political and policy aspects of today's White House reversal.

Also ahead, both parties' efforts to squeeze some extra political mileage out of high gas prices.

And if there's a punk rock vote, you can bet someone's trying to tap in.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: A White House reversal over Condoleezza Rice. But the battle over Richard Clarke's comments continues. Two senators with very different views face off.

The politics of preemptive strikes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Raising taxes is a habit of Kerry's. He supported higher gasoline taxes 11 times.

ANNOUNCER: Once again, the Bush-Cheney team strikes first. Is this strategy successful?

Keeping the ketchup out of the campaign. Heinz Ketchup is in a pickle thanks to a famous heiress. Will opponents play the name game?

ANNOUNCER: Now, live from Washington, JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS. (END VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY: Welcome back. I'm Candy Crowley sitting in for Judy this week.

We are expecting President Bush to speak about half hour from now about the White House decision which allows National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice to testify publicly before the 9/11 Commission. We will carry the president's remarks live.

Right now we have live our White House correspondent Dana Bash. Dana, boy, this has been going on for a couple of weeks now. Why the reverse course?

DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Candy, you just put the nail on the head. It has been going on for a couple weeks now. And the White House really tried to do everything possible not to get to this position, to stop the political hemorrhaging through the past couple of weeks.

They put Condoleezza Rice out on the television shows. That backfired because Democrats said why is she out doing TV and not testifying publicly? She tried to offer to meet with the families. And then in the last 24 hours or so they tried here at the White House to float the idea with the commission to have some notes made public, to have a second meeting transcript, at least parts of it made public.

All of it was a no-go, especially from the Republican commissioners. They were the most vocal, the most out there, not only on the fact that they thought this was a mistake in terms of the policy, but also in terms of politics. You heard from several of them saying that this was a politically -- a very bad idea for the White House to do this.

So meanwhile internally there certainly has been a tug of war between the legal ramifications and this whole executive privilege idea. And the understanding that politically they were hemorrhaging, if you will, on this issue.

So we're told that the president essentially yesterday after thinking about it, talking a it over the weekend, decided that the process was trumping substance and it was getting in the way of substance. As you know, Candy, sometimes process in Washington is euphemism for politics.

CROWLEY: Absolutely.

OK. You use hemorrhaging so I'll continue with that medical metaphor and ask you, what's the political prognosis here? How much damage has been done?

BASH: When you look at our recent poll, for example, it shows that the president's approval rating is up a little bit. The president is doing better against Senator Kerry. Those may be, you know, attributed, at least from the Bush campaign's point of view, to the ads that are running working. However when you look at the question of terrorism, him fighting terrorism, and that, as we have been reporting for some time, is the Bush campaign thinks his top political asset. That has seen some trouble.

And you look at the latest poll, this particular question, do you think the Bush administration is covering something up about handling intelligence information for the terror attacks? Fifty-three percent, a majority, say yes.

So the idea that Condoleezza Rice, who they call their best spokesman, was not being allowed to testify in public under oath, certainly perhaps helped that perception along. That is not a perception that this White House wanted.

So in the end, obviously, we see today that they did relent by forming this compromise. But with a written confirmation from members of Congress and the commission that this wouldn't hurt the president's ability to have discussions with some of his aides in the future -- Candy.

CROWLEY: CNN's Dana Bash at the White House. Thanks, Dana.

BASH: Thanks.

CROWLEY: The Kerry campaign is portraying the about face on Rice's testimony as a belated White House bow to political pressure.

Meantime, the group MoveOn.org is helping spread the Democrats message about the president and his war on terror. Here's a clip from MoveOn's new ad featuring Richard Clarke's critical testimony about President Bush.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICHARD CLARKE, FRM. COUNTERTERRORISM ADVISER: He ignored terrorism for months when maybe we could have done something to stop 9/11.

AD ANNOUNCER: George Bush, a failure of leadership.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: The MoveOn ad has begun running on CNN and another cable news channel. MoveOn says it plans to spend about a million dollars to air that spot and second ad next week also featuring Clarke's testimony.

Senators Jay Rockefeller and Mitch McConnell will join us a bit later for a partisan debate in the latest turns in the 9/11 investigation.

On the campaign trail in California today John Kerry zeroed in on the pocketbook issues of gas prices. He tried to blame the president for record highs at the pump even as the Bush camp launched an ad hitting Kerry's record on gasoline taxes. Our senior political analyst Bill Schneider looks at the strategy at play.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): The Prussian military theorist Karl Von Clausewitz wrote, "War is the continuation of politics by other means."

For the Bush campaign, it looks like politics is the continuation of war by other means. Here's Bush's war doctrine.

BUSH: We must take the battle to the enemy, disrupt his plans and confront the worst threats before they emerge.

SCHNEIDER: That means preemptive strikes, hit the enemy before he hits you. Exactly what President Bush did in Iraq. And now in the campaign.

The threat? Rising gas prices. An issue that's supposed to throw President Bush on the defensive.

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: Where is President Bush? What is his policy to deal with oil prices now?

SCHNEIDER: Rising gas prices hit almost every American hard. When gas prices spiked in 2000, 39 percent of Americans complained they were causing a financial hardship. Now nearly half say gas prices are causing hardship. They're voting for John Kerry.

KERRY: Their approach is to the solution that these high gas prices is just to make sure that nobody has a job to drive to.

SCHNEIDER: So the Bush campaign is staging a preemptive strike.

AD ANNOUNCER: That's John Kerry. He support a 50 cent a gallon gas tax. If Kerry's gas tax increase were law, the average family would pay $657 more a year.

SCHNEIDER: The Bush/Cheney '04 Web site has a Kerry gas calculator. Let's say you tell it that you want to drive from the state capital building in Lansing, Michigan, a swing state, to the capital building in Columbus, Ohio, another swing state.

The calculator will give you detailed driving directions and a calculation that Kerry's gas tax, which he told a newspaper he supported ten years ago, would cost you an additional $7.12 at the pump.

That's called taking the battle to the enemy. And it's working. Nearly half the voters live in states where the Bush campaign has run TV ads. Two months ago voters in those states favored Kerry over Bush by 12 points? And now? Bush ahead by six.

Compare voter in states where there have not been any Bush ads. Two months ago, voter in those states were virtually tied. Bush 48, Kerry 47. And now? Bush 48, Kerry 47. No ads, no change.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER: Always put the enemy on the defensive. That's good strategy in warfare and in politics -- Candy.

CROWLEY: Thanks very much. Senior political analyst, Bill Schneider.

Public opinion toward the recent Medicare Reform Bill leads our "Campaign News Daily." President Bush used a lot of political capital to add a prescription drug benefit to Medicare but it doesn't look like the move is paying off with seniors.

In the latest CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup Poll, 36 percent of seniors like the new benefit, 48 percent oppose it. Back in December when the bill was signed, 46 percent approved and 39 percent were opposed.

Punk rockers are the latest interest group to get involved in the latest presidential campaign. Bands organized by PunkVoter.com launched a concert tour last night in Seattle designed to encourage punk music fans to vote against President Bush.

And yes, there are Republican punk rockers and they are out there, too. They even have a Web site, ConservativePunk.com.

The Federal Election Commission has decided to suspend matching fund payments to the Reverend Al Sharpton. The FEC approved the funds earlier this month, but now the commission wants to determine if Sharpton has violated campaign spending rules, which would make him ineligible for federal money.

The Supreme Court has weighed in on the 1993 tragedy. Coming up perhaps the final chapter in the Vince Foster story.

Later, did the White House cave in to political pressure? A couple of U.S. senators debate the decision to let Condoleezza Rice to testify before the 9/11 Commission.

Also, some business people remind America to pass the ketchup but please hold the politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: We want to remind you that we are expecting President Bush to appear in the White House briefing room now at about 4:45. We expect him to be discussing the White House decision to allow his national security adviser Condoleezza Rice to testify under oath and in public to the 9/11 Commission.

Earlier today I discussed the 9/11 investigation and the testimony of Rice with Republican Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Democratic Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia. I started by asking Senator McConnell what's behind the change of heart and why Rice will now testify in public and under oath.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), KENTUCKY: I think it certainly was a smart thing to do. It was hard to explain the legalistic argument surrounding presidential aides not testifying. That has been the case over the years. But she's such a marvelous spokesman. This is such an unusual situation that I'm glad she is going to testify. She's one of the best people in the administration to make these kinds of public appearances and she, of course, knows what happened.

CROWLEY: So, Senator Rockefeller, I'm going to sort of somehow interpret this answer from Senator McConnell and say, did politics push the White House or the perception of what was going on, push the White House into agreeing to let her testify?

SEN. JAY ROCKEFELLER (D), WEST VIRGINIA: I'm not sure if politics pushed them, Candy, but I think that the -- I think the public opinion did. And I think they made the right decision. Primarily because Condi Rice is the direct link between the intelligence community and the Oval Office. And the American public, I think, has a right to understand how all of that evolved and I think after her testimony, which I hope will not be selectively declassified, the American public will have that understanding.

CROWLEY: Well, let me go to the question of politics because it seems to me -- and it's borne out to certain extent in our polls that people are now beginning to look at the causes pre-9/11 of missing some information or what has happened post-9/11 in a very political light. Is there -- how much burden does Congress bear for this?

MCCONNELL: Well, there's no question that the timing of Dick Clarke's book, the fact that he voted for Al Gore, he's contributed to Democrats since 2000 and the timing of the book certainly made this whole inquiry much more political. But the good news, and your own poll is that the president's approval is going up. I think he's sort of working his way through this effort to politicize the whole 9/11 inquiry led by Dick Clarke and I don't think in the end it's going to cloud the judgment of the American people. When they look at the president and his leadership on this issue.

CROWLEY: Senator Rockefeller, I sort of cast dispersions on both sides of the aisle. It seems to me that if you are sitting back west of the Mississippi or east of it and outside the beltway you are looking at 9/11 and looking at the war in Iraq and you are thinking, those guys are all about politics.

ROCKEFELLER: I'm not thinking that. I just simply am not thinking that, candy. And I don't think anybody who knows Dick Clarke would think that about Dick Clarke. He is the ultimate 30-year professional. He's done it all. He doesn't really like politicians very much of either stripe. He's a Republican. He voted for Gore. He was a little bit unhappy with Bush in some respects. And all of that, I think, is what's going to become known to the public in terms of terrorism, in terms of declassification of some of the materials we're talking about.

But this is not -- the last thing in the world that either Mitch McConnell or I would want would be for 9/11 to become a political thing and for Dick Clarke, who is so involved with that whole process, for the four administrations, including Clinton and Bush II, for that to be political. And I have known, also, I've gone back over the weekend and I read his entire testimony before that Senate intelligence committee and House intelligence committee back in 2002 and there's virtually no difference between that and what he gave to the 9/11 commission.

That needs to be said because Senator Frist, on the floor, accused him of perjuring himself and that's a false charge. If he really feels that, he should come to the Senate intelligence committee and say where he felt he perjured himself and then take it on to the Justice Department for prosecution. I feel that strongly.

CROWLEY: Senator McConnell, I know you want to get so this.

MCCONNELL: Well, look, I mean, this book, if he had not been interested in injecting this in the political season, he would have come out with this book after the election. Instead he not only comes out with a book during the election but he comes out with a book the week he's supposed to appear before the 9/11 commission. Regardless of what Dick Clarke's past may be, his current effort is to politicize this whole inquiry and I think that's really unfortunate.

CROWLEY: But if we can take this out of the realm of Dick Clarke, it seems to me, when we look at the poles now, we see that those who are inclined to believe Dick Clarke, 80 percent of them support John Kerry. 80 percent of the people who are inclined to believe the administration, support the administration.

You've got Senator Daschle on the floor today responding to Senator Frist who was on the floor, all talking about this. And it begins to look, I think, from the outside, that we have so politicized this that nothing anyone comes up with will be left as, hey, this is really what happened. It's going to look like politics. Do you worry about that, Senator Rockefeller?

ROCKEFELLER: Candy, I will respond to that now. I do and I don't. I think one of the most important facts in this book is going to be at the top of the charts for a long time. People haven't read that book yet. I have read that book. I've read his testimony. I'm, you know, a ranking Democrat on the intelligence committee so I can have insights about him. But as you read the book, which is not what this is all about, it is really -- it really becomes very clear this is an utterly sincere professional who got furious at Clinton at times, at Bush at times, at Reagan at times, at Bush I at times. And fairly distributed it throughout...

CROWLEY: Senator Rockefeller, let me -- I'm totally running out of time and I have to give 15 seconds to Senator McConnell to respond to that.

ROCKEFELLER: Sure.

CROWLEY: Thank you.

MCCONNELL: The guy is trying to make money off the book. Drops it on the public right before his testimony on the 9/11 Commission. He's the one that's trying to politicize the whole inquiry. It's unfortunate to see this professional take this political turn at the end of his career.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY: Once again, we will hear the president on this subject around 4:45 Eastern time.

People sometimes go to great lengths to express their political views but a certain ketchup company would just as soon not get involved in the presidential race. Some food for thought next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(AUDIO/VIDEO GAP)

BRUCE MORTON, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Heinz, the company, hasn't been involved in politics since 1988.

"MORRIS THE CAT": It's time we had a finicky president.

MORTON: Morris the Cat and the company's 9 Lives of cat food ran. Eleanor Mondale who dad had run in 1984 endorsed him.

ELEANOR MONDALE, WALTER MONDALE'S DAUGHTER: Yes, America needs Morris, the 9 Lives cat for president.

MORTON: But Morris withdrew without endorsing anybody else and went back to show business.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's the only movie star I'll get to see. most likely.

MORTON: So Heinz, Republican Red Ketchup or not, is neutral, neutral.

Funny, the Doles never had this problem when they ran. Of course, there aren't any yellow states. Maybe that's why.

Bruce Morton, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY: Singer Michael Jackson on Capitol Hill? It could happen within the hour. Michael Jackson is here in Washington. We'll tell you why he could be on his way to a meeting with members of Congress.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: Two congressional aides tell CNN that singer Michael Jackson is expected on Capitol Hill within the hour. Jackson plans to meet with a Congressman from Pennsylvania and perhaps other House members. The singer is thought to be in Washington to promote his charitable works. As you may know, Jackson is also facing multiple child molestation charges in Santa Barbara County, California.

That is it for INSIDE POLITICS. I'm Candy Crowley. "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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